Again, this week was short and sweet given the time of year and the number of people traveling. For the first time in weeks, however, we did not spend the majority of our time on the Epistle (2 Tim 4:5-8).
We focused primarily on the verse “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed” (4:6). This was probably the last letter St. Paul wrote before his martyrdom. He was in prison and awaiting his death. Of interest is the word “sacrifice,” because in some translations in is rendered “poured out as a libation.” The sacrifice St. Paul is referring to is the drink sacrifice in the Temple where the priest would pour wine, water or oil over the burnt sacrifice at the end of the service in order to put out the fire. This Sunday is the Sunday before Theophany. It is thus a preparation for the Baptism of Christ and the revelation of God as Trinity. This image of St. Paul himself being poured out as a drink sacrifice brought us to mind of Baptism where we die to the world and are created anew in Christ.
The Gospel Reading is the first eight verses of Mark. We noted that the quote from Isaiah is not entirely from Isaiah: “A voice cries out from the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (40:3). The other half of the quote comes from Malachi, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way” (3:1).
Baptism was not a new practice in Judaism. It was used for purification purposes and even as a means for proselytes to enter Judaism. So, what John was doing out in the wilderness was not something strange and new; however, what he was saying was: “I have baptized you in water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
The question was asked: When did Christ first baptize humanity in the Holy Spirit? He certainly sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He also breathed the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles (John 20:22). Was He not baptized in the Holy Spirit at Theophany? Were not we, whose humanity Christ took on to Himself, baptized in the Holy Spirit with Him? Did not God say He was well pleased by this reality (Matt. 3:17)? This reality was then made accessible to all of us through the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. Now we all may be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit Himself.
It was here that we found how these two readings spoke to each other. St. Paul writes:
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. — 2 Tim 4:8.
At the Theophany, God reveals Himself as Trinity and Christ as God and Man. Those who love this appearing — we who accept God as Trinity and Christ as perfect God and perfect man — have a crown of righteousness prepared for us by the Lord.