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Good Words 1860
The Legend of Christophorus


You may have seen in a Gothic cathedral a picture representing the legend of Christophorus; a gigantic man, carrying on his shoulder a beautiful child, in whose right hand is placed a globe. The burden seems to crush the athletic man, who, leaning on a trusty staff, is wading through a river.

The legend, which contains a striking allegory, is as follows:óChristophorus, a Syrian by birth, excelled all other men in height and strength of body. He had no equal in the land, and was feared and dreaded far and near. For a while this eminence pleased him; but after a little he did not feel satisfied with his solitary and frigid superiority. "I wish," he said to himself, "I could find a man stronger and greater than I am, that I may serve him! "He heard of a great and mighty king in a far country, and after having convinced himself of his superior strength, offered him his services. The king received him with joy, and for a time the Syrian felt happy. But one day, as the king's minstrel was playing and singing before him, he made the sign of the cross as the name of Satan occurred in the song. Christophorus, who then bore the name of Arprobus, was astonished at this, and asked what it meant, to which the king replied, ''I make this sign lest Satan should gain power over me." "Is there then a greater and stronger king than thou? Then let me, I beseech thee, leave thy service, for it is not meet that I should serve any but the strongest and greatest."

He said it, and went forth immediately to seek the stronger king, called Satan. In the wilderness he met the adversary, and when asked by him, "Whom seekest thou?" replied, "I seek the Prince of this world, that I may serve him." And after this the Syrian became the servant of the adversary.

One day they passed a crucifix on the road. In terror and dismay the Evil One turned his face, and retraced his steps. At first he refused to give an answer to the questions of his new servant; but at last he confessed, "The cross is the sign of the King Christ, and before Him I must always flee!" "What!" exclaimed the brave Syrian in search of a true Master and King, "is there then a greater and stronger than thou? Then I must go and seek Him, for it is not meet that I should serve except the greatest and strongest."

And he went forth to seek Christ; he asked many a one, but in vain. At last he found a poor hermit, who willingly and joyfully gave him the desired information. First, he told him to pray and fast, but the strong man thought this too easy. ''If thou wilt serve Christ," replied the pious man, "go to the river yonder and take up thy abode there, and for Christ's sake carry people across." And he went and built a cottage there, and for many a day helped people across the river, and every evening he sighed and said, "If only the Lord Christ, whom I am serving, would appear to me!"

And one night while, tired by his day's work, he lay asleep, a gentle voice was heard by him saying, "Carry me across!" He awoke and arose, but saw no one. He went to his rest, and the same gentle voice called him a second time. Again he arose, but he could see no one. The third time his sleep was disturbed in the same manner, but on rising he saw a little boy with a wonderfully beautiful countenance. He said, "Carry me across," and there was something so sweet and attractive in his mien and voice, that the Syrian replied, "With all my heart." He took his cedar staff, the little boy on his shoulder, and commenced the well-known journey. But scarcely had he stepped into the river when it began to swell and roll as he had never seen it before. At the same time the burden on his shoulder became heavier every step he took. Scarcely had he reached the middle of the river when the burden became wellnigh unbearable. "Little child," he cried, panting for breath, "who art thou?" He proceeded a few steps further, but now he felt as if he could not carry the weight any longer, and had to sink to the ground. A mysterious awe, such as he never knew before, filled his soul. ''Thou wonderful child," he said, "who art thou? The weight of the whole world seems to be resting on my shoulders. Reveal to me who thou art!" And he answered, ''I am the Lord Jesus Christ, whom thou servest, the King of heaven and earth. Thy name is henceforth Christophorus" (Christ bearer).

This is the legend. Man is made to serve One, who is greater and stronger than himself, and whom at the same time he can love and trust. Man cannot exist by himself: like as ivy he must cling to the Bock. Jesus Christ is the only true Master, the only Lord and King, the highest, the strongest, the mighty God, yet meek and lowly, gentle and tender! But in serving Him, the strongest become weak, and the longer they serve Him, the more they feel, He is all, I am nothing. Yet worn Jacob, in wrestling with Jehovah, prevails and becomes Israel; the Lord gives strength to serve and glorify Him. Go thou, therefore, and be a true Christophorus.


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