Featured

Post #22.10, Thursday, July 22, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. Ligugè

         As night creeps over I see ahead of me the hulking peak of an old villa roof.  I’m coming upon the monastery that was a Roman villa centuries ago. In a time long ago St. Martin repurposed this rich gift of a grand Roman edifice for use as a spiritual refuge for monks coming in from the wilderness to be in community. I know this place as it is now with a sunny atrium for the scribes and an oratorio for worship and dining. The cells for the monks are dug into the clay beyond the walls or built of thatch and rock scattered around the back areas of this land.

         If I knock on the door tonight I will only intrude on the silence after the vespers. So tonight I’ll sleep in hayloft of the stable. Tomorrow I’ll meet the abbot and beg a guest room or a cell. I might not mention I once had a cell of thatch that was burned up by the abbot who feared I brought plague to this place. All these years later I’ll only confuse people I’ve known in a long ago time with my incessant look of youth. My circumstance requires me to pretend I know nothing of the past. Always, it seems, history is most comfortably spoken from the present so the out of style and unpopular truths it keeps can be edited out.

         Sun rising now, silvering the morning mist and I walk through the open place of the wall of stacked stone surrounding the graveyard for monks. Here is the newly made grave with some stones already gathered. I’m sure this is the burial place of my friend. Already there is a marker — a partly carved sandstone with an artist’s bas relief showing an ox head. Yes! I know this artist was one of us who knew of Nic’s love for such simple beasts. I already know the one who placed this blessing here for those of us who knew Nic well.

         Dear God, thank you for nurturing this hope I have of meeting Brother August once again and for this celebration of Nic’s gentle nature.

         “Hello Mister. Did you know Old Nic?”

         I turn around and there is Brother August with a snowy tonsure like a great halo of heaven crowning his brow.

         He continues, “Oh, excuse my surprise, but you look just like the brother’s old friend Lazarus.”

 (Continues Tuesday, July 27, 2021)

Featured

Post #22.9, Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. the road to Ligugè

         I’ve walked this road to Ligugè before. But all these years later so much has changed from human neglect. When inattention defines our spaces the buildings don’t just sit still and empty. There come first the little creatures, the insects, mosses and mushrooms, then the grasses come with spiders and mice, then birds. Squirrels make their homes in rafters, and the roof beams become saturated with rain-dampened thatch sagging and caving until only a few stones and a flat place once a foundation are left to mark a house.

         I imagine the God’s-eye view of this isn’t really of sorrow and loss. Maybe where we see decay God sees all things new. Where once there was a house filled with the chatter of people now a whole new nature sways in the creeping of unkempt vines.  How many times do we assume our ways are the same as God’s ways, with all our branches trimmed back neatly into tidy straight edges? Yet God forgives our shorns and trims and blesses us with life in all these eternal lands anyway.

         Along this road a small group of guardsmen pass by on horseback with a banner identifying their belonging. I can step aside for them because the simplicity of walking gives me that humble choice. I had a horse in a prideful time. And Christians have another story of walking humbly that speaks of crossing social mores for the sake of love of neighbor.  [Acts 8:26-39] There is a story of an Ethiopian Eunice riding in a chariot while reading from a scroll named for a Hebrew prophet. The basic love of God is not complicated theology. In all the Holy teachings there is a simple repetition — the rudiments of ancient Hebrew law. Love God above all else, and your neighbor as yourself. [Leviticus 19:18] Here is this wealthy person of rank from wise Africa, whom we pale Christians of the north hold in awe. Dark is the shade of early wise men and saints, the early Church Fathers and Augustine, … Story goes, while walking on the road Philip steps aside for this very important Eunich. Yet the aristocrat humbled himself for the sake of a broader wisdom and he invited Philip onto the chariot to explain the scroll. In this telling of it, Philip baptizes this Ethiopian Eunich. It’s a story of looking beyond the tribal prides and social prejudices, putting aside isolating barriers of “othering” and stretching ourselves into the broader unbounded nature of love for all people and creatures.

 (Continues Tomorrow)

Featured

Post #22.8, Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. Leaving the vineyard

         I’m preparing to leave at dawn to walk to Ligugè. My bag is a bit weighty. But Anatase has something more. It’s a secret. She has the book of remedies with flower stems marking pages and she asks a favor.  Could I copy these pages onto a parchment end so she can attach dried herbs onto the written descriptions. She wants her teacher to receive a gift that has smell and touch so Eve will know what the words say. 

         “That’s a very thoughtful gift, Anatase. I will take great care of the book. But what if it’s needed before I return?”

         “It won’t be needed forever while I‘m here. I worried that it would be lost so as soon as I could read I learned it all by memory just in case.”

         “Of course you did. Why would I wonder?”

         The rumor of my leaving has spread, and now Celeste and her children are coming with river rocks, marked by each great-grandchild in charcoal for me to remember them by. I can promise I will remember, but I choose not to add rocks to my pack. So we stack them into a cairn for all of our remembering as Jacob stacked stones for the Mizpah with Laban. [Genesis 31:51]

         My strength is nearly complete so I needn’t borrow a horse or wait to ride a cart. And with a pale haze of summer morning ousting dark this promises to be a fine day for a journey. Thank you God. 

         Yesterday set my mind on this as we were reading about humility. Nic’s humor applied to the paradox of being proud of humility came to me with all the demands of grief. I have so many memories of Nic I need to share with others who knew him. The story I was telling Anatase yesterday, which tradition calls “The Good Samaritan,” recognizes the human penchant for taking pride in hatred. Pride in hate is prejudice. People, who are fearful of being cast out of their tribe create exclusions of others in order to form a bond of hatred. The Roman military bonded over hatred of Jews. But of course, this tribal pride is antithetical to the Jesus message of love of neighbor. So it was that by Nic’s most humble nature he forfeited his fellowship with the Roman anti-Semitism simply to befriend me, a stranger who was born a Jew.

 (Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #22.7, Thursday, July 15, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. Eve’s Garden on the Loire

         Anatase is politely listening to me as I tell a Jesus story she may have already heard.  But I wanted to tell it again, thinking of Nic, and his way of abandoning his well-earned pride in order to enact the humility of the “love of neighbor” command. I was telling the story in Luke 10. The respected and proud people who passed by the suffering man were too busy or too important to stop and help. Then along came a guy who was from an outcast neighborhood, a Samaritan, or it might have been a Christian heretic. Or in Nic’s case, the story was a Roman soldier, a navy rower who found a Christian pacifist beaten and left for dead by the side of the road who turned out to be born Jewish. This neighbor is the kind who is very hard to love. We think of him more as the “other” rather than a neighbor. But Nic not only took the time to help the man, he paid all his money from his years at the oars to be this man’s patron. And to do all of this kindness he had to give up his own plume of glory — his well-earned affirmations of prejudice – he had to yield his own tradition and his pride in maintaining popular warring hates simply to follow the love command. That is what Jesus meant by ‘love your neighbor’.”

         Thinking of Nic in this way I feel an urgency to go to Ligugè to visit Nic’s grave.        

         At a good pace a man of my newly returned strength can start at sunrise and arrive at the monastery just as summer’s darkness swallows up all traces of the road ahead, so I prepare to leave at dawn.

         Eve and Anatase are filling my traveler’s sack with every imaginable weighty object to remind me of their cares. It will be good to have a cloak and a biscuit and a boiled egg, and of course, flowers for the grave I plan to visit. Eve asks me to take a gift with me for the monastery. She is searching for something – may it not be a stone statue I must carry on my back.  Thankfully, she has only several of her beeswax candles she keeps to light a room for others who don’t know the darkness as she does. Surely I have every imaginable thing to carry on this journey. What more can there be?

 (Continues Tuesday, July 20, 2021)

Featured

Post #22.6, Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E.

         Nic’s pages continue to argue the rule of God’s love against a rule to manage sprouting monks, and now Nic takes issue with flaunting humility. It’s a paradox that doesn’t slip by Nic easily.

          Anatase reads on, “The old monk wrote, ’There are twelve steps and yet not much of true humility. Humility is what comes in awe of stars, or discovering one’s small place in the fullness of God’s love that speaks of the grandeur of all of Creation, even the grand value of you and me. But this written humility rule is driven by horrors, threats of angels reporting pride back to God and flat out fear of Hell. And just to be sure the exemplary righteous and ruly monk should appear humble he should ‘tip his head downward and look only at the ground.’ [Footnote ] But in doing so, I would expect he might see a true worm. Yet that very worm is a critter of nature beautiful in its own way and purpose. So how is pretending to be loathsome ever a display of humility? I ask you, dear friend Laz, please burry me with the worms before I accomplish this rule’.”

         “Anatase, I’m certain the old monk Nic needed no rule to be humble in the sight of God; so any nosey angels watching to report back to God surely found no shred of inflated pridefullness in him to tell of. After all, he gave up his soldier’s plume of glory just to be my friend. Humble kindnesses came naturally to him simply because he was close to God whom he knew as love. In fact, for me, born a Jew, he gave up the hardest pride of all simply to practice love for neighbor in the same way Jesus taught. He gave up his well-honed personal prejudices — a big sacrifice that is. Did you ever hear the story Jesus told to explain what a neighbor is?”

         “Maybe I already heard it; but you can tell me.”

         “In this story Jesus was answering a lawyer’s question. He had to get the answer right, because this fellow knew every single little rule and he followed the law to the letter. So when Jesus said ‘love your neighbor’ the lawyer said, ‘and who would that be?’

         “Jesus had a story for that. He said ‘A man was attacked by robbers and left for dead by the side of the road in a bad neighborhood. The man was a Jew, like Jesus and also like the lawyer asking the question.’”

[Footnote] White, Carolinne, Translator,The Rule of Benedict, London: Penguin Books, 2008. pages 22-26.

(Continues Tomorrow)

Featured

Post #22.5, Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E.

         “Maybe we have done enough reading for the day, Anatase. Do you wish to take a rest from this? I could just borrow these pages if you would let me, and read them ahead myself. And I promise to save any that are interesting for you to read aloud.”

         “No. I can keep on, now that I know The Rose he was talking about was his horse. When first I read it I thought he was trying to practice giving orders to the flowers, bossing them around, expecting they would obey his slightest whim. Knowing it was his horse makes a lot of difference.

         “He wrote, ‘I’ve always thought there were two reasons for obedience, one was my soldier duty to the officer, and the other was something I do simply because God is God and my love for God makes me delighted to follow. Holy obedience is like the difference between following a military officer and training The Rose. Everyone said to teach obedience to The Rose I needed to teach him rank and show him I was the boss. But what actually worked was when I said to The Rose, ‘I am Nic, and you are The Rose and we belong to one another each in our own way.’ So that is also how I am obedient to God.

         “’The Rule of St. Benedict says, ‘As soon as the superior gives an order, they carry it out as promptly as if the order came from God, either because of the holy service they have promised to perform, or because they are afraid of hell, or for the sake of the glory of eternal life.’” [Footnote 1]

         “’It seems to me,’ the Old Monk writes, ‘obedience driven by threat or gift is not actually obedience at all. It is simply a fear or a lust greater than the respect for the master giving the order.’

