1. Christian Roy

    Not to take anything from the danger inherent in Rome’s worldwide census, the more immediate threat to the newborn King was from the old king of Judea, Herod, who embodies the old man clinging to his garments of skin for protection from rivals. Anthropologically, kings first embodied cosmic vitality, and would be violently replaced the moment they weren’t strong enough to fend off rivals. This was even ritualized in the sacrifice of the old king at the end of the year to make way for a fresh one to start the new year on the right foot, in the endless cycle of life organized around death and violence. Traces of this universal paradigm abound, from Babylon to the folkloric practices of the Twelve Days of Christmas and of Carnival, involving social inversion, scapegoating and the selection by chance of a new king. Except this one is not out to take power in replacement of another; it is power that is afraid to lose its grip with the very idea of hanging on to it. So the old, fearful king, embodying the mortal old man in a climactic struggle against the new dispensation, lashes out desperately against every newborn in sight, in a vain, bloody attempt to get to the very principle of a new Life which, assuming death, has no part in the endless annual competition to fend it off a little longer, but is a threat to those who take it seriously. For this king not of this world is not afraid to make himself vulnerable and taking provisional shelter in its darkest places and shady company, of the kind that are shunned by someone who clings to life and is therefore ruled by death.

    1. I think you are of course right in associating King Herod to Saul, an association that is quite obvious by his desire to kill Christ. We could also call him a kind of “reverse Pharaoh” who kills children, forcing the messiah to find refuge in Egypt. But even in Herod there is a bit of a mystery regarding this. Herod was crowned King of the Jews by Augustus, he was a usurper and established a new dynasty. Not only that, but he was an Edomite, something that is often missed. And if one knows a bit about Jewish Tradition, one will know that Esau/Edom= Rome. So although he was a religious Jew, he remains intensely connected to Rome as their patsy.

      1. Matthieu

        In fact, even David himself is seen as a “corrected Edom”. David is “Ruddy” (Edom) when Samuel first encounters him. The 400 renegades of the cave of Adullam (Sam 22:2) are seen to represent the 400 men of Esau (Gen 32:6). So again, the enemy of Israel-Jacob (which is Rome-Edom) becomes his garment. Jacob wears the skins of a goat to resemble his brother Esau: “the voice of Jacob with the hands of Esau” (Gen 27:22).

  2. Paul Renneberg

    O God,
    You have made death itself the gateway to Eternal Life
    Look with love on our sisters and brothers
    and make them one with Your Son’s suffering and death
    so that sealed with the Blood of Christ they may come before You
    free from sin.

  3. CB Fellerhoff

    Thanks for this and your previous articles, especially the St. Christopher series.

    From an architectural perspective- I once observed that both the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem consist of grand structures positioned over holes in the ground. There is a certain formal irony in that, but also it is slightly counter to the conventional wisdom about the Judeo-Christian world view, of a transcendent, sky-god YHWH. But Christ emerges form the earth, returns there, and emerges again, before ever heading off into the sky. The incarnation is ‘earthy’ in that way, it seems. Humanity and all of creation are imbued with the divine very clearly– incarnation is not an alien visitation but an emergence of something innate to creation.

    1. Thank you for your comment and your insight. Although I can understand that you would find this symbolism surprising, I think it is no more surprising than a tree coming from a seed planted in the ground, or from all of Israel’s connection to the divine life through a hidden glory residing on the ark in the holy of holies. Heaven appears on earth as a seed or even better as the kernel of a seed hidden in the fruit, in the core, in the husk of the seed itself. Hopefully that makes sense. And the incarnation, like all life (though in all ways being its pinnacle) is a marriage of Heaven and Earth and comes from a union of the two.

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