“This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”( Matthew 3:16-17)

Behold! The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

Commemorated on January 7

Elder Sophrony of Essex

theophany-headerOur days are filled with longing to penetrate into the Divine sphere with every fibre of our being. Our prayer must be ardent, and many-sided is the experience that may be given…So we shall not cease to pray diligently to the Holy Spirit that He preserve our foot from the paths of untruth.

For us Christians the focal point of the universe and the ultimate meaning of the entire history of the world is the coming of Jesus Christ, Who did not repudiate the archetypes of the Old Testament but vindicated them, unfolding to us their real significance and bringing new dimensions to all things- infinite, eternal dimensions. Christ’s new covenant announces the beginning of a fresh period in the history of mankind. Now the Divine sphere was reflected in the searchless grandeur of the love and humility of God, our Father. With the coming of Christ all was changed: the new revelation affected the destiny of the whole created world. ..

He appeared, He to Whom the world owed its creation; and with rare exceptions ‘the world knew him not’ (John 1.10). The event was immeasurably beyond the ordinary man’s grasp. The first to recognise Him was John the Baptist, for which reason he was rightly termed the greatest ‘among them that are born of women’ and the last of the law and the prophets (cf. Matt. 11.9-13)…
Christ came in utter meekness, the poorest of the poor with nowhere to lay His head. He had no authority, neither in the State nor even in the Synagogue founded on revelation from on High. He did not fight those who spurned Him. And it has been given to us to identify Him as the Pantocrator precisely because He ‘made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant’ (Phil. 2.7), submitting finally to duress and execution. As the Creator and true Master of all that exists, He had no need of force, no need to display the power to punish opposition. He came ‘to save the world’ (John 12.47), to tell us of the One True God. He discovered to us the Name of Father. He gave us the word which He Himself had received from the Father. He revealed God to us as Light in Whom is no darkness at all (cf. 1 John 1,5). 

The world continues to flounder in the vicious circle of its material problems- economic, class, nationalistic, and the like- because people refuse to follow Christ. We have no wish to become like Him in all things: to become His brethren and through Him the beloved children of the Father and the chosen habitation of the Holy Spirit. In God’s pre-eternal Providence for man we are meant to participate in His Being- to be like unto Him in all things. By its very essence this design on God’s part for us excludes the slightest possibility of compulsion or predestination. And we as Christians must never renounce our goal lest we lose the inspiration to storm the kingdom of heaven. Experience shows all too clearly that once we Christians start reducing the scope of the revelation given to us by Christ and the Holy Spirit, we gradually cease to be attracted by the Light made manifest to us. If we are to preserve our saving hope, we must be bold. Christ said: ‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (John, 16.33).

theophany3In Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit God gave us the full and final revelation of Himself. His Being now for us is the First Reality, incomparably more evident than all the transient phenomena of this world. We sense His divine presence both within us and without: in the supreme majesty of the universe, in the human face, in the lightning flash of thought. He opens our eyes that we may behold and delight in the beauty of His creation. He fills our souls with love towards all mankind. His indescribably gentle touch pierces our heart. And in the hours when His imperishable Light illumines our heart we know that we shall not die. We know this with knowledge impossible to prove in the ordinary way but which for us requires no proof, since the Spirit Himself bears witness within us.

Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov (2001) (2nd ed.) His Life is Mine. Chapter 1: Knowledge of God. New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press

Knowledge of the Personal God bears an intrinsically personal character. Like recognises like. There is an end to the deadly tedium of the impersonal. The earth, the whole universe, proclaims Him: ‘heaven and earth praise him, the sea, and everything that moveth therein’ (Ps. 69.34). And lo, He Himself seeks to be with us, to impart to us the abundance of His life (cf. John 10.10). And we for our part thirst for this gift.

The integrality of the revelation given to us is inexhaustible.