Is Epiphany over yet? This year it seems that the Epiphany season is going on and on and on. The church website still shows the Magi following the star. We still sing Christmas-like songs during the church service. The tree is down. The Magi have come and gone. Jesus is grown, baptized, performing miracles and teaching in the temples. So why is it still the season of Epiphany?
The Season of Epiphany differs among Christian denominations. Generally, it encompasses the following events in the Gospel stories: the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and Jesus' miracle at the marriage at Cana. But there appears to have been a struggle to define how long Epiphany should last.
It was originally viewed as an extension of Christmas, using Epiphany to extend the Christmas season 40 days until the beginning of February. Within the Catholic Church, the traditional Christmas/Epiphany season would end with Candlemas…or the Feast of the Circumcision…when Jesus was presented at the temple. The time between Candlemas and Lent was referred to as Ordinary Time…and the vestments turned from white to green with the baptism of Jesus. The Church of England followed that tradition.
But in the 1950’s, things got a bit murkier as different denominations attempted to define Epiphany in different ways. The American Episcopal Church defines Epiphany as follows:
“A season of four to nine weeks, from the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6) through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The length of the season varies according to the date of Easter. The gospel stories of this season describe various events that manifest the divinity of Jesus. The coming of the Magi is celebrated on the Epiphany. The Baptism of our Lord is observed on the Sunday after Epiphany. The gospels for the other Sundays of the Epiphany season describe the wedding at Cana, the calling of the disciples, and various miracles and teachings of Jesus. The Last Sunday after the Epiphany is always devoted to the Transfiguration. Jesus' identity as the Son of God is dramatically revealed in the Transfiguration gospel, as well as the gospel of the baptism of Christ. We are called to respond to Christ in faith through the showings of his divinity recorded in the gospels of the Epiphany season.”
2018/19 was marked by the longest period of time there is between Thanksgiving and Christmas…and within 3 days of the longest period of time between Christmas and Easter. Within the Episcopal Church…that makes Epiphany a very long season. The last day of Epiphany this year is March 4. Ash Wednesday is March 5.
The above definition of Epiphany comes from the Episcopal dictionary sanctioned by the national church. Do you see the word “Ordinary Time” in it? It’s not there!! But if you look up what colors are worn during what season in the church…the church reverts to the color green after the Baptism of Jesus marking the beginning of Ordinary Time.
And Ordinary Time is what???????????