For many Christians in America, Epiphany is the forgotten holiday, yet it still celebrated in many countries around the world and in some southern cities.
This feast day is celebrated on the sixth day of January, twelve days after Christmas.
The day is set aside to commemorate the visit of the Wise Men to the young Christ child.
Epiphany is a Greek word meaning appearance of a divine being. In Eastern Christian tradition they call it “Theophany.”
Some cultures take January 6th very seriously. In Italy, for instance, Epiphany begins with a visit from the “Befana”. Befana is an old woman with a broom who seeks Jesus and rewards children on her way. In Mexico, The Three Kings bring goodies on that day.
Jerome and John Chrysostom, leading theoreticians in late ancient Christendom, take the date of epiphany to also be the day of Jesus’ baptism and the day of the wedding at Cana.
In the 1828 Dictionary we learn that, “The Greek fathers use the word for the appearance of Christ in the world, the sense in which Paul used the word in 2 Timothy 1:10.”The Christmas song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is about Epiphany. There are 12 days between Christmas Day, when the Catholic celebrated the birth of Christ and Epiphany, when the Orthodoxy celebrated His birth. The traditional meaning for this song include: “My true love” as God the Father who gave to us a partridge – Jesus, His Son, in a pear tree – the cross. (see blog on 12 day of Christmas)
In Matthew 2 we read, “Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
Dr. Ron Bartholomew, a BYU professor, commented on the wise men coming from Persia-Babylonia, where there was a large community of Jews and where Daniel, centuries earlier, was visited by angel Gabriel and prophesied of the Birth and Death of Christ.
Astronomer Johannes Kepler, in 1614, speculated that a conjunction between stars and planets might possibly have been the Star of Bethlehem which the Wise Men saw.
We now have equipment that can reenact the sky at the time of Christ’s birth. Months before Christ was born the King Planet, Jupiter made its retrograde motion in the King Constellation, Leo. This allowed the king planet to come in contact with the King Star, Regulus – the star at the heart of the lion, three times within several months.
All this appeared at the feet of the next constellation, Virgo, the Virgin. When the astronomers or wise Jewish men in Persia saw this they knew the prophesy of Daniel had happened – the King of the Jews was to soon be born.
Once the wise men got to Jerusalem they inquired as to where the King of the Jews was and were told, Bethlehem – the prophesied city of the birth of the King. As they walked south toward Bethlehem they saw Jupiter once again in its retrograde motion stand still above Bethlehem and they knew they were in the right place.
AND, what was the date?
Wading through several different calendars (Julian, Jewish and Gregorian) the date, according to our current calendar was January 6th exactly nine months after the birth of our Savior. No wonder many used this date to celebrate the appearance of the King, our Messiah to the world. (see my Bethlehem Star video for more details and/or see BethlehemStar.com)
I believe Epiphany is a monumental Christian holiday more because of the word “epiphany” itself.
Over the years, the term “epiphany” has come to mean any experience where searching ends and we find true enlightenment.
Any search or journey that ends with illumination from God (a bright star) is a day of epiphany.
The apostle Paul had an epiphany on the road to Damascus. There, like the Wise Men, he discovered Christ and laid his worldly treasures at his feet.
Joan of Arc, St. Francis, and Mother Teresa had epiphanies.
Joseph Smith had the ultimate epiphany when he knelt to pray in the grove of trees.
In his book “Surprised by Joy,” Christian writer C.S. Lewis remembers boarding a city bus as a nonbeliever but getting off the bus totally converted to Christ.
During the bus ride he found Christianity.
His journey of searching ended. He saw the star. He found Christ.
He laid his worldly life before Jesus and stepped down onto the curb.
Epiphanies, of course, aren’t limited to one per customer, either. My guess is the people I see as spiritual heroes have epiphanies as often I go shopping.
Today is January 6th and Christians everywhere have the chance to remember the journey of the Wise Men and the event that changed the course of history.
And, you will have a chance to recall the personal spiritual experiences that changed the course of your life as well.
In his poem, “Journey of the Magi,” T.S. Eliot tells how the Wise Men felt blessed, as they rode away from Bethlehem, as though their former lives had come to an end and a new one replaced the old.
This is how Paul, Joseph Smith, C.S. Lewis and so many others must have felt after their “personal epiphanies.”
This is why Epiphany will always be more than a minor holiday. When was your last personal spiritual experience? Have you written then down? Do you recall them often?
Epiphanies change our course and alters the way we see the world. They help us become more like God.
By Tresta Neil
Called to Learn, Character Development, Curiosity, Epiphany, Holiday, Science, Spiritual Growth, Word Study
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