CHAPTER XVIII

 Unexpected 


I, Luke, now write in the first person, for after all it was me there, it is me now here, and, frankly, whatever game of yellow toad I played there, I am quite sure I was the best of observers.  The Bishop was busy being God’s chosen leader, proving his poise to a Roman.   I suspect he considered all Romans clods.  S. Cornelius had rough hands, the end one finger was cut off, and he wore no fragrances.  Bishop Ignatius was proud of his delicate light skinned hands, musical, his mother had said, of his long fingers.  The Bishop’s hands were well plied with the barber’s fragrant oils, as his sleek black hair was dressed with them.   


The Quaestor was doing what he knew how to do, being military, but not doing so well in what he didn’t know how to do, which was deal with a couple of strangely dressed priests of this religion which produced martyrs, suspicion, rumour and, from any careful report, astonishingly good behavior.  From the start, never mind that military stiffness, I could see Cornelius was surprised that my Bishop carried himself with such poise, elegance, and, yes, command.  Cornelius nose twitched a bit.  He brushed it.  He didn’t like the perfumed oils. His glance disapproved the manicured hands.  In confidence, they were a match for one another.  For Ignatius God and faith were his assets.  Cornelius never gave his assets a thought.  He was a commander, Quaestor and noble.  His Superiority in a social exchange was a given,  at least to his public face and patrician heritage. No Roman revealed what deficiencies might be, very likely were, inside.


The two men were playing in a small arena.  There was no smell of combat to it, not even tension but for uncertainty, I judged that from the Quaestor’s expression. I knew my Bishop was playing a careful hand. I would enjoy watching their game.  If someone was needed to play the clown, I knew my part.


The Quaestor Cornelius nodded us directionally toward two chairs.  He was remarkably courteous in doing so, for, by any Roman measure, we were in every way his total inferiors deserving no respect.  (Consider that at a Roman meal when clients of any patron are dining, the patron eats and drinks well, the lower ranked guests have inferior food)   A provincial sect’s priest, bishop or not, was nothing to the Romans, just some local cultic curiosity, to be disdained or treated as dirt on the carpet.    Not this time. S.  Cornelius had already informed himself about us He had formed a tentative agenda. Stupid of me, I had only the Bishop’s intentions in mind, never thought to think the Roman rulers here might want something from us, well, not ‘us” but my Bishop. What could it be?  I obviously was not a chap who paid any attention to politics. Why bother? My head buzzes with enough confusion    I suspected the Quaestor had learned more than the usual gossip about Christians.   As he began talking, in no way peremptory and brusque, unlike that donkey of a secretary in the outer office, S. Cornelius was respectful. (As for that donkey I swore at the time I would manage to get back at him. Revenge is a dish best eaten cold.)  


As for my Bishop he was clearly confident of his own status. He was not quite croaking it, but felt himself that large frog grown mighty sitting in his own s pond’s his lily pad.  I considered it a small pond, for him it was the only pond of consequence.  Commander Frog I thought at the time. (I’m a mean-spirited toad, I am)in  his pond of his small assemblies, even counting the far reaches my Bishop managed by letter,  maybe twenty five of these.  Roman Asia,  Asia Minor, had about as many. Add Egypt and its environs, and these were most of Christianity.  Rome and Gaul were budding, sometimes on hear the literate noises of their spring, but as far flowering?  No the garden was here in the East. It was east not west, this end of the Mediterranean not the Italian boot that was Jesus’ boondock kingdom.  I did not count the Bishop’s imagined India whatever its, how did I know? grand reach.   Even so, the sense of his supervising power on behalf of Christ, his mission and his missions gives a bishop a special demeanor.  He is entrusted to the Bishop’s chair by God.  Of the chosen people then, Ignatius would be if he could pull it off, a prince himself, that monarchical overseer, “episcopos”.  Christ might have guessed he would someday be called “king”.  Did he know he would generate courts and princes, beginning here in Antioch?   


We would see how this meeting, confrontation?, would work out. Standing facing one another, assessing, God’s prince, chosen interpreter of this world and the Other, by the will of the One merging.  The other, his princeling chosen by Emperor of Rome, one of that class who had forged the known world into nearly one.  Rome’s emperor was the penultimate Prince of This World.  Given that, this S. Cornelius was one of his “material demons” . Odd gladiators then, these two so unequal, in an arena that I sensed had somewhere, invisible boundaries, and spectators unseen as well.  


