“Myth tears God and world apart by trying to force them into a magical unity; the revelation of God’s Word unites God and world by sealing the distance between them in the very intimacy of their communion.” (Saint Ireneaus).
When I was a teenager, I enjoyed reading the stories of the Ancient Greek, Roman and Celtic myths and legends – I still do!
One of my favourite myths is the story of Icarus and his father. The myth goes like this… King Minos imprisoned on an island Icarus and his father Daedalus (who was a mast craftsman). Wanting to escape, Daedalus, crafted two sets of wings for his son Icarus to use in trying to fly away from the island. One set of wings was made of wax and the other of feathers… Before he used the wings, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high (or the sun’s heat would melt the wax wings) or to fly too low (or the sea would wet the feathered wings) and he would drown. But Icarus became so enamoured with flying that he ignored these warnings and flew too high, which melted his wax wings and caused him to fall into the sea and wet his feathered wings and drown. It is from this story that we have coined the expression, “flying too close to the sun”, and we use this expression to describe reckless behaviour...
There are other myths and legends of course. Leda and the Swan comes to mind. Leda was a beautiful Greek woman and the king of the god’s, the god Zeus, saw her and fell in love with her. Because she would be scared to death if he appeared to her in his divine form, he transformed himself into a giant swan instead – and raped her. The product of that rape was Leda’s beautiful daughter, the demi-goddess Helen of Troy, who was responsible for the fall of Troy, as she was seduced – for her beauty – from her Spartan husband by the Trojan prince, Paris.
I have been reflecting on these myths and legends over these last few days because as Saint Ireneaus said, “Myth and Christianity are opposed on every point. Myth seeks the ascent of man to spirit; the Word of God seeks descent into flesh and blood.”
But even so, I find that when I turn my mind to my Beloved, I can learn something of Him – even in these fictional stories of old...
After all, when I reflect on the story of Icarus, though it is fictional, I can see many of the faults of my own soul. While I do not have wax or feather wings, I do have vices and I do live in a world that I use to distract myself from all things of merit. While Icarus was enamoured of flight, and therefore ignored the warnings of his father and drowned, I am enamoured of the things of this world and try to ignore my God. But unlike Icarus, I will not drown – because my God comes to find me. He sends me help. I have my guardian angel and the whole Communion of Saints praying for me and helping me. And when I fall, I have the sacraments – administered by the priests – for my salvation!
And I think then of Leda, who was used so terribly by that mythological god. After all, in all the myths the common theme is that the gods and goddesses used man for their own pleasure. As such humans were afraid of the gods because they would recklessly use humankind for their own purposes. But this is why myths and Christianity are so different. After all, Zeus overpowered humanity, but my Beloved does not overpower anyone. He embraces and becomes one with us instead.
Saint Ireneaus said, “Myth tears God and world apart by trying to force them into a magical unity; the revelation of God’s Word unites God and world by sealing the distance between them in the very intimacy of their communion.”
Because in the myths the gods seek power, but my Beloved became a powerless baby and is hidden in a morsel of bread. In the myths knowledge comes in overwhelming flashes, but my Beloved makes slow revelations and waits patiently for my faith.
Because the truly profound difference between the myths and my Beloved is that “He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man ... might become the son of God.” (Saint Ireneaus).
Because my Beloved is not a myth. He is real. And that is surely more unbelievably marvellous a tale than any myth of legend that I could ever read. And yet it is the ONE TRUE thing that I know.
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.