On January 23rd (the 10th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates the holy Russian hierarch Saint Theophan the Recluse.
St. Theophan was born Georgiy Vasilyevich Govorov on January 10, 1815 in the Chernavskoye village of the Yeletsk county in the Orlov province. The young Georgiy received his primary education at home. In 1823 he entered a religious school, while in 1829, as one of the school’s top students, he was transferred to the Orlov Seminary. The latter was headed by Archimandrite Isidor, who later became a well-known hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. After graduating from the seminary with top honors in 1836, Georgiy Govorov was assigned to the Kiev Theological Academy. In his last year of study Georgiy Govorov decided to dedicate himself entirely to serving the Church in a monastic capacity. In 1841 he was tonsured a monk with the name of Theophan, was subsequently ordained a hierodeacon, and soon afterwards became a hieromonk. In that same year Hieromonk Theophan graduated from the academy among its top students and began his service in the pedagogical field in various religious schools and academies. In this endeavor he showed himself to be a talented educator and a wonderful teacher. Being aware that the spiritual education of youth constitutes a great responsibility before God, Father Theophan tried to treat the future pastors primarily with kindness, love, and meekness.
On the day of the feast of Theophany--the Baptism of the Lord--it is not out of place to remember another baptism: that baptism which was performed over each of us Orthodox Christians, that baptism at which each of us, by the mouth of our godparents, gave a promise to God that he would always renounce Satan and his works and would always unite himself, “join himself” with Christ.
This, I repeat, is especially fitting for this present day. The solemn rite of the Great Sanctification of Water will be performed shortly. Its center, its main part, one could say, is the majestic prayer wherein the Lord is glorified and the grace of the Holy Spirit is called down upon the water being sanctified. This prayer begins with the beautiful words: “Great art Thou, O Lord, and marvelous are Thy works, and no word sufficeth to hymn Thy wonders.” Whoever has been at a performance of the mystery of Baptism and was present attentively, knows that the prayer at the sanctification of the water in which a man will be baptized begins with these same words, and the first part of this prayer is completely the same, both at the Great Sanctification of Water and at the performance of the mystery of Baptism. And only later, in the last part, does the prayer at the performance of the mystery of Baptism change, as applicable to this mystery, when a new human soul will be baptized.
“For the Life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1, 2).
This new life is our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is now born in Bethlehem, as He Himself said during the last days of His earthly life: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14, 6).
What is this new life, brothers, and why do people long for it? Because before Christ, people were dissatisfied with their former life, and even now all those who separate themselves from Christ are dissatisfied; they are dissatisfied because earthly life does not correspond to their desires. They want to be healthy and full, but life burdens them with sicknesses and hunger; they want riches and high ranks, but poverty and dishonour goad them, and if they do not fall into these disasters, they still remain dissatisfied with what they have, and desire more good things.