or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles
O GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, we who know thee now by faith, may be brought to the contemplation of thy Majesty through sight; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Source of collect: Bishop Gregory of Rome [600 AD]. Cranmer in 1549 changed the prayer from the original Latin to read, "who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead;. "Epiphany means "manifestation" and so this collect reinforced the first manifestation to the Gentiles by sight. We who only know our Master by faith, shall one day see him as a result of our faith. [Barbee & Zahl]
This feast was well established by the 4th Century. It included the Nativity until it was established on the 25th. The Magi, Baptism, and Wedding at Cana remained as themes of this feast day and the joyous season with the theological theme of Manifestation. In the East, the feast began to concentrate on the Baptism and the Wedding, and the Visit of the Magi was observed on Christmas. This season originally extended until the beginning of Lent, but in about 700 the season of Pre-Lent was implemented.
A Homily by St. Gregory the Great [600 AD]
Dearly beloved brethren, ye have heard from the Gospel how, when the King of heaven was born, an earthly king was troubled. For earthly greatness is brought to confusion when the might of heaven is made manifest. But let us ask a question: When the Redeemer was born, why was it that, to the shepherds of Judaea, an Angel was sent to bring tidings thereof, whereas it was a star that led the Wise Men of the East to worship him? It would seem that the Jews, who had been hitherto under the governance of reason, received a revelation from a reasonable being, that is, an Angel; but that the Gentiles, who knew not the right use of reason, were brought to the Lord, not by a voice, but by a sign, that is, by a star. Hence Paul hath it : Prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. So the prophesying was given to them that believed and the sign to them that believed not.
It is worthy of notice also, that to these same Gentiles the Redeemer, when he was of full age, was preached by his Apostles ; whereas while he was as yet the little Child, and unable to use the organs of speech, he was shewn to them, not by the voice of Angels, but merely by the vision of a star. When he himself had begun to speak he was made known to us by speakers, but when he lay silent in the manger, by that silent testimony in the heavens. But whether we consider the signs which accompanied his birth or his death, this thing is wonderful, namely, the hardness of a heart of Jewry, which would not believe in him either for prophesying or for miracles.
All things which he had made bore witness that their Maker was come. Let me reckon them after the manner of men. The Heavens knew that he was God, and sent a star to shine over where he lay. The sea knew it, and bore him up when he walked upon it. The earth knew it, and quaked when he died. The sun knew it, and was darkened. The rocks and walls knew it, and were rent at the hour of his death. Hell knew it, and gave up the dead that were in it. And yet up to the very hour the hearts of unbelieving Jewry will not acknowledge that he, to whom all nature hath testified, is their God. Yea, it is as though they are more hardened than the rocks and refuse to be rent by repentance.
The Epistle.Ephesians iii. 1.
FOR this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
The Gospel. St. Matthew ii. 1.
WHEN Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.