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Significance of Epiphany in the Church

The day is now observed as a time of focusing on the mission of the church in reaching others by "showing" Jesus as the Savior of all people. Father, we thank you for revealing yourself to us in Jesus the Christ, we who once were not your people but whom you chose to adopt as your people. As ancient Israel confessed long ago, we realize that it was not because of our own righteousness, or our own superior wisdom, or strength, or power, or numbers. It was simply because you loved us, and chose to show us that love in Jesus.

As you have accepted us when we did not deserve your love, will you help us to accept those whom we find it hard to love? Forgive us, O Lord, for any attitude that we harbor that on any level sees ourselves as better or more righteous than others. Will you help us to remove the barriers of prejudice and to tear down the walls of bigotry, religious or social?

Catholic Activity: Meaning of Epiphany

O Lord, help us realize that the walls that we erect for others only form our own prisons! Will you fill us so full of your love that there is no more room for intolerance. As you have forgiven us much, will you enable us with your strength to forgive others even more? Will you enable us through your abiding Presence among us, communally and individually, to live our lives in a manner worthy of the Name we bear? May we, through your guidance and our faithful obedience, find new avenues in ways that we have not imagined of holding the Light of your love so that it may be a Light of revelation for all people.

We thank you for your love, praise you for your Gift, ask for your continued Presence with us, and bring these petitions in the name of your Son, who has truly revealed your heart. The differences between Western and Eastern traditions relating to when Christmas and Epiphany are celebrated is a complicated issue that cannot be covered adequately here. It is largely a matter of which calendar is used to calculate dates. Most of the world today uses the Gregorian calendar [external link], introduced in the 16th century as a means to correct a slight inaccuracy in the older Julian calendar.

This inaccuracy of about 11 minutes a year resulted in an accumulated "drift" of dates in relation to the solar year. This means that "fixed" solar dates, for example the summer and winter solstice and the spring and autumn equinox, would fall on increasingly earlier dates. Of course this would also apply to religious festivals that fall on fixed dates, such as Christmas on December The Gregorian calendar, which was approved by Pope Gregory XIII in , intended to correct the inaccuracy and stabilize this "drift" of dates.

As a result it soon became the standard civil calendar throughout the world. However, the Orthodox and Eastern churches continued to use the older Julian calendar as a religious calendar, which meant that religious holidays fell on different days in the Eastern and Western churches. However in , a synod convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch Meletius IV of Constantinople adopted a Revised Julian Calendar [external link] for the daily feasts of the year. This revised calendar was, for all practical purposes, identical with the Gregorian calendar.

The churches of Russia, Serbia, Jerusalem, and Georgia, together with the other ancient churches of the East and some conservative groups in Greece, have not adopted it and continue to use the older Julian calendar. All Orthodox churches, however, continue to celebrate Pascha Easter following calculations made according to the Julian calendar. The result of all this is that the Orthodox churches that follow the Revised Julian Calendar, which is functionally equivalent to the Western Gregorian calendar, celebrate Christmas on December 25, while those that follow the unrevised Julian Calendar celebrate it on January 7 according to the Gregorian calendar which is actually December 25 in the unrevised Julian calendar.

Related pages Advent. A carol used as an anthem for Epiphany is " The Three Kings ". The Sunday within that octave was since the feast of the Holy Family , and Christmastide was reckoned as the twelve days ending on January 5, followed by the January 6—13 octave. The revision of the General Roman Calendar made the date to some extent variable, stating: "The Epiphany of the Lord is celebrated on 6 January, unless, where it is not observed as a holy day of obligation , it has been assigned to the Sunday occurring between 2 and 8 January.

Prior to , Anglican churches also observed an eight-day feast, beginning on January 6. Today, The Epiphany of our Lord , [46] classified as a Principal Feast , is observed in some Anglican provinces on January 6 exclusively e. Lutheran , United Methodist and United Church of Christ congregations, along with those of other denominations, may celebrate Epiphany on January 6, on the following Sunday within the Epiphany week octave , or at another time Epiphany Eve January 5, the nearest Sunday, etc.

