During these days of preparation leading up to the Christ Mass and the Celebration of the birth of the Christ child, I’ve been sharing Christmas stories and parables which have been borrowed from numerous different resources. I’m deeply in debt to the wide range of men and women who have shared the stories/parables that they have discovered during their own spiritual journey.
Normally I have simply shared the story allowing each of us to draw our own conclusion. Such is the case with today’s story with one exception. Before I share Soren Kierkegaard’s Christmas Parable, “The King and the Humble Maiden” I want to share the insight from the 4th Century of one of the ancient church fathers, Father Athanasius, who took pen in hand and in one sentence gave us wise insight into the incarnation: “He became what we are that we might become what he is”.
The King and the Humble Maiden
There once was a king who loved a humble maiden. This king was of uncommon royal lineage. He was a king above kings, with power and might to make all others humble before him. Statesmen trembled at his pronouncements. None dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all who opposed him. The wealth of his holdings was unfathomable. Tribute arrived on a daily basis from lesser kings who hoped to gain his favor.
And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden who lived in the poorest village in his vast kingdom. He longed to go to this maiden and announce his love for her, but here arose the king’s dilemma: how to declare his love? Certainly, he could appear before her resplendent in his royal robes and surrounded with the Royal Guard, ready to carry her away in a carriage inlaid with gold and precious stones. He could bring her to the palace and crown her head with jewels and clothe her in the finest silks. She would surely not resist this type of proposal, for no one dared to resist the king.
But would she love him?
She might say she loved him. She might be awed by his royal splendor and tremble at the thought of being blessed with such an amazing opportunity. She might tell herself that she would be foolish to reject such a marriage proposal. But would she love him, or would she go through the motions all the while living a life of empty duty, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind? Would she love him or regret the moment of being face to face with the overwhelming grandure of the king?
Or would she be happy at his side, loving him for himself and not for his title or riches or power?
He did not want a wife who behaved as a subject to his royal decrees, cringing at his word and unwilling to do anything but agree with all he said and did. Instead, he wanted an equal, a queen whose love knew no restrictions or limitations. He wanted an equal whose voice would speak to him at all times without hesitation. Love with his beloved maiden must mean equality with her. He wanted a relationship with the woman that had neither barriers nor walls in which he was not a king and she was not a poor subject of the crown. The love shared between them would cross the chasm that threatened to keep them apart, bringing the king and peasant together and making the unequal equal. In short, he wanted the maiden to love him for himself and not for any other reason.
He had to find a way to win the maiden’s love without overwhelming her and without destroying her free will to choose. The king realized that to win the maiden’s love, he had only one choice. He had to become like her, without power or riches and without the title of king. Only then would she be able to see him simply for who he was and not for what his position made him. He had to become her equal, and to do this he must leave all that he had.
And so one night, after all within the castle were asleep, he laid aside his golden crown and removed his rings of state. He took off his royal robes of silk and linen and redressed himself in the common clothes of the poorest of the kingdom. Leaving by way of the servant’s entrance, the king left his crown, his castle, and his kingdom behind. As the next day’s sun rose in the east, the maiden emerged from her humble cottage to find herself face to face with a stranger, a common man with kindly eyes who requested an opportunity to speak with her and, in time, to court her for her hand in marriage.
And the courtship goes on…