Epiphania means manifestation, revelation. Epiphany is the Season of Light, when the reality of God entering the world in the baby Jesus shines into our daily lives. As the world continues to struggle with Covid, we enter a new year, deeply changed by the uncertainty and fragility of 2020. In Jesus, God’s unconditional, steadfast love and presence is made manifest, displayed, revealed. How is that good news of Epiphany shown in our lives? How do we publicize or demonstrate it to the world?
The celebration of Epiphany, Christmas radiating outwards, is a major feast day in the Church year, but it is often eclipsed by the “getting back to normal” time – from Christmas holidays into school and work routines. This year, with restrictions on social gatherings diminishing our usual church community celebrations, travel and our family traditions, the “return” may not feel as abrupt. However, precisely because of Covid and this dark time of suffering in our world, I would encourage us to extend and deepen our celebration of Epiphany in the home.
Epiphany is traditionally the arrival of the Magi bringing gifts for the Christ Child.
On twelfth night, Jan. 5 and the eve of Epiphany, an ancient ritual still used in many parts of Europe, is to sprinkle holy water or burn incense in a procession through your home, led by a star, processing the three Magi through your house and bringing them to the crèche.
Another Epiphany tradition is to bless chalk and mark the entrance to both church and home with the initials of the legendary names of the three wise men, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, framed by the numbers of the New Year, so the door lintel this year would have written above it: 20 CMB 21.
Do not take down your Christmas lights; keep them brilliantly shining. In our home, on January 6, at the end of twelve days of Christmas, we light every candle in the house. I save all the stubs of old candles from the year to light them on Epiphany and let them burn down. (Don’t leave the room! I can see Fr. Leon Rogers, chaplain to the Fire Department, wincing). Light many candles and set them up to remind us that the Baby Jesus becomes the Light of the World, and it is our work to take that light into all we do. I have always given my children new candles for Epiphany; perhaps this is a year to take new candles to our neighbours, to extend the Light in this dark season.
As we continue with restrictions on in-person gatherings, I think it is very important to celebrate our religious traditions in our homes. We can learn from our Jewish siblings who, through centuries of persecution, have kept their identity as people of God by keeping the Sabbath rituals in their homes. I invite you to be creative and playful about celebrating Epiphany. Yes, you may feel silly carry a star and kings through your house; do it anyway. Being playful is essential to deal with stress and anxiety, and therefore important in our time. At its heart, good liturgy, worship, is play. Play is acting out who we are becoming. We are becoming a people of God who carry light into the world.
Yours in Christ,