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The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Epiphany season begins on January 6 and lasts until Ash Wednesday. January 6 is a feast day - The Feast of the Epiphany - which recalls the arrival the the wise men (or Magi) at the manger. See Father Brown's article The Gift of the Magi published in The Albany Episcopalian.

It signifies the revealing of the Gospel to the Gentiles, and anticipates the Great Commission to "make disciples of all nations." 

The word "Epiphany" comes from the Greek word Epiphania which is the combination of two Greek words, the preposition epi and the verb phainen and means "manifestation."  The Sundays following the Epiphany (called "Ordinary Time" in the Roman Catholic Church) focus on the ways in which Jesus manifested the glory of God in his earthly ministry.

The celebration originated in the Eastern Church in AD 361, beginning as a commemoration of the birth of Christ. Later, additional meanings were added - the visit of the three Magi, Christ's baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to the definition of Epiphany, and its meaning is drawn from these occurrences.

Epiphany Observances
While some Greek Orthodox Churches still observe the Epiphany celebration as the Nativity of Jesus, the majority of the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican Churches focus on the visit of the Magi and Jesus' baptism. The significance behind the visit of the Magi is the revelation of Christ as "Lord and King." The Wise Men were the first Gentiles to publicly recognize the divinity of Jesus, by way of their offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River revealed his divinity as the Son of God. John the Baptist, according to Matthew 3:16-17, testifies of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove, and a voice from heaven saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Several Russian, Coptic, and Greek Churches also focus on the Cana wedding miracle as part of the Epiphany celebration observance.

For the Church, the Epiphany represents a responsibility to reveal Jesus as the Divine Son and Savior sent by God the Father to atone for the sins of mankind. It is a time of healing and fellowship, where the Church comes together in the covenant of brotherhood to love one another as Christ commanded.

The Church observes a variety of Epiphany rituals and traditions. In places throughout Europe and Latin America, Christians commemorate Three Kings' Day by offering prayers, burning herbs that have been dried and blessed, sprinkling entryways with holy water, and inscribing the initials of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) on structures in order to receive a blessing.

Liturgical Colors during Epiphany
The colors of Epiphany are usually the colors of Christmas, white and gold, the colors of celebration, newness, and hope that mark the most sacred days of the church year.

See Also  Epiphany - Shrove Tuesday