The reference to "readings" suggests that the Basilides were reading the Gospels. In ancient gospel manuscripts , the text is arranged to indicate passages for liturgical readings. If a congregation began reading Mark at the beginning of the year, it might arrive at the story of the Baptism on January 6, thus explaining the date of the feast. The earliest reference to Epiphany as a Christian feast was in A.
Epiphanius of Salamis says that January 6 is Christ's "Birthday; that is, His Epiphany" hemera genethlion toutestin epiphanion. The scope to Epiphany expanded to include the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the magi , all of Jesus' childhood events, up to and including the Baptism by John the Baptist ; and even the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. In the Latin-speaking West, the holiday emphasized the visit of the magi. The magi represented the non-Jewish peoples of the world, so this was considered a "revelation to the gentiles.
John Chrysostom identified the significance of the meeting between the magi and Herod 's court: "The star had been hidden from them so that, on finding themselves without their guide, they would have no alternative but to consult the Jews.
In this way the birth of Jesus would be made known to all. In , the pilgrim Egeria also known as Silvia described a celebration in Jerusalem and Bethlehem , which she called "Epiphany" that commemorated the Nativity. In a sermon delivered on 25 December , St.
Gregory of Nazianzus referred to the day as "the Theophany" ta theophania , saying expressly that it is a day commemorating "the holy nativity of Christ" and told his listeners that they would soon be celebrating the baptism of Christ. Saint John Cassian says that even in his time beginning of the 5th century , Egyptian monasteries celebrated the Nativity and the Baptism together on January 6. Johann Sebastian Bach composed in Leipzig two cantatas for the feast which concluded Christmastide:. Part VI of his Christmas Oratorio, Herr, wenn die stolzen Feinde schnauben , was also designed to be performed during the service for Epiphany.
Two very familiar Christmas carols associated with Epiphany are " As with gladness, men of old ", written by William Chatterton Dix in as a response to the many legends which had grown up surrounding the Magi ,   and " We Three Kings of Orient Are", written by the Reverend John Henry Hopkins Jr. Another popular hymn, less known culturally as a carol, is "Songs of thankfulness and praise", with words written by Christopher Wordsworth and commonly sung to the tune "St.
Edmund" by Charles Steggall. A carol used as an anthem for Epiphany is " The Three Kings ". The Sunday within that octave was since the feast of the Holy Family , and Christmastide was reckoned as the twelve days ending on January 5, followed by the January 6—13 octave. The revision of the General Roman Calendar made the date to some extent variable, stating: "The Epiphany of the Lord is celebrated on 6 January, unless, where it is not observed as a holy day of obligation , it has been assigned to the Sunday occurring between 2 and 8 January.
Prior to , Anglican churches also observed an eight-day feast, beginning on January 6. Today, The Epiphany of our Lord ,  classified as a Principal Feast , is observed in some Anglican provinces on January 6 exclusively e. Lutheran , United Methodist and United Church of Christ congregations, along with those of other denominations, may celebrate Epiphany on January 6, on the following Sunday within the Epiphany week octave , or at another time Epiphany Eve January 5, the nearest Sunday, etc.
Eastern churches celebrate Epiphany Theophany on January 6. Some, as in Greece, employ the modern Revised Julian calendar , which until the year coincides with the Gregorian calendar , the one in use for civil purposes in most countries. Other Eastern churches, as in Russia , hold to the older Julian calendar for reckoning church dates.
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In these old-calendar churches Epiphany falls at present on Gregorian January 19 — which is January 6 in the Julian calendar. In some Churches, the feast of the Epiphany initiates the Epiphany season , also known as Epiphanytide. In Advent , the Church of England , Mother Church of the Anglican Communion , introduced into its liturgy an optional Epiphany season by approving the Common Worship series of services as an alternative to those in the Book of Common Prayer , which remains the Church's normative liturgy and in which no such liturgical season appears.
An official publication of the Church of England states: "The Christmas season is often celebrated for twelve days , ending with the Epiphany. Contemporary use has sought to express an alternative tradition, in which Christmas lasts for a full forty days, ending with the Feast of the Presentation on 2 February.
Another interpretation of "Epiphany season" applies the term to the period from Epiphany to the day before Ash Wednesday. Some Methodists in the United States and Singapore follow these liturgics. The Presbyterian Church U. It instead uses the term "Ordinary Time". Sunday after Pentecost". If a year had more than 24 Sundays after Pentecost, up to four unused post-Epiphany Sundays were inserted between the 23rd and the 24th Sunday after Pentecost.
The Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices , which has received the imprimatur of John Michael D'Arcy , with reference to Epiphanytide, thus states that "The Epiphany season extends from January 6 to Septuagesima Sunday, and has from one to six Sundays, according to the date of Easter.
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White is the color for the octave; green is the liturgical color for the season. Epiphany is celebrated by both the Eastern and Western Churches, but a major difference between them is precisely which events the feast commemorates. For Western Christians, the feast primarily commemorates the coming of the Magi, with only a minor reference to the baptism of Jesus and the miracle at the Wedding at Cana. Eastern churches celebrate the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan.
In both traditions, the essence of the feast is the same: the manifestation of Christ to the world whether as an infant or in the Jordan , and the Mystery of the Incarnation. The miracle at the Wedding at Cana is also celebrated during Epiphany as a first manifestation of Christ's public life.
