Theophany (from Greek theophania, meaning “appearance of God”), one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Catholic Church, commemorates the revelation of the Most Holy Trinity to the world through the Baptism of the Lord (Mt.3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). The early Church considered Theophany more important than the Nativity. Not only is the Trinitarian dimension of our faith revealed at Christ’s baptism, we also see the totality of Christ’s identification with fallen humanity (and indeed the whole of fallen creation) and the subsequent sanctification and ‘re-creation’ effected by it.
“Baptism is a symbol of sanctification; Christ has come to sanctify the whole of creation. Baptism is a symbol, finally, of radical renewal. When one is baptized the old is over and the new has come. And Christ has appeared on earth to bring all things to an end, and to make all things new. The act of baptism, therefore, contains in symbol the entire mystery of Christ, the whole purpose of his coming” (Fr. Thomas Hopko, The Winter Pascha, p.142).
In descending into water, Christ sanctified water and Christ’s union with humanity and our union with His divinity is revealed through the material creation. Thus the entire cosmos is proclaimed to be God’s Temple, and all of creation as having the power to bring union between God and humanity.
“Orthodoxy recognizes no sharp distinction between the sacred and the secular; every aspect of our daily life and work is blessed by the Church and so brought within the realm of divine grace. As Christians we are necessarily materialists; ours is an incarnate faith, earthy, rooted in this world. Thus our Orthodox service books contain prayers for sowing, threshing and wine-making, for diseased sheep or cattle, for blessing cars, tractors and fishing nets, for insomnia, for children starting to learn the alphabet or students taking their examinations” (Bishop Kallistos Ware, Praying With the Orthodox Tradition).
The Blessing of Water is performed on this day, and the holy water so blessed is used to sanctity the homes of the faithful.