How God Made an Unexpected Arrival: Feast of the Epiphany 2022

January 6th is the traditional date for the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany in the Catholic Church. This year the dioceses in the United States have celebrated the feast on Sunday January 2nd.

Second Epiphany

The word epiphany means “manifestation” or “revelation”. In the context of the Catholic Church, it relates to the arrival of the Magi (Wise men or Three Kings) and visiting the Christ child. It is one of the most important feasts of the liturgical year because God is revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

I attended the Cathedral of the Epiphany, in Sioux City, IA, in the early days of my married life so this feast has special significance to my family. My oldest son was baptized in that church, and we formed the foundation of our family’s faith life as members of the Cathedral of the Epiphany.

From Meticulous Study to Marvel

Feast of the Epiphany

While we sing about the Wisemen as Kings (We Three Kings is one of my favorite Christmastime songs) it is more apt to describe the travelers as Magi. They studied astronomy (mixed with a bit of astrology). The noticed something in the night sky and the unusuality of the Star intrigued them to journey East and stopping in Bethlehem. A more detailed description of the Magi can be found in the Related Links section at the end of this article.

Studying a subject as large and mysterious as the universe (represented by the night sky) puts into perspective our littleness. According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI from his 2011 homily on the Feast of the Epiphany, ”

Probably to their (the Magi) amazement, they were obliged to note that this newborn Child was not found in the places of power and culture, even though in those places they were offered precious information about him.

On the other hand, they realized that power, even the power of knowledge, sometimes blocks the way to the encounter with this Child. The star then guided them to Bethlehem, a little town; it led them among the poor and the humble to find the King of the world.

God could have arrived as a scientist, or a mighty ruler, or a political leader. Instead, he chooses to humble himself in the form of an infant. The Magi receive the gift of wonder and awe from the Holy Spirit and persist in following the Star. They continue to receive gifts (of humility and reverence) even as they gift the Christ-child with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Epiphany Foreshadows Pentecost

Pentecost

The manifestation of Jesus to the Magi is a pivotal event in the liturgical calendar. The Magi represents the non-Jews. It is often taken for granted the fact Jesus is a savior for all mankind, but it was a novel concept to ancient Jews. The deacon at my parish hammered home the point that the Epiphany is about the salvation of mankind as a people. “Statistically speaking, you and I, are likely not descended from the Jews, so the Feast of the Epiphany is a reason to hope,” he proclaimed in his homily.

Jesus Christ revealed himself to the world at first as a baby and later in his public ministry he is more specific with his identity as being God. It is a wonderful feast to recall how Christ unites a confused and broken world.

I started listening to the Bible in a Year podcast by Father Mike Schmitz. Day five centered on Tower of Babel in Genesis 10-11. The pride of humanity spurred the creation (attempt) of an early skyscraper reaching the heavens.

Building a large tower is not bad in itself. Father Mike points out throughout church history Christians build massive basilicas and cathedrals for the glory of God. The key difference is Nimrod (the king of Babel) and his people’s ambition to make a name for themselves and not seek excellence in the name of God.

God Brings True Unity

Humanity’s pride leads to God scattering them by confusing the language. Generations later the event of Pentecost (the arrival of the Holy Spirit) reverses the effects of Babel. Peter and the Apostles are able to communicate the Good News in different languages. True unity doesn’t occur through human efforts but by humbling oneself and serving others for the glory of God.

The Magi don’t seek earthly ambition to prop up themselves. God’s manifestation to the Wisemen opens up the way for the Holy Spirit being revealed to the whole world on Pentecost.

How God Revealed Himself this Epiphany

The first Epiphany of Our Lord occurred over 2000 years ago. But this feast is as relevant today as it was for the Magi. God plan of salvation unfolded over time. It didn’t occur instantly nor stop with a singular kind of people. God is Love and desires to bridge all of the brokenness back into unity with Himself.

Your spiritual journey will rarely be in a linear or upward trajectory. It involves curves, backsteps, and countless zigzags. Think the Israelites’ 40 years in the wilderness. God revealed Himself in an interesting way to me this week of the Epiphany. In the story of a dog being turned into a toy by a wizard because he lacked manners. I’m referring to Tolkien’s endearing children’s tale: Roverandom. I began reading my kids this short story yesterday. I want to complete a few pages a night. And my ultimate goal is to have Roverandom serve as a springboard to Tolkien’s other work (notably The Hobbit).

