Bulletin for 2 Jan 2022 -Sunday before Theophany

Christ is Baptized !

In the Jordan ! !

A blessed and prosperous New Year to you all! May 2022 bring us closer to Christ!

There is of course so much going on as we celebrate the New Year. Let us not lose sight of what is for Byzantine Catholics the second holiest day of that year. The Theophany is for us a greater feast than Christmas. We do not deny the gift of God’s only Son born for us but we highlight what that means as baptized Christians. Just as the Trinity was publically revealed, so at Baptism we are declared publically in the sight of those around us, to be brothers and sisters of Christ; we are transformed and given the energy, the grace and the capabilities to live in Christ so as to glorify the Father and come closer to Him through the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Christ baptism is not a distant event that does not reach down later in time.

The Theophany in Iconography

The picture tells a thousand words. Fr Christopher Zuegger explains it thus: John baptizes Jesus, but he is shown bent over in reverence, and either looking at heaven or facing the Lord. Jesus is the center of the icon in every way, and not John, as the other two Persons of the Holy Trinity are revealed above His head. Near to John is a tree with an ax laid at the root, recalling John’s own preaching to those who came to him: “And now also the ax is laid to the root of the trees: therefore, every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” (Matt 3:10).

St. John will indeed decrease so that Jesus may increase, but he is not tossed aside and will be an important figure still. John is always dressed in the traditional clothing of the prophets of animal skins and with long, uncut hair and beard. One hand of John’s rests on Jesus in His humanity, the other points to heaven for His divinity.

Christ is always in the center of the icon, standing in the flowing waters of the Jordan. Jesus is in the water, yet outside of the water: as the Creator, He stands above His creation but as the Son of Man, He is rooted in the river. His right hand spells out His name and title: IC XC, Jesus the Christ, in Greek letters. In the center of the icon is the moment of revelation itself: John baptizes Jesus, Who is the Son of God; the Spirit of God descends from on high; God the Father’s hand appears inside a nimbus of glory. It is the first clear revelation of the Trinity in Scripture!

God the Father is usually revealed as the never-ending circle of light, and rays come forth either in a three-branch or one straight down to Jesus’ head. God the Holy Spirit descends “like a dove” and so is shown in that form. Thus, the life-giving Person does not come down in blazing fire, but like the landing of one of the gentlest of God’s creatures!

Across from this, the angels are prepared to assist Jesus: notice that their hands are covered. Even “the holy bodiless powers of heaven” do not dare to touch their Maker! Sometimes little people are shown in the flowing Jordan: a man is shown: this is a personification of the Jordan River, and a woman, who represents the sea. The Baptism is a cosmic event, reaching beyond that one spot on the banks of the Jordan River. Water serpents can also be shown, which reflect the verse in Genesis about “crushing the heads of dragons”: the waters contain life, but also death. Jesus defeats death, and brings forth true life in the power of the Holy Spirit!

Theophany in Worship

Both Epiphany and Theophany mean “revelation of the Divine” but they are two different events in the Latin and Eastern Churches.

In the Latin Church, January 6 is the arrival of the Wise Men from the East. They come and “find the house where the Child and His Mother are.” This was traditionally the day for giving presents in much of Europe and Latin America until the American version caught on of giving presents on December 25. Gift-giving is done in imitation of the Three Kings!

In terms of liturgy, the Theophany feast ranks second to Easter and ahead of Christmas. These three each have a complete Vesper Liturgy service for the vigil, particular practices never found with other feasts including celebration of a morning Divine Liturgy, and all three are tied together by the Resurrection.

The commercialization of the Christmas season in the last eighty years in the Western world, and with it the near-complete demolition of Advent as a time of anticipation and conversion, has managed to shove Theophany aside for most Eastern Christians living in the West. This is disastrous for us, for our souls, our liturgical life, and our domestic churches. Theophany is more than the Baptism of Jesus: it is the public announcement of the Holy Trinity in the absolute manifestation of the Divine as God the Father speaks, Jesus is baptized, the Spirit descends. It is the first full revelation of the Trinity and the anchor of Jesus’ public ministry on earth!

The Theophany at Home

January is the season for house blessings. The pastor is invited to come to the family home in order to celebrate this annual rite. Jordan water from the Theophany service should be provided for Father to do the blessing, which ideally starts in the family icon corner. Anything else which needs blessings should be placed there, on a white cloth. The mother has a liturgical role, as she takes a lit candle and leads Father through the house, turning on the electric lights as they go. The family joins in singing the Theophany troparion, either at the icon corner or the family table, or in a little procession. Every room is blessed, and Father does not care whether or not the room is clean.

