It is with great joy that I greet you as we begin a new year. My prayer is that 1998 will be filled with God's abundant blessings, and that all who seek after Him may recieve His great mercy.

The New Year, of course, begins with the Feast Day of the Epiphany, which we celebrate on January 6th. How appropriate it is to begin the year with this holy day, which recalls for us the revelation of God in Christ. Having just celebrated His birth at Christmas, which affirms His humanity, we now turn to the moment when His divinity is affirmed.

How lovely are the images drawn by the Scriptures when we read about the Epiphany! We can visualize the scene: the Jordan River weaving its way through the desert; St. John the Baptist surrounded by the masses who have come to hear his message of repentance; Jesus entering the water for His baptism; the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus as a dove, and the voice of the Father proclaiming Him as His Son.

For those who were present at that moment, and who were able to perceive its significance, it signaled a new beginning, for they now knew they were in the presence of the Messiah. For us, who believe the gospel message that He was indeed the Christ, it is truly a blessing to be able to recall that new beginning, which occurred some 2,000 years ago, just as we are again commencing a New Year! And as we do so, we must go beyond this particular narrative and grasp its meaning, as with other stories in the Bible, and understand how it should affect us in our daily lives.

Our acceptance of the claim that God was revealed in Jesus is why we are called Christians. Indeed, we profess our belief that Jesus was, and is, God in our own baptism. We affirm it when we recite the Creed. We reaffirm it in our participation in the Eucharist.

We also believe, as Orthodox Christians, that because the divine was made human, the human was made divine, or in other words, that because the Word was made flesh, we as human beings can find our true fulfillment in God. This means, then, that Jesus' divinity had a profound consequence for all of humanity: our salvation.

I said a few moments ago that, with the Epiphany came a new beginning. It was so in that it allowed mankind to perceive things as they really are, and to see life in a new way. In Jesus' time, people were given that same chance again and again on a daily basis: in the miracles He performed; in His forgiveness of others; in His transfiguration on Mt. Tabor; in His crucifixion and resurrection. After witnessing this new reality, His disciples knew that the way to experience it in their own lives was to live like Christ Himself.

We, too, are given the chance to see life in a new way. We, too, can see it on a daily basis: in the faces of people we meet; in the opportunities that come our way; in the liturgical services we attend. Having witnessed this new reality, we, too, can experience it. All it takes on our part is a continual reaffirmation of our baptismal belief through a life lived like Christ.

With the Feast of the Epiphany to guide us, let us then resolve to live like Christ -in prayer, word, and deed- in the New Year and always. And may our good God bless us with His abundant grace and great mercy.

[ January 6, 1998 ]