(Troparion of Theophany)
The usual name that the western Christian world gives this feast is “Epiphany.” In Greek this word means “something revealed.” However, in the Orthodox Church the proper name for the feast is “Theophany,” or the specific revelation of God. This is an important distinction for us because the event on the banks of and in the waters of the Jordan River open our minds to the work of God. Thus this is no simple revelation but God stripping away the darkness and revealing Himself.
This “theophanic” event brings to the world the true knowledge of God. The Father speaks from the heavens and reveals that this person, Jesus, is really His beloved Son. Then as Jesus comes out of the waters the Holy Spirit descends and settles on Him and confirms that this man speaks with the authority of the Father and glorifies that same Father. This is the first moment that the Trinity is revealed in the New Testament and that God opens the mind of believers to this knowledge, not speaking in shadows but in the fullness of truth for our salvation. This is not to say that God didn’t also reveal this mystery in the Old Testament, see Genesis 1:26. But the revelations in the Old Testament are what St. Paul speaks of when he says: “we see in a mirror dimly…” (1 Corinthians 13:12). With the Incarnation at the Nativity we now “see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12) the means of our salvation.
Since God has chosen, in all humility, “Permit it to be so for now, for thus it is fitting, for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15), to take on this fragile form of ours, this act of revelation changes our lives, transfiguring them, because the Son shares our very nature. Similarly, by going into the waters of the Jordan, Christ changes the nature of the waters, from chaotic to harmonious, and since they touch all creation the nature of creation changes as well.
This is also why we bless homes and such with the water that is remade in the prayers of the “Great blessing of water” in this season. Just as God brought creation into existence from the abyss in the beginning (Genesis 1:1-5), so too Christ renews and remakes it through the waters of the Jordan, “He is smitten on the cheek, Who in the Jordan delivered Adam” (15th Antiphon of Holy Friday Matins). The beginning of the mystery of Pascha and our salvation is revealed in this moment and this act and the whole world is enlightened and “called out of darkness” (1 Peter 2:9) by this revelation of God.