God revealed Himself in a wonderful way during the reading aloud of this silly and enchanting story. My kids grew quiet and attentive. Something about J.R.R. Tolkien makes me ponder Truth, Goodness, and Beauty after reading any of his works. I’m convinced his imagination and storytelling is necessary to manifest Christ in the lives of others.

Start this Epiphany Tradition Now

Finally, the Feast of the Epiphany has inspired me to follow a longstanding Catholic tradition of marking your home’s door with a blessing. You may have seen the formula: 20 + C + M + B +22 pop up on your social media or parish bulletin. The initials stand for the names of the Wise Men: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. The numbers bookending the formula represent the current year. And the pluses represent the cross. I also learned that the C, M, and B have another meaning. In Latin, it is short for Christmus mansionem benedicat (“May Christ bless the house”).

Invite Jesus into your home this Christmas season and look to Mary as your guide towards the Son. God will surprise you in how He shows up in your life.


Epiphany Blessing (One of Many Versions)

Leader: Peace be to this house, and to all who enter here.
People: Amen.

One or more of the following prayers maybe said:
May all who come to our home this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and may we seek and serve, in everyone we meet, that same Jesus who is your incarnate Word, now and forever. Amen.

God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only-begotten One to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our concern for others may reflect your love. We ask this through Christ our Savior. Amen.

Loving God, bless this household. May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness, and abiding in your will. We ask this through Christ our Savior. Amen.

As participants take turns making the inscription, the leader says:
The three Wise Men, [C] Caspar, [M] Melchior, [B] and Balthasar followed the star to Bethlehem and the child Jesus [20] two thousand, [20] and twenty years ago. [+ +] May Christ bless our home [+ +], and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.

All say the Lord’s Prayer.

Related Links

Magi: Catholic Answers

Epiphany Home Blessing

An Unexpected Journey? The Case For The Canonization Of J.R.R. Tolkien

Season of Expectancy

Thank you for sharing!

Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 26

Hope you had a Happy New Year! 🙏😊

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday.

My liturgical clock ⏰ is off this year. 🙂😆
Jesus saves!
Busting ☠️💀 🚪 down.
Malchus approves of this meme. 😊👂
Early Christmas marketing be like 👆
Different but still joyous.
I feel convicted by this! 😆🙂
Punny ‘piphany humor. 😆😆😆
😆😆😆
More Epiphany funnies!
💤 😴😆

That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.

Thank you for sharing!

The Little Way of the Hobbit: Celebrating Tolkien and the Holy Name of Jesus

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January 3rd celebrates two important events: the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus and the anniversary of the birth of J.R.R. Tolkien. As a Catholic obvious the former has to take precedence, I mean Jesus is the center of the Catholic faith. However, I think it is ironic, maybe even providential, of the placement of the great English literary figure’s birthday within the season of Christmastide.

Creation Leads to the Creator

The famed creator of Middle Earth himself was a devout Catholic and belief in Jesus Christ permeated his entire life. I admire Tolkien because of his creativity, devotion, and ability to invoke joy into my life simply by reading his works or striking up a conversation with a random stranger about his life!

In An Unexpected Journey? The Case for the Canonization of J.R.R. Tolkien I discuss the reasons for canonizing Tolkien as a saint of the Church.

According to the Baltimore Catechism paragraph 215, Catholics honor saints because

“We honor the saints in heaven because they practiced great virtue when they were on earth, and because in honoring those who are the chosen friends of God we honor God Himself.”

The excitement, peace, and joy I receive when reading, researching, or talking about Middle Earth ultimately is aimed at a higher reality. A deeper reality of full communion with God in Heaven! Tolkien once wrote, “After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of ‘truth’.”

All of creation act as signposts pointing to God’s existence.

