(January 17)

Of old, the river Jordan / turned back before Elisha’s mantle at Elijah’s ascension. / The waters were parted in two / and the waterway became a dry path. / This is truly a symbol of baptism / by which we pass through this mortal life. / Christ has appeared in the Jordan to sanctify the waters!” (Troparion-hymn, Forefeast of Theophany)

Today those of us on the Older Calendar begin the third day of the “Forefeast” (προεόρτια, предпразднство) of the great feast of Theophany, or the important moment in Salvation History, of the Baptism of the Lord in the river Jordan. Now the texts of our church-services are explaining to us, and bringing to life, some of the “hints” that God dropped throughout the Old Testament, about His plan to renew and redeem our fallen humanity. One such “hint,” the full meaning of which was hidden at the time it happened, was the parting of the waters of the Jordan “here and there” by Elisha, after he struck the waters with Elijah’s mantle, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” and crossed over a “dry path” in the waterway. (2 Kings 2: 14)

The “baptism” of our Lord, in which we are given to participate, is similar to what happens to/for Elisha, and yet different. In the baptism of our Lord, made complete in the “baptism” of His death (cf. Mk 10: 38, the Lord’s question to James and John, “Can you be baptised with the baptism I am to be baptised with?”), He does not “part” the potentially death-bringing “waters” of “this mortal life.” No. He immerses Himself in them; He goes all the way “in,” walking through all our death and darkness, and trampling death “by death,” as He overcomes it in His life-creating and life-affirming Self.

So let me walk through my responsibilities and challenges today, not avoiding them and not fearing them, but facing them in and with Christ. Lord, please “sanctify” the ever-changing “waters” of this life today, so that both my ups and downs are life-bringing, in You.