In many liturgical scholars’ thoughts, this feast of the Epiphany of the Lord should begin perhaps its own liturgical season, separate from Christmas and encompassing the next three Sundays. The word ‘Epiphany’ is often referred to as a manifestation, or an experience of striking and sudden realization; its actual etymology comes from Greek and means ‘to appear’. This weekend, with the Three Kings, we have the first of these ‘epiphanies’. The Three Kings symbolize people gathered from the non-Jewish parts of the world at the time to proclaim the importance of the birth of this Holy Child, an ‘epiphany’ of Christ to the World. The second ‘epiphany’ is viewed as Christ’s Baptism at the River Jordan which we celebrate next weekend. At this point, His Father claims him as His ‘beloved Son’ – the manifestation of Christ as God’s own Son. The third ‘epiphany’ is seen at Jesus’ first miracle at the Wedding at Cana which we celebrate on January 16th, the second Sunday in Ordinary Time. This is a manifestation of Jesus’ own acceptance, and appearance, as the Son of God. At his first miracle, theologians view this as Christ’s acceptance of His role in the world and of what His entire ministry will mean. This year because of how the liturgical year falls, we will encounter all 3 epiphanies!
This weekend, all of our songs revolve around the Three Kings and their visit to Bethlehem to give homage to Jesus. We begin our liturgy by singing “We Three Kings”, a great re-telling of the journey of the Kings and the gifts they offered. This tune and text were written in 1857 by John Hopkins, Jr. in Pennsylvania. “The First Nowell”, sung during Communion, likewise tells of the story of the birth of Jesus up through the appearance of the Wise Men. “Child of the Poor” is sung in conjunction with the traditional Christmas carol “What Child Is This” – once again, it speaks of the visit of the Magi. Our closing hymn is “As With Gladness Men of Old”, a final singing of the visit of the Kings. Hopefully we can relate to the Three Kings as we also bring our own gifts as we visit our King each and every day – and especially when we come to His Church to worship every Sunday.
Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar are the 3 wise men and their relics are enshrined at the Cathedral in Cologne, Germany. Visit them in a virtual tour through the Cologne Cathedral’s app or on the web at https://www.koelner-dom.de/ (your browser should ask if you want to view it in English or German.)