The Feast of the Epiphany

on 01 January 2024

Every January 6th the Church has celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, which begins the season of Epiphany. This lasts until Lent, a new season comprised of 40 days (not including Sundays) of preparation before Easter.

Epiphany means “manifestation” and the season of Epiphany recalls three manifestations of Jesus as the Divine Son of God to the World. The first is the Epiphany to the Gentiles (non-Jews) by means of a star to guide the Magi to worship the Christ Child in Bethlehem. This is celebrated on January 6th. The first Sunday after the 6th celebrates the second manifestation of Christ as the Divine Son by the proclamation of the Father at Jesus’ baptism. The Voice from Heaven spoke concerning Jesus, “You are my beloved Son, with You I am well pleased.” The third manifestation is again the Father’s voice on the Mount of Transfiguration. The Voice from Heaven announces, “This is my beloved Son; Listen to Him!” The story of the Transfiguration is celebrated on the last Sunday in Epiphany.

The Epiphany Season emphasizes the miracles and teachings of Jesus that show Him to be the Divine Son of God and the long awaited Messiah (Christ), which is to be the King, not only of the Jews, but the whole World. This is in contrast to Lent, which emphasizes the humanity and suffering of Jesus.

The understanding that Jesus is King during this season comes up in some of the traditions of the Church. On the Eve of Epiphany, also called the 12th Night, many cultures will have a “King’s Cake” and hide a baby Jesus in it. The one who finds the baby is “king” for the day, reminding us that the Magi or Kings came searching for Jesus so they can worship Him. A traditional entrance antiphon is: “The Lord and ruler is coming: kingship is His and government and power.”

One of my favorite Advent Hymns is also sung on Epiphany- Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent, vs. 1+2: _1. Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand; ponder nothing earthly-minded, for with blessing in his hand, Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand.

  1. King of kings, yet born of Mary, as of old on earth he stood, Lord of lords, in human vesture, in the body and the blood; he will give to all the faithful his own self for heavenly food._

Image: The Three Magi, Byzantine mosaic c.565, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy (restored 18th century). As here Byzantine art usually depicts the Magi in Persian clothing which includes breeches, capes, and Phrygian caps. Wikipedia

This article was written by: Ron Jung

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