Sunday, January 6, 2019

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): Theophany

 Arabic original here.


"Then 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?'" (Matthew 3:13-14).

Did John know Him previously? Chrysostom says that he had heard of Him but he became sure of knowing Him at the baptism.

"I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God" (John 1:33-34). This is the testimony of John the Baptist.

When Jesus was baptized-- say Matthew and Luke-- He came up from the water and behold, the heavens had opened to Him. Mark mentions that "He saw the heavens parting" (Mark 1:10).

This is a human, symbolic expression of the Father's pain over His Son's death in the body on the cross.

Perhaps Mark heard this from John the Baptist who alone with Jesus saw the wondrous sight: the mystery of the Trinity, the appearance of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hear we must mention the expression "parting" when "the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Mark 15:38) [the word for "parting" and "torn" is the same in the Arabic] at Christ's death upon the cross.

The second part of inspiration lies in the expression of the voice of the Father: "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:17), an expression that appears in the three synoptic Gospels. It reminds us of what is said in Psalm 2: "You are My son and today I have begotten you. Ask Me, and I will give you the nations as an inheritance."

Also in the Book of Hebrews: "For to which of the angels did He ever say: 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You'?" (Hebrews 1:5).

The author of Revelation takes the words of the Psalms and applies them to Jesus, saying of the woman "She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron" (Revelation 12:5).

The second part, "in whom I am well-pleased" is taken from Isaiah:

"Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him" (Isaiah 42:1). This is the Spirit coming down in the form of a dove. Isaiah goes on about Christ:

"He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench." Matthew recalls these words literally in chapter 12:18-21. This is the image of the suffering Son for the Prophet Isaiah.

The Trinitarian image in Jesus' baptism renews faith in the Trinity in us, just as it reminds us that it is necessary for us to live out our baptism by imitating Christ who suffers and rises:

"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4).

God's manifestation in this world takes place through the Holy Spirit. Then, God can say to each of us, "You are my son, in whom I am well-pleased."

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

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