‘While you are still speaking, I will say, Here I am’

LAST Sunday was the Feast of the Theophany (Epiphany), the Baptism of Christ.

“He is come unto Jordan.”
At Vespers for January 12. Source.

YE faithful, with spiritual mind all cleansed let us sing a hymn of the after-feast to the Baptism of Christ: for already he is come unto Jordan in the flesh, who existeth in the nature of the Godhead together with the Father and the Spirit, crying out to John: Come, Baptist, baptize me; for I wish to wash the nature of men clean from its soils, because I love mankind.

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“The Invisible shines forth”
St Athanasius of Alexandria, Against the Arians I 63. Source.

WHEN then men in infirmity invoke Him, when in persecution they ask help, when under injuries they pray, then the Invisible, being a lover of man, shines forth upon them with His beneficence, which He exercises through and in His proper Word.

And forthwith the divine manifestation is made to every one according to his need, and is made to the weak health (Ps 6:2), and to the persecuted a ‘refuge’ (Ps 45[46]:1) and ‘house of defence;’ (Ps 30[31]:2) and to the injured He says, ‘While thou speakest I will say, Here I am.’ (Is 58:9-10)

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An icon of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River.

An icon of the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River.

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“Here am I.”
Isaiah 58:4-11 (NIV).

YOUR fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

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“Blessed art thou who wast made visible”
At Vespers for January 12. Source.

NOW let us like prophets cry out unto the Lord: Thou hast shewn thyself unto us, our Saviour and Creator; while in the Jordan thou brakest the mouths of the dragons, as thou art compassionate, and didst lighten the blind with thy light. Blessed art thou who wast made visible, our God glory be to thee.

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Summary

IN the Baptism of Christ, we see God living by his own principles. When we reject him, he does not leave us to corrupt away, playing by the rule book. He makes us his own flesh and blood in the Incarnation, and the Invisible having become the visible, he says on Jordan’s bank, Here am I.

Then in tender compassion, he clothes our spiritual minds in his sunlight, and nourishes us with his own body, setting us free from the oppressive passions, breaking the heads of the ‘dragons’.

And all this he does not after we have done the same for our fellow men (as Isaiah suggests), but before, “while we were yet sinners” (Rom 5:6-9). And afterwards, the holy Spirit drives him into the wilderness to fast forty days truly acceptable to his Father.

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A Little Music

Johannes Brahms’s Intermezzo Op. 117 No. 1 in E Flat Major was inspired by an obscure song of Scottish origin. Brahms called his Intermezzo “a lullaby to my sorrows”, and added these lines from the song:

Sleep softly my child, sleep softly and well!
It hurts my heart to see you weeping.

Here, the Intermezzo is played by Vassily Primakov (see bio).

Johannes Brahms, Intermezzo Op. 117 No. 1 in E Flat.

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