For an American living abroad one of the little delights of coming home is catching up on the nuances of popular culture which one has missed while away. I have enjoyed watching the news in real-time, late-night TV, and I have been binge-watching past episodes of The Crown.
You may know that The Crown is a Netflix original series about the history of the royal family. No real royal watcher can ignore it. A friend and I are about half-way through season two and we are loving every minute of it! — Well, except the part where the Queen seems to lean towards American-style evangelicalism by entertaining Billy Graham. We didn’t like that much. — Despite that one disappointment, it’s a beautifully produced series and we were on the edges of our seats.
That might not seem like a very auspicious start to an essay on Gaudete Sunday. We are all supposed to be getting very spiritual about the incarnation by now, after all. But wait, as they say on late-night TV, there’s more…
I noticed this one little thing in The Crown. The Queen is, from the very start of her reign, called “Your Majesty.” Even in the very early days when she had yet to grow into her royal role, she was called Majesty… as if it were her name. Surely enough, she did grow into the royal role and the title seems more and more appropriate as the series progresses. She, in effect, begins to incarnate the role.
Incarnation is one theme for Advent. So, in thinking about the Queen and her role, I find myself thinking about each one of us and our roles, the ways we live into the roles we play in the short time we are alive. Some people, of course, feel “called” to “vocations” and they give themselves roles to play. Most of us, I suspect, just fall into whatever is handy and try to become the best we can at it. I certainly don’t feel “called” to anything. But here I am, a teacher, a friend, a woman. And, I’ve been called worse too! You too, I’m sure.
There is, however, an identity we all share: Majesty. Jesus, of course, is an incarnation of God, an event I can barely even think about because my brain is not big enough. What an amazing thing that God became one of us. It’s astounding. It’s impossible to grasp. That is why we observe it mainly with silence, in the dark. It’s beyond words. No less amazing, though, is that from the beginning of our history we have all been created in the image of God. Not Gods ourselves, but images, pictures, ideas about who God might really be.
When you look at one another you might very well think, “Oh, that’s what God is like,” and in one way or another you’ll be right. Here’s an exercise you can do: Make a list of the ten or twelve people closest to you and write down one or two words that describe them. That’s what God is like. God is sometimes a lot different to what we imagine. Even those of us who think about God a lot fall into the trap of only thinking certain things. God is love, God is good, God is my co-pilot… whatever. God is more, and a picture of God is in each one of you, and in me too.
It’s been said that a procession of angels passes before each person, and the heralds go before them, saying, “Make way for the image of God!” because within each of us is an image, or an icon, of God. Icons are said to be windows into Heaven. What people rarely tell you until it’s too late is that sometimes Heaven looks back. So, you might not only see the divinity of others but of yourself too. Yes, Your Majesty, you carry the image of God in your own body.
We are careful with our icons, placing them just so, ensuring that a light is left on so that they are not in the dark, we even put some of them high up on the ceiling so that they can look down on us. My own icon is the one thing I have said should be saved in the event of an evacuation, and last summer when Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast my icon was evacuated along with the dogs and the people. These are holy images, precious to those of us who love them. But each living person is an icon too. The human version of an icon is harder to deal with. Who wouldn’t prefer a nice reverie on the Blessed Virgin than to think about… well, you fill in the blank? Yet, somewhere, perhaps well-concealed, there is an idea of what God might be like in everybody. The question is whether or not we have the will, the patience, and the spiritual eye to see it.
I am not suggesting that we should go around calling one another Majesty, but we could. The majesty of God, the mystery of the incarnation, surrounds us in the lives of everyone we meet. The grocer, your best friend, your worst enemy, everybody carries a picture which is longing to be noticed, to be seen and acknowledged as the image of God. And when you find God, feed him, be kind to him. For it has also been said that when you do a kind deed for the very least of all you have done it for God.
As you go through this last hectic week before Christmas, try to remember that God is waiting to be noticed in every person you meet. God is trying to tell you who he is, trying to show you a thousand ways that you are loved, but you have to look, keep your eyes open, don’t give up, it’s there.
Linda McMillan likes to write essays and isn’t living anywhere particular at the moment but hopes to be living somewhere again soon.
Image: from Netflix
Some Notes of Possible Interest
You can read more about The Crown here.
Hod, the Hebrew word for majesty or splendor, is the eighth sephirot on the Etz Hayim, just opposite Netzach, which is the seventh sefirot and roughly corresponds to the English word for victory or eternity. Hod and Netzach are said to be two feet, the right and the left, working together since neither can function without the other. That’s why we think of them together. The arms of Chesed and Gevurah can function independently, but one foot needs another if it’s to make any progress. You can talk to your rabbi for more information, or your teacher.
Rabbi Joshua ben Levi is the one who said that a procession of angels passes before each person, and the heralds go before them, saying, “Make way for the image of God!” Rabbi Levi was a great Talmud scholar. One of the other famous things he said was that in God’s sight one day of Torah study was better than a thousand sacrifices. He so valued study, in fact, that in Proverbs he equated homiletical exegesis with glory… maybe even majesty! You’d have to ask him.