Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More on Epiphany

Ok, so I did a little bit more reading up on Epiphany.

It lasts for 40 days after the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Different churches commemorate the ending differently and on different days. In Western tradition, the last day is highlighted by a 'Candlemas' celebration focusing on Luke 2:2 where Jesus is presented at the temple.

Within the Roman Catholic Church, since the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, this feast has been referred to as the Feast of Presentation of the Lord, with references to candles and the purification of Mary de-emphasised in favor of the Prophecy of Simeon the Righteous. Pope John Paul II connected the feast day with the renewal of religious vows.

In Eastern tradition the 40th day is celebrated with an All-Night Vigil on the eve of the feast, and a celebration of the Divine Liturgy the next morning, at which beeswax candles are blessed. This blessing traditionally takes place after the Little Hours and before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy (though in some places it is done after). The priest reads four prayers, and then a fifth one during which all present bow their heads before God. He then censes the candles and blesses them with holy water. The candles are then distributed to the people and the Liturgy begins. On the same day, Orthodox Christians also commemorate a wonder-working icon of the Theotokos known as "the Softening of Evil Hearts" or "Simeon's Prophecy." It depicts the Virgin Mary with her hands upraised in prayer, and seven swords piercing her heart. This is one of the few Orthodox icons of the Theotokos which do not depict the infant Jesus.

I think all of that stuff is really interesting, and I write it partly so I can remember it. Not all churches celebrate Christmas on the same day, and some churches highlight different parts of Jesus' formative years during the celebration. Because 40 days after Christmas could land on a different day every year according to the Gregorian Calender, this is one of the 'moveable feasts'. I also read that in some traditions, Christmas decorations are not taken down until the end of the Epiphany season. Is apparently, was an unknown rule that our family had been operating under for some time.

Much Love. Jess

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