The 12 Days of Christmas refer to the period of December 25 – January 5. It is a primarily a festal time, spanning from Christmas Day until the Eve of Epiphany (or Theophany), which is the only day where fasting is observed. The most important thing is to not let a day go by without marveling at the transformative gift we received in Christ’s Nativity. Are you ready to take the Challenge?
Baptized in Christ: Looking Toward Epiphany Day
The definition of the word epiphany is “a manifestation or showing of” and leads us to the event of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River as described in the narratives of the New Testament’s first three gospels. What exactly is being manifested or shown? It is the revelation of the Holy Trinity in God the Father’s voice proclaiming His pleasure with His Son, and the Holy Spirit appearing in the form of a dove. How can we, as Orthodox Christian families, celebrate the feast day with a greater appreciation that comes from a better understanding? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- As a family, prepare for Epiphany by observing the short, strict fast the day prior (January 5) to receive Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy. If it’s been too long since you and your family’s members have gone to the sacrament of Confession, consider going to seek reconciliation with God and humanity through the Church.
- Come together to study the feast day’s gospel reading (Matthew 3:13-17) prior to attending the Divine Liturgy.
- Learn the Apolytikion (dismissal hymn) for the feast day.
Lord, when You were baptized in the Jordan, the veneration of the Trinity was revealed. For the voice of the Father gave witness to You, calling You Beloved, and the Spirit, in the guise of a dove, confirmed the certainty of His words. Glory to You, Christ our God, who appeared and enlightened the world.
There is tremendous theological richness within the hymnography of the church. Add the seasonal hymns in Greek and/or English to your morning and evening prayers, as well as when praying at the beginning or conclusion of a family meals.
- Practice Christian witness by asking those that have been out of the Church’s ‘loop’ to be present. Tell them you’d be honored to have their presence for the blessing. Such a gathering may serve as a spark in kindling such a person’s reconnection to the Church. Sometimes a sincere, heartfelt invitation is the greatest evangelization tool!
- Epiphany is an appropriate time for family members to remember their own baptism—what it means to, as the Apostle Paul says, “put on Christ” and carefully consider their spiritual state. For a godparent, also, it may inspire contact with a godchild and vice versa. The godparent in the Orthodox Church is a vital role, having a significant influence in the spiritual development of the “newly illumined” member of the church. Being a godparent goes well beyond the purchase of gifts for birthdays and holidays. Frequently assess your position as a godparent, regardless of your godchild’s age.
- The Epiphany season also affords us the opportunity to honor John the Baptist and Forerunner and to remember his esteemed position in the Church. His ‘synaxis’ (the gathering of the faithful in his honor) is observed on January 7.
~Website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (GOA), https://www.goarch.org/-/celebrating-the-nativity-as-a-family.