Theophany, Epiphany and the Holy Trinity

Theophany, to be celebrated later this week on January 6th, is the Feast Day celebrating the manifestation of God because at the time of baptism (Christ baptized by John in the Jordan) God revealed Himself to people as the Holy Trinity( found in Matt. 3:16):  wpid-IMG_20140102_090954_489.jpg

  1. God the father spoke from Heaven
  2. Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God was baptised
  3. The Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove

Troparian of the Feast

When Thou was baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bare witness to Thee, calling Thee His beloved Son.  And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of the word.  O Christ our God Who hast appeared and hast enlightened the world, glory be to Thee!

Giving recognition to the Holy Trinity is an important aspect of the Holy Orthodox Church.  When we pray we make the sign of the cross.  The thumb and first two fingers represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The bringing of these three fingers together signifies that we do not believe in three gods, only ONE GOD.  Everything we do is in the name of the trinity: baptism, forgiveness, marriage, the confession of our faith (Nicene Creed) etc. The Trinity expresses the essence of our faith.  The work of salvation begins with the Father who created the world, is realized by the Son through His death and resurrection, and is completed through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

It is a terrible thing to believe in many gods.  Orthodox Christians do not believe in more than one God.  God is One but is a Trinity in Three Persons – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This is not three Gods.  It is one God in three Persons, the Trinity in one essence and indivisible.  All three Persons have the same divine rank; there is not one higher than the other.  All three are the same true God.

The doctrine of the Trinity is anchored in Scripture.  Our Lord Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matt. 28:19) He did not use the plural word ‘names’.  It is used in a singular form.  St. Paul spoke  of “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” in 2 Corinthians 13:14.  St. Peter also mentions the Trinity in his first letter, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ ….elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2).

There are also indications of the Trinity in the Old Testament.  In Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let us make man in our image and likeness”. Yet the next verse states, “And God made man in His image and likeness” (Genesis 1:27).  Obviously the plural us and our suggests more than one but is followed up by the singular his.  This is evidence of the Trinity. Further evidence that knowledge of the Trinity occurs in the Old Testament is that the Hebrew word for God, “Elohim”, is plural yet it takes a verb in the singular, and if an adjective goes with it, that too is in the singular.

The Trinity is a difficult concept.  Analogies have been made (i.e. There are many sacred books gathered together into one book called the Bible or water has three forms: solid, liquid and gas but remains being water) but none have mastered the conceptualization. God is just so great that He will remain beyond our comprehension while in this earthly life.  But it’s not that we can’t understand God at all.  The purpose of the Trinity is to help reveal God to us. The word ‘God’ is described more fully through the Trinity because one cannot come close to understanding the fullness of God without knowing ‘”the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 13:14).

My hope is the Father,

My refuge is the Son,

My Protection is the Holy Spirit,                      

Holy Trinity,

Glory to Thee.

~An Orthodox Prayer

One further note before concluding…  This feast is also sometimes referred to as Epiphany by English-speaking Orthodox Christians, but that name more properly refers to the Western Christian feast falling on that same day and commemorating the visit of the Magi to the child Jesus.  The term epiphany does appear in some of the service texts for this feast…  ~ excerpt from OrthodoxWiki

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About orthodoxmom3

I am an Orthodox Christian mother of three that is loving the life God has given me. He has granted me the privilege to homeschool my three children and provide them with love and Christian guidance throughout the day. I spend my days schooling and cooking whole foods from scratch as we have learned the effects of harmful ingredients in the Standard American Diet. I also enjoy reading, writing, and spending quality time with my family. It is also my deepest desire to write books for children. I have two completed manuscripts for early chapter books and many other picture books and a YA begun; however, the writing had been on hold for a bit due to a little surprise package God sent our way almost four years ago. My other children are 18 and 15, so my youngest son was quite a surprise indeed to all of us but we have greeted this unexpected gift with love and joy. There are challenging moments being a 44 year old mom balancing a young toddler and a teenagers at home and one at college, but I am grateful to God for all he Has given me and am so grateful that it is He that is in charge. I will be trying to post regularly about the things I'm most passionate about: Orthodoxy, Homeschooling, Our Food Lifestyle, Books, WRITING and quotes and things I love! I hope you enjoy what I have to say.
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7 Responses to Theophany, Epiphany and the Holy Trinity

  1. As usual, an informative and interesting read. I always garner some gem of information or inspiration from your writings.

