Commentary by Father Anthony J. Salim
• The Syriac term Denho itself may be related to the word for the act of diving into water, as we see Jesus descending into the Jordan River to be baptized by JohnOther names for this feast are “Epiphany” and “Theophany.” Both terms are based on Greek words which together mean “manifestation,’ i.e., of a god.
• “Epiphany” means a manifestation in a more general way; we even speak today of “having an epiphany” (having an “A-ha! moment”) when we get a flash of insight. Obviously, though, in a Christian liturgical context such as this feast, we understand that the Godhead is being revealed in Jesus. He of course was always God, but at the Jordan the Gospel writers are showing us that he is being revealed as such.
• “Theophany” is more religiously explicit. This word comes from two Greek words—originally in pagan Greek culture—that mean that a god is revealed (Zeus, Apollo, Artemis, et al.). In Christian terms the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Patriarchs) is revealed in Jesus, THE only God of Jewish and Christian (and later in history) Muslim faith—although, of course Jews and Muslims do not accept Jesus as divine.
|Aboona Anthony Salim offers a demonstration Baptism & Chrismation|
at the parish Heritage Day afternoon on Jan. 8, 2011.
All three words—Denho, Epiphany and Theophany—are proper terms. However, as Eastern Christians we should prefer Theophany, and as Syriac Christians we should know and use Denho.
Taking the Baptism of Jesus as a model, the Maronite Church celebrates our new life of Baptism and Chrismation in this Season. For some Syriac Churches, this season may be the traditional time of reception of catechumens (people who are being instructed in the Catholic faith) into the Church.
In Maronite culture many people wait to have their babies initiated (i.e., baptized and chrismated) on or after Denho. However, for all Syriac Christians, Denho is a time to reflect on the consequences of at least the first two stages of our Initiation, namely, what happened to us by being baptized (incorporation into the Church, the Body of Christ; and the door to life in the Holy Trinity being opened); and in Chrismation and outpouring of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, knowledge, understanding, courage, counsel, piety and holy fear), leading us to experience the Fruit of the Holy Spirit (joy, peace, love, gentleness, self-control, patience, kindness, faith, etc.).”
For more information on this season and associated Maronite traditions carried out at this time read Father Anthony Salim’s book “Captivated by Your Teachings.”