Eastern churches celebrate Epiphany Theophany on January 6. Some, as in Greece, employ the modern Revised Julian calendar , which until the year coincides with the Gregorian calendar , the one in use for civil purposes in most countries. Other Eastern churches, as in Russia , hold to the older Julian calendar for reckoning church dates. In these old-calendar churches Epiphany falls at present on Gregorian January 19 — which is January 6 in the Julian calendar.

In some Churches, the feast of the Epiphany initiates the Epiphany season , also known as Epiphanytide. In Advent , the Church of England , Mother Church of the Anglican Communion , introduced into its liturgy an optional Epiphany season by approving the Common Worship series of services as an alternative to those in the Book of Common Prayer , which remains the Church's normative liturgy and in which no such liturgical season appears.

An official publication of the Church of England states: "The Christmas season is often celebrated for twelve days , ending with the Epiphany. Contemporary use has sought to express an alternative tradition, in which Christmas lasts for a full forty days, ending with the Feast of the Presentation on 2 February. Another interpretation of "Epiphany season" applies the term to the period from Epiphany to the day before Ash Wednesday.

Some Methodists in the United States and Singapore follow these liturgics. The Presbyterian Church U. It instead uses the term "Ordinary Time". Sunday after Pentecost". If a year had more than 24 Sundays after Pentecost, up to four unused post-Epiphany Sundays were inserted between the 23rd and the 24th Sunday after Pentecost. The Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices , which has received the imprimatur of John Michael D'Arcy , with reference to Epiphanytide, thus states that "The Epiphany season extends from January 6 to Septuagesima Sunday, and has from one to six Sundays, according to the date of Easter.

White is the color for the octave; green is the liturgical color for the season. Epiphany is celebrated by both the Eastern and Western Churches, but a major difference between them is precisely which events the feast commemorates. For Western Christians, the feast primarily commemorates the coming of the Magi, with only a minor reference to the baptism of Jesus and the miracle at the Wedding at Cana. Eastern churches celebrate the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. In both traditions, the essence of the feast is the same: the manifestation of Christ to the world whether as an infant or in the Jordan , and the Mystery of the Incarnation.

The miracle at the Wedding at Cana is also celebrated during Epiphany as a first manifestation of Christ's public life. Even before the year , [61] the Western Church had separated the celebration of the Nativity of Christ as the feast of Christmas and set its date as December 25; it reserved January 6 as a commemoration of the manifestation of Christ, especially to the Magi, but also at his baptism and at the wedding feast of Cana. Many in the West observe a twelve-day festival, starting on December 25, and ending on January 5, known as Christmastide or the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Some Christian cultures , especially those of Latin America and some in Europe, extend the season to as many as forty days, ending on Candlemas February 2. On the Feast of the Epiphany in some parts of central Europe the priest, wearing white vestments, blesses Epiphany water, frankincense , gold, and chalk. The chalk is used to write the initials of the three magi over the doors of churches and homes. The letters stand for the initials of the Magi traditionally named Caspar , Melchior , and Balthasar , and also the phrase Christus mansionem benedicat , which translates as "may Christ bless the house".

According to ancient custom, the priest announced the date of Easter on the feast of Epiphany. This tradition dated from a time when calendars were not readily available, and the church needed to publicize the date of Easter , since many celebrations of the liturgical year depend on it.

The Roman Missal thus provides a formula with appropriate chant in the tone of the Exsultet for proclaiming on Epiphany, wherever it is customary to do so, the dates in the calendar for the celebration of Ash Wednesday , Easter Sunday , Ascension of Jesus Christ , Pentecost , the Body and Blood of Christ , and the First Sunday of Advent that will mark the following liturgical year.

Some Protestant churches, such as the Anglican and Lutheran churches, will follow practises similar to the Catholic Church. Here it is one of the Great Feasts of the liturgical year , being third in rank, behind only Paskha Easter and Pentecost in importance.

It is celebrated on January 6 of the calendar that a particular Church uses. On the Julian calendar , which some of the Orthodox churches follow, that date corresponds, during the present century, to January 19 on the Gregorian or Revised Julian calendar. The earliest reference to the feast in the Eastern Church is a remark by St. Clement of Alexandria in Stromateis , I, xxi, And there are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord's birth, but also the day… And the followers of Basilides hold the day of his baptism as a festival, spending the night before in readings. And they say that it was the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar , the fifteenth day of the month of Tubi ; and some that it was the eleventh of the same month.