The Bishop was simply but expensively dressed- tithing and extra donations had been good this year.  His black gown was of linen to his ankles He wore a large silver and jeweled ring, gold necklace, and expensive sandals.  He was other hand, was entirely poised, his grey hair well washed, pomaded and barbered, as was his short cut carefully groomed beard.  I could smell his perfume; such stuff came to Rome via Antioch and the Silk Road.   The bishop’s face was, aged and lined, yet handsome, his nose more thin and hooked thus Arabic, not my own typical pudgy almost bulbous Syrian. His eyes dominated, black not brown, glinting and penetrating, as busy assessing and judging as were S. Cornelius’ own, of which the latter were the more frightening, for they were so cold, blue, perhaps a touch of green ones, but glinting like swords.  And be reminded, their blue in itself cast spells. This Roman demon then was not entirely “material”. Might there be an “otherness burning” there?


For myself, in my buttoned gown I offered nothing to assess beyond well bathed inconsequentiality, uneasy at being here, my ugly dark face, round like a ball, sweaty.  I was always sweaty and could not afford the perfume to mask it, nor very often the expensive laurel soaps of Antioch.  At 50 I cut no wiser a figure than when I was five.  I daresay people see in me an assuring, a well-deserved modesty   I am pleasant enough, and, oddly enough here with a real man of power, I was not overwhelmed.  Oh yes, I could play at fawning, sycophancy any time it served, I am practiced enough in servility for the Bishop, but it was the disarming mask of me.  I know I am stupid, but I play at its exaggeration quite cleverly. If I look at myself in the mirror, I find I hold my head sideways a bit; my brown ordinary eyes tend to look upward. The mirror told me that I had low forehead, bushy eyebrows, black, thinning hair graying. She here was this nothing of myself in the most curious situation of my life, for I was next to greatness, and I do not mean my Bishop, Ignatius.  My Bishop from out of his small pond, God’s nobility as bishops were beginning to think of themselves,  standing here before the personified power of Rome.  S. Cornelius, Quaestor, of the grandest ancestral aristocracy, poised, far more important than any bishop.  Whatever the Christians might insist as to “God’s” and Rome’s relationship,  S. Cornelius, if he knew such an high god at all, would assume that such a god was small potatoes in Rome’s scheme of things. My Bishop believed “God” looked down on Rome from his heavenly chair. I, less sure of things than my Bishop, ask if he, “He”, looked down with contempt or awe, of if not ‘down”, perhaps ‘up to”?   Assume my Bishop correct in his confidence, how loving must our high god be to remain that in a game were Rome kept sacrificing his players?  Politics is a dangerous and unpredictable game. When God and this Quaestor are the players, far be it from me to be a figure, a token, in their board.


Height does make a difference in how people judge.   My Bishop at a Syrian normal 5’6’ or so, was shorter than the Roman who was, at perhaps 5’11’ overly tall for any known nation’s average. As for me, I told you I was short, maybe 5’2” By height and real power, the Quaestor should be dominating, but my Bishop was so composed, one more inch of vanity to his height of it, and he’d be condescending.   Whether God or his ego put him forward might not be a pious question, but I knew it was ego. On the other hand, this Quaestor was not at all about proving himself.  I suspected self-doubt negated any such effort but on the simplicity of the battlefield.  Civil confrontations were beyond him, as was argument. His new work in Government, where whimpering, wheedling, bluster, and bribes were the currency of client exchanges, was already taxing.


I could tell this of him then but now, as I go over these notes from years ago, I know more by far of him.  I revise only a bit what I wrote then in order to describe him more carefully in objective terms.  For him words did not come easily in strange situations, and being a sudden civil servant in tasks, near gubernatorial rank, while awkwardness did not much show, in nodding us to our chairs, in being careful not to not to sit down before his guests did, there was a kind of incongruous self effacing grace to him.   He may not have known it, but it was this awkward, modest, easy manner, coming from a man his soldiers called “great” which, however stiff his bearing and hard his face, made him so beloved by his troops beyond their admiration for his magnificence in battle    I later learned first hand his openness and his modesty When he was commanding in the field, he walked with his men, let someone else lead his horse, was legend in his ability to hoist his full horns of cheer, these of undiluted wine drunk down with the best of them, albeit not with the drunkest.  He had none of that showing of fangs or bristling of fur, peacock raising of tale feathers, which are of immense importance in games of who’s-the-more-important bluff.   In Rome that game on the erstwhile way to the top can last for life, and quite quickly lead to death. 


