In celebrating Theophany let us be transferred in thought to the very location of the event and let us attend mentally to what happened there. There is Bethabara. You see St. John on the shore in garments made of camel skin, with a leather belt tied about his loins. An innumerable multitude of people from Jerusalem, Judea, and all the country of the Jordan surround him. The baptism of the Saviour has just finished and the eyes of all are turned to the Son of Man coming up out of the water. They see nothing else. But sharpen the eye of your mind with faith, and following after John and passing by what is seen by all, direct your attentive vision to what is not seen by all — to the opened heaven, the dove descending, and the audible voice: This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased! Direct your gaze and do not take your attention from this wondrous sight. O who will give our words the power to worthily hymn the glory of God, Who has appeared in the Jordan in three Hypostases!
Together with lost paradise, the heavens were sealed by God’s justice. But as a strong barrier does not hold back a great pressure of water, so the fortress of righteousness finally broke from the fire of God’s love — and behold, the heavens were opened! We also open all the powers of our nature and insatiably we shall receive the revealed God and take delight in Him. We satisfy all our feelings, all our thoughts and desires.
We are buried in darkness: but here is abundant light! We are wounded by the joyless separation — both from heaven and ourselves; but here is the all-enlivening reconciliation. We are weakened by infirmity, but here is the inexhaustible source of every power.
So then — just as after the long darkness of night every creature hungers for light and with eagerness strives to catch the first rays of the rising sun, so we, directing the eye of our mind, enlightened by faith, to the Theophany, eagerly receive the joyous rays of the Divine dispensation of our salvation, released by the merciful word of God the Father — and let us take delight in them.
As the creation compressed by the cold of winter eagerly meets spring which breaks the bonds of cold and receives once again the ordered rejuvenation, likewise we also, with a heart enlivened by the hope of salvation, receive the reconciliation shining in the baptized Lord — let us take delight in Him!
As during the heat of summer the thirsty earth drinks with every mouth the rain falling from heaven, so we also with every desire of the soul receive each power ready to be poured out on us from the Spirit, descending in the form of a dove — and let us delight in them!
By why do we invite ourselves to this? For are we not already led to the entire economy of salvation? Therefore, should we not all be enlightened, reconciled, and enlivened? O that this would someday be true! At one time, referring to John the Baptist, the Lord spoke to the Jews with reproach: “He was a burning and shining lamp, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.” Every year in His Holy Church the Lord directs the light of His Theophany at the Jordan with John also upon us. Does He not say to us through this: Here is the burning and shining light! See to it that ye be not willing to rejoice in His light only for a while!
See then that ye walk circumspectly. Do not the deceptive shouts of the enemies of our salvation sometimes seductively strike our ear?
False wisdom proclaims: Come unto me, I have light. Yet it has no light, but only a phantom of light, and those who obey it call light darkness and darkness light.
The world says: Come unto me, I will give you peace. Yet it has no peace, but a phantasy of peace, and those deluded by it, later discovering the lie, reproachfully condemn it, saying: Peace! peace! but where is peace?
The prince of the world promises liberty, and life, and power, and plenty. Yet he has neither power, nor freedom, nor plenty, but only a phantasy of them. And those seduced by him live free and content in name only, but in fact are oppressed slaves, languishing in deprivation.
Hasten to acquire the habit of distinguishing all this and in the light of the Theophany do not be deceived by what is merely called light, and peace, and power, but is not; but rather strive towards Him Who is the way, the truth, and life, righteousness, and sanctification, and deliverance.
Here we have come almost to judgement and condemnation. And that is what the Lord desires. He has commanded the Church to radiantly celebrate His Theophany, and each of us He has willed to enter into the joy of the feast only through the judgement of conscience. He that has tasted of the gifts for the sake of which the Church rejoices, that one rejoices. But whoever has not tasted, first taste and you will rejoice.
Source: Orthodox Life Magazine, 1988 Vol 1, Jordanville, New York, USA