Period of Denha (Epiphany)


Rev .Dr. Prof. John Moolan


            The Syriac term Denha and the Greek term Epiphania or Theophania literally means the rising of the sun, but theologically it means the divine manifestation of Jesus at His Jordan baptism as the inauguration of the mission and the work of Jesus. Sol salutis symbolism of the early Church[1]  might have prompted to use the term for this season. As when the sun rises the whole creation is revealed, so when Jesus appears, then the whole divine realities are revealed. Further, Jesus is the creator of light (Gen 1:3), the Sun of justice (Mal 4:2) and the light of the world (Jn 8:12). Baptism of Jesus at Jordan was His first public appearance for the first public revelation of the Holy Trinity to the whole world.

              This feast on January 6 commemorates in the East the baptism of Jesus, and the adoration of Magi[2] in the West.  Therefore, in the East cribs should be removed before January 6, because Jesus was thirty years old at His baptism. In the West, on the other hand, the cribs should be kept up for January 6, since it is the visiting day of Magi. Hence, the Orientals commemorate the visit of Magi on the Sunday before January 6, and the Occidentals commemorate His baptism on the Sunday after January 6. Ideally the Epiphany season has seven weeks, but sometimes there are actually more than seven weeks depending on the date of Easter.

1. Origins

              In the beginning, the feast of Denha (Epiphany) on Jan 6 commemorated both the Nativity and the baptism of Jesus together. Even though the calculation of the date is found in the second or third century, up to the third century we have no evidence for the celebration of the feast of Epiphany. The origin of this feast is considered to be in the fourth century, somewhere in between 311 and 325.[3]

              The year 311 was the beginning of Donatist schism. Donastists retained all the ancient traditions and was unwilling to make any change in their traditional practices. Since Augustin says that they never observed this feast, it probably did not exist in the West at least before this schism.[4]

              The year 325 was the beginning of Arianism. Since the Arians, who separated at the Council of Nicea in 325, seem to have known this feast, it must have existed before Nicea. Gregory of Nazianzus relates the observance of this feast by the heretical Arian Emperor Valens in 372.[5]

              Regarding the date of the feast, two separate issues must be distinguished as that of the calculation of the date of the feast and the institution of the feast. It is one thing to believe that Christ was born on that day, and another thing to celebrate Christ’s birth on January 6.

a. Montanists

              Montanism is a schismatic group founded by Montanus in Phrygia during the middle of the second century, which completely disappeared in the fifth or sixth century. Montanism is called “Illuminism” or “Enthusiasm,” because the members of this sect considered themselves under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, and wanted to restore the Church to its primitive simplicity.[6]

              They observed the passion and the resurrection of Christ on April 6.[7] It was not an important date either in the solar calendar or in heathen or Christian circles. Therefore, this date may have been calculated backwards from January 6, winter solstice in the Egyptian calendar, and the manifestation day of the god Dionysius born as the Aeon from a virgin called Kore.[8]

 b. Marcionists

              Marionism is a Gnostic sect of the second century, founded by Marcion (d.160), probably the son of the bishop of Sinope. For the Marcionists the Old Testament is unconvincing and unattractive. Therefore, they held steadfast that the Church had been mistaken in retaining the Old Testament with regard to Jesus as Messiah foretold by the Prophets.[9]

              According to the Marcionites, the birth of Christ fell on January 29. However, in practice they seem to have chosen January 6 for the feast of the event. A passage from Tertullian against Marcionism speaks about it as follows:

In the 15th year of Tiberius, Christ Jesus was deemed to descend from heaven, the saving spirit of Marcion. I do not care to investigate in what year of Antonius, the Elder, the wind of the dog-star blew him from Pontus, who thus wished the spirit to be blown from heaven. From this, however, it appears that he was a heretic under Antonius, under Pius, impious. From Tiberius, moreover, to Antonius there are about 115 years and a half year and a month. So much time they place between Christ and Marcion.[10]

              The Marcionites calculated the time not between Tiberius and Antonius, but between Christ and Marcion.[11] The fifteenth year of Tiberius means 29 AD. Therefore, 29+115=144 AD is the birth of Marcion. Now if we substract the time between Tiberius and Antonius (115 years, 6 months, and 15 days) from the coming of Marcion (July, 144 AD) we get the time of birth of Christ, that is, January 29 AD. Marcionites being adoptionists like the Basilidians,[12] might have chosen January 6 as the day of baptism or of the birth of Christ.

