Pigs and ancient magic
The Greek poet Homer tells us that Aeetes, the baleful king of Colchis, had a sister called Circe, a godess who had no love for humans. She had a palace on the island of Dawn in the middle of a forest and when some of Odysseus' crew investigated the island they heard her playing the harp and looked in on her. She smiled, invited them in, fed them poisoned food and turned them into grunting, feverish swine.
Silly old story. One gentleman said, "I didn't believe it of course until one evening when I was passing a group of young men on a street corner. I heard enough of the lascivious story being told, and I saw the leers, the flushed faces, the glistening eyes and the muttered wickedness and I knew I had wandered into the garden of Circe. The spell was working before my very eyes. These humans were turning into swine."
And so it is, feeding on what has been poisoned, we surrender to a spell that cheapens and coarsens us, making mere animals of us in our passions and the way we indulge them. We need somebody wise enough and strong enough and "ruthless" enough to deliver us from the curse because in our sinfully weakened state and in a society like ours we aren't able to do it alone.
It didn't matter to Circe that the humans were turned into animals that roamed her forest or into pigs to be herded into sties but it matters to the Holy Spirit who works to make us holy because he cannot bear to see us continue in our shame. Those who don't care for us will shrug at our dishonour or give up on us before very long, especially if their wisdom isn't quickly recognized or heeded.
Hosea speaks more tenderly of the love of God than any other prophet but he also speaks more trenchantly against sin than any other. Israel is in headlong flight away from God, going deeper and deeper into swinish ways and yet God, the Holy Father says, "How can I give you up, Israel? How can I abandon you?" (11:8) Even for those of us who presently don't care that we bury our snouts in swill and muck, who are content to be humans with piggish ways, there's the possibility of full reclamation because God not only doesn't want us to perish he wants us to be made whole (see 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). He gives us the assurance that he will do just that if we will let him (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
But what if we're afraid that we don't want to let him? Do we want to want to let him? Then by his grace we should do what we're able to do and trust him for the rest. Sin and its power is a great mystery but as C.S. Lewis has taught us, there is a deeper ancient magic at work in the cross of Christ. Odysseus cured his men with the fabled white flower of Hermes and God cures people with the life and redeeming sacrifice of his Son and he becomes not only our righteousness, and wisdom but our holiness (1 Corinthians 1:30).
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.