The Manifestation of the Trinity

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nick cobb

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Jan 4, 2001, 8:21:19 PM1/4/01
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The Manifestation of the Trinity
 

Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, which contains all the mysteries of our salvation, is not only His epiphany as the Messiah, the Suffering Servant of the Lord. It is also the first manifestation to the world of the greatest mystery of all, the worship of the Holy Trinity.

Let streams of tears exhaust our eyes,
Let us cleanse the filth of our souls, 0 believers!
We shall see Christ,
The Light from the Three-fold Light,
Coming to be baptized.
The Father will bear witness from heaven,
And the Holy Spirit will come in the form of a shining dove.1

When You, 0 Lord, were baptized in the Jordan,
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest.
For the voice of the Father bare witness to You,
And called You His beloved Son.
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ our God, who has revealed Yourself
And has enlightened the world,
Glory to You!2

At Jesus’ baptism the mystery of all mysteries is clearly revealed to the world for the very first time. It is the open revelation, hinted at dimly in the “shadows” of the previous covenants of Israel, that the one true God is essentially a Father,3 Being Love itself, God cannot remain isolated in the perfection of His divinity. This, we are told in the events of God’s “final and everlasting covenant,” sealed by the divine blood of the Messiah, would be a contradiction in terms. The absolutely perfect God who is Love itself—’ ‘for God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16)—must be self-sharing by nature. He must manifest Himself and His divine perfection in the divine person of Another. And He does. For He has a Son who is eternal, divine, and uncreated; a Son who is His divine Image and Word4 a Son who is “the Radiance of the glory of God and the Express Image of His Person” (Heb 1:3) .~ This is His beloved Son, or, in the more exact expression of the apostle Paul, the “Son of His Love” (Col 1:13).~ All things were created by and for this Son.7 “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:17) .~ But “though He was in the form of God, [He) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-7.)

And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:8-11)

3The apostolic writings of the first Christians use the distinction between “shadow” and “reality” to describe the relationship between the two covenants; see Col 2:17 and Heb 10:1.
4Jn 1:1-18; Col 1:15; 2 Cor 4:4. See above, pp. 12-14.
5See above, p. 14, n. 4.
°The Revised Standard Version translates this as “beloved Son”; literally, the text says “the Son of His love.”
7Jn 1:1-3; Heb 1:1-3; Col 1:16.

8John the Baptist-himself testifies that Jesus was before him (Jo 1:30). And Jesus claims that even “before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn 8:58).
With the manifestation of God’s Son as Jesus the Christ of Israel and the Savior of the world, God’s Holy Spirit is also manifested as a unique divine person. He too was dimly prefigured in His activities in the old covenants, but is now revealed in His personal glory. He is the “Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father” (Jn 15:26). He descends per-sonally on the man Jesus, anointing Him in His humanity, and all people in Him, showing Him to the world as the promised Messiah, and shining forth from Him upon all who receive Him as their Lord and God.9

This is the unique doctrine of orthodox Christianity: the worship of the Divine Trinity “one in essence and un-divided.”10 It was foreshadowed in the theophanies of the Old Covenant of Israel. It was approached in the contemplations of the holy people of various “world religions.” It was obscurely discovered in the speculations of the mystical phil-osophers of all nations, especially the Greeks. And it was clearly made manifest in the “final and everlasting covenant of peace” of the one true God with His people, first revealed in the Messiah’s epiphany at His baptism in the Jordan. This worship stands at the heart of the celebration of the Winter Pascha in the Orthodox Church.

Seeing You, 0 Christ our God,
Drawing near to him in the river Jordan,
John said: Why are You who are without defilement
Come to Your servant, 0 Lord?
In whose name shall I baptize You?
Of the Father? But You bear Him in Yourself.
Of the Son? But You are Yourself the Son made flesh.
Of the Holy Spirit? But You know that from Your own lips You give Him to the faithful.
O God who has appeared, have mercy on us!11
 

9SeeJn 1:33-34; 15:26; 16:7.15; 20:28.
10This is a liturgical formula from the divine liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom.
11Compline of the feast of the Epiphany; also sung at vespers of the second day of the postfeast.
 

The Trinity was made manifest in the Jordan,
For the Father, supreme in divinity, bore witness saying,
He who is here baptized is My beloved Son;
And the Spirit, equal in divinity, rested upon Him,
Whom the people bless and exalt above all forever.

Come, 0 faithful,
Let us speak of things divine,
Joining the angels in unending hymns
To glorify the God in whom we have received initiation:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
The Trinity, consubstantial in Persons,
Yet one God to whom we sing:
Blessed are You, 0 God of our fathers!12

12 Matins of the feast of the Epiphany

[Taken from, "The Winter Pascha" by Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, SVS Press, 1984. Available at: 800-204-book]
 
 

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