January 6th is the traditional date for the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany in the Catholic Church. Sometimes it is celebrated on a Sunday between January 2nd and January 8th depending on the diocese.
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
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 the late Pope 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
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 +23 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.
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  two thousand,  and twenty years ago. [+ +] May Christ bless our home [+ +], and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.
Editor’s Note: Matthew Chicoine interviewed Will Henry via phone call on December 15, 2022. Some of the questions have been rearranged and edited to provide the best reader experience without losing any integrity of the answers given.
What inspired you to begin Rings of the Lord?
Around two years ago my mom ordered a rosary from our family friend Steven. He told us about the Irish Penal Rosary and joked about us starting a business to make this type of rosary. The story of the Penal Rosary resonated with me. It reminded me of Jesus’ words about prayer in Matthew 6:6.
Describe your Catholic journey (so far).
My faith has always been important to me my whole life. My parents became friends with a priest while we lived in Florida. I always had an interest in the sacraments. My dad has a degree in theology and I enjoy talking to him about it. And my mom has a heart listening to God. Both of them influenced my faith.
What have been joys you experienced with this project?
The biggest joy is learning how my work has spread to all these people in the United States and across the world: one rosary was sent to Canada and another to Germany. One customer commented that the first time he prayed the rosary was with the Penal Rosary I made.
Where did you learn web design?
I picked up my myself and found it interesting to have on the web to look at. My uncle got me involved in website building for his business. I enjoy doing this because I can use design to help display the product(s). Good design reminds me of the beauty in the Catholic Church. We have beautiful church and you look at all the art and it draws you to the main focus (Jesus). In a similar way, my website is about drawing attention to the main focus: to Jesus through Mary.
What have been some obstacles you encountered?
Hard to give to attention to three to four different areas in my life. But I can give my website a break when I need it too.
Who is your favorite Catholic saint(s) besides Mary?
My patron saint is Saint John Bosco. I was reading his story and I enjoyed how he had a sense of humor being a priest. He wasn’t a priest who wasn’t sitting in prayer all day. He was among the people. I think his liveliness was amazing!
How do you incorporate prayer in your life?
I think that praying the Rosary is important in my life. Prayer connects the physical with the spiritual world. Prayer makes me feel that God isn’t a far, distant being. The gift of prayer is amazing. It’s natural for us to cry out to God and it’s great to be personal with our Lord and Savior. Both memorized and spontaneous prayers serve a purpose in my life it depends on the day. I started using the Hallow app and the novena I’m praying is one way God is really speaking to me recently. Remembering the words of the novena helps ease my doubts.
How’s it like being the oldest of five kids?
It’s both a blessing and a challenging. I often feel more responsible for my siblings than they seem to be for themselves. I put more pressure on myself than necessary. But I enjoy helping my siblings out.
Hello, my name is Will Henry! I started Rings of the Lord with hopes of bringing people closer to Mary. I live in the beautiful mountains of western NC with my parents, my four younger siblings, and my dog, Bosco. On the weekends I love serving mass at church (my favorite role is Master of Ceremony). After school I enjoy playing golf, designing websites, and of course making rosaries.
Editor’s Note: Post originally published on December 06, 2021.
One of the movies I’m most excited about since Avengers: Endgame is Spider-Man: No Way Home. One of the ways I have been preparing for it is rewatching the Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spidey films. Another way is reading the recent run of The Amazing Spider-Man by Nick Spencer. It’s an intriguing series and puts a new spin on one of Peter Parker’s greatest villains. Specifically, this article will be based on issues #37-60.
The Amazing Spider-Man cover Volume 9 Nick Spencer.
Even Heroes Need to Grieve
Arguably the most iconic quote in comic book history is Ben Parker’s, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Peter Parker took his uncle’s words to heart and takes the job of a superhero seriously. In the MCU, Peter is always trying to do his best at making Tony Stark (a father figure) proud. The weight of responsibility Spider-Man carries makes him one of my favorite Marvel characters.
One of the side effects of taking your responsibilities so carefully and seriously is you often don’t have the foresight to recognize it’s sometimes okay to make mistakes. In Spencer’s The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter doesn’t give himself enough grace when things happen outside of his control. He even takes responsibility for the choices of the villains Sin-Eater and Kindred.
Sins Must Be Paid— But By Who?
The Sin-Eater is a former S.H.IE.L.D. agent (Stanley Carter) turned serial killer. He believed the sins of his father were passed onto him and decided to “absorb” the sins of other people who abused their power. Spider-Man values human life so much that his battles with Sin-Eater forces Parker to defend one of his greatest villains—Norman Osborn.
