The Feast of the Epiphany is one of the Seven Major Feasts of our Lord, celebrated on 11 Tobe of every Coptic year. The word “Epiphany” refers to the “Divine Appearance,” where the Holy Trinity appeared to Mankind in an obvious and clear way. Many Churches celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and His baptism on the same day until the end of the 4th century, when a decision was made to celebrate the events separately. As a whole, the Feast of the Epiphany was of extreme importance to the Church, particularly in Egypt, a day when the Patriarch of Alexandria would announce the commencing days of the Great Lent, the Passion Week (Pascha), and the feast of the Resurrection for that year, to which all the churches of the world would follow.
On this day, the Lord Christ was baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, not for repentance, as the rest of the world, or because of His need to, but rather on the behalf of and for the sake of humanity, as well as revealing to us the Holy Trinity, transfigured and glorified. St. Luke speaks of this in his gospel saying: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’” (Lk. 3:21-22). From these verses, we notice that through the baptism of the Lord Christ, the heavens were opened once again after Adam was prevented from returning to the Garden of Eden. The Holy Trinity is also revealed to us in this passage; the Father by His voice and witness to Christ, the Son baptized in the River, and the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove on the Lord Christ.
In the Rite of the Epiphany, the following must be taken into consideration:1. If the Paramoun (Preparation) of the Epiphany is more than one day long, the Paramoun readings must be repeated, even if one of those days is a Sunday. The Paramoun is prayed in the annual tune.
2. If the Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on a Monday, this means that the Paramoun will start on Friday and end on Sunday. The Vespers of the Paramoun is prayed on Thursday and not on Friday, since the liturgy on Friday must be completed by sunset. Vespers Prayers may be prayed on Saturday.
3. If the 12th of Tobe (the second day of the Epiphany) is on a Sunday, the readings of the second day of the Epiphany are read instead of the assigned reading for the day.
4. The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated for two days, the 11th and 12th of Tobe. Prayers with the joyous tune start on the 11th and end of the 13th, the day on which the Feast of the Wedding of Cana of Galilee is celebrated.
The prayers in the Paramoun of the Epiphany differ only in that the Verses of Cymbals and doxologies for the Epiphany are chanted, as well as the Gospel Response specific to the Epiphany following the reading of the Gospel. At the end of the Vespers and Prime Raising of Incense, the creed of the completion of the Epiphany is recited. The liturgy is prayed in the similar manner as the annual one, with the exception of the Gospel Response (which is again specific to the Epiphany), the Fraction of the Epiphany, and finally, the creed of the completion of the Feast of Epiphany.
In the Epiphany Vespers Raising of Incense, the prayers are chanted in the joyous tune. The introductory of the Adam or Watos Verses of the Cymbals is chanted, followed by the verses specific to the feast. The Doxologies start with the two verses of the Epiphany, followed by the any Doxologies. All Doxologies are chanted in the joyous tune. The Psalm is also chanted in the joyous tune, followed by the Tawwaf of the Epiphany for both the Vespers and Prime Raising of Incense, and the Psalm Response. After the reading of the Gospel, the Gospel Response specific to the Vespers/Prime prayers of the Epiphany is chanted. The prayer is concluded with the Concluding Canon of the Feast of Epiphany.
