The Ancient of Days, Who formerly granted the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, today is seen as an infant, and according to the Law, as the Creator of the Law fulfills the Law, being brought into the Temple and is given to the Priest.
The Righteous Symeon receiving Him, and beholding the dissolving of bonds being performed, cries out joyfully: My eyes have seen the Mystery hidden from before the ages, but which has been revealed to us in these latter days, the Light that disperses the darkness of the faithless nations, and the glory of the new Israel. Therefore, let your servant depart from the bonds of this flesh towards the heavenly and wondrous eternal life, You Who grant the world the great mercy.
– from the Litia of Vespers for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ to the Temple
Celebrating holy Theophany, we are transported in thought to the very place of this event, and we shall intelligently attend to what is happening there! There it is—Bethabara!
You can see St. John standing on the shore, in clothes made of camel’s hair, with a girdle of a skin about his loins (Mk. 1:6). He is surrounded by a countless multitude of people from Jerusalem, Judea, and all the lands around the Jordan.
The Baptism of the Lord has just finished, and all eyes are fixed upon Him just emerged from the waters. They see nothing else. But sharpen by faith the eye of your mind, and following after John, passing over what is seen by all, turn an attentive gaze upon what is not seen by all — on the opened heavens, the dove descending, and the voice saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Mk. 1:11).
Fix your gaze, and do not tear your attention away from this wondrous vision! O! Who will give power to our words, that they might worthily sing praises to God in three Hypostases, revealed at the Jordan!
We should know that even one tear of repentance is
equivalent to a spiritual bath. Just as the body feels refreshed when it
bathes, and just as clothes become clean when they are washed, similarly, the
tears of a repentant soul purify the heart, purify the mind, purify the body,
purify life, purify speech, and purify a person’s every action. Let us kneel
and pray with extreme humility! Every repentant soul is given words: it is
granted enlightened prayer.
It is necessary for us to receive enlightenment. We should not be deluded by
the world. We should not be drawn and attached to earthly things. We should not
be weighed down by matters of the present age and this current life.
“Come, let us wonder at the virgin most pure, wondrous in herself, unique in
creation, she gave birth, yet knew no man; her pure soul with wonder was
filled, daily her mind gave praise in joy at the twofold wonder: her virginity
preserved, her child most dear. Blessed is He who shone forth from her!”
— St. Ephraim the Syrian, Songs of Praise
“When God became known to us in the flesh, He neither received the passions
of human nature, nor did the Virgin Mary suffer pain, nor was the Holy Spirit
diminished in any way, nor was the power of the Most High set aside in any
manner, and all this was because all was accomplished by the Holy Spirit. thus
the power of the Most High was not abased, and the Child was born with no damage whatsoever
to the Mother’s
however, Michael and Gabriel, as the Taxiarchs over all the rest, even more so, judge, warm us, make us wise, even more so command us, work deeds for us, and preserve us, even more so rule over nations, minister the faith, and liturgize with us.”
Excerpt on the Holy Angels by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain
How honored and magnified is mankind through the Holy Virgin Mother of God, for it has been made worthy of renewal and sonship by God; She Herself was made worthy by Her immeasurable humility and exceedingly great purity and holiness to be the Mother of the God-man! She is ever the most powerful Intercessor for the Christian race before Her Son and God! She is our Hope unashamed; She turns away from us the dark cloud of God’s righteous wrath, opens to us the ancient paradise by Her powerful intercessions.
” . . . when the Church tells us in her hymns
and icons that the Apostles were miraculously gathered from the ends of the
earth in order to be present at the repose and burial of the Mother of God,
we as Orthodox Christians are not free to deny this or reinterpret it,
but must believe as the Church hands it down to us, with simplicity
St. John Maximovich
“Let us be happy, beloved brothers and sisters that we belong to the Holy Orthodox Church, worthily and rightly glorifying the Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos on this eminent day out of all the days of the year with special solemnity.
“The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Orthodox Christian when he is baptized acts and is manifested in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord.
That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts with him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less.
Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more fire wood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by the passions and sins, and the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart, illumines and deifies him.”
Who did not meet the Lord when He, as a king, triumphantly entered into Jerusalem; and who did not cry out then, Hosanna to the Son of David! (Matt. 21:15)? But only four days passed, and the same crowd with the same tongues cried, Crucify Him, crucify Him! (John 19:6). An amazing change!
But why should we be surprised? Do we not do the very same thing, when upon receiving the Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we barely leave the Church before forgetting everything—both our reverence and God’s mercy toward us. We give ourselves over as before to self-pleasing deeds—at first small and then also large.
Perhaps even before four days have passed, although we do not cry, “Crucify Him!” we will crucify the Lord within ourselves. The Lord sees all of this and suffers. Glory to Thy longsuffering, O Lord!