Saint Brigid Religious Education
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West Hartford, CT 06110
Epiphany ~ January 6
The Epiphany of our Lord is the wonderful liturgical festival
observed on January 6. It is the oldest of the Christmas festivals and
originally the most important.
The word epiphany comes from the Greek noun epiphaneia, which means
"shining forth," "manifestation," or "revelation." In the ancient
Greco-Roman world, an epiphany referred to the appearance of one of the
gods to mortals. Since Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors were
considered by many to be gods, the word epiphany was also used as a term
for divine majesty. The Epiphany of our Lord is the Christian festival
that celebrates the many ways through signs, miracles, and preaching
that Jesus revealed Himself to the world as Christ, God Incarnate, and
King of kings.
The Festival of the Epiphany of our Lord originally commemorated the
incidents that manifested the mission and divinity of Christ, the visit
of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12), the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:9-11).
Nowadays, most liturgical churches emphasize the visit of the Magi on
January 6th and celebrate Christ's baptism on the first Sunday after the
The Magi were members of the religious hierarchy of ancient Persia. They
were scholars and practitioners of astrology, divination, and the
interpretation of dreams. Their expertise in these arcane subjects is
the reason they were often referred to as "wise men." The Magi of
Babylonia undoubtedly came into contact with exiled Jewish priests
living among them. Through these acquaintances the Magi learned of the
Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of Christ. This explains
why the astral phenomenon described in Matthew 2:1-12 so fascinated the
wise men of the gospel narrative.
Many pious legends about the wise men have arisen over the centuries.
These include the traditions that there were three Magi who visited
Jesus, that their names were Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, and that
they were kings.
Epiphany is one of the most important festivals of the liturgical year
because it shows the church how God comes to His people. Knowing
that we cannot come to Him, God took the initiative and came to us by
becoming one of us. The most holy and almighty God condescended to take
on human flesh in order to reveal His salvation to the world. This is
the mystery of the Epiphany of our Lord.
During this season, Christians meditate on many of our Lord's
epiphanies. Epiphany Day itself commemorates the arrival of the Magi in
Bethlehem to worship the Messiah and bring Him gifts of gold,
frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:1-12). Since the earliest days of the
church, these wise men have been considered to be representatives of all
the peoples of the earth. By means of a miraculous star, God showed them
that Jesus was born to be not only the King of the Jews, but the Lord
and Savior of all nations.
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