If this is a reference to a celebration of Christ's birth, as well as of his baptism, on January 6, it corresponds to what continues to be the custom of the Armenian Apostolic Church , which celebrates the birth of Jesus on January 6 of the calendar used, calling the feast that of the Nativity and Theophany of Our Lord.

In parts of the Eastern Church, January 6 continued for some time as a composite feast that included the Nativity of Jesus: though Constantinople adopted December 25 to commemorate Jesus' birth in the fourth century, in other parts the Nativity of Jesus continued to be celebrated on January 6, a date later devoted exclusively to commemorating his Baptism. Today in Eastern Orthodox churches, the emphasis at this feast is on the shining forth and revelation of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Second Person of the Trinity at the time of his baptism. It is also celebrated because, according to tradition, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by St.

John the Baptist marked one of only two occasions when all three Persons of the Trinity manifested themselves simultaneously to humanity: God the Father by speaking through the clouds, God the Son being baptized in the river, and God the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove descending from heaven the other occasion was the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.

Thus the holy day is considered to be a Trinitarian feast. The Orthodox consider Jesus' Baptism to be the first step towards the Crucifixion , and there are some parallels in the hymnography used on this day and the hymns chanted on Good Friday. Paramony is observed as a strict fast day , on which those faithful who are physically able, refrain from food until the first star is observed in the evening, when a meal with wine and oil may be taken.

On this day the Royal Hours are celebrated, thus tying together the feasts of Nativity and Good Friday. Basil which combines Vespers with the Divine Liturgy. During the Vespers, fifteen Old Testament lections which foreshadow the Baptism of Christ are read, and special antiphons are chanted.

  • Epiphany (feeling).
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John Chrysostom is celebrated and the fasting is lessened to some degree. Following the Divine Liturgy , the clergy and people go in a Crucession procession with the cross to the nearest body of water, be it a beach, harbor, quay, river, lake, swimming pool, water depot, etc. At the end of the ceremony the priest will bless the waters. In the Greek practice, he does this by casting a cross into the water. If swimming is feasible on the spot, any number of volunteers may try to recover the cross. The person who gets the cross first swims back and returns it to the priest, who then delivers a special blessing to the swimmer and their household.

Certain such ceremonies have achieved particular prominence, such as the one held annually at Tarpon Springs , Florida. In Russia, where the winters are severe, a hole will be cut into the ice so that the waters may be blessed. In such conditions, the cross is not cast into the water, but is held securely by the priest and dipped three times into the water. The water that is blessed on this day is sometimes known as "Theophany Water", though usually just "holy water", and is taken home by the faithful, and used with prayer as a blessing.

People will not only bless themselves and their homes by sprinkling with holy water, but will also drink it. The Orthodox Church teaches that holy water differs from regular water in that with holy water, the very nature of the water is changed and becomes incorrupt, [71] a miracle attested to as early as St. John Chrysostom.

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  7. Theophany is a traditional day for performing Baptisms , and this is reflected in the Divine Liturgy by singing the baptismal hymn, "As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Alleluia," in place of the Trisagion. House Blessings : On Theophany the priest will begin making the round of the parishioner's homes to bless them. He will perform a short prayer service in each home, and then go through the entire house, gardens and outside-buildings, blessing them with the newly blessed Theophany Water, while all sing the Troparion and Kontakion of the feast.

    This is normally done on Theophany, or at least during the Afterfeast , but if the parishioners are numerous, and especially if many live far away from the church, it may take some time to bless each house. Traditionally, these blessings should all be finished before the beginning of Great Lent. Afterfeast : The Feast of Theophany is followed by an eight-day Afterfeast on which the normal fasting laws are suspended. The Saturday and Sunday after Theophany have special readings assigned to them, which relate to the Temptation of Christ and to penance and perseverance in the Christian struggle.

