Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord. It is celebrated either on January 6 or the Sunday between January 2nd and 8th. Just as we celebrate the solemnity of the birth of Jesus Christ as Christmas on December 25th, the visit of the Magi or the Three Wise Men or Three Kings from the East to pay homage to Jesus Christ is celebrated as the feast of the Epiphany. The significance of this feast is that Jesus, the Messiah is revealed as the light of the nations.
In some of the Eastern Churches, such as The Armenian Church and Russian Orthodox Church, this feast is known as Theophany, which means the revelation of God in Jesus. This is celebrated as Christmas by them on January 7. These Orthodox Churches still choose to follow the Julian Calendar, implemented by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. Since the Roman emperor’s Calendar miscalculated the length of the solar year by 11 minutes, Pope Gregory XIII introduced Gregorian Calendar in 1582. Since then, Gregorian Calendar is in use and accordingly we celebrate Christmas on December 25 and Epiphany on January 6 or the following Sunday.
Epiphany means manifestation. After being made known to the Shepherds of Bethlehem, Jesus is revealed to the Magi, who came to pay their homage to Jesus. This is seen as the manifestation of God to the Gentiles as a mighty ruler, bringing light to the Gentiles. Hence, the visit of the Magi is an affirmation of the Universal Salvation. With this faith, the entrance Antiphon of the Mass today begins proclaiming: “Behold the Lord and ruler is coming; kingship is his, and government and power”.
The feast of the Epiphany has been a traditional time for Christian families to bless their homes, symbolizing an open invitation for the Lord’s presence and blessing over the household throughout the New Year. The custom of blessing the home probably originated from the words of the Gospel: “And entering into the house, they found the Child with Mary, His Mother and falling down they adored Him” (Matthew 2:11).
God bless you
Fr. Arul Joseph V.