Treachery, violence, Epiphany


Godfather Michael Corleone


…your hands are defiled with blood
and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies,
your tongue mutters wickedness.

No one enters suit justly,
no one goes to law honestly;
they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies,
they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.
They hatch adders’ eggs,
they weave the spider’s web;
he who eats their eggs dies,
and from one which is crushed a viper is hatched.
Their webs will not serve as clothing;
men will not cover themselves with what they make.
Their works are works of iniquity,
and deeds of violence are in their hands….

Justice is turned back,
and righteousness stands afar off;
for truth has fallen in the public squares,
and uprightness cannot enter.
Truth is lacking,
and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. (from Isaiah 59)


Sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it. (Genesis 4: 7)


Holiday time is movie time at my house, and this season, along with other more light-hearted fare, we watched a number of organized crime stories. You wouldn’t think that The Departed and The Godfather would prepare a person for Epiphany lectio divina, but I found that they did. The machinations, the treachery, the lying, the violence, and the vulnerability of anyone who tries to walk away from evil–it starts with Cain and Abel and never stops. That beautiful star heralding the Christ Child shines in a darkness of Herod’s vicious, ruthless ambition. Mary marvels, Rachel weeps. It’s never simple. It’s never easy. The ugliness and pain are so intense, betrayal so frequent. “Who can you trust?” “No one.” 

Which is why I cling to the Christmas miracle–that subversive intervention in human history: God incarnate as a child (!) come to show us a way out of this mess.


We look for light, and behold, darkness,
    and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
We grope for the wall like the blind,
    we grope like those who have no eyes;
we stumble at noon as in the twilight,
    among those in full vigor we are like dead men.
We all growl like bears,
    we moan and moan like doves;
we look for justice, but there is none;
    for salvation, but it is far from us. (Isaiah 59)


The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.



  1. Bob says:

    I always focused on Epiphany as the beginning of the Gospel
    going to us Gentiles when the Wisemen came to baby Jesus, ‘though Rachel weeping makes Epiphany focus on Sin.

    • Awc says:

      Well, I don’t think Epiphany is all about sin, but the Christmas story sort of takes a turn when we get here. Herod is a strong reminder that the rulers of this world don’t surrender their power easily, and certainly there are still innocent children who suffer and die as a result of political struggles. But mostly, I was struck by the descriptions of sin and injustice in the Bible that were so like the movies I’d seen.

  2. Ellen says:

    Amen and amen.

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