As “the true light, which enlightens everyone ” come into the world, Jesus came not only that we might see his glory but also that we might share in it. “From his fullness we have all received, grace for grace.” (John 1,16) His baptism in the Jordan and his presence at the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee – two themes from John’s gospel still closely connected with the Feast of the Epiphany– portray Jesus revealed as God’s Son who unites humanity to himself.
From earliest times the Feast of the Epiphany, like Easter, was a day for baptizing those who believed in his name. To them, “he gave power to become children of God.” (John 1, 12) The story of the Magi, from Matthew’s gospel, says that all people are called by God to share in the grace of Jesus Christ. “The Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Jesus Christ through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3, 5-6)
Some historians see the Feast of the Epiphany originating from early Jewish-Christian celebrations of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, which celebrated God’s glory in covenant, light and water. In John’s gospel it’s during this same Jewish feast that the question is asked: Who is Jesus Christ? (cf John 7-10) He is God’s divine Son, the gospel says.
In some places the Feast of the Epiphany is also called the Feast of the Holy Kings or Three King’s Day. Gifts are given in memory of the Magi’s gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Homes are blessed with holy water, in remembrance of that blessed home where the Magi found the Child and his mother.
In the western church, the feast of the Baptism of Jesus follows the celebration of the Epiphany as a separate feast, but it should be seen as part of that celebration.
“For on this day land and sea share between them the grace of the Saviour, and the whole world is filled with joy. Today’s feast of the Epiphany manifests even more wonders than the feast of Christmas.” (St. Proclus of Constantinople)