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denho - The Epiphany

The Feast of Epiphany originated in the Eastern Churches around the third century. It is celebrated on January 6. The feast is called in Syriac denho, or ‘manifestation’. In the East, it has always been associated in honor of the Baptism of Christ, and its liturgy focused around the blessing of the baptismal water and baptizing the Holy Cross. By the fourth century, the Feast of Epiphany ranked with Easter and Pentecost as one of the three principal festivals of the Church. (The Feast was introduced in the West during the fourth century, but here lost its character as the feast of the Baptism of Christ, and became associated with the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.)

The Concluding Hymn of the First Sunday following Epiphany is an example of the liturgical richness surrounding this Feast. It reads, “My brethren, I have seen a great wonder and marvel on the River Jordan. While the Father was calling and the Son was being baptized, the Holy Spirit like a dove flew down and settled on His [Christ’s] head.”

The days following Epiphany witness two important feasts: The Feast of John the Baptist (January 7), which has always been associated with the Baptism of Christ; and the Feast of St. Stephen (January 8), head of the Deacons and the first Christian martyr.

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Last Update: November 1, 1998