In December at Saint Thomas we immersed ourselves first in the anticipation of Jesus’ birth, and then, during the Christmas Season, the wonder of the incarnation. The services, lessons, carols, hymns, Handel’s Messiah, and other treasures from the Anglican choral tradition contemplated this great mystery from every angle. Beginning January 6, we are in a new season: the Epiphany Season. Epiphany means manifestation or revelation; in this case, the manifestation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the promised Messiah.
The Feast of the Epiphany follows upon his Nativity, and in many places (as in Hispanic countries or in Eastern Orthodoxy) is considered equal or even superior to Christmas. This feast commemorates the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi, the three “kings” or “wise men” from the East who followed the star to worship Christ at Bethlehem. It is this event that is specifically celebrated on January 6 each year, the day after the twelfth day of Christmas. In 2019, we will celebrate this feast on Sunday, January 6, with a Solemn Eucharist at 11am and a Solemn Evensong at 4pm, both sung by the Gentlemen of the Choir.
The Epiphany Season focuses not only on the journey of the Magi but also the other great epiphanies of Christ. Two in particular are celebrated alongside the three Magi at the Epiphany Procession on January 13: Christ’s baptism by John in the River Jordan, and his changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. These three epiphanies have for many centuries been tied together. You can see how they are connected in the choral tradition by looking at the text of Hymn 135, “Songs of Faithfulness and Praise.”
At Cana, after Jesus changed the water to wine at his mother’s intercession, Saint John says that in this first of his miracles Jesus “manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him.” If you visit Saint Thomas, you can see a depiction of the wedding at Cana as well as the depiction of the baptism of our Lord, found on the triptych above the Chantry Chapel altar.
All are welcome to worship with us throughout the Epiphany Season, as the church reveals, week after week, that the child born in Bethlehem is the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Each year, we celebrate the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, an eight-day period also known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It begins with the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter, always on January 18, and ends with the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, always on January 25.
The Sunday that falls within this week is traditionally a Sunday in which we, at Saint Thomas, celebrate Christian Unity, our common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ with all Christians throughout the world. This year the Sunday falls on January 20. All are welcome to join us.
From Saint Paul’s letter to the Galatians: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Candlemas: The Feast of the Presentation
The Feast of the Presentation (also known as Candlemas) is always the 40th day after Christmas Day, or February 2. Candlemas commemorates the time when, according to the Gospel of Luke, Mary and Joseph took the child Jesus to the temple as per the Jewish custom. In 2019, Candlemas falls on a Saturday, and we celebrate with one said service in the Chantry Chapel. In addition, we have a special Candlemas services on Sunday, February 3.
The story of the Presentation is told in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, beginning at verse 22:
And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord.… And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
This passage reveals not only yet another epiphany, but it also gives our tradition a great Christmas gift: Simeon's Song, also known as the Nunc dimittis, which the choir sings at every Choral Evensong.
March 3: The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
The season after the Epiphany ends in glory, with Jesus revealed once more as Christ. As you have read, there are many epiphanies within the season: the visit of the magi, the presentation of Jesus in the temple (and Simeon's response), the Lord's baptism, his first miracle at Cana. On Sunday, March 3, the last of the Epiphany season before Ash Wednesday takes us into Lent, we see Christ in all his glory, at the occasion of his transfiguration (as recorded in Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36). We celebrate the Transfiguration twice each year: on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, and on the feast day itself, August 6.