I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
Eastern Christians mark this week the Feast of the Theophany, which celebrates simultaneously the birth of Jesus in the manger, the presentation of Jesus of Nazareth in the Temple, and the Baptism of Jesus, the Christ, in the Jordan River.
Each story shows the manifestation of the true identity of Jesus Christ the true and cosmic Word (Logos), the Light of World come to redeem creation.
One of the two kontakion (thematic hymns to be sung at Eastern Rite Morning Prayer) reveals in poetic form the themes of the feast:
Thou hast appeared today
to the inhabited earth
and thy light, O Lord,
has been marked upon us
who with knowledge sing thy praise
Thou hast come
Thou art made manifest
The light that no man can approach.
(translation from Fr. Apostolos Hill’s Cycles of Grace:
Hymns from the Great Feast, Byzantine Chant in English):
The infant Jesus in the manger is the Light that shines into the darkness.
Jesus, presented to Simeon in the Temple, is the true light that comes to enlighten the human race by replacing all sacrifice with his one full and complete sacrifice made ever present in the Holy Eucharist.
Jesus, the man who descends into the Jordan River, who is proclaimed by the Father and enfolded by the Spirit, is the beloved Son of God the Father, redeeming us from sin and enlightening the world by baptizing us in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In each of these images, the manifestation of the Light shows itself in the vulnerable humanity that Jesus has assumed for our salvation. Jesus knows the powerlessness of infancy, the incapacity to communicate our deepest needs and desires.
Jesus is brought by Mary and Joseph to the Temple, handed over into the hands of Simeon, and then circumcised according to the Law. He is given over to the Law.
Likewise, Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River in submission to John’s baptism of repentance. The one born without sin lowers himself to receive a baptism of forgiveness to demonstrate to us what authentic humanity consists of: forgiveness and self-giving love through the grace and the power of the Holy Spirit
What can we do before such a manifestation - we must, with the Magi, worship Jesus and give our entire identity to the Light of the Holy Spirit made manifest in Jesus, the Son of God manifest amongst us and sacramentally incorporating us into his life, the life of the Holy Spirit which brings us into his body, the Church.
We receive this light in Holy Communion with him and are gradually transformed in the Light by the Holy Spirit through grace and mercy. This transformation is accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the grace of the Sacraments - the water of Baptism and the Body and Blood of Christ in the Mass (and the other sacraments).
The sacramental life along with our self-giving to others by the power of the Spirit witnesses to what St. John proclaims is "the true Light that enlightens everyone."
Everything that Jesus Christ touches, then, is sanctified, is transformed and transfigured, bathed in holy light not according to what is merely visible in this world but in the eternal Light of God the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ in the depths of his identity is the gift of Light for the world in which we are called to live. He is the manifestation to us that human power and position is not the true light of the world. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to maintain the light of God in our lives. We are immersed, baptized in the Holy Spirit.
True power, true light is bestowed upon the one who hands himself over to live in the life of the Triune God, who is immersed in the light of the Spirit – this is what is means to be truly enlightened.
We call those so transformed, saints, ones who live in the epiphany of God’s eternal light by the power of the Holy Spirit.