In the streams of the Jordan today /
the Lord cried to John: /
Be not afraid to baptize Me, /
for, I am come to save Adam, //
the first-fashioned man.
This Kontakion is sung at each of the Royal Hours of Theophany.
As in all of our hymns, it has “facts” in it that usually based on the scriptural record, but the meaning is much deeper than facts. Let us feel the great consolation that this hymn promises.
The hymn first refers to John the Baptist’s reticence to baptize our Lord:
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. (14) But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? (15 ) And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. (Matthew 3:13-15)
Here we have a marvelous thing! A man (who is holy, and was praised by the Lord as the greatest born of woman) feels the weight of his mortality, deeply, completely. Many people met Jesus, but how many showed this kind of humility? The Apostle Peter comes to mind, who, upon seeing the first great catch of fish, felt uneasy in the presence of deity and cried out “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8)
We could do with much more humility. Nothing is accomplished without humility. St John’s witness accuses us, and we are guilty! We do not fear God as we should, and because of this, we are blind in many ways.
Despite the Baptist’s protests, the Lord prevails upon him to baptize Him, and this is because the humble man, even though he knows that he is nothing, can do anything when he obeys God. If we feel the weight of our sins, and even great shame, we are “not far from the kingdom of God”.
The end of the hymn has the imaginary dialogue where the Savior tells the Baptist:
“I am come to save Adam, the first-fashioned man.”
“Adam” is a kind of “code word” indicating all of humanity. This is the purpose of our Lord’s baptism – to save humanity. Other hymns for Theophany explore the “how” of this process. Everything the Lord did had a purpose – a single. fixed purpose. May we be so fixed on the purpose of our life, which is only possible because of baptism!
Priest Seraphim Holland 2011. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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