         “’And the emphasis on humility is even a more disagreeable pretend of virtue. Clearly the paradox is that one who claims ‘to reach the highest peak of humility’ would not actually be humble. There are twelve steps and not one of them is of the true humility of discovering one’s own small place in the awesome love of God that speaks of the goodness of all of Creation, even the goodness of me.”

[Footnote 1] White, Carolinne, Translator,The Rule of Benedict, London: Penguin Books, 2008. page 19.

[Footnote 2] Ibid. pages 22-26.         

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #22.4, Thursday, July 8, 2021

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)

Featured

Post #22.3, Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E.  Eve’s garden bench

         Anatase chooses to continue picking through the hard words on “Page 5, The Rule

          “‘First off,’ he writes,  ‘The Rule tells of four kinds of monks and only the one who lives to obey the earthly offices of the church, the coenobites are the good ones.’”

         “I see what you mean about the hard words in this. You’re doing well with your reading.”

         “I shall continue. ‘Then there are anchorites, hermits who ‘lost their fervor for monastic life’ and now must ‘fight the devil on their own.’ [footnote 1] Upon hearing this Brother August decided this surely was written by one who had never actually ventured into the wilderness where the angels still linger. And upon hearing this Brother Joel’s deep longing for thin places and the nearness of God sent him grieving to return to the wilderness. Even an old and lame fellow would rather meet God without the hurdles of these human judgments as good a man as Joel is.’”

         Anatase interrupts Nic’s explanation, “Doesn’t God love all kinds of monks?”

         “I would have thought so but maybe that’s only my view as a Jesus-following heretic. I tend to think God made us and we are God’s people, even us heretics. So surely God loves the monks.”

         “Oh.” She resolves, “Then the old monk goes on to tell about the other two kinds of monks. Do you want to hear that part too?”

         “Sure.”

         Anatase reads on, stumbling into more strange verbiage, probably intended to put the fear of God’s bishops into young boys who were given over to the church. “He writes, ‘Then we have those untested sarabites, ‘most detestable’ who wander from the sheepfold to gather in groups of two or three or even one alone ‘calling every whim holy’ and everything they don’t want to do ‘unlawful.’ [footnote 2]”  

         Anatase adds, “The old monk says that is who he and you were. Do you think that’s so?”

         “I suppose that is why Nic included it here, unless the fourth variety is even worse. You know, Anatase, Nic was very humble – and honest to God — even if an honest look was a hurt for himself.”

         Anatase already knows what else he says, “But there is an even worse kind of monk. He writes, ‘Then there are those gyrovagues [footnote 3] the worst of the worst, wandering around from one monastery to the next…’ “

         “Well, that wouldn’t be Nic; but that would be me.”

[footnote 1] White, Carolinne, Translator,The Rule of Benedict, London: Penguin Books, 2008. Page 11

[footnote 2] Ibid.

[footnote 3] Ibid.

(Continues Tomorrow)

Featured

Post #22.2, Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. Eve’s house on the River Loire

         This new morning we finish the chores and now find our place on the garden bench for the reading lesson. Anatase read ahead again and warns me of the dreariness of monastery stories. And again, I beg to know what has happened with my friends in my missing years.

         “Very well” Anatase agrees, if you must know, Page 5 is  ‘The Rule’ Nic writes, ‘So, brother Laz, when you come back into a community of brothers you will learn the bishop of Rome seems smitten by St. Benedict of Narsia who wrote The Rule. Here at Ligugè we borrowed a copy to pass among ourselves to consider. We immediately sent it on to the convent of Poitiers.’

         “’I tell you this that you may be warned. Life may soon change for all of us who choose to live in Christian community. The Rule was probably meant for a monastery that takes in the young boys of nobility and trains them to be humble and responsible. Mostly it structures prayers and psalms to guide daily life, but it’s narrower and more specific than was our practice as fellow travelers with the spiritual Christ. Having served in the Roman military it’s not the structure and the order that disturbs me. All the order and uniformity of detail is fine with me. Details, like ‘Sunday Lauds should begin with Psalm 67, chanted straight through without the antiphon. [footnote] [blogger’s note] I surely don’t fear the structure as Brothers August and Joel do. That is all fine.’

         “But I feel I must warn you. My concern for you and your life to come lies in the human bent on judgments and punishments. Brothers August and Joel and I, as well, would never have found a place here at Ligugè if they were following this rule. In this it seems God is only briefly mentioned as a far off purpose, but the judgements and punishments are always of earth or hell. It is the bishop or simply a chosen abbot who determines goodness and badness in everything. Our abbot would judge us fairly, but he is old. This whole plan speaks more about the sins and the battle with evil than it cares for the love of God. Maybe we’re missing something but that’s how we are reading it.’”

         “I have to say Anatase, you are doing so well with all these hard words.”

         “I’ve been practicing ahead. But the next part has the strangest words of all. They are things I never hear said in real life.”

[footnote] White, Carolinne, Translator, The Rule of Benedict, (Penguin Books, London: 2008) p. 32

[blogger’s note] For the sake of open mindedness it should be said, the fictional characters in this blog do not reflect a modern Catholic appreciation for “The Rule” which can be found in other sources such as: Joan D. Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today (HarperSanFrancisco: 1991)

 (Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #22.1, Thursday, July 1, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E., Eve’s cottage on the Loire

         Eve and Anatase are telling me about a visit from soldiers. When Nic heard this he laughed and asked to keep the walnut shell.

         “Did you give it to him?”

         “Of course. Was it something special?”

 “Yes, it could remind Nic of a story I told him about a relic. I’m glad you gave it to him.”

         Eve asks, “Why did he think it was a relic?”

         “Apparently my fellow student at the inks of Tours is now the bishop as he predicted. He was George, or Georgius Florentius back then. He bragged that one day he would be a famous bishop, named “Gregory of Tours.” He said it with a kind of backwards genuflect, starting at his belly and turning his hand upward as a gesture of his own empowerment. He was assigned to teach me not to be a heretic, and I was supposed to teach him proper grammar. He was too stubborn to change his writing style and I was too stubborn to give up the notion that Jesus was a human person.  We had to show our work to the bishop. So for my part, I claimed a patron saint who was a fourth century Jewish Christian martyred before all the wrinkles of creed were even ironed smooth.  I made the relic of the true whiskers of St. Lazarus. But the lesson didn’t take. I still have my heresy. I still believe Jesus was human and that dead saints aren’t magical — either the pagan or Christian saints.  I mean, if Jesus taught us relics were important we would have saved a lot more old and smelly stuff back in the day when Jesus walked and taught.”  [Footnote 1]

         “Nevertheless, Nic thought your relic was a precious reminder.”

         “A reminder to smile maybe. I hope he didn’t try to explain it. And I wonder if my fellow student George ever finished his book about the History of the Franks. I read the first draft of the first chapter and it was just packed with fantastic powers and supposed heavenly acts of saints. In that story the first king of all the Franks, Clovis, was spawned from a beast and took on baptism as a Christian as good luck charm to help in winning wars. There were bible stories right in the mix but there wasn’t a word of the Jesus teachings of love for one’s enemies.” [Footnote 2]

 (Continues Tuesday, July 6, 2021)

[Footnote 1] “Roman law attached great importance of the sacrosanctity of a corpse” in the article “Dead or alive? The holy man as a healer in East and West in the late sixth century” by Joan M. Peterson, Journal of Medieval History, Vol.9, Issue 2, 1983 tracks to root of the miracle-empowered relic back to Roman paganism. In this article the example is described by Gregory of Tours, regarding the relics of St. Martin, and Western cults of saints.  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1016/0304-4181(83)90003-9 retrieved 4-11-2021

[Footnote 2]Brehaut, Ernest (trans.) A History of the Franks, by Gregory of Tours (reprint First Rate publishers)


Featured

Post #21.14, Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve

         Anatase has interrupted the reading to tell me of a frightful time they had here last autumn when Gregory, whom she says is now the  Bishop of Tours, sent his soldiers here.

         “Why did the bishop’s guardsmen come here?”

         “They said they were looking for you.”

         “For me? Why? Are you sure they were looking for me?”

         “They asked my teacher for the man ‘Lazarus.’ But she wouldn’t say where you were. She sent me to get Ma’am Colleta because she didn’t think you would want soldiers rummaging your sepulcher.”

         “She was right about that.”        

         “She wanted Colleta to answer their questions or send them away.”        

          “Why were they looking for me?”

         “Ma’am Colleta said they probably were looking to arrest heretics and pagans.  So when we got back here Ma’am Colleta told them a lie to make them go away.  She said we are all good Christians here. She told them she knows the creed by heart so they needn’t worry over rumors of pagans and heretics living on this land. And she started to say the creed, but they said that was not necessary. My teacher told Ma’am Colleta not to worry, it was alright now.”

         This is all very concerning for me so I call Eve into this conversation to make sure I’m hearing exactly what happened then.

         “What is this Anatase is telling me about the Bishop’s soldiers coming here?”

         Eve explains, “They were looking for you to return something they were calling a ‘relic.’”

         “My relic?” She doesn’t see my grin.

         “They said the booty from a band of thieves had been recovered and it was mostly holy relics taken from the Shrine of the Saint. But among the things these thieves had in their hoard were a few personal items robbed on the roadway. They had with them things like torn and bloodied clothing and what they were calling a relic. They said they  were seeking the rightful owner.

         “I was sure this had nothing to do with you until they laid out your old tunic and caplet, which Colleta immediately recognized as what you were wearing all those years ago when you left here.  She stopped me from touching it, because she said it was filthy and bloodied.

         “But how could you have had any kind of saintly relic?”

         “Didn’t Nic tell you?”

         “He just laughed and said he wanted to know if he could keep the old walnut shell that was with the clothing.”

(Continues tomorrow, Thursday, July 1, 2021)

Featured

Post #21.13, Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve

         Anatase warns me that the page about monastery life is not all that interesting. She’s read ahead. But since I asked she’s conceded to read Nic’s Page 4 about the acceptance of Nic and my other two friends into Ligugè.

         “He said they had no problem getting accepted at Ligugè. He wrote, ‘We didn’t even have to wait outside, begging for entry and reciting the Psalms for three days in the sleet and snow. That’s what some monasteries are requiring to test for kept promises in these new times.’

         “He goes on and on, ‘There are all sorts of new rules monasteries are using maybe because monasteries are popular places for the nobility to send their extra children. Some of the churchmen of Rome are expecting every monastery to follow one Rule and some only want holy orders to go to unmarried men or women who have not the slightest comprehension of families and children. And no telling what will become of all the holy eunuchs like August. More rules tend to look like more power. But really friend Laz, you know the pope in Rome now, Pelagius, who is himself an Ostrogoth in a tight spot. He needs more power any way he can get it.  With no strength in Empire he’s the only one in Rome warring against the hoards of Arian heretics. He asked the Emperor of the east to send soldiers to Rome. But when turned down, he called in the Franks. They came and took a bribe from the enemy and didn’t have a single battle against the Lombards. [Footnote] Peace has a high price and apparently the Franks will trade for it in goods. So armies still taunt Rome and at this writing the pope still looks for power by tightening down on his monasteries.’”

