Cathedral News, January 7, 2018

 
 
 

Today we celebrate the Epiphany, or Three King’s Day.  Epiphany is a rather complex feast because it has a long history and many different meanings and celebrations attached.  Transferred to today from yesterday, Epiphany is usually celebrated on January 6th and marks the official end to the festivities of Christmastide.  It’s also known as Twelfth Night and the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

The Christmas decorations are gone and the traditional cross we carry in procession is replaced by the ‘star cross’ used to represent the star that the Magi (or three wise men) followed.

In some cultures, Twelfth Night is associated with removing Christmas decorations and traditionally, anyone who forgets to take them down by the night before Epiphany must leave them in place all year to avoid misfortune.  We carry on that tradition at the Cathedral by allowing everyone to take home whatever poinsettias we have left from decorating the nave and altar for Christmas.

Historically, the celebration of the Epiphany preceded the celebration of Christmas in importance until around the 18th century when Christmas became a more secular celebration.  In the Eastern Orthodox traditions, Epiphany maintains this level of importance serves a dual purpose – the visitation of the Magi to Jesus in Bethlehem, and also the baptism by John the Baptist.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi followed the star of Bethlehem across the desert to meet the baby Jesus, offering gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, symbolic of the importance of Jesus’ birth, the gold representing his royal standing; frankincense his divine birth; and myrrh his mortality.

The importance for us now is that this day celebrates not only the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ, but because of the visit of the Magi, it also celebrates Jesus’ manifestation to the Gentiles – that would be us.  In other words, Christ is the Messiah not just of the Jews, but of all people.

Epiphany lifts our eyes from family celebrations and cultural demands and spiritually points us toward a new horizon, toward a light that will illumine the way toward the presence of God in all our lives.  And like the three kings, if we follow this star and allow it to transform our hearts as theirs’ were, we will return to our own “countries” by a different way, and as people made new by the presence of God in the world among us as one of us.

Blessed Epiphanytide.

Fr. Chuck+

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