Historical Setting: 562 C.E.
“Oh No! Please. These ashes are sacred.”
A tidily attired aristocratic youth struts with the flourish of an elder’s authority; or maybe it is simply the pomp of naive privilege. His accent and manor are conspicuously Frankish.
“So you are young George, the one concerned over these ashes?
I’m Lazarus, here to offer myself as a builder.”
“Are you Arian? See footnote You seem Persian and Persians are often of that heresy.”
“And you seem Frankish. I’m not Persian by birth; I’m a Christian of Jewish heritage. And I might add my heresy is only of creed not of truth. I offer myself now as a builder so having an earthly friend who was a tangible human carpenter would seem an asset, would it not? And I consider myself to be a personal friend of Jesus.”
“So that were a ‘yes.’ You admit you be a heretic of the heresy of Arius.”
Young George easily reviews this one of my heresies. “Because speaking of Jesus as human friend denounces the sanctity of Christ as the same substance as the Father thus an equal in the Trinity; thus to say Jesus were of flesh there be no Trinity, therefore no one Catholic Church, therefore no Christianity, therefore you deny the one Church universal and of course God are to be on the side of the Church.”
“Ah, my friend, you do know my heresy. But does that make me less useful as a builder? I find this church is in need.” I merely wave my arm to direct attention to the ruin in ash but he fears even my gesture.
“Ah-ah! Don’t touch these ashes! They be a holy relic of sanctuary perhaps one day to fill amulets for devout Christians in need of God’s miraculous protection against the powers of woe.”
My argument plunders my restraint. “A relic you would call this mess? How is a church in ruin a worthy sign of God’s grace? Ashes are a mere sign of penance. And a very ancient sign they are, even older than Jesus stories. They speak of the choice one makes to dismiss the old sins. Then the ash becomes the growing medium for the new garden. It is all here for the turning– the repenting – the new life from old hurt. Ashes aren’t magical. They are simply a reminder, a metaphor for our turnings.”
From his sour face I have surely put my heel down right into another stinking heap of heresy.
footnote Arian? Author’s note: In 326 C.E. the Council of Nicaea produced its creed defining Orthodoxy that included the anti-Arian statement that the Father and the Son are of one substance. Nuanced and politically divisive this had great bearing on both history and religion, though in the opinion of this blogwright had no affect on the true nature of God who is God. Among the many sources of details on the Arian controversy one that offers a readable historical context for this is Henry Chadwick’s, The Early Church [(1967) The Pelican History of the Church vol. 1, Penguin Books ltd. Harmondsworth, Middlesex England – pages 130-131.]