Light provides potent symbolism for the Epiphany. Epiphany means to make known, reveal, manifest or show. The heavens were alight when the humble shepherds and the wise kings from afar were told a truth many others may have missed. But God intended that no one of His Creation should miss out.
Where are your Christmas lights? On the tree, welcoming people into your home? Is there a star or angel that tops your tree? With Epiphany we don’t want to just take down the Christmas decorations. We want to carry those lights within us, so those we can shine Christ’s light in our small place of the world.
How can you take the Light of Christ into the dark world? And how can we encourage our children (and students) to do the same? This article provides practical suggestions for activities that will make the spirit of Epiphany come alive for you and your children or students.
Why God leaves the light on
Look at the succession of information in the following Bible passages. We see Jesus from the Creation through his ministry and call to discipleship:
Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3-4)
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:5)
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14)
The Son of God is present in Creation. He came into the world to en-lighten the world, and to lighten our burden of sin. His light illumines all that is dark in us and in this world. Some embrace the light; others scurry from it. As Christians, we carry His light into the world. We must to do this. It is not optional. As we carry Christ into the world, so we shine His light into the darkness.
Catholic teachings and requirements
Confirmation includes the requirement of Christian witness. Nothing in our faith encourages us to be quiet about what we believe.
All Christians by the example of their lives and the witness of their word, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new man which they have put on in Baptism and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at Confirmation. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2472)
How to help your children & students learn how to witness
While the Church in the US has moved Epiphany to a Sunday, and counts the Octave (8 days) from Christmas, the rest of the Catholic word continues to celebrate Epiphany on January 6. With Epiphany on January 6, that gives us the 12 days of Christmas.
I could not find out exactly when this change took place, but I found a lively debate on Catholic Answers. And once upon a time the Church year called the period between the Feast of Epiphany and the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (Shrove Tuesday) the Season following Epiphany, or Epiphanytide. (Another interesting article on Epiphany as “the forgotten season.”)
Whether you count the Octave or the 12 Days, celebrate Epiphany to the hilt.
Start by blessing your home or classroom: Prayers for Blessing your Home.
- instruct the ignorant;
- counsel the doubtful;
- admonish sinners;
- bear wrongs patiently;
- forgive offences willingly;
- comfort the afflicted;
- pray for the living and the dead.
It is vital we remind ourselves that we are called to heroic witness in this world. That means saying or doing the hard thing sometimes. In our culture, which values a you’re-okay-I’m-okay notion of tolerance, our witness is radical. We know truth, and we are meant to share it in love.
Prepare your hearts and those to whom you’ve been entrusted for Catholic witness. At Epiphany Our Lord makes clear that salvation is meant for the whole world, not only for God’s Chosen People.
“Hide in under a bushel? NO, I’m gonna let it shine!” Sing along.