Monday, January 03, 2005

What We Mean By 'Epiphany'

We are quickly ending the season of Christmas (yes, its still Christmas, despite what ye hooligans might think), which will end on January 6th, also known as the Feast of the Epiphany. But what exactly does that mean?
The term is originally derived from the Roman festival Epiphania which, as I understand it, was a fair in which earthenware and whistles were bought. Don't ask me why, those silly Romans ;)

Epiphany as a church holiday began in the eastern church; Clement and Hippolytus both make vague references to it, so it goes back at least into the mid to late 100's. The Western church had already established Christmas before the idea of Epiphany presented itself, likely in the late 300s to early 400s. Originally not a fixed date (much like Easter) it eventually came to be fixed on January 6th, to complete the 12 days of Christmas.

Epiphany is, in essence, a celebration of the divinity of Jesus and his adult ministry. The term epiphany means "to show" or "to make known" or even "to reveal." As with most aspects of the Christian liturgical calendar, Epiphany has theological significance as a teaching tool in the church. In Western churches, it remembers the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child, who by so doing "reveal" Jesus to the world as Lord and King. It is in this Epiphany season where Christ's adult ministry is read about in the lectionary, etc. This season ends with the onset of Lent where we begin to prepare for Christ's passion during Easter.

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