The Epiphany of
or the Manifestation of Christ
to the Gentiles
✠ ✠ ✠
There was no sermon on this day. But then how can a preacher flesh out the meaning of the Epiphany any better than Fr John Henry Hopkins did in his hymn, We Three Kings? There was a different kind of presentation instead, which was followed up by this:
It was a custom in the ancient Church to announce the dates of Easter and all the other feasts and fasts that don’t have a fixed date. It happened on Epiphany because it’s the last major feast with a fixed date– January 6th– before we move into the Easter cycle, all of whose dates are movable. Easter Day is always the Sunday after the first full moon of spring, so the date changes from one year to the next. And since Ash Wednesday is always six and a half weeks before Easter, Ascension Day is the fortieth, and Pentecost the fiftieth day after Easter, and since local funeral homes and insurance agents weren’t yet handing out free calendars, the early Christians could instead count on finding out all those movable dates in church on the feast of the Epiphany.
But more than being just the announcement of those dates, it was also one of the Church’s ways of proclaiming the reality that our lives are to be lived in rhythm with the life of Jesus. It’s the sanctification of time, paying special attention to each season and holy day of the Church year in their turn, and asking God for the grace to help us pattern our own lives after the life of Jesus as it’s reflected in those events we celebrate on each of those occasions. So here’s what you would have heard in church on this day over a thousand years ago, with the dates for 2019 of course:
Dearly beloved, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of His return.
Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation. Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: His Last Supper, His Crucifixion and Death, His Burial, and His Rising, celebrated between the evening of the 18th day of April and the evening of the 20th day of April, Easter Sunday being on the 21st day of April.
Each Easter– as on each Sunday– the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has forever conquered sin and death. From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy:
• Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the 6th day of March;
• The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the 30th day of May;
• Pentecost, the joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on the 9th day of June, and the octave day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, when the Church celebrates God’s ultimate revelation of himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, will be on the 16th day of June;
• And this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on the 1st day of December.
• Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the Passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.
To +Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history, be endless praise, for ever and ever. Amen.
Caspar + Melchior + Gaspard
Christus Mansionem Benedicat
= Christ bless this house