Season of Epiphany Jan. 6 to February 12
Next to Easter, Epiphany is the oldest season of the church year. In Asia Minor and Egypt, Epiphany was observed as early as the 2nd century. The Festival of the Epiphany fell and still falls on January 6. It was observed as a unitive festival – both the birth and baptism of Jesus were celebrated at this time.
January 6 was chosen as Epiphany Day because it was the winter solstice, a festival celebrating the birthday of the sun-god. In 331 B.C. the solstice was moved to December 25, but January 6 continued to be observed. Christians substituted Epiphany for the solstice. The emphasis was upon the rebirth of light. In keeping with the theme, the first Lesson for Epiphany Day is appropriate: “Arise, shine; for your light has come.”
The unitive festival of Epiphany was divided when December 25 was chosen as the birthday of Jesus. The church in the East continued to celebrate Epiphany in terms of the baptism of Jesus while the Western church associated Epiphany with the visit of the Magi. For the East the baptism of Jesus was more vital because of the Gnostic heresy claiming that only at his baptism did Jesus become the Son of God. On the other hand, to associate Epiphany with the Magi is appropriate, for the Magi did not get to Bethlehem for a year after Jesus' birth. By this time the holy family was in a house rather than in a stable. Consequently, the Magi could not have been a part of the manger scene as is popularly portrayed in today's Christmas scenes and plays. The new lectionary and calendar combine the two by placing the visit of the Magi on Epiphany Day and the Baptism of Jesus on Epiphany 1.
The name “Epiphany” means “Manifestation.” The light manifests itself in the darkness, God reveals himself in Jesus, and the glory of God is seen in Jesus.
Epiphany is also a season of worship because it deals with the glory of God manifested in Jesus. The season begins with the Wise Men's coming to worship the new-born King. The season ends with the worship experience on the mountain of Transfiguration. When people see Jesus as God's Son, they instinctively fall down to worship him as Lord.
May this holy season of Epiphany be for each of us a time of moving beyond grasping tight to what we have. To unclenching our hands and letting go. Following the Light where it leads; Moving beyond competition toward cooperation. Seeing that all humans are sisters and brothers. Moving beyond the anxiety of small concerns Towards the joys of justice and peace. May the transforming acceptance of Mary and Joseph, The imagination of the shepherds, And the persistence of the magi and the skilled and steady hands of the midwives, Guide us as we seek the Truth, Always moving toward the Divine promise. Always aware God can be hidden in the frailest among us. Always open to the unexpected flash of Grace, to the showing forth of that Love that embraces us all. Amen
3 Kings Cake recipe:
2 packages dry yeast; 1/3 cup warm water; 1/2 cup sugar (divided, 1/3 cup plus remaining amount, 2 Tbsp.); 1 stick butter; 2/3 cup evaporated milk; 2 teaspoons salt; 4 eggs; 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind; 2 tablespoons finely grated orange rind; 5 cups flour plus 1 cup for kneading surface
Melt 1 stick butter, milk, 1/3 cup sugar and salt in a saucepan. Cool to lukewarm. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast and water in a large mixing bowl. Let stand until it foams (5-10 minutes). Beat eggs into yeast mixture, then add milk mixture and lemon and orange rinds. Stir in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, reserving 1 cup for the kneading surface. Knead dough until smooth (about 5-10 minutes). Place in large mixing bowl that has been greased. Turn dough once to grease top; cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Filling: 1/2 cup chopped pecans 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed 3 plastic trinkets or 3 dry red beans 3/4 cup granulated sugar 1 Tablespoon cinnamon 1 stick butter, melted
Topping: Either 1 egg beaten or Confectioner's Sugar Icing (see below) Then 1/3 cup each colored sugar of purple, yellow and green
For filling, mix pecans, brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
For topping, tint sugar by mixing in food coloring When dough has doubled, punch down and divide in half. On a floured surface, roll half into a rectangle 30 x 15 inches (this takes a long time for me, and the dough gets to be very thin). Brush with half of the melted butter and cut into 3 lengthwise strips. Sprinkle half of sugar mixture and pecans on strips, leaving a 1-inch lengthwise strip free for sealing. Fold each strip lengthwise toward the center, sealing the seam. You will now have three 30-inch strips with sugar and nut mixture enclosed in each. Braid the 3 strips and make a circle by joining the ends. Repeat with the other half of the dough.