CHAPTER LVI 

LUKE

Of Bishops and a Call    



I, LUKE the Younger, former Presbyter to Ignatius, Bishop, dispatch this to Balthus, Secretary to Sempronius Scipio Cornelius, Quaestor, Secretary to the Governor of Syria


The first letter is from me to you, Balthus, only you. I write being more honest than either of us ordinarily are. As for the message, that is the second letter. and so marked.  It is by the hand of Ignatius, Bishop,  to sub governing Dominor Cornelius. Quaestor, sometimes Acting Praetor. Be advised, so I was told, that the Prophet Elijah may have foreseen these events, , and God himself may have guided them.  Be advised then, Balthus, whatever you and I may think, this is no trivial matter.


You and I saw one another in 117 when my Bishop visited yours, Dominor S. Cornelius, Quaestor.  You and I did not speak, but for your inquiry as we arrived as to my name, “Luke”.  Your curiosity was limited, nor do I blame you, it is a name Ignatius gave me to replace my pagan one, “Enkidu” You asked and now you will hear, my pride insists, for this seeming nonsense of a name given to me, this nonsense only to the ignorant,, this name of mine was once itself greatness. 


 “Enkidu” is a very old name, descended in the family from long ago when they lived in Uruk,  along the Euphrates close to where I was born, north of ancient Babylon on that river.    Enkidu was a giant of a man, covered all over with hair, even more than a monkey.  He was best friend of a young ruler, Gilgamesh, who was born of a goddess and a human.  Together they destroyed an ogre of evil in the form of the demon god, Humbaba.  In those days Evil had powerful friends in the gods, so Enkidu in turn was killed and turned to clay. His friend, Gilgamesh was on a quest for immortality, but failed.  In those days no man could hope for immortality.  Gilgamesh did learn to use his life to build a great city, be a good ruler, and do the best he could while alive. Be half man and half god, it is even so with the stories the Greeks tell, but half a god is not enough for immortality. The mortal mother of such a man condemns flesh as brieflyh inspirited clay to dust, life to death.  My Bishop believed, all Christians claim the secret of it, even for the clay they are made of, saying that is no longer so, as a curse removed, mortal and immortal may now live forever, so they say, and all men partaking in rituals born of faith in the first man, Jesus from whom, they say,  the curse was removed, can share in, were it true, the miracle, be reincarnated to use their word.  I carrying the Uruk name and stories, this Enkidu, I  am not the one to say, but that I am sure that by no means are all such curses removed. 


All well and good, my parents giving me a name, which should carry me to become friends with the great and the good.  But later my father told me there was another reason.  When I was born I was totally covered with black hair, ”lanugo. ” I was born an Enkidu, ugly then as now, only now I am almost hairless.  Ugly just the same as you, Balthus, just as we saw one another, ugly.


You will by now know something of Christian matters, for I presume your Quaestor’s interest since he did sometime ago dispatch you to their Lord’s house.  Play no superior to me, Balthus, you are in service as am I, and we  understand service for what it is.  I recognized you, disguised as you were, in your visit to the assembly when Heron was Bishop.  You are brawny, blue eyed, scarred, with an impudent look, and a sly way about you, none of which you can hide under a soiled shopkeepers coat, crumpled Phrygian cap and a few days of here and there protruding reddish—even if you did rub it with ash and soot- stubble.   I knew it would embarrass you if I approached you, for I know how I like my own deceits and prefer to believe they are not penetrated.  I rather like lies, even to myself.  I am quite sure you are, as most servants are, quite the same.  


