Matins Hymn of Theophany (6th January)
Ἐξαποστειλάριον τῆς Ἐορτῆς (Ἦχος γ’)
Ἐπεφάνη ὁ Σωτήρ, ἡ χάρις ἡ ἀλήθεια, ἐν ῥείθροις τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, καὶ τοὺς ἐν σκότει καὶ σκιᾷ, καθεύδοντας ἐφώτισε• καὶ γὰρ ἦλθεν ἐφάνη, τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀπρόσιτον.
The Saviour who is grace and truth, appeared in the streams of the Jordan, and illumined those sleeping in darkness and shadow, and came now and shone, the unapproachable light.
It is not by chance that this Feast-day of Our Lord, the Feast of Theophany, is called the Festival of Lights. St John the Evangelist in his first Epistle is definitive: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:15). St Gregory the Theologian follows in the same vein, in his sermon on Holy Baptism: “God is Light: the highest, the unapproachable, the ineffable.” But even so, in the person of Jesus Christ and in His Baptism which we celebrate on 6th January, this light is imparted to all of Creation, especially to humans who were created in His image and likeness.
St John Chrysostom clarifies for us why this day is called Theophany and not the day Christ was born: “Until this time He was not known to the people. And that the people did not know Him, Who He was, listen about this to John the Baptist, who says: ‘but there stands One among you whom you do not know.’ (Jn.1:26). And is it surprising that others did not know Him, when even the Baptist did not know Him until that day?” It is obvious here, that the Holy Father is referring to Christ being made known to all, through His Baptism, as the second Person of the Holy Trinity.
There had been previous forms of Baptism, these being baptism according to the law of Moses, for ritual cleansing, then the baptism of St John the Forerunner as a sign for spiritual regeneration. However, none of these had the power to forgive sins and illumine souls. St John the Baptist himself, explains this for us: “I indeed baptise you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11) In Jesus, grace and truth are personified, which is why we chant this hymn out of gratitude, recognising that only He brings illumination to our souls and bodies.
Source: Lychnos December 2018 / January 2019