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Epiphany. What Is Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and Is It A Biblical Holiday?

The first mention of the existence of this feast dates back to the 2nd century, to St. Clement the Alexandrian. At first, Epiphany was celebrated in the East together with the Nativity, on January 6. In the West, there is no evidence of this feast being celebrated before the 4th century.

Epiphany (the Baptism of the Lord) is celebrated on 6 January and, together with the feast of St John the Baptist, celebrated on 7 January, marks the end of the 12-day winter holiday period, which begins on Christmas Eve. 6 January is an important holiday for both Orthodox and Catholic Christians. The baptism of the Lord is known in the people as Epiphany. The Baptism of the Saviour in the Jordan, by St. John the Baptist, is also called “Epiphany” or “Theophany”, terms that come from the Greek language and mean “revelation”.

When John agreed to baptize the Saviour, Christ revealed Himself to the world as the Son of God: the heavens were opened, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and the Father confessed: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!” (Matthew 3:17). St. John Chrysostom says in this regard that Christ “did not become known to all when He was born, but when He was baptized”. From the 4th century, it was also adopted by the Apuseni. At the same time, the two great feasts were separated: 25 December being the date set for the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord and 6 January for the Baptism of the Lord. The Epiphany has become time, since the 5th century, in the popular mentality, the Feast of the Three Wise Men.

Why was Christ baptized?

John raises his hand and baptizes the One who built the world. It must be said that Christ was not baptized to be cleansed from sin. John’s baptism, like the Old Testament law, helped man to become aware of his sinful state, but it did not offer forgiveness. That is why it is also said that it was “for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3), which Christ was to bring.

The Holy Fathers reveal to us as vividly as possible that nature feels within her the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit. St. Sophronius, Bishop of Jerusalem, says: “The waters knew you, God, they knew you and feared you. The Jordan returned seeing the fire of the Godhead descending bodily and entering into it. The Jordan returned seeing the Holy Spirit descending like a dove. Jordan returned to seeing the unseen One, making Himself seen, the Creator incarnate, the Master in the form of a servant. And the mountains leaped, seeing God in the flesh“.

If we ask why Christ is baptized, we can answer as follows: the baptism of Christ is a revelation of the mystery of the Holy Trinity, but it is also restoration and renewal of man’s surrounding nature. Christ is indeed born as a man from the Virgin through the work of the Spirit, but also as a man he receives the heavenly infilling at Baptism, thanks to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Now the Father reveals Christ as Son after the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the Jordan. 

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What has the water of Christ’s baptism done for the world?

On 6 January we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, known to the people as Epiphany. The Baptism of the Saviour in the Jordan is also called “Epiphany” or “Theophany”, terms that come from the Greek language.

If the flood of Noah’s time destroyed the human race, the water of Christ’s baptism called to live all those who died in Adam. A prayer from the Rite of the Holy Communion of the Great Host shows us this as clearly as possible. “Thou hast yet suffered Thyself to be baptized in the Jordan. That sanctifying the flesh of the waters. Thou who are without sin, Thou mightest make a new way for us to the second birth by water and by the Spirit.” The holy water of the Jordan is the purified water that will serve as the material of Christian Baptism. In which divine grace renews us to new life in Christ.

In the sanctification of the waters of the Jordan we have the beginning of the mystery of Baptism, by water and by the Holy Spirit, in the name of the Holy Trinity, although the mystery of Christian Baptism will be instituted by the Saviour Himself, later, after the Resurrection, when He sends His Holy Apostles to preach.

Key Verse related to Epiphany

“As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.”

Ezekiel 1:28 (NIV)

Epiphany

 

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When did the Epiphany feast begin?

So apart from what Jesus performed at the age of 12 in the temple, Christ performed no miracles and spoke no words recorded by the evangelists. Beginning with His Baptism, Christ comes out of the shadows and begins to preach. He received baptism at the age of 30, the Jewish age of maturity.

The feast of Epiphany is remembered from the 2nd century, by St. Clement the Alexandrian. We mention that in the early centuries, Epiphany was celebrated together with the Nativity, on January 6. From the 4th century onwards, the two feasts were separated: 25 December being the date set for the celebration of the Nativity and 6 January for the Baptism.

Jesus came to John and asked him to baptize him, Not because he needed to be cleansed of sin, for he was God the Lord, but to sanctify creation. That the Saviour did not come to receive forgiveness of sins from John is also evident. The fact that John’s baptism helped man to become aware of his sinful state, but did not offer forgiveness. That is why it is also said that it was “for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). Which Christ was to bring.

What is the significance of Christ’s immersion in the Jordan?

Catholics celebrate Epiphany on 6 January, symbolizing the announcement of Christ’s birth to the Magi. Who brought him gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense, while the Orthodox celebrate the baptism of the Saviour in the waters of the Jordan by St John the Baptist.

By agreeing to sink in the Jordan, Christ buried the old Adam and thus began the building of a new man. The waters of the Jordan receiving the God-Man had nothing to cleanse but were themselves purified. Christ cleansed by His immersion in the Jordan, the creation that had been wounded by man’s fall into sin and removed the power of Satan. Thus, the moment He allowed Himself to be baptized by John, the springs of grace poured down upon creation.

In the prayer of the sanctification of the water of Baptism, the coming of the Spirit is requested to cleanse the water from the work of demonic powers, so that it may become, through the full outpouring of the Spirit, the place of the birth of the new man in Christ.

