Please Remember in Your Prayers

Schema-Archimandrite Joachim; Archpriest Vincent Saverino; Archpriest Michael Lepa; Archpriest Mark Leasure; Archdeacon Evgeniy & Mat. Klavdiya Burbelo; Deacon Michael Bishop; Nun Elizabeth; Nun Magdalena; Monk Joseph (Isaac Lambertson); Mat. Natalia Kosich; Mat. Diane Winsky; Mat. Catherine Kowalchik; Marie Vass; Charles Snipes; Arthur-Stephen Lisowsky; Yelena Radchenko; Lydia Zorina; Katherine Plaskowitz; Philip Plaskowitz, Michael Stanka; Bernadine Borawick; John Antoniak; Julia Aymold; Mary Johnson; Olga Chanat; Lilli Ann Hoffman; Lara Marinich; Oleg Marinich; Rachel, Vera, Christopher Pastor; Samantha; Ioann and Galina Zernetkin; Monika-Anastasia & Stephanie Handley; Elaine LaPasha; Blanche-Julia Stolkovich; Ekaterina Koroleva; Maryann Black; Matushka Marianne Lobalbo; Lyudmila, Anton & Aleksander Karnup; John Alexander Bylen; Katherine Garrett; Stephen Kaminitsky; Constantine; Maria; Nicander; John-Thomas Planinshek; Kenneth Pukita; Ann Ferkile; Maria and Alexander Lozada; Sergei Krektyshev; Irina Kononova; Petr Borodkin; Anthony and John Bakie; Svetlana & Aleksey; Nina; Mat. Galina, Alla; Anna; Alla; Raisa, Zinaida; Liubov and Maksim Krayushkin; Joseph Germano; Pavel, Vladimir, Valentina and Maria; Maria Pappas; Bonnie Duke; Joseph Lacomy; Diana Radchenko; Aleksey Potapov; Oleg and Andrei; Vitaliy, Tatiana, Olena & Nicholas Berchuk.



30th Sunday after Pentecost

Sunday Before Theophany

Tone 5

January 2/15, 2017



Forefeast of the Theophany. Holy Hierarch Sylvester, Pope of Rome (335); Righteous Juliana of Lazarevo (1604); Repose (1833), the second finding of relics (1991) of Venerable Seraphim, Wonderworker of Sarov; Venerable Sylvester of the Kiev Caves (12th c.); Hieromartyr Theogenes, Bishop of Parium on the Hellespont (320); Martyr Basil (1942).



Today’s Scriptural Readings:      

2 Timothy 4: 5-8  /  Mark 1: 1-8 (Sunday Before Theophany)

Galatians 5:22 – 6:2   /   Luke 6: 17-23 (Venerable Saint)

Fr. John’s Sermons (Video): Click here  





We bless thee, O Holy Venerable Father Seraphim, and we honor thy holy memory, 

the instructor of monastics and converser with angels.



This  Week’s  Liturgical  Calendar

Wednesday, January 18th – 6:00 PM 

Strict Fast Day

Vigil Service at the Chapel
Eve of Theophany

Thursday, January 19th – 10:00 AM 

Theophany/Baptism of our Lord

Divine Liturgy in the Chapel

Great Blessing of Water

Saturday, January 21st – 6:00 PM

Vigil Service at the Chapel

Sunday, January 22nd – 10:00 AM

Confessions at 9:15 – 10:00 AM

Divine Liturgy in Church

Great Blessing of Water


Divine Services at Holy Trinity are now live-streamed at



Please Join us at the Yolka – Today after Services

Sponsors for today: Sunday School Parents


Today – Yolka – Sunday, January 15th 

The students of our Sunday School will offer a “Yolka” presentation on Sunday, January 15th after Divine Liturgy. The students will give a ‘shadow’ performance, illustrating the events leading up to Christ’s Nativity. It promises to be interesting! Our students have been preparing diligently for this day and their parents have been helping a great deal as well. Please show your support of our youth by attending this year’s “Yolka”. For more info call: Natallia Makarava 443-625-8470 or


Cemetery Committee Officers – 2017 – Congratulations

Last Sunday, the Cemetery Committee conducted its election of officers for the year 2017. We congratulate Michael Mickel – Cemetery Manager; Brian-Seraphim Cardell – Secretary, and Drew Pastor – Treasurer.  Also, we offer our most sincere appreciation to Lilli Hoffman who served tirelessly for more than 15 years as cemetery manager. During that time the cemetery grounds saw many significant improvements, most notably the renovation of chapel in 2001-02. Thank you. May God bless them all!