The same is true for the hidden or not so hidden Easter-eggs contained in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The date of the formation of the Fellowship—that is, the group of representatives of Middle Earth races—actually is December 25th!

easter christmas.jpg

The Little Way of the Hobbit

Much of Tolkien’s theology, whether he would have wanted to admit it or not, reminds me of the spirituality of The Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux. Her path towards holiness consisted of relying on God’s mercy and forgiveness while seeking ordinary daily actions to show love of God and neighbor.

The French saint wrote, “Miss no single opportunity of making small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” Whenever I read and reflect upon that quote I am also reminded of the following words of Tolkien, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

jesus hobbit meme

Fantasy and Tolkien geeks now well that the bearer of the One Ring [the embodiment of temptation] was a hobbit. If only one word would suffice to describe a hobbit to individuals not too aware of this fictional Middle Earth race it would be diminutive. Littleness, at least in appearance, is the chief trait of the heroes of The Lord of the Rings.

Even the smallest person can impact the future

Like St. Therese of Lisieux, Tolkien recognizes that the smallest person can have a great impact on human history. The greatest event in human history is the Incarnation—God being man in the person of Jesus Christ in the form of a little baby.

I honor J.R.R. Tolkien today because his “complex”, extensive, and intricate sub-creation of Middle Earth provokes a sense of joy in the little acts done in great love and sacrifice. Ultimately, after reading any of his works, I am reminded to be grateful for creative genius not as a worship of the fantasy author. Instead, I honor him as he points me to the Real and Truth Author of All of Reality!


“At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” –Philippians 2:10-11

Related Articles

3 Things “The Hobbit of the New Testament” Taught Me

An Unexpected Journey- How September 21st, 2017 Became the New Start to my Spiritual Life

J.R.R. Tolkien: Truth and Myth

Thank you for sharing!

Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 25

Hope you had a Christmas! 🙏😊

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday.

It’s a beautiful moment.
Dinosaurs 🦖 or #Christmas 🎄?
Amen!
One of the best lines from The Office. 😆😆😆
‘Tis the season for Jesus.
Ancient Jewish bumper stickers.
Waiting…still waiting.
Soooo epic. 🙂
😆😆😆
A belated Advent meme. 🙂
One epic Venn diagram. 😁
“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” —1 Corinthians 15:21-22.
Best gift to give is Jesus.
Oh death 💀☠️ where is your sting?

That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.

Thank you for sharing!

The Simple Catholic’s Second Christmas Card

Happy First Anniversary of the inaugural Chicoine Family Christmas Card!

This year my parents are too tired and busy (it seems like adults are always tired) to pitch in to help. And my siblings get too distracted doing art, playing carwash or swinging around like Spider-Man. It’s up to me (again) to provide an accurate summary of our year.

I’m going to turn three soon and I like to share my wisdom I learned over the past year along with trying to make my boring family seem interesting. We will go in age order (I hear that phrase all the time— especially when it comes to opening presents).

Mommy

This year has been the most challenging year of teaching for mommy. She teaches between two buildings. I don’t know their names because I’m a toddler and get easily distracted (wanders off to leap off the couch with siblings).

Mommy is the best and I love her very much. She helped me get speech and OT therapies. And she lets me eat off her dinner plate! She and daddy talk a lot about the basement (it’s getting finished) and enjoys coffee. I think she needs it to stay awake because my brothers and sister wear her out.

Mommy also loves helping everyone learn and enjoys decorating our new home. She also gives great hugs!

I think mommy’s greatest accomplishment this year is helping me learn this year!

Daddy

Daddy still works evenings. He has to take naps in the morning. I enjoy spending time with daddy because he takes me to the library, watches Blippi with me, and cuddles with me.

I occasionally still try to obtain a sip of his coffee. Daddy doesn’t like this for some reason. Maybe my siblings also wear him out like they make mommy tired. But the times I do get to taste coffee it is awesome!!! I feel so fast and powerful.

Daddy still writes for his blog and includes some of my antics in it. He recently mentioned something about Tea with Tolkien but I don’t know what that means. Maybe he wrote something for them.

Probably the most important of daddy’s accomplishments is giving me horsey rides. It’s fun!

Noah

Noah is in fourth grade at “the school whose name I don’t know” (again because I’m a toddler and get easily distracted with details). He played soccer in the spring and fall. According to my parents, Noah scored his first goal in soccer. I wasn’t there because I was too busy playing with toys at home.

