Archive for January 6th, 2012

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany on the Gregorian calendar, that day when (in Western Christendom) the Magi showed up at the manger where the Savior of the Nations was born.  They brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and worshipped Him for reasons they probably did not fully understand themselves.

It is also the last of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Nowadays, we have all become so accustomed to celebrating Christmas for thirty days before the event, that you can actually see Christmas trees on the side of the road on Christmas Day.  This is painful to one who remembers when the tree went up on Christmas Eve, and didn’t come down until Epiphany.

By the way, has anybody else noticed this expression lately, “having an epiphany?”  It’s supposed to mean — I think — having a revelation of some kind, with undertones of reproach, as in, “You sit there until you have an epiphany.”

Why that particular word?  Has Christianity become so irrelevant that the secular world feels free to borrow its words for purely secular purposes?  It’s the same with “icon.”  How many people think of icons as religious images, and how many think of them as those little things on your computer that you click on to get you where you want to go?

“Epiphany” does indeed mean a revelation, but has always been used in the sense of the revelation of the divinity of Christ to the rest of the world.  In Western Christendom, as noted above, it’s the Feast of the Three Kings, those wise men “who came from the East, following a star to the place where it led them, and they worshipped Him” — the intent being to show that the Savior of the Nations had been “revealed” to those who were not of the Jewish race, the Chosen People of God.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, this is the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, when Christ came to the Jordan to be baptized by His cousin, John.  John, who immediately recognizes that the Man before him is the one Person who has no need of baptism, has to be persuaded to perform it; but eventually, he lets himself be persuaded, and the Mystery of the Trinity is immediately revealed.  Again, a revelation.

But if I needed a secular revelation, I wouldn’t refer to it as an “epiphany.”  Or…actually…nowadays, since the word “epiphany” has been so spectacularly co-opted, I might just begin referring to the Feast as the Theophany of Christ, the revelation specifically of God.  And let the secular world deal with that one.

Meanwhile, I am off to celebrate Theophany among the Greeks.  Tomorrow, I will be off to celebrate the Nativity of Christ among the Russians, since the Russian ecclesiastical calendar is thirteen days behind the “civil” (Gregorian) calendar.  This is not as schizophrenic as it would seem:  This is New England, and God alone knows what the weather will be doing fourteen days from now.  I’m gonna celebrate Theophany where I can, when I can.  And if I can celebrate it fourteen days from today, I’ll do that, too.

Ours is the only family in New Hampshire that gets 24 days of Christmas:  twelve from December 25 to January 6, and twelve from January 7 to January 19.  It’s a feast worth celebrating twice.  Or, actually, 365 days a year.

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