         Anatase stops reading in order to share a topic more interesting to her. “Have you ever seen soldiers?”

         “Yes, at times I’ve known them to be quite common.”

          “Did you know the guardsmen for the Bishop Gregory of Tours came right here to this house last year in the season of harvest? They had horses, and swords and shields!”

         “You mean the Bishop of Tours is Gregory now?”

         “Yes! And he sent his guardsmen right here to this very house! I saw them myself! They came right inside where my teacher was making bread! The horses were outside snorting steam from their nostrils, and the men were clattering and clanking in those iron suits.”

[Footnote] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Pelagius_II, retrieved 5-7-2021.

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #21.12, Thursday, June 24, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve, pagan healer

         I was explaining to Anatase why Nic would ever want to join a monastery. She doesn’t seem particularly impressed with the life-long dream of an old soldier. She offers the easy assessment by a logical eight-year-old.  “We all know what happened now, don’t we? They let him turn into a monk anyway.”

         “Yes, of course, but I want to hear what happened at Ligugè.”

         Anatase resolves, “Okay, I will read that part aloud. But if it isn’t interesting, don’t say I didn’t warn you. The Old Monk writes, ‘On my way here with the cart and your re… [peach pit] and the stone work of art, I stopped at the monastery at Ligugè.  The abbot was very pleased to have a donation of art, such as it was. And I told him of our circumstances on a journey with Brother August and Brother Joel.  I was hoping to use my wealth and the art piece to make an opening for us to have a useful place among the brothers of Ligugé. I feared my gift may not be worthy after I had a look around there. It seems this monastery, like the place I first begged a station was set here by the Saint himself all those many years ago even before he was made the Bishop of Tours. But I suppose you knew all that. In fact I’ll bet you were once good friends with St. Martin of Tours.’ Is that true?” Anatase asks.

         “No. I was living in the east at the time of Martin. The first time I was at Ligugé was much more recent. But I saw that it still had a kind of openness that some of the communities of brothers no longer nurture. So when Nic and I added the two desert monks to our numbers our chance of acceptance seemed less to me.’

         “Why?” she asks. “I would think they would want more monks at a monastery.”        
         “You would think so. But Brothers August and Joel were given their blessings and orders by different bishops and I was afraid there would be a rivalry among the abbots. If they would be turned away I wanted to be there to speak for them. I was at Ligugè about two years before the time we would have been arriving so the abbot might have remembered me and would listen to my recommendation.”

 (Continues Tuesday June 29, 2021)

Featured

Post #21.11, Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve, pagan healer

         “So you were going to read Nic’s pages about the monastery.” I remind Anatase as we begin the reading lesson.

         She begins, “He writes, ‘Page 4, Ligugé.  So Laz, you may be wondering what became of our plan for us to work in the inks at a monastery.’”

         “Yes, Anatase, this is exactly what I want to know.”

         “Why would the old monk want to live in a monastery?”

         Need I explain to a child the longing that drove Nic’s life? Let me try.  “He told me when we first met (Blog post#8.5), as he was already retiring from the Roman Navy, he always wished to become a monk; in fact he never even really wanted join the ranks of the Roman military in the first place.”

         “’The Old Monk’ as you call my friend Nic was in some ways like you, born on the barbarian fringes of Christianity. His tribe was not pagan, but of a Christian Arian Heresy probably like the Christians of your own village who didn’t follow the Nicene Creed. You call those who believe the creed ‘Roman Christians,’ like Colleta and Celeste.

         “When he was a child the not Roman Christian priest of his village taught him to read and write and taught him the stories and the psalms in scriptures that are used by all Christians. So Nic and the priest and even his mother always expected he would be a monk one day; but then the changes of the wins and losses in tribal wars gave the power and the voice of rule to the Roman Christians of the Creed, the Franks. But monasteries rising from the Roman root had little use for an Arian son of a soldier like Nic. He was turned away at the monastery at Tours. At the time he thought they were only interested in taking on wealthy Frankish noblemen. And maybe that was true, but for whatever reason, Nic was turned away.

         “Just before Nic was born his father, a soldier, was killed fighting tribal wars for the side of old Rome. So Nic’s inheritance was not a noble title with wealth, but an iron shirt, a helmet, a sword and a Roman shield. When his thoughts of becoming a monk were set aside he put on his father’s armor and joined the Roman Navy. He was always hoping one day he could find a way to follow what he believed was God’s calling.”

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #21.10, Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The livestock market near Tours

         Daniel offers to stay with the wagon and the mules. Count Bertigan and I wander into the stable area as a huge stallion with a tiny little count hanging onto him with his life-grip bursts through the gate, and romps and rollicks throughout the trial circle in the center of the corral, while first the clinging man is hanging from the neck and then the withers, and then he falls to the ground with his injuries being those of a warless hoofing. The trampled man is gathered to his feet, and he chooses not to buy a horse on this particular day. It was a good lesson for Count Bertigan to observe or he surely would have selected that very stallion.

         My recommendation is that the count should not purchase an unbroken stallion, or even plan to raise horses until he has some experience with horses. He takes my advice. So the count has chosen two fine geldings already accustomed to riders along with a mare and her foal. The trade is made for the two barrels of wine Daniel has in the wagon.

         Barrels of wine are the welcome commodity for trade in these times and places. King Chilperic was known to have levied a large tax on this land to be paid by the peasantry in barrels of wine. When Bertigan is off making his deal, Daniel tells me of the King’s error in levying that tax. The Bishop saw it as sinful and greedy. Then the king needed so many counts to collect it, and for each he had to give a parcel of his lands which explains too many counts.And it also makes the product of Ezra’s vineyard greater value for trade.

         On the return I ride one of the geldings leading the mare with the colt following. Bert courageously takes on the other horse said to be ready for riding and furthermore, he heeds my instruction such as it is. I have a slight hope for this impulsive fellow who is able to put his pride aside for the sake of learning something new. It was a slow walk home. No one wanted to urge the count to ride faster than his ease. Only the mules, now with the lighter load, were frustrated by the pace.

         We didn’t reach Eve’s garden until it was nearly dark and her child assistant was already sleeping.  I’ll have to hear about Ligugè in the morning after the chores.

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #21.9, Thursday, June 17, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. On the Road to Tours

         At least my grandson-in-law sees the futility of brother’s fighting one another. May he one day grow wise in peace.  But then he chatters on about futility of family wars. There isn’t really virtue in his logic.

         He explains a pragmatic flaw in warring against one’s brothers. “Yes, family wars are very bad for my king because his magical power for winning in battle is in his long hair. But his brothers also possess the same charm, so in family wars where all of the long-haired kings have the same magical power the magic becomes nullified one by another. So King Chilperic has called for every count and landowner to gather horses and to arm themselves to defend him, our king.”

         “So you need these horses for battle?”

         “Yes, of course for that.” Clearly my steady gaze hides nothing and he notices my disapproval.

         He adds a possible appeasement. “But of course I’ve heard horses are good for many things: strong as mules, fast as the wind. They can be helpful in farm work and also for delivering messages.”

         So now I find a more comfortable place on the wagon seat next to Daniel. Our journey continues in silence.

         It’s all about the game I suppose. So here we are adding those ubiquitous game pieces on the board imaged as the heads of the warhorses. I see these grandsons getting themselves into a game with a more confusing strategy now, leaping in corners and slaying pawns without enough foresight to save themselves from being cornered by mere pawns.  Personally, I’ll just follow the bishops in the straight and narrow, most trustworthy diagonals. I’ve been around long enough to know this game never ends with a win. The conclusion always comes in that last moment just before the king is dead – check-mate.

         We find this market has an abundant selection of horses. Also several of these lesser, but newly landed counts are here on this same mission — to prepare themselves for a war to support the king who gave them their land.  I can quickly see that Daniel and Count Bertigan are not horsemen.  So apparently, I am here to select some fine warhorses and maybe take these two men from their imagined self-images of heroes on horseback, into the realities of sitting astride a living, breathing, fur-covered beast.

         Dear God where is your peace?

(Continues Tuesday, June 22, 2021)

Featured

Post #21.8, Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The Road to Tours

         “There are only three kings now.” Bertigan informs me.        

         As we are taking the wagon to the livestock market outside of Tours, Count Bertigan, now married to my granddaughter, is filling me in on the not-secret-enough lives of the Kings and Queens of the Merovingian Dynasty. Brother August’s little issues with sibling rivalry are dwarfed by this chess game of brothers in battle. This youthful aggressor Bertigan surely sees himself as the landowner, the Rook in the game. He sees with his imagination that if everything stays unmoved the rook will be in line to switch places with the King in the surprise move that ends the game. But he dare not lose site of the all-powerful queens on the board. He yammers on.

         “With only the three kings that fourth kingdom, the Soissons with Paris was divided among them. If the others had just stayed out of it, King Chilperic could have had it all and we would have a united kingdom of the Franks once again.

         “It happens Queen Brunhilda had a sister, so our king married the princess, Galswintha. Marrying a princess meant she would bring a dowry with her and King Chilperic would rule a greater land. [Footnote] That’s how these things work out. But it was a sad thing that the dowery didn’t go to the husband, our great King Chilperic. After the strangulation of this queen as she slept in her bed one night, her dowry passed to her sister, Brunhilda. And what’s worse, Brunhilda blamed Ferdegund, our king’s most beloved mistress for the assassination. But how could a mere woman kill another with her bare hands or even with a twisted bed-sheet? And how would such an assassin get into the royal bedchamber in the first place? It was a devious rumor. But with that kind of accusation afoot how can these three royal brothers ever be at peace with one another?”

          My assessment, “It all sounds brutal and driven by greed.”

         “So now King Chilperic tenses for battle to get his just due away from the greed of Guntrum and of course, Sigebert’s wicked Brunhilda. Sigebert went to his death some years ago, and Brunhilda has taken on the regency of their child-king. Guntrum is guardian of them all.”

         “So I guess as a count you have to take the side of Chilperic even in his wars with his own family.”

         “The side of my king, who has given me land and made me a count? Yes, of course. But let it be known wars within family are destined to be futile.”

[Footnote] Geary, J.G. “Before France & Germany…”

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #21.7, Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The Road to Tours

         I climb into the bed of Daniel’s wagon with several barrels of wine and this fellow Bert. Daniel flicks the rein and the mules move this load forward. My many questions swirl. Why horses on this simple farm? And why am I needed for this venture? Who is this fellow Bert who married my granddaughter while I was sleeping and now has all these children with her?

         “So you are Bert?”

         “Count Bertigan.”

         “You’re a Count?”

         “I’m endowed that title by King Chilperic himself. I collect the king’s portion for him, and for that I have been given a land for my grand house and along with my wife’s sector of the vineyard lands I am a newly wealthy man.”

