The Epiphany of Our Lord and the Sundays after Epiphany

The Epiphany of our Lord may begin with the vigil or evening prayer on January 5. Epiphany is a Fest of Christ with a fixed date of January 6 and marks the celebration of the visit of the Magi. The Epiphany season consist of the Sundays after Epiphany and ends the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Epiphany is one of the oldest seasons in the Christian Church Year, second only to the Easter season. This season of lights emphasizes Jesus’ manifestation (or epiphany, from the Greek epiphaneia) as God and man. The earliest Christians called the feast of the Epiphany the Theophany (“revelation of God”). When the Gentile Magi come to worship Jesus, they show that everyone now has access to God. Now all people, Jew and Gentile, can come to God’s temple to worship, because Jesus is the new temple: God in the flesh.

The Epiphany season may include as many as nine Sundays, depending on the date of Easter. The season is marked at its beginning and at its end by two important feasts of Christ. On the First Sunday after the Epiphany, the Church celebrates the Baptism of Our Lord. The Father had sent Jesus to bear the sins of the world. So Jesus steps down into baptismal waters so that He can soak up the sins of the world: He is baptized into our sins, so that our Baptism might be into His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins.

The Feast of the Transfiguration is a significant and uniquely Lutheran contribution to the Christian calendar. This festival commemorates the moment on the Mount of Transfiguration when three of Jesus’ disciples glimpsed their Lord in divine splendor, seeing Him as the center of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). Jesus proclaimed to His disciples, then and now, that He was the long-awaited one who had come to die for the sins of the world and be raised again in glory.

The Epiphany season closes with the three-Sunday long Gesimatide, sometimes called Pre-Lent. See “Gesima Sundays–The Descent into Lent” for more on Gesimatide.

The liturgical color for the Epiphany of Our Lord is white; for the Sundays after the Epiphany it is green. Continue reading