In an article last year for Catholic Stand, I quoted D.D. Emmons:
Except for Easter and Pentecost, the Solemnity of the Epiphany is the oldest of all Christian festivals, one that originated in the Eastern Churches beginning between the second and fourth centuries. Epiphany means to reveal, show or manifest; Christ is revealed….
The feast initially celebrated four events in Christ’s life, events that manifested his royal kingship: the Nativity, the visit of the Magi, the baptism in the Jordan and the wedding at Cana. All were celebrated on Jan. 6 and at first only in the East….
In many countries, Epiphany is a holy day of obligation and commemorated on Jan. 6. In the U.S., the feast is moved to and celebrated on a Sunday between Jan. 2-8. No matter when or where celebrated, this feast calls us to manifest the glory of Jesus by a holy life, and the way we work, pray and worship (D.D. Emmons, Our Sunday Visitor, 1/2/2019).
Christ’s birth, the wise men’s visit, the baptism of Christ, and the Cana miracle are all part of His Epiphany to us.
A Gift-Wrapped Surprise
Disguised as a secular holiday tune, The 12 days of Christmas is not a nonsensical tune that we cannot get out of our heads. It is a profound song, relying on traditional dating for the period of time from Christmas to the Epiphany. Via coded language, it aimed to mnemonically teach basics of the Faith, when Catholicism was outlawed in England (i.e., 1558 to 1829):
· 12 days: period from Christmas to the Epiphany
· True Love: God
· Partridge in a Pear Tree: Jesus and the Cross
· Two Turtle Doves: Old and New Testaments
· Three French Hens: Faith, Hope, and Love
· Four Calling Birds: Four Gospels
· Five Golden Rings: The Pentateuch
· Six Geese a-Laying: Six Days of Creation
· Seven Swans a-Swimming: Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Seven Sacraments
· Eight Maids a-Milking: Eight Beatitudes
· Nine Ladies Dancing: Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
· Ten Lords a-Leaping: The Ten Commandments
· Eleven Pipers Piping: Eleven Apostles Remained after Judas’ Betrayal
· Twelve Drummers Drumming: Twelve Articles in the Apostles’ Creed
(cf, Return to Order, 2016).