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Epiphany
resources: wikipedia / thefreedictionary /  - 

Epiphany (Koine Greek: ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, "manifestation", "striking appearance") or Theophany (Ancient Greek (ἡ) Θεοφάνεια, Τheophaneia meaning "vision of God"), which traditionally falls on January 6, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Western Christians commemorate principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Baby Jesus, and thus Jesus' physical manifestation to the Gentiles. Eastern Christians commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God.

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Eastern Churches following the Julian Calendar observe the Theophany feast on what for most countries is January 19 because of the 13-day difference today between that calendar and the generally used Gregorian calendar.

Since 1970, the rule for the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church is: "The Epiphany of the Lord is celebrated on 6 January, unless, where it is not observed as a Holy day of obligation, it has been assigned to the Sunday occurring between 2 and 8 January."

In the Church of England, the feast is celebrated on the Twelfth Night (holiday), the Twelfth Day being January 6th. The Monday after Epiphany is known as Plough Monday.

A separate celebration of the Baptism of the Lord was introduced for Latin Rite Roman Catholics in 1955. Initially, this was to be held on January 13, previously the octave day of the Epiphany, but in the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar the date was changed to the first Sunday after January 6. In countries where in a particular year the Epiphany falls on January 7 or 8, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated on the following Monday. In the Church of England, the same custom may be followed. In the Episcopal Church in the United States, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is always the Sunday after January 6.

Alternative names for the feast include (τα) Θεοφάνια, Theophany as neuter plural rather than feminine singular, η Ημέρα των Φώτων, i Imera ton Foton (modern Greek pronunciation), hē hēmera tōn phōtōn (restored classic pronunciation), "The Day of the Lights", and τα Φώτα, ta Fota, "The Lights".

Etymology and original word usage

The Koine Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia derives from the verb "to appear" and means "manifestation," "appearance." In classical Greek it was used of the appearance of dawn, of an enemy in war, but especially of a manifestation of a deity to a worshipper (a theophany). In the Septuagint the word is used for a manifestation of the God of Israel (2 Maccabees 15:27). In the New Testament the word is used in 2 Timothy 1:10 to refer either to the birth of Christ or to his appearance after his resurrection, and five times to refer to the Second Coming.

History

The observance had its origins in the Eastern Christian Churches and was a general celebration of the manifestation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi [note 1] to Bethlehem; all of Jesus' childhood events, up to and including his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist; and even the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. It seems fairly clear that the Baptism was the primary event being commemorated.
Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 17th century (Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio.

Christians fixed the date of the feast on January 6 quite early in their history. Ancient liturgies noted Illuminatio, Manifestatio, Declaratio (Illumination, Manifestation, Declaration); cf. Matthew 3:13–17; Luke 3:22; and John 2:1–11; where the Baptism and the Marriage at Cana were dwelt upon. Western Christians have traditionally emphasized the "Revelation to the Gentiles" mentioned in Luke, where the term Gentile means all non-Jewish peoples. The Biblical Magi, who represented the non-Jewish peoples of the world, paid homage to the infant Jesus in stark contrast to Herod the Great (King of Judea), who sought to kill him. In this event, Christian writers also inferred a revelation to the Children of Israel. Saint John Chrysostom identified the significance of the meeting between the Magi and Herod's court: "The star had been hidden from them so that, on finding themselves without their guide, they would have no alternative but to consult the Jews. In this way the birth of Jesus would be made known to all."

The earliest reference to Epiphany as a Christian feast was in A.D. 361, by Ammianus Marcellinus St. Epiphanius says that January 6 is hemera genethlion toutestin epiphanion (Christ's "Birthday; that is, His Epiphany"). He also asserts that the Miracle at Cana occurred on the same calendar day.

In 385, the pilgrim Egeria (also known as Silvia) described a celebration in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which she called "Epiphany" (epiphania) that commemorated the Nativity of Christ. Even at this early date, there was an octave associated with the feast.

In a sermon delivered on 25 December 380, St. Gregory of Nazianzus referred to the day as ta theophania ("the Theophany", an alternative name for Epiphany), saying expressly that it is a day commemorating he hagia tou Christou gennesis ("the holy nativity of Christ") and told his listeners that they would soon be celebrating the baptism of Christ. Then, on January 6 and 7, he preached two more sermons, wherein he declared that the celebration of the birth of Christ and the visitation of the Magi had already taken place, and that they would now commemorate his Baptism. At this time, celebration of the two events was beginning to be observed on separate occasions, at least in Cappadocia.

Saint John Cassian says that even in his time (beginning of the 5th century), the Egyptian monasteries celebrated the Nativity and Baptism together on January 6. The Armenian Apostolic Church continues to celebrate January 6 as the only commemoration of the Nativity.

Music
Classical

Johann Sebastian Bach composed in Leipzig two cantatas for the feast which concluded Christmastide:

  Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen, BWV 65 (1724)]
  Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen, BWV 123 (1725)

Part VI of his Christmas Oratorio, Herr, wenn die stolzen Feinde schnauben, was also designed to be performed during the service for Epiphany.

Carol

Perhaps the most familiar Christmas carol associated with Epiphany is "We Three Kings of Orient Are", written by the Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr., then an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church, instrumental in organizing an elaborate holiday pageant (which featured this hymn) for the students of the General Theological Seminary in New York City in 1857 while serving as the seminary's music director.

Continue Reading.........................................

►  Epiphany: National and Local Customs
►  Epiphany in different Christian traditions
​  King Cake
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  • January 6

Related Categories:
  •   January observances
  •   Christian festivals and holy days
  •   Christmas-linked holidays
  •   Christian terms
  •   Public holidays in Croatia
  •   Public holidays in Sweden
  •   Public holidays in Finland
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Note 1: 
Magi were likely Zoroastrian priests who practised astronomy or astrology, 
commonly referred to as "wise men" or "kings" 
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Catholic encyclopedia
The Epiphany Season - At the Christian resource institute

Sources

References
top photo: The adoration of the Magi
This article is about the Christian feast day; not the Filianic feast day of the same name or for the Epiphany feeling or for 'epiphany' as the sudden appearance of a deity. Alternative names for the feast include (τα) Θεοφάνια, η Ημέρα των Φώτων, i Imera ton Foton, hē hēmera tōn phōtōn, "The Day of the Lights", and τα Φώτα, ta Fota, "The Lights".
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