The name Epiphany finds its origin in the Greek word Epiphania which means “to reveal or make known”. The celebration of Epiphany began in AD 361 in the Eastern Church to commemorate the birth of Christ. Today the term Epiphany is used to describe a sudden perception of essential information disclosed by some striking event. It often becomes the driving force of change in a person.
The Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th to celebrate the day when the three Magi (wise men) paid a visit to Christ in Bethlehem with the gifts of myrrh, frankincense and gold. The significance of Epiphany also lies in the fact that God was revealed in human form to mankind. Epiphany is a season that comprises of four to about nine Sundays, and lasts till the beginning of the Lent season.
During Epiphany the Church celebrates the three miracles that reveal the divinity of Jesus Christ-The visit of the Magi(Matthew 2:1-12),the baptism of Christ(Mark 1:9-11) and the miracle at Cana (John 2:1-11). The baptism of Christ in the Jordan River reveals him as the Son of God. On this occasion , the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ like a dove with a voice saying from heaven, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."Today most of the liturgical churches celebrate January 6th as the visit of the Magi while the baptism of Christ is celebrated on the following Sunday after the 6th.
Epiphany is considered to be one of the important seasons of the liturgical year as it reveals to the church the coming of God to his people. It shows how mankind steeped in sin and punishment cannot approach God easily. As a result, God appears in human form for man’s salvation. It is the season for healing and atonement when the church assembles in a spirit of brotherhood and love. It is this mystery of the Epiphany of Christ that makes the season so special and important.
The color white which symbolizes holiness, purity and joy is traditionally used to represent the liturgical color of Epiphany. It includes the first Sunday after Epiphany celebrated as the day of Baptism of Christ and the last Sunday after Epiphany which represents the transfiguration of Christ. Green is generally used on the other Sundays of the Epiphany season. The color green is symbolic of the new life granted to mankind in baptism. It also represents the spiritual growth experienced by the Christians as they study the study Christ’s teachings. Some Churches, however use white on all the Sundays during the Epiphany season and use green only after Pentecost.