Dr. John (Ellsworth) Hutchison-Hall

Eastern Orthodox Christian theologian, historian, philosopher, and cultural commentator.


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Christ is Baptised!

Icon of the Baptism of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

Troparion of the Feast of Theophany — Tone I

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!

Kontakion of the Feast of Theophany — Tone IV

Today You have shown forth to the world, O Lord,

and the light of Your countenance has been marked on us.

Knowing You, we sing Your praises.

You have come and revealed Yourself,

O unapproachable Light.

The Feast of Theophany (from Greek θεοφανεια, meaning “appearance of God”) is the culmination of the Nativity Season, which begins on 25th December and ends on 6th January (the Twelve Days of Christmas). The feast is called Theophany because at the baptism of Christ the Holy Trinity appeared clearly to mankind for the first time — the Father’s voice is heard from Heaven; the Son of God is incarnate and standing physically in the Jordan; and the Holy Spirit descends on Him in the form of a dove (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22).

On the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, the Holy Church proclaims our faith in the most awe inspiring mystery; incomprehensible to human intellect; that of one God in three Persons. It teaches us to confess and glorify the Holy Trinity, one in Essence and Indivisible. It exposes and overthrows the errors of ancient teachings which attempted to explain the Creator of the world by reason, and in human terms. The Church shows the necessity of Baptism for believers in Christ, and it animates us with a sense of deep gratitude for the illumination and purification of our sinful nature. The Church teaches that our salvation and cleansing from sin is possible only by the power of the grace of the Holy Spirit.

The origin of the Feast of Theophany goes back to Apostolic times, and it is mentioned in The Apostolic Constitutions (Book V:13). In the ancient Church it was the custom to baptize catechumens at the Vespers of Theophany, with Baptism then being revealed as the spiritual illumination of mankind. Today the Great Blessing of Water is performed on Theophany, and the holy water so blessed is used by the local priest to bless the homes of the faithful, as well as being a primary source of Holy Water kept in the homes of the faithful. Much liturgical music for this Feast was composed by the monks Joseph the St.udite, Theophanes and Byzantios. St. John of Damascus said that the Lord was baptized, not because He Himself had need for cleansing, but “to bury human sin by water,” to fulfill the Law, to reveal the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and finally, to sanctify “the nature of water” and to offer us the form and example of Baptism.