John did restrain Him, saying: "I must needs be baptized of Thee, and dost Thou, then, come to me?"
But Jesus said unto him in reply: "Let it be, for now, for thus doth it behoove us to fulfill all righteousness." (Mt. 3, 14-15)
Today the entire Orthodox Church universal celebrates the festive remembrance and glorification of the Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. The holy Evangelist reports that when the Lord came to the Jordan to be baptized, John attempted to restrain Him, saying: "I must needs be baptized of Thee, and dost Thou, then, come to me?"
Would not we say the like, knowing Who this is Who has come: Lord, what doth it signify, this extreme humility of Thine, that Thou, the Lord Who is without sin, comest to be baptized of a man, even if he be one who is righteous through Thine own grace and righteousness?
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
Mt 3:17; 17:5
Thus did the voice of the pre-eternal God the Father speak to people about the pre-eternal God the Son, when the Son, at the behest of the Father, through the action of the Spirit, became incarnate of the Virgin and wrought the salvation of perishing mankind. Brothers! Let us show obedience to the Son of God, as God desires of us, that Divine good will might abide with us.
Perhaps someone might say, "I would like to obey the Son of God; but how can this be done, when two thousand years have passed since our Lord Jesus Christ dwelt on earth in the flesh and preached His all-holy teaching?"
We shall now say something about the present feast. Many celebrate the feastdays and know their designations, but the cause for which they were established they know not. Thus concerning this, that the present feast is called Theophany—everyone knows; but what this is—Theophany, and whether it be one thing or another, they know not. And this is shameful—every year to celebrate the feastday and not know its reason.
First of all therefore, it is necessary to say that there is not one Theophany, but two: the one actual, which already has occurred, and the second in future, which will happen with glory at the end of the world. About this one and about the other you will hear today from Paul, who in conversing with Titus, speaks thus about the present: The grace of God hath revealed itself, having saved all mankind, decreeing, that we reject iniquity and worldly desires, and dwell in the present age in prudence and in righteousness and piety—and about the future: Awaiting the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit 2:11-13). And a prophet speaks thus about this latter: The sun shalt turn to darkness, and the moon to blood at first, then shalt come the great and illuminating Day of the Lord (Joel 2:31).
“The Lord of all endures circumcision, and He circumcises man’s sins, for He is good.” This is the meaning of today’s Church feast. The Circumcision was established by God and commanded through Abraham to all the chosen people of the Jews. It was a sign of entering into the Covenant with God, the seal of the promise to be always in Obedience to Him from childhood, to be faithful to Him unto the shedding of blood. It was performed in the image of cutting off the fleshly passions, the circumcision of the hardheartedness of the very heart, which was so destructive for Israel and so often caused it to apostatize from its God.
Love was incarnate and seeks of us who are bearers of His most pure image, that within us we realise even His likeness which we have distorted by our sins. If we were to realise this, we would redeem not only ourselves, but humanity in its entirety from this valley of temptations.
Today, from an overflowing heart we repeat those same words of the great Prophet Isaiah, for unto us truly is born a Child, unto us a Son is given! The Divine Youth was incarnate for us and for our salvation! Let us rejoice, therefore, always for Christ our Saviour is born!
As your Аrchpastor, responding, as Isaiah to the summons of the Lord, walking with you through the valley of temptations and beholding about us all of you, His holy flock, the people of God, joyfully we cry out before the cradle of the New-born: Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me! (Is. 8:18).
Truly, beloved children, beholding the world about us, we see that the ways of today throughout the entire world are but diversions, one mindless pilgrimage through the valley of temptation. However, the Incarnate God pours into us plentiful hope, for in the midst of a harsh reality which has dominated humanity, from economic crises to societal fragmentation, from battles for justice to unrest and wars; our Saviour and Redeemer comes to us as a new-born Child – precisely an innocent Child. For He within Himself as God Almighty reveals the might of innocence. Our Wonderful God and Counsellor fills the world by His birth according to the flesh with the light of purity which stems only and exclusively from that new life. For us that new life is: a life in Him who alone offers us boundless possibilities.
Hieromonk Job (Gumerov) of Sretensky Monastery answers questions related to the Nativity season.
I have read the Gospel according to Matthew many times, and suddenly I took note of the first two lines of the second chapter. How could the Magi come from the east to a star that they saw in the east? The Magi should have either come from the west to the star from the east, or the star should have been in the west; or perhaps something else is meant. Please explain. —Yuri