         So now I learn that even though Ezra and Colleta and Eve are still very much a living part of this family, Ezra has already divided their inheritance. Apparently my first thoughts of this fellow were accurate: he is inconsiderate of children, driven, impatient and possibly even greedy. But of course any greed I notice would only for the betterment of my own great-grandchildren. I should be pleased to know my family is part of the landed aristocracy now.

         “Why are we acquiring horses?” I ask.

         “I need horses. Daniel is my secretary, and he said you have knowledge of horses.”

         I do know, “Of course. I was once in Hispania where horses aren’t just used for war, they are common. Hispania is under the rule of the Arian Visigoths these days.”

         “I know that.” And Bert does know his politics. “Their princesses became our Frankish Queens but of course they converted to the true creed when they arrived.” [Footnote]

         Another curious new thing I learn.

         Bert’s thick brown locks are shorn even with his beard as is the fashion and the law these days. He talks on and on while his eyes wander everywhere around at the sky and the earth as though I’m nothing of importance in this conversation. I persevere in my attentive stare anyway.

         He yammers on. “My king’s brother married Princess Brunhilda. But King Chilperic is never to be outdone, and even though he had his wives and children already it was a clever move on his part to marry a princess. Do you mean you knew nothing of this?”

         I add, “I was only returning from Hispania when I endured an accident that has taken my memory. When last I knew of the Kings of the Franks, Clotiare had only recently died and these Frankish lands were being partitioned among his four sons.”

[Footnote] For a modern English telling of the history of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, ref. Geary, Patrick J. “Before France & Germany: The creation & transformation of the Merovingian world.” New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Pages 120 and 121.

 (Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #21.6, Thursday, June 10, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The garden of Eve

         Anatase is more excited to read about babies and tell me about my children and great-grandchildren than answer my concerns about what happened to my friends who were Christian brothers on their way to Ligugè. She asked me if I know the children who were the babies of my granddaughter, Celeste.

         “No, I haven’t met Celeste’s new family yet.”

         “Well that first baby is Martha now! She is already ten years old. And now they have a child named Loren too, and another, little Marian!  Marian is nearly as old as I am now. Marian and I had mint tea and biscuits with berries together when I was away just now on my errand. Aren’t you so amazed by how these things turn out?”

         “Yes, I am. Thank you God for all these bright days. And always stay close and guide us through the sorrows. Amen.” She stares at me while I pray aloud.

         “Ma’am’s Colleta and Celeste are Roman Christians you know. They don’t know God up close like the old monk did, and like you do now. I mean, they don’t just talk to God whenever about any old thing.  They prepare for prayers with bowing and hand gestures, and only choose the most holy moments and places for prayers.”

         “Yes, but its prayers to God all the same. God listens to the prayers of the Roman Christians, the creed believers, and even some of us heretics. I think the Roman Christians just take a longer meander to get to the same place.”

         Interrupted from the reading lesson, Daniel and a stranger whom I learn is the father of these great-grandchildren I haven’t yet met, are standing here with something so important to say that it can’t wait for this reading lesson to end. Rude intrusion seems the nature of important men in the midst of children.

         “This is Bertigan, Celeste’s husband.”

         “So you are the father of these children Anatase is reading about.”

         Daniel continues, “We need you to come with us to help us trade for some horses.”

          “Of course.” I ask for their patience, “We’ll be done reading soon.”

         I see they are already waiting with the wagon right here.        

          “So, Anatase, I still want to know what the monk said about the monastery. We can read that part when I get back.”

(Continues Tuesday, June 15)

Featured

Post #21.5, Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve, pagan healer

         “The old monk does write about the monastery.” Anatase complains, “He has way too many words about that. I already read that ahead and I know those old monks were just there forever working in the inks. Believe me, that isn’t very interesting. But there is a good part coming right up next. It’s ‘Page 3. All the babies now.’ I read that he goes to the graves of the babies; baby Margey died before I was here, then Celeste had a baby that died because I still wasn’t here yet and Celeste and Ma’am Colleta, back in those times didn’t come and get my teacher. They thought she couldn’t help when she can’t see, and so they didn’t even tell her when the baby was coming. Then they didn’t know to wake the baby to life when it was born. That baby didn’t cry.”

         “That’s very sad.” I hope to ease the hurt by my acknowledgement with that way-too short little empathetic word ”sad”.

         Anatase smiles at my failed try. “Sad, it was, yes I know it was sad, but you know how the old monk is, I mean was. Listen to what he wrote for me to read about the sadness. He said when faced with sorrow we should plan for what he called, ‘the bright day.’ He writes, ‘Sometimes only God knows when there will be that bright day; and sometimes God’s time is measured by the walking speed of an ox.’ The old monk talked like that a lot you know.”

         “I know. So is the story on this page about the sadness, or about the bright day?”

         “I told you, I read ahead, and this was a bright day story after-all.”        

         Thank you God for the bright days.

         She asks, “Shall I read how the story isn’t really just a sad story?”

         “Please do.”

         “Still on page 3, he writes, ‘And so, it happened that in a God’s time Celeste had another baby and this time Eve …’ he means my teacher who is also your daughter, ‘…”

         “Of course.”

         “He writes, ‘Eve was called to help, and even though she couldn’t see the birth with her eyes, she guided Colleta to help every step of the way. And when the baby was born Eve took the baby on her knee, and set it into life crying with the glorious loud shouts of an infant.’ Do you know who that baby is now?”

(Continues Tomorrow)

Featured

Post #21.4, Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. Eve’s Garden

         We’re walking in Eve’s garden and I am asking Eve about the sorrows of my missing years with this family.  Eve tells me she knew of her blindness for many years, even while she had her sight. As a healer she knows it follows the small pox and she bears the scars of the pox. I argued with her in the times past, blaming her for not maintaining her reading skills as an adult.

         “I’m so sorry Eve, that I didn’t understand your worry then. But you gave me such a lame excuse; you said you needed to fit in with the ways of the times when women don’t read. I thought that was a strange argument from you. You always seem so unbent by popular opinion and as wise as the ancient women, some who were scholars in their own times.”

         “I forgive you Papa. I don’t need to forgive God for my blindness though. We’ve come to terms with this. The hurt was in the fear of not seeing. And with the helper that I have now my dependence on a child has also brought me into a circle of love I never expected to know; the blindness itself opened me to many new paths of learning that the likes of you, who see with your bright eyes will never know. There is one hurt but many days with the blessings of healing.”

         Perspective becomes excuse.

         We have come the full circle on this path. I’ve found my daughter Eve is older and silvered and clinging to a tattered bit of wisdom now. Thank you God for this beautiful child with all of her gifts to help and heal. Stay close in our needs.

         Anatase has returned from her errand and is already waiting on the garden bench with the pages and she is reading ahead; maybe she is even reading the sad pages I meant to save her from seeing.

         “Anatase, I would like to skip around through the pages because I may need to hear some particular things from Old Nic. I’m hoping someone will be taking a cart down to Poitiers so that I might ride along to go and see where Nic is buried. Today I want you to read to me about the monastery called Ligugé. Did he write any pages about Brother August and Brother Joel?”

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #21.3, Thursday, June 3, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The garden path of Eve

         Eve is still feeling she’s to blame in the death of Little Margey because she couldn’t save her. We are talking about forgiveness. “Do you know God loves you?”

         “Of course Papa. And this pagan healer doesn’t need to hear your God words over this. It was God who came and took her away!”

         “So you have to forgive God, and then forgive yourself. That’s a lot of forgiving you have to do before you can know you are forgiven too.”

          “I don’t need a sermon, Papa. Your friend the old monk came up here when Ezra and Daniel were yet stacking the stones over little Margey and the old monk already said prayers and brought God into this. I didn’t go down there because I didn’t want to get God and God’s man involved in my own hurt. But then the old monk brought Colleta up here to tell me it wasn’t my fault. And I did sort of fear that Colleta blamed me, so it was good to hear her tell the old monk and also me that it wasn’t my fault.”

         “So her parents don’t blame you, but do you still blame yourself?”

         “The Jesus prayer only says ‘forgive us as we forgive others,’ It doesn’t say, ‘forgive us as we forgive ourselves and God too.’”

         “Yes, but if you can blame God then don’t you suppose you will need to forgive God also?”

         Eve takes a long pause, but the garden path has not circled back to the house yet. She gropes another topic though not a better one.

         “So what other sorrows do you wish to ask of me?” She asks with her coldest commanding voice.

         “I wanted to know of your blindness. When I was here last, did you know you were losing your sight?”

         “Why does that matter Papa; are you seeking my forgiveness for your insensitivity then?”

         “I guess I am. I argued that you needed to learn reading, yet you probably remembered how to read and also you knew that would be lost with your sight. So when I blamed you for letting loose of your childhood learning did you already know you were going blind?”

         “Blindness is something I’ve known of even before I saw the shadows myself. People who have the scars of the pox as do I may have avoided the dark of death, but the dark of life is always before us.”        

(Continues Tuesday, June 8)

Featured

Post #21.2, Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The walking path in Eve’s garden

         Eve asks, “Were there other things you thought a child shouldn’t read?”

         “I want to know what happened to little Margey, and I should hear of your blindness from you.”

         Eve answers, “Margey is buried down near Ezra and Colleta’s cottage near the newer spread of vineyards. She died when she as a small child. I couldn’t save her.  It was a terrible grief for all of us.

         “In those days I was able to see with only a few shadows taunting my vision. So it was fine that Ezra and Colleta and the children all went in the wagon to the village near Tours to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus with Colleta’s family. I was doing the chores for both houses expecting them to be gone a week when they returned after just two days with all of them sick, poisoned by the feast all spread out for sharing on a sunny board. All but little Margey took the remedies I gave them, and when the poisons were passed, they took a potion for strength and that set them right in only another day, but we could get no medicine or eve water into the tiny child. She was already cold and fading. Papa, I could do nothing to save her!”

         “It was good you saved the others. You can’t blame yourself.”

         “I was swaddling her, rocking her, begging God to let us keep her tender little life but God said no, and she slipped away to heaven.  Papa, I don’t just let people die! People who are nothing to me come and are rescued, but she was my own family.”

         “Eve, my precious child, all these blames and hurts of our own helplessness are …”

         “Don’t preach, Papa. I already know I’m supposed to use hurts to empower some kind of new lesson for my own betterment, but it seems such a needless loss. And I don’t want your excuses for a cruel God. And without the empty excuses I have nothing. I want to find a punishment in it, but if I can’t even name my sin how can I fix it?

         “Colleta says she has lots of sins. She is such a good Christian, even just by being born she had sin so God forgives her. But I can’t even find what to say when I ask God’s forgiveness in this.”

 (Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #21.1, Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The walking path in Eve’s garden

         Eve is telling me of negotiations Daniel had with the druid when arranging to bring this very young child here as Eve’s apprentice.

         She explains, “When Daniel was last trading with the cooper the druid appeared and inquired about the progress of Anatase. Daniel and Ezra think the pagans plan to take her back very soon to work as a healer, or worse the pagan tribe may have something more terrifying in mind for her. Whatever, Daniel made a promise to return her to them when she is fully trained as a practitioner in the arts of healing.”

