Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Epiphany - Denho Special, John The Baptist
Volume 6 No. 323 January 5, 2015
II. Epiphany

Epiphany Ends the 12 Days of Christmas

by The Rev. Thomas M. Constantine

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! You are wondering why I'm still saying Merry Christmas. Christmas was 10 days ago.

We all know the song "Twelve Days of Christmas." Well, contrary to what many people may think, the 12 days of Christmas begins on Christmas Day and ends with the Feast of Theophany or Epiphany, which is Wednesday, Jan. 6. Theophany has just as an important role in our lives and the life of the Church as Christmas.

In the early Church, the Nativity of our Lord and Theophany, the feast of the baptism of Christ, were celebrated together Jan. 6. We never knew the exact date that our Lord and Savior Jesus was born. The date of his birth, however, was not as significant as who the person of Christ is. Thus, the church put a greater emphasis on our Lord's baptism and the beginning of his ministry.

However, in the fourth century, the two feasts were separated. Christmas was transferred to Dec. 25. This was the beginning day on which the pagans celebrated the Sun God. The Christians turned it into the celebration of the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ.

Christmas, the birth of Jesus, was, and is, a historical event. It took place at a specific moment in history. The evangelists insisted on recording the event to emphasize that Christ assumed human flesh and that God's incarnation was real. God and man co-existed in the mystery of Jesus Christ. Since Christ is God and man, and lives forever, we, as Orthodox Christians, proclaim that "Christ is Born" and not that he was born. His birth was not a one-time event; rather, it is an ongoing event that continues in our hearts every day of our lives.

On Jan. 6, we celebrate the other great feast - Theophany. The word Theophany comes from 1 Timothy 3:16, which states "God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory." This relates to Christ's Nativity.

Epiphany comes from another one of St. Paul's letters, (Titus 2:11), which states, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." This relates to Christ's baptism, for it was then that people began to recognize his divinity.

In the Gospel according to St. Mark, when Christ was baptized in the River Jordon, St. John the Baptist gave witness to what he saw. He saw the heavens open up and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove. Then he heard the heavenly voice say, "You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Mark 1:10-11)

Through this confession of St. John the Baptist on the day that Christ was baptized, and with the manifestation of the Holy Trinity, we are assured that Jesus Christ is one of the Trinity who came into the world to save us all from sin and death. This is evident in some of the prayers of the services we celebrate on this day.

"For today the … choir of saints assembles with us and angels join men in keeping festival … Today the Sun that never sets has risen and the world is filled with splendor by the light of the Lord … Today the Uncreated of His own Will accepts the laying on of hands from His own creature …"

On the feast of Theophany, every Orthodox Church proclaims the divinity of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Each parish conducts the "Blessing of Waters" service. Water is sanctified and is blessed as the waters were sanctified by Christ's baptism. After the waters are blessed, priests visit the home of the parishioners and bless them.

About The Author:

The Rev. Thomas M. Constantine is pastor of St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Church in Boardman, Ohio.

Source: Excerpted from Youngstown News

Epiphany - The Mystery of Three Manifestations

by Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

The Epiphany is indeed a great Feast, and the joy caused us by the Birth of our Jesus must be renewed on it, for as though it were a second Christmas Day, it shows us our Incarnate God in a new light. It leaves us all the sweetness of the dear Babe of Bethlehem, who hath appeared to us already in love; but to this it adds its own grand manifestation of the divinity of our Jesus. At Christmas it was a few Shepherds that were invited by the Angels to go and recognize THE WORD MADE FLESH; but now, at the Epiphany, the voice of God himself calls the whole world to adore this Jesus, and hear him.

The mystery of the Epiphany brings upon us three magnificent rays of the Sun of Justice, our Savior. In the calendar of pagan Rome, this Sixth day of January was devoted to the celebration of a triple triumph of Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire: but when Jesus, our Prince of peace, whose empire knows no limits, had secured victory to his Church by the blood of the Martyrs, then did this his Church decree that a triple triumph of the Immortal King should be substituted, in the Christian Calendar, for those other three triumphs which had been won by the adopted son of Caesar.

The Sixth of January, therefore, restored the celebration of our Lord's Birth to the Twenty-Fifth of December; but in return, there were united in the one same Epiphany three manifestations of Jesus' glory: the mystery of the Magi coming from the East, under the guidance of a star, and adoring the Infant of Bethlehem as the divine King; the mystery of the Baptism of Christ, who, whilst standing in the waters of the Jordan, was proclaimed by the Eternal Father as Son of God; and thirdly, the mystery of the divine power of this same Jesus, when he changed the water into wine at the marriage feast of Cana.

