Feast of the Theophany of Christ

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Christ, our Life-giving Way
Feast of the Theophany of Christ
6 January, 2010
Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7 ; Matthew 3:13-17


[This audio file has been edited since audio and written styles are not the same but very different ways of communication.]

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

When we sing the tropar today, we are understanding that this Feast of the Theophany of Christ is also the first feast of the Holy Trinity in the calendar year. The voice of the Father comes from heaven, and says : “‘This is My beloved Son’”. The Son is standing in the waters of the Jordan. The Holy Spirit comes in the form of a dove, and rests upon the Saviour standing in the water. The word “theophany” means that today, we have a manifestation, a revelation of God. God reveals Himself today as Community-of-Being : Three Persons who live in perfect love and perfect harmony with each other, and at the same time completely one. The Symbol of Faith which we will soon pray together clarifies what I am trying to say.

On this feast, we have been singing that we, who “have been baptised into Christ, have put on Christ” (see Galatians 3:27). It is important for us to pay attention to this particular hymn because the words are describing our life in Christ. We, who have been baptised into Christ, have been baptised with Christ. We have put on Christ. This means that in our baptism we have died to the world in Christ. We have died with Christ. When we have risen from those waters of baptism with Christ, we have put on resurrection in Christ, and with Christ. We are alive in Christ. This means also that we have the possibility to live in proximity to the Holy Trinity in a manner which is beyond the angels, because we have put on Christ.

The Holy Spirit who came upon the Saviour at this moment did not come upon the Saviour in the same manner as He comes upon us at our baptism. This is because the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Saviour are already One together. Jesus Christ has always been the Son of God. The Holy Spirit has always been the Holy Spirit. They are always One. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit whom we see today in the form of a dove, is the same Holy Spirit who is given to us when we are baptised and chrismated. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to be members of the Body of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to be alive in Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who fills us with the power and the ability to live in the way of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to be like Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to show Christ to people around us. It is the Holy Spirit who enables the blessings of Christ to be extended through us to other people around us.

We have put on Christ. In the course of our lives, we, who have put on Christ, will suffer even as Christ suffered, because His love is vulnerable love. It is powerful love. It is life-giving love. Nevertheless, it is vulnerable love. There is no Christian who lives in this love who does not suffer, because this sort of love, the love of Jesus Christ, must be able to suffer, to feel compassion for people around us, to share pain and sorrow. Very often, a Christian living in this love will be persecuted for the sake of Christ. Our Saviour said : “‘If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you’” (Matthew 10:25 ; John 15:20). When the light of Christ is shining in the world, the darkness is not comprehending it (see John 1:5). The darkness is always trying to extinguish the light because the darkness does not like having its emptiness and everything about its falseness exposed. This is why the darkness resists the light. It is preferring to live in its lies rather than to be healed, corrected, and cleaned. There are many human beings who are in this condition. It is for this reason that Christians very often are suffering all types of abuse of one sort or another. In Egypt, for instance, I do not believe that there has been a year (or even perhaps a month) that has passed in the last century or so in which there has not been at least one person killed because he or she is a Christian. In Egypt, it is sometimes on a daily basis that people are killed, even to this day, because they are Christians. This happens in other places in the world, also. It is not at all easy to be a Christian in China or India (and in many other places, too), because the light shining in the darkness makes the darkness uncomfortable and very reactive, sometimes.

In our country, we Orthodox Christians very often have difficulties living our life because people do not understand us. They think that we are strange people, and they sometimes try to get rid of us, somehow. It is important for us to remember in Whom we are baptised, and Whom we have put on. It is important for us always to be turning to the Saviour for help. He understands our suffering. He understands our pain. He is compassionate towards us. Indeed, we might say that He is Compassion. No matter how difficult it might be for you and for me sometimes, our Saviour, who loves us, is with us. He is in us, and He is giving us the Holy Spirit to renew us and strengthen us so that we will be able to share His love with those who can hear, and who will hear ; with those who can see, and those who will see ; with those who can understand, and those who will understand.

In this province in particular, the Orthodox Christian witness is difficult to share, because there are so many people who have been either malformed or hurt in one way or another. People have difficulty accepting the truth of the love of Jesus Christ. However, as long as we are able to continue persevering in this love, we can show them that in our lives we have hope, joy, and peace which they, also, can have. Some of them, at least, will be brave enough to come and see. Some of them will be brave enough (or perhaps broken, and needy enough) to turn to our Saviour with us, and to ask Him to save them with us. In His love, our Saviour empties Himself for you and for me. This is what His standing in the Jordan today is showing us. In His love, He is emptying Himself for us. He, who is the Creator of the River Jordan into which He is about to descend ; He, who is the Creator of the water that is going to be covering Him ; He, who is even the Creator of His relative, the Forerunner, is emptying Himself, and making Himself lowly today. In His love for us, He is allowing Himself to be subjected to baptism in the same manner as He has been obedient to the prescriptions of the Law from His birth until this day. In His love for us, He is emptying Himself for our sake.

By the Grace of the Holy Spirit which is poured out upon us, let us also be prepared to live in the same love. With joy and with strength, let us follow Christ. Let us follow in His foot-steps and in His Way because, as our Saviour says : “‘I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life’” (John 14:6). He is the Way : there is only one Way. He is the Truth : there is only one Truth. He is the Life : there is only one Life. Let us follow in this Way, Truth, and Life so that having put on Christ, living in Christ, we may enter the Kingdom, and glorify our Saviour, Jesus Christ, in the Kingdom (as we are now doing in this Divine Liturgy) together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.