July 26, 2008

Saint Christopher

Yesterday was St Christopher's day. I thought of his story all day and could have written from my memory, but I wanted to reread his story from an old 1914 book of children's stories we have, but the day got away from me. So this morning I read the story, enjoying the cool of the morning while watering the grass, and drinking my English breakfast tea.

Christopher, like Veronica, are possibly not real historic people. But stories have been told around campfires and hearths for centuries. Both of their stories seem to come from the root meaning of their names (or is it the other way around? like which came first, the chicken or the egg? belly-buttons or birth? did created trees have tree rings?). I posted about Veronica several weeks ago. So here's the legend of Christopher -

Christopher was a big man (and I think he grows as do fish stories) and said to be a Canaanite. He lived seeking and serving whom he thought the greatest in the world. Initially he served a king, said to be the greatest. But when he saw the king cross himself, or as my old english story is worded: "when he heard the name of the devil, made anon the sign of the cross". "Fearest thou the devil? Then is the devil more mighty and greater than thou art?"

So Christopher left the king's court and sought out the devil. He fell in with a group of marauders, whose leader declared himself to be the devil. But when the devil cowered and fled from a crucifix, learning of a man called Christ who hung on a cross, Christopher left seeking where he should find this Christ.

A hermit told him about fasting and prayer, which Christopher didn't feel he could do. Because of his stature, the hermit suggested he live by the river and bear people who needed to cross the river. "This will be pleasing to our Lord Jesu Christ, whom thou desirest to serve, and I hope he shall show himself to thee." "That I can do."

Christopher, with a great pole to support himself in the water, carried many people across the water. A small child asked Christopher to carry him across on his shoulders. It was stormy and the water was swelling and the child seemed to get heavier and heavier - "waxed heavy and Christopher suffered great anguish and was afeared to be drowned".

On the other side, putting down the child, he said, "You put me in great peril. Thou weighest almost as I had all the world upon me. I might bear no greater burden." And the child answered: "Christopher, marvel thee nothing, for thou hast not only borne all the world upon thee, but thou hast borne Him that created and made all the world, upon thy shoulders. I am Christ whom thou servest by this work."

Christophoror is Greek for "Christ-bearer". I'm sure you've seen medallions hanging from the rearview mirror of vehicles and people wear it as a necklace - this image of a man with a staff in hand and carrying a child on his shoulders. He's the patron saint of travelers.

The picture, by Titian, is out of a library book. Of all the pictures I've seen, it's my favorite. Off and on I've checked out lots of children's books looking for great stories for calendar celebrations, stories that grab your heart. Jesus taught primarily from stories for a reason.

There's so much in his story that touches me. So many scripture passages come to my mind. I'm not going to mention them, letting you sit with the story, and letting it touch you. What I will say, in having rereading the old golden legend, I so trust and believe that any who are truly seeking Truth, God will show Himself to them.

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