It’s a bit late to post anything about Theophany, but I have been thinking quite a bit these words of Father Lev Gillet in the last week. In his meditation in The Year of Grace of the Lord, he speaks about how we cannot separate the manifestation of Christ’s humility and His glory which are presented to us in this feast. Speaking of the solemn manifestation of Christ in His baptism in the Jordan, he writes:
What does this manifestation consist of? It is made up of two aspects. On the one hand, there is the aspect of humility represented by the baptism to which our Lord submits: on the other hand, there is the aspect of glory represented by the human witness that the Precursor bears to Jesus, and, on an infinitely higher plane, the divine witness which the Father and the Spirit bear to the Son. We shall look at these aspects more closely. But first of all, let us bear this in mind: every manifestation of Jesus Christ, both in history and in the inner life of each man, is simultaneously a manifestation of humility and of glory. Whoever tries to separate these two aspects of Christ commits an error which falsifies the whole of spiritual life. I cannot approach the glorified Christ without, at the same time, approaching the humiliated Christ, nor the humiliated Christ without approaching the glorified Christ. If I desire Christ to be manifested in me, in my life, this cannot come about except through embracing Him whom Augustine delighted to call Christus humilis, and, in the same upsurge, worshipping Him who is also God, King, and Conqueror. (82)
It strikes me that it is the failure to hold these two aspects of Christ’s manifestation together that is at the heart of many of the problems that we see with Christian witness around us. In recent decades there has been an emphasis on God’s self-emptying of Himself in Christ which, in some circles has resulted in a sort of “Well, he’s not any different from any of us,” even if that is not stated so explicitly. In fact, just recently I was told that the whole point of Christmas was that God became a baby, like any other baby. I suppose that that gives people something to say at Christmas, but it’s hardly much of a basis for worship, or for building one’s life around.
But glory without humility is ultimately non-existent, or at least it’s not a Christian glory. It might be propped up by the expectations of Church or society (while they last) or even the demands of one’s own ego, but it can never be truly revelatory. For glory is something that shines forth, that is real, even if we only glimpse it fleetingly. And, as Father Lev reminds us, it is intimately connected to humility.