Historical setting: 6th Century A Small Village in Southeastern Gaul
We’ve stopped in this small village to for the night’s. The priest recognizes August even with the hood that covers his face. Their warm greeting includes the introduction of us fellow travelers. Then the priest takes a long ponder in awe at the stone woman and her baby in the oxcart ignoring the curious on-lookers of villagers who gather.
“So this is what you do for so many months in the mountain cave?” The priest asks.
“It is what my hands are doing while my heart and my voice are in prayer.” August answers.
This church building is barely a stone heap topped with thatch, hardly more than a dessert cave. It has two rooms, one for worship and prayer if the community at worship is no more than four, and the other is the priest’s sleeping quarters. He has no fire center inside so in the back is a wide opening with a covering tarp as a tent would be, and the fire circle is outside.
I’m tending the fire while Nic and August take our beasts to the large stable prepared for guests and their animals. I can hear the voices of villagers who are now a larger group in front of the church discussing the stone statue.
Apparently, the people were rallied by rumor that this is not a carving, but the actual woman turned to salt in the desert. I can overhear a mottled piecing of the Genesis 19 story after Abraham and God negotiated the rescue of Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In recalling the story the villagers have hobbled together their account of the likely sins that wrought this horrific judgment on the towns, but I hear no mention of the part where Lot offers the unruly mob his own daughters in place of his visitors. Its odd the things people remember most. Surely the Genesis story was history told by the ones who lived to tell it without mention of their own sins. So was Lot’s goodness the reason why the wrath of this punitive, judgmental God left Lot’s family living? Were they really more righteous than those who died? When I hear these old stories of the God of vengeance people love to imagine, making the world more just by distributing disasters, mostly they point out some non-descript virtue of the survivors who live to tell.
The priest shouts above the ruckus. “This is not a woman turned to salt! Has no one seen a statue before?”