The Lord's Manifestation to the Nations
In antiquity the ancient Romans celebrated the feast of light or the Unconquered Sun on December 25th. It was designated as Midwinter's day in their calendar.
The pagan Egyptians who had developed their own calendar fixed midwinter on the day the Romans came to call 6 January, and they celebrated their feast of light on that day.
All this was long before the birth of Christ. So, the ancient world had two popular pagan feasts celebrating light overcoming darkness, one for the people of the West, one for the people of the East.
When the early Christian Church became respectable and powerful in Rome it very sensibly decided not to suppress the popular midwinter festivity but to 'baptise' it – to make it a Christian feast instead: a feast of Christ the light of the world.
And so in Rome they had Christmas, the feast of Christ's birth, on 25 December.
And Christians in the East similarly transformed their feast of light into Epiphany on 6 January – the manifestation of God's love.
These were the same feast of the Son of God showing himself among us as a human being.
So today, on the feast of Epiphany, we join the Christians of the East in their celebration of the Incarnation.
May the manifestation, the visibility of the Word of God amongst humankind, bring peace to the troubled Midddle Eastern region of the Church.
Hymn of Gregory of Nazianzus, Church Father from the East.
O All-Transcendent God
(and what other name could describe you?),
what words can hymn Your praises?
No word does You justice.
What mind can probe Your secret?
No mind can encompass You.
You are alone beyond the power of speech,
yet all that we speak stems from You.
You are alone beyond the power of thought,
yet all that we can conceive springs from You.
All things proclaim You,
those endowed with reason and those bereft of it.
All the expectation and pain of the world coalesces in You.
All things utter a prayer to You,
a silent hymn composed by You.
You sustain everything that exists,
and all things move together to Your orders.
You are the goal of all that exists.
You are one and You are all,
yet You are none of the things that exist,
neither a part nor the whole.
You can avail Yourself of any name;
how shall I call You,
the only unnameable?