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A Note from the Vicar

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The following text came from one of my recommended readings from the Iona School to help us understand the seasons and feast days of the liturgical calendar. It is historically interesting but most importantly it makes the point that Epiphany is about turning toward new beginnings and what is to come in the life of Jesus. I commend it to your reading.

Peace, John+

The Feast of Epiphany is older than the Feast of Christmas and possesses a much richer tapestry of themes. The first mention we have of Epiphany appears around the turn of the third century from North Africa. The birth of Jesus does not go without mention, but there appears to be no reference to any sort of focus on his nativity as a major theme of the feast. Instead, the baptism of Jesus, the first major narrative in Mark’s gospel, is clearly the principal focus. Slightly later, Jesus’ first miracle at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, the first major narrative of John’s gospel after the prologue and introductory materials begins to figure prominently in the lectionary on the Sunday following the baptism of Jesus.

From the early days of the faith, the Epiphany feast wove together three strands of the biblical tradition of Jesus – the baptism of Jesus with the miraculous dove and voice from heaven, the miracle at a wedding feast in Cana, and the miraculous star that led the Magi to Bethlehem-three miracles that pick up the story of his manifestation among us with little or no evident concern about the details of his nativity. That comes later.

The Book of Common Prayer assigns Matthew’s narrative of the Magi’s journey to Bethlehem as the gospel for Epiphany in each year of the lectionary. With the Prayer Book’s uniform assignment of the journey of the Magi to the feast day every year, it is easy to understand why, for practical purposes the day seems to look backward to Christmas and often feels like “the rest of the story.” The popular tradition of the Magi making their crib side appearance at Epiphany, serves to underscore the sense of the completion of Christmas.

It is important to realize that Epiphany is something of a fulcrum that shifts the balance from the incarnation of God seen in relationship to the nativity of Jesus, to the incarnate one being manifest in new ways as God’s anointed one whom we will come to know as teacher, healer and miracle worker, and ultimately as the Crucified and Risen One. Epiphany is about looking forward, about beginnings, about what is still to come.

Celebrating Liturgical Time   J. Neal Alexander p.36-38


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