Sunday, May 27, 2012

Zeus and Catholicism

The infancy of Zeus

Here is an unusual painting entitled The Infancy of Zeus by Nicolaes Pietersz Berchem.  I would have thought this would be Zeus' "holy family" portrait.  It looks like Joseph, Mary, the baby and the usual assortment of barnyard animals.  I assumed it was Kronos and Rhea with Zeus in the picture.  However, as an interesting contrast to the traditional Nativity scene of our Lord, both parents here are adoptive.  Since Kronos, Zeus' father, had a bad habit of eating his children, Rhea hid Zeus away in the care of this odd family.  Bare breasts aside, the nymph Adrastea who is holding baby Zeus in her lap is not his nurse.  It is actually the goat in the bottom right of the picture.  Check out the look the cow is giving the scene.  Now I am going to be checking out the facial expressions of cows in Nativity scenes.  Are they usually that grumpy?

Remember those Greek gods and goddesses?  They were hanging around for all eternity on Mount Olympus.  Seemingly they had nothing much to do except have sex out of wedlock with all manner of man and beast and then fight with each other.

When I was young and read some of these stories (and that is the extent of my expertise, I do not pretend to be an expert on Greek mythology) I was SO happy that I was not immortal like those guys.

BUT . . .  Now I see that I am.  Not in the way where a mother tells her wild-driving son "You are not IMMORTAL you know!"  Instead, in the gonna-be-around-for-eternity-with-or-without-Jesus way.

We need to remember that even though we are, AMAZINGLY immortal, we are not God.  Our long eternity will be determined pretty much by how well we keep that in mind in our earthly time.

One other interesting point of comparison, the blood of the Greek immortals (like Zeus) was called ichor.  If humans drank it they would die.  In contrast, we drink the blood of Jesus to live, to have life.

I am glad I don't live in Ancient Greece, not knowing what we know today about Christianity and thinking Zeus was the biggest, best thing out there.  And I am happy I live in an era when, hopefully, the cows are happier than the one in the picture.

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