In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Today we celebrate a day which is called by many names: the Baptism of
our Lord, Theophany, and it is also called Illumining. We  commemorate
or Lord's baptism today in the Jordan. Theophany is the appearance of
God, where indeed the Holy Trinity manifested Himself after Our Lord's
baptism. And why would we call it Illumining? Because through baptism we
are indeed illuminated. God had a plan for man. The primeval plan was
for us to grow in knowledge and in wisdom, according to how we could
bear it, in purity, without any knowledge of evil at all. But man didn't
choose that plan. So God, in his wisdom knowing this, sent his
only-begotten son. Salvation is the knowledge of God, but only the pure
can know the pure. We can even see this in our secular or our daily
lives. There are people whom we just don't completely understand, and we
know this because we understand that they're somehow more pure than us.
They're more humble than us. And we think, I don't understand how that
person can take such abuse from her husband, or his son, or his
co-worker, or some other person, and be so humble about it. We know
people like that. Hopefully there are people that speak about us in
those kind of tones, because we are supposed to be a light to the rest
of the world, you know. But only the pure can know the pure. But we're
dirty, and we need purification. And what's more, we don't have any way
to become pure. We don't have any way to clean ourselves. We're
blackened, and we have no way to clean ourselves of our own.  And our
flesh, what's more, wars against us. Even if we wished to clean
ourselves, (and we don't have the means, without God's help, mind you),
but even if we wished to, we can't. We don't have the strength, the
ability, we don't have the knowledge, we don-t have the grace. And we
can't understand God without Him revealing himself to us. So, that is
why our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came incarnate of a Virgin, into
the midst of us -  to invigorate us and make us able to live. But not
only that; but also to give us an example. His ministry was two-fold.
Being God, he taught us all the things that were necessary for our
salvation, by His example, by how He lived, by how He spoke, by His
demeanor. And He transmitted this faithfully and carefully to his
disciples. And this is only to be found - this mind of Christ is only to
be found - in the Orthodox faith, and it's been transmitted carefully
and perfectly, throughout the ages, by the Church. He showed us by his
teaching, but also He showed us by how He lived. And He was a man, as
well as being God, so He was subject to the things we are subject to,
even unto death. So therefore, when He told us to be baptized, later on,
after His resurrection, his words certainly have weight, because He
subjected himself to baptism. He was not the kind of leader, or the kind
of king, who would tell his subjects to do something that He wasn-t
willing to do. In fact, he said to James and John, that you cannot drink
the cup that I will drink and be baptized with the baptism I will be
baptized with. They could not bear what our Lord bore for us. So He will
do more for us than He requires of us and expect more of himself. And
indeed, that is a principle of leadership. A leader, whether he be a
father, a mother, or a priest, or an employer, or  someone who teaches
children, such as many of the men in this church. All the men in this
church - should be teachers of our boys, and all of the women, of our
girls, and you teach them by being selfless, and emptying yourself as
Christ emptied Himself. He taught us how to do it, He gave us the
blueprint of how to do it. Today we have an amazing thing before us. He
who created the waters submits to being baptized in them. He who created
the heavens and the earth and saw that it was good and not any whit
evil, submits to cleansing in waters. He who regenerates our flesh, Who
is the Regenerator, He descends in the flesh into regenerating waters.
And he does this to show us how necessary it is for baptism. 

To know Christ we must be like Him. You can't know somebody unless you
become like that person - it's not possible. So our Christian life, in
the flesh is to try to acquire the virtues, to be a good husbandman, to
acquire the Holy Spirit, as my patron, St. Seraphim of Sarov, said, "By
fasting, by diligence, by care, by prayers, by weeping, by repentance,
by the whole Christian life." That is the whole reason for ascetical
exercises. It's not because they're rules to be followed. It's because
they are LIFE! A man who sees a way of life that leads to eternal life,
would be crazy, blind, not to follow such a life. So our Lord taught us
many principles of how to life, but the most important aspect of His
ministry is that He made us ABLE to live this way. I can tell you many
things, and they might be, (I hope that they will be) true, about the
teaching of the Church, but I cannot invigorate you or make you able to
live this way. That is only possible through your submission to the
God-man Jesus Christ and the All-Holy Holy Trinity, who makes a man able
to live. So the God-man, when He preached, preached with authority,
because He was able to back up his words like no-one else can. 

