THE CHRISTIAN YEAR – EPIPHANY

January 6 is Epiphany, one of the four major festivals of the Christian Year (the others being Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost).  Epiphany commemorates the visit of the Magi to Jesus in Bethlehem, as described in Matthew 2.1-12.  The Magi (or Wise Men) were astrologers from a foreign country, perhaps Babylonia or Persia.  Matthew doesn’t specify how many Magi there were, but Christian tradition maintains that there were three, likely because Matthew mentions three gifts which they presented to Jesus (gold, incense, and myrrh).  Christian legend has assigned names and nationalities to the Magi: Melchior from Persia, Gaspar from India, and Balthasar from Arabia; but these details do not come from the biblical account.

In Eastern Orthodox churches, the focus of Epiphany is completely different — Epiphany commemorates Jesus’ baptism (see Mark 1.9-11 and parallels) and his first miracle, changing water into wine at the wedding banquet in Cana (see John 2.1-11).

The word “epiphany” itself means “manifestation”, and refers to God’s manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles (since the Magi were non-Jews), as well as God’s manifestation of himself to humanity in Jesus, as shown in the accounts of Jesus’ baptism and his first miracle.

The symbolic color for Epiphany is white, signifying joy and celebration.  Following Epiphany is a season of “ordinary time” called simply the Season after Epiphany.  Its color is green.