12 Days of Christmas, Day 8: Final Fantasy IV and the Chosen One

Strip away all the bells and whistles that have become attached to Christmas, the western world's most ubiquitous and commercialized holiday, and you have at its core the celebration of the Chosen One's arrival.

It’s not exactly Isaiah, is it? The text is the Mysidian Legend from Final Fantasy IV, which prophecies the coming of the game’s hero, Cecil Harvey. Messianic prophecies and tropes involving chosen ones abound in popular fiction, to the point that they’re often seen as a sign of bad writing (why does this guy have to be the protagonist? Because he’s the Chosen One!). Nevertheless, they do attest to just how deeply ingrained the idea is in us. Strip away all the bells and whistles that have become attached to Christmas, the western world’s most ubiquitous and commercialized holiday, and you have at its core the celebration of the Chosen One’s arrival.

Cecil isn’t much of a chosen one at first – at the game’s opening he’s a dark knight in the employ of the bad guys. But his conscience quickly catches up to him, leading to his defection from his kingdom. Eventually, he winds up on a spiritual pilgrimage which purifies him, giving him the title of paladin. Only now is he able to save the world. In short, Cecil’s character arc is more of a conversion story than anything else. Still, there may be something Christmas-appropriate to mine here.

In his treatise, On The Incarnation, St. Athanasius famously stated that,

he [Christ] was incarnate that we might be made god; and he manifested himself through a body that we might receive an idea of the invisible Father; and he endured the insults of human beings, that we might inherit incorruptibility. He himself was harmed in no way, being impassible and incorruptible and the very Word and God;but he held and preserved in his own impassibility the suffering human beings, on whose account he endured these things. And, in short, the achievements of the Savior, effected by his incarnation, are of such a kind and number that if anyone should wish to expound them he would be like those who gaze at the expanse of the sea and wish to count its waves. (Translated by John Behr)

God, in assuming a human nature, has partaken of all aspects of the human condition except sin. And, on the other end, his incarnation invites us to partake of the divine nature. This notion is often referred to in the eastern churches as theosis or divinization, which can often sound strange to western Christians, who are more used to describing progress in holiness as a process of sanctification. Timothy Ware, in his book The Orthodox Church, gives a nice summary of the theology behind the terms:

Behind the doctrine of deification there lies the idea of the human person made according to the image and likeness of God the Holy Trinity. ‘May they all be one,’ Christ prayed at the Last Supper; ‘as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, so also may they be in Us’ (John xvii, 21). Just as the three persons of the Trinity ‘dwell’ in one another in an unceasing movement of love, so we humans, made in the image of the Trinity, are called to ‘dwell’ in the Trinitarian God. Christ prays that we may share in the life of the Trinity, in the movement of love which passes between the divine persons; He prays that we may be taken up into the Godhead. The saints, as Maxiumus the Confessor put it, are those who express the Holy Trinity in themselves.

The more we forsake sin and participate in the life of grace, the more Christlike we become, and the more closely we participate in the love of the Trinity. And, in doing so, we conform ourselves to the destiny that God has planned for us. We become holy, or specially ‘set apart’ by God.

And so, if I may make the leap, the miracle of Christmas opens the door for all of us to become like Cecil. We’re all called to leave our sinful ways behind and to fulfill the unique purpose that God has created us for. It may not, in our day-to-day lives, look as glamorous or dramatic as saving the world from an evil guy in black armor, but the glory and the stakes are more than we can imagine.

Josh W's academic perambulations have taken him from the isle of English literature all the way over to the distant realm of Biblical criticism by way of philosophy and theology. When not geeking out over those subjects he can often be found geeking out over video games, science fiction, and all things animated.
4 Comments on this post.

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  • Medieval Otaku
    3 January 2017 at 7:58 am

    I really need to read St. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and more fully experience his theology. I’ve read his Life of Anthony and a biography written on this remarkable Doctor of the Church.

    It is amazing when we stop and think that the glory of any earthly victory pales in comparison with our struggle and victory over vice with the aid of God. I am reminded of a line from Doyle’s The White Company: “Yet here are we in the lists of life, and there come the seven black champions against us Sir Pride, Sir Covetousness, Sir Lust, Sir Anger, Sir Gluttony, Sir Envy, and Sir Sloth. Let a man lay those seven low, and he shall have the prize of the day, from the hands of the fairest queen of beauty, even from the Virgin-Mother herself.” These victories appear so mundane to us; yet, the cost of winning them was the Blood of Christ, and His great victory is also ours if we but accept His grace.

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    • JoshW
      5 January 2017 at 8:50 pm

      On The Incarnation is a great read.

      I’m not that familiar with Doyle’s stuff outside of Sherlock. I’ll have to keep The White Company in mind.

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      • Medieval Otaku
        7 January 2017 at 10:34 am

        The White Company used to be as popular as Sherlock Holmes in the first half of the twentieth century. (For some reason, it’s popularity dropped off sharply after WWII.) One really feels how much Doyle loved the medieval era and knightly romances while reading this. His observations on medieval life strike me as more accurate than most modern authors. (Though, it does have the absurd note about one knight carrying a 50 pound club: which is equal to the weight of two and a half pikes of twenty feet in length.) If The White Company is deficient in anything, it is that Doyle too highly values the active life over the contemplative and dwells too much on corruption in the ecclesiastical order. Still, it was a great book. Its prequel, Sir Nigel, is not nearly as good, but I enjoyed that work also.

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  • Apocalyptis Noctis (Part I) | Res Studiorum et Ludorum
    15 January 2017 at 4:34 pm

    […] writing much recently; the Holiday season threw me off my game. However, I did manage to write a short piece on Final Fantasy IV for Beneath the Tangles’ 12 Days of Christmas […]

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