By Austin Fennell on November 27, 2020.
In the days when Augustus was the emperor in Rome and Herod was king in Judea, a group of men walked from the emperor’s palace through the Forum, having asked the emperor if they could build a temple in his honour. Was he not a god worthy of such a building? He gave them no answer.
The night could not have been more still. There was no wind. No dog barked.
Then came a strange sight. A Sibyl (prophetess) came out of her cave in the hills. She had not come out for years. The group was perplexed, but it seemed like a good omen. Augustus was about to offer up a dove but it flew away.
Suddenly the silence was broken. A brilliant star blazed over the sacred hill. Nature awakened. The wind stirred. The Tiber River sounded. The moon came out. The sky filled with stars. The dove returned and lighted on the shoulder of Augustus. All the Earth seemed to be at a Augustus’ feet.
“Hail, Caesar!” the group of men cried out! “You are a god.”
The Sibyl was aroused. She was a terrifying sight, with tangled hair and blazing eyes. She pointed to the east. She grasped the emperor’s hand. “Look,” she commanded. Augustus saw a vision: a common stable on the hillside with shepherds kneeling.
The Sibyl’s knotty fingers pointed. “Hail Caesar!” she laughed. “There is the God who will be worshipped on Capital Hill.”
Augustus was horrified and shrank back. The Sibyl’s voice could be heard for miles: “The Redeemer of the world shall be worshipped on Capital Hill. He will be the Christ, not a frail mortal!”
The next day, the emperor told the Senate he would build a new temple, but not to honour him, but to the child soon to be born and would name it “Heaven’s Altar – Ara Coreli.”
Story from “The World’s Christmas” by Olive Wyon.