Even before the year ,  the Western Church had separated the celebration of the Nativity of Christ as the feast of Christmas and set its date as December 25; it reserved January 6 as a commemoration of the manifestation of Christ, especially to the Magi, but also at his baptism and at the wedding feast of Cana. Many in the West observe a twelve-day festival, starting on December 25, and ending on January 5, known as Christmastide or the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Some Christian cultures , especially those of Latin America and some in Europe, extend the season to as many as forty days, ending on Candlemas February 2. On the Feast of the Epiphany in some parts of central Europe the priest, wearing white vestments, blesses Epiphany water, frankincense , gold, and chalk. The chalk is used to write the initials of the three magi over the doors of churches and homes.
The letters stand for the initials of the Magi traditionally named Caspar , Melchior , and Balthasar , and also the phrase Christus mansionem benedicat , which translates as "may Christ bless the house".
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According to ancient custom, the priest announced the date of Easter on the feast of Epiphany. This tradition dated from a time when calendars were not readily available, and the church needed to publicize the date of Easter , since many celebrations of the liturgical year depend on it. The Roman Missal thus provides a formula with appropriate chant in the tone of the Exsultet for proclaiming on Epiphany, wherever it is customary to do so, the dates in the calendar for the celebration of Ash Wednesday , Easter Sunday , Ascension of Jesus Christ , Pentecost , the Body and Blood of Christ , and the First Sunday of Advent that will mark the following liturgical year.
Some Protestant churches, such as the Anglican and Lutheran churches, will follow practises similar to the Catholic Church. Here it is one of the Great Feasts of the liturgical year , being third in rank, behind only Paskha Easter and Pentecost in importance. It is celebrated on January 6 of the calendar that a particular Church uses. On the Julian calendar , which some of the Orthodox churches follow, that date corresponds, during the present century, to January 19 on the Gregorian or Revised Julian calendar.
The earliest reference to the feast in the Eastern Church is a remark by St. Clement of Alexandria in Stromateis , I, xxi, And there are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord's birth, but also the day… And the followers of Basilides hold the day of his baptism as a festival, spending the night before in readings. And they say that it was the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar , the fifteenth day of the month of Tubi ; and some that it was the eleventh of the same month. If this is a reference to a celebration of Christ's birth, as well as of his baptism, on January 6, it corresponds to what continues to be the custom of the Armenian Apostolic Church , which celebrates the birth of Jesus on January 6 of the calendar used, calling the feast that of the Nativity and Theophany of Our Lord.
In parts of the Eastern Church, January 6 continued for some time as a composite feast that included the Nativity of Jesus: though Constantinople adopted December 25 to commemorate Jesus' birth in the fourth century, in other parts the Nativity of Jesus continued to be celebrated on January 6, a date later devoted exclusively to commemorating his Baptism. Today in Eastern Orthodox churches, the emphasis at this feast is on the shining forth and revelation of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Second Person of the Trinity at the time of his baptism. It is also celebrated because, according to tradition, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by St.
John the Baptist marked one of only two occasions when all three Persons of the Trinity manifested themselves simultaneously to humanity: God the Father by speaking through the clouds, God the Son being baptized in the river, and God the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove descending from heaven the other occasion was the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. Thus the holy day is considered to be a Trinitarian feast. The Orthodox consider Jesus' Baptism to be the first step towards the Crucifixion , and there are some parallels in the hymnography used on this day and the hymns chanted on Good Friday.
Paramony is observed as a strict fast day , on which those faithful who are physically able, refrain from food until the first star is observed in the evening, when a meal with wine and oil may be taken. On this day the Royal Hours are celebrated, thus tying together the feasts of Nativity and Good Friday.
Basil which combines Vespers with the Divine Liturgy. During the Vespers, fifteen Old Testament lections which foreshadow the Baptism of Christ are read, and special antiphons are chanted. John Chrysostom is celebrated and the fasting is lessened to some degree. Following the Divine Liturgy , the clergy and people go in a Crucession procession with the cross to the nearest body of water, be it a beach, harbor, quay, river, lake, swimming pool, water depot, etc.
At the end of the ceremony the priest will bless the waters. In the Greek practice, he does this by casting a cross into the water.
If swimming is feasible on the spot, any number of volunteers may try to recover the cross. The person who gets the cross first swims back and returns it to the priest, who then delivers a special blessing to the swimmer and their household. Certain such ceremonies have achieved particular prominence, such as the one held annually at Tarpon Springs , Florida.
In Russia, where the winters are severe, a hole will be cut into the ice so that the waters may be blessed. In such conditions, the cross is not cast into the water, but is held securely by the priest and dipped three times into the water. The water that is blessed on this day is sometimes known as "Theophany Water", though usually just "holy water", and is taken home by the faithful, and used with prayer as a blessing.
People will not only bless themselves and their homes by sprinkling with holy water, but will also drink it. The Orthodox Church teaches that holy water differs from regular water in that with holy water, the very nature of the water is changed and becomes incorrupt,  a miracle attested to as early as St.
John Chrysostom. Theophany is a traditional day for performing Baptisms , and this is reflected in the Divine Liturgy by singing the baptismal hymn, "As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Alleluia," in place of the Trisagion. House Blessings : On Theophany the priest will begin making the round of the parishioner's homes to bless them. He will perform a short prayer service in each home, and then go through the entire house, gardens and outside-buildings, blessing them with the newly blessed Theophany Water, while all sing the Troparion and Kontakion of the feast.