In anticipation of the Great Feast of Theophany,
here are links to Theophany Meditations by Fr Steven from previous years:
REJOICE, THEOPHANY IS APPROACHING
Orthodox Way of Life Blog
taken from a sermon by St John Chrysostom
We can also see that this was the beginning of His work to create the path for our salvation with Baptism being the first step. Later He would establish the Church with its clergy where those who were joined with Him in baptism could continue to benefit from the grace filled sacraments.
Prior to this time there was a Jewish baptism which cleansed the body from impurities such as touching the bones of the dead, eating unclean foods, or being with lepers, but it did not remove sins. In Scripture it says, "Let one wash his body in pure water--and he will unclean until evening, and then he will be clean." (Lev 15:5, 22:4) This Jewish practice was a preparation of what was to come. The baptism that was established by Christ was much more as it was for the forgiveness of sins though the Holy Spirit and they were more than forgiven, they were absolved through grace. John the Baptist baptized those who repented of their sins but did not grant forgiveness through grace. Sins were not absolved through his baptism. John says, "I baptize you with water...That one however will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Mat 3:11).
Jesus came to be baptized by John not because he needed to be forgiven His sins, being sinless, nor to receive the Holy Spirit, being one with the Spirit already, but to show us the path we are to take to be relieved of our sinfulness and to receive the Holy Spirit to abide within us. John's baptism in water was also a preparation so Christ would be known and so we could receive this sacrament. Because John was known as a prophet, his baptism of Christ had great meaning to the people so they would believe that Jesus was the Son of God.
On this day, as John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit visibly descended in the form of a dove. St. John Chrysostom tells us that this descent as a dove was like a pointer. He says, "Did you see, that the Holy Spirit did not descend as in a first time then coming down upon Him, but in order to point out that preached by His inspiration--as though by a finger, it pointed Him out to all."
We rejoice at this Theophany for Jesus showed us the way for our renewal to begin. He was announced as the Son of God for all to see, submitting to John's baptism with humility.
Jesus says, "Except you be converted and becomes children, you shall not enter into the Heavenly Kingdom." (Mat 18:3)
Theophany is the Feast which reveals the Most Holy Trinity to the world through the Baptism of the Lord (Mt.3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). God the Father spoke from Heaven about the Son, the Son was baptized by the St John the Forerunner, and the Holy Spirit descended upon the Son in the form of a dove. From ancient times this Feast was called the Day of Illumination and the Feast of Lights, since God is Light and has appeared to illumine "those who sat in darkness," and "in the region of the shadow of death" (Mt.4:16), and to save the fallen race of mankind by grace.
In the ancient Church it was the custom to baptize catechumens at the Vespers of Theophany, so that Baptism also is revealed as the spiritual illumination of mankind.
The origin of the Feast of Theophany goes back to Apostolic times, and it is mentioned in The Apostolic Constitutions (Book V:13). From the second century we have the testimony of St Clement of Alexandria concerning the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, and the night vigil before this Feast.
There is a third century dialogue about the services for Theophany between the holy martyr Hippolytus and St Gregory the Wonderworker. In the following centuries, from the fourth to ninth century, all the great Fathers of the Church: Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Milan, John of Damascus, commented on the Feast of Theophany.
The monks Joseph the Studite, Theophanes and Byzantios composed much liturgical music for this Feast, which is sung at Orthodox services even today. St John of Damascus said that the Lord was baptized, not because He Himself had need for cleansing, but "to bury human sin by water," to fulfill the Law, to reveal the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and finally, to sanctify "the nature of water" and to offer us the form and example of Baptism.
On the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, the Holy Church proclaims our faith in the most sublime mystery, incomprehensible to human intellect, of one God in three Persons. It teaches us to confess and glorify the Holy Trinity, one in Essence and Indivisible. It exposes and overthrows the errors of ancient teachings which attempted to explain the Creator of the world by reason, and in human terms.
Continued on column two...
The Church shows the necessity of Baptism for believers in Christ, and it inspires us with a sense of deep gratitude for the illumination and purification of our sinful nature. The Church teaches that our salvation and cleansing from sin is possible only by the power of the grace of the Holy Spirit, therefore it is necessary to preserve worthily these gifts of the grace of holy Baptism, keeping clean this priceless garb, for "As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ" (Gal 3:27).
On the day of Theophany, all foods are permitted, even if the Feast falls on a Wednesday or Friday.
From the OCA website
Troparion - Tone 1
When You, O Lord
were baptized in the Jordan,
The worship of the Trinity
was made manifest,
For the voice of the Father
bore witness to You,
And called You His beloved Son.
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God,
You have revealed Yourself
And have enlightened the world,
Glory to You!
Kontakion - Tone 4
Today You have shown forth
to the world, O Lord,
and the light of Your countenance
has been marked on us.
Knowing You, we sing Your praises.
You have come and revealed Yourself,
O unapproachable Light.
First of all therefore, it is necessary to say that there is not one Theophany, but two:
the one actual, which already has occurred, and the second - in the future - which will happen with glory at the end of the world. About this one and about the other you will hear today from Paul, who in conversing with Titus, speaks thus about the present: “The grace of God hath revealed itself, having saved all mankind, decreeing, that we reject iniquity and worldly desires, and dwell in the present age in prudence and in righteousness and piety” - and about the future: “Awaiting the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” [Titus 2:11-13]. And a prophet speaks thus about this latter: “The sun shalt turn to darkness, and the moon to blood at first, then shalt come the great and illuminating Day of the Lord” [Joel 2:31]....
Orthodox Way of Life Blog
What John the Baptist Taught About Repentance - featuring St Gregory Palamas
The Value of Holy Water - featuring St John of San Francisco
Let Us Call God to Mind - featuring St Gregory the Theologian
Holy Day of Light - featuring St Gregory the Theologian
Spirit and Water - featuring St Gregory of Nyssa
Theophany, Work of Spirit - featuring St Gregory of Nyssa
Theophany - featuring St John Chrysostom
Why Did Christ Need to be Baptized?
The Blessing of Water
Why We Bless Our Homes
How the Orthodox World Celebrates Theophany - Global coverage with many links and videos
On the Holy Water of Theophany - Homily of St John Maximovitch
Why We Bless Homes with Holy Water
Annual Miracle: The Jordan River Reverses its Flow on Theophany - with video
Pre-Festive Days of the Theophany
Theophany Resource Page - with two-dozen additional links
St John the Baptist Resource Page - with thirty additional links