c. Basilidians

              This is a heretical sect founded by a Gnostic teacher Basilides in the second century in Alexandria. They taught that Jesus is the natural son of God and as man He is only the son. But the divinity was induced to this man Christ only at His baptism in Jordan.[13]

              According to the Clement of Alexandria (d. ca. 215), speaking about the Basilidian practice of an annual celebration of the baptism of Christ on January 6 says, “And they say that it was the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar or of the month of Tybi; and some others say that it was the 11th year of the same month.”[14] Now the 11th of the Egyptian month of Tybi is January 6.[15]

d. Clement of Alexandria (d. ca. 215)

            The early catholic, most direct, and orthodox third century evidence with regard to the anniversary of the birth of Christ is found in Clement of Alexandria (d. ca. 215), Stromata I, 21, written before 202 AD.[16]

The evidence for Jesus’ birth date on January 6 is given by Clement of Alexandria ([17] According to him, Christ was born in 28th year of Caesar Agustus (2 BC),…but 194years , 1 month, and 13 days before the death of Commodus (December 31, 192 ad). When we calculate 194 years, 1 month and 13days from December 31, 192 ad on the movable basis as shown below, the result obtained is January 6, 2 BC for the birth of Christ:

                                                 “December 31, 192 ad = 1791529 + 31 = 1791551

                                      1791551 – 522 = 29    Mechir     940

                                                               – 13  one month  194                               

                                                                  16        Tybi      746  =  1720682

                                                                                                    +            16


                                                                                                    –           692

                                                                                                                 6 January 2 BC”[18]   

e. Ephrem

According to Ephrem (+373) in his hymn on the Nativity, Mary’s conception was on April 10, and Jesus’ birth was on January 6.[19] He does not give any indication for his calculation of this date. Therefore the conclusion is that the Christian calculation of the birth of Christ on January 6 goes back to the beginning of the second century.


Therefore even at the height of Montanist, Marcionite, and Basalidian heretical controversies, we see an orthodox writer who assigned the birth of Jesus to January 6. Since each group followed its own way of calculation, a mutual borrowing of this feast is not credible. The conclusion is that the Christian dating of the birth of Christ on January 6 antedates these schisms and thus goes back to the beginning of the second century. Later transference of January 6 to December 25 as the birth of Christ took place as a result of another system of calculation by Agustin, Chrisostom, and Cosmas Indicopleustes as mentioned in the previous season of Annunciation-Nativity.

2. Malabar Customs

The Denha or Epiphany feast on January 6 among the Malabar Christians is called “Rakuli Thirunal” (ritual bath at night feast) or Pindikuthi Tirunal (lamp lighting feast). In the southern part of Kerala,”Rakuli Thirunal” commemorates s the baptism of Jesus in Jordan River. This is a practice of taking a ritual bath in river or pool on the eve of this feast. In the middle part of Kerala, “Pindikuthi Thirunal” commemorates the appearance of the Lord, in His baptism, as the Light of the world. For this ceremony on the eve of Denha they put up a mature plantain tree in front of their houses and attach lighted torches to them. The children dance around the lighted plantain tree singing El payya  (God is magnificent) proclaiming the manifestation of God as the great light shown to the humanity (Is 9:1 = Lk 1:79).[20]

3. Three-Day Fast or the Rogation of Ninevites

Three weeks before the beginning of the period of Great Fast, we see a fast of the Rogation of the Ninevites observed for three days on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.[21] Among Malabar Christians, since these days fall 18 days before the beginning of Great Fast, they call this fast as Padinettamida.  Under the title “the cause of the fast” the Hudra (cycle) gives an explanation for this fast.[22] In the year between 570 and 581 a plague spread through Bethgarmai, Athur, and Nineve in Mesopotamia. When the people besought the mercy of God, an angel appeared and asked them to fast and pray in order to be free from the plague. This happened on a Monday. They fasted and prayed diligently and received Holy Communion at the Eucharist on following Friday. The plague then left them and they decided to commemorate this event thereafter every year. Later, this celebration was placed in relation to the fast of the Ninevites in the time of Prophet Jonah (Jon 3:4-10). The Malabar Christians call this rogation “Moonnu Nombu” (three day-fast). A similar fast exists in the West Syrian and Coptic traditions.[23] The purpose of this fast is to declare a spiritual warfare against daily inequities and vices as the plagues in spiritual life.

