OLPH Church
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Byzantine Catholic Church

The Feast of Theophany

We celebrate in this Feast His mysterious union with humanity in the Church -- a union of faith and love, engendering men to a new spiritual life in Baptism. The event of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River (Mk. 1: 9-11) serves to reveal this union in a clear and special manner.

In accordance with the Gospel this is the first revelation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- the Holy Trinity. The icon brings this revelation to us. At the top of the icon, the opening of heaven is symbolized by the segment of a circle. This circle signifies God's presence and witness at the event. Emanating from the circle are rays of light surrounding the Holy Spirit, depicted in the figure of a dove descending upon our Savior Who is being baptized in the Jordan by John. In this graphic manner, the Father and the Holy Spirit give testimony to the appearance of the Son of God in the flesh among mankind.

In this icon, we are immediately drawn to the Person of Christ. He stands in the waters of the Jordan. The iconographic imagery expresses that not just a part, but the entire body of Christ is immersed in the Jordan in token of His burial; for in Colossians we read: "in baptism you were not only buried with Him but also raised to life with Him because you believed in the power of God Who raised Him from the dead." (2: 12) The icon's illustration of the total immersion of Christ as well as His right hand blessing the waters signifies the sanctification and purification of the waters by Christ. No longer is water an image of death, but an image of birth into a new life which we share with Christ Who took upon Himself the sins of the world. In Christ we celebrate that all of creation is renewed.

A further illustration of our coming to share this new life in Christ is the symbol of Christ undergoing Baptism "clothed" in the nakedness of Adam, the Father of all mankind. Through Christ's sanctification of the waters, He enables us to be raised up with Him and to put on the robes of incorruptibility.

The role of John the Baptist is depicted by the placing of his right hand on the head of Christ -- a gesture which has always been an integral part of the sacramental ritual of Baptism. With his left hand, John makes a gesture of prayer, symbolizing the trembling awe which overwhelmed him at the sight of the divine manifestation. Present in the icon are Angels with their hands covered. Their heads are bowed as an indication of their role of service to God and their reverence for Him Whom they serve. The Icon of Theophany brings us visually and symbolically to the presence of the manifestation of God, the revelation of the Trinity, and the deep, spiritually rich significance of Baptism. In its presence we know that God does reveal Himself to us and that through our Baptism, established by the Baptism of Christ, we are made new in Christ.