Historical Setting: 562 C.E. Gaul
With the church building gone I hear the Bishop can be found at the basilica of the St. Martin shrine on this side of the river. But apparently 200 years ago Saint Martin didn’t notice political edges of Rome and planted the monastery on the other side of the river where Frankish armies owned the power. Gaul is mostly Frankish now. Warring cleared the random growth of old forest leaving in war’s wake, stillness.
So I’m waiting to speak with the bishop. “Your Excellency, thank you for seeing me. I’ve come to offer my skills as a layman in the service of God. I would beg a place at a scribe’s bench as my work is to copy scriptures for the distant Christians. But now, with the old sanctuary in a terrible state I may serve better in the rebuilding.”
“We have no plan for rebuilding. Where do you come from?”
“My family is a day’s walk west. So I was hoping to stay at the monastery while I’m useful. If there are no monk’s cells available I have, on a previous pilgrimage, found shelter and solace in the caves.”
“We find ourselves with a dearth of scribes these days. What skills have you in language?”
“As you may have noticed I’m fluent in Latin but also knowledgeable in ancient languages – Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek…”
“You seem an answer to prayer for us here in such need of a scholar.”
“So it would seem. But, in truth, my mission is to carry the Gospels to the outlying Christians not to the Orthodox.” Maybe I was too clear. He understands me exactly.
“So you are a heretic.”
“If you fear heresies Your Excellency, perhaps you will choose to use my skills for the rebuilding of the church?”
I’m surprised he seems so fearless of heresy. He drums his fingers as though he is considering a use for me. Now he speaks.
“Amazing synchronicity it is. We do have another layman among us, a young man, son of my own cousin in fact, who shares your interest in preserving that old church. And like you, he has come to use our scriptorium. Maybe he will heal your heresy and maybe you will help him through his roguish use of Latin.”
So it is, I arrange to meet the young noble, Georgius Florentius, in the pit of ashes.
“Oh No! Please don’t touch anything here. These ashes are sacred.”
(Come again tomorrow on “Ash Wednesday.”)