Installation of Parish Council Officers

TODAY – Sunday, January 15th at the end of the Divine Liturgy we will conduct

the installation of the Parish Council Officers for the Year 2017. May God bless their work for our parish.


Victor Marinich


Vadim Radchenko

Vice President

Andrei Burbelo

Recording Secretary

Albert (Augustine) Blaszak


Monika (Anastasia) Handley

Stewardship Chairperson

Zumrat-Anna Shkurba


Michael Mickel

Cemetery Committee President

Natalie Burbelo

Sisterhood President


Nativity Celebrations – Thank you !

We extend our sincere thanks to all the women of the Sisterhood for coordinating the Christmas Eve Holy Supper and the Christmas Day Dinner last week. And, we offer our very warm thanks to all who brought so many delicious dishes to share with everyone. The table was full of food for these events. And even more importantly, thank you for your prayers, support and warm fellowship. The church was full for both services! It certainly felt like a Winter Pascha. Such joyous feast days and celebrations leave a big impression on our souls and they help us to grow in love and faith, and to further strengthen our bonds of friendship. Thank you!


Ongoing Food Drive 

Our food pantry is empty. We request donations of ready-to-eat, non-perishable foods. Items like canned soups and meats, peanut butter and other food items packaged in plastic that do not need to be cooked are preferred. All food items will be distributed to organizations serving the homeless and to neighborhood schools.  Please bring your food items to the hall storage room. Thank you. May God bless you.


Cleaning Groups – Group #3 /  Join a Group – Help your brothers and sisters

Group #3 will clean this week January 16-21: Vadim (captain) and Yelena Radchenko,

Vladyslav and Natalia Volkova, Nadya Aleksandrovych This group needs more members. Any volunteers??


Kitchen Cleaning – Saturday, Jan. 21

Both the Sisterhood and Brotherhood will clean the hall kitchen next Saturday, January 21

beginning at 10:00 AM. We need many volunteers. Please help. For info, contact Natalie Burbelo or Albert Blaszak.


Sunday School Meeting – Jan. 29

The parents and teachers of our Sunday School will conduct an important meeting on

Sunday, January 29th after Divine Services. We will discuss various projects for our youth.


Holy Cross Retreat – February 4th

On Saturday, February 4th, beginning at 9:00 AM, Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church will host a retreat, Operation Kingdom Come: Experiencing our Faith in the Modern World, led by His Grace Anthony, Bishop of Toledo and the Midwest. Cost: $20. For information and to register:


Sisterhood Meeting – Feb. 5

The St. Catherine Sisterhood will conduct a meeting on Sunday, February 5th after Divine Services.

All Sisterhood members are asked to attend. This is the first meeting of the new year.


10th Annual Bible Bowl – February 11th – 2:00 PM

St. Andrew Orthodox Church (2028 E. Lombard St., Baltimore, will host the Baltimore Orthodox Bible Bowl on Saturday, February 11, 2017.  The competition will be between adolescent and high school teams from our parish, Holy Cross, St. Andrew’s and others. Registration begins at 2:15 PM and the first round of competition starts at 2:30 PM. Pan-Orthodox Great Vespers will be celebrated at 5:00 PM in church. Afterwards, we will conduct an awards reception in the parish hall. A trophy and prizes will be awarded to the winning team. Come and support the youth of our parish. Let us show them how important it is to study the Holy Scriptures.


Birthday / Anniversary Celebrations:  January 15-21

We offer our best wishes and birthday congratulations to Alexandra Boarman (1/14 – 2nd Birthday!), Dmitriy Shustov (1/15) and Angel Day best wishes to Brian-Seraphim Cardell (1/15). May God bless them with health, prosperity and many years. To include your birthday/anniversary in the bulletin call Fr. John.


Vigil Candles: On the Altar and near St. Barbara

January 15-21:  Candles offered by Irina Burchak for the health/salvation of the servants of God: Irina, Platon, Murray, and Elizabeth.

A $15 donation will keep all three candles lit for one week. Schedule your candle offering with Vadim Radchenko 410-465-6172. Thank you.


