What is Epiphany?


Epiphany Chart by Father Stephanos, O.S.B. from his blog http://monkallover.blogspot.com/

People who specialize in a belief or practice tend to develop “code language.” The specialized vocabulary of medical professionals and the law are two common examples, but the same is true for construction workers, baseball players and those who cook. Likewise, Christianity has developed specialized words which serve as shortcuts for those who understand their meaning- grace, liturgy, eschatology, justification, Trinity, redemption… words which are helpful, but aren’t a normal part of our everyday vocabulary.

The word epiphany is still used in conversation from time to time, but also serves as one of those fancy church words.


  • from the Greek phainein to bring to light, to cause to appear, to show; epiphainein to manifest, epiphainea appearance
  • a Christian festival observed on January 6, commemorating the coming of the Magi (aka Wise Men) as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles (persons who are not Jewish)
  • a season of the Christian year from the end of the 12 days of Christmas (January 6) to the beginning of the season of Lent (Ash Wednesday). The season of Epiphany varies in length depending on the date of Easter.
  • an appearance of manifestation, esp.of a divine being
  • a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something;
  • an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking.

A new year has begun. During this year, too, all the paths from east to west, from morning until evening, lead on and on as far as the eye can see, through the deserts of life, with all its changes. But these paths can be turned into the blessed pilgrimage to the absolute, the journey to God. Set out, my heart, take up the journey ! The star shines. You can’t take much with you on the journey. And you will lose much on the way. Let it go. Gold of love, incense of yearning, myrrh of suffering – these you certainly have with you. He shall accept them. And we shall find him.
-Karl Rahner, The Great Church Year

1 thought on “What is Epiphany?

  1. Pingback: Sermon Recording: Come and See What God Has Done, an Epiphany Sermon on Trust (Matthew 2) | Turning the Word

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