          “I‘ve got an idea for biding for time here. Since you will decide the measure of her education just leave an important part for her to learn when you determine she is ‘old enough’.”

         “She already knows the remedies and recognizes herbs and potions; she understands so much. What else could there be? Oh wait, now that I think of it there is something held back. I’ve hardly mentioned the rituals of pagan healing– the chants and spells. My pagan teacher thought chants were important but I use the Christian prayer in that place. I haven’t used a pagan chant, or even mentioned it to her for fear it would put her into the tangled briars with Christians one day.”

         “So if you hold that back from her until you determine she is of age, you can truthfully tell them she needs to stay longer. If they test her on pagan magic that will only prove true.”        

         “Yes, of course that’s it. Learning the chants could take forever. And maybe I won’t even start that too soon. This is a fine idea.”

         That solved, thank you God.

         “Eve, I have another concern. I’m thinking maybe Nic wrote things Anatase should skip over.”

         “You think your friend Nic revealed secrets from Anatase in the pages?”

          “I wasn’t so much thinking of secrets, more of sorrows that a cheerful child needn’t read.”

         “You know well, Papa, keeping sorrows up above the view of children steals from them the chance to have an adult guide their way through troubles.”

         “I guess you may have a good sense for teaching the hard lessons of grief, don’t you, Eve.”

         “I was once left a grieving orphan, Papa. I was the apprentice to the old hag of healing so I was privy to many sorrows after that. Grief comes hinged to love; we needn’t pretend it is only for adults.”

 [Art footnote]  The ladybug…”had the three colors of the primordial goddess Holle. It is to her womb, her cauldron, that the spirits of disease, the incarnated spirits in general, return when they leave the world… And just like the stork, ladybugs – also called beetles of Mary, Ladybirds, sun child, Mary’s chafer, and so on can also bring the children’s souls into the world. [This is] an old Swiss nursery rhyme.” Storl, Wolf D. The Untold History of Healing: Plant lore and medicinal magic from the stone age to present, 2017, Berkely, California, North Atlantic Books. Page 158.

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #20.12, Thursday, May 27, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve

         I‘m walking with Eve, so we may talk about the promise made to have Anatase. I also want to learn what Nic’s pages may say of sorrows. I fear this child may come upon the woes of our family or maybe I can have her skip over those things. Eve thinks we shouldn’t hide our sorrows but let Anatase see the truths of grief in order that in her own times of sorrow she know others share this.

         “But my worry is for family things I don’t want to hear in a child’s reading lesson.”

         “Papa, the things we should keep hidden from Anatase won’t be in the pages. Before Daniel brought her here, rumors of her ‘magic’ were spreading in the Christian village deep in the forests of Alemanni. These superstitions spewed stories of charmed and magical children. It frightened her family so they gave her to the Christian priest. We needn’t tell Anatase her mother gave her away.”

         “Maybe she knows. She remembers things well.”

         “Papa,” Eve talks on, “She was only four years old. Rumors [footnote] run among Christians of the Black Forest  that pagan tribes feed their gods the most perfect and charmed children. They dress them up pretty only to throw them into bogs, tied and torn, entombed in earth simply to win a favor from some little angry god of theirs.

         “Daniel goes up that way from time to time to the cooper to buy oaken barrels for the wines.”

         “Sure, oak barrels make the best wine.”

         “He says the wine learns from the sacred wood where Christians tussle with druids over the holiness of trees.

         “So when he was there he saw the pagan priest with the child and he arranged to take that child to be my apprentice. Since no one is suffering droughts or quakes or plagues or fires in these times the gods don’t seem hungry for a sacrifice right off. So she was sent on with Daniel with the agreement she would be returned to them when she is fully trained.

         “Papa, she’s been with me half her life! I love her as though she were my own child! What would I do if she were taken from me? And what would she do? My home is her home. I only hope she knows nothing of this.”

[footnote] Rumors, even in these times there is no certainty about the findings of bog bodies in Northern Europe. This blogger assumes such preserved bodies found at times in digging for peat were also present to spur rumors of human sacrifice for these ancients.        

(Continues Tuesday, June 1)

Featured

Post #20.11, Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve

         I asked Anatase how Eve found her way before she had an apprentice.

         “Before me she had her boy Thole. He’s a cousin to the Ma’am Colletta.  When Thole was a child he helped my teacher with the chores and he was her guide, but he didn’t help her with babies or healing the sick and he couldn’t read her book. She always had to hope someone from the families she visited was there to help. Then before Thole learned this he grew to have the strength of a man and his father took him back to help with their farm. So my teacher was all alone just stumbling around in her blind ways. She couldn’t even gather up all the eggs in the hen house. It was an amazing wonder for both of us that day when Master Daniel saw the priest of the pagans trying to sell me to the cooper. Master Daniel told the druid he doesn’t buy children, so I am borrowed. He made a promise to send me back when I’m fully a healer. My teacher says she’s happy I’m here and she even thanks God for that. I think we both need each other.”

         “I know that’s true, Anatase. You’re very important to her.”

         I can see the doorway from where I’m sitting and I see that Eve is listening to all of this. I’ve some questions for Eve that I wish not to have Anatase hear and I think Eve would like to talk with me also. She sends Anatase on an errand to take a basket of eggs down the hill to the new house where my granddaughter Celeste now lives with a sprouting generation of this family.

         Eve’s instruction, “Take along some mint leaves, Anatase, and tell my niece you are staying for tea.”

         “Papa, I need to tell you that the promise Daniel made for Anatase was that when she was able to read the remedies and grow the herbs and when she had gathered experience caring for people I would have to send her back to the pagan tribe. I thought she would grow up here, and I would have her with me all the years of her childhood. Then when she’s fully a woman she could decide if she wished to return. But …

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #20.10, Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve, pagan healer

         Anatase is telling me how she learned to read. “The old monk promised me he, himself would give me a reading lesson whenever he could come up here. And he was even better at reading than he was at writing. His letters are shaky.”

         My opinion, “Maybe that was just his old age. When I knew him he was very good with the inks.”

         “So then when he came he brought these pages for reading practice and also a tray of wax and a tool.” I see she has her reading and writing here in a basket with her flute and the book of remedies.

         Her story continues. “He told me wax is how they teach monastery boys to write. It takes lots of practice and wax doesn’t use up inks and edges of parchment. With this I can copy a letter over and over again until it is perfect, then press the practice away and learn another letter. The old monk used to write something on the wax then I would read it back, and he would smile and shout that I was the smartest little girl he ever taught to read.  First thing he told me the secret of the letters with sounds and added new words for me to practice using the words I knew so I could figure out more of the teacher’s book. Now I’ve learned to read everyone one of the remedies. I can just say them when she needs them.

         “The old monk said before I was here he used to come more often because he could ride horses, but when the horses got too old they went to pasture. He said then the abbot wouldn’t give an old monk a new horse. So all the days that I was here he could only come when he could ride along with someone who had a donkey cart or until Master Ezra was going to Poitiers anyway. Sometimes the Old Monk stayed here for days.”

         “Didn’t he have work to do at the monastery?”

          “He said his shaking hands made him unable to copy the scriptures anymore so he wasn’t good for anything but prayers and songs and he didn’t need the inks to pray and sing so he could keep the hours anywhere, even in heaven. He said he would die one of these days, but I didn’t know what he meant. Now I know.”

         “I know.  I miss him too. So how did your teacher find her way before you came?”

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #20.9, Thursday, May 20, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve

         Anatase is telling me how she came to be a student of Eve’s. “When I was four I saw a road marker with an arrow and letters, ‘OOS’ to be a word. Since the arrow was pointing to the river I thought the letters named the river near where I lived. Then when I saw those same letters at the top of an ordinance posted by the stile at the river crossing gate I said that name aloud as though I was reading. My mother thought I was magic.

         I’m not sure she thought that was a good thing, but she was telling others I had a gift. I figured out more of reading because I thought my mother liked it. But our village meant to be Christian so the idea of a girl baby reading just by magic was a bad omen. The Christian’s priest told my mother only boys in monasteries are supposed to be reading and the monks are supposed to keep careful watch over that so it doesn’t take them astray. My mother feared I was in danger of Christian curses and kills and she wanted to save me so she gave me to the pagans.

         “I ended up here where I was supposed to read for my teacher. But my teacher’s book of remedies has so many strange words. I needed some clues, like an arrow or picture to explain it. The parts about the herbs were easier to figure out because there were drawings. But what she needed to know most were the parts I couldn’t read. I feared she wouldn’t be able to heal people if I couldn’t read everything. I asked Master Daniel, he’s a reader, and his father is too, but they say I’m here to learn from my teacher not to take up time of the men who had work to do. And I couldn’t think of any way to figure it out myself.

         “Then came along the old monk who lived in a monastery. I begged him to take me back there just for a day, so I could see what they were teaching the boys about reading. I thought I could easily find the clue. He said everyone at Ligugé is older and they have no reading classes, but other monasteries train young boys. He told me monasteries are changing and you would need to know about all those changes too when you awoke and he was already making these pages for me to read to you.”

(Continues Tuesday, May 25)

Featured

Post #20.8, Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve,

         Anatase is reading from Nic’s pages about his first encounter with my family.

         “The old monk wrote, ‘Your daughter-in-law is gracious but she seems cautious of strangers, especially this one wearing a monk’s robe and tonsured.  She assures me that whatever else I have heard of Ezra’s family she and her children are devout and orthodox. So when faced with me, appearing to be holy man at her door she stiffens for proper clarity allowing no cloud of uncertainty whatsoever, in order to assure me she knows the creed by heart, every word of it; and she said she even knows the beg ottens and cons’…”

         I assist, “begotten and consubstantial”

         “Whatever.” Anatase continues reading, “’Colleta assures me, no matter what I may have been told by Ezra’s papa this family is Christian. And you know, Laz, my friend, she may not have any knowledge at all of the substance of God but she does know you very well, and she truly wants me to be sure to know she is not at all a heretic like you.’

         “You are reading all these words well, Anatase, keep going, I’ll bet it will get more interesting for you.”

         “Yes this is the part about the children. He writes, ‘Colleta tells me the last time you were here, little Margey was still a suckling babe, and Daniel was only a knee-high and Celeste, was just learning laundry chores. I first came up here three years later than when you were last here and Margey was a toddler, fast on her feet in those days and little Daniel was visiting your daughter Eve for reading lessons every day. Ezra thinks Daniel needs to know how to read to deal with land grabbers and tax collectors who use a farmer’s ignorance to steal away their land in these times.’

         Anatase interrupts her own reading. “It’s hard to think of Celeste and Daniel as children. And does he mean to say my teacher could read back then? And who is Margey?”

         “Maybe Nic will tell us if you read on.” 

         But now I find I myself fearing these same unknowns. In these pages before us there may be sadness. Maybe these pages shouldn’t be read by this child’s voice. 

         So I asked Anatase how she came to be living here. 