I have something important to tell you. Bear with me as I go through the small talk first.  That is my release, your punishment.  Ever since you asked me about my name, “Luke,” then shut me up as I started to tell you, I have been angry.  You are going to hear me out now, with a much longer answer as my revenge. The “Enkidu” stuff was a start. A man, even small tubby homely one such as myself, does not take his names lightly!  Think of someone pissing on your name, “Balthus”. You get the idea.  You can throw this letter away before you put up with it, but what I have to say, and you find enclosed, could be of momentous interest to your boss, the Quaestor.  I would not, if I were you, take the chance on heaving this away.   Yes, I  am confident in my warning, even impudent if we compare our situations.  I am an irritating, aggravating, mischievous hairless little nothingness of a Syrian gone-a-deaconing.  Impertinence is my nature. That nature is also harmless.  If we ever meet, I will buy the wine by way of apology and proof.  If you don’t make a mess of it, you’ll find me a good fellow however much annoyance I am. Like you I can even be useful, for I too watch and listen and don’t pretend to me that spying is not your business. You are not as good at it as you think, but then, all of us suffer egotism, you more than I.  That comes with your  higher office, living in the palace. You would like to swell yourself up to palace size. 


Hear me Balthus, I say that now with whatever respect you are due. Responding to your question, nine years ago, Luke, my Christian name courtesy of the Bishop who insisted  I no longer could be my preferred “Enkidu” I say ugly is as ugly was, and good hearted giant, with the giant part something I would like to be.  Anyway, “Luke”was one of the apostles who served Jesus. He was a doctor.  The apostles of Jesus, become Christ because he was crucified but as an immortal he laughed at that. The disciples, impressed, carried forth his teachings and therein the Word.  I have never been sure what that is. I don’t think anyone has seen what Luke wrote, but people are always turning up old stuff, or if it had value, forging it.. I have heard discussions among bishops where one disciple’s words were carefully examined.   They did not notice my presence if I was, for example, cleaning the house or preparing their food.  If I was doing gardening, I snuck a listening peep under the window. Unless they got mad enough to curse one another, which they did, it was too boring to eavesdrop for long.

 

The bishops relied on stories and what the apostles are said to have written, wrote.  It is a bit confusing for the author who used the name of “Mark” lived and wrote here, so they say, although it is Mathew about whose writing presence Bishop Ignatius was the more sure   Of Mathew we are not short of copies, any one of which differs from the other, since those who followed the pseudonym had each their own way of thinking. If Mark wrote, stayed here with Peter, why don’t we have copies of it?  All a bit fishy I’d say, but maybe there are reasons for the secrecy, if it is that.


Somewhere behind all the names and changes, Ignatius assured me, was  “the well spring of the holy”, the Bishop called it, some older original text.  He was so sure about it I can say there must in fact somewhere be some respectful scribe’s record, no doubt coded with much bias and invention, which will become convention as time and pages accrue, as some eventual uneasy agreement is reached.  I say for however short a time that may be.   Ignatius decided on the “Mark” text he liked best.  I myself am waiting to see “Luke ” memoirs of Jesus, for, as with ,Enkidu”, I see “Luke” a sort-of me.  I wish I could have met him to know what he really had to say before the editors got to him. Truth is what someone wrote yesterday, will rewrite for a richer master’s pay tomorrow.  Maybe that “wellspring” is around somewhere. I will read that if I can find it. As you know in your trade, stuff like that can be put to use..


We also have copies of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, for while he was living here he left that with us. I am not aware that it has been much edited.  On the other hand, the various Peter texts, even more available since Peter wrote part of them while he lived here, are still being amended to suit any editor’s convictions. 


The bishops weighed the holy words, retold the stories, derived meanings, proposed further interpretations, wrote their opinions, or if more certain, “doctrine”, calling these “dogma” (for it means either).  It is written that Jesus reappeared in his natural form but as spirit and as God after resurrection. His words and the report of resurrection are the basis for the great Christian hopes of mankind.  It was also a struggle among the bishops some of whom were Gnostics, some some other kind of idea.  I can never hope to get it straight.  Anyway they  say Luke wrote his memoir, and continued to serve as witness to raw Jesus events.  Whatever these really were, they had to be a big moment in history, even a confused ex Presbyter, this now Luke,  knows that. 


