We have arrived at the Theophany. Advent has prepared us to accept the great news: Christ is Born and Revealed. More than a “Christmas Celebration” we now understand that this is the Revelation of God to the world. “God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16) says the Scripture that most have learned by heart. Following Advent and this Advent Journey, I trust that these words resonate deep in your spiritual consciousness.
It is not by accident that we haven’t spoken about the virgin birth, the obedience of Joseph, the visit of the Magi or the shepherds’ vigil until now. Today we move to the Baptism of Jesus, which is recorded by all the evangelists in their gospels. It was after his baptism, that Jesus began his ministry. In a very real sense, his baptism was the “birth” of him ministry; it was immediately after his baptism that Jesus went into seclusion and began the period of his life that we read in the Gospels. Reading the account of St. Matthew (chapter 3) we find, “Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”
At this one moment in history, God is revealed as the Holy Trinity. The Son of God stands next to John the Baptist in the River Jordon, the Holy Spirit of God descends on Jesus in a dovelike manner and the voice of God the Father is heard. The Holy Trinity is revealed at this moment in History. Hence, the name of the Feast is “Theophany” = the Revelation of God: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. The Armenian word for the feast is Asdvadzahaydnoutiun, which is a literal transition of God is revealed.
In the Armenian Church the Feast of Theophany encompasses all of the events in the life of our Lord Jesus from his Birth to his Baptism. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, water is blessed to symbolize the Baptism of Jesus. Into the water is poured Holy Miuron, that is chrism or “Holy Oil” which is made up of the essence of forty different flowers indigenous to the Arartian plateau in Armenia. It is blessed every seven years by the head of the Armenian Church, who is referred to as the Catholicos, or the chief bishop. During the Blessing of Miuron, some of the previous batch is poured into the new batch. Technically, there are molecules in the miuron from the time of Christ. This is the strength of the Apostolic continuity of the Armenian Church.
Today is a new beginning. It is a new day of celebration. In modern terms, you can think of it as a hard-reset, it is like hitting the reset button on your device and coming back to the original form.
Now that you have arrived at Theophany after an intense period of Advent, I invite you to follow along the daily podcasts, “Armodoxy for Today” where we will explore the intricacies of the Armenian Church and her faith. We’ll learn where do the Christmas narratives of shepherds, wisemen and stars fit into our Faith? What is the mystical and magical quality of Holy Miuron? What is the strength of the Holy Divine Liturgy that is repeated every week? Mostly, Armodoxy for Today will connect the dots between the relationships and aspects of our lives with the beauty of God’s Kingdom and His Love and Kindness for each of us. I look forward to having you join us.
For today, we play the hymn of the synaxis dedicated to the Holy Mother of God. It is meditative and I invite you to be swept away by the melody and this celebration by the Luyse Vocal Quintet.