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Epiphany is a  significant feast in our liturgical calendar. Often, churches celebrate  Epiphany on the closest Sunday to it, which this year is January 8.  However, January 8 is also officially the First Sunday after the  Epiphany, where we celebrate the “Baptism of Our Lord.” The  approximately seven weeks after Epiphany are often referred to as the  period of Epiphanytide.

The Feast of the Epiphany is a celebration that originated in the Middle East and has been celebrated on January 6 since the 3rd century. Incidentally, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, who follow the  Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar that we follow,  celebrate Christmas on January 7. Hence their Christmas Eve falls on our  Epiphany celebration.

Early on, Epiphany was one  of the three chief festivals of the Church, with the others being  Easter and Pentecost. Epiphany was associated at that time with Christ's  baptism. However, during the 4th century, Epiphany came to  be associated in the Western church with the visit of the Magi, largely  on account of a series of homilies given by Pope Leo I on the “adoration  of the Wisemen.”

The word Epiphany  originates from the Greek word "epiphaneia," which means an appearing,  disclosure or unveiling. When the Western church adopted the Feast of  Epiphany from the Eastern church, within a short time she separated the  celebration of Christ’s birth from that of his baptism. Hence, the  Epiphany focus for the Western church became "the unveiling of Christ”  to the Gentiles - the Magi. In the Eastern Church, the focus of Epiphany  continued to be on the commemoration of the baptism of Christ.

As the focus of Epiphany  for the Western church has been on the extensive journey that the Magi  took to find the Christ Child, the theme of Epiphanytide is often that  of pilgrimage.

Epiphanytide Service of Holy Communion
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