Epiphany is Greek for "manifestation" or "Showing Forth". The Christian Liturgical Church Year is the time when we look at the manifestation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. He was true man and true God. His divine manifestation is demonstrated by His appearance as a boy in the temple, His first miracle, His power over illness, His power over nature, and His glorious transfiguration.
Epiphany is known throughout the Christian world under various names such as: Old Christmas Day, Twelfth Night, Festival of Lights, Three Kings Day, and the Festival of the Magi. In the Western Christian Church, Epiphany is celebrated as the Coming of the Magi (Wise Men), the showing forth of the Star over Bethlehem. In the Eastern (Orthodox) Church, it is their Christmas Day of celebration of the Birth of Christ, and also the celebration of the baptism of Jesus. From ancient times, the Eastern Church has blessed baptismal water during the vigil on Epiphany, and on Epiphany Day they have blessed the steams, lakes, and waters by tossing a blessed cross into them - to which the young men would dive into the waters to retrieve the cross. In some churches, great emphasis is placed on baptism at Epiphany and at Easter. In some places, Epiphany is the Kings Day or a second day of Christmas celebration especially in the Spanish cultures.
Epiphany is celebrated on January 6, since the year 215, when Clement of Alexandria said that the Basilidians commemorated the baptism of Christ on this day. The Patriarch of Alexandria would determine and announce to other churches the date of Easter, after the Gospel was read on January 6. By the 4th century, the feast embraced the birth of Christ, His baptism, the adoration of the Magi, and the miracle at Cana. The number of liturgical Sundays after Epiphany varies with different sets of lessons.
The Wise Men actually appeared on the scene much later after the birth of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that they came into the HOUSE were the young Child was. The fact that Herod the Great ordered all male children, under three years of age, to be killed after the Wise Men were in Jerusalem, indicates that the Wise Men must have come long after the birth of Jesus.
WISE MEN - Magi
Magus, in Greek is translated "Magi" or "Wise Men". They probably came from the orient where the Jews had spent seventy years in the Babylonian captivity. During this period, the Babylonians and Persians probably learned of the promise of the "Messiah" from Daniel the prophet who had lived amongst them. That is why the Wise Men went to Jerusalem looking for "The King of The Jews". Magi, originally was one of six tribes or castes into which, according to Heroditus, the Medes were divided. The Magi came to ascendancy first among the Medes and later among the Persians by assuming the priestly functions related to Zorastriamism. By New Testament times the term "Magi" was broadly used for persons adept in any number of sacred arts, including interpretation of dreams, meditation of divine messages, astrology, magic and divination.
The Western observation of Epiphany has centered on the figures of the Magi, popularly called the Three Kings. Traditionally they have been given the names of Melchoir, Gaspar, and Balthasar. Their cult was especially strong at Cologne in the Middle Ages, for their supposed relics had been brought there in the 12th century. A church in Cologne, Germany, yet today, houses the Three Kings relics. The idea that the Magi were kings was derived from Ps. 71:10 and Isaiah 60: 3-6. The tradition that there were three of them probably derived from the number of gifts mentioned in the biblical account of their visit Matthew 2: 1-12. Most Christmas Creches include three wise men. There is no hard evidence of the exact number of Magi present. The account, of the visit of the Magi and of the miraculous star that guided them, inspired several mystery plays during the Middle Ages. The story of their visit gave rise to the custom of gift giving on Epiphany, especially in Italy and Spanish cultures.
THE WISE MEN
He was a tall black skinned man and was the King of Ethiopia. His gift to the Christ Child was Myrrh, representing Christ's suffering. He is depicted as a bearded man in his 40's. Balthasar represents middle age.
GASPER (Also Casper or Kasper)
One of the three "Wise Men." His gift to the Christ Child was frankincense. He was the King of Tarsus and was tall, beardless man in his 20's. Casper represents youth.
Melchoir was one of the Magi, the Three Kings. His gift to the Christ Child was gold representing Royalty. He was a small, older man and the King of Nubia. Melchoir represents the elderly.
Gold the precious metal used since the beginning of time for coinage, trade, and jewelry. Gold represents Royalty and the highest gift someone could give to others. National and individual wealth was Detroit determined by the amount of gold one had on deposit.
An aromatic resin obtained from the Boswellia tree in the African country of Somalia and in the southern peninsula of Arabia. It was a prized commodity and traded throughout Persia, for religious and medicinal purposes. The gum is an ingredient of fumigants and perfume and can be burned as incense. It is obtained by cutting a deep incision in the trunk of the tree which allows a milky juice to flow. When air hits the juice, it hardens into a semi-opaque lump which is the product that was traded.
The myrrh tree grows from 4 to 20 feet high and has a very large trunk. Myrrh is extracted from the tree by taping it allowing the yellow fluid to drain and be collected in lumps known as tears. It was exported from Arabia and Somalia, as its oil was used to make perfume and was used in embalming the dead.
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