4. Liturgical Themes

            The liturgical themes of this season stress the mystery of revelation of Jesus started at His Jordan baptism and continued in His public life. Jesus revealed the Holy Trinity in His public ministry through His preaching, miracles, and economy of salvation.

a. Friday commemorations

             All the Fridays of this season are feast days dedicated to those who bore witness to the mystery of revelation. They are the cornerstones on which is founded the witnessing value of Christ in this world. Thus, the following Friday commemorations perfectly cope with the spirit of the season.

First Friday: John the Baptist

              John the Baptist is the first one to bear witness to the manifestation of Christ at His baptism in Jordan River. Seeing Jesus coming to receive John’s baptism, he declared Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29). Thus, he became the first public witness to Christ.

Second Friday: Peter and Paul

              Peter, the head of the apostles, and Paul, the apostle of the apostles, are the two pillars of the Church, entrusted with the duty of revelation to the world. They were entrusted with Christ’s mystery to be manifested to the future generation.

Third Friday: Holy Evangelists

              Evangelists are the recorders of the revealed truths for us to meditate upon. The Holy Gospels according Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John reveal Jesus, the Saviour and the Redeemer of the world, as a great light shown to those sit in the valley of darkness and the shadow of death (Mt 4:16).

Fourth Friday: Stephan

              The deacon Stephen is the first martyr of the Church to bear witness to this revelation. His visionary preaching before martyrdom (Acts 7) manifested Christ to many paving the way to Christianity. His martyrdom encouraged Christians to bear witness courageously to Christ until death.

Fifth Friday: Holy Greek Doctors

They are the authentic interpreters of the recorded revealed truths in the Greek Church. They Syro-Malabar Church of East Syrian tradition commemorate them, because the anaphoras of Theodore and Nestor of this Church are the adaptations from Greek tradition.

Sixth Friday: Holy Syrian Doctors

            They are the authentic Syrian interpreters of the recorded revealed truths. They made easy the grasping of the revealed truths in Gospels revealing the true mind of Jesus inherent in them to celebrate paschal mysteries in life.

Seventh Friday: Patron Saint of the Church

He is the embodier and example of the revealed truths in the local Church. In this regard the Syro-Malabar Church commemorates St. Thomas the apostle, the patron saint, who became a martyr to establish Christian faith in India.

Eighth Friday: All the departed.

According to the change in the date of Easter, the period of Denha may have more than or less than seven weeks in practice, since the following season of Great Fast contains always seven weeks only.  In any case, the mandate is that the last Friday should always be dedicated to the souls departed. The faithful departed are considered as the Christ witnesses during their earthily sojourn.  Therefore, this regulation is perhaps to remind us of our responsibility to help them through prayers, penance and acts of charity during the forth coming period of Great Fast. Thus through this Friday commemoration, the period of Great fast fosters also the communion of saints, inviting all to fast, repent, and perform charitable works not only for the reparation of our own sins, but also for the departed souls.

b. Bptism

            The feast of Denha commemorates the baptism of Jesus in Jordan by John the Baptist. In this regard, the difference between John’s and Jesus’ baptism is worth mentioning for a proper understanding of Christian baptism as the continuation of Christ’s baptism.

(1) John’s Baptism

It was a baptism of water given for the proselytes towards repentance and conversion to the true way of living (margam koottuka). The main intention of this baptism was the rescue from the wrath of God (Mt 3:7,10) and the preparation of the way of the Lord, integrating them into the true posterity of Abraham (Mt 3:8-9). Therefore, John offered baptism to all without any discrimination. The main insistence here was the ethical uplift of the people. This is clear from his mandates to the enquiry of those who came for baptism (Lk 3: 10-14). He ordered all the people to share things with others, wanted publicans not to tax more than the rate, and asked soldiers to avoid violence and eagerness, and to content with the payment. Therefore, John the Baptist was requesting for a moral update, which was very urgent for a worthy preparation for the forthcoming salvation in Christ.