Maslenitsa Dinner Dance – February 17th

The St. Catherine Sisterhood will conduct a Maslenitsa Dinner Dance on Friday, February 17th in the church hall. Light fare dinner begins promptly at 7:30 PM, dancing follows at 8:30 PM. Music by DJ. Make your RSVP by February 12th to Larisa Hidar:  or  Anna Ogora: Tickets are $35/person (16 and older). This year’s celebration promises to be even better than last year’s.



The kingdom of heaven is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Acquire inward peace, and thousands around you will be saved.

Venerable Seraphim of Sarov.



Submit your 2017 Pledge

The mission of our parish is to spread the Word of God, to grow, to expand, to improve and not just to preserve our traditions.  Our parish shouldn’t become stale, but pursue holiness.


We strive to fulfill the mission of our parish, through prayer, work and sacrifice. Prayer – because we are called to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17); work – because we are taught to increase the talents given to us (Matt. 25: 14-30); and sacrifice – because "everyone to whom much is given, from him will much be required" (Luke 12:48).


Please be generous as the Lord is generous to you. When completing your pledge for the new year, please consider raising your level of giving. Our church cannot operate without your financial contributions. Our parish will grow only through your prayers, work and generous sacrifice.


When you are generous, you are not bestowing a gift, but repaying a debt. Everything you possess materially comes from God, who created all things. And every spiritual and moral virtue you possess is through divine grace. Thus you owe everything to God. More than that, God has given you his Son, to show you how to live: how to use your material possessions, and how to grow in moral and spiritual virtue. St. John Chrysostom 


Please Remember in Your Prayers…

Schema-Archimandrite Joachim; Archpriest Vincent Saverino; Archpriest Michael Lepa; Archpriest Mark Leasure; Archdeacon Evgeniy & Mat. Klavdiya Burbelo; Deacon Michael Bishop; Nun Elizabeth; Nun Magdalena; Monk Joseph (Isaac Lambertson); Mat. Natalia Kosich; Mat. Diane Winsky; Mat. Catherine Kowalchik; Marie Vass; Charles Snipes; Arthur-Stephen Lisowsky; Yelena Radchenko; Lydia Zorina; Katherine Plaskowitz; Philip Plaskowitz, Michael Stanka; Bernadine Borawick; John Antoniak; Julia Aymold; Mary Johnson; Olga Chanat; Lilli Ann Hoffman; Lara Marinich; Oleg Marinich; Rachel, Vera, Christopher Pastor; Samantha; Ioann and Galina Zernetkin; Monika-Anastasia & Stephanie Handley; Elaine LaPasha; Blanche-Julia Stolkovich; Ekaterina Koroleva; Maryann Black; Matushka Marianne Lobalbo; Lyudmila, Anton & Aleksander Karnup; John Alexander Bylen; Katherine Garrett; Stephen Kaminitsky; Constantine; Maria; Nicander; John-Thomas Planinshek; Kenneth Pukita; Ann Ferkile; Maria and Alexander Lozada; Sergei Krektyshev; Irina Kononova; Petr Borodkin; Anthony and John Bakie; Svetlana & Aleksey; Nina; Mat. Galina, Alla; Anna; Alla; Raisa, Zinaida; Liubov and Maksim Krayushkin; Joseph Germano; Pavel, Vladimir, Valentina and Maria; Maria Pappas; Bonnie Duke; Joseph Lacomy; Diana Radchenko; Aleksey Potapov; Oleg and Andrei; Vitaliy, Tatiana, Olena & Nicholas Berchuk.


Next Council Meeting: Thursday, January 26th – 7:00 PM in the Church Hall


Fr. John Vass, Pastor  410-997-0802

Fr. Deacon Michael Bishop:                       410-563-0472

Victor Marinich, Council President:          443-512-0985

Vadim Radchenko, Vice President:              410-465-6172

Andrei Burbelo,  Recording Secretary:    443-567-6031

Albert Blaszak, Treasurer:                             410-799-3226

Monika Handley, Stewardship Chair:      410-263-5758

Anna-Zumrat Shkurba, Member-At-Large: 443-857-8541

Natalie Burbelo, Sisterhood President:   443-567-6031

Michael Mickel, Cemetery Manager:             410-666-2870


The Holy Venerable Seraphim of Sarov

The Monk Seraphim of Sarov, a great ascetic of the Russian Church, was born on 19 July 1754. His parents, Isidor and Agathia Moshnin, were inhabitants of Kursk. Isidor was a merchant involved in the construction of buildings, and towards the end of his life he began construction of a cathedral in Kursk, but he died before the completion of the work. His little son Prokhor – the future Seraphim, remained in the care of his widowed mother, who raised her son in deep faith.


