January 13, 2024

Homily on Holy Theophany (St. Chrysostomos of Smyrna)

Theophany in Smyrna in 1922 with Metropolitan Chrysostomos
By St. Chrysostomos, Metropolitan of Smyrna (+ 1922) 
"When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'” (Matthew 3:16-17).

Bright and glorious, pious and beloved Sacred Polycarp readers, was the past celebration of the Nativity of the Lord; however, brighter and more glorious, is the present day of Theophany.

Then, when Jesus was born, the heavens cracked and opened and revealed all their divine majesty and joy; and then there was a star, leading the magi from the East "and stood over where the Child was;" and then an angel appeared to the shepherds, he said to them: "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, for unto you is born this day a Savior." An angelic choir, "a multitude of heavenly hosts," emerging from the heavens, glorified our God-man, our Redeemer, chanting "Glory to God in the Highest, and on the earth peace among those whom He is pleased."

And on that great day of the Theophany, when the Lord of glory was baptized and came straight out of the water, behold, the heavens were opened to Him; but instead of a star, or a bright angelic heavenly host, the Holy Spirit descended, the third person of the Holy Trinity, and in the form of a dove He comes to Jesus; instead of the angelic voices and praises, which resounded on the hills and heights of Bethlehem, there is heard the voice from the heavens, the voice of the Lord upon the waters. Words of the highest importance are resounding there in the deserts of Jordan, the Father's testimony about the second person of the Holy Trinity is given there, a voice saying: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

To the present festival greater than the Nativity, the feast of Baptism, to which the Head of the Church submitted, and which was the first and most notable step of our Lord Jesus Christ, to enter into the official and public service and ministry, I discern three supremely great and wonderful signs:

a) the heavens open,

b) the manifestation of the Holy Trinity takes place, and

c) there is a voice that speaks heard from heaven.

a) The heavens are opened today: "And behold, the heavens were opened to Him." We must believe rather that because of us through Jesus Christ, the heavens were opened at the baptism of the Lord; because with Jesus Christ, the heavens were always opened; He, as perfect God, was at the same time both in the Jordan physically and in the heavens really, on the throne of His glory, the indescribable One being everywhere present and filling all things.

"The heavens were opened," that is, for us the door leading to the heavens has been opened, the great and royal door, the door of baptism, through which men, even those extreme sinners, enter the kingdom of God, first in the kingdom of grace, which is the true one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church on earth, and this through baptism, through which alone general absolution, amnesty and grace are given to all, and through the kingdom of grace, born sons of her enter into the kingdom of glory and become heirs of the kingdom of heaven and co-heirs with Christ.

"And behold, the heavens were opened today," that is, the closed gates of paradise, which were closed by the transgression of the first-formed; behold, they are now opened for us sinners, and we are called to enter the heavens, where is our true fatherland, where the lot of the saints, the kingdom of God, awaits us, of which we become sons by grace and children of God through baptism alone.

It is as if today heaven is spreading its arms over us who have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in order to embrace and lift us up to "where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus." This sweet hope, this extraordinary grace and privilege we all have who are baptized in the name of the Lord; we have this grace, this seal of the gift, those of us who receive the bath of rebirth, those who see the true light, and receive the sanctification, the purification, the new creation in the baptismal water of the Christian font, and thus cleansed we therefore became sons of God by grace.
b) The Triune God of the Christians is revealed today at the Jordan, being the essence, the central doctrine and the cornerstone of Christianity, which is the only religion on earth that accepts and believes in one God, but also a Triune God, "Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity one in essence and undivided."

First the Father is revealed above, who testifies; secondly the Son is revealed below, who is baptized; thirdly the Holy Spirit is revealed, who descends on Jesus from above in the form of a dove.

The Jordan is the great School and Teacher of the Holy Trinity, because there in the Jordan, according to the baptism of the Lord, we are taught about the knowledge of the unbegotten Father, the recognition of the Only Begotten Son, the information of the Holy Spirit.

In heaven is the Father, who is God above all and in all, the first person of the Holy Trinity, the source of the Godhead, from whom the Son is eternally begotten, and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds. Secondly, the Son is baptized in the Jordan, the second person of the Holy Trinity, who "the Father begat in the womb before the morning star," "who was in the beginning with the Father, and without whom no one was born" of the born creatures and creations, in whom dwells the entire fullness of the Godhead truly, the beloved Son, through whom God was pleased to give peace and reconciliation, grace and salvation, righteousness and sanctification to men; and all these gifts freely, and grace through baptism. And thirdly, the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, appears, coming to the baptized Christ in the form of a dove, because the dove was the symbol of peace and reconciliation between God and people, between heaven and earth. In the form of a dove, the Holy Spirit descends, perhaps to remind us that once in times of old there was a dove which announced to Noah the cessation of the flood, and now in the form of a dove He is given to bring the cessation of the global flood of sin upon the earth.

We therefore have at the Jordan the presence of the three persons of the Holy Trinity - we have God the Father speaking with the voice from heaven, we have God the Son who has been manifested in the flesh and baptized, and we have the Holy Spirit descending as a dove. This was done so we can believe and confess that the work of man's salvation, which is completed through baptism, was the result of the pre-eternal council of the three persons of the consubstantial and indivisible Trinity.
c) The third extraordinary sign of today's feast is the voice and testimony of the Father from heaven.

We have knowledge of no other such voice from heaven that happened before, except the voice heard when the Law was given on Mount Sinai. Both circumstances were important. When the Law was given through Moses, and when Grace came through Jesus Christ, this same Father gave a voice from heaven. In Sinai, at the introduction of the Law, the voice said "I am the Lord your God." In the Jordan, the same voice says: "This is My beloved son."

This divine voice and testimony also came later from heaven on the holy mountain where Jesus was transfigured.

This voice of the Father today proclaims from above, that Jesus is the one foreordained centuries ago to do the work of this day's redemption, who in the waters of baptism prefigures that He will wash away our sins in His blood, by which He will grant to us propitiation and salvation. The baptism of water, in which we are baptized, is the type of the baptism of blood, with which the Head of our Church, Christ, was baptized, because those of us who were baptized, "were baptized into His death; therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death."

This divine voice also descends on all of us sons by grace, those who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are washed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are baptized and cleansed from every iniquity, our conscience is made clean, having no remorse of conscience, our minds our pure, being mindful and well disposed towards all people, our hearts are pure, without any open or hidden sin burdening it.

This divine voice is sent down from above and descends on us, on our Church, on our pious Race, when something great and extraordinary happens due to our and our Church's fortunes.

Blessed are those who have spiritual ears and hear these secret voices, which especially of late so often come to us from the seas, from the mountains, from the earth, from the sky, and blessed are those who are attentive.

Source: Sacred Polycarp, Year 2 Smyrna, no. 31; January 5, 1912, pp. 1490-1495. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Become a Patreon or Paypal Supporter:

Recurring Gifts

Contact Form


Email *

Message *