         “Well,” She begins her own story, “When I was four…”         

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #20.7, Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The garden of Eve, pagan healer

         Everyday now, I find I’m stronger and more useful. First I was able to do normal things for myself. I could eat at the table with the others, and now in this season of the fullness of springtime nearly into summer I am able to help Anatase and Eve with chores so there is more time for Anatase to read aloud from the pages left by Nic.  Eve calls it the reading lesson when Anatase and I sit outside on a bench in the garden and Anatase unrolls the bundle of trimmed off ends of parchment on which Nic lettered his journals of these missing years.

         Anatase said she wasn’t living here yet when Nic came up the first time. With her being only eight-years-old now, I mention she wasn’t even born yet. That makes no sense to a child whose lifetime in her mind is all of known time. No wonder it’s a youthful thing to believe life beyond death is an unexplored truth; then history, even with its indelible imprint on our physical world, seems only a fabrication. Of course, believing in history does require imagining those who went before us then mustering our empathy for another’s mortality. So she dutifully reads Nic’s explanation of laying out strips of linen in the shape of a man next to the very gravestones I once heaped onto Susanna’s grave myself. Anatase drudges through the squiggles of letters word-for-word to tell how Nic created the dome of wattle and daub as the sepulcher we have all seen torn away so recently.

         Anatase much prefers reading Nic’s words about meeting my family here when they were so young all those years ago. So that is what she reads today.

         “Page 2, Your Family.” He wrote about what all these people were like in the old times when he first came here. He said, ‘Your son Ezra is a true master of the vineyard here. Every decision made – from where to plant the yellow flowers I brought, to the perfect placement among your family graves for your rem…[peach pit] – all have to be approved by him and he is really too busy most of the time to bother with this guest who I am. Mostly while I’m awaiting Ezra’s various permissions, I’m sitting at his house and being hosted by the matron of these peasants, Colletta. Yes, your daughter-in-law is gracious but she seems cautious of strangers’.” Anatase adds,  “He didn’t know about me, or Celeste’s children then. This page must be very old.”

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #20.6, Thursday, May 13, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve

         “First Page: ‘How I saved your bones for you to use again’.”

         Little Anatase is reading the journal pages that Nic left with her so I would know things when I awoke all these years later.

         “He wrote, ‘Brother Laz, it was a very bad start. You were a foot under a huge stone and those who sorrowed with me could only see it as a memorial to the dead. When I was finally able to retrieve the rem…n-a-n-t’”

         “remnant” I intrude into the child’s reading. “You’re a good reader Anatase, but that’s a strange word.”

         “Remnant?” she asks.

         “It’s like a peach pit, the leftovers that could become a tree if planted.”

         “Oh, I see. So he wrote, ‘When I was finally able to retrieve the [peach pit] there was so little left of you. I wrapped your [peach pit] in your cloak and put you in the cart. I was able to borrow a horse collar and reins, and it turns out your brown horse was willing to dress up for the work of towing.  We would have made much faster time coming this far had we known the brown horse would pull the cart. But then you would have had to ride the ox.’” Here, now a burst of laughter from this young reader.

         “The old monk was so funny.” She adds.

         And together this child and I grieve for Nic’s simple humor. Such a strange mix of joys and sorrows is grief.

         “’I left The Rose in Bordeaux. When I pulled away I think he was concerned I was leaving him for another.’ Who is this rose?”        

         “The Rose was the name of his horse.”

         “Oh, he goes on. ‘At an easy trot it only took two days to get to Ligugé where I left the stone woman and I met the abbot. I told him I would return with the others when Brother Joel was able to travel. He was grateful for the gift of the mother and child and said Christian art is a popular addition at some of the new monasteries in these days but more often the images are even on both sides and dressed up in finer garb.’

         “Is this interesting to you, or shall I skip some of these pages.”

         “It’s best to read it all.  But if you are tired of reading now, we can do this another time.”

         “Thanks, I think I will play my flute for you.”

         “That will be fine.”

(Continues Tuesday, May 18)

Featured

Post #20.5, Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve, pagan healer

         Now every rising is grief. It was Nic who understood my circumstance of life and life again and he noticed that would give me so much practice in loosing loved ones I would become “good at grief.” I assured him no one is “good at grief.” And now his death has proved me right.

         Dear God, please don’t allow me push aside my remembrances of our good times in all this hurt. Keep me opened to the shared spirit so his friendship will deepen and sweeten all friendships that may come for me ever and ever. Give me strength not to bury my good thoughts of him just to save myself the tears. Help this hurt become the stretch of new healing. Amen.

         Yea, I’m not good enough at grief to make that a true prayer from my heart. For now it’s just a pale aspiration.

         My real prayer, Dear God, stay near me in this sorrow. Amen.        

         The tray placed by me is a rich feast for a morning meal. I expected fresh bread because the yeasty scent through the house last night told me Eve still takes her sorrows to the kneading board. But these foods speak also of hens and a nanny goat.

         Today I’m able to rise from the bed myself and to stand with no one guiding me on these quivering legs. Nic’s cane has been left near, so now I have the new superpower to rise up and walk just as Nic’s spirit is taking flight. I wonder if the feathers of his wings are in rainbows as I’ve seen in the paintings of Gabriel or simply in pure pale.

          Eve and Anatase are outside in the new, hanging out linens in the sunshine. Anatase with her little scythe has shorn the tall herbs and grasses to nubs. Now the breeze can’t even flatten the grasses as it passes by showing off the great footprints of the invisible master of all that grows green.

         Anatase finishes her chores and hurries in taking a seat on the bench next to me. Whether it’s the flute or the pages I’m happy she’s here.

         “I shall read for you from the pages of the old monk.”

         “Thank you Anatase.  I look forward to it.”

         “How do you know that? You don’t even know what he wanted you to hear about in all those years. Maybe you will regret. You don’t know.”

         “You are right. So read it to me.”

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #20.4, Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve, pagan healer

         I see Anatase has cut bundles of herbs with her new blade, and as they are leaving she nearly smothers Nic’s body for his journey to the burial.

         Dear God stay close to Nic on this long journey. Amen.

         Now Anatase is sitting here by this bed wafting with sweet fragrance of herbs, grinning with a child’s pride of accomplishment.

         “Now I know when I am supposed to read the old monk’s papers to you. It is supposed to be now that he died, just as he said it would be.”

         She brandishes the gleaming scythe still in her hand.

         “Be careful with that!” I warn her, as though I were a trustless elder.

         “This was a gift just to me from the old monk. He had his iron shirt and his sword hammered into a plow blade and a hoe for my teacher’s gardens when he was first coming up here.  Then when he found me here he had his dagger made into this little scythe so I could cut the herbs clean from their stems, and also root out the weeds. He taught me to use it to cut grasses and herbs and bundle them into sheaves, and then he showed me how to sharpen the blade so it is always ready when I need it. Did you see me today when I needed it to cut the herbs?”

         “I saw.”        

         “The old monk said Christians who follow Jesus Way might do for the dead as Nicodemus did for his friend Jesus. He said the man in the Jesus story brought one hundred pounds of herbs to the tomb of his friend. So, don’t you suppose I cut at least a hundred pounds of herbs for the old monk?” [John 19:39]

         “At least.”

         “He told me that when he brought you up here he didn’t need to cut the herbs from their roots for you because you would not ever be stinking of death; and so he decided to put you in our garden with all the living herbs. That was a good thing wasn’t it, because here you are alive.”

         “Yes, a very good thing. Thank you Nic.” Thank you, God.

         Eve is at the door. “Anatase, please let him rest now.”

         “Of course. When you are done with resting I will bring the old monk’s pages and I will read to you.”

         “Thanks Anatase, I’ll be waiting to hear it.”

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #20.3, Thursday, May 6, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve

         I see that miss-fit white tunic so carefully stitched by my daughter-in-law’s rigid fingers of orthodoxy. It’s folded neatly by the door ready to be returned to its maker, Colleta, with my rejection.

         “Wait Eve. Let us slide the white tunic over his arms. It will help support his groping stiff limbs folded over his heart forever in prayer, at least until his spirit wanders off.” And of he will need the gapping back for his wings were angels really beset with wings, as maybe they are.

         So Eve and I dress Nic as an earthly notion of angel preparing him for his flight into God’s embrace of forever. Surely Nic’s spirit will smile when the abbot unties his woolen robe and finds him fit out in the fullness of angel as I always knew him to be. When the abbot speaks the eulogy and echoes the psalm everyone who listens will know he was, for this friend who knew him well, the true patron saint.”

         When did it happen that all saints are dead? When Paul wrote of saints he was naming living people. So did saints become always dead when the first saints died? I know the naming of saints wrankled local bishops who argued over the power to bestow. So now it seems the rule of the Church that all saints must be dead and they best be martyrs. Dead saints isn’t a teaching of Jesus or Paul, or even a God thing. It’s a Church thing [Footnote] offering the added assurance that no saint may yet sin.

         Ezra and Daniel are here to take Nic’s body back to Ligugé where he will be buried as he always wished. I can only sit on the bench and watch out the door as they take him. And now, there is little Anatase with a new gleaming scythe cutting bundles of fresh herbs and filling the wagon with the fragrant bouquets.

         Daniel comes back to walk with me back to the place I’ve been assigned by Eve.

         “Thank you Daniel, but please know, I will soon return to my full strength and I will be useful to you and your papa.”

         Anatase comes in completely fragranced in rosemary and lavender buds.  She sits down by me to tell me what she has been up to.

Footnote – The Fourth Century need to standardize canonization of saints is well-documented and easily available in Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canonization#Historical_development

(Continues Tuesday, May 11)

Featured

Post #20.2, Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve

         While I am sitting here on the edge of the bed ready to dance the celebration of this healing Eve is in the doorway preparing a bed of sorrow.

         “Are you awake Papa?”

         “Awake? Yes, and I am sitting here on the edge of the bed, ready to bound into a full life very soon.”

         “Papa, last night when the fire went to embers I heard a sigh from your friend Nic. I went to take him a cover for the cold, and I found the breath had gone from him.  I didn’t wake you then. There was nothing to be said or done. I sent Anatase to bring Ezra and Daniel with the wagon so they can return him to the monastery for the prayers and the burial. It is where he told us he would be buried if he didn’t live for your waking.”

         “But he did.” Thank you God, that I am able to see him off from this earth and into your hands.  “I’ll go with them to help with the burial.”

         “No, Papa. Ezra and Daniel have plenty to do as it is.”

         So, I won’t be a help to them. “I understand. But let me help you prepare him for his journey.”

         “Very well, Papa. Let me walk with you to the bench that is beside his bed.”

         And she is right. Today I still need a person walking with me, even though I can nearly stand alone now, and I’m so strong I can nearly not crumple to floor with the pain of it all. Were Eve not my strength just now I would surely be slithering along the earth. It is an arduous journey all the way to the bench near the fire where I see Nic is sleeping in the tranquility of his newly found place in death.

