FATHER BLEAHU Jesus' baptism marked in rite
Theophany is a Greek word formed by two words: theos, or God, and phanya, or manifestation (appearance), and refers to the Manifestation of the Holy Trinity at the Jordan River when Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist 1,973 years ago.
At age 30, before Jesus started his mission, he went to the Jordan River, which is the border today of Jordan and Israel. John was baptizing the people, and Jesus asked John to baptize him. (Matthew 3:13-17).
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?'
"But Jesus answered and said to him, 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.'
"Then he allowed Him.
"When he had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water and behold, the heavens were opened to him and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.'"
God the Father was speaking from Heaven, God the Son was out of the water, next to the Jordan River, and God the Holy Spirit was descending like a dove on Jesus.
Through the manifestation the water of the Jordan was blessed and became holy. Even today the water from the Jordan doesn't spoil, and for years it is fresh as it could be.
In the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition, after the Holy Liturgy on Jan. 6 of each year there is a special service of invocation of the Holy Spirit and blessing of the water with the Holy Cross. This is a unique service in the liturgical program of the church and it is used only on that day. It is performed by Orthodox priests all over the world, and the water is blessed and remains unspoiled for years and years.
The Jordan River, during the service there, stopped flowing down the stream and flowed backward for a while. It is visible today at the service.
This is considered a permanent miracle of our God and it could be seen in all the Orthodox churches, including our city.
Some non-Orthodox Christian denominations don't have the service for the blessing of the water or add to it some salt for preservation.
The Theophany, or the Baptism of Jesus Christ our Lord, is not the baptism of entering into the Christian faith, or the Baptism of Jesus our Lord, administered by the church to children and the ones who want to become Christian through the fire and the Holy Spirit mentioned in Matthew 3:11.
This is the baptism of repentance, of John the Baptist, and can be repeated as many times as we want. It is a baptism of blessing; a confirmation of John's being a prophet of God and the Forerunner of our Lord Jesus Christ. Also, it is a sign of the beginning of the mission to preach the word of God and the salvation of the world by Jesus Christ. This is not confused with the Circumcision of Jesus Christ as an infant, which in the Orthodox faith is replaced by the Baptism with the "Holy Spirit and the fire."
With the water of Theophany, Orthodox Christians bless their homes, children, cars, businesses, and use it for drinking in time of illness and time of temptation, especially in the beginning of the New Year as a remembrance to repent of sins.
XFather Remus Bleahu is the parish priest at Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church in Youngstown.