As I said in the last post, I was switching back and forth this morning between Bible Battles on the History Channel and Beauty and the Beast on Chiller. Now you might wonder what in the world these two shows might have in common. Well, I’ll tell you. First, I’ll have to tell you about the episode of Beauty and the Beast (BATB). It was Fever (Season One, Episode 18), the one where Mouse finds a sunken ship under the city under the city. (I know that’s clumsy, but, for the life of me, I couldn’t think of a better way to say that. It was under the underworld which is under the city.) Well, Mouse finds treasure in the wreckage of the shipwreck and, since he’s such a nice fellow, the first thing he wants to do with it is share it with his friends.
And that’s when all hell breaks loose in the underworld. So to speak. Friend turns against friend as more and more of the community find out about the treasure and each one sees lifelong dreams coming at long last within reach. Most want to share the treasure equally, but one among them has dreams that do not include such generosity. Mouse found the treasure and revealed its whereabouts to two of his friends. (Actually, they may have followed him to it; I saw that part long ago and I missed it this morning.) One of these friends wants to share the riches with all the others, but one of them (Cullen) wants to take his share (his third!) and cash it in. Needless to say, cashing in relics from a sunken treasure chest proves to be a bit problematic. Where does one take heaps of gold to exchange for large sums of money, keeping the source of said gold shrouded in secrecy?
Why, to the friendly neighborhood antiquities smuggler, of course. A smuggler who has already expressed a more than passing interest in a necklace he saw Catherine wearing. A necklace that dates back a few hundred years. A necklace that Mouse gave her and which she assumed to be costume jewelry. Oh, if only it had been. But then that would have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the story. Especially its end. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
As the gentle, peace-loving residents of the world below turn against each other, and their council meeting dissolves into a contest to see who can out-shout who, Cullen announces that no matter what the others want to do with their shares, he intends to use his share (his third, remember) as he sees fit. No matter that Mouse found it, and if anyone has a right to claim the treasure, he does and all of it, at that. No, Cullen wants his third and that’s that. To make a long story short (too late!), Cullen bursts into Mouse’s quarters, opens the treasure chest and begins filling up a bag. (A leather bag and one which reminded me of the bag the Sanhedrin tossed at Judas Iscariot in “The Passion of the Christ” which I watched with a friend a few days ago. And I noted just now that the episode aired in 3/4/88, which is near enough to Easter, which happened to be on 4/3/88. Interesting, eh?)
Mouse tries to reason with Cullen (well, reason with him in his own Mouse sort of way), but Cullen is so overwhelmed by greed that he actually pulls out a sharp tool, one of the tools that he’s been using to carve little things to give to his friends. Now he’s going to carve up one of his little friends with it instead. Mouse sinks to the floor, disbelief on his face. Cullen, aware that he’s gone too far but unable (unwilling) to turn back, takes his ill-gotten gain and runs. Mouse lies on the floor in a pool of his blood and Cullen the Rat scurries away and off through the tunnels.
The scene changes. The community gathers to discuss what should be done. And Father struggles to save Mouse’s life. A decision is made: hurl the accursed treasure back to the depths from whence it came and let peace return to their world. But Vincent reminds them that, though the unexpected boon has brought nothing but unwelcome trouble to them, there are those for whom such treasure could be a true Godsend.
The scene changes again. This time we see the old battered wooden trunk sitting in front of a door. The camera tilts upward, revealing words on the door: St. Regina’s Aid to the Homeless. The door opens and two sisters in full habit stand staring down at the trunk in surprise. One of them leans down and opens the lid. They are both stunned when they see the gold relics gleaming at them.
Vincent has chosen well. The dwellers under the city may have escaped the sight of those who live in the world above, but they have not escaped the vices which plague them. The riches uncovered by Mouse in the tunnels brought the community face to face with their inner darkness, greed and violence, which had been there, lurking, unknown to them all these years. Vincent removes the curse from them and bestows it upon those who will receive it as a blessing. The sisters have so died to themselves and to the world that not one inkling of greed betrays itself in their eyes. And the surprised expressions turn to smiles as they begin to imagine what they can do with this gift from above. (Well, from below, but you know what I mean.)
Catherine: “I wonder what they’ll think.”
Vincent: “That it was a miracle.”
And that’s probably just what they do think. Service to God–through worship, prayer and serving the poor–has purified the minds and hearts of these good sisters. When they see all that gold, it doesn’t even occur to them to hoard it or use it for themselves. Or if it does occur to them, they probably dismiss the thought with a quick toss of the head and a sharp, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” True, the episode ends with Vincent’s sentence which I quoted above. But I think it’s safe to assume that the writer(s) intended to pack a lot into that brief scene and I think we were intended to pick up on those intentions.
The idea of service as represented by the sisters and their St. Regina’s Aid to the Homeless is akin to the idea of service in the Book of Exodus as I wrote in the previous post. If they labor, it is not in the sense of toilsome slavery, but more in the sense of “labor of love.” This is the difference between the meanings of “avodah,” the difference between the toilsome labor of a slave and the service one performs out of love for God; the difference that the military historian on the History Channel either didn’t know about or didn’t care about. Which is why I find his commentary on the military aspects of the Bible to be enlightening, but his commentary on its spiritual meaning to be less so.
I’ll be exploring more of this idea in the coming days. Thanks for coming along for the ride and I hope you’ll join me again soon.