The Apolytikion of Theophany (January 6)
The Baptism of our Lord in the Flesh

The Feast of the Theophany, or Manifestation, of our Lord on January 6 is the second most important feast of the Church year after the Pascha/Pentecost celebration. In the East, the Feast of January 6 commemorated the Birth of Christ, the coming of the Magi, and the Baptism by John in the Jordan River; it was a feast commemorating the earliest manifestations of our Lord on earth. In the 4th century, when the Eastern Church accepted the celebration of the birth of our Lord on December 25, the January 6 feast was restricted to the commemoration of the Baptism. Both at the evening Vesperal Liturgy at the beginning of the feast on January 5, and at the morning Liturgy on January 6 the Church celebrates the Great Blessing of Water to commemorate the blessing which the Jordan River received when our Lord entered it for baptism.

The great feast days of the Orthodox Church are not restricted to one day of celebration. The celebration of most feasts extend for 8 days. Theophany is extended an extra day; the last day of the celebration (the Apodosis or “Leavetaking”) is January 14.

Greek Text

Ἐν Ἰορδάνῃ βαπτιζομένου σου Κύριε,
ἡ τῆς Τριάδος ἐφανερώθη προσκύνησις,
τοῦ γὰρ Γεννήτορος ἡ φωνὴ προσεμαρτύρει σοί,
ἀγαπητὸν σὲ Υἱὸν ὀνομάζουσα,
καὶ τὸ Πνεῦμα ἐν εἴδει περιστεράς,
ἐβεβαίου τοῦ λόγου τὸ ἀσφαλές.
Ὁ ἐπιφανεῖς Χριστὲ ὁ Θεός,
καὶ τὸν κόσμον φωτίσας
δόξα σοί.

Transliteration

En Iordani vaptizomenou sou Kyrie,
I tis Triados ephanerothi proskynisis,
tou gar Yennitoros i phoni prosemartyri si,
agapiton se Ion onomazousa,
ke to Pnevma en idi peristeras,
eveveou tou logou to asphales.
O epiphanis Christe o Theos,
ke ton kosmon photisas
doxa si.

English Translation

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord,
the worship of the Trinity was revealed,
for the voice of the Father bore witness to You,
naming You the beloved Son,
and the Spirit in the form of a dove
confirmed the surety of the word.
O Christ our God who appeared
and enlightened the world
glory to You.

The Hymn in Greek

The Hymn in English

 

The Meeting of Heaven and Earth

The hymtheophany02n for Theophany provides a narration which reflects the icon of the Feast, and fills out the theological meaning of the Scriptural narrative.

The first two lines of the hymn are a unit, setting up the union of heaven and earth. Each line follows the same structure: the central verbal form balances a noun phrase to the left and a single noun to the right. The first line sets the earthly scene; the second line expands the event to the heavenly realm.

 

En Iordani               vaptizomenou sou           Kyrie
I tis Triados             ephanerothi                      proskinisis

The first line has our old friend, the genitive absolute. It gives the circumstances under which the main verb occurs.

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord,
The worship of the Trinity was revealed.

The Revelation of the Trinity from Heaven

So, how does the revelation of the worship of the Trinity come out of the baptism of the young prophet from Nazareth?

The Gospels tell us that the Father recognized this man as His only Son; the Spirit hovered about Him.

It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.  Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:9-11

The next four lines of the hymn summarize the scene. The lines alternate between a mention of the Person of the Trinity and what they contribute to the revelation of the Trinity.

tou gar Yennitoros i phoni prosemartyri si,
agapiton se Ion onomazousa,
ke to Pnevma en idi peristeras,
eveveou tou logou to asphales

The first and third lines mention the Person and the means of communication: in the first, the Father witnesses with His voice; in the third, the Spirit appears as a dove. In the second and fourth lines we see the result of this revelation: the Father names of Jesus as His beloved Son; the Spirit confirms the truth of the Father’s witness.

The lines are also linked by the verbal forms: the section is framed by the two finite verbs of the sentence (proesmartyri and eveveou), expressing the action of the revelation. The inner sentences contain participles: the Father’s witness is expressed by naming (onomazousa); although the second participle is not expressed, the parallelism requires that the Spirit’s confirmation must come from an implied participle indicating “appearing”.

The structure of these lines, with all the action centered on the person of the Son, reflects the common action of all the Persons of the Trinity in revealing the communal nature of the Godhead.

The Revelation of the Trinity on Earth

How is this revelation brought back to the earth?

The hymn brings us back to our beginning, the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The concluding prayer (doxa si) is introduced by two participles fundamental to the story.

O epiphanis Christe o Theos,
ke ton kosmon photisas

The hymn addresses our Lord both as man (Christos, the Messiah) and God (Theos). This is the most important part of the revelation of the Trinity, that the man who comes to John to be baptized is actually God who has assumed our human nature. The participles (epiphanis and photisas) remind us of the Gospel of John (1:5)

And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend (or overcome) it.

By this revelation, our Lord now, in turn, shines the light of the true nature of God into the world.

The Revelation of the Trinity to Us

How does this revelation of the Trinity affect us?

Because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we can only truly know who we are if we truly know who God is. Since God at the baptism reveals himself as a community of love, we now know that we as human beings are meant to live as a community of love. The darkness of our selfishness and isolation has been overcome by the light of the eternal love of the Persons of the Trinity for one another.

The hymn also teaches us that, through the revelation of the Trinity, heaven and earth have been reunited. The Father once again speaks to His people, as He once did with Adam in the garden. The Spirit once again hovers over the waters, bringing forth the new creation. We, in turn, are called to participate in this new union of heaven and earth, seeing creation as being once again penetrated by heaven and once again able to reveal the presence of God. As a result, we should treat creation with the respect due to an icon of God.

 

 

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