Monday, January 6, 2020

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): The (Coming) Theophany

Arabic original here.

The (Coming) Theophany

In the Nativity, there is a hidden, timid appearance of the Lord Jesus: to His mother Mary, to Joseph, to the shepherds and to the Wise Men coming from the east. Today, however, we have the public appearance of Christ, the Son of God: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).

He comes like a sinful man, taking upon His shoulders the burden of the entire world's sins. "He came to fulfill all righteousness." This is the beginning of a symbolic declaration, through His entrance into the waters and His departure from them, a declaration of His death and resurrection, taking upon His shoulders the entire world's sin. He was baptized in waters that became rivers of paradise, bringing life and not death. From them, it has been granted to everyone to be baptized in His name. Everyone has been granted the seed of salvation. Herein lies the mystery of our death with Christ and our resurrection with Him.

In the Old Testament there are precursor symbols of this mystery, the mystery of baptism: the River Jordan, which is another image of the Red Sea; the voice of God the Father, which is like a new creation in His beloved Son. There is also the Holy Spirit appearing in the form of a dove, reminding us of the Spirit "hovering over the surface of the waters" (Genesis 1:2).

The voice of the Father, the power of the Holy Spirit fortell a new creation in the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God, in whom the Father is well-pleased. The Holy Spirit appears in the form of the dove released by Noah who returns with an olive branch, an expression of God's mercies and His forgiveness of sins, a symbol of the coming of Christ who, in His death and resurrection, is victorious over sin and grants forgiveness to humankind. He puts an end to the devil, who was symbolized of old by Pharoah. We have been empancipated from slavery to the devil of this world, who shackles us with sin. Christ will be led to the desert for forty days, which reminds us of the forty years the People of Israel spent in the wilderness. There He will confront the devil and humiliate him.

Christ's baptism in the Jordan also reminds us of the People of Israel's crossing the Jordan led by Joshua son of Nun (the name Joshua is the same as the name Jesus) in order to enter the Promised Land. Thus Christ, through His baptism and our baptism, leads us into the true Jordan that we have been promised-- that is, the kingdom of heaven. Here the heavens are opened and indeed "have been rent", as Mark says (Mark 1:10), which points to the rending of the veil of the temple when Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross (Mark 15:37-38), as a sign of the Father's sorrow.

Saint Cabasilas advises us to read the text of the baptism in the Gospel because it reveals our condition and at the same time what we must become through our live in Christ. This feast reveals the Holy Trinity, just as it also reminds us of our baptism, this divine grace that we have received and which has made us children of God by grace, grafted to the body of the risen Christ.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

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