As Catholics, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ on January 6th. However in American dioceses, it is typically moved to the nearest Sunday between January 2nd and 8th. For example, in 2015 we celebrated the Epiphany on Sunday January 4th. You may also have heard the Solemnity of Our Lord’s Epiphany referred to as Three Kings Day.
Why is it called the epiphany?
According to Catholic News Agency:
“The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek epiphainen, a verb that means “to shine upon,” “to manifest,” or “to make known.””
The Epiphany of Our Lord actually celebrates the visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus, and Christ’s first miracle. The Nativity of Christ used to be included, but we’ve since narrowed it down to include just the three. What do these events (including the Nativity) all have in common? They were all moments when God made himself known to us through his son Jesus.
Scott Richert explains this well writing:
“At Christ’s Baptism, the Holy Spirit descends and the voice of God the Father is heard, declaring that Jesus is His Son; at the wedding in Cana, the miracle reveals Christ’s divinity; at the Nativity, the angels bear witness to Christ, and the shepherds, representing the people of Israel, bow down before Him; and at the visitation of the Magi, Christ’s divinity is revealed to the Gentiles—the other nations of the earth.”
The Epiphany of Our Lord also marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Yes, in case you didn’t know there’s more to them than the Christmas carol we’ve all heard. They begin on Christmas Eve and end on January 6th with the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ. While this marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the Christmas season runs until the Baptism of Our Lord, which falls on the Sunday following the Epiphany.
Ways to Celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord
- This should be an obvious one but…go to Mass!
- Many European Christians give gifts on the Epiphany much like Christmas. This is representative of the Magi’s gifts to Jesus.
- Catholics frequently choose or assign patron saints for the year on this day. Pick out your favorite patron saint or participate in your parish’s program. You don’t have to do this on the Epiphany, but if you haven’t yet there’s no better time than the present!
- Some Catholic families have their home blessed on the Epiphany. This activity can be done by a priest or by the family’s father.
- Sometimes instead of blessing each home, priests will bless chalk for each family. The purpose of this is so that we can mark the names of the Three Wise Men above the doors to our homes.