"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oedipus and Seeking the Truth

In one of the classes I teach we are currently reading the trilogy of plays by Sophocles which feature the tragic character Oedipus. His story is fairly well-known. His parents abandoned him in infancy, hoping to avoid the prophecy which had predicted the boy would kill his father, King Laius, and marry his mother. Through a series of fated events, the prophecy comes true, but unbeknownst to all. It is not until the city of Thebes, which was ruled by Oedipus and his wife/mother Jocasta, comes under a serious curse does anyone begin to suspect anything. The prophet Tireseias tells Oedipus what he had done-but Oedipus thinks he is crazy. However, through a series of conversations, the Theban king becomes steadily convinced that he indeed may have killed his father, and in turn married his mother. While it is becoming clearer to Oedipus what he had done, it is also becoming equally clear to Jocasta. Their actiions in response to these revelations, revelations which may well show the king to be guilty of patricide and incest, are worth considering.

"O be persuaded by me, I entreat you; do not do this." Jocasta
"I will not be persuaded to let be the chance of finding out the whole thing clearly." Oedipus

In the moment of truth, the queen suggests a cover-up and the king, transparency.
When everything comes fully into light, Oedipus gouges out his eyes and exiles himself. A cruel punishment, yes. But Oedipus teaches us that the truth is always worth seeking. Yes, it can be painful. Think of the Roman Catholic Church. It would have been painful to bring to light the stories of abuse...but it would have been better if there had not originally been a cover-up. But while you're at it, think of yourself. Are you willing to seek the truth, despite the pain it will cause you? The Truth himself desires for us to seek him. But Jesus never says it won't hurt a little when we find him. There are things we will have to give up when we discover God and come into communion with him. But it is better to be in the Truth feeling pain, than experiencing comfort in lies.

Oedipus went into exile a blind man, but one who could see better than he had ever had because of the light of truth. As Christians, we ought to bring what is dark and sinful within ourselves to the Lord. It will hurt some...being burned with fire always does. But the fire of the Lord doesn't have to destroy...it can refine. Oedipus stands as an example that, despite the consequences, we are genuinely happier when Truth reigns in our hearts.

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