Happy feast to you all! It was great celebrating this special day with so many of you, and Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the Nativity today.
Below is a sermon on the Theophany, written by the Church of Holy Trinity in Altoona, to help us understand the importance of today’s feast and how it all comes together in the church.
“We find ourselves well into the Nativity Fast and quickly closing in on Christmas. Even when the world around us may not necessarily celebrate “Christmas” as a matter of faith, nevertheless few in our society allow this season to pass without doing something to mark the occasion. It would surprise many of us to consider that in the earliest days of the Church, Christmas was celebrated along with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. Christ‘s birth and baptism were originally commemorated on the same day and only much later were they separated.
Epiphany is also called “The Feast of Lights” and there was actually a very good reason to have both Feasts on the same day. For the Orthodox Church the birth of Christ is indeed significant and His baptism is the beginning of His ministry. We value His birth in light of His ministry, in light of the Salvific Work that He came to accomplish.
The hymns of both Feasts highlight the important “firsts” that Christ undertakes and by doing so changes the world, our relationship to it, and our relationship to God the Father. In the Nativity hymns we hear that humanity was renewed by His taking on flesh. The wood of the manger is a foreshadowing of the wood of the Cross and we hear “Prepare yourself O Bethlehem for Eden is open unto all, adorn yourself O Ephratha for in the Cave, the Tree of Life (Christ) has blossomed forth from the Virgin…” Likewise in the Epiphany hymns we are told that when Christ was baptized in the Jordan the very nature of the waters were sanctified and made holy. A similar thing is said during the Holy Week, His being lifted up on the Cross sanctifies the air, His being buried sanctifies the Earth. The Psalmist says “Where O Lord can I go to flee from you?” and truly Christ‘s ministry renews all and fills all with Himself. Because Christ cares for His Creation all of the elements are somehow touched, changed, transfigured and healed.
The dimensions are far greater than just “me and Jesus,” the dimensions are quite literally Cosmic. The end of Saint Mark‘s Gospel reads: “Go and preach the Gospel to all of Creation.” When we consider that His Redemptive work touched the whole world and not just human beings, suddenly this command begins to make sense. With the whole of our nature and the whole of nature renewed we gain a fresh start and opportunity to fulfill the original vocation of humankind, namely to join all things to God, and to leave nothing without it being filled with the Divine energy and Grace. Mankind, the image and likeness of God Almighty, was to be that point, that nexus where Uncreated God and Created everything else could touch and interact. Today that possibility is renewed.
At Epiphany the Church extends this invitation to renew our lives, to sanctify the everyday teachings of our lives and those closest to us in a special way. Epiphany is also a season of house blessings. It is an opportunity to renew, to wipe the slate clean and make strong the foundations of every one of our households.”
The video below gives you the opportunity to hear the troparion of today in many different languages. It also contains photographs from the feast celebrated in many different countries all around the world.