The Forgotten Feast of Christmastide
Collective Worship / Primary / Secondary / Catholic
Writer: Angela Wood
A Feast Definitely Worth Celebrating!
By the time that the Feast of Epiphany arrives on January 6th, it can feel like Christmas is well and truly over. For many of us, the decorations and the presents are packed away, the sales have passed, and a new term has begun. So, there doesn’t feel like much to celebrate at this point, right?
This may be true for many people, however, in my home decorations only come down after Epiphany has been celebrated. The truth is that the Feast of Epiphany is definitely worth celebrating! Let me share with you why…
The ‘Lightbulb’ Moment!
An epiphany is often understood as having a revelation, a ‘got it!’ or ‘lightbulb’ moment. According to St Matthew, the Magi (kings or wise men from the East), made a pilgrimage from their home far away, directed by an amazing star. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that their pilgrimage was motivated by the hope that they would find the promised Messiah of Israel, the Son of God and Saviour of the world; they believed that He would be revealed at the end of their journey (CCC, 528). Their pilgrimage was one of hope and a desire that the truth would be revealed.
Jesus, the King of the Universe
Another meaning of the word epiphany is a ‘divine manifestation’. When the Magi found the baby Jesus, they knew that they had met more than just a king: they knew that Jesus was God. At the manger they found the new-born baby, Jesus, and they adored Him. They saw God in the weak and vulnerable son of Mary and knew His presence was divine. They saw the King of the Universe and they worshiped Him. The Magi had the best ever ‘lightbulb’ moment!
We don’t know the exact number of kings who visited Jesus, but mention of three gifts is made and that these were ‘fit for a king’. The early Church Father, St Irenaeus, explained that these gifts signify the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus :
- Gold for a divine king;
- Frankincense, used in the worship of God, is a symbol of his divinity and as the eternal priest;
- Myrrh, a burial ointment points towards Christ’s humanity and anticipation of His death and His anointing as our redeemer.
The revelation of Christ to the Magi, who were the first non-Jews (gentiles), to worship Jesus at Bethlehem, is a reminder that the mission field of Christ is the whole world, not just the Holy Land of Israel. Therefore, the Church is forever bound to teach, preach, and sanctify the world over. The Feast of Epiphany reminds us that Jesus is the Lord of all nations: we are all chosen and beloved.
Celebrating the Epiphany with Your Family or School
There are many Epiphany traditions from around the world that can help us to ensure that Epiphany is not the ‘forgotten feast’.
You could join the Spanish, ancient French and German tradition of celebrating the Epiphany as a ‘little Christmas’, a time for gift-giving and sharing special food. You could try baking a traditional ‘King’s Cake’ (Galette des Rois) with a hidden trinket, to share with family, friends, or your class.
Another great tradition is the Epiphany Chalk Blessing. Simply write with blessed chalk the following on or above the door to your home, school or classroom: 20 + C + B + M + 22. You or one of the children can say the prayer of blessing as this happens. The number is the year itself split into two parts and the letters in between stand for the traditional names of the three Wise Men who followed the star: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. The letters are also an acronym for the Latin phrase ‘Christus mansionem benedicat’, which means, ‘may Christ bless this house.’ The ‘+’ sign also represents the cross. This sign of blessing will eventually wash away but the blessing will remain.
Jesus, the Light of the World
The Magi followed a bright star in the hope of finding ‘in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David the one who will be king of the nations.’ The Feast of Epiphany reminds us that when we experience the joy and hope of Christmas it changes us too. As we leave Christmastide, and return to Ordinary Time, we are called to continue to carry the light of Christ to all we meet. The reading from the Prophet Isaiah that we hear at Mass on the Feast of Epiphany says,
‘Arise, shine out, Jerusalem, for your light has come,
the glory of the Lord is rising on you,
though night still covers the earth
and darkness the peoples.
Above you the Lord now rises
and above you His glory appears.
The nations come to your light
and kings to your dawning brightness.’ 
Jerusalem was known as the place where God dwelt, but now God dwells within us, so we are called to ‘Arise, shine out…’
As followers of Christ, we truly can share the most precious and lasting ‘got it!’ experience. St Gregory the Great taught that we too can give gifts to Jesus, in our daily lives. He said that gold is Christ’s wisdom which will shine from us, frankincense our prayer offered to Him and myrrh our daily self-sacrifices.  We are all called to be bearers of His light, so that others might come to know, and come to ‘get’ Him too!
Epiphany Deep Dive
For more thoughts on the great Feast of Epiphany you can watch this short, thoughtful explanation from Jeff Cavins.
We are a Pilgrim People who share Christ’s light
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that today we are like the Magi – we are a pilgrim people.  As a pilgrim Church, with heaven as our final destination, we seek to share the light of Christ, believing that He has indeed risen and will come again. Throughout this coming year, if you are a subscriber to our Collective Worship resources, then you will hear more about the importance of pilgrimage through our Ten Ten Year of Pilgrimage. Find our more here.
 CCC 528
 St Irenaeus AH 3, 9, 2
 CCC 528
 Isaiah 60: 1 – 6
 CCC 671, Lumen Gentium 48
 St Gregory the Great, Hom In Evan. 10