Excerpted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

Thy conquests, O King of ages! begin with thine Epiphany. Thou callest, from the extreme parts of the unbelieving East, the first-fruits of that Gentile world, which hitherto had not been thy people, and which is now to form thine inheritance. Henceforth there is to be no distinction of Jew and Greek, of Barbarian and Scythian. Thou hast loved Man above Angel, for thou hast redeemed the one, whilst thou hast left the other in his fall. If thy predilection, for a long period of ages, was for the race of Abraham, henceforth thy preference is to be given to the Gentiles. Israel was but a single people; we are numerous as the sands of the sea, and the stars of the firmament. Israel was under the law of fear; thou hast reserved the law of love for us.

From this day of thy Manifestation, O divine King! begins thy separation from the Synagogue, which refuses thy love; and on this same Day, thou takest, in the person of the Magi, the Gentiles as thy Spouse. Thy union with her will soon be proclaimed from the Cross, when, turning thy face from the ungrateful Jerusalem, thou wilt stretch forth thy hands towards the nations of the Gentiles. O ineffable joy of thy Birth! but O still better joy of thine Epiphany, wherein we, the once disinherited, are permitted to approach to thee, offer thee our gifts, and see thee graciously accept them, O merciful Emmanuel!

Thanks be to thee, O Infant God! for that unspeakable gift of Faith, which, as thy Apostle teaches us, hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into thy kingdom, making us partakers of the lot of the Saints in Light. Give us grace to grow in the knowledge of this thy Gift, and to understand the importance of this great Day, whereon thou makest alliance with the whole human race, which thou wouldst afterwards make thy Bride by espousing her. Oh! the Mystery of this Marriage Feast, dear Jesus! ‘A Marriage,' says one of thy Vicars on' earth, ' that was promised to the Patriarch Abraham, confirmed by oath to King David, accomplished in Mary when she became Mother, and consummated, confirmed, and declared on this day; consummated in the adoration of the Magi, confirmed in the Baptism in the Jordan, and declared in the miracle of the water changed into wine.'

Excerpted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

God's Promise to All Peoples: Celebrating the Epiphany

by Eric Metaxas

In some churches, the Christmas season on the church calendar begins on Christmas Day and runs for twelve days, ending on January 5th. January 6 - tomorrow - brings both the final story of Christmas and launches a new liturgical season, Epiphany.

The word "epiphany" means "to show" or "to make known," and the feast of Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the magi, or Three Kings, as some traditions call them. As recorded in Matthew 2, after a long and arduous journey, and guided by a mysterious star, these wise men find the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

In Christian legend, the three wise men hailed from the near mid-East and were named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. Various stories describe them as coming from Persia, Yemen, and even India.

In a recent BreakPoint, I shared the amazing history of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. But I didn't mention a legend from the time that the Persians invaded Palestine in 614. It is told that the invaders spared the church because of a mosaic depicting the magi in Persian dress.

While we don't know many factual details about the magi, the Bible tells us that when they saw the baby Jesus, they fell to their knees and worshipped Him, offering gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. From their example comes our practice of giving gifts at Christmas.

However, Epiphany isn't so much about the gifts of the magi, but about an even greater gift - the fulfillment of a promise for the long-awaited messiah, Jesus Christ.

I'm sure you recall the stirring words of the aged Simeon who took the infant Jesus in his arms at the Temple and blessed God, saying:

"Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."

At Epiphany we're reminded that the promise of redemption has always been for the whole world. God came not only to His own, but to us outsiders - like the Magi - the lost and darkened souls who had never even heard about God's promise. That's the reason that Epiphany is also known as the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

Which is why this feast day is a particularly joyful celebration for the likes of you and me. Epiphany is the fulfillment of Isaiah 9:2:

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light."

But here's another critical message in the Epiphany event. One of the gifts of the Magi, myrrh, was used for burials. As the famous carol goes, "its bitter perfume/breathes of life of gathering gloom/Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying/Sealed in a stone-cold tomb."

Jesus didn't come to Earth to stay a cute baby boy, but to grow up, manifest God's love through words and deeds, and ultimately die on the cross to atone for the sins of the entire world. Starting with Epiphany, the next few months of the church year follow the Incarnate Word of God as He journeys to the cross and draws us ever closer to the heart of God.

Let us journey with Him.

About The Author:

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life.

Feast of the Epiphany: Like the Magi, On a Journey to Worship and to Donate

by Archbishop Francesco Follo

Scripture: Is 60, 1-6; Ps 72; Eph 3, 2-3.5-6; Mt 2, 1-12

1) Two "Theological" Stars.

The theme of light dominates the feasts of Christmas and Epiphany, which in ancient times - and still today in the East - were merged into one large "festival of lights".

