Theophany: The Revelation of the Trinity and of Humanity 


The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34)


St John the Forerunner witnesses that he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus at His baptism – this is how he knew that Jesus is the Messiah. Additionally, the fact that the Holy Spirit not only descended on Jesus but remained upon Him, signifies that God is restoring humanity to its glorious original position. In Genesis 6: 3, just before the Great Flood, God in His disappointment with sinful humanity says His Spirit will not remain on us forever. Now in Christ, the Holy Spirit comes and remains on humanity signifying an end to God’s displeasure. Divinity is again united to humanity, thanks to Jesus Christ, the God-man.

When our Lord Jesus Christ took upon himself what belongs to us, he became an example to teach us the truth in every way. For when he was baptized, the Holy Spirit alighted on him in the form of a dove; and then the Holy Spirit led him out into the desert to be tempted by Satan. He tempted him by all sorts of temptations but did not prevail, as it is written in the Gospel of Luke: ‘And when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the spirit into Galilee’ (Luke 4:13, 14). Such is the case with all who receive the Spirit and struggle and conquer temptations: the Spirit strengthens them and gives them great power in abundance, and protects them from all things. (Matthew the Poor, ORTHODOX PRAYER LIFE, p 254)


Once the Holy Spirit is restored to humanity in Christ, there is a test. Satan wants to wrest the Spirit away from humanity again, but Christ rejects Satan and so the Holy Spirit remains on humanity. Since the time of Noah and the Flood, God’s Spirit did not remain on humans, but now at Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan, the Holy Spirit is reunited to humanity.

Here it is that Christ washes away in the river the sin of Adam. (Jean Danielou, THE BIBLE AND THE LITURGY, p 36)


Christ washes away our sin through His own baptism and restores the Holy Spirit to humanity, thus making us fully human again. Theophany is considered a feast of the revelation of the Holy Trinity, but it is also a revelation of humanity restored to God because the Holy Spirit once again remains with us.

O King without beginning, through the communion of the Spirit, You anoint and perfect the nature of mankind. You have cleansed it in the undefiled streams. Putting to shame the arrogant force of darkness, and now You translate it unto endless life. (Hymn of Theophany)

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