Thursday, January 06, 2011

Not Just the Magi: Aspects of the Feast of the Epiphany

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany in the Roman calendar -- not to mention the Byzantine calendar (where it is more commonly referred to as the "Theophany").

While many of us in the Western church tend to think of Epiphany most particularly in connection with the Magi, the Feast of the Epiphany has multiple aspects, or manifestations, associated with it. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes: "Owing no doubt to the vagueness of the name Epiphany, very different manifestations of Christ's glory and Divinity were celebrated in this feast quite early in its history, especially the Baptism, the miracle at Cana, the Nativity, and the visit of the Magi."

These different aspects of the feast are captured within two antiphons found within the Divine Office for today's feast:

"We celebrate a holy day adorned with three mysteries: this day the star led the Magi to the manger; this day wine was made from water at the wedding; this day Christ willed to be baptized in the Jordan by John in order to save us, alleluia."
-- Antiphon for the Magnificat, Second Vespers

"Today the Church hath been joined to her heavenly Spouse, for Christ hath washed away her sins in the Jordan; the Magi hasten with gifts to the royal nuptials, and the guests are gladdened with wine made from water, alleluia."
-- Antiphon for the Benedictus, Lauds

Amongst the customs and traditions associated with Epiphany include the solemn blessing of water, the blessing of homes, and the proclamation of the date of Easter.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: