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On the Holy Epiphany (Part 1)

O you who are the friends of Christ, and the friends of the ‎stranger, and the friends of the brethren, receive in kindness my ‎speech today, and open your ears like the doors of hearing, and ‎admit within them my discourse, and accept from me this saving ‎proclamation of the baptism of Christ, which took place in the river ‎Jordan, in order that your loving desires may be quickened after ‎the Lord, who has done so much for us in the way of ‎condescension. For even though the festival of the Epiphany of the ‎Savior is past, the grace of the same yet abides with us through all. ‎Let us therefore enjoy it with insatiable minds; for insatiate desire ‎is a good thing in the case of what pertains to salvation — yes, it is ‎a good thing. ‎

Come therefore, all of us, from Galilee to Judea, and let ‎us go forth with Christ; for blessed is he who journeys in such ‎company on the way of life. Come, and with the feet of thought let ‎us make for the Jordan, and see John the Baptist as he baptizes One ‎who needs no baptism, and yet submits to the rite in order that He ‎may bestow freely upon us the grace of baptism. Come, let us view ‎the image of our regeneration, as it is emblematically presented in ‎these waters. ‎

‎“Then Jesus came from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to ‎be baptized of him.” O how vast is the humility of the Lord! O ‎how vast His condescension! The King of the heavens hastened to ‎John, His own forerunner, without setting in motion the camps of ‎His angels, without dispatching beforehand the incorporeal powers ‎as His precursors; but presenting Himself in utmost simplicity, in ‎soldier-like form, He comes tip to His own subordinate. ‎

He approached him as one of the multitude. He humbled ‎Himself among the captives though He was the Redeemer. He ‎extended Himself with those under judgment though He was the ‎Judge. He joined Himself with the lost sheep though He was the ‎Good Shepherd—who on account of the straying sheep—came ‎down from heaven without forsaking His heavens. He was ‎mingled with the tares though He was that heavenly grain that ‎springs unsown. ‎

And when the Baptist John then saw Him, recognizing Him ‎whom before in his mother’s womb he had recognized and ‎worshipped, and discerning clearly that this was He on whose ‎account, in a manner surpassing the natural time, the had leaped in ‎the womb of his mother. in violation of the limits of nature, he ‎drew his right hand within his double cloak, and bowing his head ‎like a servant full of love to his master, addressed Him in these ‎words: ‎

‎“I have need to be baptized of You, and You come to me? ‎What are you doing, my Lord? Why do You reverse the order of ‎things? Why do You seek along with the servants, at the hand of ‎Your servant, the things that are proper to servants? Why do You ‎desire to receive what You do not require? Why do You burden me, ‎Your servant, with Your mighty condescension? I need to be ‎baptized by You, but You have no need to be baptized by me. ‎

The less is blessed by the greater, and the greater is not ‎blessed and sanctified by the less. The light is kindled by the sun, ‎and the sun is not made to shine by the rush-lamp. The clay is ‎wrought by the potter, and the potter is not molded by the clay. The ‎creature is renewed by the Creator, and the Creator is not restored ‎by the creature. The sick is healed by the physician, and the ‎physician is not cured by the sick. The poor man receives ‎contributions from the rich, and the rich do not borrow from the ‎poor. I need to be baptized by You, and You come to me? ‎

Can I be ignorant of who You are, and from what source ‎You have Your light, and where You come from? Or, because You ‎have been born even as I have been, am I, then, to deny the ‎greatness of Your divinity? Or, because You have condescended so ‎far to me as to have approached my body, and bear me wholly in ‎Yourself in order to effect the salvation of the whole man, am I, on ‎account of that body of Yours which is seen, to overlook that ‎divinity of Yours which is only apprehended? ‎

Or, because on behalf of my salvation You have taken to ‎Yourself the offering of my first-fruits, should I ignore the fact that ‎You “cover Yourself with light as with a garment?” Or, because ‎You wear the flesh that is related to me, and appear to men as they ‎are able to see You, should I forget the brightness of Your glorious ‎divinity? Or, because I see my own form in You, am I to reason ‎against Your divine substance, which is invisible and ‎incomprehensible? ‎

I know You, O Lord; I know You clearly. I know You, since ‎I have been taught by You. For no one can recognize You, unless ‎He enjoys Your illumination. I know You, O Lord, clearly; for I ‎saw You spiritually before I beheld this light. When You were ‎altogether in the incorporeal bosom of the heavenly Fr., You ‎were also altogether in the womb of Your handmaid and mother; ‎and though I was held in the womb of Elizabeth by nature as in a ‎prison, and bound with the unbreakable bonds of unborn children, ‎leaped and celebrated Your birth with anticipating celebration. ‎Shall I then, who indicated Your sojourn on earth before Your ‎birth, fail to apprehend Your coming after Your birth? Shall I, who ‎in the womb was a teacher of Your coming, be now a child in ‎understanding in view of perfect knowledge? ‎

