I have a personal attachment to the Epiphany. I was baptized in Epiphany Church in St. Louis, and I attended the Epiphany Grade School. As little kids we left an “e” and an “a” out of the name. We’d say, “We go to Piffney school.” My dad taught my older sisters to pronounce it the right way as cheerleaders. He had them doing a little step as they chanted. “E-P-I, E-P-I, P-H-A-N-Y.”
The name Epiphany is older than Christianity. It literally means “Showing forth.” And ancient kings struck fear in subjects by saying they were actually gods revealing themselves in human form. Two hundred years before Jesus a descendant of Alexander’s top general demanded that people address him as “the Epiphany.” He was Antiochus Epiphanus. By desecrating the temple he brought on the revolt of the Maccabees that led to his destruction.
In Chapter Twelve of the Acts of the Apostles the son of Herod the Great staged an epiphany for himself. To strike fear in unwilling subjects he had them assembled before he shining throne. Then, decked in silver and gold, and appearing in bright sunlight, he had stooges leading the crowd in shouting, “He is a god, not a man!” For that, Luke tells us, Herod was struck down, and eaten by worms.
Centuries before Christians thought of celebrating the birth of Christ they had the Feast of the Epiphany as their big feast, sharing the limelight with Easter.
Oddly, while we think of Epiphany as the acts of the Magi recognizing Jesus as being like God. Some parts of the Eastern Church celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany with the story of the Marriage Feast at Cana when Jesus first “Manifested his glory.” Other parts of the Eastern Church celebrate the Epiphany with the Gospel story of he baptism of Jesus when the Father, speaking from heaven, called Jesus his Son.
WE must celebrate Epiphany by putting our whole hearts and souls into believing that Jesus was God appearing in a human form.