    There is thus a liturgical continuum between the Feast of Theophany and the beginning of Great Lent. In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church , the feast is known as Timkat and is celebrated on the day that the Gregorian calendar calls January 19, but on January 20 in years when Enkutatash in the Ethiopian calendar falls on Gregorian September 12 i. The celebration of this feast features blessing of water and solemn processions with the sacred tabot. A priest carries this to a body of water where it stays overnight, with the Metsehafe Qeddassie celebrated in the early morning.

    Later in the morning, the water is blessed to the accompaniment of the reading of the four Gospel accounts of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan and the people are sprinkled with or go into the water. The tabot returns in procession to the church. Among the Syriac Christians the feast is called denho up-going , a name to be connected with the notion of rising light expressed in Luke The feast is preceded by a seven-day fast.

    On the eve of the feast, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated. This liturgy is referred to as the Chragaluytsi Patarag the Eucharist of the lighting of the lamps in honor of the manifestation of Jesus as the Son of God. Both the Armenian Apostolic Church's and Assyrian Church of the East 's liturgy is followed by a blessing of water, during which the cross is immersed in the water, symbolizing Jesus' descent into the Jordan, and holy myron chrism is poured in, symbolic of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus.


    The Season of Epiphany

    The next morning, after the Liturgy, the cross is removed from the vessel of holy water and all come forward to kiss the cross and partake of the blessed water. Epiphany is celebrated with a wide array of customs around the world. In some cultures, the greenery and nativity scenes put up at Christmas are taken down at Epiphany.

    In other cultures these remain up until Candlemas on February 2. In countries historically shaped by Western Christianity Roman Catholicism , Protestantism these customs often involve gift giving, "king cakes" and a celebratory close to the Christmas season. In traditionally Orthodox nations, water, baptismal rites and house blessings are typically central to these celebrations. The night of January 5 into the morning of January 6 is known as "Noche de Reyes" The Night of Kings and children leave their shoes by the door, along with grass and water for the camel,horse and elephant.

    On the morning of January 6, they get up early and rush to see their shoes, where they are expecting to find gifts left by the "Reyes" who, according to tradition, bypass the houses of children who are awake. On January 6, a "Rosca de Reyes" a ring-shaped Epiphany cake is eaten and all Christmas decorations are traditionally put away.

    On this day, a wooden cross is thrown by a priest into the sea, river or lake and young men race to retrieve it. As the date is in early January and the waters are close to freezing, this is considered an honourable act and it is said that good health will be bestowed upon the home of the swimmer who is the first to reach the cross. In the town of Kalofer , a traditional horo with drums and bagpipes is played in the icy waters of the Tundzha river before the throwing of the cross.

    Epiphany, the Feast of The Three Kings -- Christmas Customs and Traditions -- whychristmas?com

    In the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and neighboring Germany, children in groups of three symbolising the three kings proceed in costume from house to house while singing songs typical for the occasion, and receiving a coin or some sweets at each door. They may each carry a paper lantern symbolizing the star. As in Belgium, Koningentaart Kings' tart , puff pastry with almond filling, is prepared with a black bean hidden inside.

    Whoever finds the bean in his or her piece is king or queen for the day. A more typically Dutch version is Koningenbrood , or Kings' bread. Another Low Countries tradition on Epiphany is to open up doors and windows to let good luck in for the coming year. The night of January 5 into the morning of January 6 is known as "Night of Kings" also called the Twelfth Night and is feasted with music, sweets and regional dishes as the last night of Nativity, when Christmas decorations are traditionally put away. The feast of the Epiphany is celebrated by the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria , which falls on 11 Tobe of the Coptic calendar , as the moment when in the baptism of Jesus the skies opened and God himself revealed to all as father of Jesus and all mankind.

    It is then a moment of revelation of epiphany. This celebration started to include all the processes of incarnation of Jesus, from his birth on Christmas until his baptism in the river Jordan. Therefore, in many celebrations there are certain similarities with the celebrations of Holy Friday during the time of Easter. Since the Epiphany is one of the seven great feasts of the Coptic Orthodox Church, it is a day of strict fasting, and several religious celebrations are held on this day.

