Theophany: Clothed in Glory
As we continue in the season of the Theophany, the Baptism of our Lord, it might be instructive to give a bit of attention to one of the major themes of the feast: clothing. Yes, you read that right, clothing. Only, we are not talking here about shirts, shoes, and blue jeans. Rather, we hear in the hymns of this feast repeatedly about Christ coming naked to baptism in order to clothe Adam/man.
Way back at the beginning of the story, as it is told in the mystical language of the Paradise story, Adam and Eve were “naked but not ashamed.” You will recall, however, that after their sin and eating the forbidden fruit, they realized their nakedness, became ashamed, and hid themselves from God. Now, as I said, this language is mystical because it demands to be understood in a spiritual way.
And to a man the Fathers understand this language of nakedness to mean that Adam and Eve did not originally recognize their nakedness precisely because they were clothed, not in physical clothing, but rather in the glory of God. Rejecting the commandment of God, however, to embrace the serpent’s lie that eating the fruit would make them like God by opening their eyes, they quickly saw instead that what the serpent really offered was a false salvation, a false deification. Losing their covering, the glory of God, their eyes were opened and they saw, for the first time, their nakedness, i.e. the reality of their creaturehood cut off from God. They were, truly, apart from God, nothing.
This brings us to Theophany and to the hymns of the feast, many of which are explicitly concerned, as we said, with clothing. Here are three fine examples:
With a depth of spiritual and biblical insight these hymns lead us to the fountain of wisdom, which is that Christ, the eternal Son of God, who eternally and essentially shares the Father’s glory, has stripped Himself naked in His incarnation and baptism in order to once again clothe Adam/man in the robe of glory. And it is this clothing of man in glory that is the true salvation and deification. Or, as the hymn quoted above states, “with divine resplendence is my Christ come forth naked, clothing me with that garment which is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
All of this helps us make sense of the hymn that we sing at Liturgy on Theophany in place of the Trisagion (“Holy God, Holy Mighty….”): “As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” This seemingly odd language - put on Christ? - is from St Paul’s letter to the Galatians and means, literally, to be clothed in Christ, to be robed in Him. It refers, as we have seen in the hymns above, to the robe of glory that is put on in baptism, symbolized by the white baptismal robe that is put on the newly illumined after they come from the font. In His absolute humility, Christ the Son of God has stripped Himself in His incarnation and baptism in order that we, in our baptism, might be robed in His glory and become bright sons of God.
Let us, through the first baptism of water, and the second baptism of repentance/confession, strive to keep our robes glorious.
With love in Christ, Fr John
“Give me a word!”
It is a trick of the demons to make us believe that we can only pray when external circumstances are favorable. We must pray all of the time.
~Elder Sergei of Vanves
Do not therefore be cast down. For there is only one thing…which is really terrible, only one real trial, and that is sin; and I have never ceased continually harping upon this theme; but as for all other things, plots, enmities, frauds, calumnies, insults, accusations, confiscation, exile, the keen sword of the enemy, the peril of the deep, warfare of the whole world, or anything else you like to name, they are but idle tales. For whatever the nature of these things may be they are transitory and perishable, and operate in a mortal body without doing any injury to the vigilant soul.
+St John Chrysostom
A brother asked Abba Poemen: What does it mean to get angry at one's brother without cause? And he replied: When your brother attacks you, whatever the insults are, if you get angry at him, you are getting angry without cause. Even if he were to pull out your right eye and cut off your right hand, if you get angry at him, you are getting angry without cause. Yet if he were to try to take you away from God, then get angry!