EPIPHANY IS A PEARL, encompassing layer upon layer of celebration and meaning in one glowing day. So, on January 6th, we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, the Star of the Magi, the Miracles of the Marriage at Cana and the Feeding of the Five Thousand. We once celebrated Epiphany as the birthday of Jesus, as well, but for complicated political reasons this observation was shifted to another day. The commemoration of the Baptism was called by the Greek fathers of the 4th century the Theophany, as well as the Day of Lights. In the West it became the Festival of the Three Kings, or Twelfth Night. The day's celebrations recall Egyptian Nile festivals, virgin births of dying and resurrected gods, the Roman Saturnalia and Babylonian magic priests. When I was a child, January 6th spelled the last of Christmas celebration, which we noted by taking the tree down and storing its lights and ornaments away for another time.

There are, after all, only so many days in a year, and no matter what, you can't get more. So, things tend to pile up and overshadow and absorb more ancient things, but nothing is ever lost. Though we do not see it, at the center of each pearl is a grain of sand.

January 6, 1995