Historical setting: 562 C.E. Gaul
I don’t have to wade far into this lad’s scrawling inks to know my assignment is no less insurmountable than his. He is trying to lead me through the complexities of a religion laid out like a bridge of loose boards onto the wavering back of old paganism – Roman, Barbarian, Frankish with a tad of the Arab and African varieties. And the maze I have for his lesson in language is likewise woven of threads of cultural variety.
First he must know how to scratch his Frankish errors from the parchment. With so many errors he will surely accomplish this skill but the work is tedious and takes up our whole day just in scraping errors away.
Meanwhile he yammers on about my patron saint. “It be significant..,”
I correct. “You mean ‘It is significant’…”
He accepts the correction. “It is significantly essential that you acknowledge the mortal suffering of your saint. Your prayers should pay homage to his sacrifice.”
“I understand well the brutality and the suffering. And you must already know that this Lazarus…”
“Saint Lazarus” he corrects me again.
I hardly accept his correction. “This fellow was not alone. There were nine Christian monks taken that day and flogged.”
“Yes,” Young George knows this history. He names them. “St. Zanitas and, of course, St. Lazarus of Persia, along with St. Maruthas, St. Narses, St. Helias, St. Mares, St. Abibus, St. Sembeeth, and St. Sabas.” [footnote]
He calls out each with the same hollow rote he uses reciting conjugations. But with each name sliding too easily from his Frankish tongue I picture each human person of them in my mind and recall their preaching in the peaceful times and I hear again each of their voices crying in agony but there is nothing I can do for them as the lashes fall across my own shoulders the same.
“I am not numb to their suffering Brother George. Each bore witness to the other’s suffering so that their own helplessness to care for one another was also a terror each endured. Are you asking that my prayers are directed to renew the hurt I feel through my own empathy with them?”
“How quickly you learn Brother Lazarus. I have no doubt you will soon be washed clean of your heresy.”
“There is something else about that time I have longed to know. Perhaps you have read of it in your studies.”
(What is he longing to know? Continued tomorrow)
[footnote]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shapur_II Excerpt “Relations with the Christians.” (This article sources 5th Century historian Sozomen, in his Ecclesiastical History, Book II, Chapter XIV) retrieved 10-8-2019.
(also listing Sozomen as a primary source) retrieved 5-17-2019.