Historical setting: 562 C.E. Ancient Tours of Gaul
Outside the monastery walls are those caves where I’ve come for long months of healing. Ascetics, seeking solace in hermitage come to these caves for lifetimes of prayer and fasting. I was here healing from death of plague most recently. Then two centuries before I came up this river to this very place after a long journey by sea, wounded from a brutal death I sought solitude for healing. It seems some come here to pray sacrificially unto death; but I come to pray unto life through healing.
This day I requested a cave from the bishop but this time I’m assigned a monk’s cell in the monastery. Young George and I are each assigned to solitary cells each with bench and an opening – an arch for light and air and view. Perhaps there is a shortage of monks in these often warring times. There also seems abundant space at the copy benches to allow this heretic who I am to work with the parchments and inks while the dark world awaits sanctified scholars enough to fill a scriptorium.
When I stay at a monastery I expect to be tonsured as a monk partly as my own personal sign of penance but mostly for the practical reason that vanities requiring a polished brass mirror are not favored, so the clipping and shaving is done to one by another. And those with the blades only seem to know one style. On this morning I gather a bit of the shaven fluff falling from my beard into a fine walnut shell I have found and fitted with a hinge and a ribbon then polished with oil and a glimmer of bronze rub. It’s tied closed as a locket to be a reliquary. Perhaps this would seem a sacrilege were I of this orthodoxy, but I am not.
I’m early for my meeting with Young George but so is he.
“Ah, Lazarus! I have been waiting to lay my eyes on that relic of the ancient saint you claim to own.”
He seems skeptical when I show him my polished walnut.
“A true relic would be saved in a golden reliquary.”
“The relic is true. Only the reliquary is common. Would you like to have a look?”
(The relic is tested next week. Come again Tuesday, March 10)