Epiphany coming from the Greek word epiphaneia, meaning appearance or showing is much older than Christmass. It began to be celebrated in the Eastern Church in the 3rd C. when four manifestations of Christ were commemorated: to the shepherds, to the kings or magi, at His baptism and in His first miracle at Cana. Later the first manifestation of Christ became known as Christmass in the Western Church and its date was fixed in 440, and Epiphany celebrated the coming of the Magi to the Christ-Child. The Baptism and the first miracle are commemorated on the two successive Sundays after Epiphany. So in fact the Epiphany has been extended by two weeks in the modern Roman missal.
In this celebration we observe the ancient keeping of the four showings of Christ.

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
L. To-day begins to be the one who has no beginning; and the Word of God becomes human.
R. Thanks be to God.
L. To-day in Bethlehem Christ is born of a Virgin.
R. Thanks be to God.
L. On this day the shepherds hasten to the manger after the angel's message of the birth of Christ.
R. Thanks be to God.
L. On this day led by the star the magi worship the Christ-Child and present their gifts.
R. Thanks be to God.
L. On this day Jesus is manifested as the Son of God in the waters of Baptism in the company of His Father and the Holy Spirit.
R. Thanks be to God.
L. On this day water is turned into wine by Mary's Son at a marriage in Cana.
R. Thanks be to God.
L. Glory to God in highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours. 
R.  Thanks be to God.

L. I bring you good news of great joy; a Saviour has been born to you. Alleluia.
R. Unto us a child is born, a son is given. Alleluia.
Reading from St. Luke:
When the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known unto us.' So they hastened. And found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
L. He is Christ the Lord. Alleluia.
R. We worship and adore Him. Alleluia.
The hymn "While shepherds watch their flocks by night."

by Henry Vaughan

SWEET, harmless lives !on whose holy leisure
       Waits Innocence and Pleasure
Whose leaders to those pastures and clear springs
       Were patriarchs, saints, and kings :
How happen'd it that in the dead of night
       You only saw true light,
While Palestine was fast asleep, and lay
       Without one thought of day ?
Was it because those first and blessed swains
       Were pilgrims on those plains,
When they receiv'd the promise, for which now
       'Twas there first shown to you ?
'Tis true, He loves that dust whereon they go
       That serve Him here below,
And therefore might for memory of those
       His love there first disclose ;
But wretched Salem, once His love, must now
       No voice nor vision know,
Her stately piles with all their height and pride
       Now languishèd and died,
And Bethlem's humble cots above them stept,
       While all her seers slept ;
Her cedar, fir, hew'd stones and gold were all
       Polluted through their fall,
And those once sacred mansions were now
       Mere emptiness and show.
This made the angel call at reeds and thatch,
       Yet where the shepherds watch,
And God's own lodgingthough he could not lack
       To be a common rack ;
No costly pride, no soft-cloth'd luxury,
       In those thin cells could lie ;
Each stirring wind and storm blew through their cots,
       Which never harbour'd plots ;
Only Content and Love and humble joys
       Liv'd there, without all noise ;
Perhaps some harmless cares for the next day
       Did in their bosoms play,
As where to lead their sheep, what silent nook,
       What springs or shades to look :
But that was all;  and now with gladsome care
       They for the town prepare ;
They leave their flock, and in a busy talk
       All towards Bethlem walk
To see their souls' Great Shepherd, Who was come
       To bring all stragglers home ;
Where now they find Him out, and, taught before,
       That Lamb of God adore,
That Lamb Whose days great kings and prophets wish'd
       And long'd to see, but miss'd.
The first light they beheld was bright and gay,
       And turn'd their night to day ;
But to this later light they saw in Him,
       Their day was dark and dim.

Prayer: O God through you angel you led the shepherds to the manger, lead us too the crib, so like the shepherds we may adore you and behold the Christ-Child as our King and Redeemer, through His sake. Amen

L. Arise, shine, for your light has come. Alleluia.
R. And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Alleluia.
Reading from Matthew:
And when the [magi] were come into the house, they saw the young child, with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrhh.
L. The Lord will be your everlasting life. Alleluia.
R. Your God will be your splendour. Alleluia.
The hymn "As with gladness men of old."

