History and Meaning of Epiphany in the Catholic Church
Epiphany, also known as the Feast of Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day, is a Christian holiday celebrating the revelation of God in human form as Jesus Christ. In the Catholic Church, it is a Solemnity, which is the highest rank of feasts in the liturgical calendar.
The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek word “epiphaneia,” which means “manifestation” or “appearance.” In the Christian tradition, the term refers to the manifestation of Jesus as the son of God to the world, particularly to the Magi, or “wise men,” who followed a star to find the newborn king.
The celebration of Epiphany has a long history in the Catholic Church. It was first observed in the Eastern Roman Empire in the 4th century, and by the 6th century, it had spread to the Western Roman Empire as well. In the early Church, Epiphany was often celebrated on January 6, along with the feast of the Baptism of Jesus. However, in the 8th century, the two feasts were separated, and Epiphany was moved to January 6 and was celebrated on that date or any Sunday closest to the date, while the feast of the Baptism of Jesus was moved to the Sunday after the Epiphany.
In the Catholic Church, the celebration of Epiphany is marked by the reading of the Gospel account of the visit of the Magi, as well as the blessing of the Epiphany water, which is a special blessed water used in the Church’s liturgical celebrations throughout the year. The blessing of the Epiphany water is based on the story of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, where he was revealed as the Son of God to the world.
In addition to the liturgical celebrations, Epiphany is also a time for many Catholics to exchange gifts, as the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn Jesus. Some Catholics also observe the tradition of “Three Kings’ Day,” in which children dress up as the Magi and go door to door singing carols and asking for donations for the poor.
Overall, the celebration of Epiphany in the Catholic Church is a time for Christians to reflect on the revelation of Jesus as the son of God and to celebrate his presence in the world. It is a time of joy and wonder, as Catholics remember the great love that God has for humanity, manifested in the person of Jesus Christ.