The Theophany of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ


The Baptism of the Lord. Egg tempera and gold on panel. 10x12" 2021

In this icon, Christ is baptized in the Jordan River by Saint John the Baptist. The voice of the Father proclaimed "this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." The Holy Spirit lit upon Christ in the form of a dove. This event inaugurated Christ’s ministry. John, the greatest born of woman, the last and greatest prophet, first first martyr, an angel in the flesh, dared not touch his master, but the Lord allowed it for all righteousness. What is this righteousness? Christ, the new Adam, descends naked into the river, and sanctifies it, ordering all creation in its right place. Christ opens the heavens which Adam closed. Water usually cleanses what it touches, except for this instance, when the Creator cleansed and sanctified the water, and in that, all creation. Angels were amazed at the divine epiphany as God revealed his one nature in three persons. The river and sea gods fled from the presence of the one true God. The River Jordan turned back its course and flowed back towards its source of life rather than towards death (i.e. the Dead Sea). Jesus Christ the Saviour crossed the Jordan to enter and conquer the Promised Land and bring all with him, just as Jesus of Navi (i.e. Joshua) of old.

Here are a selection of hymns that profoundly influenced the composition of this icon: When Thou, O Lord, wast baptized in the Jordan, worship of the Trinity wast made manifest; for the voice of the Father bore witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the likeness of a dove confirmed the truth of His word. O Christ our God, Who hast appeared and enlightened the world, glory to Thee. (Apolytikion) The Lord, King of the ages, in the streams of the Jordan formed Adam anew, who was fallen into corruption, and He broke in pieces the heads of the dragons that were hidden there: for He has been glorified. (Canon, Ode 1) Thou didst bow Thy head to the Forerunner, thereby crushing the heads of the dragons. And having stood in the streams, Thou didst illuminate the whole creation. Wherefore, let it glorify Thee, O Savior, Thou Illumination of our souls. (Vesperal Doxastikon) At the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” thou hast come, O Lord, taking the form of a servant, and thou who knowest not sin dost ask for baptism. The waters saw thee and were afraid; the Forerunner was seized with trembling and cried aloud, saying, “How shall the lamp illuminate the Light? How shall the servant set his hand upon the Master? O Savior Who takest away the sin of the world, sanctify both me and the waters.” (Doxastikon at the Great Blessing of Waters) Christ is baptized: He comes up out of the waters, and with Him, He carries up the world. He sees the heavens opened that Adam closed against himself and his posterity. The Spirit bears witness to His divinity, for He hastens towards His like; and a voice sounds from heaven, for it is from heaven that He has come down to whom this testimony is given, and He is the Saviour of our souls. (from the Entreaty) River Jordan, what hast thou beheld, that thou art sore amazed? He Whom none can see, saith he: I saw Him naked, and I feared. How should I not be afraid before Him and turn back? The Angels, seeing Him, trembled with fear and awe; Heaven was amazed; the earth with quaking shook; the sea drew back in dread with all things both visible and invisible. Christ hath appeared in the Jordan River, to sanctify the waters. (Sessional hymn)

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