    The day is related to the blessing of waters that are used all throughout the year in the church celebrations, and it is a privileged day to celebrate baptisms. It is also a day in which many houses are blessed with water. It may take several days for the local priest to bless all the houses of the parishioners that ask for it, and so the blessing of the houses may go into the after-feasts of the Epiphany celebrations.

    However, it must be done before the beginning of Lent. In England, the celebration of the Night before Epiphany, Epiphany Eve , is known as Twelfth Night The first night of Christmas is December 25—26, and Twelfth Night is January 5—6 , and was a traditional time for mumming and the wassail. The yule log was left burning until this day, and the charcoal left was kept until the next Christmas to kindle next year's yule log, as well as to protect the house from fire and lightning.

    Today in England, Twelfth Night is still as popular a day for plays as when Shakespeare 's Twelfth Night was first performed in , and annual celebrations involving the Holly Man are held in London. As in Europe, whoever found the baked-in bean was king for a day, but unique to English tradition other items were sometimes included in the cake. Whoever found the clove was the villain, the twig, the fool, and the rag, the tart. Anything spicy or hot, like ginger snaps and spiced ale, was considered proper Twelfth Night fare, recalling the costly spices brought by the Wise Men. Another English Epiphany dessert was the jam tart, but made into a six-point star for the occasion to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and thus called Epiphany tart.

    The discerning English cook sometimes tried to use thirteen different coloured jams on the tart on this day for luck, creating a dessert with the appearance of stained glass. In the Eritrean Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church , the feast is known as Timkat and is celebrated on the day that the Gregorian calendar calls January 19, but on January 20 in years when Timket in the Ethiopian calendar falls on Gregorian September 12 i.

    The celebration of this feast features blessing of water and solemn processions with the sacred Tabot. In Finland, Epiphany is called loppiainen , a name which goes back to the s. Between the years and Epiphany was observed in Finland on a Saturday each year no earlier than January 6, and no later than January After that time however, the traditional date of January 6 was restored and has since been observed once again as a national public holiday. Piparkakut or Finnish gingerbread cookies, in the shape of a star, are a treat typically served on this day.

    These cookies are broken in the palm of one's hand, while making a silent wish. If a piparkakku star should break into three pieces, and all three are eaten without speaking a word, it is said that the wish will come true.


    The Christmas tree is traditionally taken out of the house on Epiphany. While the term loppiainen means "ending [of Christmas time]," in reality, Christmas celebrations in Finland are extended to Nuutti's or St. In France people share one of two types of king cake. In the northern half of France and Belgium the cake is called a galette des Rois , and is a round, flat, and golden cake made with flake pastry and often filled with frangipane , fruit, or chocolate. In Romandie , both types can be found though the latter is more common.

    The cake is cut by the youngest and therefore most innocent person at the table to assure that the recipient of the bean is random. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes "king" or "queen" and wears a paper crown provided with the cake. In some regions this person has a choice between offering a beverage to everyone around the table usually a sparkling wine or champagne , or volunteering to host the next king cake at their home. This can extend the festivities through all of January. In the German-speaking lands, groups of young people called Sternsinger star singers travel from door to door.

    They are dressed as the three Wise Men, plus the leader carrying a star, usually of painted wood attached to a broom handle. Often these groups are four girls, or two boys and two girls for the benefit of singing their songs in four-part harmony. They are not necessarily three wise men. German Lutherans often note in a lighthearted fashion that the Bible never specifies that the Weisen Magi were men, or that there were three.

    The star singers solicit donations for worthy causes, such as efforts to end hunger in Africa, organized jointly by the Catholic and Protestant churches, and they also will be offered treats at the homes they visit. Usually on the Sunday following Epiphany, these donations are brought into churches. Here all of the children who have gone out as star singers, once again in their costumes, form a procession of sometimes dozens of wise men and stars.

    The German Chancellor and Parliament also receive a visit from the star singers at Epiphany.

    BTS 'EPIPHANY' THE PIANO GUYS (Piano/Cello Cover)

    Some Germans eat a Three Kings cake which may be a golden pastry ring filled with orange and spice representing gold, frankincense and myrrh. Most often found in Switzerland , these cakes take the form of Buchteln but for Epiphany, studded with citron, and baked as seven large buns in a round rather than square pan, forming a crown.