(2) Christ’s Baptism

The baptism of Christ is the source of all supernatural graces. In Jordan the Father revealed His only Son to the world (Mt 3:17) and manifested that the kingdom of God is within us (Mt 12:28). Thus, Christ renewed and purified human nature with His baptism:

When you were baptised in the Jordan, you sanctified (all) the fountains; and when you were raised up from the water, you redeemed our fallen nature. Then, the messenger was filled with joy and the angels came down in haste to offer up praise to you. The people from all the boundaries (of the earth) shout, “holy, holy, holy is the King who came down and saved us in His baptism and promised us the Kingdom; praise to you.[24]

There was no need of baptism for Christ. However, He received baptism in order to fulfil the law (Mt 3:15), so that He may become one with all in every thing except for sin. Thus the Absolver of sinners as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29, 36) became a ransom for sinners receiving the baptism of repentance in order to purify them from the scars of sins.

For this purpose, Son of God humiliated himself to its highest, and did not hesitate to bow down before John to receive baptism. Again, He who walked over the water (Mt 14:29) decided to go under the water. As a result the heavens opened and the revelation took place, manifesting the true Saviour as the Giver of baptism in water and Spirit. When the human pride closed the heaven at Babel (Gen 11:9), the divine humility at Jordan opened the heaven.

Jesus’ baptism, opening the doors of heaven to humanity (Mk 1:11), made the baptismal water the life giving principle of new birth. Thus, He consolidated not only the divine promise of not destroying the face of the earth through waters of flood (Gen 9:11), but also promised salvation through baptismal water.

Father’s proclamation of Christ as His beloved Son was an indication of our own adoptive son-ship in baptism. Therefore, we are no more servants, but sons and heirs, through the Spirit of the Son, worthy to call God “Abba! Father” (Gal 4:6-7).

Father’s proclamation and Spirit’s indwelling manifested the presence of the Father and the Spirit in the Son. Therefore, it is enough to follow Christ to attain salvation through the love of the Father and the indwelling of the Spirit. Thus, through Christ, we are made the dwelling place of the Holy Trinity. It is easy to follow Christ, since He became one among us in everything except for sin.

Christ’s baptism fulfilled prophesies on Christ as the chosen and beloved One of the Father (Is 42:1) on whom the Spirit will dwell upon (Is11:2). John the Baptist witnessed it at Christ’s baptism (Jn 1:33-34) and distinguished Him as the One who will give true baptism in Spirit and fire (Mt 3:11) indicating the Pentecost as the climax of Jesus’ conferring of the Spirit in its fullness as fiery tongues on the apostles (Acts 2:3) to make them divine flames in the Church.

 Jesus’ baptism in water formed the framework of His three years’ public life, which ended up with the baptism of blood on the Cross. In other words, His public life was in between His two baptisms, that is, of water and of blood. That is why He constrained for a baptism to be baptised with (Lk 12:50), and asked sons of Zebedee, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or to be baptised with the baptism with which I am baptised” (Mk 10:38). Likewise, Christian life is also framed in between two baptisms, that is, of water and of blood, because the baptised are expected to be the living martyrs of Christ on earth leading a sacrificial life.

The water and blood flew from the pierced side of Jesus (Jn 19:34), as baptismal symbols witnessed by the Spirit of truth, proved that Jesus is the One who came by the Spirit, water, and blood (1 Jn 5:6-7). Thus the three witnesses, the Spirit, water, and blood, are perfectly agreed in Christ (1 Jn 5:8). Christians are expected to keep up the same agreement in Christ.

