‘Theophany’ is a strange old word. It means a revelation of God to a human being.
Today, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, recalls such a revelation – as Jesus is baptised by John, the heavens open and God the Father announces that Jesus is ‘My Son, the Beloved, on Whom My favour rests’; at the same time, the Holy Spirit is seen to descend upon Jesus.
As well as being exceptional by it’s very nature – the revelation of God – this event is also very unusual in Scripture, in that it brings all three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity together in one event, one passage.
At Mass this morning, our Priest spoke about the extraordinary words used here – “My favours rests on Him”. I was reminded on the Annunciation, of Mary being described as “most highly favoured” – when a person is described as ‘favoured by the Most High’, then things begin to happen; with Mary, the history of salvation began at that moment, as Christ was conceived within Her womb. And on this occasion, the Baptism of the Lord, it announces the beginning of His public ministry – what will follow now are all the events of the Gospels, culminating in the Passion and the Resurrection. After thirty years of hiddenness in Nazareth – about which we know so very little, as the Priest pointed out – now, something new and active and public is about to begin.
I suppose that for Christians, all of this is reflected in some way in our own baptism. The littleness and the quietness and the hiddenness of self is replaced by the mission of Christ.
Baptism marks a commitment, for each of us as surely as for Jesus. In Baptism, something begins within us; in some way, we are changed, made whole, made new – and asked to do something. Later, we renew that commitment in the sacrament of Confirmation. But in Baptism, it all begins.
Perhaps in some small way, by answering that call made to us and by beginning to respond, God will in some way be revealed in each of us.