I move now to write more as observer than participant:  The Bishop Ignatius had long ago schooled himself against liking or disliking, whether at first or any meeting, and whether with Christian or other.  He was in this way more tightly bound even than S. Cornelius, for the latter seemed--I can be good at such assessments-- shy and uncertain, not of what to do in battles or with comrades, but about himself.  The Bishop Ignatius on the other hand, was always a tactician, no move uncalculated, and almost no emotion there to contaminate best possible moves for a man in charge of this church “potential”. He divined, he was sure,  its destiny, made of himself the instrument of it. 


The two men facing then, and no adversity in it, simply the formal and dangerous nature of the Roman world anywhere, were different in ways the other would never likely know.  Neither was bad nor even selfish, both were better hearted than most others either of them would meet.  But in the Roman world, and in their externally iron personalities, formality would rule.  For the Bishop, play and tactics were at the fore.  For Cornelius simply getting through a meeting thrust upon him, in some ways more difficult than battle, for while there was duty to assess, to decide, to govern, always to be serious, Rome had given him here no goals to achieve.  Implicit was to keep Syria and the city pacific, a semblance of being well served, wealth growing, powers pacified, and the status quo.  Cornelius allowed himself an honest sigh.  Ignatius envied him that, and read the sign the sigh revealed; Cornelius a less cunning, simpler-thinking man, and however uncertain an official in this unusual situation, had less at stake than the Bishop whose vision for the church, perhaps a more particular vision, compelled him.  


“Why do you want to see me?”  S. Cornelius was blunt.


“I am the Christian Bishop.  I speak for my flock.  I want you to know we are peaceful, wish no trouble, make no insurrection. We are not rebelling Jews.  We pay our taxes without protest even though the collectors are corrupt wolves.  We work and do not beg. We ask for nothing from you but normal protection and justice”


S.Cornelius looked at him directly, no nod, no smile, “You don’t need to come to me for that.  You do what is expected, your duty, as do I.  Is that all then?”


“Do you know about Christians?  That ours is a God of love who promises a personal after- life, who asks us to preach and be charity and goodness among men, with least regard for material things or power”


“I have heard as much” S.  Cornelius paused, gave a bit of himself, “It seems worthy”


Ignatius smiled approvingly, a tactical move but not without danger. A Quaestor will not like being patronized.  The bishop continued, “  I had hoped you knew good about us, not the rumours, nor emphasis on our problems with public reverence to the gods of Rome.  We believe our God to be the only God; we cannot demean Him or our beliefs.  I know that in saying this I may already expose myself to suspicion, personal danger.”  


Ignatius had indeed done that, in doing so was testing the Quaestor, who was already known in any market stall to be second by the emperor’s choice in the rule of Syria   What the Bishop had said, was, under Domitian, might have been enough to condemn him to the tigers. Even now, under more tolerant policies, his was a daring move, almost foolhardy, but he spoke with sangfroid calm.  The challenge required, with no preparation, a policy decision momentous for Christians in Syria, but also which, depending on the whims of emperors, could be costly in the career of the Quaestor.  


Another sigh, some gentling of the face. “You face no danger from me, Bishop, although I must demand of you and yours full loyalty to Rome no less than yours to your God.  In my mind, I have not weighed the matter fully, these are not incompatible “


From Ignatius there should have been a sign of relief.  His future had been handed back to him without a reproach. My bishop, obviously, had pondered for some time, why else indeed the visit?  Perhaps he did believe that God guided him that some vision about which I, stupid Luke hardly his policy intimate, had not heard.  “Have you Dominus, Quaestor and Commander, ever allowed yourself an interest in religion beyond what the Roman State requires?


S. Cornelius weighed his reply.  His new private secretary, Balthus, had just entered the room. This was another blue-eyed fellow who didn’t need an evil eye to be menacing.  He was all muscle and he wore a knife.  He radiated danger.  I hadn’t liked him at first and liked him less now. S. Cornelius didn’t know Balthus well, it was in fact his second day on the job. S. Cornelius was aware all ears in Rome are ready to hear poison, and in spreading it about to add to the dosage on the way.


The Quaestor replied thoughtfully, there seemed no calculation in it at all.    “Yes, a religious interest is one of my peculiarities, in many eyes that is a shortcoming, it speaks of my personal predilections, for I have long studied philosophy.  Some consider me a strange soldier for that.  But as for gods,  yes, I was an Eleusinian initiate. The mysteries move me.  Practically speaking   I serve Rome and her gods, no other, for Rome is what I am, the mother I serve”


He had in saying this been far more disclosing in a minute and to foreign strangers of no status at all than most Romans would be in a lifetime. 


