Epiphany? Theophany? Three Kings Day? Baptism of Christ? Which One?

Every year, about this time, we see the eternal debate on Orthodox boards whether “Epiphany” is a permissible term or “Theophany”. We will even see the argument adduced that the Western feast of Epiphany is a “cute” holiday, with the Magi giving Christ the gifts and the use of the term “Little Christmas”, whereas the feast of the Theophany celebrates the Baptism of Christ, where He is revealed to be God’s Son (which, of course, sounds way cooler).

Such polemic is boring and nonsensical. If Westerners have abandoned the traditional understanding of the feast, this is not due to long-standing ignorance of 2,000 years– it is due to the textual reductions made after the schism of the West from Orthodoxy. Nor shall I deal with the meaning of both words used to describe the feast, one of which implies the other.

In fact, the original Western understanding of the Feast of the Epiphany is even more complete, for it does not commemorate one event but three: the Adoration of the Magi, the Baptism of the Lord, and the Wedding at Cana. The first manifested to the world the Kingship of the Divine Child; the second the Divine Sonship of Our Lord Jesus Christ; and the last the partaking of the Son in the dominion over all Creation which belongs to the Father.

May all have a joyous feast today!

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