A King in Disguise

An Advent Parable by Soren Kierkegaard

"Once upon a time, there was a prince who was single and very eager to marry a lovely maiden for his future queen. Near his palace was a large city, and often he rode his carriage down to the city to take care of various chores for his father. One day, to reach a particular merchant, he had to go through a rather poor section. He happened to glance out of the window and right into the eyes of a beautiful maiden.

"He had occasion on the next few days to return to the section of the city--drawn as he was by the eyes of the maiden. And more than that, he had the good fortune once or twice actually to meet this young girl. Soon he began to feel that he was in love with her. But now he had a problem. How should he proceed to procure her hand?

 "Of course, he could order her to the palace and there propose marriage. But even a prince would like to feel that the girl he marries wants to marry him. Or perhaps, somewhat more graciously, he could arrive at her door in his most resplendent uniform and, with a bow, ask her hand. But even a prince wants to marry for love. 

"Again, he could masquerade as a peasant and try to gain her interest. After he proposed, he could pull off his 'mask.' Still, the masquerade would be 'phony.' He really could not manage it. 

 "Finally a real solution presented itself to his mind. He would give up his kingly role and move into her neighborhood. There he would take up work as, say, a carpenter. During his work in the day and during his time off in the evening, he would get acquainted with the people, begin to share their interests and concerns, begin to talk their language. And in due time, should fortune be with him, he would make her acquaintance in a natural way. And should she come to love him, as he had already come to love her, then he would ask for her hand."

 

This was God's problem with us. He loved us and He wanted our love. But it had to be free and voluntary love. He could have ordered us to love Him but that would not be voluntary. He could have appeared to us in his kingly glory, but who would not in awe obey such a King? He wanted to win our love without dazzling and overwhelming us by the magnificence of His divinity. This is why St. Paul writes "...though he was by nature God, [He] did not consider being equal with God a thing to be clung to, but emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave, and being made like unto men. And appearing in the form of man he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross" (Philippians 2:6-8). He met us on our own level that we might respond freely to His love.

 Advent is the time for us to respond to His love. 

From Daily Meditations and Prayers for the Christmas Advent Fast and Epiphany by Presbytera Emily Harakas & Fr. Anthony Coniaris (Light & Life Publishing Company, 2000)
Submitted by Robert L. Hopper

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