January 13th: Dom Gueranger on the Octave of the Epiphany

Extract from the commentary of Dom Guéranger:

" The thoughts of the Church, today, are fixed on the Baptism of our Lord in the Jordan, which is the second of the three Mysteries of the Epiphany.......

"The Star has led the Magi to Christ; they had long waited for his coming, they had hoped for it; now, they believe.......................But faith is not sufficient for salvation; the stain of sin must be washed away by water.......The time is come then for a new manifestation of the Son of God, whereby shall be inaugurated the great remedy, which is to give to Faith, the power of producing life eternal.....

"But in order that Water should have the power to purify man from his sins, it was necessary that it should be brought in contact with the sacred Body of the Incarnate God.

"Let us honour our Lord in this second Manifestation of his divinity, and thank him, with the Church, for his having given us both the Star of Faith which enlightens us, and the Water of Baptism which cleanses us from our iniquities."

Dom Gueranger makes his usual selection from the Liturgies of all the Churches. "Let us make a concert" of them he says, as we "once more sing the praises of the divine Epiphany - the Theophany." The items on his programme cover ten pages: here are some jewels from five of them:

1."Thirty years of his life had passed, and He, the infinitely pure God, seeks the laver of baptism. John, the favoured Baptist, trembles as he bends the head of Jesus beneath the waters....."
(from the Hymn of St. Hilary of Poitiers on the three mysteries of this great Octave)

2."Father of eternal light...thou didst open the heavens and bless the air, and purify the stream: and thou didst announce him to be thine Only Begotten Son by the Holy Ghost who appeared in the form of a Dove.... On this day did the waters receive thy benediction, and take away our malediction, so that they give to believers the purification of all their sins, and make them, by adoption, sons of God unto life everlasting. For, they that were born by the flesh unto temporal life, and made by sin subject to death, have been admitted into life everlasting, and restored to the glory of the heavenly kingdom."

(from the Preface of the Ambrosian Church of Milan)

3. "The Saviour crushed the serpent's head in the river Jordan, and delivered us all from his power. A great Mystery is this day declared to us; for the Creator of all wipes away our sins in the Jordan. The springs of water were sancified when the glory of Christ was manifested: all ye countries of the earth, draw out waters from the Saviour's fountains....."
(from "precious remnants of the ancient Gallican Liturgy: they are of oriental origin, and are still preserved in the Cistercian Breviary".)

4. "The Dove is seen: the voice of the Father speaks his love of the Son, therefore making known his glory. The word of John bears also testimony; and the law of love is begun."
(from the Sequence in the ancient Paris Missals)

5. "Thou didst go down into the river; thou didst enlighten all things that they might glorify thee, O Saviour, thou Light of our souls!...... He that is clad in light as with a garment, deigned, for our sakes to become like unto us. Today, he girds himself with the waters of the Jordan, not needing them for his own purification, but that he might give regeneration to us through himself. O wondrous work!.............. Christ is baptised, and comes up from the water; he raises up the world with himself, and sees that heaven opened which Adam had closed against himself and his children. The Spirit, too, proclaims the divinity of Him that was baptised, and a Voice from heaven is heard at the same time. Thus is Christ declared to be the Saviour of our souls."
(from the Menaea of the Greek Church)

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