  2. Pingback: Roger Mickelson’s History Today 1/6/14 | Sandia Tea Party

  3. Which Bible translation do you use where it is been said Jesus is God in Matthew 3:16 or in any other verse?
    Is jesus also not clear enough with saying: “This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Yeshua the Messiah. ” (John 17:3 HNV)

    • orthodoxmom3 says:

      Thank you for asking questions! I am not saying that it clearly states in obvious terms that Jesus is God in Matthew 3:16 (I usually use the Orthodox Study Bible as I love all of the extra information in it’s sidebars, etc. but the NKJV is fine as well as well as some others as long as one is guided in knowledge of the history of the languages and cultures of the time the original text was written so as not to misinterpret). What is in Matthew 3:16 is the vision of the Holy Trinity together – Jesus Christ the son, The voice of God the Father from above and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

      The further points that my article above is pointing out is that Jesus always was a part of the Holy Trinity even before his birth by the virgin. Case point being my example of the words used in Genesis, “Let us make man in our image and likeness”. One of the earliest Creeds of the Church was “Jesus is Lord” as taken from Roman’s 10:9, Col 2:6 and many others. It is also pointed out in the psalms by Christ himself in his talk with the Pharisees in Matthew 22:41-45.

      “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent”(John 17:3) This verse of Jesus speaking demonstrates the knowledge of the only true God is by far more than just intellectual understanding. It is participation in His divine life and having communion in Him. Thus, eternal life is an ongoing knowledge of God in Christ and the Holy Spirit. Indeed He (Jesus) is telling us that to know God is eternal life and that this knowledge comes only to us through knowing Jesus Christ whom God sent. Christ continues the prayer that the “Father will gloriy Him beside Himself with the glory which He had with Him before the world was. Prior to His Incarnation through the Virgin, the eternal Word shared the heavenly glory of the eternal Father. Christ prays that such glory might be restored to Him after He has fully glorified the Father on the earth through His death on the Cross and perfected the work which He gave Him to do. The humiliation and weakness He endured throughout His earthly sojourn were not to last forever, but were always meant to give way to restoration of the glory proper to Him as the eternal Word.” ~ Lawrence Farley in The Gospel of John Beholding the Glory

      I am not a priest nor do I claim to be a scholar. So while at the drop of a hat or the time allowed in my day can I give you all of the places in the bible, both old and new testaments that demonstrate that Jesus is Lord, I can encourage you to speak to those who are if what I have given you is not enough for your understanding. But I will leave you with the words of St. Paul: “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible….He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”

  4. “And Yahshua, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, behold, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:” (Matthew 3:16 KJBPNV)

    It was Jesus who saw the Spirit of God. It does not say he saw himself. This dove out of which the Voice of God seemed to come said:

    “And lo, a voice came from Heaven, saying, “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.”” (Matthew 3:17 KJ21)

    So the God Who does not tell lies according to the Holy Scriptures He Himself did tell Jesus was His son. this seems to be in contrast with what you are claiming it says, is it not?

    “And Jesus, when He had been baptized, went up immediately out of the water. And lo, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him. (17) And lo, a voice from Heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mat 3:16-17 MKJV )

    Nowhere can we see the Holy Trinity. What we can see is two different entities: 1. a human being of flesh, blood and bones; 2. a Spirit who has no flesh, blood or bones. The Voice, by the Power of God does not say “Here I am having come down on the earth.” No it recognises the man as being the son of God. Nowhere in any version does it speak of being the ‘god son’ (which is something totally different.)

    All creations are created in the image of God. Jesus naturally is than also created in the image of God but that does not mean that he is God like we who should become like Christ shall not become Christ nor shall we become God though we too are in His image.

    You write ” This verse of Jesus speaking” concerning John 17:3 “demonstrates the knowledge of the only true God is by far more than just intellectual understanding.” But to us it seems very clear to follow that Jesus has full knowledge who the only True God is. He also knows very well that That Only True God is much greater than him and that he can not do anything without That God.

