The Season of Epiphany

  1. By Michael Mathews
  2. On Jan.10.2014

Epiphany is one of the few feasts of the Christian calendar in which some knowledge of the event is communicated by the very name of the holiday. The word “epiphany” originates from the Greek word epiphaneia which translates to an appearance, a manifestation, or a discovery. The Season of Epiphany, then, is the period of the Christian calendar in which the Church celebrates the revelation of the Lord Jesus to the world. The season begins on the day after the 12th day of Christmas (January 6th) and continues until Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Along with Christmas and Easter, it is one of the three oldest Christian festivals and was celebrated as early as the latter half of the second century.

There are three specific events in the life of Jesus that are associated with the Epiphany: the visit of the Magi to worship the baby Jesus, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River and Jesus’ first recorded miracle of changing of water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana. All three occurrences in some way mark the manifestation of Jesus as the God of the universe. The Wise Men were the first people of non-Jewish decent to worship Jesus as king. At Christ’s baptism, John proclaimed that Jesus was the Lamb of God and that he would take away the sin of the world attesting to Christ’s deity and ability to provide salvation for all people. Jesus’ transforming water to wine at Cana was the first empirical evidence that he was the long awaited king that the Wise Men and John the Baptist believed Him to be. In eastern Churches this trilogy of events has been consistently celebrated through the centuries, but in the western Churches the visit of the Magi had often taken precedent over the Baptism of Christ and his first miracle. Recently, however, western Churches have attempted to resurrect the three-fold tradition marking the Baptism as the theme of the first Sunday after Epiphany and the first miracle of Christ as the theme of the second Sunday after Epiphany.

It is appropriate that Epiphany is celebrated so soon after the birth of Christ as the feast is an opportune time for Christians to reflect on the fact that God intended not only to provide His Son for the salvation of the world, but that He desires that all the world know of His provision and the reality of forgiveness that is manifest in Jesus. It is a season in which the Church worships the Light of the world and contemplates its duty to bear witness to that Light.