Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Am King Herod

In today's Liturgy of the Hours, there is a reading from a sermon by Saint Quodvultdeus. In it, the good bishop says:

A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lives in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.

King Herod was afraid to hear of the possible birth of a king. Why? The Christ Child had not come to drive him from his kingship, but Satan from his. But because of a perplexing yet explicable dynamic that mimetic theory calls the "problem of the doubles" or the dilemma of the "model/rival", Herod sees an enemy usurper at his gate. He shows the enormity of cruelty in the death of so many children. There are no categories of good or evil in his mind, only power (mine) vs. another rivalrous one (the infant usurper).

Fast forward to the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, 2006; Andy Warhol's solemn pronouncement about everyone one day being famous for fifteen minutes kicks in; paraphrase: Everyone will be King Herod for fifteen minutes. Men. Women. Children. We collude to allow the violence to be doled out, no matter our gender, age or station and call it "democracy" or "freedom to choose" or other such mystifying cloaking the darkness of our royal deeds.

This is the sacrificial crisis of our age in which not only kings are on stage wielding the power of an Apocalypto priest's stone knife. Whoever threatens my ego is liable to murder, real or imaginary, or, if possible, under the sanction of the state. We even practice it, giving it full influence upon our mirror neurons as we play horrendous video games. Watch gore and mayhem at movie theaters. See it carried out in far-off exotic countries. Allow our reason to be infiltrated so as to allow for abortions of "convenience" (read: "expedience"). The more voiceless, helpless and innocent the victim the better. Who will know? Who will care? Saint Quodvultdeus:
The children die for Christ, though they do not know it...The child makes of these as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the savior already working salvation.

But you, Herod, do not know this ...While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.

How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

And so, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, goes on apace. Not something to cluck our tongues at done so long, long ago by a faceless tyrant, but today, here, here, and still again here.

I am King Herod. Mea culpa. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.


David Nybakke said...

Athos, this is aaahhhh, so good.

I am King Herod. Mea culpa. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

You sure you don't have a Franciscan spirit?

Athos said...

If having a neurotic disposition qualifies me, then yes, Aramis, I have a Franciscan spirit.

Or it might be that having a character disorder is just a thicker layer of denial about one's culpability; read: it takes the Paraklete a bit longer to break through to convict one of one's need for Grace.

But to honor your question fully, Aramis: I've always been torn between the Franciscan way and the Cistercian, so I ask Sts Francis and Claire, and Bernard of Clairvoux to pray for me.


Porthos said...

Hey, I'm the neurotic around here. Let's just get that straight, OK?

Great post, Ath. Almost a little too good as far as it applies to me--as in so true that I can't totally enjoy how good it is.

Lord have mercy on me, indeed.

Athos said...

As Groucho Marx said, "I would never belong to a club that would have me as a member."

Is every neurotic a closet megalomaniac?