    Or they may be made of typical rich Christmas bread dough with cardamom and pearl sugar in the same seven bun crown shape. These varieties are most typically purchased in supermarkets with the trinket, and gold paper crown included. It is the "Great Celebration" or Theotromi. In some regions of Macedonia West it is the biggest festival of the year. The Baptism of Christ symbolizes the rebirth of man, its importance is such that until the fourth century Christians celebrated New Year on this day. Customs revolve around the Great Blessing of the Waters.

    During this ceremony, a cross is thrown into the water, and the men compete to retrieve it for good luck. The Phota form the middle of another festive triduum , together with Epiphany Eve, when children sing the Epiphany carols, and the great feast of St. John the Baptist January 7 and eve , [93] when the numerous Johns and Joans celebrate their name-day. It is a time for sanctification, which in Greece means expiation, purification of the people and protection against the influence of demons. This concept is certainly not strictly Christian, but has roots in ancient worship.

    In most parts of Greece a ritual called "small sanctification", Protagiasi or "Enlightment" is practiced on the eve of Epiphany. A contemporary example of an epiphany in education might involve the process by which a student arrives at some form of new insight or clarifying thought. A common myth predicts that most, if not all, innovations occur through epiphanies. Although epiphanies are only a rare occurrence, crowning a process of significant labor, there is a common myth that epiphanies of sudden comprehension are commonly responsible for leaps in technology and the sciences.

    For example, allegedly Albert Einstein was struck as a young child by being given a compass, and realizing that some unseen force in space was making it move. Another, perhaps better, example from Einstein's life occurred in after he had spent an evening unsuccessfully trying to reconcile Newtonian physics and Maxwell's equations. While taking a streetcar home, he looked behind him at the receding clocktower in Bern and realized that if the car sped up close to the speed of light, he would see the clock slow down; with this thought, he later remarked, "a storm broke loose in my mind," which would allow him to understand special relativity.

    Einstein had a second epiphany two years later in which he called "the happiest thought of my life" when he imagined an elevator falling, and realized that a passenger would not be able to tell the difference between the weightlessness of falling, and the weightlessness of space - a thought which allowed him to generalize his theory of relativity to include gravity as a curvature in spacetime. A similar flash of holistic understanding in a prepared mind was said to give Charles Darwin his "hunch" about natural selection , and Darwin later stated that he always remembered the spot in the road where his carriage was when the epiphany struck.

    Another famous epiphany myth is associated with Isaac Newton's apple story, [4] and yet another with Nikola Tesla's discovery of a workable alternating current induction motor. Though such epiphanies might have occurred, they were almost certainly the result of long and intensive periods of study those individuals had undertaken, rather than an out-of-the-blue flash of inspiration about an issue they had not thought about previously. Another myth is that epiphany is simply another word for usually spiritual vision.

    Actually, realism and psychology make epiphany a different mode as distinguished from vision, even though both vision and epiphany are often triggered by sometimes seemingly irrelevant incidents or objects. Western churches generally celebrate the Visit of the Magi as the revelation of the Incarnation of the infant Christ, and commemorate the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. Traditionally, Eastern churches, following the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar, have celebrated Epiphany or Theophany in conjunction with Christ's baptism by John the Baptist and celebrated it on January 19; however, other Eastern churches have adopted the Western Calendar and celebrate it on January 6.

    In more general terms, the phrase "religious epiphany" is used when a person realizes their faith, or when they are convinced that an event or happening was really caused by a deity or being of their faith. In Hinduism, for example, epiphany might refer to Arjuna 's realization that Krishna incarnation of God serving as his charioteer in the " Bhagavad Gita " is indeed representing the Universe.

    The Hindu term for epiphany would be bodhodaya , from Sanskrit bodha 'wisdom' and udaya 'rising'. Or in Buddhism, the term might refer to the Buddha obtaining enlightenment under the bodhi tree, finally realizing the nature of the universe, and thus attaining Nirvana. The Zen term kensho also describes this moment, referring to the feeling attendant on realizing the answer to a koan.

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