Sunday, January 2, 2011

ἐπιφάνεια

"The Journey of the Magi," by James Jacques Joseph Tissot 1894

"share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:8b-10- a slightly extended version of the reading from first Vespers for Epiphany).

The word ἐπιφάνεια, which transliterates into English as epiphaneia, from which we obviously derive epiphany, occurs five times in the New Testament, but none of these occurrences has to do either with Jesus' birth or the visit of the Magi as recorded in Matthew. In fact, no variant of the Greek word epiphaneia appears in any of the Gospels. One occurrence is in the reading above, specifically 2 Timothy 2:10, in which the word is translated as "the appearing of." This refers to Jesus being seen after His resurrection from the dead.

The other four occurrences all have to do with Christ's return in glory, His parousia. The word from each passage is underlined:

2 Thess. 2:8 "And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming"

1 Tim. 6:14 "to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,"

2 Tim. 4:1 "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom"

Titus 2:13 "waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,"

As Gerard Manley Hopkins poetically observed:

"for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces,"


You see, dear friends, Epiphany is everyday, which is good because real Epiphany, as it were, doesn't come 'round 'til Thursday, 6 January! For my fellow ceilini, we call this, rather unpoetically, "correspondence."

Veni adoramus

All Scripture references in this post are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

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