Sermon – Sunday before Holy Theophany 2019
The Sunday before Holy Theophany
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
January 5, 2020
…today we have reached the time of the Feast, and the rank of saints gathers
with us, and angels celebrate with men… Today has shown the Sun that
setteth not, and the world is lighted by the light of the Lord… Today the
waters of the Jordan are changed to healing by the presence of the Lord. …
Today has paradise opened to men, and the Sun of righteousness has shone
for us… Today we have escaped from darkness and, by the light of the
knowledge of God, we have been illuminated. Today the darkness of the
world vanishes with the appearance of our God… [From the service of The
Great Blessing of the Waters]
Holy Theophany, the Great Feast of our church reveals the Most Holy
Trinity to the world in the event of our Lord’s Baptism by St. John the
Baptizer in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22)
at the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry. From ancient times this Feast
was called “the Day of Illumination” and “the Feast of Lights,” since God is
Light and has appeared (revealed Himself) to illumine “those who sat in
darkness” (Matt. 4:16), and to save the fallen race of mankind by His love
Holy Theophany (or Epiphany) is a time of recommitting ourselves to
Christ. It is a time of personal renewal. As men and women who were
created in the image and likeness of God, Holy Baptism renews that image,
and each year, and with this Feast we revisit what it means to be made new,
to be purified, to be sanctified.
It is not just the time to get a blessing. We need to ask ourselves: What
do we want a blessing for? To do our own thing? We need to also ask: Why
do we seek God’s blessing? To get what we want?
Everything about our life needs renewing, whether it is our minds, our
bodies or our souls. The entire created world since Adam and Eve has been
in a fallen state, such that we need to rediscover what being truly human
means. We speak about “being human” as being weak, deprived, and even
sinful. But God first created Man perfect, and has now entered the world as
that perfect Man, in order to fulfill a restoring by obedience what was lost by
Change is very hard and at times can be very challenging. However,
change may not necessarily mean starting from “scratch.” It may mean
beginning with first learning to accept what is true. It may also mean
learning to grow-up and accepting certain responsibilities; discovering new
energy; rising up from being brought low or cast down.
The baptismal waters of the Jordan are called the “waters of
regeneration.” It renews all of creation. And just as Adam & Eve were
expected to be good stewards of all of creation, we too are expected to do the
same by God’s renewing grace. It is the way of salvation established by God,
who by sending His Son into the world provided for us the means of being
made new. By His coming into the world, and through his atoning death on
the Cross, burial and resurrection, Christ re-establishes and restores us to our
first freedom and God’s created purpose. All of this is now is known and
made real to us by our participation in all of the Sacraments of the Church:
In other words, the Sacramental life of the Church, namely: Holy
Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, Unction (the Sacrament of Healing) even
the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and Ordination, all of which has its
context in, or leads us to the reception of Holy Communion in the Divine
Liturgy, are the means by which we renew our life.
Holy Theophany is not a magical “hocus pocus” act. It is a
consecration. It is a time for sanctification, and perhaps more concisely a re-
dedication to what is sacred. But it first recognizes and acknowledges that
there is something that is Sacred. It acknowledges that there are higher
purposes than what we perceive.
The time of the Feast of Holy Theophany can best be described as the
time when we re-claim all that is sacred. It is not just a time to receive a
blessing. It is a time to be illumined, to be awakened to be vigilant and
prepared. As recipients of God’s mercy, of God’s grace and His blessing we
participate as agents of His mercy, His grace and His blessing. This mean
that the Feast which takes place at the start of every New Year is a time to be
active and not passive.
We live in a time when we must be more keenly aware that nothing can
be taken for granted. There is perhaps no better opportunity to embrace the
Feast of Holy Theophany and to understand the depth of its meaning than
When the lives of our family and the members of our community are
impacted either by sickness, loss of work, by tragedy, by success or by
failure, our attitude, our demeanor, our ability to have faith, our sense of hope
are also affected. God is never tested. We are tested by many circumstances.
God is never challenged. We are challenged to have faith, but more
importantly to act.
Second, we will totally miss the point of the Feast of the Holy Nativity
and Theophany if we disregard, first and foremost, that our time together as
the church, our huddle in the house of God, our prayers, and our confession
equips us for every challenge, every struggle, and every difficulty. We are
called (together) to a holy priesthood as stewards of the God’s gifts – our
talents, our skills, our time and resources. That calling is to be his partners in
renewing, restoring, healing and saving.
Holy Theophany, therefore, is a time of recommitting ourselves to
Christ. It is a time of personal renewal. It is much more than just making
New Year’s resolutions. Beyond resolutions, we are called to being
committed to Christ; to understand what it means to be baptized “into
Christ.” Consequently, Christians pray to use good judgment, to make good
choices in a world, because Christians believe and understand, first of all, that
God is God, and we are His servants. That God is uncreated and we are
stewards and priests of His creation. You and I, clergy and laity are called by
God to bless, to renew and restore: to heal, to love, to forgive and to save.
This task and calling is to commit ourselves and our entire life—whatever the
cost; to this mission.
Finally, (God’s blessings are not a hocus pocus), Theophany, like the
Holy Cross, prepares us for every challenge, every difficulty, every adversity,
every disaster. Theophany equips us to face every challenge, every difficulty,
every adversity, every disaster, because our incarnate Lord, who has fully
entered this life—and who has, by His own death invaded Hades, has
triumphantly conquered all. Together with Him by virtue of our Baptism, and
as members of His Kingdom, we are also victorious.
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, cleanse us now as we draw near to Thy
Holy table and again, Renew us as we are reminded of our sacred
commitment as those who are called to holiness. Shower us with your divine
grace that we may be purified in mind, body and soul at the beginning of this
New Year. Establish us in the Faith, illumine are hearts to ways of love, and
keep us in your protective care. For Thou art He who dost bless and sanctify
all things and unto Thee do we ascribe glory: to the Father and to the Son and
to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. A-men.