Historical setting: 584 C.E. Ligugè
“It’s relentless! The stiff, unbent, notions get painted over the ancient stories and called doctrine. It is as though God needs to be reinvented in each war of Bishops called Councils.” I plead with the master of the inks.
“Scrape it clean and start again, Brother Lazarus.”
I beg, “No one has to invent God! God already is! God is present with every little snail and dove. Doesn’t anyone notice?”
Brother August tries to quill my wrath. “Let it go. We all have to scrape the parchments at first.”
“The God-shine of nature is still here today as John saw it. This creative image of God is always new for new eyes but also always ancient and true. Like a new day rising, not pre-read for interpretation by the anointed scholar then tucked rotting away to a formless odor in a timeless reliquary. I thought you, of all people, Brother August, would understand how these structures of creed intrude!”
“Brother Lazarus, this work isn’t where artists find our prayers – it’s just the craft we practice to support the monastery. When I came here I had been finding my own prayers in my cave using my hands, sculpting in stone. Your father, Lazarus and I talked about the asymmetry that I believed marked the nature of a mother and child, when the only thing the Church really expected was symmetry. It was a hard lesson I couldn’t learn, so my artwork is still in my private place for personal prayer. Here, I use my skill of the craft to ink the usual expectation. When your parchment is clean again make the dove point to a dryer-headed, baptized Jesus.”
“But clearly it says, ‘It rested on him when he came up from the water.’ It’s what John says.”
“Of course, that’s what the words say, but, young Brother, we always think of the dove reflecting the Holy Trinity as it ascends. That is what the patron who receives this bible will expect.”
Now it’s Brother August who is talking market. And worse than scrapping the parchment again, would be a pointless argument with Brother August.
Dear God, do you find all this scraping away as distasteful as I do? I suppose you see everything, even this, more broadly. Help me see wide, too. Amen.