His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America Homily on the Sunday Before the Theophany
Saints George and Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
New York, New York
January 2, 2022
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Today, I am so very pleased to preside here at this wonderful community of our Celestial Martial Saints, the Great-Martyrs George and Demetrios. I am even more pleased to share this day as your community welcomes its new Proïstamenos, Father Bartholomew, who served both me and our Sacred Archdiocese as a Deacon most recently.
We are gathered together just days before the Epiphany at the Jordan River of our Lord Jesus Christ — the beginning of His public ministry. Even as today we read the first words of the Gospel of Saint Mark:
Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ̓ Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ, υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ.
The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.*
But this “beginning” — this Ἀρχὴ, was not merely the commencement of the Lord’s teaching and preaching. It was a moment when His Epiphany as the Son of God was in the same instant, the Theophany of the Holy Trinity. It was the Revelation of the Godhead that we will celebrate on January 6th.
Imagine, my beloved Christians:
When the heavens opened above the Lord Jesus as he entered the streams of the Jordan,
And the Dove appeared and alighted upon Him,
And the Voice of the Father echoed above the waters,
This was the first time in human history that God revealed Himself in His Three Divine Persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This wonderful revelation to the world came in a humble corner of Palestine, by the banks of the Jordan.
Although there were perhaps hundreds of people gathered there, the divine manifestation has gone forth throughout all the world!
God showed forth His Divinity in sounds and visions — an Incarnation born out of love. So that we might receive Him in the inner person — our hearts, and minds, and souls.
The Baptism discloses that God will live among us as an individual, so that He may live inside each and every human being. He comes to us humble and meek, needing nothing. Yet he condescends to receive Baptism in the waters of the Jordan from His cousin John, so that our subsequent baptisms may be filled with the grace of forgiveness and the knowledge of God.
These two — forgiveness and the realization that God loves us in an infinite way — are the fruits of our baptisms. And every year when we go “in spirit” to the River Jordan and witness the Epiphany of our God through the Divine Services, we have a tangible experience of this momentous appearance by the Trinity two thousand years ago.
This year of 2022, which begins with the challenges of our current age, is still a beginning for us of the Gospel — which is, the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He came to us — born in a cave in the little town of Bethlehem — in order to bring us back to God. Everything that we do in our Church-life is calling us back to life in God, back to the consciousness of God, even in the most mundane activities.
This is why we still practice immersion in our Baptisms, the way our Lord descended into the Jordan. It is because every aspect of our lives is baptized: from the most sacred and most special moments of our lives, which we mark by Sacraments — to the most ordinary, like waking from sleep, or taking a walk.
God appeared at the moment of the Lord’s Baptism, in order to tell us this: This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.†
My beloved brothers and sisters:
In the New Year of 2022, let us entrust and re-commit ourselves to the One in Whom God is so very well-pleased, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us learn from Him, and emulate Him in our daily lives. In so doing, we shall actualize our own Baptisms — the grace that we received so many years ago, and bring newness of life and faith to the year ahead.
May the Lord, Who condescended to be baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, grant it to be so. Amen.
* Mark 1:1.
† Mark 1:11.