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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Superheroes Revisited

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(I apologise for my absence from this blog. There have been many commitments this Autumn that have cut back my online work but I can now return to share a few ideas and invite your comments).

Who would have thought that the comic book heroes of the 1940’s, starting with Superman in 1938 would have travelled so well in the popular imagination? These figures seem to have an enduring popularity and they have of course, now migrated to the Big Screen. Much of the exhilaration of these stories concerns the superhuman abilities of the hero matched against the tyranny and unmitigated evil of the adversary. However, much of pathos of the hero or heroine consists in the loss of such powers for we would have no interest in a victory that was uncomplicated or effortless.

Christmas is a time when we commemorate the coming of God to earth as a Man in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even some Christians though have a peculiar understanding of Christ that relates more to Superman that it does to the Saviour of the Church’s confession. Jesus, however, does not conquer evil by some superhuman ability nor does his power wax and wane to make him more attractive to his followers. He conquers death “by death” as the Orthodox Easter hymn has it. In the Incarnation he “empties himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). The victory of God is manifest precisely in this apparent defeat … that the promised Messiah dies. The resurrection of Christ is activated by his sacrifice, the laying down of His life for all as both God and Man, healing the breach between the two occasioned by human sin.

This is not good “box office” yet Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” shows the converting power of this Good News of God’s love in that so many people paid good money to hear this old, old story … yet ever new in each generation.

So, this Christmas time we celebrate not the “all conquering hero” but the Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief; the one in whom there is total victory … but at a price and that price calls us to lay down our lives for both the sake of others and through that for our own salvation.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps not relevant, but I'm reminded of a letter my cousin (an art student) wrote to me about Michelangelo's Pieta -- that she realised that that was not God lying there, but Mr Universe.

Dave said...

Glad to see you back in the blogosphere, Father.

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