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 Epiphany

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PostSubject: Epiphany   Sat Jan 05, 2013 9:21 pm

As its name suggests, the Epiphany had its origin in the Eastern Church. There exists indeed a homily of Hippolytus to which (in one manuscript only) is affixed the lemma ieis ta hagia theophaneia [not epiphaneia: Kellner]; it is throughout addressed to one about to be baptized, and deals only with the Sacrament of Baptism. It was edited by Bonwetsch and Achelis (Leipzig, 1897); Achelis and others consider it spurious. The first reference about which we can feel certain is in Clement (Stromata I.21.45), who writes: "There are those, too, who over-curiously assign to the Birth of Our Saviour not only its year but its day, which they say to be on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. But the followers of Basilides celebrate the day of His Baptism too, spending the previous night in readings. And they say that it was the 15th of the month Tybi of the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. And some say that it was observed the 11th of the same month." Now, 11 and 15 Tybi are 6 and 10 January, respectively. The question at once arises; did these Basilidians celebrate Christ's Nativity and also His Baptism on 6 and 10 January, or did they merely keep His Baptism on these days, as well as His Nativity on another date? The evidence, if not Clement's actual words, suggests the former. It is certain that the Epiphany festival in the East very early admitted a more or less marked commemoration of the Nativity, or at least of the Angeli ad Pastores, the most striking "manifestation" of Christ's glory on that occasion. Moreover, the first actual reference to the ecclesiastical feast of the Epiphany (Ammianus Marcellinus, XXI, ii), in 361, appears to be doubled in Zonaras (XIII, xi) by a reference to the same festival as that of Christ's Nativity. Moreover, Epiphanius (Haer., li, 27, in P.G., XLI, 936) says that the sixth of January is hemera genethlion toutestin epiphanion, Christ's Birthday, i.e. His Epiphany. Indeed, he assigns the Baptism to 12 Athyr, i.e. 6 November. Again in chapters xxviii and xxix (P.G., XLI, 940 sq.) he asserts that Christ's Birth, i.e. Theophany, occurred on 6 January, as did the miracle at Cana, in consequence of which water, in various places (Cibyra, for instance), was then yearly by a miracle turned into wine, of which he had himself drunk. It will be noticed, first, if Clement does not expressly deny that the Church celebrated the Epiphany in his time at Alexandria, he at least implies that she did not. Still less can we think that 6 January was then observed by the Church as holy. Moreover, Origen, in his list of festivals (Against Celsus VIII.22), makes no mention of it.

Owing no doubt to the vagueness of the name Epiphany, very different manifestations of Christ's glory and Divinity were celebrated in this feast quite early in its history, especially the Baptism, the miracle at Cana, the Nativity, and the visit of the Magi. But we cannot for a moment suppose that in the first instance a festival of manifestations in general was established, into which popular local devotion read specified meaning as circumstances dictated. It seems fairly clear hat the Baptism was the event predominantly commemorated. The Apostolic Constitutions (VIII, xxxiii; cf. V, xii) mention it. Kellner quotes (cf. Selden, de Synedriis, III, xv, 204, 220) the oldest Coptic Calendar for the name Dies baptismi sanctificati, and the later for that of Immersio Domini as applied to this feast. Gregory of Nazianzus identifies, indeed, ta theophania with he hagia tou Christou gennesis, but this sermon (Orat. xxxviii in P.G., XXXVI. 312) was probably preached 25 Dec., 380; and after referring to Christ's Birth, he assures his hearers (P.G., 329) that they shall shortly see Christ baptized. On 6 and 7 Jan., he preached orations xxxix and xl (P.G., loc. cit.) and there declared (col. 349) that the Birth of Christ and the leading of the Magi by a star having been already celebrated, the commemoration of His Baptism would now take place. The first of these two sermons is headed eis ta hagia phota, referring to the lights carried on that day to symbolize the spiritual illumination of baptism, and the day must carefully be distinguished from the Feast of the Purification, also called Festum luminum for a wholly different reason. Chrysostom, however, in 386 (see CHRISTMAS) preached "Hom. vi in B: Philogonium" where (P.G., XLVIII, 752) he calls the Nativity the parent of festivals, for, had not Christ been born, neither would He have been baptized, hoper esti ta theophania. This shows how loosely this title was used. (Cf. Chrys., "Hom. in Bapt. Chr.", c. ii, in P.G., XLIX, 363; A.D. 387). Cassian (Coll., X, 2, in P.L., XLIX; 820) says that even in his time (418-427) the Egyptian monasteries still celebrated the Nativity and Baptism on 6 January.

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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.
Western Christian churches

Even before the year 354, 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.[30] Hungarians, in an apparent reference to baptism, refer to the January 6 celebration as Vízkereszt which term recalls the words "víz" as water, "kereszt, kereszt-ség" as baptism. 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.


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Usually called the Feast of Theophany (Greek: Θεοφάνεια, "God shining forth" or "divine manifestation"), 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 the 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, 45:

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.

(11 and 15 of Tubi are January 6 and 10 respectively.)

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.[36][37]

Origen's list of festivals (in Contra Celsum, VIII, xxii) omits any reference to Epiphany. The first reference to an ecclesiastical feast of the Epiphany, in Ammianus Marcellinus (XXI:ii), is in 361.

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.

Source

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Epiphany

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