History of the Epiphany, the “manifestation” of Jesus

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The history of the Epiphany and its meanings for the Catholic and Orthodox Church, not just the adoration of the Magi

History of the Epiphany

To fully understand the meaning of “Epiphany” it is necessary to take a step back in time and discover its original meaning, derived from the Greek word “ἐπιφάνεια” which means “manifestation” or “apparition”. This is by no means marginal since, as we are about to discover better, the Epiphany celebrates above all in which, according to Christians, Jesus would have manifested his divine reality. Initially it was celebrated by Gnostic Christians of Alexandria as the day of his baptism. Starting from the third century, however, the Epiphany will be associated with all the manifestations of the “divinity” of Jesus, also going to include: the Adoration of Magi (today it has become the main episode within the Catholic world as a symbol of “revelation to non-Jews”), the announcement of the angels to the shepherds and the first miracle, performed at the Wedding at Cana. For a long time it was considered the most important Christian holiday ever after Easter, also due to the fact that Christmas began to be celebrated on December 25 only starting from 400, while previously it was generally associated with the Epiphany itself.

Epiphany
The celebration of the holiday in Turkey, a country most closely linked to the Orthodox world

With the emergence of Christmas, the value of the Epiphany in the Catholic world became more and more marginal, so much so as to place the emphasis above all on the adoration of the Magi and to be classified as a feast of secondary importance; on the contrary, in the Orthodox Church the baptism of Jesus is celebrated above all and for this reason it is considered as one of the central moments of divine revelation. Those who follow the Gregorian calendar celebrate Epiphany on January 6, while those who use the Julian calendar celebrate Christmas on January 7 and Epiphany on the 19th of the same month.

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