How lovely shines the Morning Star! The nations see and hail afar The light in Judah shining. O David's Son of Jacob's race, My Bridegroom and my King of grace, For you my heart is pining. Lowly, holy, great and glorious O victorious Prince of graces, Filling all the heav'nly places.
-- Philipp Nicolai, 1597
As the days begin to lengthen, we rejoice in the dawning and the rising Light in darkness, stability amid chaos, and assurance amid anxiety. Epiphany not only discloses Jesus to the world but also calls forth Christians to be witnesses to the Savior’s true light.
The Sundays after the Epiphany (sometimes called "Ordinary Time") mark the period from the day after the festival of the Baptism of our Lord until the Transfiguration of Our Lord (the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent). This season does not center on one major event in Jesus’ life, rather it is a time used to celebrate the good news of Christ's birth, death and resurrection and a time for spiritual growth, renewal and witness to the living Lord who makes all things new.
It is appropriate that the Transfiguration should be remembered on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, since it is a day of transition from the celebration of Jesus' birth and early ministry to the disciplines of Lent and Holy Week. From this day forward, we turn our attention toward the cross. In celebrating the season of Epiphany, we rejoice in the divine majesty of Christ, whose glory shines even when confronted with the cross. We celebrate the mystery of the Transfiguration in order that our faith may be renewed. We too are transformed into new beings with Christ through his death and resurrection.
The number of weeks after the Epiphany varies with the moveable feast of Easter. With the various lessons appointed for this season in the three-year cycle of readings, many themes emerge. And so, this season presents us with an opportunity for spiritual growth and renewal. As the Sundays after the Epiphany draw to a close, we turn our attention to Lent, a season of preparation for the celebration of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.
During these Sundays after the Epiphany Jerusalem celebrates a number of festivals and saints’ days: the Conversion of St Paul; the Presentation of Our Lord; the Transfiguration of Our Lord; and because this season is of variable length, it may also include the remembrance of St Matthias, Apostle.
The Conversion of St Paul(January 25) The story of Paul's conversion is told several times in the New Testament. The risen Lord appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus(Acts 9). Having heard the voice of our risen Savior, the dedicated enemy of the Church submitted himself to the discipleship of Christ. Jesus immediately appointed him to preach the Gospel and to become a truly passionate missionary to the Gentiles. The origin of the observance of the Conversion of St Paul is obscure. It seems to have begun in Gaulin the fifth century AD.
The Presentation of Our Lord (February 2) Forty days after he was born, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord according to the law of Moses (Luke 2:22-38). Simeon was there also. Guided by the Holy Spirit, he believed that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. This Old Testament believer took the child Jesus in his arms and, praising God, he said: "Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people." This day has also been called Candlemas, after the tradition of using a procession of lighted candles to show the Light coming into our midst. Dating from the fourth century AD, this day not only remembers Simeon's song when he recognized the child Jesus as the Messiah but also emphasizes the necessity of Jesus’ humanity that he might suffer for the world’s redemption. At Jerusalem, this fortieth day after Christmas marks the defining completion of our Christmas celebrations.
St Matthias, Apostle (February 24) After Jesus’ ascension, when his followers met in the upper room, Peter asked the group to choose a replacement for Judas, the betrayer of the Lord (Act 1:15-26). Luke tells us that both Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias were considered. After prayer, the choice was left to the casting of lots and Matthias became the twelfth apostle.
The Last Sunday after the Epiphany: The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus, accompanied by Peter, James and John climbed a high mountain (thought to be MountHebron, north of Caesarea Philippi.) There, as Jesus prayed, he was transformed or transfigured before his disciples’ eyes. His appearance changed, his face shone like the sun, and his garments became as white as light. A voice from heaven was heard to say: "This is my Son, whom I love; listen to him." Coming down from the mountain, Jesus told them to tell no one about the vision until after he was raised from the dead.