THE GREAT FEAST OF THEOPHANY, THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST IN THE JORDAN, is celebrated by the Church on January 6. It is called 'Theophany' because it is a revelation of God, specifically of the Holy Trinity and of Jesus as the Son of God. As the hymn for the Feast proclaims:
When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan,
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest,
For the voice of the Father bore witness to You,
And called You His beloved Son.
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God,
You have revealed Yourself
And have enlightened the world,
Glory to You!
From this Feast we receive the Sacrament of Baptism. The Sacrament of Baptism mystically unites us with Jesus Christ, who submitted Himself to the baptism of John, even though, being without sin, He had no need to be baptized. This mystery of baptism can be considered from many perspectives (such as being baptized into the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may reign in our bodies; cf. Romans 6, etc.). I'd like here to focus on one specific aspect of the mystery, that of rebirth and therefore parenthood, paternity. And for this we turn to St Gregory of Nyssa:
Baptism is a spiritual birth, but he who is born by spiritual birth must recognize by whom he is born and what kind of creature he must become. In physical birth, those who are born owe their life and existence to the impulse of their parents, but the spiritual birth is in control of the one who is being born. It is the only birth where we can choose and determine what kind of beings we are to become...
...Now it is evident to everyone that we must receive the saving birth of baptism for the purpose of growth and renewal and changing in our nature If the essential faculties of our nature are not changed, what then is the change that the grace of baptism must bring about? It is clear that the sinful characteristics of our nature must be changed, and the evil in our life done away with. Undergoing the washing of baptism, we must become purified in our wills and wash away the iniquities of our souls. We must be changed for the better and become different. If, however, the baptism has only washed the body, and the life after initiation is identical with that life before, then despite the boldness of my assertion, I will say without shrinking that the baptismal water is merely water, and the gift of the Spirit in nowhere in action. This is true not only when anger and hatred deforms and dishonors the image of God in us, but also when covetousness, passion, greed, evil thoughts, pride, envy, jealousy, injustice, lusts of the flesh and adultery continue to operate in us. If this sort of sinful life characterizes a man's life as much after baptism as before, then I cannot see that he has undergone any change in accordance with God's nature, and he is really of the same corrupt nature as before. Such a man then, who does not change and yet prattles about birth and resurrectionis deceiving himself. He is not what he has not become! Now the physically born child shares his parents' nature. If you have been born of God and have become his child, then let your way of life testify to the presence of God within you. Make it clear who your Father is! For the very attributes by which we recognize God are the very marks by which a child of His must reveal his relationship with God. 'God is goodness and there is no unrighteousness in Him.' 'The Lord is gracious to allHe loves His enemies.' 'He is merciful and forgives transgressions.' These and many other characteristics revealed by the Scripture are what make a Godly life.
If you are like this and you embody the Spirit of God, then you have genuinely become a child of God, but if you persist in displaying evil, then it is useless to prattle to yourself and to others about your birth from above. You are still merely a son of man, not a son of the Most High God! You love lies and vanity, and you are still immersed in the corruptible things of this world. Don't you know in what way a man becomes a child of God? Why in no other way than by becoming holy!--St Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism
This is the calling, the challenge and the life of a Christian. And how significant that St Gregory speaks of making clear our PATERNITY, making clear WHO OUR FATHER IS.
No doubt you suspect where I am going with this line of inquiry, so I'll try to refrain from making too many obvious comments, preferring to allow the Lord Jesus Christ's words to speak for themselves. For when He was confronted by the Jews, He challenged their paternity:
THEN JESUS SAID TO THOSE JEWS WHO BELIEVED HIM, "IF YOU ABIDE IN MY WORD, YOU ARE MY DISCIPLES INDEED. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." THEY ANSWERED HIM, "WE ARE ABRAHAM'S DESCENDANTS, AND HAVE NEVER BEEN IN BONDAGE TO ANYONE. HOW CAN YOU SAY, 'YOU WILL BE MADE FREE'?" JESUS ANSWERED THEM, "MOST ASSUREDLY, I SAY TO YOU, WHOEVER COMMITS SIN IS A SLAVE OF SIN. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father." They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father." Then they said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father -- God." Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God."-- John 8:31-47
If this is how Jesus challenged those of His day, what then shall we say of adherents of a certain religion today, who routinely and zealously kill, kidnap, behead, bomb, rape, and commit all manner of atrocities in the name of their god? The sacred texts of Islam, and every single one of its many schools of jurisprudence teach the necessity of waging jihad to advance their religion, teaching warfare and hatred against non-Muslims. This is due primarily to Muslims being instructed to follow the example of Muhammad, who himself spread his new religion by the sword, executed his enemies, and fought against Jews and Christians to do so. This is taught in mosques in Saudi Arabia, Cairo, London, Paris, St Louis and Boston, and wherever Islam has spread.
Muslims claim to properly venerate Jesus Christ (whom they mistakenly call Isa, a name which has no connection to any known etymological variation of Joshua/Iesous/Yeshua/Jesus). Yet they flagrantly go against Jesus' words and go against the words of Jesus' followers. Shockingly, many of them kill the followers of Jesus, while the silent Muslims who do not protest the killings, betray Jesus just like Judas did.
I am sorry to be the one to have to say this, but Muslims have a different father from us. They are not our brothers and sisters. They live in darkness and spiritual delusion. They live in the land of falsehood and destruction, under the guidance of their father:
Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God." -- John 8:42-47
These are hard sayings, but they are meant to lead us all to repentance and eternal life. This is the amazing, joyous message of the Gospel, namely that Muslims, if they repent and turn to Jesus Christ, can be united to Him and can become sons and daughters of the True God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires that none should perish, but that all may be saved and come to a knowledge of the Truth.
So, to any Muslims reading this, you have a choice regarding your spiritual birth. You are not a slave, and unlike with our earthly birth, where we have no choice regarding our parents, you can and must choose who you wish to have as your father.
We invite you to choose the True God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
This is the God of peace, of love, of tenderness and intimacy, the Creator and Master of the Cosmos Who deigned to become a vulnerable little child, and chooses to become like us, so that He may wash away our sins and enable us to become like Him. What greater calling and destiny can mankind have than this!
We invite you to join us!
This is our hope and prayer. Amen!