Historical setting: 563 CE, on the Bay of Contabria (Biscay)
Nic asks me, “Did you ever hear the poem about God, like the good shepherd who leads us beside the still waters and restores thirsty souls?”
“Yes, of course! That’s a Psalm! And you know that also?”
“Yes, Brother Lazarus, I learned it as a child. There is a very strange verse in that poem that makes no sense unless you are in the middle of a war, and also, if you happen to be loosing that war. It goes, ‘A table is set before me in the presence of my enemies’. I was thinking it is about the wolves and the lambs eating grass together.”
Dear God thank you. Amen. I’m so glad he has found us a tiny piece of common ground, “Nic, I too know that poem! But how is it that you learned it in your childhood, amid so much illiterate encouragement to forget the ancient epic and even the metaphor?”
“Lazarus, it was the elder priest of our tribe who taught me so many things.
“In the war where our tribe lost to the Franks my father was killed, but also our chieftain was killed so the rule of the tribe fell to our Christian priest. I was the infant son of the last war hero – you know, the one last hope for our tribe — the remnant. For all the years of my childhood which were the rest of years of the life of that old priest, I was taught to read and to practice with the inks. He taught me things he recalled of the bible, though our tribe owned no book except for the pages he himself remembered and then wrote down. When that old man passed away our tribe was assigned a right and proper orthodox priest who promptly discarded ‘heresy’ and the ‘scribbles of our heathen priest.’ And I was told all those things I had once learned as bible stories of the Old Testament were only there to foretell of the Christ; they were not to be taken as worthy teachings in their own right. But I couldn’t forget some things.”
Thank you God, for holding tight to our thread, for giving us a remnant of your truth. Amen.
I don’t want to taunt Nic with my centuries of observations. It could only speak to him of my scrambled mind. But I too have seen divergent Christianities colliding in these Roman lands.