At Christmas the incarnate Son of God, born at night in a cave and manifested to some poor shepherds of the Bethlehem region, was revealed as light. A light not only on the outside of a person and in the history of the world, but also within man and in the personal history of each of us.

At Epiphany, the Savior continues to be a light for the peoples of every time and every place. To the Magi, coming from the East to worship him, the light of the newborn king takes the form of a star in the sky, so bright to attract their attention and guide them first ,to Jerusalem then from the royal palace of Herod to new Royal Palace: the cave-stable in Bethlehem.

Everything around him looks like an extremely poor earthly reality. But those watching with eyes of faith, thanks to a bright sign, can see the King of kings. What is this royal sign by which the Magi then and we now can recognize the King of kings in the Son of Mary, in the humble condition of the child who lives in a poor stable? It is the Star that shows the way and the place where to meet the King who saves.

This star shows the way to these seekers of Infinity, because they look at the sky and try to well interpret the signs. The Magi are people who wonder about reality, not being satisfied with the response of others. They seek a deeper understanding of reality and of the meaning of life.

This extraordinary star, that could be called "theological" because it "speaks of God" and "teaches about God", after leading the Magi from the East all the way to Bethlehem, Indicates and teaches that this Child is the Son the Most High God, the Prince of Peace.

This Star transforms the stable, where we contemplate God made man and placed in a manger, in a bright palace and illuminates Mary as royal throne: the Virgin Mary who has Jesus on her lap, holds Him with her maternal arms and shows Him to the Magi kneeling to worship Him. Mary, the "theological" Star of the Sea of ��‹��‹human life who with her light indicates the King of kings lying in the manger of Bethlehem.

2) The authority of love.

The Magi prostrate themselves to the authority of love. They believe in this infinite love contained in the infant Jesus.

In front of this baby, recognized as the awaited Messianic King, the Magi prostrate themselves in a sincere act of worship and then offer some symbolic gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts offered to the Messiah "symbolized true worship" (see Saint John Paul II). They are gifts that express a faith established by the encounter with Jesus, who is King to be honored with gold, God to be worshiped with incense and a prayer that rises to Him like the most pleasing incense, and the Man, Son of God, who died for our salvation.

Like the Magi, today we are invited to renew, before the Incarnate Word, our act of faithful adherence by offering not only the little or the lot that we have, but ourselves as a sacrifice holy and well-accepted to Him. It is thanks to this daily offering of self that we become, in the world and for the world, signs of the new humanity redeemed by Christ and witnesses of the mystery of love celebrated at Christmas.

Like the Magi, let us be amazed by the love of God that comes to us, and let’s kneel in front of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives among us and in the Eucharist. Let’s go to church more often, let’s sit by the altar and humbly imitate the Holy Magi, offering the gold of our love for God and our brothers and sisters, the incense of our praise and our prayer, and the myrrh of the suffering that never fails in our lives.

It is the amazement seen as the ability to be surprised by God who in Christ gives himself entirely to us, letting us know the truth and meet the real love that is donated. Astonished by the light of a star, the Magi set forward. They had a wonder that made them go behind a star, a wonder that questions the meaning of life, a wonder that allows them to be attracted to the Child Jesus, and to be with him in adoration. The certainty of faith flourishes from the amazement in front of a divine presence in flesh that the pure eyes of the Magi can see.

3) What gift should be given to the One who has given everything to us?

To Him, who gave himself completely, let us give ourselves, starting with the offer of the little or the many material goods that we possess. To be more clear I'd like to use the words written by St. John Paul II for the young:

" My dear young people, you too offer to the Lord the gold of your lives, namely, your freedom to follow Him out of love, responding faithfully to His call; let the incense of your fervent prayer rise up to him, in praise of His glory; offer Him your myrrh, that is your affection of total gratitude to Him, true Man, who loved us to the point of dying as a criminal on Golgotha"
- (Message to the youth of the world on the occasion of the 20th World Youth Day- August 6, 2005).

On how to accept the invitation to donate themselves totally to God we have the example of the consecrated Virgins in the world. These women are aware that God gives the infinite richness of his divinity and they (and we too) bring to Him nothing else that the poverty of their (and our) human lives. The consecrated Virgins, however, know that what produces the nuptial union with Christ is not so much the size of the gift as the fact that the gift of themselves is total. It is the totality of the gift that makes the nuptial union, the non-keeping for themselves anything anymore, the not belonging to themselves anymore, and the will to be only for Him.

Living the gift of themselves in virginity the consecrated women testify that the gift of self to God is not a renounce to live, but "it is a renounce to what are the limits of a living like a poor and infirm creature to live the fullness of a life immense as the divine life " (Divo Barsotti, January 6, 1963).



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