Feast of Epiphany

The Epiphany feast completes the season of Christmas by inviting us to discern the identity of the Christ child. Three traditions—baking a Kings’ Cake, marking a door lintel with the Magi’s blessing, and elaborating worship with lighted candles—help us interpret the Christmas season appropriately. [Source: www.baylor.edu]

"The visit of the Magi occurs directly before the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Matthew’s Gospel tells a version of Jesus’ birth that is different than the one in Luke. Of the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod . . . ” The story of the census is found only in Luke’s Gospel, but we hear about the visit of the Magi only in Matthew’s Gospel. We know little about the Magi. They come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following an astrological sign, so we believe them to be astrologers. We assume that there were three Magi based upon the naming of their three gifts. The Gospel does not say how many Magi paid homage to Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, they represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior. Because the Magi represent the entire world, they also represent our search for Jesus. We have come to consider the gifts they bring as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation. We believe the meaning of the gifts to be Christological. Gold is presented as representative of Jesus’ kingship. Frankincense is a symbol of his divinity because priests burned the substance in the Temple. Myrrh, which was used to prepare the dead for burial, is offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.

The word Epiphany means “manifestation” or “showing forth.” Historically several moments in Christ’s early life and ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” including his birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, his baptism by John, and his first miracle at Cana." [Source: www.loyolapress.com]

"The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is thought by some to be rooted in the gift giving of the Magi. In many cultures, gifts are not exchanged at Christmas, but rather on the feast of the Epiphany. Whenever you exchange your Christmas gifts, take some time to reflect on this tradition of gift giving at Christmas. Think of the best gift you have received. What was it? What made it special? Was it the gift itself, the thought that went into it, or the person who gave it to you? " [Source: www.loyolapress.com]

Epiphany Background:

Epiphany (“manifestation”, “striking appearance”) or Theopany (Ancient Greek (ἡ) Θεοφάνεια, Theophaneia (meaning “vision of God”), which traditionally falls on January 6, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Western Christians commemorate principally (but not solely) the visit of the magi to the baby Jesus, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. Eastern Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. Eastern Churches following the Julian Calendar observe the Theophany feast on what for most countries is January 19 because of the 13-day difference today between that calendar and the generally used Gregorian calendar. The observance had its origins in the Eastern Christian Churches and was a general celebration of the manifestation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem; all of Jesus’ childhood events, up to and including his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist; and even the miracle at the wedding of Cana in Galilee. It seems fairly clear that the Baptism was the primary event being commemorated. Since 1970, the rule for the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church is: “The Epiphany of the Lord is celebrated on 6 January, unless, where it is not observed as a Holy Day of Obligation, it has been assigned to the Sunday occurring between 2 and 8 January.” A separate celebration of the Baptism of the Lord was introduced for Latin Rite Roman Catholics in 1955. Initially, this was to be held on January 13, the then octave day of the Epiphany, but in the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar the date was changed to the first Sunday after January 6th" [which is what most Protestant churches also follow]. [Source: https://hrexach.wordpress.com]

Epiphany Day should be everyday. When you realize something good that makes you light up and feel better, scoop it up and let it brighten up your day. It is okay to be cheerful. ~Dimas Chiviri [Source: www.inspiringquotes.in]

Epiphany Traditions Around the World:

For many Puerto Ricans and much of the world, Christmas is merely a prelude to what they feel is really the important day of the marathon Christmas Season. Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, is one of the most important holidays on the Puerto Rican calendar. Traditionally, the island, and most of the Latin world, marked the eve of January 6th as the day to exchange presents rather than December 25th. Puerto Rico’s Christmas season is long, starting right after Thanksgiving day and officially lasting until Three Kings Day on January 6. Yet, this can extend until “Las Octavitas”, eight days after Epiphany. Homes are decorated with lights and poinsettias, Christmas trees and scenes of the Nativity, also known as “nacimientos” or “pesebres” are very popular. On January 5th, the feast of Epiphany’s Eve, children place water and grass under their beds for the three wise men’s (or the Three Kings, as they are better known locally) camels, and in return, the Three King’s brings presents, which they leave under the bed, after the camels eat the grass. Children wake up early on January 6th (“Dia de Reyes”) to check out what Baltazar, Melchor, and Gaspar left them. Epiphany commemorates the day in which the three wise men arrived bearing gifts for the Christ child. [Source: https://hrexach.wordpress.com]

In Greece, Cyprus, and the Greek diaspora throughout the world, Theophany or Phota (Colloquial Greek for “Lights”) customs revolve around the Great Blessing of the Waters (remember they commemorate the baptism of Jesus). A long procession is formed and follows whatever road leads to a body of water. Leading the procession are the sacred icons, followed by the priests and oftentimes musicians. At the end of the ceremony a cross is thrown into the water and the men of the community jump in the water to retrieve it. Whoever finds the cross in the icy waters has luck for the rest of the year.  This “water sanctification” ceremony represents the Baptism of Christ and carries the notion of purification. {Source: https://translingua.com]

In Germany, children go from house to house on Epiphany eve, singing carols and chalking the year and initials KMB (those of the kings, Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar), near the entrance of each home. The festive Dreikonigskuchen or Three Kings Cake is also served that night to celebrate the occasion. [Source: http://www.chiff.com]

Explore Epiphany traditions of even more countries by visiting:

Learn to bake a Three Kings Cake by checking out these recipes:

(Mexican, Spanish, French, and German versions)



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