Young Prokhor, endowed with an excellent memory, soon mastered his reading and writing. From the time of his childhood he loved to visit church-services and to read with his fellow students both the Holy Scripture and the Lives of the Saints, but most of all he loved to pray or to read the Holy Gospel in private. 


At one point Prokhor fell grievously ill, and his life was in danger. In a dream the boy saw the Mother of God, promising to visit and heal him. Soon through the courtyard of the Moshnin home there came a church procession with the Znamenie (Sign) Icon of the Mother of God; his mother carried out Prokhor in her arms, and he kissed the holy icon, after which he speedily recovered. 


While still in his youth Prokhor matured his plans to entirely devote his life to God and to go off to a monastery. His pious mother did not object to this and she blessed him on his monastic path with a cross, which the monk all his life wore on his chest. Prokhor set off on foot with pilgrims going from Kursk to Kiev to venerate the Pechersk Saints. 


The starets-elder schema-monk Dosiphei, whom Prokhor visited, blessed him to go off to the Sarovsk wilderness-monastery and there seek his salvation. Returning briefly to his parental home, Prohkor bid a final farewell to his mother and kinsfolk. On 20 November 1778 he arrived at Sarov, where the monastery then was headed by a wise starets-elder, Father Pakhomii. He amiably accepted him and put him under the spiritual guidance of the starets-elder Joseph. And under his direction Prokhor passed through many obediences at the monastery: he was the cell-attendant of the elder, he toiled in the making of bread and prosphora and at carpentry, he did duty as a church-attendant, and he did everything with zeal and fervour, just as though serving the very Lord Himself. By constant work he hedged himself in against boredom – this being, as he later said, "the most dangerous temptation for newly-become monks, which is doctored by prayer, abstaining from idle chatter, exertive handwork, by reading of the Word of God and by patience, since that it is engendered by pettiness of soul, neglectfulness and idle talk".


Prokhor already in these years, on the example of the other monks that went off into the forest for prayer, besought the blessing of the elder for free time likewise to withdraw into the woods, where in complete isolation he made the Jesus Prayer. After two years as a novice, Prokhor fell ill with dropsy, his body became swollen, and he was beset with suffering. His instructor Father Joseph and the other startsi-elders were fond of Prokhor, and they provided him care. The illness dragged on for about three years, and not once did anyone hear from him a word of complaint. The elders, fearing for his very life, wanted to call a doctor for him, but Prokhor asked that this not be done, in saying to Father Pakhomii: "I have given myself over, holy father, to the True Physician of soul and body – our Lord Jesus Christ and His All-Pure Mother...", and he besought, that they might commune him with the Holy Mysteries. Prokhor then had a vision: in an inexpressible light there appeared the Mother of God accompanied by the holy Apostles Peter and John the Theologian. Pointing with Her hand towards he that was sick, the Most Holy Virgin said to Saint John: "This one – is of our lineage". Thereupon with Her staff She touched the side of the sick man, and immediately the fluid that had swelled up his body began to flow through a sort of opening made, and he quickly became well. Soon at the place of the appearance of the Mother of God there was built an infirmary-church for the sick, and one of the side-chapels was dedicated in the name of the Monks Zosima and Savvatii of Solovetsk. The altar-table for the chapel was fashioned by Seraphim with his own hands from cypress wood, and he always communed the Holy Mysteries in this church.


