The Season of Epiphany (Theophany; Syriac: Denho)

“O Christ, baptized by John, have mercy on us”
“Mshee-ho det-‘a-med men you-ha-non, it-ra-ham ‘a-lain”

The Eastern Churches in general begin the post-Christmas Season of Epiphany with the
commemoration of the Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan River on January 6. (The West celebrates the Baptism slightly later). At one time this feast was not separate from Christmas but became distinct when the Church began to celebrate the Birth of the Messiah on 25 December.

The Maronite Church values the Epiphany Gospel truth so much that a whole liturgical season is built around it. It is a time when the Maronite Church takes between two to six Sundays (depending on how early or late Great Lent begins) to reflect upon the consequences of Initiation for the Christian. During the first three days of the Sixth Week of Epiphany (Monday – Wednesday), the Maronite Church observes “Nineveh Days”. These three days are penitential and serve to anticipate the Season of Great Lent. The last three weeks of Epiphany focus on the destiny of those faithful to their Baptismal calling. These are the three Sundays of the Departed: Priests, Righteous and Just (the Saints), and the Faithful Departed.

Jesus did not need John’s Baptism, which was for the forgiveness of sins. He comes to John to signal the end of John’s ministry and the beginning of His own. Like the Resurrection above all, Jesus’ Baptism is a revelation of His divinity, of His being the Messiah and of His being One of the Trinity.

During the Epiphany Service water is blessed. Burning charcoal, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, is placed into the water. With this the pastor will go to the homes of the faithful to bless them; or at least the faithful may take containers of holy water to their homes from the Church.

Maronites traditionally make a pastry called zlaabyeh, dough fried in oil, popularly associated with Jesus’
descent into the Jordan River.

“O Christ, baptized by John, have mercy on us”
“Mshee-ho det-‘a-med men you-ha-non, it-ra-ham ‘a-lain”

(The above are excerpts from “Captivated By Your Teachings: A Resource Book for Adult Maronite Catholics” written by Rev. Anthony J. Salim).