The story of the Epiphany chronicles the Magi’s journey to visit the baby Jesus.
It’s an important point in history when Christ entered and was revealed to the world, and its meaning and message will be heralded across the globe in this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The celebration begins Tuesday, January 18 and ends on Tuesday, January 25.
Christians from all walks of life are invited to read daily passages from the Gospel of Matthew, with this year’s theme centered on the Epiphany: “We saw the star in the east, and we came to worship him.”
The Middle East Council of Churches based in Beirut, Lebanon produced this year’s theme.
“One thing that I think is especially interesting about this theme and the fact that it’s coming from Lebanon, which is such a culturally rich environment, is that Epiphany is extremely important for the eastern churches,” said Aaron Hollander, Associate Director of the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute. “It’s an opportunity to highlight that perspective and highlight the contributions of the eastern churches to the ecumenical movement.”
The celebration will feature an ecumenical prayer service on Wednesday, January 19 at the Interchurch Center Chapel at the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute.
Due to the recent COVID surge, the event will be closed to the public, but available to watch through a livestream at 12:00 p.m. on the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement Facebook page.
“We are feeling that our choice to livestream from the chapel and not have a congregation is the right one,” said Hollander. “That said, we are grateful and glad to be able to record in the chapel and include music in such a beautiful space.”
The splendor of this year’s celebration isn’t expected to be hampered by the limitations set by the ongoing pandemic.
The prayer service is set to include aspects of the Mass, with hymns, a call to worship, a prayer of praise and confession, a first reading, a psalm, a second reading, a Gospel reading, a homily, prayers of intercession and a final blessing.
The scriptural passage that will commence Week of Prayer comes from Matthew 2:2, “We observed his star in the east.” The reading calls us to look for hope from afar.
Day two’s reading, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” asks us to seek leadership in Jesus. The third day’s passage, “When king Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him,” tells us the Lord comes in humility and denounces the evil and injustice that comes with the hunger for power.
The day four reading, “And you, Bethlehem, are by no means least,” tells us that the church is the modern-day Bethlehem – where all are welcome.
On day five, the reading “Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising” tells us Jesus walks with his people, and protects them. The next day’s passage, “They saw the child with Mary, his
mother, and they knelt and paid him homage,” teaches us to worship the Lord, despite being rendered in His awe.
The seventh day’s reading, “Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gold, frankincense and myrrh,” tells us that the Lord desires the good in our hearts. The final day’s reading, “They left for their own country by another road,” describes how God gives us a way, even when we feel our paths are blocked.
“The Epiphany is one of the holy days which is shared nearly universally across the Christian family,” Hollander said of this year’s celebration. “And it’s certainly one of the most important feast days to many churches.”