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The Holy Theophany Our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ (Baptism of the Lord).

On the 19th January (tomorrow) we celebrate the feast of the Theophany. After Pascha and Pentecost, Theophany is regarded as the greatest feast of the Orthodox Church. It is seen as more important even than the Nativity, the feast of Christmas which we celebrate on the 7th January. The Greek word, ‘theophany’ refers to a manifestation of God, a making present of the Divine in the created world, and this meaning resides at the heart of the feast and of the liturgical texts - the hymns, prayers, and readings of the Church - used to celebrate the feast. Theophany commemorates the baptism of the Lord in the Jordan at the hands of John the Baptist, but in this event in the earthly life of Jesus, it recognises an epiphany of the Holy Trinity. According to the Gospel accounts, the baptism of the Lord, the Son of God, is accompanied by the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father who proclaims Jesus his as ‘beloved Son’, or simply ‘the beloved’. The imagery of water is prevalent throughout the hymns of the Church for Theophany. The services draw on the writings of the Church Fathers who saw in the imagery of water, found across the Bible, references to and pre-figurations of, Christian baptism. Indeed, as we celebrate the feast, we are encouraged to reflect not only on the baptism of Jesus as an event, as a theophany or epiphany, but on our own baptism – a baptism which is, as the Apostle Paul affirms, a baptism into the saving death of Christ upon the cross, a baptism through which, in and through the cross, we enter into the resurrection. Baptism and the Cross - the water and the wood - belong together in the imagery of the Church, and in the life of the Christian. 

During the celebration of the feast, a bowl of water is blessed by the Priest in a service known as the Great Blessing of the Waters. The connection between baptism and the Cross is emphasised, as at one significant point in the service, a cross is plunged three times into the water. It is customary for the faithful to drink of the blessed waters and to bring bottles or other containers so that they can take some of this blessed water home. This water can then be used by the faithful to bless their homes by sprinkling it in places throughout the house, and then perhaps retaining some for the remaining year, which can be kept in the icon corner.

The troparion for the feast:

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!

Happy feast to all!

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