Journey of the Magi
   T.S. Eliot
'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey 
The ways deep and the weather sharp, 
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory, 
Lying down in the melting snow. 
There were times we regretted 
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
 And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women, 
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters, 
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly 
And the villages dirty and charging high prices 
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night, 
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley, 
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation, 
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the
And three trees on the low sky.
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow. 
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel, 
Six hands at an open door dicing f'or pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon 
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember, 
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was 
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, 
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death. 

Prayer: O God who by the shining of a star led the magi to Bethlehem to worship your Son, direct by His light the nations of this world, that the whole of mankind may behold your glory; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

L. This day is Christ revealed as the Christ. Alleluia.
R. In the waters of baptism. Alleluia.
Reading from Mark:
Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptised by John. And straightway coming out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him. And there came a voice from heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
L. I will sprinkle clean water upon you. Alleluia.
R. And purify you from all defilement. Alleluia.
The hymn to Tallis Canon "The sinless one to Jordan came."

 [Father] On the banks of the Jordan your voice resounded in the roll of thunder coming from heaven making manifest the Saviour, showing yourself as Father of eternal light.
You have rent the heavens, blessed the air, purified the water,
made manifest your only Son through the Holy Spirit
appearing in the form of a dove.
Today the fountains, having received your blessing, cast off the ancient curse;
and so, the faithful, purified from their sins, are presented to God, for eternal life,
as sons by adoption.
In fact those who through birth in the flesh
were destined for the life of time,
those whom death had seized through the complicity of sin
are welcomed into eternal life
and brought back to the glory of heaven.

Prayer: Almighty God who revealed Jesus as His Son at His Baptism and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit, give to us who have been baptised by water and the Spirit, the grace to serve you faithfully all our lives through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

L. Behold I make all things new. Alleluia.
R. Whatever He says to you, do it. Alleluia.
Reading from John: 
Jesus said unto the [servants], Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And He said unto them, Draw out now, and take unto the master of the feast. When he had tasted the water now made into wine. He called the bridegroom and said unto him, Every man at the beginning does set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk serves worse wine, but you have kept the best until now.
L. To the thirsty I shall give water without price. Alleluia.
R. From the fountain of the water of life. Alleluia.
Hymn: "Songs of thankfulness and praise."

I have invited you, Lord, to a wedding feast of song,
but the wine - the utterance of praise - at our feast has failed. 
You are the guest who filled the jars with good wine, 
fill my mouth with your praise.

The wine that was in the jars was akin and related 
to this eloquent Wine that gives birth to praise, 
seeing that wine too gave birth to praise 
from those who drank it and beheld the wonder.

You who are so just, if at a wedding feast not your own 
you filled six jars with good wine,
do you at this wedding feast fill, not the jars, 
but the ten thousand ears with its sweetness.

Jesus, you were invited to a wedding feast of others, 
here is your own pure and fair wedding feast:
gladden your rejuvenated people,
fur your guests too, O Lord, need your songs:
let your harp utter.

