The traditional date of Epiphany was January 6, the day after the Twelfth Day of Christmas. In the reform of the Liturgical Year after Vatican II, the feast has been moved to the Sunday after January 1.
- ἐπιφανεία 2 Macc 15:27
- Fighting with their hands and praying to God with their hearts, they laid low at least thirty-five thousand, and rejoiced greatly over this manifestation of God’s power.
- But is now made manifest by the illumination [διὰ τῆς ἐπιφανείας] of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has destroyed death and has brought to light life and incorruption by the gospel.
Preface for Epiphany
[Christ the Light of the Nations]
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.
Today you revealed in Christ your eternal plan of salvation
and showed him as the light of all peoples.
Now that his glory has shone among us
you have renewed humanity in his immortal image.
Now with angels and archangels,
and the whole company of heaven,
we sing the unending hymn of your praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord...
The Eastern tradition of celebrating the Baptism of the Lord is more ancient than the Western tradition of celebrating the Visit of the Magi. It may even be that this was the original date for celebrating the birth of Jesus (still used by the Armenian church).
Los Tres Reyes
- Sandra Miesel
- By the tenth century, Western artists are portraying the Wise Men with crowns. They grow distinguishable because they have come to stand for the three ages of man, the three known continents of the Old World, and three races descended from the sons of Noah. In later medieval art the Magi lay aside their crowns to interact with the Christ Child and receive his blessing. Their garments become increasingly fantastic and their faces are often modeled on contemporary rulers. By the fourteenth century, the youngest Magus is portrayed as a black African in many Northern European paintings. In subsequent centuries, other racial types joined the trio, including East Indians, Asians, Incas, and Canadian Indians, so that the Wise Men could represent all nations.
- The thirteenth century Golden Legend gives the Magi's names in Greek as Apellius, Amerius, and Damascus; in Hebrew as Galgalat, Malgalat, and Serchin; and in Latin as Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior—the favorite set. There are inconsistencies about which Magus is which but in Germanic lands, Casper (gold) is elderly; Melchior (frankincense) is middle-aged; and Balthasar (myrrh) is young. The gifts are presented in order of age.
- The center of the Magi's cult is Cologne. The cathedral there boasts a splendid golden shrine holding their relics that has drawn swarms of pilgrims since the twelfth century. The Kings' protection is traditionally invoked against travel dangers, plague, fever, and sudden death. Their initials C+M+B form a protective acronym for Christus mundum benedicat ("Christ blesses the world"). The faithful carry this symbol on holy cards or chalk it over their doors to ward off evil.
- The alleged remains of the Magi are claimed to have been discovered in the East by St. Helena and brought to Milan in 400, whence they were looted by Frederick Barbarossa in 1162 and given to Cologne. Historian Patrick Geary has argued persuasively that Milan never had any relics of the Wise Men. Yet the bones in the shrine were wrapped in genuine purple silk from St. Helena's lifetime so some ancient parties unknown have been passing as the Magi for eight centuries.