Who bowed the heavens, bowed His head

The Forerunner beheld our Enlightenment, who has brought light to all mankind, draw near for baptism: and he rejoiced in soul while his hand trembled. And he shewed Him to the people, saying: ‘Behold, the Redeemer of Israel, who sets us free from corruption.’ O sinless Christ our God, glory to Thee.

The hosts of angels were filled with fear, as they saw our Deliverer baptized by a servant and receiving witness through the coming of the Spirit. And the Father’s voice was heard from on high: ‘He upon whom the Forerunner lays his hand, the same is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ O Christ our God, glory to Thee!

The streams of the Jordan received Thee who art the fountain, and the Comforter descended in the form of a dove. He who bowed the heavens, bowed His head, and the clay cried aloud to Him that formed him: ‘Why dost Thou command of me what lies beyond my power? For I have need to be baptized of Thee.’ O sinless Christ our God, glory to Thee!

Wishing to save man gone astray, Thou has not disdained to clothe Thyself in the form of a servant. For it befitted Thee, as Master and God, to take upon Thyself our nature for our sakes. For Thou, O Deliverer, hast been baptized in the flesh, making us worthy of forgiveness. Therefore we cry unto Thee: O Christ our God and Benefactor, glory to Thee!

Hymn, Tone Two, From Vespers of Theophany, by John the Monk; tr. from The Festal Menaion


‘Lord Babe, if Thou art He
     We sought for patiently,
Where is Thy court?
Hither may prophecy and star resort;
Men heed not their report.’—
     ‘Bow down and worship, righteous man:
     This infant of a span
     Is He man sought for since the world began!’—
‘Then, Lord, accept my gold, too base a thing
For Thee, of all kings King.’—

‘Lord Babe, despite Thy youth
I hold Thee of a truth
Both Good and Great:
But wherefore dost Thou keep so mean a state,
Low-lying desolate?’—
     ‘Bow down and worship, righteous seer:
     The Lord our God is here
     Approachable, Who bids us all draw near.’—
‘Wherefore to Thee I offer frankincense,
Thou Sole Omnipotence.’—

‘But I have only brought
Myrrh; no wise afterthought
Instructed me
To gather pearls or gems, or choice to see
Coral or ivory.’—
     ‘Not least thine offering proves thee wise:
     For myrrh means sacrifice,
     And He that lives, this Same is He that dies.’—
‘Then here is myrrh: alas, yea woe is me
That myrrh befitteth Thee.’—

Myrrh, frankincense, and gold:
And lo from wintry fold
Good-will doth bring
A Lamb, the innocent likeness of this King
Whom stars and seraphs sing:
     And lo the bird of love, a Dove,
     Flutters and coos above:
     And Dove and Lamb and Babe agree in love:—
Come all mankind, come all creation hither,
Come, worship Christ together.

Christina Georgina Rossetti, before 1866