Saturday, January 06, 2018

Epiphany Crowns and Haloes

"Adoration of the Magi," tapestry by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris

It's fascinating how various parts of daily life can manifest themselves in ways that intersect and surprise.

With Epiphany on the horizon, my mind had been returning to my blurry memory of the image above, which I used a couple of years ago in a presentation as part of my DMin degree, comparing this image to the image woven in words by the prophet Amos in chapter 6, where wealth and complacency accompany pride and are condemned.

I put a lot of work into that and was sad because I thought I had lost it forever, since I did it on the laptop that was stolen this summer;I had looked for it a couple of times in other places without success. But this evening one more search led me to find it in my emails.

I was reminded that the final sentence of what I wrote alluded to the choice between wearing crowns or being given haloes, because one thing that struck me in the tapestry is that all three kings have removed their crowns, and the one approaching Jesus has laid his on the ground, no doubt with an eye to Revelation 4:10 scene where the 24 elders cast their crowns before Jesus.

Whether kings or not (go here for a helpful article on the identity of these men), the wise men must have been wealthy to have traveled so far, and to spend their lives studying the stars. But they used their wealth to find and worship the Light of the world rather than as a means of gaining pleasure and status like the wealthy Amos addressed.

So, feeling happy that I'd discovered a copy of my work, and also being able to look again at the beautiful tapestry after finding the name and artist, I opened the book that we've been reading from throughout Advent and Christmas, to see what the reading for today is.

Here is what I found:

The child we seek
doesn't need our gold.
On love, on love alone
he will build his kingdom.
His pierc├ęd hand will hold no scepter,
his haloed head will wear no crown;
his might will not be built
on your toil.
Swifter than lightning
he will soon walk among us.
He will bring us new life
and receive our death,
and the keys to his city
belong to the poor.

~Gian Carlo Menotti,
from "Amahl and the Night Visitors"

And there it is--"his haloed head will wear no crown." I may have read this poem before, but I had never noticed that line until tonight. It has felt like an evening among old friends, somehow, even though I'm sick with the flu and home alone. A sweet reunion of sorts.

If we all desired the holiness of the halo over the power and prestige of the crown, what a different world it would be. Literal crowns are rare, but the desire for wealth and power certainly isn't. We can at least put down our own crowns and hope and pray for this crown-crazed world. And like the wise men, look for the light and follow it to its Source.

Postscript: I believe the way I originally discovered this tapestry was via the blog of my friend Janet a couple of years ago. Her poem based on it, which I've linked to, is worth reading, also.

1 comment:

Janet said...

When I saw that picture, I thought, "Oh, I really like that picture." And when I saw that you had gotten it from my blog, I laughed. And when I read the poem, I didn't remember it at all! Well, I remember the first line.