The feast of Epiphany, Wednesday January 6, 2021
This is already not a party attributed to Epiphanes! Rather to kings, magi in order of three and by three ages according to tradition. Coming from Persia, Mesopotamia, Babylon more exactly (current Iraq), these astrologers are guided by an unparalleled star of a thousand lights to Bethlehem in Judea to worship and praise a tiny being, a king in the making, in the name of Jesus. These mighty messengers will become his servants to spread the good news that a savior has been born to believers.
The origin of Epiphany
In Hellenistic culture, it was a feast, an ode to a deity like that : Apollo in Delphi. In Rome, this term had an imperial connotation and meant the coming of a sovereign or an allusion to the celebration of the cult «Sol Invictus» (Undefeated Sun) dedicated to Mithras, Indo-Iranian deity from Mazdeism. In Antiquity, the Romans who are very fond of festivals organize and do not forget to commemorate one of the most popular in January: «Saturnalia» to magnify the Gods epiphanes (Saturn, among others) and to bring their joy to the lengthening of the days to come, favourable to all fruitfulness, at the end of the winter. Who says feast, says big feast, and on this occasion appears the broad bean (dry bean) that is hidden in a pastry or bread in the shape of a sun disk to "draw kings" as it is said in French : "Tirer les rois". This disc can be the argument of many liturgical interpretations and omens like a holy halo by the brioche or the radiance of the sun's rays by a cake (galette). The elected king in question, thanks to the bean, can order whatever he wishes during the gala. If he is a slave, he can receive all the favors accordingly, only on this dedicated day but be careful not to be too bully! In the middle of the 3rd century BC. BC, in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the epiphany reflects the luminous figure of the Lord.
So, afterwards, Saint Paul uses it to also signify the manifestation of the Lord in the epistle to Timothy (2 Timothy 1,10). Both Jewish and pagan, Epiphany was celebrated long before Christmas! It is only in the second half of the fourth century (350), in the West, January 6, twelve days after Christmas and on the Sunday following January 1, to be more precise, that this date is identified with the adoration of the Magi. But not only, there is also the baptism of Jesus and his first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana. This period also seems to be the origin of another pagan festival (the birth of the God Aeon by Persephone).
From the Greek “epiphaneia”, the word means appearance or manifestation. More deeply, he is referring here to the manifestation in the flesh of Christ who incarnate in the Virgin Mary at Christmas comes for the salvation of men. In the East, the baptism of Jesus is celebrated while in the West, it is associated with the coming of kings from different countries: Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspard, all provided with gifts for the attention of the divine child according to the fathers of the Church. And more precisely by Saint Irenaeus, in the 2nd century, in his treatise "Adversus Haereses" / "Against the heresies" where he reveals the nature of the gifts offered: gold for his royalty, incense for his divinity and myrrh for its mortality. The Epiphany is very representative of the coming, of the revelation of the Messiah who is made known by all the nations, in this case, represented by these magi, true ambassadors of the time.
That said, the latter have been decried by certain exegetes and biblical scholars even challenge us on the meaning of the Greek word "magos" enunciated by Saint Matthew which reveals many surprising meanings: Persian priests, magicians or even false diviners! By the way, only the evangelist Matthew mentions this episode without further detail in the New Testament. However, unanimously, we keep in mind the astrologers of the East confident of their prediction on Jewish messianism that a God will be born man to love all mankind and to pour out messages of hope in the name of God, the Father.
The timelessness of the festival of the epiphany shows that these three travellers, precursors, were in search of meaning, of light as, in a contemporary way, all men and this until the end of time.
The coming of the Magi (Mt 2, 1-12)
The prophecy of Isaiah (60:3-6)
Pour ma version en français : L'Epiphanie ici