To All the World

January 5, 2011

An Orthodox Belarussian believer plunges himself into icy waters to commemorate the Epiphany in 2010.

Cultures and individuals who observe the Epiphany (“The Twelfth Day of Christmas”) at all tend to concentrate on one of its mysteries. Many Westerners think almost exclusively of the arrival of the Wise Men from the East, and they are represented among our traditional creche figures. In Spain, it’s even popularly called “The Day of the Kings,” and children write letters to them and get their Christmas gifts from them. In Eastern Christianity, much more emphasis is given to the second “epiphany” — when Christ was baptized by John in the Jordan. Elaborate — and frigid — folk celebrations of that event often ensue (as in the illustration above). The third epiphany occurred at the Marriage Feast at Cana. The recollection of these three events from the Gospels is an excuse to introduce one of many marvelous motets on the text Tribus miraculis — one in twelve voices:

Tribus miraculis ornatum
diem sanctum colimus:
hodie stella magos duxit ad praesepium,
hodie vinum ex aqua factum est
ad nuptias,
hodie in Jordane
Christus baptizari voluit,
ut salvaret nos universos.
Haec est dies illa, quam fecit Dominus;
exsultemus et laetemur in ea.

We honor a holy day,
adorned with three miracles:
today the star led the Magi to the manger;
today water was turned into wine
for the wedding;
today Christ desired
to be baptized in the Jordan,
that he might save us all.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

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