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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Epiphany epiphany

Today we are dusting off the Three Kings for the final act of the manger scene. We have our own set at home and the giant set at the church.

In recent years I've had trouble figuring out what to call them. They weren't kings, really. We don't know how many of them actually showed up. Technically, all we know is they were men from the east.

I'm not even going with 'wise'.

Here we have an nasty king Herod, known for his paranoia and cruelty. He actually killed his own sons to stay in power, prompting the Romans to say it would be safer to be Herod's hogs (kosher) than Herod's sons. And what do these 'wise men' do? They show up at the castle asking where they might find the new king.


So Herod says to them, "Well, when you find him come back and let me know so I can go pay him homage, too."


The fellows from the east smell a rat....finally....and take a different route home to duck Herod. But Herod already has enough information to take care of things on his own. He orders all male children under the age of two slaughtered.

(The Feast of the Holy Innocents which has passed already, by the way, is out of chronological order. Just another reminder to calm down about being too literal when nosing around in the Bible on your own.)

We know they weren't kings. The New Testament doesn't say kings. It doesn't even say there were three of them. It says wise men from the east.

Okay....it does say 'wise'. Although there is another reason this is a little problematic. Historians agree that they were most likely astrologers. Astrology was the most important science of the day, so an astrologer would have been considered to be a very wise man indeed.

In the Catholic church astrology is a sin. I can't think why astrology wouldn't have been a sin then either. No one has addressed this problem as far as I can tell.

How did we end up with three? Most people chalk it up to the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

But I have a more complex theory and I'm not just pulling it out of my veil.

You may recall that for many years plays and theater were just non-existent because all of that was considered sinful. The only theater that was allowed was Catholic church related so all of that energy went into creating spectacular Passion plays that told the whole life of Christ.

In those plays there were as many as twelve men from the east arriving at the manger.

Here's another thing....they didn't come to the manger. The New Testament clearly states that they saw the "child" at His "house".

Anyhow, the Passion plays had twelve men to represent the twelve tribes. (Which is also misguided since the whole point of having these fellows show up is to show that Jesus is for everyone, not just the Jews. The men from the east are gentiles.)

Now twelve people on stage on camels just takes up a ton of room. So the numbers dwindles over the years to three, each with a gift to bring. Pah rumpa pum pum.

We're dealing with actors here, so "King One, King Two and King Three" is not going to make them happy.

"Where am I from?" "How did I hook up with these other two?" "What's my motivation?"

"Okay....you're Balthasar and you'll be...um...Melchior and you can be..."

"I'll be Gaspar! That's my grandpa's name!"


I think that's the way it went. I think that's also how we ended up with a black one, an old one and the other guy. Actors.

We'll dust them off, just the same and look to the big picture. Men from the east fulfilled an ancient prophecy. Both the lowly shepards and the most educated men of the day paid homage to the new king that came for everyone.

Without their gifts none of us would get any Christmas presents.

And we'll call them guests from out of town.


cattiekit said...

Farther east than the Romans? ???

I guess that would allow for their not knowing about Herod's hogs/sons. Not as if I want to get too literal or anything. ;>)

Personally? I *like* the Passion Play theory. Squares with what we know about the early Church and actors. :>)

cattiekit said...

I should have said, "AND actors".

Fouquette Racing said...

Astrology is a sin?? Is it a sin NOW? I have never heard of this...

Anonymous said...

Dear Fouquette Racing,

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone" (CCC 2116).

"Roma Locuta Est, Causa Finita Est."

Sister Mary Martha said...

fouquette, in simple terms consulting the stars is putting faith in something other than God.

Milehimama @ Mama Says said...

I think astrology was a sin back then. Everything was a sin. Cooking food on Sabbath, hangin' with the menfolk during 'that time of the month', having mold in your house, clambakes...
However, the degree of sinfulness (venial? mortal? deadly? capital?) of the Gentiles who weren't bound by Mosaic law... that I'll leave to the theologians

Anonymous said...

I tried but could not vote for this blog to become "the best of religion blogs".

And I have been here for only 5 minutes, but I am pretty sure the blog is NÂș 1.

Religion blogs however are generally really bad. Reason: copypaste from encyclopedia or similar publications where info is served in that bored style that makes it sound scientific and objective.

I see you have been thinking on your own a great deal. Chapeau.