Monday, January 06, 2014

The Meaning of Epiphany

(Updated from two years ago)

Today, January 6th, Epiphany, marks the official end of the Christmas season. Not too long ago Catholics, Episcopalians, and other Christians observed not only the twelve days of Christmas but also the eight days of Epiphany. ("The Octave of Epiphany" sounds like the title of Dan Brown's next book.) In the Internet age we can barely concentrate twelve minutes, much less eight or twelve days, on any endeavor.

Epiphany is not one of the three major feasts (Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost) of Christianity, but it is sufficiently important that some churches are named after it. Nearly 40 years ago we were married at one Church of the Epiphany. We attended another for 15 years. [Here's a positive review from a non-member.]

The original meaning of "Epiphany" was religious--the manifestation of the Divine (Jesus) to the Gentiles (Magi)--but it has come to mean the revelation of an essential, not necessarily religious, truth. Like other words where the meaning is subtle and the use is infrequent, it is apt to be cheapened through over-application, as in, "when I heard the politician's speech/saw the movie/heard the song, I had an epiphany." Let's hope that, like a well-crafted tool, "epiphany" is used when the circumstances are appropriate. © 2014 Stephen Yuen

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