I can see one thing clearly. Enkidu and his friend the young king were stuck with being mortal.  Jesus has explained that now that does not have to be. The great gods in Enkidu’s time were friends of evil and death.  All a man could do, if they didn’t kill him first, was his best while he lived.  I think by calling me “Enkidu” I’m am stuck with going back to clay, although if the new “Luke” of me prevails, maybe I could get in on the Christian good luck. I won’t hope for it, since I don’t deserve it, in the old days tweaking my Bishop’s nose and all that. I will say the good news of the Christians is a whole lot better than what my ancestors in Uruk had, either by way of gods friendly to evil, no recommendations of love at all for anyone, anywhere, and no hereafter either. Gilgamesh had to have the idea of being a good king on his own. A lonely business being good on your own and disappointed about anyone being good but yourself and a friend like Enkidu. There’s a lot to learn about as to what’s better in that epic, for you can read about it in Latin in Claudius Aelianus.


Balthus, I don’t know where you stand on this Christianity business, but even for my lowly rolly- polly nothing self unlikely to get any high sign from God, for that matter, any god at all. I am told of miracles. I am too small a mind to argue against happiness, holiness and Heaven. As it is I only reach for goods  closer to hand. You’re likely a smarter man than I am, maybe you have a larger reach, maybe you understand these things. Maybe you can see spirits waft hither, thither and about.  Don’t tell me about it because I won’t believe you.  I am a small rolly polly man who doesn’t even dream of such luck. On the other hand, my Bishop Ignatius was rather sure your boss, S. Cornelius, would one day conceive these matters and be swayed.


I have a problem, the same one Enkidu would have had with his friend Gilgamesh.   How can there be someone half man and half god?  Once Ignatius told me he was close to some ideas. Once he said it was never a matter of “halves” but of “the same at once” Another time he wondered if it should be “the same substance”, or “of like substance” and yet again, “union of love and action”. I liked that one best, no fancy Greek “homoousion”, “homoeousion” driving me nuts   None of the rest of the bishops would have any of Ignatius’ solutions out of that deep religious mind of his.  One bishop wrote to  him saying,  “Sheer invention, never intended and never said, not in the stories, not in the texts. A great oneness is quite sufficient”.  That letter really upset Ignatius.  Another bishop wrote to him,  “It’s a mystery intended to be kept that way. Let’s have no radical nonsense.” Ignatius told me he couldn’t sleep that night, not that there was anything new in that.  But he was a sensitive man-on his own behalf of course, not for others.   I’ll tell you he looked particularly terrible that morning, as if the Devil, not the rebuff had been at him.   If even Ignatius was a mystery to me, how can I deal with disembodied complexities. He kept at it, once offered; “joined  energies  transformable to temporal matter”, and “all matter composed of the motion of the Spirit, and transforming itself according to the will of the Spirit” .  I looked blank enough when he tried that out on me,  but I was off the hook when he himself shook his head irritably, saying, “No, too scientific”, and then, “Logic is not its essence.”  I agreed with that one.    


You see how it might be I can’t really understand it if the deep mind of  Ignatius kept trying to figure it out.  Died trying, so to speak.  Someone someday someone will figure it out, I’m too stupid to try.


Such confusion as mine is not recommending.  Looking at all these changes and arguments, Christianity as I hear it in Antioch is more like the Orontes than your fine marble palace, a changing river not a grand building.  It is turbulent, moves this way and that, its fish  are rich with nourishment, but drowns people in arguments.  Even so, it has its general direction and much momentum, one direction or another. I don’t want my mind swimming there, even when it does. My Bishop Ignatius was nevertheless sure of it, the God and Jesus of it, sources, he said, of the waters of life.  He would then add, “Forever and ever.”  Even though he hated himself sometimes, he liked that long view.


 I confess the real reason I am tangential is my awkwardness as to my main reason for writing, for I may have reason to fear the Quaestor’s response should what is enclosed for him be just irritating. I have done what I was told to do, but lots of messengers lose their heads for doingthat. Nine years have passed since that meeting.  I know nothing of the Quester, reasoning from you visit in disguise could have been your investigation of some ugly rumor.  There are more such rumours about Christians than there are Christians in Antioch.


All right, at the core of it, this you must know so as better to explain my timing, for the timing was put in my hands to deliver the enclosed formal`message  to your superior Questor, Acting Praetor, Dominor Scipio Cornelius, It is from the Bishop Ignatius. Feel free to hand the Questor my own poor writing here, for the background from Ignatius to now, really matters. The now of it really matters!


