Asking the Clergy: How do you celebrate the Epiphany?
For many of the world’s Christians, the 12 days of Christmas beginning with the Nativity of Jesus on Dec. 25 end with the Epiphany on Jan. 6. This week’s clergy discuss the ways Long Islanders celebrate the day also known as Theophany, Three Kings Day and Little Christmas.
The Rev. Randolph Jon Geminder
Rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Amityville
The Feast of the Epiphany marks the beginning of a new season right after Christmas, commencing after the Twelfth Day. Epiphany means manifestation, or “showing,” as exemplified by the visit of the Magi to honor Jesus, the newborn king, and the Son of God. Also known as Theophany, it is a moment in time wherein Almighty God makes himself known.
The Eastern Orthodox Church portrays the Magi arriving at Christmastime, with the Epiphany signified by the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions celebrate the baptism on the Sunday after the Epiphany.
In our parish, Mass, of course, is offered on the Epiphany, and the homily or Intention reminds the congregation of our obligation to epiphanize, or show our faith in Jesus Christ to the world. At Christmas, we proclaim our joy that our Savior is born; at Epiphany, we have the opportunity to do something about it. Fidelity to the faith we profess, expressed through lives of tolerance, acceptance and love, is our way of being modern-day Magi, in a world just yearning for an answer.
The Rev. Joann Heaney-Hunter
Pastor, St. Stephen Evangelical Lutheran Church, Hicksville, and associate professor,
St. John’s University, Jamaica, Queens
On Jan. 6, we celebrate Epiphany. Some call it the Feast of Three Kings, and my mother called it Little Christmas because baby Jesus received gifts on that day. Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season, when we put away all Christmas decorations. It is celebrated today throughout the world with different customs.
The word “epiphany” is Greek, and it means appearance or showing. In Christianity, the Feast of the Epiphany commemorates an appearance of Jesus Christ in the world. Western Christianity celebrates Jesus’ appearance to the Magi, who visited the newborn King of the Jews in Bethlehem.
Eastern Christianity focuses its attention later: Jesus’ Baptism by John in the Jordan River. People celebrate Epiphany in different ways throughout the world. In some countries, gifts are given. In other countries, house blessings take place. One of my favorite traditions comes from France, where people enjoy festive “king cake.” Whoever finds the tiny statue of baby Jesus in the cake gets a golden crown! Christians of all denominations believe Jesus is with us always. However you celebrate Epiphany, it helps us remember Jesus’ revelation in the world.
The Rev. John Vlahos
Protopresbyter, St. Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Shrine Church, Greenlawn
On Jan. 6, Orthodox Christians celebrate the Great Feast of Theophany, which commemorates the Lord’s baptism in the Jordan River and the manifestation of the Holy Trinity (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1: 9-11; Luke 3:21-22).
From ancient times, this feast was called the Day of Illumination and the Feast of Lights, since God is light and has appeared to illumine “those who sat in darkness” and “in the region of the shadow of death” (Matthew 4:16), and to save the fallen race of mankind by grace.
The main feature of the Feast of Theophany is the Great Blessing of Water. It follows the Divine Liturgy with a special great litany and prayers invoking the grace of the Holy Spirit upon the water and upon those who will partake of it. We invite the presence of God into our lives, through the holy water blessings of our homes and businesses. Through the sprinkling of this holy water, God blesses us, our residence, our vehicles, our offices and, by extension, all of creation. Through that blessing, God enables us to use his creation in a redeemed way, as a means toward union and communion with him.
DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.