Noah loves Marvel superheroes (we jump around like Spider-Man a lot lately) and loves reading. He also finds long division fun and leads the family in creative play.

I think Noah’s greatest accomplishment this year is rocking my to sleep in the rocking chair. I love my big brother!

Amelia

Amelia is in second grade at “the school whose name I don’t know”. She loves drawing and creating unique things out of paper, cardboard, tape, and other craft supplies. Some of her neatest creations this year were a cardboard platypus and a picture of Wanda (Scarlet Witch). Daddy thought the Wanda drawing was amazing.

Amelia has made a lot of neighborhood friends. (and Noah too). Noah and her learned how to roller blade. I am learning and wear one skate 🛼 to travel in the living room.

My sister is the best because she loves me and helps me get dressed, brushes my hair, and usually lets me play with her toys.

Amelia’s most important accomplishment this year is painting my fingernails. I love my sister!

Josiah

Josiah is a kindergarten at the “school whose name I don’t know”. He is adjusting pretty well to the elementary school life. He has receives speech, OT, and PT therapy at school which help him a lot.

My brother is obsessed with carwashes and garbage trucks. My dad even for a membership to a “carwash whose name I don’t know” (editor’s note: the carwash membership is for Silverstar Car Wash). Josiah plays carwash or garbage truck most days. He sometimes even lets me help him set up the car wash!

Josiah also got to help the garbage truck worker put the can in the back of the truck. He was so excited. He makes me laugh like no one else. My brother is great at distracting my parents so I can achieve my shenanigan quota for the day (some days I worry I won’t hit my goal)..

Josiah’s biggest accomplishment for this year is teaching me how to cut with scissors and helping me draw. I love my other big brother!

Avila Catherine Geraldine

Why do I get my full name displayed? It’s the least I deserve considering I spearheaded my family’s Christmas letter (again).

I don’t go to “school whose name I don’t know” in fact I don’t go to school—yet. Mommy and daddy say I will be going to early childhood starting in January. It will be at a different school that my siblings go to. To avoid confusion I will call it “different school whose name I don’t know”.

This year was one of adventure and growth for me. I learned so many new words and skills. Speech and OT therapies have helped me so much.

I still struggle with the “wigglies” at Mass. My parents have to take me out a decent amount because of how loud my worship is.y reasoning is if Jesus is God and he saved us why not shout it from the pew (I can’t reach a rooftop. Plus my parents stop me even when I stand on a table. They aren’t fun).

Live your life to the fullest. Thank the people who helped you grow and learn. Count your blessings and your stuffed unicorns. And don’t waste time learning the names of schools whose name you don’t know.

Love,

ACGC— Muffin Miscreant, Coffee Culprit, and Adventure Seeker

P.S. Special thanks to my daddy for editing the Chicoine Family Christmas Card. I paid him in hugs.

Thank you for sharing!

4 Reasons Why Crying Out to God is Essential for the Spiritual Life


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on June 16, 2017.


Emotions ran high in my family yesterday. I struggled with a stressful situation at work and my son fell off his bike and scrapes his knee—a meltdown ensued. Feelings are part of the fabric of what it means to be human. I am not proud to admit this, but I have greatly failed in keeping my feeling in check during the past couple weeks.

On my drove to work this morning, words from a Christian song over the radio jogged a thought I had about prayer and our communication of God. I pondered how natural it is for humanity to complain when things do not go your way. How do we overcome the sin of complaining? Listening to the song lyrics I realized the answer is incredibly simple—cry out to God!

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Using examples from the Scriptures, excerpts from Saint John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul, and my own personal experiences I give 4 reasons why “crying out to God” is not complaining but rather an essential part of the spiritual life.

Lesson from Lamentations

Latent within the Old Testament, Lamentations is not among the first books that pop into my mind for having spiritual insight. I usually think of Proverbs or the Book of Wisdom. Lamentations is a collection of five poems that act as a woeful reply to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. Both individual and communal prayers of sorrow are found in this book. For my purposes today I will only focus on Lamentations 3:19-31 (click on link to see the full Bible passage) which contains an individual lament.

