Image result for thomas becket

The Murder of Thomas Becket,  hand-painted woodcut.

Today’s Bible reading

Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
 They will collapse and fall,
but we shall rise and stand upright. — Psalm 20:7-8 [Here it is in song]

More thoughts for meditation

The fifth day of Christmas is also a time to remember the faith of Thomas Becket (1118-1170), the archbishop of Canterbury, who was martyred for his defense of the rights of the church against King Henry II. (5 minute biography) (T.S. Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral” as a 1951 film).

Like yesterday’s Feast of the Holy Innocents, this day adds the somber foundation for Christmastide, since every incarnation of God’s grace has an opponent waiting to kill it.

The church and the burgeoning idea of the “state” vied for power in Europe as it emerged from centuries of reorganization after the fall of the Roman Empire. Periodically, a leader would have an actual debate about the theology of the matter with some kind of spiritual conviction instead of just managing his power in order to expand it. Once he was made the leader of the English church, Becket surprised King Henry II with his new set of convictions. Like the surprising Oscar Romero who stood up against U.S.-sponsored death squads and unjust government soldiers, Becket was murdered in his own church building.

Becket had more influence as a martyr than a leader. Within years, King Henry was making public penance at his very popular shrine and pilgrim destination.

It is not without merit that On the 5th day of Christmas my true love sent to me… Five Gold Rings. For two centuries after the Reformation, the Catholic structure of the Church was repressed in England, especially. The legend has grown up that, in the spirit of Becket, catechists used this children’s songs to defiantly teach their polity.

Purportedly, the gift on the fifth day “secretly” represents the Torah, the central five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The gift of these books reminds the singer of humanity’s fall from grace and of God’s response by creating a people to be a light to the world into which THE Light of the World would be born.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Guide me on the difficult path of discernment and trust

Christians often talk a good game when it comes to “speaking truth to power” but we mostly keep to ourselves. We even have problems talking to each other! So we can get locked into going with whatever the latest graceless thing the government is doing, even acting as if political power is all that matters. This day calls us to change our perspective.

Pray with your journal and ask the Lord to show you what you actually trust. It might be the fear-led defenses that protect you from experiencing lack of trust! It may be some substitute for God that promises safety in a troubling world. It may be yourself. “Who or what do you actually trust?” is a basic question we all need to answer, right?