The Season after Epiphany
The Manifestation of Christ
The Feast of Epiphany on January 6 commemorates the coming of the Magi which reveals Christ’s mission to the world. The entire season of Epiphany then emphasizes the way in which Christ revealed himself to the world as the Son of God (Luke 2.32; Matt. 17.1-6; John 12.32).
Again, Epiphany remembers the Magi’s arrival, those remarkable seekers who followed the star in search of the Christ child. The season emphasizes Christ’s mission to and for the entire world, including the Gentile nations. The light of God’s salvation is revealed to all peoples in the person of Jesus, the Son of God.
The Season after Epiphany begins with the celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord on January 6 each year, and is celebrated until the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday.
Epiphany means “manifestation” and teaches us that God revealed himself in Christ Jesus. We celebrate Epiphany remembering our Lord Jesus Christ as light to the Gentiles, who was revealed to the non-Jewish Magi (wise ones) who themselves symbolize that God’s salvation is available to all people.
The “Season after Epiphany” is the time between Epiphany and Transfiguration Day in which we remember how Christ was revealed as God in the world.
How was Christ revealed as God? Through the Magi, through his presentation at the Temple, through John the Baptist’s testimony, through the Voice at his baptism, through the miracle at Cana, through his healings, through Peter’s confession, and through the Transfiguration.
Epiphany is known as the season of light because we remember the words of the prophet: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isa. 9.2, Isa. 2.5, John 1.5).
The Baptism of the Lord (the first Sunday after the Epiphany of the Lord): This special day commemorates the baptism of the Lord. On it we reflect on and remember Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptizer at the beginning of his public ministry. Jesus’ true identity as Messiah and Lord was revealed by the Holy Spirit’s descent upon him in the form of a dove, and the Father’s testimony concerning him, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3.17).
The Presentation of the Lord: The Presentation at the Temple is a feast celebrated forty days after Christmas. The event is described in Luke 2.22-40 where Mary and Joseph presented Jesus as their firstborn to God, as required by the Law. All firstborn males were required not only to be circumcised on the eighth day following their birth (Lev. 12.3), but also to be presented to God thirty-three days later, along with an offering for the mother’s purification after childbirth (Lev. 12.1-8; Exod. 13.2, 12). Upon bringing Jesus to the Temple, they met godly Simeon, who had been promised by the LORD that he would not die till he saw the Lord’s Messiah (Luke 2.26). Simeon’s prayer prophesied regarding the ministry of Jesus, who would become a light to the nations, and the glory of Israel (Luke 2.29-32). Anna, an elderly widow and prophetess, also acknowledged the baby Jesus’ upcoming role in the salvation of Israel (Luke 2.36-38).
Transfiguration Sunday: This feast day “recalls the Transfiguration of Christ on the last Sunday of Epiphany (which is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our Lenten journey)” [Robert Webber]. The glory of Christ manifest in this world – to us and through us.
The first period of Ordinary Time (meaning ordinal [numbered] time, not plain or common time) begins in many Western liturgical settings on the day after the feast of the Baptism of the Lord (which normally falls on the Sunday after Epiphany). This period continues to the Season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday. While there is some variation among traditions as to when the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated, this first cycle of Ordinary Time begins in many Western churches on the day after the Epiphany of the Lord.
In a spiritual sense, the Church Year’s weeks are “numbered,” counted in anticipation (in the first cycle) toward our journey to the Cross, and in the second period of Ordinary Time, from the coming of the Holy Spirit to the return of Christ in glory.