I wish you a happy Epiphany feast, is to be celebrated tomorrow by the Copts of Egypt and the Christians of the East, on the eleventh of Tubah month, corresponding to the nineteenth of January, praying to God to grant goodness and happiness to all, and preserve for our country Egypt all peace, security and blessings.
Epiphany is a major feast of the Lord as it pertains to the person of Lord Christ, as on that day, He accepted to be baptized at the hand of Prophet John the Baptist in the Jordan River. The message of John the Baptist was calling for repentance and return to God, at a time when the darkness of evil prevailed and sin became widespread: “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” John the Baptist offered strong impressive ministry, that he was able to bring many repentantpeople back to God: “Then Jerusalem, all Judea and all the region around the Jordan went out to him, and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.” The message of John the Baptist was not limited to simply calling the people to repent and confess their sins, but rather he asked them to deeds of goodness and benevolence to avoid the wrath of God and perishing: “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you: God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore,every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”. John the Baptist was able to influence all classes of the people, even King Herod himself, about whom it was said: “For Herodfeared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.”
Prophet Malachi prophesied about John the Baptist saying: “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me.” The angel preached his birth as well: “So not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. Forhe will be great in the sight of the Lord… And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord”. At his birth, Zechariah the Prophet prophesied about him saying: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins.” Hence, John the Baptist is called “the forerunner” because he preceded Lord Christ through ministry to prepare people’s hearts, and was called the Baptist because he used to baptize with water for repentance. John led an ascetic life in the wilderness until the day he appeared to the people and called them to repent: “So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the desertstill the day of his manifestation to Israel.”
John the Baptisttestified that Lord Christ is the Lamb of God: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ He declared, “whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” When Lord Christ came to be baptized by John the Baptist, he prevented Him, saying: “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him: “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” When Lord Christ was baptized, John testified: “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.” And a voice from heaven said: “This is Mybeloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Lord Christ was not in need of baptism of repentance, since He said: “Which of you convicts Meof a sin?”, yet He was baptized in order to complete all righteousness on behalf of man.
Hence, John the Baptist deserved to be referred to by Lord Christ as “the greatest among those born of women”, and “Greater than a prophet”. Happy feast to all of you. And… stories about beautiful Egypt never end!
The General Bishop
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center