In a soliloquy during issue #47, Sin-Eater tells Spider-Man:
“Do you want to know what your problem is, Spider-Man? You think you’re superior. Above all this. Above them. You look at their fear, and their bloodlust with disdain. Of course, you do. Why wouldn’t you? You swing up high, through the city, you tear down walls with your bare hands. It affords you this luxury. The luxury to call what I do unseemly. To refuse to believe in my calling. To insist I can’t be trusted. You don’t know what they’re feeling—how desperate they are. But you will…you see the one who called me, he has a plan for you. I am just his vessel. He told me who to cleanse next—see what your sins have done.”
Sticking to the Mission
Throughout his superhero career Peter Parker took it upon himself to protect his city, family, and friends. When I think of Spider-Man I don’t normally associate him being part of a superhero team like the Avengers or Fantastic Four. Spider-Man had good reasons to be solitary and keep his identity secret—to protect Aunt May, Mary Jane, and others he loved.
Even when members of the “Order of the Web” showed up in Volume 9: Green Goblin Returns, Peter Parker is reticent to accept their help. He doesn’t think it’s their responsibility for his “sins” or past failures. He wants to stick with his mission of fighting villains by himself.
In issue #51 Spider-Man seeks out help from Dr. Strange in finding the demon Kindred. Peter tells Strange, “For as long as I’ve been putting this suit on, one deranged monster after another has used the people I love as pawns. I have lost so many of them…But that ends here. It has to.” Great power. Great (sole) responsibility. That’s what Peter learned long ago from his Uncle Ben. He continued to tell the mystical doctor, “So whatever you think can be done—to find him (Kindred), to free them—I am in. But understand this—I will be there. I’ll be the one to face him. And I am not taking no for an answer.”
The Amazing (and Lonely) Spider-Man
When Peter Parker does eventually find Kindred he is quickly outwatched. The centipede-clothed villain wants Spider-Man to confess his sins. After torturing Spidey for some time, Kindred pulls off his mask and reveals himself to be Harry Osborn.
Kindred (Harry) hints at Spider-Man’s primary character flaw in reply to Peter blaming him for sending Sin-Eater, “No, you decided—like you always do—that you knew best. Thinking you know better than all of us.” Much of the hatred Harry/Kindred feels towards Spider-Man originates from Peter keeping the secret of Norman Osborn being the Green Goblin. Harry felt betrayed because he didn’t know what his father was going through until it was too late. Spider-Man wanted to protect Harry from his father.
The following exchange between the former best friends comes to a boil:
Harry/Kindred: He was my father!!! I had the right to know! It was my family, not yours! I could’ve gotten him help. You just let him walk free!
Peter: I…I didn’t know he was still a threat. He had suffered amnesia after our last fight. He didn’t even remember he was the Goblin.
Harry/Kindred: There we are. There’s the lie. You let him go because of the amnesia. Yeah, Pete, that’s right. But not because he didn’t remember who he was. It was because he didn’t remember who you were.
A fractured friendship was sowed by distrust. Harry could have forgiven Peter’s mistake of not keeping him aware of Norman’s identity as the Green Goblin. Spider-Man could have eased the tension by looping more friends into his secret of being a superhero. But trust lost entangled their relationship.
Confession Leads to Peace
The fight between Kindred, Spider-Man, and Green Goblin (who shows up at the end of Issue #55) ends with Wilson Fisk showing up. The Kingpin harnessed and amplified the villain The Spot’s powers to contain Harry. Kindred is trapped in a sort of dimensional encasement.
Even after the capture of Kindred, Peter continues to have dreams about him and struggles with his past decisions as Spider-Man. At the urging of Mary Jane, Peter decides to talk about his problems and fear relating to Kindred. Peter closes his eyes and imagines Kindred standing before him. Spider-Man explains why he takes it upon himself and decides what’s best for others. Peter blamed himself for his Uncle Ben’s death and the lost friendship with Harry. Peter pleads, “Just tell me out to fix it, Harry. Tell me what to do. I’ll confess to anything, do anything…”
Peter admits to Mary Jane he feels more at peace getting his “sins” off his chest. There’s something about externalizing our problems, failures, and sins to others that makes us better able to move on. The Catholic Church has the sacrament of confession where one receives the grace of healing and forgiveness. Though not an exact parallel, Peter does find the ability to move past this obstacle in his life. Mary Jane’s love for Peter was a catalyst for him pausing and recognizing he needs help.
Nick Spencer’s The Amazing Spider-Man was a fun and intriguing read. Peter Parker’s stubbornness and need to shoulder responsibility by himself resonates with me. Great power comes with great responsibility. But the greater lesson I learned? You don’t need to shoulder the burden by yourself. Be willing to ask for help in time of need.