River Jordan is mentioned in the Bible more than 150 times, but the most important episode is involving undoubtedly Epiphany: “The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ”; this is reported by all 4 Evangelists (Matthew 3: 13-17, Mark 1: 9-11, Luke 3: 21-22 and, John 1: 29-34).
The Old Israel attributed the crossing of the river Jordan to coming to the Promised Land, that was the end of slavery in a foreign land.
For the Christian Church – the New Israel – Jordan represents flowing to a new spiritual state and the purification through baptism in order to enter the kingdom of God.
Those who have visited the Holy Land or those who plan to visit in the future, should know that when one stands on the Israeli side, the current of the Jordan always flows toward the right. This can be confirmed by anyone who visits the Jordan at any time of the year.
Every year, however, on the day before Epiphany (according to the Julian Calendar, January 18), during the blessing of the waters, the miracle of the River Jordan reversing its flow takes place. The miracle repeats every January 18 – some years with more intensity.
According to our Holy Orthodox Church, the miracle occurred when Jesus entered the Jordan River to get baptized by the Great Prophet and Saint: John the Baptist when “the Jordan reversed its flow!”
Ambvon Prayer on the Feast Holy Theophany
(From an ancient Amvbon Prayer.Orlov, no. 52, p. 326)
Ineffable is Thy love towards us, and boundless is the sea of Thy good will, O Lord our God;
for it was pleasing unto Thee for Thine Only-begotten Son to be born of a chaste woman, and to become man;
and to be like unto us in all things, save sin:
and to be baptized as a man for our sake by John, though needing no baptism: so that, in sanctifying the element of water, He might grant us rebirth by water and the Spirit.
And in these things discerning Thee to be God eternal, we worship Thee, Who hast from the heavens proclaimed Him that was baptized to be Thy Son.
We glorify Thy Holy Spirit, Who descended upon Him and revealed Him to John:
for Thou hast sealed us, and endowed us with the grace of Baptism;
Thou hast made us communicants of Thy Christ:
of Whom deprive not us sinners, but by His Grace support us against every force of evil;
and strengthen the Orthodox Christians against every assault, and lead us all into Thy Kingdom:
that in us may be glorified Thine all-holy Name, and that of Thine Only-begotten Son, together with the most Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Holy Epiphany Troparion – Russian
A Sermon On The Day Of Theophany
by St. John Maximovitch
<<Our father among the saints John Maximovitch, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco – The Wonderworker (d. 1966), was a diocesan bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) who served widely from China to France to the United States. Countless miracles have been attributed to this holy bishop, both during his lifetime and since his repose. He guided souls in many places across the globe during his earthly sojourn.>>
Today the nature of the waters is sanctified. Today the Son of God is baptized in the waters of the Jordan, having no need Himself of cleansing, but in order to cleanse the sinful human race from defilement.
Now the heavens open and the voice of God the Father is heard: This is My beloved Son. The Holy Spirit descends upon the Savior of the world, Who stands in the Jordan, thereby confirming that this indeed is He Who is the incarnate Son of God. The Holy Trinity is clearly made manifest and is revealed to mankind.
The waters of the Jordan are sanctified, and together with them all the waters of creation, the very nature of water. Water is given power to cleanse not only the body, but also man’s whole soul, and to regenerate the whole man unto a new life through Baptism.
Through water all of nature is cleansed, for out of water the world was made, and moisture penetrates everywhere, giving life to everything else in nature. Without moisture neither animals nor plants can live; moisture penetrates into rocks, into every place in the world.
The waters are sanctified and through them the whole world, in preparation for renewal and regeneration for God’s eternal Kingdom which is to come.
Every year on this day the glory of God is revealed, renewing and confirming what was accomplished at Christ’s Baptism. Again the heavens are opened; again the Holy Spirit descends. We do not see this with our bodily eyes, but we sense its power. At the rite of blessing, the waters which are thereby sanctified are transformed; the become incorruptible and retain their freshness for many years.
Everyone can see this- both believers and unbelievers, both the wise and the ignorant.
Whence do the water acquire this property?
It is the action of the Holy Spirit.
Those who with faith drink these waters and anoint themselves with them receive relief and healing from spiritual and bodily infirmities. Homes are sanctified by these waters, the power of demons is expelled, God’s blessing is brought down upon all that is sprinkled with these waters. Through the sanctifying of the waters God’s blessing is again imparted to the whole world, cleansing it from the sins we have committed and guarding it from the machinations of the devil.
Today the Holy Spirit, descending up on the waters when the Cross of Christ is immersed into them, descends up on all of nature. Only in man He cannot enter without his will.
Let us open our hearts and souls to receive Him and with faith cry from the depths of our souls:
“Great art Thou, O Lord, and marvelous are Thy works, and there is no word which sufficeth to hymn Thy wonders.”
Taken from The Preachers Institute (an online Orthodox Christian homiletics resource) website: http://preachersinstitute.