Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch

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Denho (Epiphany) Season

The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch calls the Sundays that follow the Feast of Denho (Epiphany), which falls on the 6th of January, the Sundays of Denho. These Sundays can stretch from one to six Sundays depending on the date of Easter and the beginning of the Great Lent. This year, for example, there are three Sundays after Denho since Great Lent starts early on February 15th. The two Sundays preceding Lent are always dedicated for All Priests and All Souls respectively.

During this Holy Season of Denho the Church commemorates on each Sunday the events which took place on the Jordan River, namely, the baptism of the Lord and the denho or manifestation of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

The Baptism of the Lord

While the baptism of the Lord is commemorated throughout the prayers, it is almost always mentioned in contrast with the baptism of the believers. The Lord Jesus is baptized in order to consecrate the Water of Jordan for the baptism of those who believe in His Name. Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River does not possess any power to save us. It, nevertheless, lays the foundation for our own baptism through Christ’s death and resurrection. John the Baptist knew very well that Jesus was not in need of baptism at all, he, therefore, hesitated and did not want to baptize his Lord. He only put his hand on his Lord’s head when Jesus insisted that they should fulfill all righteousness.

Fulfilling all Righteousness

The laying of hand has always been used for blessings. There are numerous biblical incidents where an elder lays his right hand on the head of a lesser person to bless him. On the Jordan River, however, the laying of the hand of John on Jesus’ head has a totally different significance since John could not possibly bless his Lord. It was a laying of hand of appointment and transmission of responsibility. The closest match to it would be the laying of hand of the bishop during the ordination of deacons and priests.

John was commanded by the Lord to fulfill all righteousness, that was to fulfill the mission that both came for. John’s duty was to prepare the way. He was sent to bring the Old Covenant to conclusion and entrust it to the Messiah. By laying his hand on Jesus, John gave the Lord the three offices which belong to the Messiah: priesthood, prophecy and kingship. The encounter between the Lord Jesus and John the Baptist marks the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. He receives unto Himself the all the laws and regulations of the Old Testament and starts to set His face toward the Cross where He would establish the New Covenant through His Blood.

The Manifestation of the Holy Trinity

On the Jordan River the reality of the Holy Trinity was made known for the first time. The only other incident in the Holy Bible where the Holy Trinity is clearly mentioned is on the Mountain of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). On the Jordan River the Lord Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, was being baptized when the Holy Spirit, the Third Person, was seen in the shape of dove resting on Jesus’ head and the voice of the Father, the First Person, was heard saying: “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3: 16-17). For this reason the Fathers of the Church called this feast the Feast of Denho (appearance, manifestation).
The belief that God Who is one exists in three persons became the foundation of our Christian faith. Every Christian should believe in the Holy Trinity. While believing that God is one, we also believe that He deals with us in three different ways. He is the Father, the source of everything, the Son who assumed our humanity in order to die on the Cross and save us and the Holy Spirit who perfects and fulfills all that has been and will be.

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