Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Catholic faith
Today the churches of the Orthodox tradition that use the Julian calendar (on which today is the 6th January), including the biggest, the Church of Russia, celebrate Theophany, Our Lord’s baptism, by John the Baptist, in the River Jordan. Not just a manifestation (what Epiphany, epiphania, means in Greek) of Jesus’ divinity, as was the visit of the Three Kings to the Baby Jesus as celebrated in Roman Rite Epiphany, but specifically named as the manifestation of God (what theophania means in Greek) in which Our Lord, not needing to be baptized himself of course, instituted the Sacrament of Baptism for our sakes.

O faithful, come and behold the place of the baptism of Christ, so that we may follow Him to the streams of the Jordan and thus draw near to the one who cries out in the wilderness: See the inexpressible loving-kindness of the Creator of Adam, who bows His head to the hand of a servant. Therefore let us cry out to Him: Thou hast come and appeared in the Jordan to sanctify the waters.
- From Byzantine Rite Matins for the feast

Also today in Russia congregations cut holes in river and lake ice to have the priest bless holy water, of course the sacramental that reminds one of baptism. Eastern Orthodox use it to bless people and things by the priest sprinkling them with it and also drink it. This season after the feast is when he comes round to bless houses.

Съ праздникомъ!

As for the Baptist’s words to the Pharisees, et al. who came to him, I can’t imagine a sermon today even in the most un-PC, un-touchy-feely place beginning with ‘You brood of vipers!’

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