(3) Christian Baptism

Christian baptism is the participation in Christ’s baptism, which makes the baptised the true images of God as new creation of the children of God for the inheritance of heaven.[25] It is a transition from the slavery of death to the freedom of life (1 Cor 10:1f). Death to sin and the life in Christ are the two inseparable divine realities of baptismal life (Rom 6:11). This is a radical change through the stripping of the old man and the putting on of the new man: “All those who receive baptism in Christ, put on Christ from water and the Spirit; so they shall reign with Him in the heavenly dwelling.”[26]

Baptism in the name of Jesus[27] shows the inward belongingness to Christ (Gal 3:27; Gal 13:14) and to His community (Gal 3:28) as the glorified or the mystical body (1 Cor 12:13; Eph 4:10) of Christ (1 Cor 6:16). The later development of Trinitarian formula of baptism[28] based on Mathew 28:19 expresses the unity of the baptised with the Holy Trinity (1 Cor 6:11). Thus they become the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), the adapted children of the Father (Gal 4:5f), and the brothers and co-heirs of Christ destined to share His glory.[29]

Baptism involves a total conversion of complete abandonment of older ways to incorporate the baptised to the body of Church with the certainty of entry to the kingdom of God. A new birth in water and Spirit (Jn 3:5) signifies regeneration and renewal (Tit 3:5) with the sealing on the soul[30] illuminating it in the light of Christ (Eph 5:8-14; Heb 6:4). It is a new circumcision for the people of God (Col 2:11; Eph 2:11-22) as the sons of God (1 Jn 3:1) who are expected to make constant effort to make death to sin and life in Christ (Rom 6:12ff). The emphasis is on the union with the paschal mysteries of the death and resurrection of Christ as a preparation to enter into the glorious kingdom of God (Col 1:12f) and to take possession of the heavenly inheritance as the first fruits of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:24).

c. Revelation of the Holy Trinity

The self-revelation of the Holy Trinity is highly insisted upon in the propers of this season.[31] It was at the baptism of Christ that the three persons of the Holy Trinity revealed themselves to the world. The Father through His voice, the Son through His presence and the Spirit through His indwelling revealed the Holy Trinity. Thus, in the fullness of time the three persons of the Holy Trinity appeared at the Jordan:

The creation was renewed in the Lord. It confessed its Saviour who was baptised and Himself revealed the doctrine of the Trinity in the Jordan: The Father proclaimed and said, “This is my Beloved with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17) and the Spirit came down, remained over Him and confessed His glory before the centuries.[32]

Through this revelation, we are liberated from the bondage of sin and given the liberty of the children of God (Rom 8:2). Thus, the great mystery of the Triune God, which was hidden from generation, was grasped for the first time by humankind:

According to the will of the Creator, the mystery had been hidden from the nations and tribes. The heavenly and earthly beings grasped it in the manifestation of Christ. Angels and men praise incessantly the glorious sanctity of the divine Trinity.[33]

It was a revelation also of the presence of the Father and the Spirit in the Son. Therefore, the more we know Christ, the better we know the Father and the Spirit. That means by knowing Christ, the Father and the Spirit are revealed to us. In order to experience the love of the Father and the indwelling of the Spirit, it is enough that we experience the Son. The more we possess Christ, the more we become the temples of God (1 Cor 6:19), the dwelling place of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The more we possess Christ, the more we attain the eternal life (1 Jn 5:12) and the more we become the children of Gad (Rom 8:16, Gal 3:26, 1 Jn 3:10, 5:2). In other words, by possessing Christ we are possessed by the Holy Trinity.

3. Lectionary Theology

The lectionary system of this season from Sunday to Sunday Eucharist unfolding the diachronic setting of scripture lessons and the synchronic setting with the paschal mystery of the revelation of Christ t to the world commemorated in this liturgical propers, enable a dynamic encounter with gospel values to be practiced in daily life. Reincorporation into the Paschal events reminds the faithful of their commitments to reveal Christ to the world. The Epiphany being the commemoration of Jesus’ baptism calls forth a spiritual rebirth to become worthy-revealers of Christ to the world.  This new birth demands the obligation of becoming another Christ in continuation of His public life revealing holy mysteries to the world.

a. Diachronic System

Diachronism indicates the chronological, thematic, and linguistic agreement of scripture lessons showing the progress of scripture lessons on Sundays by establishing an agreement between the Old and the New Testament scripture lessons within the periods of the liturgical year. The seasonal Sunday lessons bring out a gradual unfolding of the chronological order of the Christ event in salvation history. In this respect, the theme of the first Sunday gets a further development on the second Sunday; the third Sunday proceeds from the second Sunday, and so on. For this purpose, the scripture lessons in the lectionary system are anamnetically and epicletically interpreted. The whole system follows a historically ordered sequence of gospel events to which the other lessons are oriented as follows.[34]


