Posted on Sat, Jan 2, 2021
CLICK to learn about Epiphany Sunday
By LUCY TOBIAS SENIOR STAFF WRITER
It is an amazing day, Epiphany, a day that celebrates several Biblical events. For starters, this is the day the Magi, who were Gentiles, found Christ, born of a Jewish mother and father, lying swaddled as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.
"Only Matthew, chapter two, New Testament, tells of the Magi, it was the coming of three kings with gifts," said Father Michael O'Keeffe, retired priest from Georgia in residence at Blessed Trinity Catholic church in Ocala. "They were men of education, letters, astrologers, following a star."
"Let's give the Magi recognition for what they did," O'Keeffe said. "They spoke the Pharisee language, having no understanding of Jewish language and culture. They probably started traveling by camels at least 18 months to two years before Christ was born. They came to Herod's palace, expecting a king to be in a palace."
But the star, which had been hidden, shone again and the Magi left Herod and followed it all the way to Bethlehem.
Epiphany means "showing forth of the Christ," O'Keeffe said.
When the Magi arrived, Christ was revealed to the Gentiles.
The Magi brought gifts including gold, frankincense and myrrh. While the Magi probably didn't ascribe this meaning to the myrrh, history has connected the giving of myrrh, a Middle Eastern spice used in burial rites, with a foreshadowing of Christ's death on the cross.
Other meanings for epiphany include "To make known" or "reveal." According to the Webster's New World College Dictionary, it is "a moment of sudden intuitive understanding; flash of insight."
Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season and the 12 days of Christmas, which run from Dec. 25 to January 5, the day before Epiphany, also called Twelfth Night.
In some Catholic countries in Central and South America, Three Kings Day, or the night before Epiphany, is the time for opening Christmas presents.
"In many countries, it is Christmas," O'Keeffe said and noted that Ireland, which celebrates Dec. 25, also calls Epiphany "Little Christmas Day."
In Europe, Twelfth Night is a time for many families to gather in their homes and celebrate with food, singing and gifts.
"It is a most beautiful feast day," O'Keeffe said. For Roman Catholics, celebration of Epiphany will take place on Sunday the 3rd this year.
"When it doesn't fall on a Sunday, we transfer it to Sunday because of its importance," O'Keeffe said.
Historically, for Christians Epiphany is more than Magi, and all the events have to do with "revealing" and "making known."
"Epiphany has a wonderful history that very few people are aware of," said Father John Winfrey of St. Basil the Great Eastern Orthodox Church in Ocala. "Before the church split into East and West (Constantinople and Rome), the early Christians celebrated three things on January 6. The first was the first miracle at Cannan of Galilee (where Christ "revealed" himself by turning water into wine)," Winfrey said.
"Second was the adoration of the Maji (Christ "revealed" to Gentiles); third was the Baptism of Christ (the anointed of God)," Winfrey said.
The feast of Epiphany has special customs that go with the day.
"We will be blessing water, a sign of baptism and all creation being made new, and then take that water to bless people's home," Winfrey said.
Blessing homes and places of work (generically called "homes") in Great Britain, according to the United Methodist Church Web site, involves a Chalking the Door Service. This can be done at any time during the Christmas season, but most often on Twelfth Night (Jan. 5) or Twelfth Day (Epiphany).
God's blessing is asked upon all who live, work and visit there. In Exodus, the Israelites marked their doors with blood. Methodists mark the doors with chalk as a sign God's presence and blessing has been invited.
Lucy Tobias is a Star-Banner columnist. She can be reached at Lucy,Tobias@starbanner.com
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