    “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, “Verily, verily I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do; for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19 KJ21)

    “Ye have heard how I said unto you, ‘I go away and come again unto you.’ If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice because I said, ‘I go unto the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28 KJ21)

    You also seem to believe that Christ regularly prayed. But according to you he did pray to himself because Jesus is God. Very strange behaviour is it not? Than you also come to say that Jesus prays that the “Father will glory Him beside Himself with the glory which He had with Him before the world was. Prior to His Incarnation through the Virgin, the eternal Word shared the heavenly glory of the eternal Father. ” Where do you get that from?

    Is it not that Jesus did not want to do his own will but preferred to follow the Will of God and that Jesus never wanted to take the glory for what he did but always said it was his Father doing all those things? As Jesus prayed to his Father and learned us also to pray not to him but to our Father the glory should only be given to the Most High God, Jehovah.

    “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.” (Luke 2:14 ASV)

    “Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort;” (2 Corinthians 1:3 ASV)

    “After this manner therefore pray ye. Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9 ASV)

    “saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42 ASV)

    “I can of myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 5:30 ASV)

    Should we not follow the words and teachings of Jesus Christ, who as a devote Jew very well knew that there is only One God, who also asked not to worship any other god or to make any drawings of gods, to bow down before statues or pictures. should we not listen more to the Word of God instead of keeping up to doctrinal teachings made by man? Are it not always those doctrines which bring you back to saying or believing things which are not really written there, black on white?

    We should always try to do like Jesus did, following the Word of God and trying to understand what the Will is of God. Did He not made His Will clear in the Old Testament? Did He not clearly said Who He is and what we could expect?

    “Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17 ASV)

    You yourself have a study Bible of which you say you like to use “as one is guided in knowledge of the history of the languages and cultures of the time the original text was written so as not to misinterpret”, but you do seem to have a wrong interpretation of the Major Pluralis. Please check that way of speaking for all higher placed persons, or if you would like for all sorts of gods and kings. Looking at the language of Genesis there is only One God talking, who is not a triune God like you consider to be the reason why God speaks to others with “we”.

    Jesus was already from the beginning in God His head the same as we where already from the beginning know by God. But Jesus took a special position because he was the promised Messiah in the Garden of Eden and as such was already foreseen from the start of the world. But he was only born on October 17, 4BCE, so about a 2000 years ago.

    You luckily accept that Jesus found death on this earth, but how would you place that with the eternal God, who can not be seen or people would die (though Christ was seen by many), who can not be tempted nor sin (though Jesus was tempted many times and could sin but did not)? Are all those things we do know about God and Jesus not really true like they are written in the Bible and do you allow your God to tell such things without considering Him a liar?

    According to us (look here also at the plural form) God is no liar and is a God of order and clarity. He did not give His Word as a Guide only great scholars could understand. The Word of God is given unto the world so that everybody could come to know the True God, Creator of heaven and earth.

    Perhaps some food for thought?

    • orthodoxmom3 says:

      While I do not have time to engage in a debate with you and I again encourage you to take up your questions with an Orthodox Priest or at least an Orthodox biblical scholar, I do now see where the biggest misinterpretation is. You see, it is not Jesus that God is speaking to in Mathew 3:17. It is John. God would not have a need to tell His own son that He is His son. He is speaking to John. It is John that saw the holy trinity. I’m sure you could find an Orthodox Priest or scholar to have this debate with. I wish, sometimes, that I had the time to engage in such debates…but I have much more things that God has given me in life than to do that. So if you really want to understand, then I point you in the direction of such a scholar. Perhaps there is an Orthodox Church in your area? If not, there are several Orthodox Priests and other scholarly types that have blogs devoted entirely to Orthodoxy. My purpose on my own blog is many. Orthodoxy is only one. And in my approach to my Faith, my purpose is to write my thoughts about it with others of my Faith and to provide a background and information to those who are not aware of it in order to open their eyes to possibility of further knowledge. So, hopefully you can take that, and look into other resources to aid you in your understanding. May God bless you and lead you in the right direction. In Christ’s Love ~ OrthodoxMom3

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