The feast of Epiphany is celebrated on the 6th of January and in Greek is known as Theophany, or God’s appearance among men. The feast commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan by John the Baptist. At this momentous event, where the Master was baptised by the servant, the Heavens were opened, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove and the voice of God the Father was heard from Heaven declaring that Jesus was the beloved Son of God. These events demonstrate two important theological truths. The first is that Jesus is the Son of God. Secondly, these events reveal the great mystery of the Trinity.
The baptism of Jesus Christ prefigures the sacrament of baptism. St Gregory Palamas explains that Christ’s immersion in the Jordan foreshadowed His death and descent into Hades. His rising up out of the water foreshadowed His resurrection. At the sacrament of baptism, immersion in water occurs three times as the priest invokes Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is to imprint on our souls the image in which we were made, which is the image of the Trinity. St Gregory Palamas states that we were made in the image and likeness of the Trinity.
As Christ emerged from the water, “The Heavens were opened unto Him” (Matt. 3:16). The epiphany (or revelation) is in the opening of the heavens to Him who was baptized. No person had opened the gates of heaven. The gates of paradise were opened for the first time by a Man, allowing all those willing to recognise God and promise their souls to Him, to enter into the eternal kingdom.
St John the Evangelist writes in his account of the epiphany, that “of His fullness have all we received” (John 1:16). That is to say, the full Trinity can be received by us. The heavens are open to us, God calls us, we are free from the tyranny of Hades, and we can choose to live in the truth of these convictions.
Source: December-January 2014 Lychnos Edition