The word “epiphany” to refer to a revelation or recognition of importance. Epiphany, in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian liturgical sense, is a feast day in Christmastide. On Epiphany, January 6, Christians honor the visit of the Magi (also called wisemen or Three Kings) to Baby Jesus, his Blessed Mother Mary and St. Joseph in the stable in Bethlehem. Here are Bible devotions for Three Kings Day or Theophany (“vision of God”) which Eastern Orthodox Christian churches also observe on Jan. 6. Theophany celebrates the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan river. The Bible says that when John baptized Jesus, he understood and proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. St. John the Baptist said “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
On Three Kings Day people exchange gifts, as the Magi presented gifts to the Holy Child Jesus. Some Catholic Latin American, eastern and southern European countries celebrate Epiphany as the gift-giving holiday. Although Epiphany is a major feast day in the Christmas season, it receives little recognition in many western countries being overshadowed by Christmas. Many Christians have never even heard of the feast of Epiphany.
Epiphany is known as Theophany (Orthodox Christian), Adoration of the Magi, Fiesta de Los Reyes, Three Kings Day and Twelfth Night. In the Catholic church liturgical year, Three Kings Day or Theophany is celebrated on January 6, 12 days after the Feast of Christmas. It’s preceded by the Feast of the Holy Family (Sunday following Christmas) and the Solemnity of Mary on January 1 (a Holy Day of Obligation). On Theophany, Orthodox Christian and Roman Catholic priests wear white vestments are white as they do on any feast day celebrating with the divinity of Christ (Easter, the transfiguration)
Three Kings Day comes just after the Octave of Christmas which commemorates the eight-day Hebrew waiting period after birth and the circumcision or presentation of Jesus in the temple. The Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph were from Nazareth had to return to Bethlehem, the City of David, for the Roman census, because Joseph was in the house and lineage of David. So when Jesus was born there, he fulfilled the Bible prophecy that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem Ephrata, the lowliest of cities. Mary knew the significance of the birth of her son, the Messiah and Joseph had some understanding. But they didn’t know others knew. Then a wondrous star followed them and appeared over the stable. Local shepherds showed up to worship saying they’d seen angels who proclaimed the Messiah’s birth. When three powerful wealthy astronomers from distant lands ended up at the stable, after following a star to the Messiah, it became clear.
King Herod ordered that all male children under two be killed to rid his kingdom of threats to the throne. The prophet Isaiah called foretold that horrific event saying “great lamentation was heard in Israel–Rachel, weeping for her children, who will not be comforted because they are no more.” The Slaughter of the Holy Innocents (Liturgical year: Dec. 28) grieves the murdered children with their mothers. Joseph was warned in a dream to flee with Mary and the child to Egypt. But they couldn’t leave Bethlehem immediately because they had to wait eight days to present Jesus for circumcision. Mary needed her ritual purification after giving birth. It was against Jewish law to leave and too dangerous to stay. Catholic and Orthodox Christians honor the Holy Family during this worrisome Octave of Christmas. Then on Epiphany, the Magi assisted the Holy Family on the flight into Egypt.
Epiphany, in Greek: åðéöÜíåéá, “manifestation” or “made known.” Latin texts use the terms “Illuminatio” (lighting or shining forth) “Manifestatio” (made known) and “Declaratio” (Declaration). Orthodox Christian churches celebrate Theophany as the point at which Jesus is officially revealed as the Messiah. Celebrating Epiphany as both the visit of the Magi and Theophany, is more accurate. The two events converge to reveal Jesus as the Christ, the “light of the world” that shines forth in to a people in darkness.