Monday, January 6, 2014

Today is Epiphany: The Twelfth Day!

Although many Catholics celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany yesterday at Sunday Mass, today is the twelfth day--the traditional date of the Epiphany of Our Lord. Epiphany means "manifestation" and the day really remembers three great manifestations of Jesus: to the Magi; to John the Baptist in the Jordan; and at the Marriage Feast Cana, where He turned water into wine. A Clerk of Oxford features this fifteenth century English hymn that celebrates the coming of the Magi, narrating the story of their contact with Herod and even his massacre of the Holy Innocents:

Reges de Saba venient,
Aurum, tus myrram offerent.

1. Now is the Twelfth Day ycome,
The Father and Son together are nome,1
The Holy Ghost, as they were wone,2
In fere.
God send us a good New Year!

2. I will you sing with all my might,
Of a Child so fair in sight,
A maiden him bore this endernight,
So still;
As it was his will. . . .
A Clerk of Oxford not only explains the carol's origin, but offers an illustrated version of its narration:
This is a lively Epiphany carol, full of drama and dialogue. It comes from a fifteenth-century manuscript of carols, BL Sloane 2593, and I've modernised the spelling from this text; the refrain means "Kings shall come from Sheba, offering gold, frankincense and myrrh" (a quotation from a Christmas hymn). One of my favourite things about it is the moustache-twirling villain Herod in verse 16: "Herod laughed and said, "A-ha!" But really the whole thing is wonderful.

Let's take a lot at the same story as it appears, illustrated in exhaustive detail, in the splendid manuscript
BL Yates Thompson 13. This fourteenth-century English Book of Hours has exquisite illustrations on a whole range of subjects but also depicts the entire narrative of the Magi and King Herod, in a series of pictures running across the bottom of ff. 90-95v. So this is the Visit of the Magi: Medieval Graphic Novel Version.
Merry Christmas! Happy Epiphany!
Image Source: wikipedia commons.

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