         My beautiful daughter, a healer, though now blind, has memorized every motion of filling a basin, gathering cloth rags for washing the body, and preparing everything that is needed then bringing all these things to this bench for me to have a part, spilling not a drop.  As I do the motions of this preparation I thank Eve for thinking of my need to help. I can do this for my friend. She prepares now to dress him back in his monk’s garb, but wait…

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #20.1, Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve, pagan healer

         A long night of sleep into this waking with graying skies, and now it is late morning.  Yesterday I was listening to Nic talking on and on to let me know I’ve returned to a world of ever-changing human life. Thank you God, for allowing me to be alive while splayed onto this bedsheet in the stillness of listening. Thank you God for such a friend as Nic who is telling me of this world I was returned into alive again.

         Today, I am able to move, thank you God.  I can move my mortal human form as was intended in creation, stretching now a hand and a foot and one-by-one each part of me once nearly bare bone, now a new painful stretch of sinews forming.

         I’m thinking of Ezekiel seeing the valley of all the dry bones. Was it an ancient war? Was it just a time forgotten? Why was it so distinctly a valley? Or was it a plain that felt like a valley? Was it his valley alone with a whole earth of dry bones? Human spirit wanders the valley we see and touch and long to find the Spirit of universe in the pain of stretching in a way of growing anew.

         The prophet doesn’t mention the length of time it takes for the sinews to return to the bones, for the breath of life to be shared among those rising up, for the stretches and the pangs of new life to howl then sing, then rise and dance. Why did the hand with the inks copying these pages of Ezekiel’s valley for us to read in this new day fail to keep the part about the pains of each growing into new strength — the rising first on elbows only up from the clay and then to sitting on the edge with new strength barely noticed, but rising above the dust cloud. Was there no word left in the story telling us it was a very long time to wait before the dancing? Rising is so slow and painful even in the meager measure of human years.  Healing seems to make itself a story with too slow a plotline, an eternal continuation, an ox journey that needs editing …

         Eve is in the doorway with a sorrowful continence.

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #19.13, Thursday, April 29, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve, pagan healer

         “Yes indeed,” Nic goes on, “the world has changed. The Church has changed. Even life in a monastery edges toward a standard practice now. And it isn’t about the Jesus words. We still copy the same words of gospel over and again perfectly in the changeless vernacular of St. Jerome. We shape each letter of it for every wealthy church patron who can sponsor a bible. The bible stays the same but the world skews anew.  I’m too tired to tell it again after I wrote it in those pages. I thought you needed to how to fit into the world when you awoke. I didn’t think I would be here then. And anyway, I’m too tired to tell it all just now. Please, dear Brother, stay close to God for ever and always.”

         He didn’t hear my “Amen.”

         Eve listens nearby and has come to take Nic to the place she has prepared for him near the fire so he can rest.

         Alone now, my prayer pours from spirit in a thundering deluge of thanksgivings.

         Dear God, thank you for staying near me in this time of strange reunion. Thank you for the generations of my family, here and forever. Thank you, especially for such a good friend to let Jesus love be our bond even greater than his Roman military lessons teaching fear and calling it hate of the Jews like me and like Jesus. These are so many redundant thank you’s cascading from my thoughts of Nic. Thank you for the life gifts even to the mortals, and for the strange welcome back to life with people who once loved me are trying to hobble love together just now. And need I tell you, I noticed Ezra’s wife Colletta, is still struggling with metaphor in her Christian faith. She made an angel’s robe for my rising. It’s not sized for my earthly bones and has a huge gapping space for wings I never expect will emerge from my mortal again meat of man. She set the arms in upside-down, so I could forever raise my arms in praise, or be flying. She hears of angels and has no mind for spiritual metaphor – then an artist who brings metaphor to literal image plasters a winged angel unto a wall of a sanctuary and Colleta believes angels have this exact visage. Thank you God for the inspiration for her plan, for all of this and everything more. So be it.

(Continues Tuesday, May 4)

Angel’s clothes, metaphor, artist’s imagination, family love obligations, inspiration, changes,

Featured

Post #19.12, Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve, pagan healer

         Nic is telling me how my bones were saved from a forever memorial under the stone that fell.  He rambles on, “August tried using the winches adding to them the stronger pulleys retrieved from the crane arm but to no avail.  So on the third day he had the stone-cutters split the stone in two to managed with strong men and winches.  On the fourth day we found you were indeed badly crushed and broken into uselessness like the crane was also. If you don’t mind me saying it so bluntly, you were very definitely dead – though not stiff with death or stinking yet.  That was the surprise. We all thought you would be stinking by this time.  There were all sorts of theories flying around about how come you were not stinking after four days dead. No one believed the ‘Lazarus theory’ even though your own blood sisters had the same wonder back in the day. [John 11:39  — best from the KJV for the use of that rare word “stinketh”]

         “We were able to remove what was left of you. I wrapped you in your cloak and laid you onto the cart next to the lady of stone. Brother August wasn’t pleased with that. It was his cart and it was messy. I knew enough to bring you up here, and we didn’t have to travel at ox speed.  It seems your patient brown horse was willing to wear a yolk and harness. I made it in good time while everyone else in Bordeaux was worrying over the broken crane wheel. That heap of wooden crane curves never did heal in all these twenty years. The new basilica never rose to the heights of the older Roman buildings. The whole world it seems is coming to grips that the empire has indeed fallen. Well, except for the pope in Rome who is still battling Arian heretics. I wrote all that stuff in some history pages I gave to the little girl, Anatase, who is as good at reading as she is playing the flute.  I thought she could read you the events of these years when I’m gone.

         “And I have to tell you, my dear friend and brother, when I am gone, I promise I will stay gone. I won’t leave you all with near on a two decades of hopes and wonders caught in a limbo between the possibilities of death-stench or life-stench.”

         I speak my apology. He doesn’t hear me.

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #19.11, Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The house of Eve, pagan healer

         Nic is telling me what happened when I last died and it does explain why this healing has taken so long. He says the huge stone being raised by the wooden crane fell back and landed on the wheel, while I was walking the treads.

         Now the child who assists my daughter has come bringing us a tray with tea and bread. She tells us this is a special brew to give new strength to body and mind.

         “And what for the soul?” Nic asks teasingly.

         I answered, “She makes music with her flute for the soul.”

         I’m not sure my words were really spoken; Nic couldn’t hear me. But Anatase was amazed and told Eve, “The broken man can speak! And he wants me to play my flute!”

         Eve instructs the child, “Let them have tea first, then you can play your flute for them.”

         Yes, the tea and the biscuits give us both strength and Nic can actually hear the flute. It’s true our spirits are renewed by the music.

         I’m nearly restored to life though not yet “glowing,” as may have been the expectation of Eve.  And Nic rambles on in his elder’s whisper-voice, telling me his worries with the huge stone.

         “I assumed as we all did that you couldn’t have survived such a horrific thing, but I was the only person who could guess that might not be the end of you.  I feared we had only three days until you awoke back into life, and probably we would find you badly damaged. I felt an urgency to remove the stone that no one else shared.  Brother Joel listened to my worry and reminded me we had four days, because only Jesus rose on the third day, and if you really were that Lazarus, you would have at least four days in the tomb. I found that assuring.

         August went to work right away, I think just to set my mind at ease, making sure the stone would be removed and not just left there to be part of the church. They were redesigning the structure so no more stone would need to be lifted by cranes and there was a thought to leave that stone imbedded a foot deep, as it fell as it was. It would be designated as a memorial to fallen construction workers. Your name would be carved on it. That was a grim possibility indeed.”

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #19.10, Thursday, April 22, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. The healing room of Eve’s house

         Nic tells of the day of the disaster.

         “So, you probably don’t remember that day of the horror when you died so dead down in Bordeaux. Brother Joel and I were sitting on the bench outside the guesthouse, and from that distance we were watching the outside of the wall under construction. Shollo and Kairn and a couple other construction workers were on top of the wall using the new winches we mounted up there the night before. We could see the large arm of the crane swing closer to the wall, and the ropes through the top pulleys were taught. Then we saw the huge stone rise up to the top of the crane dangling just past the wall, as the winches were turned and it was brought closer, edging, barely onto the bed of mortar prepared at the top. Everyone from the ground was shouting higher, higher, but from where we were we could see the crane arm itself was not really high enough, and suddenly there was a loud crack like a thunderbolt overhead, then the whole earth shook with the deep thud of the rock fall. One of the winches we had secured just the night before went tumbling from the wall.  The men who were working the winches flung themselves down the ropes like monkeys from trees.

         “I feared for what I would see when we got to you, but Brother Joel asked me to walk with him as he practiced with the crutch. I told him my fear that you would have been struck by the falling debris.

         “He said, ‘God be with his soul.’

         “I said, ‘God be with every part of him!’ I had to be distraught to argue with Brother Joel. He wanted to preach me the value of soul in times of stress. Like I wasn’t already wracked with prayers! The spoken ones could have been mistaken for curses.

         “August was shouting frenetic orders to everyone as though anyone were listening to a little fellow in a gigantic monk’s robe. The crane was in a million pieces all strewn over the whole area of the wall, and the huge stone was just where the crane wheel had been. The other tread man was sitting on the stones aside, in a bloody tunic waiting for first aid. I knew you had to be under the stone and there seemed to be no concern at all about moving it off of you.”

(Continues Tuesday, April 27)

Featured

Post #19.9, Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Historical setting: 584 C.E. Eve’s house

         A small bench has been brought into this room and Daniel and Ezra bring a frail and aged man in and he is seated on the bench. He is clear-eyed in a monks robe; the fringe of his tonsure is pure white, not the silver of the Nic I remember. His hands are shaking like a choir director who has lost the tune. Eve brings his cane and places it near his hand. He thanks her with a very soft voice, and when he turns I see this is indeed Nic.

         “Nic!” I think he didn’t hear my voice. I am not sure my speech was actually a word, but I am sure I made a sound. He looked at me as though he’d heard.

         So softly he speaks, “I don’t hear well now, and apparently you don’t speak well either. So it’s best I do all the talking. How strange a paradox that is. But it is the blessing of old Simeon that I have lived to see you alive again.

         “I have to say, your death is the strangest journey we have yet traveled together. And I do see your rising now to be a promise for us all. Isn’t that supposed to be the purpose of this life gift that you suffer with forever, to be a physical metaphor of the spiritual resurrection? Oh, excuse me. I fear I’m reaching for the sermon and I’m not ordained for sermonizing.

         “It was as you thought, that Ligugé was a monastery whose abbot would accept a man of age, an old soldier to be among the monks. He let me keep a horse for a while also.  I took my sword and my father’s iron tunic and had them melted and hammered into tools for tending your daughter’s herb gardens here. I learned that from the prophet. I know it was intended as a metaphor, ‘to hammer the swords into plowshears.’ But I chose to take it literally, so that the peace it speaks of may be of earth as it is in heaven.  It is not just the spiritual peace of becoming a monk. As my sword was hammered into better purpose so have I been.”

         If I could be heard speaking I would tell him that he is sermonizing again. And I’m waiting to hear him unwind some stories of these years I’ve been missing.

         He reads my expression.

         “Oh, you would rather hear me tell you what has happened while you were dead than listen to a sermon. Of course.”

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #19.8, Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Historical setting: At the family graveyard — 584 C.E.