Anamnetic Lessons

Epicletic Lessons



Prophetic  Admonitions

Apostolic Exhortations

Denha Feast (Jan. 6): Num 24: 2-9,15-25 Balaam blessings Mt 3:1-17 Jesus’ baptism, revelation of the Trinity Is 4:2-5; 11:1-5; 12:4-6 Messiah will revive Israel Tit 2:11-3:7 Regeneration, the renewal in the Spirit
1.Ex 3:1-15 call of Moses Lk 4:14-30 Beginning of Jesus’ ministry Is 44:21-45:4 call of Israel to proclaim God’s glory 2 Tim 3:1-15 Difficulties in following Christ
2.Num 10:29-11:10 Israel’s Holy march  with the Ark Jn 1:1-28 Holy appearance of Jesus the eternal Word Is 45:11-17 Woe to the  trouble makers Heb 3:1-4:7 Danger of unbelief
3.Num 11:11-20 Moses’ encounter with God Jn 1:29-42 John the Baptist’s witness to Jesus Is 45:18-46:4 Yahweh, the only source of prosperity Heb 3:14-4:10 The benefit of belief
4.Num 11:23-35 Yahweh’s saving acts for Israel Jn 1:43-2:11 Call of Philip & Nathaniel , Cana Miracle Is 46:5-13 Rebuke against idol worship Heb 7:18-28 Eternal intercession of Jesus
5.Deut 18:9-22 Avoidance of heathen practices Jn 3:1-21 Rebirth to inherit eternal life Is 48:12-20 Listen the Lord to attain peace and hope Heb 6:9-7:3 Exhortation to keep up the hope in Jesus
6.Deut 24:9-22 Civic and cultic laws Jn 3:22-4:3 John’s witness on good conduct Is 63:7-16 Remember the acts of redemption Heb 8:1-9:10 Jesus, High Priest and Intercessor
7.Deut 14:2-15:4 Laws on purity and offerings Mt 7:28-8:13 Curing of leper and centurion’s servant Is 42:5-9,14-17 Be a light to guide the nations 1Tim 6:9-21 Guidance for an upright life
8.Ex 15:22-26 Mara sweet water Mk 1:1-11 John’s ministry and Jesus’ baptism Is 44:23-45:3 God the creator and the redeemer Eph 1:15-2:7 Prayer for the Ephesians’ Church

(1)   Anamnetic Lessons

The Book of Law brings forward anamnetically the types of revelations to be fulfilled in Jesus. Balaam’s blessings to Israel and Moses’ call to lead the Israel to their liberation foreshadowed Jesus, the true blessing and the leader to liberate humanity from the slavery of sin and death. The power of the ark of covenant and the Yahweh’s saving acts through Moses indicated Jesus the true power and the saviour to come. The rules and regulations on the avoidance of heathen practices, the good conduct of life, and the offering of sacrifices signified the mission of Jesus to be revealed in the new era of salvation. Mara water symbolised the bitterness of disobedience and the sweetness of obedience, which foreshowed Jesus, the destroyer of the bitterness of death and the provider of the sweetness of life.

The Gospel events present anamnetically the gradual unfolding of the revelation fulfilled in Jesus during His three years of public life. He is the true revealer of divine realities. His Jordan baptism revealed the mystery of the Holy Trinity. He could do this because He was the One from the Father who became one with us in every thing except for sin. His own closeness to humanity was the proof for the kingdom of God at hand. John the Baptist revealed this truth indicating Jesus the One who is to take away the sins of the world (Jn 1:25). His miracles and teachings revealed Him the unique saviour of the world with power and glory to establish the kingdom of God on Earth. Therefore, those who put trust in His revelations and imitate Him closely shall encounter Him both on earth and in heaven.

(2) Epicletic Lessons

The prophets admonished epicletically on the spiritual progress of Israel. The true faith in the Messiah to come is the basis of this progress, which shall save them from slavery, poverty, and difficulties in different life situations. They had to advance themselves in the hope of meeting the real Saviour to come. Prophets corrected them whenever they went astray reminding them of the wonderful deeds of the Lord in their favour. Prophetic guidelines for a good conduct of life helped Israel to achieve spiritual growth of a new life and light in the Lord.

