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The Feast of the Epiphany or Feast of Kings

The Feast of the Epiphany or Feast of Kings

Shortly after the birth of Jesus, celebrated at Christmas, the beautiful Christian feast of Epiphany takes place, on January 6 or on the Sunday between January 2 and 8.

Also known as the feast of kings, Epiphany celebrates the biblical account of the worship of the three Magi, symbolizing the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, the son of God and redeemer announced by the prophets. 


Learn about the Christian meaning of Epiphany, the history of this great feast and how this solemnity is celebrated. 



Christian Meaning of the Epiphany

What is the Epiphany?

The term “Epiphany” comes from the Greek epiphaneia which means “to appear, apparition”. The feast of Epiphany thus celebrates the "manifestation of God" to men, through his son Jesus, Messiah, announced by the prophets.


On the day of the Epiphany, we, particularly in the West, celebrate the coming of the Magi, having traveled from the East to adore the child Jesus and to recognize his divinity! Through them, it is God who manifests himself to all humanity, represented by these kings from the end of the world.

The Biblical Story of the Coming of the Magi

On the day of the Epiphany, Christians thus celebrate one of the events recounted by the evangelist Saint Matthew:  “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. [...]  After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:1-12).


The Christian meaning of the Feast of the Epiphany

Many interpretations have been given to the coming of the Magi. Christian tradition celebrates the Epiphany of the Lord as the revelation of God to men, no longer through signs or heavenly messengers - as we see in the Old Testament - but through his son, Jesus, who takes our human condition.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the profound meaning of the feast of the Epiphany as follows: "Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. Through the worship of Jesus by magi from the East, representatives of the surrounding pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first fruits of the nations that receive the Good News of salvation through the Incarnation."


Thus, as a monk from Cîteaux points out, "the manifestation of Jesus to the Magi is the beginning and the germ of the plenary manifestation that unfolds in the death and resurrection of Christ". It also shows the universality of the Gospel message and the salvation brought by Christ!

Origin of the Feast of the Epiphany

Until the fourth century, the birth of Jesus and the Epiphany were celebrated on the same day, that is to say, December 25. At that time, the Catholic Church officially instituted Christmas day as a Christian feast, and then replaced the old pagan festivals related to the winter solstice. Epiphany is then fixed on January 6: this feast then celebrates three signs of the manifestation of God to men: the worship of the Magi, the baptism of Christ at the Jordan and the first miracle of Jesus at the wedding of Cana.


At the time of the Second Vatican Council, in the twentieth century, the Church decided to place the day of the Epiphany on the first Sunday following January 1, to allow as many people as possible to participate in this feast. It then dissociated the three events celebrated during the Epiphany: the baptism of Christ is celebrated on the Sunday following the Epiphany and the wedding of Cana on the Sunday that still follows. 

The Celebration of the Epiphany

Liturgy of the Solemnity of the Epiphany

The Solemnity of the Epiphany leads us to read beautiful texts filled with joy, which emphasize the salvation brought to the peoples of the Earth:

  • In the first reading, we read the prophet Isaiah, announcing the coming of the Savior: "See, darkness covers the Earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,

  •  but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
    ” (Isaiah 60:1- 6)
  • In his letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul affirms the universal scope of redemption: "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 3: 2-6)
  • The Gospel repeats the text of the coming of the Magi with the Gospel of Saint Matthew.

Epiphany Day Hymne

"All heaven is filled with new joy: we hear the night say the marvel, a feast without equal: the Savior is born, the Child-God is given to us. The Lord appears, Word of light: the universe knows the goodness of the Father. God on our earth comes to trace the path where our feet will walk. With the shepherds, with all the sages, the whole world is committed to him to see the face of the living Love who for us became a child. Glory to Jesus Christ, glory to the Son of the Father! Glory to his Spirit whose love illuminates the dazzling mystery that fills the sky: glory to the Incarnate, Christmas!”

                        Epiphany Day Evening Service

In the West, the day of the Epiphany is an opportunity to bring ancient popular traditions to life. It is customary to "pull out the kings" with the tasting of the king cake, which takes various forms according to the region.


In Orthodox countries where the Epiphany also marks the baptism of Jesus, it is customary to immerse yourself in water, to perform blessings with holy water or traditional dances. Russians, for example, dig cross-shaped holes in the ice in order to bathe in frozen water.

Pray with Hozana on the Theophany!

On the day of the Epiphany, we celebrate God who manifests himself to us and who gives himself to us through his son Jesus. The Epiphany is the feast of the appearance of Christ the Redeemer in the eyes of the world!


Like the Wise Men, adore Jesus, who promises you salvation! Give him your humble gifts: your love, your trust, your faith, your life!

Follow Christ and be guided by the beautiful prayer communities of Hozana!


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