         At this waking fresh light floods all around as Ezra and a younger man are at work taking down the low arch of reeds that is this sepulcher. This younger man must be my grandson Daniel. Here he is grown to be the powerful young man who can help his father with this vineyard when I was not here to help when it was needed.

         Thank you God, for generations that come to keep the cares.

         Ezra is speaking. “Now Papa, without the structure we can better see to cut you loose from the rags.

         “Colleta has already stitched a tunic for you. It is of bleached linen she was saving for something blessed and holy.  You will surely look like an angel when we get you all dressed in it. That was what she wanted for you.”

         If I could answer I wouldn’t know what to say. But apparently, I have the gift today of showing expression with my face.

         “He looks to wonder at that, Papa.” Daniel says.

         Ezra assumes, “Maybe it is a pained look and we are hurting him removing the linens. Are you alright, Papa?”

         I can smile today.  Each of my pale and frail limbs lie uselessly in place in the form of a man longing for the fullness of life, and what is here on this hill is a cold breeze. Now I see I was carefully brought here to this place near Susanna. This is where I would leave flowers for her. I hope I’m not too late to thank Nic as this kindness was surely his doing.

         Thankfully the white tunic doesn’t suit me. They came back with a quilt for a wrap and the wagon. Now it is Daniel who carries this broken man that I am into Eve’s house after a very short wagon ride.

         Thank you God, for keeping this family.

         I’m spread onto a bed.  I believe this is the very bed-stand and side room I built here for Eve to use when she takes in patients. She was a healer even as a young woman. In those years after the plague I was left in the plague pit outside of Tours. Eve and Ezra, who survived were ill and sent to the pagan hag of healing near Tours. When they were well Ezra was taken to learn the work of tending grapes, and Eve learned midwifery and the art of the healing. The old woman left Eve an ancient book of pagan remedies, and the scars of pox that had taken her life.

         (Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #19.7, Thursday, April 15, 2021

Historical setting: Inside a daub and wattle sepulcher — 584 C.E.

         At this waking the new light of morning is splashing and surging in clear patterns of brightness throughout the whole weave of the wattle.

         Anatase is here with a cup of water again, and her flute.

         Dear God, thank you for this wonderful waking. 

         She tells me, “Daniel has returned from Poitiers with your  monk.” I sip the cool water and it feels so good that I can swallow it today. The child chatters on. “But the old monk is very frail now, so Daniel and Ezra are taking him to my teacher’s house. Then they will come and take you down there to see him.  I have to tell you a secret that the old monk told me when I first came here so many years ago.  It’s something only I know and that’s why it’s secret.  He didn’t want me to tell it. But this is what it is.  He feared he would be dead before your waking so he wrote some pages for you to hear.  I’m supposed to read them to you in case I’m still here when you wake, which I am. But then, he isn’t yet dead either so now I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with the pages.

         “I must say, you did much better at sipping water today. I will tell my teacher you have already learned sipping. She will be pleased. And she said I am allowed to play my flute for you today, unless I see you close your eyes. That will mean you don’t want to listen and I’m supposed to stop.”

         Now, I guess I must pray I don’t blink. I so love to hear the music. She’s getting more proficient at the little tune every day.  Now her fingers speed over the beats of the dance faster than any dancer’s heel can flurry. But now she has chosen to pick through her five notes for a new tune she doesn’t yet play. She’s collected the proper notes, but making a tune of it is a dreary repetition. I would sleep, but if I close my eyes the music will stop. So, this bliss of dreaming is inside out. The goodness and music are on the waking side of dream.

         “Sorry the music was not to your liking. I will leave now.”

(Continues Tuesday, April 20)

Featured

Post #19.6, Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Historical setting: Inside a daub and wattle sepulcher — 584 C.E.

         “He looks to be a living man, dear Teacher. Shall we unwrap more of him?”

         “I don’t know what we should do. Maybe he would like to sip water.  Go, Anatase, and fetch a cup of cold water for him.”

         There is a scurry of leaving but Eve is still here.  I focus my eyes on her face. I see she has lost her sight.  I wonder if she knew of this blindness when I last saw her as a young woman only pretending to know reading and reluctant to marry.  But here she is a healer and now a teacher. How I wish I had strength to reach out my hand and touch her and I would tell her she is beloved. It’s her hand now that gropes for mine.

         “Papa, maybe you can hear me? Your hand is warm as living after all these years. You told us of your gift of life and life again, strange gift that it is. We only marveled in the wonder of it never thinking of the long waits through deaths and all the griefs you know in lifetimes of losses.

         “The God-things you taught me in childhood are my secret now, Papa.  People these times choose their quests for healings between the miracles of the Christian saints or the ancient pagan science. I know you would say God loves us all; it isn’t one or the other. But this world only knows choices, not fullness.  Since I’m not a saint so if I choose to be a healer I must be of the pagan variety and I have to keep my God prayers hidden. But I do pray to God and I very often thank God for staying close. I’ve prayed for my strength and life to last into this day, knowing nothing about how your waking would be except that it would come. And now I see by your frailty your healing will need to go on a bit longer before you are the full strong man we’ve waited to see walk from this tomb all aglow.”

         “Aglow” she says? Does Eve notice I’m smiling? Have I any smile at all to give? She doesn’t even seem to notice the clasp of my hand around hers. I’m sure I will one day move again but I don’t expect to be “glowing” ever.  I hear the child coming back.

         Eve offers, “Papa, would you like a sip of water?”

         The child tips the cup. “It is a cool sip of water.” She says. I can’t swallow. My chin and beard have a cool, fresh drenching.

(Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #19.5, Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Historical setting: Inside a daub and wattle sepulcher — 584 C.E.

         At this waking I hear the voice of the child.

         “I see the wheel is over the opening again. But don’t worry, Teacher, I can roll it back easily. I always roll it off when I come here to practice my flute.”

         I hear them rustling. I feel someone very near.

         “Here, Teacher, you can touch the edge of the opening then crawl in through this space. Now Ma’am, if you reach out your hand you will touch the broken man. Don’t be afraid. He’s very gentle.”

         Gentle? She says I’m gentle? I can’t even move. But I feel the touch. The firm hand of a healer touches my head.

         My daughter Eve’s clear voice is as always, the deep whisper of calm, “It seems he’s wrapped in linens is he not, Anatase?”

         “Yes Ma’am he is all wrapped in ribbons and ribbons of linens. Only his hand is unwrapped and that doesn’t seem as broken as they say he is.”

         “The monk must have wrapped him like this when he made the sepulcher. We should unwrap the linens.  Oh, dear little Anatase. I hope it isn’t a frightful sight for you.”

         “How does that concern you Ma’am? I am a student of healing and I am your eyes, so do you think I would be fearful of seeing a death now? If I haven’t had to turn my eyes away from new birth then why would I not be able to see the face of death? And anyway, do you not feel his gentle living spirit with us now? Maybe he’s not in death at all just now.”

         “I do feel my father’s spirit near us. But that’s not unusual for one who grieves as I would have grieved had my father died forever dead. But Anatase, the deaths of this man are not usual deaths. And I‘ve never removed linens like this before. Even I don’t know what to expect.”

         The child explains, “The hand that has been unwrapped seems like a hand of living person. Here, reach your hand to touch it.”

         “Oh, yes, this hand has flesh and warmth and life. Let’s take the wrappings off his head.”

         My eyes see a blur of bright lights, sun pouring through the spaces in the rotted away daub on the wattle of this tomb, and here are two human faces a blur. It is Eve, sparkling and silver-haired now, and a child with long yellow braids.

        “Please, Anatase, what do you see of his face?”

        “He has a black beard and sparkling dark eyes. I think his eyes are like yours Ma’am. But I think his are eyes that see, because he was casting his gaze all around and now he is looking right at you and now at me.”

    

 (Continues tomorrow)

Featured

Post #19.4, Thursday, April 8, 2021

Historical setting: Inside a daub and wattle sepulcher — 584 C.E.

         This is my son Ezra; now he is crouching in this small place next to me. I feel his spirit with me. Maybe he is lifting a candle. I feel the warmth of a pale light. He touches my hand with his own hand.

         “Papa, can you hear?” Yes! This is Ezra, he calls me “Papa” so surely the woman I heard was my granddaughter Celeste, a grown woman now.

         Ezra speaks to me,  “Have you a mind and a soul and a life after all these years of waiting in death?”

         I can’t answer.

         “Let me loose the rags that wrap your hand so I will know if your life warmth has returned.”

         My fingers are freed.

         “I’ll send Daniel for the monk who is waiting for you, Papa.”

         Ezra has never been much for talk so it is a shear blessing that he speaks to me now, though, I suppose he doesn’t expect that I can hear him. And I do have feeling and touch in my hand. He touches my hand with his. His hand feels dry and gnarled with age and hard work. Now he’s gone, and I’m alone again.

         I think of the day we went out to prune his grapevines and I was ready to burn all the old wood particularly the dry and gnarly vines seeming to be spent. Had he not stopped me it would’ve been a terrible destruction. These old stumps he told me, are the root that feed the new vines, not to be mistaken for the useless debris of last year’s harvest that we do mean to burn.

         Dear God, thank you for sending me a son who values keeping the ancient root around, anyway. Amen.

         If I could speak or move or even imagine that I had a being I would answer him, but he hears nothing from me, and now he is gone.

         Who is the monk who is waiting for me? It would be someone who would know my secret of life and life again. Only my family who is here knows of this, and of course my elder patron, retired soldier. My hope is that it could be Nic, maybe now a monk as he had hoped he could be. And surely he must be very old in this new time, a generation now passed.

 (Continues Tuesday, April 13)

Featured

#19.3, Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Historical setting: Inside a daub and wattle sepulcher — 584 C.E.

         “Anatase, Anatase, you naughty child! You know you are not to go near that place! We’ve been looking for you everywhere. You have to tell your teacher when you leave the house. She was so worried when you weren’t in your bed.”

         Now the voices of woman and child are gone.

         Do I know the voice of this woman? When I hear the particular bend of the words I picture my son’s first daughter Celeste. But I believe Celeste is a child. She is the older of Ezra’s children and she is the bossy one of course. Possibly it happened that this voice of woman is Celeste and the years have passed by me in this death.

         And what of the wheel with its crosses, and the great stones shouting out for the Christ of us?  What of the unfinished wall rising for church? And how would there be a tomb made of wattle and daub? And where is the “here” that I am in this tomb that surrounds me?

         “Its alright Papa!”

         I hear that voice again, of a woman, Celeste shouting just outside this wall.  “I found her Papa, and I sent her back to her chores.”

         And a man answers, “Where was she?”

         This is surely the voice of Ezra my son.

         Celeste answers, “She was here in the graveyard, Papa. She was inside Gran’papa’s sepulcher.”

         “Why? What was she doing in there?”

          “She said she was playing her flute for the broken man.”

         “Why?”

         “She said he likes to hear it.”

         “Why does she think he can hear?”

         “Papa, are you going to send that naughty little Anatase back to her own people now?”

         “You know I can’t do that.”

         “Well, at least give her a good scolding?  And you know what Mama and I think you should do with her.”

(Continues tomorrow)