Thursday, December 13, 2012

Knock On Wood: Avatar

Fr. Dale Matson

There is probably no one reading this posting that hasn't used the expression, “Knock on wood” after making a statement about their good health, financial well-being or any string of positive experiences. It is intended to mean that one is not taking things for granted and things could still ‘go south’ at any time.

The derivation of the expression possibly came from an account in the life of St. Boniface who was an Anglo-Saxon apostle to Germany in the 700’s. The Germans were essentially pagan and believed that spirits inhabited trees. “Now at that time many of the Hessians, brought under the Catholic faith and confirmed by the grave of the seven-fold spirit, received the laying on of hands; others indeed, not yet strengthened in soul, refused to accept in their entirely the lessons of the inviolate faith. Moreover some were wont secretly, some openly to sacrifice to trees and springs; some in secret, others openly practiced inspections of victims and divinations, legerdemain and incantations; some turned their attention to auguries and auspices and various sacrificial rites.”

Much to the dismay of the local pagans St. Boniface began cutting down their holy tree. A mighty wind came up to finish the felling of the tree. This tree and others were linked to a world tree (Yggdrasil). Seeing the tree felled with no retribution visited upon St. Boniface by the resident spirits, the pagans became Christians. Boniface later "Christianized" the tree by having it made into a small chapel dedicated to St. Peter.

St. Boniface was eventually martyred in 754. His feast day is celebrated by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans on June 5th.
So, what does this story have to do with the movie “Avatar” (2009)? Avatar is really a modern story of paganism (neo-paganism) with an incarnational protagonist named Jake Sully. Jake reminds me of the character Neo in “The Matrix” and Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars” etc., etc., etc. It also reminds me of a Star Trek episode, “The Way To Eden”. In fact it reminds me of so many stories, that it is what could called "Sampling" if the movie was music.

In Avatar, Jake Sully is initially an invader and eventually a savior of the residents of Pandora (an Eden- like planet). The Na’vi. are a peace loving, Eywa “All Mother” worshiping culture who live in harmony with their environment. “Hometree is an important gathering place for the Na’vi but an impediment to human exploitation of the minerals beneath it. (Think of Donar Oak here). It is eventually destroyed. The “Tree of Souls” (Think of Yggdrasil here or pagan spirit) is successfully defended because Jake prays to Eywa as an intercessor for the Na’vi and the rapacious humans are expelled from Pandora forever.

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Second week in Advent.     

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