Baptism is an image; it's an image of death and of life. The church says
it over and over and over again. When we descend into the waters, we
die. Our old man, our lusts, die in the waters. And then when we ascend
out of the waters, we are reborn a new creature. This is a hard thing to
understand. We cannot fathom it. We do not know how a man is reborn of
water and the Spirit, we just know how we are told to begin the
Christian life. Baptism is the first mystery. Although perhaps one would
say the first mystery is really the incarnation of the Son of God, which
made everything else possible. But in our life, our entrance into the
Christian life is through baptism. Without it, we're not able to
progress one wit in the knowledge of God. And the knowledge of God IS
salvation, brothers and sisters. But remember, one cannot progress in
the knowledge of God without progressing in purity at the same time. 

We have to armchair theologian in the Orthodox church. He who is a
theologian - who studies God - lives as God wishes him to live, and is
enlightened. And we have had theologians that have not been able to read
or write. Or even, and this is hard for us in our industrialized society
to understand, they might not even have been intelligent, as we would
think of intelligence. But they were intelligent in the ways of God,
because they lived a life in accordance with His grace. 

I hope you understand now why our Lord was baptized. There was no NEED
for Him to be baptized. In fact, what does it say after He was baptized?
"Straightway He came up out of the water." Well, to the fathers this is
crystal clear, and therefore to us it will be now, too. He came
straightway out of the water because He has no sin. In those days St.
John was baptizing for repentance, right?  A baptism of repentance, but
not for remission of sins, because he cannot remit sins. But people
would, when they came out of the water - and how would you like this, 
some of you have been baptized in streams that are cold - they were held
in the water. They came up partway, (obviously their head was out of the
water), and they confessed their sins right then and there. And then
they were released out of the water. That's how it was done. But our
Lord had no need to do so, He had no sins to confess. In fact, when He
went into the water, the demons fled. You see the icon? You see the
demons in there? The demons are fleeing from the water, because they
could not bear to be in the same place as the God-man Jesus Christ. 

How can anyone stand against this mystery when our Lord endorses it so
emphatically?! And also, if we have an understanding of how water was
treated, throughout the whole history of the Church - now I mean the
history of the Church from Adam, you know, because God had a salvific
plan from that time. There's a cute bumper sticker, but it's not true:
"Founded AD 33, Christian Church." It's not true. It was reborn, and
recreated in AD 33, but the plan had been in place since Adam and Eve. 

Let's take a look, a little bit, at these short scriptures we read
today. "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be
baptized of him. But John forbade Him, saying "I have need to be
baptized of Thee, and comest thou to me?" And Jesus said unto him,
"suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all
righteousness." It's a little bit of a riddle; what is He talking about,
"all righteousness?" Well, it was a tradition, a strong tradition, a God
inspired tradition, of the Jewish people, that when a prophet said
something, you did it! Jesus obeyed a prophet. John was the greatest of
the prophets; our Lord Himself said so. So He obeyed a prophet, by being
baptized. John did not mean for the God-man to be baptized, and he
wanted to tell him, "no, I can't. I am unworthy. I want to be baptized
of you." But our Lord showed obedience. That's how he fulfilled all
righteousness. And also - I said this before - He gave us an example. 

Our Lord does not tell us to do anything we are not capable of doing. He
does not tell us to do anything in the flesh that we cannot do in the
flesh, and that he did not already do in the flesh. He told us that our
flesh should become pure. He purified His flesh. His flesh was always
pure; he made his flesh completely invigorated with the Godhead. And
indeed, that will happen to us, because He did it to Himself. He
promises us that we will rise from the dead. Well, he did it to Himself,
so we are capable. He commands us to be baptized; He did it himself. He
turned the other cheek when he was slapped by the arrogant Pharisees and
by their henchman, the Roman soldiers. And He commands us to turn our
cheek when we are slapped. He commands us to forgive, and He forgave.
There is nothing, there is no commandment that the Lord gave that He did
not fulfill Himself in the flesh. And He even told us to be perfect, and
He was perfect - in the flesh, as well as as God.  So all those things
we are capable to doing because He did them for us and made us able to.
He led by example, and He led by power and grace and mercy. 

