The 6th of January is generally marked as the Epiphany Day. Some traditions, including the Roman Catholics, observe Epiphany as a single day, with the following days counted as “Ordinary Time”. But for most Protestant and Reformed Church traditions, including the Anglican Church, the season of Epiphany extends from January 6 to Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent. Depending on the time of Easter for the year, this longer period of Epiphany lasts from four to nine Sundays, including the three Gesima Sundays which always end it.
The term epiphany is derived from the Greek verb, epiphaneo which means “to show” or “to make known” or “to reveal” and the noun form, epiphaneia, which means “manifestation”, or “striking appearance.”
The church uses Epiphany to commemorate or celebrate the manifestation, appearance or revelation of God to man or the world as a human being in Jesus Christ.
Originally, Epiphany encompassed 4 theophanies (the manifestation/ revelation of God to man) events:
The Birth of Christ at Christmas, which revealed Christ to Israel.
The revelation of Christ to the Gentiles, in the visit of the Wise Men.
The Baptism of the Lord, which revealed the Trinity and as well introduced Christ to the world.
The miracle at the wedding at Cana, which revealed Christ’s transformation of the world.
But the events came to be marked differently in the western church with the manifestation to the gentiles alone being commemorated on the Epiphany day. 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. Epiphany, thus reflects the manifestation of Jesus to the world especially the Gentiles, represented by the wise men from the East.
However, in some eastern churches, the Epiphany commemorates the baptism of Jesus which is seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God while the visit of the Magi is linked to Christmas.
As with most aspects of the Christian liturgical calendar, the Epiphany has theological significance as a teaching tool in the church. The Wise Men or Magi who brought gifts to the child Jesus were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as “King” and so were the first to “show” or “reveal” Jesus to a wider world as the Incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi, which corresponded to Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32), was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races, and that the work of God in the world would not be limited to only a few.
We also come to a deeper understanding of God at the Epiphany season by meditating on God’s various revelations of himself.
The implications and lessons from the Epiphany include as follows:
God is the Revealer of Himself. We should be open and receptive to his revelations.
Jesus is the Lord, everywhere and every time.
The story of salvation is about mankind and not just the Jews. The Bible started with the Creation, Adam and the Nations of the earth before the Covenant, Abraham and the Nation of Israel. God’s interest in Israel has therefore evidently been to use her to reach the whole earth.
Our calling and commission as Christians are to reach out to others with the salvation we have experienced. The salvation of Christ is for all nations and all peoples.
It has pleased God to make Christ known to us, the “gentiles,” as typified in the story of the wise men, when the Jews to whom he came rejected him. It therefore behoves us to make Christ known to all others, particularly those who are rejecting him in our time.
God has not left us in doubt as to whom the Saviour is. Jesus is shown: Behold the Saviour of the world!
Ven. Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.