Saturday, August 11, 2012

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

Shakespeare tells us, in The Merchant of Venice, that "all that glitters is not gold". Something may seem important while it is really not; something may seem valuable on the surface yet be unworthy of pursuit. J.R.R. Tolkien turned that phrase around to remind us that something may not look important yet still be.
"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost."*
Among the gifts brought by magi, the infant Jesus received gold (Mt 2:11), symbolic of kingship. Our King, however, was born in a stable. His parents fled from their home country. His mother's husband wasn't even his biological father. Today, this would earn them a talk show appearance. It's about as un-glittery as you can get. Yet what is the worth of the Christ child? If you saw them there, in the stable in Bethlehem, after a long journey, what would you think?

The Church shares in that royalty, as the Church is His Body. The Church is gold, though it often does not glitter. This Church wanders, exploring the meaning of God's revelation and its relevance to our time, yet it is not lost. Its members, from the very beginning, have wandered and needed to be led back in, yet it is not lost.

The Church is old, and while many automatically equate "old" with "weak" and "out of touch", it is unwithered. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt 16:18) We have deep roots; anyone that reads the Old Testament with Christ in mind will see that.

It seems to be more and more popular in the media to portray the Church as weak, lost, and disconnected. How deceiving can appearances be!


*Those who watched the movies will recall the second verse of that poem, recited while the sword Narsil was being reforged: From the ashes a fire shall be woken, / A light from the shadows shall spring; / Renewed shall be blade that was broken, / The crownless again shall be king.

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