"Then He suffered him. And Jesus, when He was baptized went up
straightway out of the waters and lo! The heavens were opened unto Him,
and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon
Him. And a voice from heaven saying "This is my beloved Son in whom I am
well-pleased." We already said what it means that He went "straightway
out of the water." John was in the water trembling, as a man before God.
And God comes out of the water, and the Holy Spirit descends upon His
shoulder, Jesus' shoulder, so as not to confuse the two. And the voice
says, "This is my son, in whom I am well-pleased." 

And the heavens are opened. Why? Because the heavens are opened to us
through baptism. And also the heavens are opened to us through something
else. Right away after the baptism, St. Mark barely catches his breath,
I don't think he even has to dip his pen again in ink, and he starts to
write, "and straightway He was led out by the Spirit into the wilderness
for 40 days." There is a reason why he writes with such haste, why he
doesn't even finish talking about baptism and wham! He is talking about
Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, because this happens to us. Right
after our baptism we are tempted. During the whole of our life we're
tempted, and sometimes we feel that we are in a barren place, a rocky
dessert, with no water and no comfort, and we get despondent. Our Lord
had the same things happen to Him; He became hungry as a man, tired as a
man, He wept as a man. And right after His baptism He shows that we
should expect that we are in a life or death struggle. Immediately upon
being baptized we are enlisted as soldiers. Not as conscripts, mind you,
but as willing men, willing to put on the armour of faith and of
righteousness. Willing to fight the good fight, because we have stated
so, whether it was as an infant when our sponsors stated for us and we
grew to maturity and we learned of the church, or whether it is, in the
case of most of us, where we spoke for ourselves and agreed to the
tenets of the Christian faith before we were thrust down into the water
and out of it three times. The Church today, and yesterday by the way,
blesses water, called the great blessing, and we read amazing passages
from the Old Testament about water, about its salvific qualities. And
then we take this water and we sanctify everything with it. And if you
listen closely to the service -=  - especially I can remember some
things form last night - that talk about how our Lord cleanses the
water, casting out demons from  it, and making it pure and wholesome. It
is good - to drink , to anoint ourselves  with, good to bless and
sanctify everything.  And we indeed bless and  sanctify water because
our Lord blessed and sanctified water.  I am always amazed - even after
18 years ( the first 18 years I lived was not as an Orthodox Christina,
actually the first 20),  how our faith involves all of our life -
everything! All of our senses - sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste -
everything! And every aspect of our life - nothing is untouched  by the
holy church. In a pious Christian life, nothing is secular, but
everything is sacred.  So after we bless the water today, and  bless the
inside of the church, and go around and bless the outside precints, you
will take water home.  You should drink this water in the morning, with
the sign of the cross, and also eat a small piece of antidorn, before
you eat or drink anything else. And you should  also drink this water if
there is a temptation or a difficulty in your life. You should anoint
yourself with the water. You should santify  thiongs in your home. I
have had the custom of going around all the rooms of my house with a
senser, and all the rest of the family carring candles and singing the
Theophany troparion, to bless them with holy water on a regular  basis.
I do not do it as much anymore - I guess I am more distracted and busy
than I should be, because this is an important task. Anyone can do this.
The demons see the water, and even after the water dries on the walls
and you cannot see it, except if you have sprinked it on pater, it 
never goes away then, the demons still see it, and you  have marked you
house as a dwelling of Christians. Buit of course,  if you do this, then
you must live as a Cshriat. What happedn  to the man who had the  demons
taken out of himn, and the demon  went arounf desters and  rosky places,
and desolate areas, and the found no place to dwell, so what does he do?
Hje gets seven other demons worse than himself, and he goes back  to the
man, anf his sould is all swept and garnished inside, but the  man has
not lived a virtuouos life since his deliverance from the one demons,
and  the demons are able to make their abode in him, and the last state
of the man ois worse thant the first.  So there is responsibilty  placed
upon you ,m brtothers and sisters, because of the grace you have been
given - because of your baptism.  Because of the All-Holy mysters which
all of you should desire to receive todsay. Because of the service of 
the church, and all the moind of the church, everything that you do is
sacred, and it makes you responsible, for living  according to how you
have promised to live. The good news is that you are ANBLE to do it,
becaudse the God-man made  you able to do it! God reveladed Himself, and
continues to  revela himdels to us, as  we are able. As we become more
pure, He reveals more of Hgis purity to us. Ands we ascend  like eagles!
That is the meaning of Theophany. Than is the meaing of the illuming .
May it  be that all of are illumined and and follow Hoim is all ways.

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