Saturday, January 3, 2015

Epiphany notes

from our Christmas Pageant,
Christmas Eve, 2014
The word "Epiphany" means manifestation or appearance.

Theologically, at this liturgical season, it refers to God making Himself known to ALL people, not just the Jewish people.  He is made known to the "gentiles" too who are represented by the magi.

*You can read the story of the Magi in Matthew's Gospel, chapter 2. [click to read]  It is not found anywhere else in the Bible.

*"magi" means wise men...those who could read the stars.

*they come from the "East," which is the direction of wisdom and enlightenment.  The Latin word for east is "orient."

*the Bible never says how many Magi visited Jesus and Mary. Since three gifts are mentioned in Matthew's Gospel, three Magi are shown in art.

*They were later given the names Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar in the Western Church.  The Cathedral of Cologne, Germany has a magnificent reliquary in the Shrine of the Three Kings. 

reliquary in Shrine of the Three Kings,
Cologne Cathedral, Germany.
Click image for details
*Catholics mark their doorways with chalk on the Feast of the Epiphany with the year and the Magi initials.  Here's an example:  20+C+M+B+15.  The idea is that, just as the Magi saw the Child with Mary His Mother, we should see Christ whenever we enter a new room. We are magi too.

*Although the Feast of the Epiphany is now celebrated on a Sunday in the Christmas Season, formerly it was fixed on 6 January.  From Christmas to Epiphany was called the "Twelve Days of Christmas."

*the Gospels do not call the Magi "kings."  The notion of calling them "kings" probably comes from Psalm 72  which is chanted at Mass on Epiphany.

from our Christmas Pageant,
Christmas Eve, 2014
*The three gifts have rich theological meaning - gold symbolizes the kingship of Jesus, frankincense symbolizes the divinity of Jesus, and myrrh symbolizes the death of Jesus.

*to show that the Magi represent ALL people coming to Christ, artists often show the Magi as men of different races. Another way of showing this "universality" is to show one magus with a long beard (old), one with a short beard (middle aged) and one without a beard (young).

*the Christmas Season ends at the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.