Snippet of an essay I wrote for my Development of Western Civilization class. This snippet didn’t make the cut when I was editing, but I liked it too much to discard it completely.
…On the other hand, mortals in this polytheistic religion are unable to resist the gods’ control over their actions. The mortals in the Aeneid seem helpless, as the gods manipulate them into carrying out various schemes. Dido is a good example of a woman who was manipulated into falling in love with Aeneas, therefore leading her to kill herself in despair. Venus concocted a scheme where Cupid, transformed into looking like Aeneas’s son, would use his talents to “enflame the Queen’s heart and infiltrate her bones with fire” (Book 1, line 801). To what purpose? Because Venus, distrusting Juno’s own schemes, planned to catch Dido off guard and “encircle her with passion, so that no power can change her, and she will be bound to me” (lines 823-824). As a result, Dido becomes a most unhappy woman. “Dido is burning. She wanders all through the city in her misery, raving mad” implies that Dido cannot control the feelings she has(lines 80-82). Even the consummation of their love, their “marriage,” is orchestrated by Juno and Venus. While Dido and Aeneas ventured out on a hunting party. Juno poured down rain with hailstones, making the heavens rumble with thunder. In the ensuing confusion, Dido and Aeneas found themselves in the same cave. “I will be there too, and with [Venus’s] consent I will unite them in holy matrimony. This will be their wedding” (lines 143-146). Yet another example is Lavinia’s mother (Book 7). Juno enlists the help of a “Dread Goddess” named Allecto, ordering her to “prevent Aeneas from winning over Latinus through marriage, or from invading Italy” (lines 407-408). Amata, unhappy at Lavinia’s impending nuptials to a man Amata dislikes and rejects, is set upon by Allecto. “The goddess plucks a snake from her dark hair and throws it on Amata, thrusting it deep into her bosom to drive her mad and so bring down the entire house” (lines 423-426). Eventually, Amata wreaked havoc on the household, ultimately hanging herself out of her misery.
In contrast to this picture of absolute manipulation, Jesus Christ in Luke 15 tells a parable about a son who asks his father for his inheritance, telling in not so many words that he would rather have his father dead. The father gives the son his inheritance. Knowing that his son wants to leave, even though that may not be the best choice, this father lets the son go his separate way. Eventually, the son squanders all his wealth “on a life of dissipation” (v. 13) and then a famine strikes the country he is in. After a while, the son realizes that he has been foolish, thinking, “I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son” (v. 18-19). The son then gets up and returns to the father. Amazingly enough, the father sees him from far off and is “filled with compassion.” The relationship is such that the father freely welcomes his son back. However, the son has to want to come back first. It is the son’s choice whether to come back or not. God clearly wants his people to return to him; however, it is their choice whether to return or not. God, like the father in the parable, will not force a relationship. Similarly, this presenting a choice could be seen on the road to Emmaus after the crucifixion of Christ. Two men were walking to a village, and as they walked, they conversed about the occurrences of the past few days. Jesus appeared to them, but they were not able to see who he was. While explaining to them the meaning of everything that had happened, he walked with them to their destination. However, Jesus “gave the impression” that he was going farther. They urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over” (Luke 24:28-29). It is during that meal that Christ reveals that it is indeed he, risen from the dead. The significance in this passage is that Jesus did not force himself on them. They had to ask him to stay with them, thereby giving him a chance to reveal himself to them.
I know I’m unworthy, but won’t You please stay around?