What are we celebrating on the feast of Epiphany? The word “Epiphany” is of Greek origin. It means manifestation or disclosure. In the ancient Greek mystery religions, an epiphany occurred when one of the gods appeared and manifested himself or herself to someone. While the word is not used in the Gospels, we find it already being applied to Jesus Christ in the third century. It could be applied to him in it’s truest and fullest sense. Jesus Christ is indeed “God manifest” in a way no pagan god could ever be.
Originally it was celebrated, especially in the Eastern Church, in the context of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan. It was then that the voice from heaven proclaimed “You are my beloved Son.” Here the Father makes manifest for the first time who Jesus really is, the Son of God. Next Sunday, January 10, we will celebrate the baptism of the Lord and conclude the Christmas season.
When Rome and the Western Church adopted the celebration of the Epiphany, about the beginning of the 4th century, it was the visit of the Magi that was emphasized. The Magi of course represent a non-Jewish or Gentile people and so prefigure the acceptance of Jesus by all the world. Another manifestation of who Jesus is was at the wedding feast of Cana when he changed water into wine.
St. Matthew in his account is especially making the point that the Magi could not have found the infant Savior unless God had manifested him to them. The Magi can be said to represent all of us. We also cannot find the Savior, cannot find Jesus, unless God manifests him to us.
And so the Epiphany celebrates three events as is stated in the antiphon for 2nd vespers of the feast: “Three mysteries mark this holy day: today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation.”
Have a HAPPY AND BLESSED NEW YEAR as we begin the year 2010.
To read Fr. Kenneth’s personal blog and see some photos of the renovated St. Stephen Health Center go to: http://kennethosb.blogspot.com/