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Epiphany customs:

  1. So on Epiphany and St. John’s Day, depending on each part of the country, carols are caroled, and spells are cast. And the future of the new year is predicted. Also, girls put basil under their pillows to dream of their sweethearts. And men compete in swimming to remove the cross thrown into the water by the priest.
  2. According to folk tradition, on the night of Epiphany, young girls tie a red silk thread on their ring finger and put a twig of basil under their pillow. And dream of their sweetheart. It is also said that girls who fall on ice on Epiphany will marry that year. It is also believed that animals in the stable talk at midnight before Epiphany about where treasures are hidden.
  3. Another custom is for men to swim after the cross. So the priest throws a cross into the water and several men dive in to bring it back. Also, the first to reach the cross gets the priest’s blessing and is considered to have good luck for the rest of the year. In the past, the man who brought the cross to shore received gifts from the ruler of the country.

Epiphany in other countries

In other parts of the world, the traditions and customs of Epiphany are different.

  • In France, in the old days, the galette des Rois. A pie is traditionally also divided into as many slices as there were people at the table and an extra slice. Called ‘the Good Lord’s’ or ‘the Virgin’s, given to the first poor person. Nowadays also, a figurine in the form of a mage king is hidden inside the pie. And one of the diners who discovers the figurine in his portion will be the king of the day.
  • In the Netherlands and Belgium, an almond cream dessert is made. With a figurine in the shape of a mage hidden inside, as in France. The youngest member of the family sits under the table and chooses the slices. And the one designated king of the day also chooses a queen. During the day, children go with the star from house to house to receive sweets and tangerines.
  • In Spain or some regions of Italy, children expect presents from the wise men on 6 January, the day dedicated to the feast.

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Through whom does Christ make Himself known?

Epiphany is one of the 12 major Christian feasts and is meant to recall the events. That took place at the Jordan before Jesus entered public life. This is why the Church also calls Epiphany the ‘Presentation of the Lord’, ‘the Divine Presentation’, and ‘Epiphany’. The latter comes from the Greek language and means ‘revelation’, ‘unveiling’, ‘revelation’. Epiphany means the renewal of the Christian man.

Christ makes Himself known now, at His Baptism in the Jordan by St John the Baptist, and not at His birth. Now also the Baptist, who did not know who Christ is, reveals and confesses Him. When the Savior appeared on the banks of the Jordan, St. John the Baptist, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, recognized Him and showed Him to the crowds. The moment when the Saviour Jesus Christ received baptism is recorded by all four evangelists.

Because the Baptism of the Lord is also called the Lord’s Revelation. It is good to know that the Lord’s revelations in this world are twofold. One is the present one, which was also fulfilled at the Baptism. The second is the one that is to come and that will be done with great glory at the end of the world, Agerpres writes.

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Saint John the Baptist

After Epiphany, on 7 January, Saint John the Baptist is celebrated. It is said that on the morning of St John’s Day, people should sprinkle themselves with holy water to be protected from diseases during the year. Also, according to folk tradition, it is said that after St John’s Day “the frost sets in”, i.e. temperatures start to rise.

St John is also called the Forerunner because he is the one who announced the coming of Christ. His parents are the priest Zacharias and Elizabeth, who was related to the Virgin Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna. The Archangel Gabriel announced to Zacharias that his wife would give birth to a son in old age. And his name would be John. Zechariah did not believe this and remained mute until Elizabeth gave birth.

So according to religious teachings, John was meant to prepare the people to receive Jesus Christ. It was also Herod’s brother’s wife who ordered John the Baptist’s head. To be cut off out of hatred at a feast on Herod’s birthday.

Were the Magi present in the life of the Church?

Therefore, the only scriptural testimony that makes direct reference to the Magi. From the East is the Gospel of Matthew. Also, the first thirteen verses of the second chapter. In which the story of the Magi is told, do not give us any details about their country of origin. Date of arrival, names, appearance, and number.

Thus, by tradition, the Magi from the East has always been “very present” in the worship and life of the Church. The Holy Fathers tell us about the Magi in their homilies. And homilies to the Gospel of Matthew, iconographic representations, and hymnography.

This fact has disappointed some modern rationalist scholars who consider this account to be fiction, likening it to the so-called “legends of the infancy of Jesus”. As apocryphal additions to the Gospels. Most likely, the Evangelist Matthew did not record them because he did not consider them essential. In reality, the significance of the Magi’s worship before the Christ Child. Briefly recounted in the Gospels, was different. It was Holy Tradition, however, that affirmed. Enriched, and preserved this understanding in the Church until today.

Read also: Jesus’ Triumphal Entry. Why Did Jesus Ride a Donkey into Jerusalem?

Primary Takeaways

  • Epiphany or Epiphany is celebrated on 6 January by the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. Epiphany ends the cycle of 12 days of winter celebrations which begin on Christmas Eve.
  • Theologically also called Epiphany, Theophany, or the Annunciation. The feast recalls the moment when Jesus Christ, at the age of 30, was baptized by St John the Baptist in the Jordan River.
  • So on Epiphany and St John’s Day, depending on the area of the country. Carols are caroled, spells are cast, the future of the new year is foretold, and girls put basil under their pillows to dream of their sweethearts. And men compete in swimming to remove the cross thrown into the water by the priest.

Conclusion

Epiphany, the feast of the Epiphany or the Baptism of the Lord, is also known as the Feast of the Epiphany. Marks the end of the celebrations dedicated to the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Epiphany is one of the 12 major Christian feasts and is meant to recall the events that took place at the Jordan. Before Jesus entered public life, which is why the Church also calls the Epiphany the ‘Lord’s Revelation’. ‘The Divine Revelation’ or ‘Epiphany’, the latter name coming from the Greek language and meaning ‘revelation’, ‘unveiling’, ‘revelation’. Epiphany means the renewal of the Christian man.