God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom...

Today is the Feast of Epiphany: in the course of 8 hours it rained
and all the snow melted; then in the blink of an eye, more snow came down and it became wicked cold. Buechner writes that "the foolishness of the wise is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than by the way the three Magi went to Herod the Great, King of the Jews, to find the whereabouts of the holy child who had just been born..." 

It is not unusual, is it, for the powerful to trust other elites? Clearly, the Magi needed assistance in comprehending a spiritual tradition different from their own. So like speaks to like only as Thoreau observed and the royal view of the world remained intact. Until, of course, the learned travelers arrived at the stable. Then all bets were off because this was hardly the resting place of nobility. Imagine their surprise... no wonder they "left by a different route." Buechner concludes that perhaps there is no better illustration of the wisdom of the foolish than Christ in the manger.

So I've been wondering a lot about the wisdom of foolishness. As I noted yesterday there is an ancient, pre-Christian tradition of winter revelry throughout Europe that by medieval times was known as the Feast of Fools. It was a time of drunken abandon as well as social commentary where the last literally became first and social order was turned upside down. A Lord of Misrule was elected, clerics in masks and dressed in women's clothing danced and cavorted in sacred places singing obscene songs, eating what was often forbidden and acting out in ways that would ordinarily be unthinkable. 

Other cultures, like the Tohono o'odham of Arizona, held wine festivals that accomplished much the same thing. I recall one elder telling me that after the cactus blossoms had been harvested in the late spring, and the wine fermented, all hell would broke loose for a few days. Respectable people lost track of their obligations and the most unlikely people wound up in one another's beds. And when the festival was over all the indiscretions were forgotten and life returned to the order it usually maintained.
Now I am not all that interested in indiscretions, but I am fascinated by the deeper truth of the Feast of Fools: the prefigurative nature of living and loving in ways that bring value to the forgotten and worth to the broken seems to me to be at the heart of authentic Christian living. St. Paul put it like this in I Corinthians 17-25.

Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

My hunch is that practicing living into this upside-down foolish wisdom is what is at the heart of the spirituality of Epiphany.
At the feast of fools humor can sometimes be cruel
But under certain conditions you have to forget the rules

At the feast of fools everybody has a voice
Nobody goes to the bottom except by their own choice

It's time for the silent criers to be held in love
It's time for the ones who dig graves for them

 to get that final shove
It's time for the horizons of the universe to be glimpsed even by the faceless kings of corporations
It's time for chaos to win and walk off with the prize which turns out to be nothing

At the feast of fools outlaws can all come home
You can wear any disguise you want but you'll be naked past the bone

At the feast of fools people's hands weave light
There is a diamond wind flowering in the darkest night

It's time for the silent criers to be held in love
It's time for the ones who dig graves 
for them
 to get that final shove
It's time for the horizons of the universe to be glimpsed even by the faceless kings of corporations
It's time for chaos to win and walk off with the prize which turns out to be (a big fat) nothing.

It's time for the singers of songs without hope to take a hard look and start from scratch again
It's time for these headlights racing against inescapable dark to be just forgotten
It's time for Harlequin to leap out of the future into the midst of a world of dancers
It's time for us all to stand hushed in the cathedral of silence waiting at the river's end.

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