In the Lakkan (Liturgy of Blessing the Water) of the Epiphany, the Thanksgiving prayer is recited, followed by the Verses of the Cymbals specific to the Lakkan in the joyous tune, the Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 50, and the hymn of Alleluia Doxaci O Theos Emon . The prophecies are then read, followed by the hymns Tai souri and Tenouwst , followed by the Pauline Epistle. Upon the completion of the Pauline reading, the hymns Oran En Shosho, the hymn Pachois the Trisagion (the first verse with the response O Ekpartheno Genetis , and the second and third verses with O Iordano Vaptistis are chanted, followed by the Litany of the Gospel. The Psalm and Gospel are then read. The priest then prays Evnoti nai nan and the deacons answer Kereyalason 10 times in the melismatic tune. Meanwhile, the priest blesses the water with the sign of the cross three times. After Kereyalason , the Gospel Response of the Epiphany’s Lakkan is chanted. Following this, the Seven Long Litanies are said. The litanies are in remembrance of the elders, the sick, the travelers, the heavens, the leaders, the departed, the oblations and the catechumens. The prayers are concluded according to the prayer book of the Lakkan of the Epiphany, noting that after the Orthodox Creed, the Adam Espasmos specific to the Epiphany is chanted. At the conclusion of the Lakkan prayer, the priest anoints the congregation with the water. During this time, the deacons chant Psalm 150 in the joyous tune.
The Prime Raising of Incense for the Feast of Epiphany is similar to that of the Vespers prayers, with the exception of the following:
- The introductory of the Verses of Cymbals is chanted. Tenouwst is chanted instead, which is the first part of the Morning Doxologies.
- The Litany of the Departed in not included in the Prime prayers. The Litanies for the Sick and the Oblations only are prayed.
- Following the Litany of the Sick, the hymn of Seven Ways, the second part of the Adam Prime Doxology, is chanted. It is then concluded with Neknai O Panoti and Eporo .In the Liturgy of the Feast of Epiphany, the hymn `Pouro is chanted during the Procession of the Lamb. The Offering of the Lamb immediately follows without reciting Psalms, while the deacons chant the Offering’s Alleluia hymn (Alle-el-qorban). Following the Absolution, Tai souri and the Hiten are chanted. Here, the Hiten specific to the Epiphany is added. The Hiten is concluded with Tenouwst and the Pauline is read in the joyous tune. The Praxis Response of the Epiphany is chanted after the reading of the Catholic Epistle, and the hymn Oranenshosho immediately chanted following the reading of the Synexarium. Then the melismatic hymn, Pachois , is chanted, followed by the Trisagion in the joyous tune, with the first verse `O ekpartheno Genetis and the second and third verses with `O Iordano Vaptistis . After the Trisagion, the Gospel Litany is said, followed by the reading of the Psalm in the melismatic Sengary tune, the Psalm Response, the reading of the Gospel, and the Gospel Response specific to the Feast of Epiphany.
Following the Prayer of Peace, the Adam Espasmos of the Epiphany is chanted, and prior to theTrisagion, the Watos Aspasmos of the feast is also chanted. Similarly, the priest prays the Fraction of the Epiphany during the breaking of the Body, and Psalm 150 is chanted in the joyous tune during the Holy Communion. In the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the Concluding Canon of the Epiphany is chanted.
If the second day of the Epiphany falls on a Wednesday or Friday, then fasting without abstinence is permissible. However, no prostrations (metanoia) are made. Special attention must be taken in reciting the verses specific to the second day of the Epiphany, even if it were a Sunday. The Vespers and Prime prayers of the second day are similar to the prayers for the Eve of Epiphany. Again, the Litanies of the Sick and the Oblations in the Prime Prayer are said (in contrast to the Litany of the Departed in the Vespers), and the verses of Tenousht and Piooini entaevmi from the Adam Morning Doxology are excluded. The Divine Liturgy of the second day is also similar to that of the Feast, with some exceptions; that is, the Third and Sixth Hours are prayed prior to the Offering of the Lamb, chanting Keralayson 41 times during the Offering of the Lamb, followed by the Trisagion and the Lord’s Prayer. If time permits, the deacons may chant the Offering’s Alleluia hymn (Alle-el-qorban). The remainder of the Divine Liturgy is then prayed according to the Rite of the Epiphany.
May the blessings of this feast be with us all. Amen.
Mikhail, Deacon Albair Gamal, The Essentials in the Deacon’s Service, (Shobra, Egypt: Shikolani, 2002), p.289-291. Translated from Arabic by Ragy Sharkawy, edited by Alexander A-Malek.