Today Leviathan, the great sea monster, might appear in video games and dramatic cartoon movies. In the Bible and the early church, Leviathan was also a dramatic image of death, terror and chaos. Job 40, asks, “Can you lead about Leviathan with a hook, or curb his tongue with a bit…upon the earth is not his like…he is king over all proud beasts.”
In a rabbinic legend we read, “The Holy One, blessed be he, will in time to come make a banquet for the righteous from the flesh of Leviathan.”
Cyril of Jerusalem describes baptism as a descent into the waters of death which are the dwelling place of the dragon of the sea. Jesus went down into the waters of the Jordan to crush the power of the dragon who was hidden there: “The dragon Leviathan, was in the waters, and was taking the Jordan into his gullet. But as the heads of the dragon had to be crushed, Jesus, having descended into the waters, chained fast the strong one.” Christ has made the waters a place where not only do we die, but a place which remembers Jesus’ battle with death and we emerge, like Jesus, alive.
In one of Jesus post Easter appearances, “While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them?” Could Luke be relating something more than a proof of Jesus’ resurrection? Could the image of defeating Leviathan be in the background?
An early church image of Christ was that of a fish-ichthus. Christ himself is the fish. Could it be that the in the background of eating fish on Friday, the weekly anniversary day remembering Jesus’s death, lies the battle in which Jesus’ caught and cut up Leviathan? And if Christ is ichthus, perhaps we can see in Holy Communion that we are also eating the death and terror and chaos which are gathered into Christ’s cross, now cut up and peacefully eaten as love.
St. Paul wrote, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”