Balthus’ forehead muscles tightened, he frowned, leaned his head a bit forward.  Something was going on here, some test, something possibly dangerous.  It was not his job on this, his second day, to speak, but on all days all his life it was his job, his life depended on it, to observe, assess, conclude as to risks. In his view his new boss had been revealing so as t be impolitic, inappropriate and careless, the sort of intimate talk unheard of but for over wine with companions from the barracks, or within one’s family.  It was not Roman. Was S. Cornelius oblivious to the situation, a clearly political visit by a lower class cult leader who might be an enemy of Rome? The Quaestor was, yes, naively frank.   This hero of which he had heard so much, of what could this man be made?       


The Bishop, phrasing carefully, for he was deeply shocked at the simple honesty of what he had never expected to hear, was unsure whether this was a provocation, a bone tossed to invite some deadly self-incriminating response from the bishop, or what it appeared, astonishing candor.  


“I am grateful for your candor. It is my experience that religious interests are rewarding and in no way opposed the interests of Rome.  Indeed insofar as her subjects might lead happier and kinder lives through a religion which preaches that, and in every person every day displays it, Rome is better served in the betterment of her people, their greater hope and satisfaction.  Philosophy after all strives for the harmonious under, as Plato and Zeno both knew, the One”


S. Cornelius replied simply,  “I agree with you Bishop.

The Bishop almost lost composure.  He blinked, folded his hands too many times, wondered if he had heard right this gift, this gift so entirely compatible with his, no vision, only his extreme hope when some months ago he had heard from his assembly member of this S.  Cornelius.  The Bishop said,  “I am grateful for your thoughtfulness, Dominus, Quaestor and Commander, you are a man of great learning and understanding. I see why you have been selected for this post, its high honor and responsibility.” The Bishop glanced at Balthus, whom he ha immediately distrusted, saying to me later the man was a cross between a lion, a wolf, and a fox.  The Bishop continued, “It is an honor for me to share amicable thoughts with one so distinguished as yourself.  And to share a full and complete respect for Rome.”


S. Cornelius said nothing.  Balthus, puzzled, excused himself.  When the secretary was gone S. Cornelius said, “You need not be so diplomatic.  I prefer no oily flow of honorifics. They flatter, which I hate. Flattery, unless silly words to one’s wife, bespeaks insincerity if not compete dishonesty.  I am honest with you.  Be honest and direct in your words with me.  This is no parley of ambassadors here, although it might be seen as that.  I speak as a soldier.    You may trust my goodwill and that of Rome as long as there is loyalty and”, he paused, “even if not complete agreement on all matters religious. Demanded is your assurance your sect will give no cause for Rome’s political  concern.  In the meantime I am pleased for your commitment to the personal happiness of Roman subjects under your pastoral charge.”


No person in my hearing had chastised the Bishop before.  He had thought himself masterful in such exchanges, an artful charmer, a diplomat, a purveyor of sugared flattery, ready to beguile and gull, for such were the necessities when meeting fellow bishops.  That God was with him was not sufficient assurance on all occasions,  after all, in meetings of bishops God was surely there, but siding with which bishop, which argument might  God favor? that was not easy to discern, unless one’s own conviction, was the measure. Usually it was.   This Quaestor, only a Roman pagan had and knew no God, but he was as confident as if he did. 


In coming here speaking as he had, my Bishop put his life at risk, to which the Quaestor was indifferent, or possibly, since cruelty was not his amusement, unaware. My Bishop, had probed provocatively, almost assuming an ecclesiastical intimacy. He had heard in return but surprisingly sympathetic frankness. . Where he, the Bishop knew he had fallen short, was in his own, even if subdued,  blandishments. 


 If a conceived as a battle of morality, Christian versus pagan, he Ignatius on the side of the right and righteous, however courageous in Christ, had proven inferior. Diogenes lamp illuminated the Quaestor. It was no longer an elegant bishop of so much composure who was breathing a bit heavily, shaking a bit.  It was not his life, which had been at risk here, it was his self-respect.  This S. Cornelius was astonishing. Be wary yet and always, for the life of a bishop with other bishops, aside from hostile Romans, Jews, Gnostics and a fractious congregation, counsels caution.  After relief,  almost triumph,   there might be danger here yet.


The blue eyes looked directly at Nourani, “Now, tell me straight, or I will see you flogged, what are the Jews of Antioch are up to”


The bishop’s mouth opened in shock. He could not reply for a moment.


