A History of the Feast of Theophany

“The Feast of Epiphany in Jerusalem commemorated the birth of Christ. Unlike other eastern churches, the Church of Jerusalem did not know on January 6 a double celebration of the birth and baptism of Christ. It is only from the account of the anonymous pilgrim from Plaisance, who in approximately 560-570 assisted at a pilgrimage at the shore of the Jordan River, that we find the first mention in the Church of Jerusalem of a celebration of the baptism in the Jordan. As for the blessing of the waters, C. Renoux notes that it is only in much later versions of the Armenian Lectionary that it is mentioned, after the morning office in the Holy Sepulcher all dating to the fourteenth century. All the eastern churches, except the Church of Jerusalem, celebrated the birth and baptism of Christ on the same day, January 6, before the introduction of the December 25 feast, which is of Roman origin. The latter was the Chrisitanization of the pagan feast of the winter solstice. A sermon by St. Gregory the Theologian, proclaimed in 379 or 380, shows that in Constantinople already in the fourth century they celebrated the birth on December 25 and the baptism on January 6. And a sermon preached in the Antioch by St. John Chrysostom toward 386 shows that the same things took place in Antioch a few years later.”      (Archimandrite Job Getcha, The Typikon Decoded, pps. 126-127)


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