THE WATERS OF ROCKBURN BRANCH ARE BLESSED
6/19 January 2006. On the great feast day of Theophany – the Baptism of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, many faithful of Holy Trinity Russian Church attended Divine Liturgy with the Great Blessing of Water at the Saints Peter and Paul Chapel, located at Cathedral Gardens in Elkridge.
Approximately 40 people fit into the chapel to pray on this holy day. A large majority of those present received the Divine Mysteries – Holy Confession and Holy Communion.
Everyone joyfully prayed during the service of the Great Blessing of Water, held at the end of Divine Liturgy. Listening to the many Scriptural readings and beautiful prayers of blessing was uplifting for all. At the conclusion of the services everyone waited patiently to fill their bottles with holy water to take home with them for the coming year.
Afterwards, a small group walked the length of the cemetery and through the woods to reach the waters of the Rockburn Branch. This small stream flows through the park that borders the property of the parish cemetery. The weather was warm and overcast. However, during the blessing of the waters at the stream the sun timely pierced through the clouds as though God was symbolically sending down His blessings upon the waters.
When we bless waters in church we ask God to send His Holy Spirit down to sanctify the waters so that we by partaking of them may be blessed and filled with the Holy Spirit. Likewise when we bless waters of lakes, rivers and streams, we ask God to send His blessings upon the waters of His creation so that even though humanity has spoiled the world through sin and abused the environment over many generations, God has not forsaken the world. He sends His spirit to cleanse and sanctify His creation.
God willing, the blessing of the waters of Rockburn Branch will be an annual tradition for our parish.
Baptism of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ
One of the greatest and most important feasts of the Church is the Feast of Our Lord's Baptism. This feast is also called Epiphany meaning "manifestation," or Theophany, meaning "manifestation of God," or "God is revealed."
The holy Prophet John, the Baptist and Forerunner of the Lord, was called by God to prepare the way of the Lord; that is, to tell the people that the Kingdom of God was at hand and that they should make themselves ready through repentance and baptism.
At this time Jesus was about 30 years old, and He came from Nazareth to the Jordan River to be baptized. John, recognizing that Jesus was much greater than any prophet, felt unworthy to baptize Him. But Jesus reassured him, saying, "Let it be so, for we must thereby fulfill all righteousness"; that is, fulfill the law of God and show an example to the people.
When Jesus was baptized and came up out of the water, the heavens suddenly opened, and John saw the Spirit in the form of a dove descending upon Jesus. And there came a voice from heaven saying, "Thou art My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." Then John, together with many others, was convinced that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Here, for the first time, all three Persons of the Holy Trinity were revealed to the world: the voice of God the Father calling down from heaven, the Holy Spirit descending from the Father in the shape of a dove, and God the Son in the person of Jesus Christ.
But why, one might ask, did Christ--Who is sinless--need to be cleansed through baptism? We find the answer to this question in the Feast day services: "Though as God He needs no cleansing, yet for the sake of fallen mar] He is cleansed in the Jordan." Just as mankind fell away from God through the sin of its forefather Adam, so it is renewed and cleansed through the Baptism of Christ, the New Adam, in Whose Baptism we see also an example for our own baptism.
ON HOLY WATER
On the Feast of Theophany, that is the Day of the Lord's Baptism, every year a great miracle is performed. The Holy Spirit, coming down upon the water, changes its natural properties. It becomes incorrupt, that is, it doe s not spoil, remains transparent and fresh for many years, receives the grace to heal illnesses, to drive away demons and every evil power, to preserve people and their dwellings from every danger, to sanctify various objects whether for church or home use. Therefore, Orthodox Christians with reverence drink Holy Water--a great Agiasma (holy thing), as the Greeks call it.
One should have at home enough Theophany water so that it will last the whole year, and make use of it at every need: in cases of illness, leaving on a journey, whenever one is upset, students when going to examinations. They do well who daily, before eating any kind of food, drink a little Holy Water. It strengthens the powers of the soul--if it is done, of course, with prayer and reverence, and one does not merely expect from it a mechanical result.
From the writings of St. John Maximovitch
O Most Holy Trinity, Our God, Glory to Thee!