Saturday, December 20, 2008

Advent 2008 - December 20 - O Key of David

Come O Clavis David!

December 20: Five more days: O Clavis David (O Key of David)

O clavis David,
et sceptrum domus Israel,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

(translation from Fr. Britt)

O Key of David, and Scepter of the House of Israel; who openest, and no man shutteth; who shuttest, and no man openeth; COME and lead the captive from the prison-house, and him that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.

(another version)

O Key of David,
O royal Power of Israel
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.

Today we shall take a quick glance at "The Bishop's Wife"... which may sound a bit odd to a Roman Catholic, but there are good lessons here - but I am not going to discuss the matter of celibacy. The lessons are rather larger, and perhaps more relevant to laity than to clergy.

First we come to the issue of prayer. Who is Dudley? Why is he there? One must pay attention to lots of details in order to understand both Dudley's place in the hierarchy of being, and also the mechanism that brought him to assist the Bishop. This is extremely important. We may never really know if - after our honest and sincere prayer - if God really DID send us an angel to assist. This can happen, and the fact that in some cases the humanity of the interceder is shown beyond all doubt only strengthens the chance - angels can work invisibly when necessary. Those wings ain't just for flying - don't you recall how when Isaias saw the seraphim, each had six wings, and two were used to cover its face??? [Is 6:2] Yes. Stealth wings. Very high tech, and talk about fast!

Next, we see the professor. Again, one of the best scenes is where Dudley and the Bishop's wife visit him... and they talk about some rather silly things, as well as ancient things, which is good to do at Christmas. Notice how they laugh! And how Dudley makes them laugh! It is good. And then, there's that very cool thing that is done with the drinks. It's right out of 3 Kings 17, how the bottle would not go empty! The liquour replenishes itself, in the glasses and in the jug. This is a famous trick in fairy tales, and even "Run Around" by Blues Traveler has something about drinking and it will always be full... it is the clue to remind us that God is not outdone in generosity. How else can we explain those six big water vats suddenly full of good wine?

At a crucial moment, Dudley opens a locked box. This is a great clue for all fiction and fantasy writers about magic and its true nature, but of course it gets lost in the translation. Clearly it is about authority: he is authorized to open the box - and it opens, key or no key. There is no "spell" required in such a case; likewise if he was not authorized, no spell, not even the key, would suffice. (I am sure you would like to know more about this - but at present I will only say that I am working on a way of explaining this, and someday it will be in print, here or elsewhere.) But it is that mystic ability to open what needs to be opened and close what needs to be closed that is the talent of the Key of David, Who is also King of all Angels. (This too is in Isaias, who we might call the prophet of Advent.)

There is also the subtle re-direction of wills - never forced, never coerced, never tricked, but simply urged by the presenting of something of greater delight, something warmer, kinder, more lovely... this too is angelic work, and yet it is not out of our own reach.

And that is the lesson of the famous "dictation to the typewriter" sermon which Dudley gives to the Bishop. To remember what we are here for, why we have the gifts we do have, and what we ought to be doing with them.


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