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Epiphany Rounds out the Christmas Season

8 January, 20128 January, 2012 0 comments Events Events

The Feast of the Epiphany, which means manifestation, is observed on Jan. 6 for Catholics and on Jan. 18 for Orthodox Christians and celebrates the revelation of Jesus as son of God in the flesh.


For Catholics, the Epiphany commemorates the visit of the Magi to Jesus after his birth in Bethlehem while for Orthodox Christians, the feast remembers his baptism and revelation by God in public as the son of God.


On Jan. 6, the Catholic church in the Holy Land will observe the feast with a solemn entry into the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This event is considered the conclusion of the Christmas season.


"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.' When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: "And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, ar eby no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel."' ... After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way." Matthew 2:1-12


A procession from Jerusalem to Mar Elias into Bethlehem will take place including a stop at Rachel's Tomb, where the parish priest of Bethlehem and parishioners from Beit Sahour and Bethlehem wait to join the march.


Scouts go ahead of the processional, intended to mark the route of the Magi to Manger Square, usually around noon on that day. A special mass is said in the church. The Catholic celebration of the Epiphany coincides with the Orthodox celebration of Christmas, which starts with a series of masses that night.


For the Orthodox church, the Epiphany recounts Jesus' experience as an adult being revealed as the son of God.


"Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?' But Jesus answering said to him, 'Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'" Matthew 3:13-17


This feast is the third most important day on the calendar behind Easter and Pentecost for the Eastern Orthodox churches. Also known as the Theophany - manifestation of the divine - the Feast of the Epiphany marks the foundation of the doctrine of the Trinity.


In a much different celebration than the Catholic Epiphany, thousands of Christian pilgrims descend to the Jordan River, specifically to Qasr El Yahud, the site many believe to be the authentic site where John baptized Jesus.


Qasr El Yahud baptismal site

Epiphany at Qasr El Yahud

Photo: Travelujah -Greek Patriarchate Theopolis III releasing the dove at Epiphany ceremonies at Qasr El Yahud;


There, the faithful, sometimes numbering 20,000 and most from abroad, will be baptized themselves following in the footsteps of their Lord. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem leads the event which includes a procession from the nearby Monastery of John the Baptist and a series of blessings at a small chapel near the river.


Three doves are symbolically released into the sky to represent the Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The joyous occasion can seem a bit raucous with dozens of young people playing pipes, beating drums and singing.


This event, marking the end of the Orthodox Christmas season, coincides with the Armenian Christmas, which begins on the eve of Jan. 18.


Half day and one day tours are offered to Bethlehem regularly. Learn more about day toursto  Bethlehem and Jericho at this link.


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Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.



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