I cannot but worship You, who are adored by the whole ‎creation. I cannot but proclaim You, of whom heaven gave the ‎indication by the star, and for whom earth offered a kind reception ‎by the wise men, while the choirs of angels also praised You in joy ‎over Your condescension to us, and the shepherds who kept watch ‎by night hymned You as the Chief Shepherd of the rational sheep. I ‎cannot keep silent while You are present, for I am a voice—yes, ‘I ‎am the voice, as it is said, of one crying in the wilderness, ‎Prepare you the way of the Lord.’ I need to be baptized by You, ‎and You come to me? ‎

I was born, and thereby removed the barrenness of the ‎mother that bore me. While I was still a child I became the healer ‎of my father’s speechlessness, having received of You from my ‎childhood the gift of the miraculous. But You, being born of the ‎Virgin Mary, as You did will, and as You alone do know, did not ‎do away with her virginity. But You preserved it, and simply gifted ‎her with the name of mother. Her virginity neither precluded Your ‎birth, nor did Your birth injure her virginity. But these two things, ‎so utterly opposite — bearing and virginity — harmonized with ‎one intent; for such a thing abides, possible with You, the Framer ‎of nature. I am, but a man and a partaker of the divine grace. But ‎You are God, and at the same time, man—for You are by nature ‎man’s friend. I need to be baptized of You, and You come to me? ‎

You who were in the beginning, and were with God, and ‎was God; You who are the brightness of the Fr.’s glory; You ‎who are the perfect image of the perfect Fr.; You who are the ‎true light that lightens every man that cometh into the world; You ‎who was in the world, and did come where You was; You who was ‎made flesh, and yet was not changed into the flesh; You who did ‎dwell among us, and did manifest Yourself to Your servants in the ‎form of a servant; You who did bridge earth and heaven together ‎by Your holy name, —You come to me? ‎

One so great to such a one as I am? The King to the ‎forerunner? The Lord to the servant? But though You were not ‎ashamed to be born in the lowly measures of humanity, yet I have ‎no ability to pass the measures of nature. I know how great is the ‎measure of difference between earth and the Creator. I know how ‎great is the distinction between the clay and the potter. I know how ‎vast is the superiority possessed by You, who are the Sun of ‎righteousness, over me who am but the torch of Your grace. Even ‎though You surrounded with the pure cloud of the body, I can still ‎recognize Your lordship. I acknowledge my own servitude; I ‎proclaim Your glorious greatness; I recognize Your perfect ‎lordship; I recognize my own perfect insignificance. I am not ‎worthy to unloose the straps of Your sandals. ‎

And how shall I dare to touch Your stainless head? How ‎can I stretch out the right hand upon You, who did stretch out the ‎heavens like a curtain, and did set the earth above the waters? ‎How shall I spread those menial hands of mine upon Your head? ‎How shall I wash You, who are undefiled and sinless? How shall I ‎enlighten the light? What manner of prayer shall I offer up over ‎You, You who receive the prayers even of those who are ignorant ‎of You? ‎

When I baptize others, I baptize into Your name, in order ‎that they may believe in You, who come with glory. But when I ‎baptize You, of whom shall I make mention and into whose name ‎shall I baptize You? Into that of the Fr.? But You have the ‎Fr. altogether in Yourself, and You are altogether in the ‎Fr.. Or into that of the Son? But beside You there is no other ‎Son of God by nature. Or into that of the Holy Spirit? But He is ‎ever together with You, as being of one substance, and of one will, ‎and of one judgment, and of one power, and of one honor with ‎You. He receives, along with You, the same adoration from all. ‎

Therefore, O Lord, You baptize me, if You please. Baptize ‎me, the Baptist. Restore one whom You created. Extend Your ‎awesome right hand, which You have prepared for Yourself, and ‎crown my head by Your touch, in order that I may run the course ‎before Your kingdom, crowned like a forerunner, and diligently ‎announce the good tidings to the sinners, addressing them with this ‎earnest call: “Behold the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of ‎the world!” ‎

O river Jordan, accompany me in the joyous choir, and ‎leap with me, and stir your waters rhythmically, as in the ‎movements of the dance—for your Maker stands by you in the ‎body. Long ago, when you saw Israel pass through you, you ‎divided your floods and waited in expectation of the passage of the ‎people. Now divide yourself more decidedly, flow more easily, and ‎embrace the unblemished limbs of Him who at that ancient time ‎did convey the Jews through you. You mountains and hills, you ‎valleys and torrents, you seas and rivers, bless the Lord, who has ‎come upon the river Jordan. For through these streams He ‎transmits sanctification to all streams.” ‎

Posted by Fr. Moses Samaan

April 9, 2009