The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ
God reveals Himself to us
The Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ is one of the oldest Christian feasts, though, throughout the centuries, it has celebrated a variety of things. Epiphany comes from a Greek verb meaning “to reveal” and all of the various events celebrated by the Feast of the Epiphany are revelations of Christ to man.
Like many of the most ancient Christian feasts, Epiphany was first celebrated in the East, where it has been held from the beginning almost universally on 6 January. Today, among both Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, the feast is known as Theophany—the revelation of God to man.
Epiphany originally celebrated four different events, in the following order of importance- the Baptism of the Lord, Christ’s first miracle, the changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana, the Nativity of Christ and the visitation of the Wise Men or Magi. Each of these is a revelation of God to man – at Christ’s Baptism, the Holy Spirit descends and the voice of God the Father is heard, declaring that Jesus is His Son, at the wedding in Cana, the miracle reveals Christ’s divinity, at the Nativity, the angels bear witness to Christ and the shepherds, representing the people of Israel, bow down before Him and at the visitation of the Magi, Christ’s divinity is revealed to the Gentiles—the other nations of the earth.
Eventually, the celebration of the Nativity was separated out, in the West, into Christmas and shortly thereafter, Western Christians adopted the Eastern feast of the Epiphany, still celebrating the Baptism, the first miracle and the visit from the Wise Men. Thus, Epiphany came to mark the end of Christmastide—the Twelve Days of Christmas (celebrated in the song), which began with the revelation of Christ to Israel in His Birth and ended with the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles at Epiphany.
Over the centuries, the various celebrations were further separated in the West and now the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the Sunday after today and the wedding at Cana is commemorated on the Sunday after the Baptism of the Lord.
Giving of Gifts: In many parts of Europe, the celebration of Epiphany is at least as important as the celebration of Christmas. While in England and her historical colonies, the custom has long been to give gifts on Christmas Day itself, in Italy and other Mediterranean countries, Christians exchange gifts on Epiphany—the day on which the Wise Men brought their gifts to the Christ Child.
Blessing of our Homes: the blessing of homes, on whose lintels are inscribed the Cross of salvation, together with the indication of the year and the initials of the three wise men (C+M+B), which stands for Caspar, Melchior and Balthassar (the traditional names of the 3 Magi) but which can also be interpreted to mean Christus Mansionem Benedicat, which means ” May Christ bless this house” written in blessed chalk. We put 20 + C + M + B + 18, using the initials of the Magi and the year, so that our coming and going would be in search of the Truth. We are called to remember, each time we enter and leave our homes, that we are in search of Christ, that our mission is to find Him and follow Him.
In the absence of a priest the family gathers around the crib with lighted candles and prays:
Leader: “Peace be to this house and to all who dwell here, in the name of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.
Reader: When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.
The word of the Lord.
ALL: Thanks be to God
All: Lord God of heaven and earth, You revealed Your only begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star.
Bless this house and all who live here and all who visit.
May we be blessed with health, kindness of heart, gentleness and the keeping of your law.
Fill us with the light of Christ, that our love for each other may go out to all.
Grant that we may always remain true to our mission of seeking and preaching
the most Holy Name of Jesus, our Lord.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.