The Epiphany: Christ revealed
January 6 is traditionally marked as the Epiphany Day, though in the recent times, the Sunday after January 1 is celebrated in some places as the Epiphany Day. The Christmastide generally ends on January 5 (today) also known as the 12th Night or the Epiphany Eve, and gives way to the Epiphany tide, from January 6, up to the Ash Wednesday. Depending on the date of Easter Day, the Epiphany tide has between four and nine Sundays, including the three Gesima Sundays, which always end it.
The Roman Catholic, and perhaps, some other traditions, observe Epiphany as a single day, with the other Sundays of the Epiphany tide counted as Ordinary Time. The Christmas decorations are customarily removed today, the Epiphany Eve, though some leave them up to the Candlemas with which the Epiphany tide is closed. Failure to remove the Christmas decorations at the required time is considered inauspicious.
The word Epiphany is derived from Koine Greek ἐπιφάνεια, (epipháneia), meaning manifestation or appearance or the verb form ἐπιφάνεώ epiphaneo (from φαίνειν, phainein), which means ‘to show’ or ‘to make known’ or ‘to reveal’ or ‘to appear’. In classical Greek it was used for a manifestation of a deity to a worshiper (a theophany), as well as for appearance of dawn or an enemy in war. The word appears twice in the Old Testament (Septuagint) — 2 Sam. 7:23 and Amos 5:22. It is also often used in 2 Maccabees for God’s supernatural apparitions in aid of his people — 2:21, 3:24, 5:4, 12:22, 15:27. In the New Testament, it is found up to eight times in Pauline Epistles with reference to the appearance or manifestation of Jesus Christ both in his first and second Advent — 2Thess. 2:8, 1 Tim. 6:14, 2 Tim. 1:10, 4:1, 8; Tit. 2:11, 13; 3:4.
The Epiphany in the Church Calendar as a Church Season marks and celebrates the revelation of God (theophany) in Jesus Christ. In the Western churches, Epiphany mainly commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Infant Jesus with only a minor reference to the baptism of Jesus and the miracle at the Wedding at Cana. The Wise Men or Magi who brought gifts to the child Jesus were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as ‘King’ and so were the first to ‘show’ or ‘reveal’ Jesus to a wider world as the Incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi, which corresponded to Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles’ (Luke 2:32), was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, all nations, and all races.
On the other hand, in the Eastern Churches, Epiphany mainly commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God, while the visit of the Magi is often linked to Christmas. Thus, both in the Western and Eastern Church, the essence of the Epiphany, namely, the manifestation of Christ to the world (whether as an infant or at Baptism), and the Mystery of the Incarnation.
The miracle at the Wedding at Cana is also celebrated during Epiphany as a first manifestation of Christ’s public life. The Epiphany reveals Jesus as the Incarnate God who brought salvation, not just to the Jews, but also to all mankind. The Bible started with the Creation, Adam and the Nations of the earth before the Covenant, Abraham and the Nation of Israel. God’s interest in Israel has, therefore, evidently been to use her to reach the whole earth.
As it has pleased God to make Christ known to us, the ‘gentiles,’ it therefore behoves us to make Christ known to all, particularly those who are rejecting him in our time.
The Venerable (Dr.) Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba, FIMC, CMC, is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State. Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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