You’ll have noticed we’ve left the season of Christmas and now are in the season of Epiphany, which contains the earliest high holy day in Christian practice, besides the regular celebration of the Resurrection—the Baptism of our Lord. It was specially celebrated on January 6th far earlier than Christmas was ever celebrated. Epiphany is the season of light, which isn’t just the energy radiated from the sun with gives the possibility of life as we know it on this planet, but also means illumination of true life with God.
“Illumination is the splendour of souls, the conversion of the life, the question put to the Godward conscience. It is the aid to our weakness, the renunciation of the flesh, the following of the Spirit, the fellowship of the Word, the improvement of the creature, the overwhelming of sin, the participation in light, the dissolution of darkness. It is the carriage to God, the dying with Christ, the perfecting of the mind, the bulwark of Faith, the key of the Kingdom of Heaven, the change of life, the removal of slavery, the loosing of chains, the remodeling of the whole man.”
That’s St. Gregory Nanzianzen, writing about illumination in the 4th Century. He continues: “And as Christ the Giver of it is called by many various names, so too is this Gift…We call it, the Gift, the Grace, Baptism, Unction, Illumination, the Clothing of Immortality, the Laver of Regeneration, the Seal, and everything that is honorable. We call it the Gift, because it is given to us in return for nothing on our part; Grace, because it is conferred even on debtors; Baptism, because sin is buried in it with the water; Unction, as Priestly and Royal, for such were they who were anointed; Illumination, because of its splendor; Clothing, because it hides our shame; the Laver, because it washes us; the Seal because it preserves us…”
So, you can see, there’s a lot to celebrate this Sunday. And really, if Baptism is a daily rising and dying, there’s a lot to celebrate every day.