“Take your time, Bishop, I want to know.  You have them in your assembly.  I am informed you dispute the orthodox on grounds of faith.  You know them.  I don’t.   Too many times they have rebelled, taken whole Roman legions to Hell with them, last year killed over 300,000 subjects of this Empire, including women and children. Scipio at Carthage did not do much worse.   Now what do you say of their intentions, organization, weapons, leaders?     There was no threat in his voice, but command.  


“Quaestor,  the Jews in my assembly are converted to Christian, but a few remain a source of distress,  not for any political reason, well, not the sort Rome must concern herself with, but rather that those in my assembly simply have their own beliefs, insist on them, rile the tranquility. Some, rebelling, will not share the sacred meal with us because of points of religious law.  None I know would harm, but with their argument and divisiveness. As for other Jews, they despise our group as worse than traitors to the Hebrew tradition.  We do not talk with one another.  I don’t bother to ask about them. I know nothing of their political intentions, arms, and leadership.   If I did it would be a pleasure to tell you, believe me, a real satisfaction. In my dislike of them, I show my unchristian and God-chastised lack of charity. “


The Quaestor took him at his word.  It was this kind spite he expected among sects. “Alright, I appreciate your forthrightness.  For my part you are free to dislike anyone you wish.  It is, Bishop, regrettably human.   Now my next question,  may I count on you to inform me directly, immediately, should you hear of any threat of insurrection on the part of any group here in Antioch?   My secretary Balthus will pay you for information once it is verified.”


It is a credit to the Bishop that, however taken back by the affront of the offer- not an affront to Romans who for gain would inform on anyone—and at imperial levels by no means did their mothers, daughters reject such informing, my Bishop had no flicker of response.  He was returned to being politic if not suave in his reply. It was he who was now on the higher moral ground. S. Cornelius had erred in offering pay.   He kept a steady look on S. Cornelius, when he spoke his voice was forceful.  


 “I have told you we are loyal to Rome, as our Jesus advised us, ’render unto Caesar…’ and so forth.  I will not be a spy. I trust no true Christian would ever do so, it is beneath dignity.  I will not take your money.  But since we practice love and preach, seek peace, I am by my very faith committed to oppose any violence, any violence at all.”    He paused, looked at S.Cornelius as one commander to another, indeed, in this Luke’s view it was an eloquent and almost regal presentation.  “You have my word. There will be no insurrection from any in my church, and if I hear, understand I will not seek out  such knowledge as to any militant intentions from the Jews or any others, for I do not spy,  I will advise you immediately”


Had he, I asked myself, overplayed his morally outraged hand? 


S. Cornelius, taking no offense, for perhaps it was to him but a merchant’s transaction,  nodded. I thought I detected approval in it.  He stood up, as did we.  The Bishop bowed slightly, S. Cornelius did not. Bowing was for Syrians, or for Egyptians skilled in guileful deference, master sycophants. . As the two of us were going through the door, the two guards on duty waited far down the hall, for they were well instructed as to the confidentiality of such meetings in the palace, thus were required out of earshot.  It was while all were standing that the Bishop offered shocked me with the invitation.


“I believe we understand one another Quaestor, , however different our daily worlds, should you ever wish to visit our assembly, whether out of Rome’s political concern, any need for assessment at all, or if for some personal reason, you are welcome. When I say the Governor’s agents are free to observe, that is gratuitous since they represent our rulers and will do as you instruct them, even so, they will be welcome, nor will we embarrass them“  


He paused.  Never in this Luke’s time with my Bishop had I seen him possessed by such a presence. He radiated more than himself, perhaps there was more to him than himself.  Call it spirit, loving understanding.  Whatever it was in this closing moment with this Quaestor, the impact and aura of it was more human, and more than human, than I had ever seen when my Bishop was with assembly members or bishops,.  It was not likely the Quaestor would notice that the remarkable was emanating from this Neuron, this Fire, his “my Grace”.  


My Bishop went on, a  voice deep and modulated, not loud at all but it possessed the room,


 “Quaestor Cornelius.  I am moved by what has happened today. Please find no sedition or insult by inappropriateness in my speech, for which I apologize,  when I tell you that we of this Christian faith in Syria and far beyond, will be needing, one day not to distant, a bishop to replace me, or replace those who replace m, in any event a man far more distinguished than am  . Should it occur that your religious interests enlarge, that your concerns for the spiritual, artistic, and daily life of Roman subjects also flower overflowing their current bonds, should you yourself find yourself overflowing with the bounty of some great permeating gift,  I ask you to consider and to remember this solemn  invitation to be the Bishop here of and for our faith.