Apostolic exhortations explicate epicletically the necessity of spiritual rebirth in the Church. Fidelity to Christ is the criterion of new creation. The apostolic guidelines in this regard suggest deep faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome struggles in life. Jesus is the eternal High Priest and the only mediator, who provides hope in righteous life to encounter Christ on earth.

b. Synchronism

            The anamnetic and epicletic scriptural themes are well suited to the theological theme of the mystery of revelation celebrated in the liturgical propers of this season.[35] The main theological themes here as, the revelation of Trinity, renewal of the human nature, liberation from the bondage of sin, baptismal grace of purification, manifestation of Christ as the Saviour and the sun of justice, unfold the mystery of revelation to encounter Christ on earth and in heaven.


            The period of Epiphany (Denha) reveals the mystery of the revelation of the Holy Trinity through the public life of Jesus. The Epiphany feast on January 6 commemorates the public revelation of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit at Jordan baptism of Jesus. Though, the feast of Epiphany commemorated also the Nativity of Jesus during the early centuries, later the Christmas was transferred to December 25 according to the patristic tradition

Malabar customs like the evening ritual-bath and the lamp-lighting ceremony on the eve of January 6 indicate the personal effort to become the revealers of Christ to the world. Christian baptism as the participation in the baptism of Christ incorporates the baptised to the true image of God as new creations of the children of God and the inheritors of heaven.

The three-day fast in this period as the Rogation of Ninevites promotes spiritual warfare against daily vices as plagues in spiritual life. Revelation being the central mystery here, the Fridays of this season commemorate in order, the saints who first revealed Christ to the world by their life-witnessing. Revelation of the Holy Trinity at the baptism of Jesus revealed also the presence of the Father and the Spirit in the Son. Therefore, those who posses Christ are possessed also by the Holy Trinity. Imitating Christ indicates also the remaining in the love of the Father with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The diachronic lectionary system of this season reveals anamnetically Christ as the manifestation of true God foretold by forefathers, and explicates epicletically the necessity of true birth.  The prophetic rebirth-admonitions to Israel request to show fidelity to Yahweh for attaining freedom from slavery, prosperity from poverty, and restoration from exile. While the apostolic rebirth-exhortations to Christians demand fidelity to Jesus for attaining sanctity from sin, salvation from damnation, and life from death.

[1]dolger, Die sonne der Gerektikeit und der Schwarze, Liturgiegeschichtliche Forschungen 2 (14) (Münster, 1918); Id., Sol salutis, Gebet und Gesang in christlichen  Alteretum, mit besonderer Rüksicht auf die Ostung in Gebet und Liturgie, LF 4.5 (16.17) (Münster, 1920); Id., “Sonne und Sonnenstrahl als Gleichnis in der Logostheologie des christlichen Altertums”, Antike und Christentum 1 (1929) 1-43; see. R.Taft, The Liturgy of the Hours in the Christian East: Origins, Meaning. Place in the life of the Church (Eranakulam, 1983) 34, note 2.

[2] “Magi” is a Greek term used for learned cast in the early Babylon, probably astrologers (Ps 72:10; Is 60:3-6).

[3]R.H.Bainton, “The Origins of Epiphany,” in The Collected Papers in the Church History, Series 1:Early and Medieval Christianity (Boston, 1962) 22-38;

[4]Sermo 22, in Epiphania Domini 4; PL 38, 1033.

[5]Oratio 43, in laudem Basilii Magni, PG 36, 561.

[6]Labriolle, Les sources de l’histoire du Montanisme (Fribourg, 1913); Id., La crise Montaniste (Paris, 1913); R.A.Knox, Enthusiasam (New York, 1950), 25-49; H.Campenhousen, Kirches Amt und geschichtliche Vollmacht in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten (Tübingen, 1953).

[7]Sosomen, HE VII, 18, p. 733; see L.Duchesne, Origines culte Chrétien:Étude sur la liturgie Latine avant Charlemagne (Paris, 1925), 264, cited in R.H.Bainton, “The Origins of Epiphany,” 34.

