From Christmas to Theophany
How many feast-days, each one of Christ’s mysteries, there are for me! All of which have one culmination, my perfection and renewal and return to the state of the first Adam. (St Gregory the Theologian, Sermon 38.16, On the Theophany, or Birthday of Christ)
As Christmas and Theophany approach, we too share in the grateful awe of St Gregory the Theologian’s child-like exclamation. The appearance of God amongst men, both with the Incarnation of the Word and the revelation of the Holy Trinity at Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, far surpasses human logic and reason. Yet, we are called to participate in these visible manifestations of the Divine, even though we are lowly and flawed created beings. These feasts are unified by the person of the Incarnate God Jesus Christ. They reveal both His humility and glory. As the Evangelist John so eloquently puts it, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Though the feasts of Christmas and Theophany are separated by a period of time, both in the life of Christ and in the Church Calendar, they both point towards the perfection and renewal of Man. God condescends to take on our mortal flesh, so that we can be raised up with Him:
“Making yourself utterly poor like us, you have made our dust divine through union and participation.” (Christmas canon, 5th Ode)
The Feast of Theophany also shows us the humility of Our Creator: “You wrapped yourself in the waters of the Jordan, O Saviour who puts on light as a garment; and You bowed Your head before the Forerunner, O Lord who measured heaven with the span of Your hand.” (Matins hymn of Theophany) It is only through condescension and humility that we can live that one main point which these feasts culminate in, our renewal and perfection in Christ our God.
We humbly accept that we sin. We repent. We submit to the example of Christ’s life. Only then, can we also attain glory in His glory. At Christmas we joyfully exclaim the Lord’s birth, singing with the angelic hosts, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men,” shouting out our hearts’ joy at the Birth of the Redeemer. Also, at Theophany, we celebrate the enlightenment gifted to us by the Holy Trinity: “And we who are now illumined cry aloud, Glory be to God who appeared, and who was seen on earth, and who illumined the world.” From Christmas to Theophany, from condescension to Glory!!
Source: Lychnos December 2018 / January 2019