The word Theophany comes from the Greek “theophania” meaning “appearance of God.” This is one of the great feasts of the Orthodox Church and through this feast the Most Holy Trinity is revealed to the world through the baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan River.
This feast commemorates the baptism of Jesus by his cousin John the Baptist and is the culmination of the Christmas Season. The feast is called Theophany because at the baptism of Christ the Holy Trinity appeared clearly to mankind for the first time — the Father’s voice is heard from Heaven, the Son of God is incarnate and standing physically in the Jordan, and the Holy Spirit descends on Him in the form of a dove.
On this date the Great Blessing of Water is performed by the priest and that water is used to bless the homes of the faithful in the parish. The faithful also take some of the water home to use during the year.
In the English speaking world this day is also known as Epiphany and commemorates the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus.
In some places, mainly where the weather is not 17F large bodies of water , like lakes and ponds are blessed by the throwing out of a Cross. Then the faithful will jump in the water and retrieve the Holy Cross from the water. Locally we serve the Vesperal Divine Liturgy followed by the Great Blessing of Water. This begins the season of House Blessings, also known as Orthodox Spring Cleaning as the priest makes the rounds to the houses of the faithful to bless their homes and who wants the priest to see their messy house!
Troparion of Theophany (Tone 1)
When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest
For the voice of the Father bore 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, You have revealed Yourself
And have enlightened the world, glory to You!