Being eight years an obedient (novice) at the Sarov monastery, Prokhor accepted monastic tonsure with the name Seraphim, a name so finely expressive of his fiery love for the Lord and the desire zealously to serve Him. After a year, Seraphim was ordained to the dignity of monk-deacon. Earnest in spirit, he daily served in temple, incessantly praying even after the service. The Lord vouchsafed the monk graced visions during the time of church-services: repeatedly he beheld holy Angels, concelebrating with the brethren. The monk was vouchsafed one particularly graced vision during the time of Divine Liturgy on Holy Great Thursday, which was celebrated by the monastery-head Father Pakhomii and by Father Joseph. When after the Little Entrance with the Gospel, the Monk-deacon Seraphim pronounced the words "O Lord, save the God-fearing, and hear us", and standing in the royal doorway, he lifted his orarion (deacon's stole) with the exclamation prayer "And unto ages of ages", suddenly a bright ray of light blinded him. Looking upwards, the Monk Seraphim beheld the Lord Jesus Christ, coming through the air from the western doors of the temple, surrounded by the Heavenly Bodiless Hosts. Reaching the amvon, the Lord blessed all the praying and entered into His Image located there to the right of the royal doors. The Monk Seraphim, in spiritual rapture viewing this miraculous vision, was able to utter neither a word, nor to move from the spot. They led him by the hand into the altar, where he just stood for another three hours, his face having changed color from the great grace that shone upon him. After the vision the saint intensified his efforts: by day he toiled at the monastery, and nights he spent at prayer in the forest wilderness cell.


In 1793, at age 39, the Monk Seraphim was ordained to the dignity of priestmonk and he continued at serving in the temple. After the death of the monastery head Father Pakhomii, the Monk Seraphim, – having before this received deathbed blessing for the new exploit of wilderness-dwelling, and having likewise received blessing of the new monastery-head Father Isaiah, – went off to a wilderness cell some several kilometers from the monastery, in the deep forest. Here he devoted himself to solitary prayer, arriving at the monastery only on Saturday before the all-night vigil, and returning to his cell after Liturgy, at which he communed the Divine Mysteries. The monk spent his time at severe efforts. His cell rule of prayer he made according to the ustav-rule of the ancient wilderness-monasteries; from the Holy Gospel he never parted, reading through the course of the week all the New Testament, and he read likewise the holy fathers and the Divine‑service books. The monk learned by heart many of the Church songs and sang them during his hours at work in the forest. Around his cell he cultivated a garden and set up a bee-hive. Having seen to his subsistence, the monk kept to a very strict fast, he ate only once during the entire day, and on Wednesdays and Fridays he completely abstained from food. On the first Sunday of the Holy Lent he did not partake of food at all until Saturday, when he communed the Holy Mysteries. 


In the heat of Summer the monk gathered moss in a swamp as fertilizer for his garden; the gnats relentlessly bit at him, but he good-naturedly endured this vexation, saying: "Passions are destroyed by suffering and by sorrow, either arbitrarily or as sent by Providence". For about three years the monk ate only a certain vegetable, which grew about his cell. All the more frequently there began to come, not only monks, but also laypeople for advice and blessing. This disrupted his solitude. Having besought the blessing of the monastery head, the monk at first barred the admittance of women to him, and then all the rest, having received a sign that the Lord approved of his intent for complete silence. Through the prayer of the monk, the pathway to his wilderness cell was blocked by huge branches blown down from ancient pine trees. Now only the birds, flocking to him in throngs, and the wild beasts, paid him visit. The monk fed a bear with bread from his hand, when they happened to bring him bread from the monastery.


Seeing the efforts of the Monk Seraphim, the enemy of the race of man roused up against him, and wanting to force the saint to forsake his silence, he decided to frighten him, but the monk shielded himself by prayer and by the power of the Life-Creating Cross. The devil conducted against the saint "mental warfare" – persistent and continuous temptation. For repulsing the onslaughts of the enemy the Monk Seraphim intensified his toil, and took upon himself the exploit of pillar-dwelling. Each night he climbed up upon an immense rock in the forest and he prayed with up-raised hands, crying out: "God, be merciful to me a sinner". By day he prayed in his cell and likewise upon a stone, which he had brought from the forest, coming down from it only for brief rest and to refresh his body with a scant bit of food. The monk prayed thus for 1,000 days and nights. The devil, shamed by the monk, hatched a plan to kill the saint and sent out robbers. Coming upon him while working in his garden, the robbers began to demand money from him. The monk had in his hands at this time an axe, he was physically strong and could have put up a fight, but he did not want to do this, having called to mind the words of the Lord: "Those taking up the sword wilt perish by the sword" (Mt. 26: 52). The monk, dropping his axe to the ground, said: "Do what ye intend to". The robbers began to beat the monk, with the butt-end of the axe they bloodied his head, broke several of his ribs, and then having tied him, they wanted to throw him in the river, but first they searched the cell for money. Having trashed everything in the cell and finding nothing in it besides icons and a few potatoes, they were shamed in their wicked deed and left. The monk, gaining consciousness, got to his cell, and suffering terribly, he lay there all night. In the morning with great difficulty he reached the monastery. The brethren were horrified, seeing the ascetic all bruised with wounds. For eight whole days the monk just lay there, suffering from his wounds; doctors were called for him, who were amazed that after such a beating he even remained alive. But the monk did not receive his healing from the physicians: the Queen of Heaven appeared to him in a subtle dream vision together with the Apostles Peter and John. Touching the head of the monk, the Most Holy Virgin granted him healing. After this instance the Monk Seraphim had to spend about five months at the monastery, and then he again went off to his wilderness cell. Left in posture stooped over always henceforth, the monk walked, leaning upon his small axe, and he indeed forgave his abusers and asked that they not be punished.


