Delightful new children’s book retells forgotten tale of the spider who saved Christmas
October 6, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Raymond Arroyo of EWTN wrote a children's book for Christmas that will warm the hearts of children and parents alike. Illustrated with beautiful depictions of the Holy Family, this new book is a perfect Christmas gift for children this year.
As Arroyo stated on October 5, when speaking about The Spider Who Saved Christmas (published by Sophia Institute Press), “this is actually an old Eastern European legend, and it has fallen a little bit out of favor — people had forgotten about it.” It is Arroyo's merit to bring it back into our Christian memory and devotion.
This legend, Arroyo continued, “explains why we put tinsel in Christmas trees at this time of year.” So everybody who reads this book will forever after see tinsel in a very different way — a way much more centered on Christmas the holy day.
As this legend goes, it was a spider that helped protect the Holy Family in an awkward and dangerous moment that could have endangered the life of Baby Jesus. We won't divulge the details of the story here, but suffice to say that it is exciting and full of wonder.
As a mother who, together with my husband, was always out to find books for our children that not only contained good stories, but also were presented with lovely, beautiful, realistic drawings and pictures, I am pleased with the work of the artist, Randy Gallegos, here. The paintings of the scenes are realistic yet wondrous. The atmosphere of mystery is captured, and the artist successfully presents the faces of the Holy Family — all three of them — in an appealing way. I must admit that too many modern painters fail in this regard. Even the spider Nephila comes to us now in the form of a kind spider — certainly a challenge!
My favorite picture in this book is the one of Baby Jesus, who, with gratitude for having been protected by Nephila, reaches into her web and smiles at her. It is also the picture on the cover of the book.
This species of spider, by the way really exists. She is called the Golden Silk Orb Weaver, and she does produce golden silk, just the worthy thing for Our King.
Raymond Arroyo's own words of warmth and heart can be seen already in the book’s dedication: “For Rebecca and all the mothers who spin webs of love and sacrifice that hold our families together.” What a beautiful testimony, honoring his own wife and all the world’s good mothers!
The story of the spider shows how she, in spite of her having her own babies in a sac of eggs, hurries to help a family in need of a shelter. She reaches out to the suffering others while taking care of her own little ones. This is, indeed, a beautiful image for the many housewives and mothers trying to imitate Our Lady in her motherly ways.
And, as a matter of fact, it is Mary herself who protects the mother spider when St. Joseph, upon arrival in the cave, wants to attack Nephila. “Leave it, Joseph,” she says, and she adds: “All are here for a reason. Let it be.” Nephila was to pay back that kindness a hundredfold.
This story of an animal, part of God's creation, playing a part in Jesus’s life is not an isolated case. As parents, we joyfully remember the Christmas song “The Friendly Beasts” — we actually built our own theater and stage similar to this one here in order to sing and re-enact that scene — where different animals in the stable contribute to Jesus’s well-being at His birth. Saint Maria Agreda, in her visions, also saw how the ox and the donkey helped warm Baby Jesus in the stable with their breath.
Even Our Lord Himself uses images from the animal world to explain to us His teachings. He calls us His sheep, and He talks about a chicken who protects her little chick under her wings.
Here, it is fitting to mention the artist Tomie dePaola, who found a beautiful children's story in the writings of Caryll Houselander: Petook. An Easter Story. She, too, found an incarnational way of telling the story of Easter with the involvement of animals, by quoting exactly those stories that Jesus Christ told us Himself.
So we thank Raymond Arroyo and Randy Gallegos for enriching our Christmas celebrations with our children, so that the experience of Christmas becomes more and more intimate and ingrained in their hearts.