Denha Thirunnal

Pindikuthi Thirunnal Images
The feast of Denha, the Epiphany
(Commemorated on 6th January)

This season begins on the Sunday nearest to the feast of Denha. The weeks ascribed to it are seven, but may extend even up to 10, according to the date of Easter. Similarly, there will be only 4 or 5 or 6 weeks sometimes between the feast of Denha and the beginning of the Great Fast.

Denha reminds us of the Baptism of Iso’ M’siha (In Kerala, this feast is also known as Rakkuli, ‘the bath in the night’. It is a reminiscence of the ancient practice of taking a ritual bath in the nearest river or pont on the eve of this feast after the Evening Liturgy in commemoration of the Baptism of our Lord Iso’ M’siha in river Jordan). The Gospel of the day contains the narration of the Baptism of Iso’ M’siha (Mt 3, 1-17). Through His baptism, Christ has purified and renewed the human nature. He opened the gates of heaven and revealed Himself to all men, living in darkness. What is mostly stressed in this period is the humility and humanity of Christ. Baptism is figured as the source of all supernatural graces. In the “Anthem of the Mysteries”, the Church sings: “The creature is renewed through its Lord; it has recognised its Saviour because He was baptised, and in Jordan, He revealed the doctrine of the Trinity” (Supplementum, p. 18).

In Kerala, the Thomas Christians used to call this feast as Pindipperunal or Rakkulipperunal. In the northern parts of Kerala, where they call it Pindipperunal, they used to erect and decorate with torches the trunk of a plantain (pindi) in front of their houses on the eve of this feast, make dances and sing songs of a particular type around it in the evening in connection with the family prayer. From the whole festivity it shows itself to be a feast of light and Denha, the epiphany, is really a feast of light. In the southern parts of Kerala, this feast is called Rakkulipperunal. Rakkuli in Malayalam means ‘bath at night’. In ancient days they used to have a ritual bath in the nearest river or pont on the eve of this feast after the Evening Liturgy, singing Psalms and local hymns. It was done in remembrance of the baptism of our Lord in Jordan. It is from this practice the name Rakkuli developed.

The Church celebrates the following feasts of the temporal cycle too during this period:

First Friday: St John the Baptist
Second Friday: SS. Peter and Paul
Third Friday: The Evangelists
Fourth Friday: St. Stephen
Fifty Friday: The Greek Doctors
Sixth Friday: The Syrian Doctors
Seventh Friday: The Patron Saint of each Church
Eighth Friday: All the Departed

Fr Varghese Pathikulangara, cmi

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