In spring of 1810 he returned to the monastery after 15 years of living in the wilderness. Not breaking off with his silence, he added onto it also that of hermit enclosure, neither coming out anywhere nor admitting anyone, he dwelt in unceasing prayer and meditation on God. In his hermitage the Monk Seraphim discovered a height of spiritual purity and was vouchsafed of God the special gifts of grace – perspicacity and wonderworking. Then the Lord sent His chosen one to serve people in an utmost monastic exploit – "Starchestvo" ("being an elder"). On 25 November 1825 the Mother of God accompanied by the two sainted-hierarchs celebrated this day (i.e. Priest Martyr Clement, Pope of Rome, and Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria), appeared to the elder in a dream-vision and bid him emerge from his hermitage, so as to receive infirm human souls, needful of instruction, consolation, guidance and healing. The monastery head gave blessing to this change in the manner of his life, and the monk opened the doors of his cell to everyone. The starets saw into the hearts of people, and as a spiritual physician, he healed the infirmities of soul and body with a prayer to God and by words of grace. Those coming to the Monk Seraphim sensed his great love and with tenderness they hearkened to his amiable words, with which he turned to people: "my joy, my precious". The starets began to visit his own wilderness cell and water-spring, called Bogoslovsk, around which they built him a small cell. Coming out from the cell, the starets always carried on his shoulders a knapsack with stones. To the question as to why he did this, the saint answered: "I oppress that which oppresseth me".


On 1 January 1833 the Monk Seraphim one last time came to the Zosimo-Savvatiev church for liturgy and he communed the Holy Mysteries, after which he blessed the brethren and bid farewell, saying: "Ye seeking salvation, be not discouraged, but take heart, the day of crowns is prepared for us". On 2 January, the cell‑attendant of the monk, Father Pavel, at six in the morning left his own cell heading for church, and he caught the smell of burning coming from the cell of the Monk Seraphim; in the cell of the monk candles always burned, and he had said: "While I yet live, there wilt be no fire, but when I die, my end shalt reveal itself with a fire". When they opened the doors, it appeared that the books and the other things had burned, but the monk himself remained upright on his knees before an icon of the Mother of God in a position of prayer, but was already lifeless. His pure soul at the time of prayer was taken by the Angels and had flown off to the Throne of the All-Mighty God, to Whom the Monk Seraphim had been a faithful servant all his life© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.


Theophany – Baptism of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ

The Feast of the Holy Theophany of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ is celebrated each year on January 6/19. The Feast commemorates the Baptism of Christ and the divine revelation of the Holy Trinity. At the Baptism of Christ, all three Persons of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—were made manifest. Thus, the name of the Feast is Epiphany, meaning manifestation, or Theophany, meaning manifestation of God.


The Biblical story of the Baptism of Christ is recorded in all four of the Gospels: Matthew 3, Mark 1:1-9, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:31-34. John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus and the one chosen by God to proclaim His coming, was preaching in the wilderness and was baptizing all who would respond to his message calling for repentance. As he was doing this, John was directing the people toward the one who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). The Scriptures tell us that Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. Initially, John would not do this, saying that Jesus should baptize him. Jesus said to John, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness (3:15). John consented and baptized Jesus. When Jesus came up from the water, the heavens opened suddenly, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. The Bible records that the Spirit descended like a dove and alighted on him. When this happened, a voice came from heaven and said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” This was the voice of God the Father.


