Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Empty Manifestations

It is commonly said that the Orthodox celebrate “Christmas” on the 6th of January instead of the 25th December.  Like most commonly said things, that is not quite correct.

Both the Latin and Orthodox traditions commemorate the birth of Jesus on the 25th of December and his “manifestation” (epi-phania) to the world on the 6th of January.  The difference is more in where the beat or accent to a rhythm is placed.  In either tradition, the essence of the matter is to commemorate the divine power shining through the human form, Jesus.

In Mexico, the Epiphany is celebrated by drinking chocolate and eating a rosca.

A rosca is essentially a fruited-brioche

As one might expect, the origins of a “rosca” are in fact pagan, deriving from ancient agricultural fertility rituals in which a bread baked with figs, honey and fruits was returned to Earth as an offering to the spirits of a good yield.  

In the Ibero-American Christian tradition, roscas are also eaten at Easter (Rosca de Pascua) and on the Feast of Corpus Cristi in early June. 

As is well-known, Christianity effected a subtle inversion of pagan orientations.  Instead of offerings from us to a god, the sacrifice was converted into an offering of  the god to us.   But in all events, the rosca embodies some vernacular form of the eating of a “divine bread.”

In Spain and Mexico, the divine substance is underscored by hiding a small figurine of the baby Jesus (or alternately a fava bean) somewhere inside the rosca.

When the rosca is sliced up and parceled out, the person who bites down on the baby Jesus must present the figurine in church on Candlemas Day (Día de la Candelaria) on Feburary 2nd.  In Mexico, this person must also host a dinner of tamales and atole.

Some people, prefer chocolate (again) to atole.

Some people, still, prefer nothing.

Yesterday, some acquaintances of ours posted pictures of themselves eating the “traditional” rosca.  We were struck by the fact that not one of them depicted or mentioned anything of religious significance.  Not even a token.

The entire matter was presented as: on this day we eat cake.

Wow!  Now that is significant! 

Why do you eat cake? And why on this day?  Why not post picture of yourself eating cake on March 23rd or, for that matter, August 6th? 

What the whole thing bakes down to is a self-warranting celebration of national self: this is what we Spaniards, Mexicans or Argentines do on this day as a sign of our Mexican-ness, Argentinian-ness... hispanidad.

Why?  Because.

This demonstrates the bankruptcy of so-called cultural Catholicism or cultural Islam or cultural Jewishness.  It is simply an empty glorification of self without further significance or connection to anything.  It is like eating the corn husks of tamales without the enclosed substance of the tamal. 

It is an empty epiphany.

©WCG, 2015

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