Epiphany celebrates several events

Posted On January 6, 2007

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There was a time when Epiphany, which will be observed in Christian churches this weekend, was a bigger event than Christmas. In fact, history records that it was Epiphany, and not Christmas, that the early church celebrated.

Today, liturgical churches such as the Roman Catholic, Episcopal and Lutheran put more emphasis on Epiphany than other Christian denominations.

“We celebrate it because it’s the end of the 12 days of Christmas,’’ said Pastor Louise Hilbert of Fayetteville’s St. James Lutheran Church. Hilbert said the season of Epiphany stretches from early January until Ash Wednesday and Lent.

The actual day of Epiphany is Saturday. January 6 traditionally marks the date when the Magi, or wise men, visited the newborn Jesus.

The Rev. Louanne Loch of St. John’s Episcopal Church said the visit of the Magi is not the only thing celebrated during the season of Epiphany. Other events include the baptism of Jesus and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana, when he turned water into wine. “Miracles are an epiphany that Jesus is the son of God,’’ she said.

At St. Patrick Catholic Church, Father David Brockman said the observance of Epiphany includes a blessing of the home that is connected with the visit of the Magi. A prayer is read, and the doors to the home are marked with chalk as follows:  20+C+M+B+07.

The numbers refer to the year. The letters refer to the traditional names of the three Magi, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. In other traditions, Brockman said, it’s an abbreviation of a Latin phrase that is translated “Christ bless the house.”

For Brockman, another important part of Epiphany is the Bible story about the Magi’s visit as recorded in Matthew 2:1-12, especially the final verse. It instructs them not to return to King Herod, as he had requested, but to travel home by another route.

“I’ve always taken that as symbolic for the fact that once you have come to Christ, your life takes an entirely new direction,’’ he said. “You don’t go back the same way.’’

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