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The inspired writer of Lamentations speaks directly to me in this passage. His words, “Over and over, my soul is downcast,” calls to mind my state of mind and relationship with God over the past several weeks. I was downtrodden and I frequently wanted to give up. Interestingly enough, I actually pondered the fact that there is a glimmer of hope in my situation. The writer of Lamentations is prophetic again when he states, “I tell myself, therefore I will hope in him. 25The LORD is good to those who trust in him, to the one that seeks him; 26It is good to hope in silence for the LORD’s deliverance.”

Crying Out to God in Psalm 22

According to Mark 15:34, Jesus cries out to the Father in similar fashion as the book of Lamentations and myself when I encounter the stresses of life. The evangelist writes, “And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”* which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

These words used to befuddle me.

I have since learned that Jesus was invoking the psalmist’s lamenting words in Psalm 22. The psalm begins as a sorrowful prayer to God but similar to Lamentations 3 it ends with hope [see Psalm 22:23-32]. Reading these words, the Holy Spirit connected the dots for me on this subject. Verse 30 references homage toward God on bended knee and I already was planning on talking about how lament leads to kneeling before God even before I read Psalm 22!! The movement of the Holy Spirit is mysterious yet true.

Dark Night of a Soul

Saint John of the Cross was a great mystic of the Catholic Church during the 16th century. His spiritual work Dark Night of the Soul is as relevant today as it was when it was originally written. I will only focus on the dark night of the purgation of our senses and tie it to the theme of crying out towards God. The major characteristic of this dark night is the soul finding no pleasure or consolation in the things of God. I find myself occasionally in a “spiritual rut” where I do not receive consolation or experience direct joy from God.

St. John tells us to not worry,

“It is well for those who find themselves in this condition to take comfort, to persevere in patience and to be in no wise afflicted. Let them trust in God, Who abandons not those that seek Him with a simple and right heart, and will not fail to give them what is needful for the road, until He bring them into the clear and pure light of love” (Chapter X no 3).

Like the writer of Lamentations, John of the Cross, reminds us purgation is necessary to increase our holiness and awareness of God.

dark night of the soul

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skinned Up Knees Leads to On Bended Knee

This week my wife and I added training wheels to our son’s first bicycle. We taught him the fundamentals of pedaling and coaxing him when he got frustrated because they were “too heavy”.

Things were going well. He gained momentum and cruised on our neighbor sidewalk for about 50 feet.

Suddenly he hit a raised section of the sidewalk and toppled off his bike. Tears immediately streamed down his face. My wife added a Band-Aid and after a few minutes of reassurance had him get back on the bike to try again.

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How does this common childhood experience relate to the spiritual life? Oftentimes we get metaphorical “skinned up knees”. Gossip in the workplace or stressful family events damage our relationship with God. True growth is not without pain—both in learning to ride a bike and deepening our spiritual life. Having undergone lots of skinned up knees in learning to ride my bike it makes it easier for me to be on bended knee in prayer to thank God for going through the school of trials to learn more about Him.

The difference between complaining and lamenting is the former lacks the virtue of hope. Complaining is more self-centered in orientations whereas prayers of lament focus communication with our Divine Creator. Do not be ashamed to cry out to God but remember that while it is a necessary step in the spiritual process– it is only the beginning. May we always ask the Holy Spirit to lead us toward prayers of thanksgiving after a season of lament!

Related Links

4 Reasons to Never Worry—Trust God Will Provide

Prayer― Catholic Answers

7 Ways to Shield Yourself against Anxiety!

Arrow Prayers: A Powerful Way to Cry Out to God

Thank you for sharing!

Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 24

Hope you had a Gaudete Sunday! 🙏😊

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday.

A belated Gaudete Sunday meme. 💖💕
Monday Mirth. 🙂
Legitimate debates. 🙂😆
A week I look forward to every year!
But can you really have too much chocolate?
🍫🍫🍫🍫
A feast some get mix up. 🙂😆
Classic Moses and tablet humor.
Best Catholic meme ever!!! 😆😆😆
🎵🎶 The more you know 🎶🎵
More Monday Mirth (and belated Saint Nick’s Day humor). 😆
Hope you have a joyful week. 🙏

That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.

Thank you for sharing!