Historical setting: Pyrenees Mountains, 6th Century C.E.
We are crossing through the hills beyond the mountains into Gaul — two men on horseback and a lone monk with an oxcart — moving at the speed of one man walking beside his ox. From time to time Nic and The Rose go ahead of us and scout out the next grassy lee or a quiet creek for a stopping place. The little monk has chosen to take this winter’s walk without shoes. It is a monkish sort of thing to do, I know, and gratefully, the earth is not yet frozen solid. I also notice, whenever we stop for rest he quickly wraps his tiny pale feet up in his wools. We all know frozen toes could cause a long healing.
We find the foothills of the mountains have many more fine places to pitch our camp than the steeper climbs of the range we’ve already crossed. So this night the tarp is slung and the fire built in a near perfect setting. Tonight for our vesper prayers August has withdrawn to the privacy of his cart for his own prayers. But Nic and I choose to sing a psalm we both know as a call and response.
I shout the first phrase, “Praise the Lord!”
Nic sings his answers from Psalm 147, “How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.” …
“God determines the number of stars…” I shout.
Answers Nic, “God gives to all of them their names.” …
Our joyful song of psalm goes on blessing all of Creation, the snow, “like wool” and frost “like ashes” and even the hail reminds the psalmist of manna from heaven.
It is Nic’s echo, “who can stand against his cold?”
And I sing “He sends out his word, and melts them”
Nic’s voice sings the psalmist’s response, “he makes the wind blow, and the waters flow.”
Maybe we have a secret hope that August will find a blessing in hearing others at worship. I wonder if he may be so concerned maintaining his Christian piety that he hasn’t noticed it is something he shares with us also. And of course, we may be so concerned about showing off Christian piety to him that we ignore his need for solitude. So be it.
The night is beautiful, but crisp with winter. Thank you, God.
(Continues Tuesday January 12)