Musings on Epiphany
By Rudy A. Arizala
06 January 2013
The term epiphany means "to show" or "to make known" or "to reveal." In Western churches, it remembers the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child, who by so doing "reveal" Jesus to the world as Saviour and King. In some Central and South American countries influenced by Catholic tradition, Three Kings’ Day, or the night before, is the time for opening Christmas presents. In some eastern churches, Epiphany or the Theophany commemorates Jesus’ baptism, with the visit of the Magi linked to Christmas. In some churches the day is celebrated as Christmas, with Epiphany/Theophany occurring on January 19th.
But times have changed. Epiphany is no longer celebrated by the Catholic Church in the Philippines and some other countries on the fixed date of 6th January, but on the first Sunday of the New Year.
When I was still a growing-up child in my hometown of Infanta, Quezon, the Feast of the “Three Kings” was still celebrated by the Catholic Church and I recall that my parents took over the tradition handed down by my “Lolo” and “Lola” (grandparents) to feed for breakfast all those who attended the Epiphany Mass at the local parish church and who accompanied the bringing to our house the images or statues of the Holy Family- Mary, Joseph and the Infant Child Jesus together with the images of the Three Kings (Magi) from the East - Melchor, Gaspar and Balthazar.
At home, mother had an improvised altar where to place the statues of the Nativity. After the statues were installed at the improvised altar, prayers were held. Then breakfast consisting of “suman”,(boiled glutinous rice in coconut milk wrapped in palm leaves, cake, “pan de sal” bread, chocolate and coffee were served to those people who brought the statues from the church to our house as well as to church-goers who accompanied the statues to our house.
Originally, it was “Nana Sepa”, the eldest sister of my mother, who used to be in charge of the “paghahatid” (images return) ritual after my grandparents passed away. However, later on, “Nana Sepa” requested mother to take over such “paghahatid” ritual handed down from our grandparents. The image of the Virgin Mary belonged to our grandparents (Lolo Carlos Azcarraga and Lola Maria). Consequently, to them fell the responsibility of holding the “paghahatid” ritual.
The image of the Infant Jesus belonged to “Nana Oba” (Jacoba) of the Gurango), while the statue of St. Joseph was owned by the Valenzuela family of our hometown. I do not recall now who owned the images of the “Three Kings” or Wise Men from the East.
The observance of the Feast of “Three Kings” or the “Epiphany” was based on the following passages in the New Testament:
“Now they, having heard the king, went their way. And behold, the star that they had seen in the East went before them, until it came and stood over the place where the child was. And when they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly. And entering the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they worshipped him. And opening their treasures they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. . .” (Matthew 2:9-12).
Thus, every feast day of the Epiphany, I could not help having that nostalgic feeling and beautiful memory of the “paghahatid” ritual of the Holy Family images and that of the Three Wise Men from the East, a tradition held during my childhood. The “Three Kings” or “Wise Men” according to Mathew brought and laid before the Infant Child Jesus presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh symbolizing kingship, divinity and pain.
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