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Letter: Epiphany VS Theophany - 1999

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Epiphany VS Theophany

Letter to the Editor by C.K. Garabed

Published in the Armenian Reporter International

March 20, 1999

Dear Editor:

In his letter to the editor published in the January 2 issue (“Why Armenians Observe Christmas on January 6”), H. Kalayan of Bridgewater, NJ reveals his awe for Webster’s International Dictionary of 1953 which defines “Epiphany” as “a feast celebrated January 6, commemorating the coming of the magi as being the first manifestation of Christ to the gentiles.” Whoever the mortal being was that did the research for this entry was undoubtedly being guided by the teachings of the Roman Church.

If it is true that all the various national churches originally observed Christmas on January 6, and the Roman Church, because of the change from Julian to Gregorian calendars, or the desires of the Christian leadership to merge Christmas with a Roman holiday in order to escape the notice of the Roman civil authorities, later changed the observance of Christmas to December 25, it may have felt constrained to account for the former importance of January 6, and thus “Epiphany” was invented to coincide with the twelfth day of Christmas.

The Roman Church applies the term “Epiphany,” derived from Greek, meaning “to show,” as a “manifestations of divinity.” In the Armenian Church, we tend to use the term “Theophany,” which means “the visible manifestation of God” and is reflective of the account from scripture of Jesus Christ’s baptism in his thirtieth year. What is more natural than to reckon it to have taken place on His birthday? Therefore, we celebrate His infant birth and His manifestation of deity or spiritual birth simultaneously. After all, until His baptism, Jesus gave no outward indication of possessing a divine nature.

And so we say, on Armenian Christmas, “Krisdos Dzunav Yev Haidnetsav” (“Christ is born and is revealed) to celebrate two distinct events, and the latter is ritualized with the “blessing of the water.”

C.K. Garabed

Teaneck, NJ