Christ’s baptism in the Jordan was “theophany,” a manifestation of God to the world, because it was the beginning of our Lord’s public ministry. It was also a “theophany” in that the world was granted a revelation of the Holy Trinity. All three Persons were made manifest together: the Father testified from on high to the divine Sonship of Jesus; the Son received His Father’s testimony; and the Spirit was seen in the form of a dove, descending from the Father and resting upon the Son. The theme of “manifestation” or “revelation” is also expressed in Scripture with the symbolism of light. In the hymn of the Feast we sing, “Christ has appeared and enlightened the world.” 


THEOPHANY:  Baptism, mission, ministry

In the early Church, the Great Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord – Theophany – was more important than the Great Feast of the Nativity, if for only one reason: the Church thought in terms of Christ’s mission to the world, and that mission obviously began after Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. His birth was presumed as an historical fact, but what was crucial for the Church in those early years was the concrete, visible mission of Christ in and to the world, and this was always associated with His baptism.


How did the early Church come to such a conclusion? The foundation of this belief is found in the Gospels. Of the four Gospels, Saint Mark’s is considered to be the first, a sort of “catechism”of the faith. Saint Mark does not mention the birth of Jesus; he presumes that people already knew about it. Instead, he begins by describing the preaching of Saint John the Baptist and by offering an account of Jesus’ baptism. At once, Saint Mark begins to relate Jesus’ public ministry – His working many signs and wonders, His healing of the sick, and His proclamation of good news to the poor. 


For hundreds of years, the Church continued to celebrate Christ’s baptism as the feast; only later did the celebration of His birth overtake it in popular importance, and this occurred more in the West than in the East. Even today, in the Orthodox Christian liturgical cycle, Theophany is extremely important. Water is blessed. The homes of the faithful are sanctified, manifesting our conviction that Christ is the Lord and Master of our homes and families. 


In earlier times, baptism of new members of the Church took place on this feast – to this day we sing, “As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” at the festal Divine Liturgy as a reminder of the relationship of Christ’s baptism to that of each individual Christian. Now, some may ask, what does all this have to do with our lives? The answer is quite simple: Everything! Remember that, after Jesus’ baptism and the manifestation of the Holy Trinity at the Jordan River, Our Lord began His mission to the world. Baptism and mission are so closely related that, in fact, we cannot separate them in Jesus’ life. His public ministry began after He freely chose to be baptized, not as a sinner, but with sinners, in perfect humility. His willingness to accept a truly humble role suited Christ for His mission as the Savior. In the same way, our Christian baptism and mission are inseparable. 


Every baptism is a “little theophany” because the priest chrismates or anoints the person with Holy Chrism, the “Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” Confirmed as a beloved child of the Father, the newly baptized individual’s mission begins, taking on a concrete form in embracing the fullness of truth, in living the life of the Church, in celebrating and accepting the grace of the sacraments and feasts and fasts, and in putting his or her faith into action through works of mercy and love for others, especially “the least of the brethren.” In Saint Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ works relate to specific historical people: Simon’s mother-in-law, a paralytic, a demoniac, the daughter of Jairus. But He did not perform His works and wonders for their own sake; He also taught by word and example through His works and wonders, as well as through parables, discourses, and the answers he offered the scribes and pharisees. 


The Christian mission is likewise twofold, for good works and teaching by example are two sides of the same coin. One complements and fulfills the other. Both are essential, as Jesus demonstrated in the Gospel: He was baptized, then He began to teach, preach, and heal.  While none of us can accomplish the will of God in the perfect way Jesus did, each of us do, by virtue of the grace of baptism and chrismation, assume the responsibility to manifest Christ’s mission to and in the world. Because everybody possesses different talents and gifts and temperaments, that mission may take on various forms, but the idea of committed life, of mission, is still central to Christian existence. 


As it defined Jesus’ Messiahship, so too it defines our lives as His witnesses. The Great Feast of Theophany, then, is central from the viewpoint of the concrete Christian life. Indeed, it is easy to understand why the early Church considered it so important. There is no such thing as a Christian life dedicated to “principles” if these are not related to the here and now, to practical action and ministry, to the recognition of our calling as co-workers and fellow ministers in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. 


O Most Holy Trinity, Our God, Glory to Thee!