I will tell you now, my invitation arises from a vision which I believe to be from God.  Visions err because visionaries err.  I am a vain man much prone to error, too quick to speak of God, but allow that I know God knows and loves you.   You would be called not by my voice but by His, called to become particularly God’s Bishop in Antioch and far beyond, yes perhaps, far beyond and perhaps, I sense it, foreordained.  Now, it is our custom to say at departures, ‘pray for me’” . So saying the Bishop Ignatius bowed low, lower than anytime in his life.  It was not truckling, it was to  S. Cornelius in deep respect.  It was, for he later said he felt He was with him, so here then in a word and a bow, homage to God’s choice, albeit Ignatius knew there was always the Devil and the dark night’s events, to design false visions, to deprive men of their better potential destinies.


S. Cornelius was silent.  At his beckoning the distant guards came forward, escorted my Bishop and this stunned Luke of me toward the palace stairs and exit.   This Luke turned around as they came near the marbled, portrait bust- lined hallways’ own turning.  I turned because I could not help it. There was as if a magnet in that room.   There, standing, staring after us, was the Quaestor Cornelius. The look upon this aristocratic warrior’s face did not allow ordinary diagnosis, I say “astonishment”, I say, “perplexity”  The expression quickly passed.   This Luke is no judge of the people, but the Quaestor ‘s face, yes it was seen at some distance,  seemed then a mix of expressions.  I read sadness and some kind of relief, almost as if he had never been tenderly understood before.   If it were such a reaction, and believe me this Luke is no inventor of the miraculous, it struck me that there might be a God, that he might care, that he might be intervening here, that of all things, this Bishop of mine might not be just a vain, overly intellectual, imperious, insensitive, tortured bastard, but an instrument, now and then, of divine purpose.  I am, of course, and again possibly here,  full of nonsense most of the time.   


For myself, I scurried, my short fat legs pumping, neck bowed from that disease I had as a child, and oh yes I have a very fat lower lip which bounces as I run.  I may even slobber a bit.   I suppose I should be embarrassed by all of these defects, but I am by now indifferent. Let others disapprove.   I am, so I am.  


There was I and running, on to and over the Orontes Bridge, left on to the Street of Herod and Trajan, hurrying by those marble double columns, by Tyche and the fountains.  The all of me was a bouncing as I ran behind the striding churchman. I had something to ask him.  I scurried faster to come up even with him. I looked toward him to speak, but he didn’t notice me, not even when I tugged his gown to ask his view of that amazing meeting.  Of course I knew very well it was a triumph beyond imagining, so I had expected him to tell me of his  prescient triumph,  after which I would, as his loyal fawning pet, flatter and congratulate him.  It would be one of the few times I would mean it. Indeed it was the only time I had been overwhelmed by the excellence of this Excellency. 


He didn’t hear me.  A look at his face, stony graven, told me he was in a trance.  It was clear he had no idea of what had just so dramatically occurred.  As we walked a bit up the lower residential slopes of Mt. Silpius from the Street, for our grand donated house was close there I asked him a second time how he felt the meeting had gone, I referred to “that brilliant piece you said about God choosing Cornelius” I was right, he had no recollection at all.   What a shame, Christians look forward all their lives to being with God, or vice versa, before they die. Afterwards, well they have their promises and I have my good sense.  Even so, I conceived that God might have happened in the palace, happened in my Bishop, speaking through him as Apollo does through his oracles.  If I can conceive it, believe me, it surpatheth understanding .  It might have been, yet if so here was my Bishop, not any of himself normally conscious to receive Him and know it.  


There had been a meeting between Bishop and Quaestor.  That was real.  That there may have been a meeting with God conducting the Bishop’s tongue, I considered that possible.  Us pagans may also  be Christians, all the supernatural worlds are awesome. I am no great believer beyond knowing that fact, but I knew I had witnessed a special occasion, one where my Bishop my Bishop was possessed of benign powers.  


Amazing.  God and my Bishop are both rather strange fellows. So might be S. Cornelius, from the last look of him.  I did not put much stock in that possibility,  no common sense, high class ruing  Roman would be peersuaded to any of this Christian fancy.  Since Roman Syria counted on him to govern well, and so must I, I would be quite satisfied if he stayed, as I saw he was, not unkind,  sound, and not given to fancy. The work of the world is not done by the likes of Nourani, Fire, nor this lazy Luke. It takes Romans to run the world. 

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