Historical setting: 584 C.E. Eve’s garden bench
The pages Nic left for Anatase to read aloud describe this world I’ve awakened into. Nic must have known I soon would be seeking a place in a monastery scribing the gospels. He knew me well, and he understood my calling to keep my friend Jesus always in sight of us who are of earth. So of course I will be heading back into the inks. He tells me that all around us are these powerful bishops, overseers like shepherds for an earth of mindless sheep. Here we walk the crumbling roads of an empire gone, following the flickering torches of imperialism into the deeper darkness.
Here these shepherds no longer trust the patterns of nature or the direction of stars and phases of moon. Things of Creation that once served as psalm for all varieties of worship are sorted from Christian and declared Pagan. Yet Christian holds tight to the magic and manipulations always looking for omen but rarely for metaphor. And like the Pagan Romans the daily journey of the sun is even numbered by hours. Now the routine of each day for a monk is set down in a rule of old paganism. It is the abbot who decides the waking and the sleeping, the times for prayers and the times for song. And it is the voice of a distant bishop that declares a silence despite the chirping cricket under the door.
I know Nic gave Anatase and I these pages affirming the Roman yen for order so that an ever-curious little girl may learn of the ways used now for educating young boys so often in the hallowed halls of a monastery. The Rule of Benedict seems mostly to be a method for managing aristocratic youth who have been sent from their homes to learn the vows of poverty, humility and obedience. But as we explore this, it seems outward practice may supersede spiritual poverty and humility along with obedience to God alone. With The Rule, a human authority, the bishop or abbot as fine as he may be, becomes the one to whom obedience is given. God seems only an assumption.
Anatase has looked ahead and says these upcoming pages are truly “dull.” Yet I’m curious to hear Nic’s voice in this to know if it matters to Nic if the orders come from a bishop or the Creator of the Universe and ever present Spirit of love with us always? Does Nic agree that all this detailed instruction is simply intrusion in individual personal prayer?
(Continues Tuesday, July 13)