By: Kathleen Cosgrove
This Sunday marks the twelfth day of the Christmas season, the Solemnity of the Epiphany. To be honest, as a child I only knew this as ‘Three King’s Day,’ or ‘that other day I put my shoe out at night and get candy, toys, and saint books the next morning.’ This holy day, though, is more than just a feast day, it is a holy day of obligation (however, in some countries, such as ours, the celebration has been moved to Sunday). Epiphany means ‘manifestation’ or ‘revelation’ and marks the day that the Three Kings came to worship the newborn Christ. Pope Benedict spoke of the significance of this date, saying in his Epiphany homily of 2012, “[t]he wise men from the East lead the way. They open up the path of the Gentiles to Christ”. What an important day this truly is! From the very beginning of his life on earth, God makes it clear that our Savior hasn’t come only for His chosen people, the Jews, but for all people.
Nevertheless, the importance of the Epiphany goes unrecognized by many of us. Since it is celebrated after Christmas and the New Year, in the midst of daily life returning to its bustling normalcy after a brief respite, the significance of this feast day can be all too easily be overlooked. This holy day needs to be recovered by Catholics as much more than just a reason for a candy-laden shoe or the last day for die-hards to take down their Christmas tree.
In other parts of the world, Epiphany has a rich tradition and is almost as joyous as Christmas. If you are Greek, you may be familiar with young men diving into freezing cold waters to retrieve a sunken crucifix in honor of Christ’s own Baptism. Eastern Orthodox churches hold Epiphany in such a high esteem that it is called the Feast of the Theophany and is the subject of parades and festivals in honor of God’s revelation to us.
This isn’t to say that you should dive into any frigid waters, but instead, that we should all try to recognize more fully the revelation of the Epiphany, one of joy and thanks to Christ. Let’s try to add a small devotion or new tradition to praise the many miraculous events that Epiphany honors. The USSCB has an Epiphany Blessing of Homes available online that would be a great way to celebrate this day. Does your family already have an Epiphany tradition? What does this day mean to you as a Catholic?