[8]Epiphanius, Ancoratus und Panarion, vol. 2: Panarion Haeresis 34-64, 5.22:3-11, ed., K.Holl, Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte 7 (Leipzig, 1922) 284-287; B.Botte, Les origins de la Noël et l’Epiphanie: Étude historique, Text et Études Liturgique 1 (Louvain, 1932) 67f; A.Strittmatter, “The Christmas and the Epiphany: Origins and Antecedents,” Thought 17 (1942) 600-626, here 619; R.H.Bainton, “The Origins of Epiphany,” 24.

[9]A.Harnack, Marcion: Das Evangelium vom fremden Gott; eine Monogaphie zur Gesichte  der Grundlegung der kstholischen   Kirche, Texte und Undersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 45 (Leipzig, 1921); F.L.Cross, Christian Fathers (London, 1960) 65f; H.Jonas, Gnostic Religion (Boston, 1963) 137-146; J.Knox, Marcion and the New Testament: An Essay in the Early History of the Canon (Chicago, 1980).

[10]PL 2, 267; for this translation I am indebted to R.H.Bainton, “The Origins of Epiphany,” 35

[11]A.Harnack, Die Chronologie der altchristlichen Litteratur II (Leipzig, 1904) 306.

[12] See below.

[13] See W.Volker, Quellen zur Geschichte des christlichen Gnosis (Tübingen, 1932) 38-57; Wilson, The Gnostic Problem (London, 1958); R.H.Bainton, “Basilidian Chronology and New Testament Interpretation,” Journal of Biblical Literature 4 (1923) 81-134.

[14]O.Stahlin, ed., Clemens Alexandrinus, vol.2: Stromata Buch I.21, Die Griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte 3 (Leipzig, 1906) 91; PG 8, 888.

[15]R.H.Bainton, “The Origins of Epiphany,” 23; B.Botte, Les origins de la Noël et l’Epiphanie, 76-77; H.Rahner, Mythes Grecs et mystère Chrétien, trans., H.Voirin (Paris, 1954) 158-159.

[16] A.Harnack, Die Chronologie, 11.

[17] Stromata I, 21; PG 8,885; O.Stahlin, ed., Clemens Alexandrinus, vol.2: Stromata Buch I-VI; Die grichischen christlichen schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte 3 (Leipzig, 1906) 91; A.Harnack, Die Chronologie der altchristlichen Litteratur bis Eusebius I (Leipzig, 1897) 11.

[18] R.G.Schram, Kalendariographische und chronologische Tafeln (Leipzig, 1908) as cited in R.H.Bainton, “The Origins of Epiphany”, 37; T.J.Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year, 118.

[19] De Nativitate 27, 3-4; E.Beck, ed., Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de Nativitate (Epiphania), CSCO 186, Scriptores Syri 82 (Louvain, 1959) 137, n.3-4.

[20] P.J.Podipara, Thomas Christians (Bombay, 1970) 96; V.Pathikulangara, Indo-Chaldean Liturgy (Kottayam, 1979) 59.

[21]P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 162ff.

[22]P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 161-162; J.Mateos, Lelya-Sapra, 148; V.Pathikulankara, ”The Liturgical Year of the Syro-Malabar Church,” 181; C.Payngot, Aradhanavalsaram, 109-110.

[23] N.Nilles, Kalendarium manuale utriusque Ecclesiae Orientalis et Occidentalis II (Oeniponte, 1896-1897) 45-46; R.Taft, L’Anno liturgico Orientale, Dispensa in Pontifical Oriental Institute (Rome, 1984) 20, 27.

[24] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 243.

[25] Gal 6:12; Rom 6:3-4, Col 2:12-13.

[26] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 400; Rom 6:6; Col 3:9; Eph 4:24.

[27] Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 1 Cor 6:11.

[28] Didache 7,1.3.

[29] Rom 8:29; 17:30; Eph 2:6.

[30] 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30.

[31] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 117-281; Supplementum mysteriorum, 17-51, V.Pathikulangara, The Crown of the Year, Denha Services 46 (Kottayam, 1997) 53-173.

[32] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 427.

[33] P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 136.

[34]Ordo celebrationis “Quddasa” iuxta usum ecclesiae Syro-Malabrensis (Rome, 1959) 44-46.

  [35] Supplementum Mysteriorum, 17-51; P.Bedjan, Breviarium I, 117-281.

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