Historical setting: 564 C.E. The Gaul Side of the Pyrenees
We’ve walked all day in search of a particular cave said to be dug into the bank near this creek. Nic scouted out the river bank ahead of us and said he did locate some caves a few miles ahead but they seem uninhabited. At least we know we have a way to go yet. So we choose to pitch our tarp and make the night fire now rather than go on. There is still a bit of daylight and a ruby sunset with a promise of a good day tomorrow.
The promise is kept by the old adage of red sky at night. It is indeed a beautiful morning to continue our journey to Ligugé, and more immediately our search for a monk in need of the alms the villager has provided.
It is still morning when we reach the abandoned caves Nic told us were here. Here we stop to investigate for signs of a monk. There is a pale silence about this clay bank. Three caves are dug into the hillside. One of the caves has rubble and rocks pushed across the entrance, a common way a cave is sealed at the discovery of a monk who has passed away. We approach the second cave with reverence and trepidation. It’s a shallow dig, containing nothing, probably the source of the rubble in the first cave.
The third cave is deeper, and investigation of it requires someone to enter with a lamp. August wants to go in alone in case a monk is present and deep in prayer. Brother August goes down the hillside to fetch the alms and flame in the lamp from the embers we carry. Nic and I wait outside. The cave sends out only the fragrance of damp deep earth. There is no smell of death here, and the life smells are only our own, so we guess Brother August surely won’t find a needy monk here or would he find anyone here at all. Even our prayers are silent as we wait. Then whispers echo from the gaping dark hole – sounds in the voice of eunuch or angel or August.
Brother August emerges from the darkness alone without even the beam from the flame.
(Continues Tuesday, February 9)