The Feast of the Epiphany, which was kept in the East and in certain Western Churches before being observed in Rome, seems to have been originally a feast of the nativity; Jan. 6, for those churches where it was kept, was the equivalent of Christmas in the Roman Church. The feast was introduced at Rome in the second half of the sixth century and be-came the complement and, so to say, the crown, of the Christmas festival.
Epiphany means “manifestation”. What the Church celebrates today is the manifestation of our Lord to the whole world, after being made known to the shepherds of Bethlehem. He is revealed to the Magi who have come from the East to adore Him. Christian tradition has ever seen in the Magi the first fruits of the Gentiles; they lead in their wake all the peoples of the earth, and thus the Epiphany is an affirmation of universal salvation. St. Leo brings out this point admirably in a sermon, in which he shows in the adoration of the Magi the beginnings of Christian faith, the time when the great mass of the Gentiles sets off to follow the star which summons it to seek its Savior.