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What is the Baptism of the Lord? Epiphany: traditions and customs

Orthodoxy in Russia marked the beginning of many traditions and customs, which even in isolation from their religious significance are circulating among the people and actually live their own lives as independent phenomena of Russian culture. A vivid example of this kind of phenomenon is the feast of Baptism. It has been invariably celebrated in Russia since the Χ century, that is, since the adoption of Christianity in the Kiev principality. What is the Baptism of the Lord?

Epiphany in the church and among the people

The baptism of the Lord is a festive day, in which, according to Christians, the Jesus Christ was ritually washed in the Jordan River . In the framework of Christian theology, this has a special significance for the redemption and salvation of mankind from the slavery of sin and death - Christ, having been baptized, took upon himself the whole burden of human sins, which he then carried to the cross, having redeemed them with his own blood. But to the folk customs of Baptism, these theological constructions are irrelevant, and those, in turn, least of all are guided by the sacred meaning of the feast. In public memory, this day is firmly associated with frosts, holes and mass swimming in icy water, when, under loud congratulations with the Epiphany of the Lord, beautiful and solemn prayer services open the "bathing season". For many, plunge into cold water on this day is a matter of honor, regardless of religious beliefs and the existence of such in principle. And those who have not yet completely lost touch with the church tradition, also stock up in the baptism of the great agiosmum - the holy water of the Epiphany , a special rank consecrated in the temples on this day. It is believed that this water is literally imperishable - it does not deteriorate and does not bloom and without harm can be stored for a long time. And it is customary at this time to congratulate each other, to give cards "With the Baptism of the Lord."

The events of Christ's baptism

As already mentioned, the occasion for the festivities is the baptism of Christ. According to the Gospels, it was before Jesus went on the path of preaching. Guided by God, he went to the Jordan, where he lived and taught a Jewish prophet named John. His nickname was "Baptist", because he baptized penitent sinners by immersion in the flowing waters of the Jordan. If you believe church legends, then when Jesus asked John for baptism, he tried to stop him, considering himself unworthy to baptize the Messiah. Nevertheless, he obeyed, and at the moment when Christ came out of the water, the sky opened, and the Holy Spirit came down like a dove to the newly baptized Holy Spirit, and the divine voice proclaimed that Jesus is the beloved Son of the Most High, who must be obeyed.

As far as these descriptions correspond to real events, it is difficult to say. However, it was this version that became official in ecclesiastical orthodoxy and later gave rise to a special day, which we know today as the Feast of the Epiphany.

Birth of a holiday

Initially, however, Christians, although they believed in this story, did not have special memorable dates for remembering the baptism of Jesus. What is the Baptism of the Lord for the early Christians? Just a fact of their teacher's biography. At the dawn of Christianity, Jesus' followers were not very interested in his earthly life, he was interested in his supernatural essence. Therefore, they celebrated only Easter - the resurrection of Christ from the dead. For the first time the festival of Epiphany began to celebrate groups of Egyptian Gnostics who developed special rituals for this day, however, little is known now. We only know that they specifically sanctified the water in the Nile River, correlating this in some way with the fact of Christ's baptism. The Orthodox, however, borrowed this practice from the Gnostics, as is now believed, for polemical purposes, contrasting their "true" sanctification with the Gnostic "heretical". But this late interpretation of the fact of ritual plagiarism is not very plausible. Most likely, the very baptism of the Lord, the traditions of his celebration, as well as theological understanding, passed from Gnosticism to Orthodoxy, because these two branches of Christianity at the time in Egypt were ideologically much closer to each other than now. There is every reason to believe that in the ranks of the Orthodox communities of Egypt there were enough phylogists and even frankly Gnostic members, so this interchange of rituals and ideas is not special and unique. After all, the Gnostics gave Orthodoxy not only the Baptism of the Lord - the traditions of icon-worship, the worship of Sophia, monasticism and some other things also go back to "heretical" Gnosticism.

The early tradition of celebrating the baptism of Christ

In the first centuries of Christianity, the Baptism of Jesus had no date on the calendar. The fact is that it is not known in reality, in which day this event occurred. Based on the fact of the appearance of the Holy Spirit and on the voice of God the Father, Christians interpreted this event as a manifestation of God and began to celebrate it together with Christmas and a visit to the magi of the holy family as a single holiday. This happened on the grounds that the Orthodox believe in the deity of Christ, that is, in Jesus himself God appeared on the earth. Therefore, a holiday was called connecting Christmas, the worship of the Magi and the Epiphany - the Epiphany. So it is now called by historical tradition. Celebrate the Epiphany was adopted on January 6.

Development of tradition

After the Ecumenical Council in 451 in Chalcedon, the dates for the celebration of these events were delineated in time. Christmas carried to December 25, and on January 6 staked out under the Epiphany. Traditions and customs of different churches, however, began to change over time and therefore today there are three different practices for celebrating this event. Another - extremely Protestant - does not celebrate Baptism at all.

Ancient Eastern Tradition

In churches that did not accept the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon and remained independent in their administrative, theological and liturgical life, the tradition of the celebration of Epiphany on January 6 with Christmas under the single name "Theophany" still exists. Therefore, they do not even congratulate each other in Russia and do not give a postcard "With the Baptism of the Lord," preferring to talk about one fact of the Lord's appearance, expressed immediately in different events. Only the Coptic Church differs from them , which celebrates the Epiphany not on January 6 but on January 7.

Roman Catholic tradition

In the Latin Catholic tradition, the subsequent Chalcedonian cathedral, Christmas is celebrated not on January 6, but on December 25. The truth and Baptism itself has shifted from the original date in which Catholics now remember the visit of the Magi and their worship before Christ. Actually, the Epiphany in pre-reform Catholicism occurred on January 13, that is, a week after visiting the astrologers. The situation changed somewhat after the Second Vatican Council. Today, the Latin tradition calls for congratulations on the baptism of the Lord, beautiful rituals of water consecration and festive mass, on the first Sunday after January 6th. Thus, a single festival in the western church broke up into three separate ones.

Greek Orthodox tradition

What is the baptism of the Lord for the Orthodox? Just like for Catholics, this is primarily the fact of the baptism of Christ - something that the followers of the ancient Eastern churches do not want to emphasize, focusing their attention only on the inner component of the event. In the Orthodox churches of Greek, that is, Byzantine, tradition, the decree of 451 is invariably observed. Therefore, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6, the truth is according to the New-Julian calendar, which today is a Gregorian duplicate.

Russian Orthodox Tradition

The Russian Orthodox Church, together with three more Orthodox autocephalous churches, represents a special tradition of celebration, still adhering to the liturgical practice of the Julian calendar, which lags behind the Gregorian calendar for almost two weeks. Therefore, what is Baptism of the Lord in Russia is remembered only on January 19, when the rest of the Christian world is already preparing for the celebration of another event from the life of Jesus Christ - Circumcision.

As noted above, the Russian Church is not alone in its conservatism. In fidelity to the old style it is supported by the Jerusalem, Serbian and Georgian Orthodox churches, as well as the monastic republic on Mount Athos. In addition, beyond the canonical limits of the so-called family of Byzantine churches, there are several independent Orthodox jurisdictions, also oriented in liturgical practice to the Julian calendar. The largest weight among them is the group of old-style churches in Greece, which are characterized by extreme conservatism.

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