Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Vigil of Christmas - ERO CRAS

Tomorrow is Christmas

Our symbol: Here we see a multi-window drawing: the Star, the Great Announcer with the word Gloria, and the shepherds, and in the cave, the Holy Family with Joseph holding the lantern and Mary holding the Light. The tear, or rip which comes down from above reads "tear the heavens open and come down" - not as if I somehow goofed and thought that God only came on Christmas, when in fact He had been human already for nine months - oh not at all! But these nine months were a mystic novena of secret preparation. Only exceedingly privileged people knew about the God-Man incarnate in Mary's womb. But today the Announcement was made: now He is visible and as He told Philip later, "whoever sees Me, sees the Father." So the heavens are indeed torn open.

But before I go further today, I must beg pardon for propagating an error. The error is called "folk-etymology" which is the process by which words are falsely (or faultily) explained to derive from other, usually similar, words. I mistakenly derived "communicate" from the Latin cum + unus = "one with". The correct derivation is from cum + munus. It is surprising to learn that munus is Latin for gift or present - so, oddly enough, this chimes far more strongly with Christmas than one might have expected! This, however, will have to be dealt with in a future discussion.

Today is the Vigil of Christmas - sort of like the Advent version of Holy Saturday. A strange anticipation fills the air. And now it is time for me to tell you two other details I have been holding back.

1. The O acronym. I believe it was over at "the Shrine of the Holy Whapping" (unless it was at "Catholic Testudines") that I learned of the very curious secret hidden in the Latin names of the seven O antiphons:

O Emmanuel
O Rex gentium
O Oriens
O Clavis David
O Radix Jesse
O Adonai
O Sapientia

That is these seven titles of our Lord form an acronym: ERO CRAS = "I will be [here] tomorrow."

2. The Roman connection. There was left hanging this strange little question about how the angel came to Mary in Nazareth but the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. And I have hinted several times about some strange and rather unpleasant topic in relation to this puzzle. Now it is time for me to tell you about it.

One day, probably fairly late in Mary's pregnancy, the Roman command-giver - the Emperor, Caesar Augustus, and the "king" of all the nations around the sea of Middle-Earth, wrote an order.

It was rather a simple order, just a kind of information gathering follow-up for purposes of taxation. It was sent out to the whole world by the efficient Roman roads and trade routes. It was most probably in both Greek and Latin, and finally it came to a little town called Nazareth.

A young man and his pregnant wife heard about it, and realized that they were going to have to make some travel arrangements... Perhaps I should let St. Luke tell this part, as I have doubtless already wrecked it:
And it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David. To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child.
From the rather ambiguous details in the next few lines, it can be argued back and forth whether Joseph did his "enrolling" before or after the birth. Somehow the sense of a late arrival resulting in the lack of accomodation and the subsequent use of a cave used for sheltering animals seems to suggest that the birth happened that first night, and so the "enrolling" would have occurred with Jesus already born.

What does this mean?

Well, it is true that the Romans did not have computers, nor indeed any kind of electronic information-storage. But they were sticklers for accuracy and for doing things according to the law (remember the Twelve Tables that the schoolboys memorized?)

So this means that the BIRTH of Jesus was recorded legally (for TAX purposes, of all things) by one of the most information-crazy, sticklers-for-standards, law-abiding and POWERFUL governments ever existing! (Said in a whisper, eyes rolling: yet there are still people who try to pretend there was never any such person. ROTFL!)

The other Chosen People:

They had a calendar with descending numbers, which was always looking ahead to a future feast.
They gave us the great capital Letters of Wisdom we still use.
They had laws engraved on stone tablets, seen by the general public and memorized by schoolboys.
They sanctified the fireplace of their homes with their household gods.
They honored the virgins who kept watch by an ever-burning flame.
They dignified their highest religious office with the title of Greatest Bridge-Builder
They fought and destroyed a truly evil empire.
They had a world-wide view and governed an immense realm tolerantly, and tolerably well.
They even had a prophet who told of a Virgin and a divine Child who was to come bringing peace, "to free the world from perpetual fear."

And so, with all the terrifying and unthwartable legal machinery of TAXATION in that world-wide, law-abiding empire, they ratified the birth of that Child which Isaiah and all the Hebrew Prophets had been predicting for millennia - the very Child even their own Virgil had foretold!

They did one more thing, too, which you may have already sensed. It is the other part of Christmas - the one which we have not yet addressed - though we have certainly hinted about it several times.

And tomorrow I will tell you about it. That will be my Christmas gift for you.

O COME!!! O Emmanuel, Rex gentium, Oriens, Clavis David, Radix Jesse, Adonai, Sapientia!

"And you Bethlehem..."



At 24 December, 2005 21:43, Blogger Nancy C. Brown said...

Beautiful, Dr. T.
The ERO CRAS part is almost like a true detective story clue.
God bless you, and keep you this holy Christmas. Thank you for your gift to us of these meditations.
Also, I think your drawings would make an interesting set of stained glass windows for a new church.


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