When I was little, Epiphany was one of my favorite feasts. My parents had a beautiful nativity scene, of which the most exciting and colorful pieces were the three kings, their camel, and their servant. What kid doesn't like capes and crowns and gold trim?
On Epiphany, the three kings would finally arrive at the stable, having usually spent the previous week traveling across the house, getting ever closer to the nativity scene. My Dad liked to run a tiny wisp of cotton between the frankincense and the roof of the stable so that it looked like the king—I always thought it was Saint Caspar—was burning incense before the Divine Child. All very exciting for a seven-year-old.
Some years, my parents made Epiphany extra exciting by organizing a little treasure hunt for me and my brother. They wrote little clues on pieces of paper and hid them around the house so that one clue led to another, and, at last, the final clue would reveal the location of a final, long awaited Christmas present.
Epiphany, then, is the day we celebrate the Three Kings finding Jesus and giving him presents. It's a wonderful story from the Gospel and can be a lot of fun to celebrate. King-cake anyone?
But I never really understood why the Church thought it was so important. It's one of the biggest feasts of the whole year. In some places and times, it rivaled Christmas for solemnity. Jesus getting presents is pretty cool, but why is it more important than, I don't know, Saint Therese?
The word Epiphany comes from the Greek Epiphania, meaning “manifestation.” So Epiphany isn't just the celebration of the three wise men who followed the star. It's the day we celebrate the revelation of the Incarnation to the whole world, especially to the gentiles, and that's a huge deal.
God became man to save us, but we need to cooperate with his grace. And that means we need to know about it.
That's what Epiphany is about—finding out about the Incarnation. We could almost say that Epiphany is the day we celebrate ourselves, when we celebrate our own realization that God is born a baby in Bethlehem to save us from our sins and that we must worship Him, follow Him, and love Him.
So the next time you see one of those nativity scenes with the beautiful kings in their capes and crowns and gold trim, put yourself there with them, just as you are; in your hoodie and sneakers, your dress or your suit. Because you belong there too, worshiping the magnificent reality of God made man.
About the author: Marie C. Keiser, one of CatholicTeenBooks.com authors, has been reading insatiably ever since she learned how, and writing almost as long. After teaching middle school for a few years and marrying one of her fellow teachers, she retired from teaching to further her plans for world domination . . . er, that is, to accommodate the needs of her growing family. When she's not plotting with her husband or chasing toddlers around the house, she writes from an undisclosed location somewhere in the frozen North, otherwise known as central Minnesota.