What is the Epiphany?

Nativity scene at the Shrine

The Epiphany

Epiphany (or Theophany, as it is known in the Eastern Rite Catholic Church), also known as Three Kings' Day, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in His Son as human in Jesus Christ. The word epiphany comes from the Greek word meaning “manifestation.” The feast also commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, and thus Jesus' physical manifestation to the Gentiles.

Typically celebrated on January 6, or the closest Sunday to that date, the feast of Epiphany allows us to truly comprehend what it means that God has brought His only Son into our world. The Wise Men – Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar – were the first people outside of the stable to come and pay homage to Jesus. These unlikely royal visitors showered Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, herbs typically used for burial, possibly foreshadowing Jesus’ destiny.

The Magi were taking a huge risk in following the star to Bethlehem, but they trusted that God was leading them to something far greater than they could know. This is such a powerful example of how we as Christians should live our lives. Trusting that God knows what is best for us and that His plan, no matter how unattainable things might seem on the journey, will lead us to where we need to be. We should also have the strength to see Jesus in our lives in unexpected ways, and when we do, worship and adore Him.

The Epiphany not only signifies the calling of the chosen few, like the Wise Men, but it also is an invitation to anyone and everyone around the world to follow Christ. For the first time, God was physically present for people on Earth through His Son, no longer just a voice in the wilderness.

Celebrating the Epiphany

Many families will celebrate Epiphany with an opportunity to bless their homes in the New Year by taking the first two numbers of the year, adding the letters CMB (to honor the three Wise Men), and then adding the last two numbers of the year and displaying this sign over the top of the door of their home. The letters stand for the Latin phrase, “Christus mansionem benedicat,” or, “Christ, bless this house.” (20+C+M+B+24).