Time after Epiphany – What and Why
The word Epiphany, meaning “manifestation,” comes from the Greek word epiphania, which denotes the visit of a god to earth. It is the season set aside for proclaiming the identity of Christ as the Son of God. As the Wise Men recognize Jesus as king on the Day of Epiphany, January 6, the Time After Epiphany is devoted to other ways that Jesus is revealed as the Son of God in our world. Light is a recurring theme during this season, as we are reminded that the God’s light bursts forth to all nations and the prophecy is fulfilled.
The bookends of the season are the Baptism of Our Lord, which marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, and Transfiguration Sunday, where the fullness of his glory is revealed to his disciples. The color for these festival days is white, representing purity and reminding us of the baptismal garment.
A feast day marking Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist has been celebrated in the Church since the second century C.E. It is not only a celebration of the presence of the Holy Spirit, but also has come to be seen as the true beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. But to make this day more than just the celebration of a moment in history, we need to remind ourselves of the connection which each of us has – through our Baptism – to Jesus himself, and to the whole Body of Christ.
The transfiguration originated in the east and was traditionally celebrated on August 6. In the west, Callistus III ordered its general observance in commemoration of the victory over the Turks at Belgrade on July 22, 1456, news of which reached him on August 6. This date is different in churches today, now observed on the last Sunday after Epiphany. Protestants look at the transfiguration as a time to celebrate the revelation of Jesus as God’s son, echoing the words of his baptism. (“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5) This vision of glory sustains us as Jesus faces his impending death in Jerusalem and strengthens us to bear our cross and be changed into his likeness. The Transfiguration has become a great prequel to the Lenten season.
The time between Jesus’ baptism and his transfiguration is referred to as the Time after Epiphany. During this time, the lessons focus on the ways Jesus reveals himself as God’s son – the miracle at the wedding feast in Cana, the calling of the disciples, the healing miracles, the miracle of the fishes, and the feeding of the 5,000.
The liturgical color of Time after Epiphany is green. Green has traditionally been associated with new life and growth and is representative of our growth in Christ; however, as in all seasons, other appropriate colors are worn on particular feast days.