The soul is your bride, the body your bridal chamber,
 your guests are the senses and the thoughts. 
And if a single body is a wedding feast for you, 
how great is your banquet for the whole Church!
(From a hymn of Ephrem of Syria)
Prayer:  Almighty God in Christ you make all things new, transform the poverty of our nature by the richness of your grace, so that our good works will always be bountiful in the service of others, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Here either the Benedictus or Magnificat is said or sung depending on when this service is prayed.
L. To-day the shepherds adored you and your Mother.
R. Let the hearts of all Christians be filled with great thanks for the birth of our Saviour.
L. Lord in your mercy,
R. Hear our prayer.
L. The shepherds went in haste to see the Christ-Child.
R. Let all Christians put you first in their loves.
L. Lord in your mercy,
R. Hear our prayer.
L. Today the Wise Men knelt before our Saviour: 
R. Let all Christians also kneel to worship you with great joy,  Lord in your mercy,
R. Hear our prayer.
L. Father, the wise men came from the east to worship your Son:
R. Grant to Christians everywhere a true spirit of adoration.
L. Lord, in your mercy
R. Hear our prayer:
L. Father, the wise men presented to your Son gold, incense, and myrrh:
R. Accept the gifts we bring, and the offering of our hearts
at the beginning of this new year.
L. Lord, in your mercy,
R. Hear our prayer.
L. To-day you baptised in the sacred waters of the Jordan
R. Grant to Christians everywhere the faithful keeping of baptismal vows.
L. Lord in your mercy,
R. Hear our prayer.
L. At your baptism the Father was well-pleased, and the Holy Spirit acquiesced.
R. Grant to Christians a true belief in the Trinity.
L. Lord in your mercy,
R. Hear our prayer.
L. To-day at the wedding at Cana, you manifested that you can renew all things.
R. Grant to Christians a true belief in your word.
L. Lord in your mercy,
R. Hear our prayer. 
L. Father, you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords: 
R. Grant an abundance of peace to your world.
L. Lord, in your mercy,
R. hear our prayer.
L.Father, the Holy Family shared the life of the people of Nazareth:
R. Protect in your mercy our neighbours and our families, together with the whole community of which we are part.
L. Lord, in your mercy,
R. hear our prayer.
L. The Son of God, though you were rich, for our sake you became poor:
R. Show your love for the poor and powerless, and strengthen (... and all) who suffer.
L. Lord, in your mercy,
R.  hear our prayer.
Father, you are the King of Heaven, the hope of all who trust in you:
give to (... and all) the faithful departed the wonders of your salvation.
Lord, in your mercy
hear our prayer.
L. Rejoicing in the fellowship of the wise men, shepherds, and angels, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, we commend ourselves and all Christian people to your unfailing love.
+ May the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us now and forever. 

A reflection on Epiphany
                                 from a sermon of Peter Chrysologus Bishop of Ravenna

In the mystery of our Lord's incarnation there were clear indications of his eternal Godhead. Yet the great events we celebrate today disclose and reveal in different ways the fact that God himself took a human body. Mortals, enshrouded always in darkness, must not be left in ignorance, and so be deprived of what they can understand and retain only by grace.
In choosing to be born for us, God chose to be known by us. He therefore reveals himself in this way, in order that this great sacrament of his love may not be an occasion for us of great misunderstanding.
Today the Magi find, crying in a manger, the one they have followed as he shone in the sky. Today the Magi see clearly, in swaddling clothes, the one they have long awaited as he lay hidden among the stars. Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, humankind in God, God in human flesh, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body. As they look, they believe and do not question, as their symbolic gifts bear witness: incense for God, gold for a king, myrrh for one who is to die.
So the Gentiles, who were the last, become the first: the faith of the Magi is the firstfruits of the belief of the Gentiles.
Today Christ enters the Jordan to wash away the sin of the world. John himself testifies that this is why he has come: 'Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.' Today a servant lays his hand on the Lord, a man lays his hand on God. John lays his hand on Christ, not to forgive but to receive forgiveness.
Today, as the psalmist prophesied: The voice of the Lord is heard - above the waters.' What does the voice say? 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'
Today the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters in the likeness of a dove. A dove announced to Noah that the flood had disappeared from the earth; so now a dove is to reveal that the world's shipwreck is at an end for ever. The sign is no longer an oliveshoot of the old stock: instead, the Spirit pours out on Christ's head the full richness of a new anointing by the Father, to fulfil what the psalmist had prophesied: 'Therefore God, your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above your fellows.'
Today Christ works the first of his signs from heaven by turning water into wine. But water has still to be changed into the sacrament of his blood, so that Christ may offer spiritual drink from the chalice of his body.

Marianne Dorman
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