Advent: Week 1 Day 5Two dreams: Jacob's and Joseph's...
Upper left: Jacob's Ladder (or staircase?)
Jacob (grandson of Abraham) has a dream - somehow I recall it as happening at a point where he was to make (or had just made) a critical decision in his life... And now he sees the Great Passageway, where even angels fear to tread! Why do I say this? Hey, any angel in Heaven has GOT to have a bit of trepidation thinking about going DOWN, whew! (Yeah, I know, angels don't get scared, though GKC had a very interesting speculation about angels and fear; I will post it below.) As a computer scientist, I find this vision particularly significant, for here we see that the communications channel is bi-directional: messages may travel in both directions. (The word angelis just the English version of the Greek word for "messenger"!) Jacob doesn't realize it at the time, but he himself will form part of an even greater staircase, by which not angels, but GOD HIMSELF will one day come down to earth.
Lower right: Joseph's Dream
Jacob had a big family. Joseph was number 11 among 12 boys (yeah they had sisters too; I forget the names - hey, talk about trivia, try to list the brothers!) Jacob liked Joseph and got him a coat of many colours (which gets translated differently in some versions), and the favoritism bothered the other brothers, especially when Joseph had a dream about how the sun and moon and eleven stars knelt before him - and then went and told his brothers about it! It was really a prophecy, and you remember what happened afterwards... Joseph became Number Two reporting to the Pharaoh, and by his Divinely inspired foresight, was able to save a whole nation from starvation. Not only that, Joseph saved his family, too, and they DID come and bow before him! The Lord made him ruler of his house ("Pharaoh" is ancient Egyptian for "great house", an honorific title of their ruler) and gave him charge over all His possessions... And thus Joseph foreshadowed another Joseph, a distant nephew, who would have charge over the Everlasting Bread: the Bread given into his charge in Bethlehem, the House-of-Bread. (We'll see more on this later on.)
Please note: all my other blogging is suspended, in order that I may focus on each image, and you may also. Do you not love the word "focus"? You should. It is the Latin word meaning "hearth"... and this season ought to remind us of the Family. GKC explains: "The truth is that only men to whom the family is sacred will ever have a standard or a status by which to criticise the state. They alone can appeal to something more holy than the gods of the city; the gods of the hearth." [GKC, The Everlasting Man CW2:275] This quote is a strong indication of the influence on GKC of Pope Leo XIII's document Rerum Novarum, which I mentioned elsewhere in this blogg (in the post on Subsidiarity).
And that reminds me, I said I would tell you about GKC and the angels who were fearful. Oddly enough, it was the GOOD angels, back when they were getting ready for the heavenly battle (or are they still?) Here's the quote:
"...what, for instance, can be the basis of objecting to peacocks' feathers?"
Crundle was replying with a joyful roar that it was some infernal rubbish or other, when Gale, who had quickly slipped into a seat beside the man called Noel, interposed in a conversational manner.
"I fancy I can throw a little light on that. I believe I found a trace of it in looking at some old illuminated manuscripts of the ninth or tenth century. There is a very curious design, in a stiff Byzantine style, representing the two armies preparing for the war in heaven. But St. Michael is handing out spears to the good angels; while Satan is elaborately arming the rebel angels with peacocks' feathers."
Noel turned his hollow eyes sharply in the direction of the speaker. "That is really interesting," he said; "you mean it was all that old theological notion of the wickedness of pride?"
"Well, there's a whole peacock in the garden for you to pluck," cried Crundle in his boisterous manner, "if any of you want to go out fighting angels."
"They are not very effective weapons," said Gale gravely, "and I fancy that is what the artist in the Dark Ages must have meant. There seems to me to be something that rather hits the wrong imperialism in the right place, about the contrast in the weapon; the fact that the right side was arming for a real and therefore doubtful battle, while the wrong side was already, so to speak, handing out the palms of victory. You cannot fight anybody with the palms of victory."
[GKC, The Poet and the Lunatics, "The House of the Peacock"; emphasis added]