Friday, January 6, 2012

Holy Theophany

When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest, for the voice of the Father bore witness unto Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son and the Spirit in the likeness of dove confirmed the truth of His word. O Christ our God, who hast revealed Thyself and enlightened creation, glory to Thee!--Apolytikion of Nativity, Tone 1

Four verses! All we get for this feast from the Gospel according to St. Matthew is four verses? What great profound theological truth can be found in four small verses? The apolytikion quoted above is more or less a paraphrase of the last two verses from today's Gospel reading. That's it?

Yes. For comparison's sake, Transfiguration isn't a long, drawn-out narrative nor is teh Circumcision of our Lord, nor is the Annunciation to the Theotokos nor Ascension nor Pentecost (which aren't even in the Gospels). There are chapters upon chapters leading up to Great and Holy Friday and our Lord's Pascha, but Nativity barely yields a chapter. The Nativity of the Theotokos, her Presentation and her Dormition are nowhere in the canonical records. Some would argue that this is a deficiency in the Scriptures or that, being conspiratorial, we're not given the whole story. Rubbish!

The profound theological truth revealed to us is Christ Himself, revealed as being truly God and Man, a hypostatic union (to borrow from the Council of Chalcedon) where the two natures exist side by side, unified but not commingled. Scripture confirms the testimony of that revelation much as the Spirit confirmed the testimony of the Father's words to His Son, "This is My beloved Son, Whom I love, in Whom I am well pleased." This was no mere illusion of a man that stood before the Forerunner, John, this was the very Lord Himself. Being the Lord's cousin, he must have known about our Lord's special and different nature for a very long time and still he shuddered at the time appointed for him to baptize the Messiah!

In four short verses, we are made to understand all this. The Gospel writers didn't need to expound upon what had happened, waxing wisely. The Church Fathers and hymnographers certainly did that.

We have the whole story in Theophany, nothing edited, nothing added, nothing subtracted. God came in the flesh to be baptized by John. He was and the heavens opened and God called out to His Son, saying that He loved Him and, by extension, loves us because He sent His Son to His creation. Does this passage need more commentary than that?

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