For protection of the family, all exterior doors are blessed “in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” while Father sprinkles holy water In this home-based ritual, the parish priest comes in his role as spiritual father of the faith community, which is why we call priests “Father”, following Saint Paul’s example (Gal. 4:19, 1 Cor. 4:14–15, 2 Tim. 2:1.Titus 1:4, Philem. 10) and St. John throughout his Letters (1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:13–14, 3 John 4). He is able to be welcomed by the family in their own domestic church, the extension of the parish community. It is not a time to worry about the house being spotless: more important is that the family’s interior life is spotless!

Take advantage of the fact that we have a pastor who wants to come and pray with you at your own table! If Father is not able to come, then use the small white pamphlet placed on the announcement table by the front door of the church. The head of the household takes on the liturgical leadership as indeed should be done at family prayer.

Theophany in Public Life

In public life, the Church goes out to flowing water to sanctify creation. Countries with a large population following the Byzantine Rite, either Catholic or Orthodox, are treated to these popular events. In colder climates, this calls for chopping a cross-shaped hole in the ice, and the clergy go out onto the ice to celebrate the blessing ritual. This is always very impressive in Eastern Europe, where a whole town will descend to the river bank to take part in the blessing of the water. In the warmer climates, priests bless the harbors and throw in a special cross into the water, which young men dive after. He who retrieves the cross is expected to be blessed throughout the year. American Greek Orthodox do this in Florida.

Why do this? Processions are an integral part of Church life: notice the ones we have in our parish for the two Entrances in every Divine Liturgy, and the ones we do outside on Good Friday and Pascha. Processions led by a processional cross, with people carrying icons and singing hymns is a statement to the world that God is here, that He sanctifies His world, and that the Church presents Him to the world, which is longing for His love even if some people in the world can’t define the hole they feel in their hearts as a hole which needs God’s love to fill it. And processions make a statement to those who would define separation of Church and State as shoving the Church into a locked closet: we are most definitely here! This year we will consecrate Jordan water at the Vigil Divine Liturgy on Wednesday January 5 and the consecration of the Rio Grande will take place at Noon on January 6th after the morning Liturgy.

Announcements:

  • HOUSE BLESSINGS: Please sign up or call me. The deadline will be February 9th.
  • Safe Environment: Now that things have settled in the parish with my moving out of a trailer and furnishing an apartment, I will address other important issues. I will be approaching volunteers as they are expected to renew their ‘Safe Environment’ training. I thank those who have complied. Moving ahead I will be approaching parents about material offered for children. Parents are free to decline the materials and this will be noted. This is a protection for you, your children and the Eparchy.
  • Prayer requests. Fr Francis & Pani Kim settling in to their new parish amidst a tight lockdown. Fr. Michael, Fr. Marcus, Fr. Chris, Fr. Randall, Fr. Michal, Fr. Patrik, Sr. Patricia, Margaret, Gary and Ingrid, Margaret, Slawomir and Oceana, Darlene, Becky, Alexis, Marion, Curtis, Ronald, Jeannine, Taylor, Lorrie, Frances, Alex, Leroy, Michael, Thomas, Carol, Michael, Jennifer, John, Elizabeth, Judy, Ruth, Dimitri, Christie, Viktoria, Emily, Margaret, Patricia. Nadezda, Dan, Doug, Tim.
  • Tithes and Donations. Last Sunday, we received in tithes $, donations $, gift shop $, hospitality $, candles $. Thank you for your generosity, may God bless you always. The collection amounted to $.
  • Calendars: 2022 Liturgical Calendars are available after Divine Liturgy & upon request.

Liturgical Schedule

Sun, Jan 2 – Sunday Before Theophany

                       8:30 Confessions

                       9:30 Divine Liturgy – Tone 7 (Cantor Amy, Reader Victor)

Wed, Jan 5 – 6:30 am Theophany Royal Hours

                        5:00 pm Confessions

                        6:00 pm Theophany Vesperal Divine Liturgy

Fri, Jan 7 – Synaxis of John Forerunner and Baptist

                     6:30 am – Divine Liturgy

Sat, Jan 8 – 8:30 am Divine Liturgy – Saturday after Theophany

Sun, Jan 9 – Sunday After Theophany

                      8:30 am Confessions

                      9:30 am Divine Liturgy (Cantor Tim, Reader Oliver)

For Confession, please call Fr. Christopher for an appointment, or come 30 minutes before or after scheduled services. If you desire Spiritual Direction then please see Fr Andrews for an appointment during the week so as to allow everyone an opportunity on Sundays for Confessions. Please consider those traveling from long distances.

This entry was posted in Bulletin. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s