I write badly, not good on Latin forms, even though Bishop Ignatius insisted on my having a tutor, for whom he paid. Forgive me then, your Quaestor Excellence, for my own hand here intends You well.You will see that I know things you would not have expected. Again, Dominor Questor, Praetor, forgive me. I do all this in your service, at the early command of my Bishop Ignatius. You may remember me from the time of that meeting. I was an entirely respectful servant and remain that, respectfully, Dominor.


What happened: Our Bishop Heron, a boring decent fellow, went off on a visit to his farming parents near Heron. They were ill.  One died, one lived.  He came back louse-ridden. We cleansed him, but shortly he became ill with high fever, terrible headache, and collapse.  For a few days he sickened, ever so weak, even so he presided as Bishop on Sundays, too weak to read or stand.  Joseph the Elder took over. As Presbyter that was supposedly my job, but everyone knows I’m really here to serve as any Bishop’s valet and whipping boy. I am not “pious” enough. That I’m not really question has never entered their own pious minds. Good, it saves me sanctimony.   


One Sunday service Heron, too weakened by illness, allowed, well he was’t even asked,  the Elder Joseph (not me), to invite a total stranger,to read  holy pages. The fellow was suspect, all hood and subterfuge.  I thought at first it might be you again, sneaking as he obviously was, but this was some high born fellow, perfect Greek and a manner to him that showed him respectable.  I am not one to grant that many men are my betters, certainly no bishop, but this fellow reading, quite taken with it, if I believed in it I’d say entranced by God.  His voice reminded me of when Ignatius was with your Quaestor, nothing like his own reedier one, so resounding and deep it was, God come again maybe.   But this Sunday visitor was familiar in another way, the bearing and authority of him.  Could it be, Balthus Sneak,  that your Quaestor comes visiting?   If so, and if so God-taken as that man was, he will want to hear this message.


As for Heron, he quickly sickened. Red spots covered his body, some of the rash bled.  His belly swelled and was quite painful.  He could not urinate. Parts of his skin became purple then brown, green, yellow. He began to stink as the skin rotted.  The doctors had seen this before in other patients with lice. They were right when they said his chances were not good. He died in the third week.   The mourning for him was genuine.  So was fear that the demon who was the disease would capture others. Most prayed a lot.  I made sure I had no lice.  On Heron’s death there were loud prayers for his soul.  I prayed that whomever followed as new Bishop would keep me on.  My wife and I need that house in the back alley.


Should S. Cornelius have heard other of Heron, that he was grander than he is and implied in a so-called letter from Ignatius to one, Hero, supposed deacon, have the Questor put that over-lofty opinion to the side. No such letter was ever written by Ignatius,  and if Hero is to be mistook for Heron, so much greater the proof of fraud.  I am told, on good authority, that our Heron’s mother, eager for him to succeed to bishop, employed a clever scribe to write it in a style known to be like Ignatius’ own.  Heron is a decent enough chap, and was quite acceptable to Ignatius, for he, like me, is a toady, much given to demonstrate his abject  agreement with Ignatius’ dictum,  “be subject to the bishop” who, by his own admission “knows much about the Lord”  S. Cornelius, if believing Heron’s mother, would wonder why he did not manage the succession to follow him.  Heron, as I say a decent fellow, managed very little, although he died quite as all men should, his heart and breath leaving him. But so it is, the succession was in no way arranged. That allowed the events that followed.


Firstly, the assembly required a new bishop, for which post none had been prepared or called. The post itself is ordinarily filled by nominations from the Seven Elders and by other bishops from the Council.  Lots of prayer and politics.  There’s no money in the job, so it’s the only thing in Antioch that is not subject to bribes. The Bishops rarely come together in council, it is too difficult to travel and some bishops are old.   Instead, letters are delivered by post road messengers. 


Bishop Ignatius had a vision that S. Cornelius would one day become Christian, and, so changing, and mindful of great standing in this world, be ready to serve as bishop. Ignatius is long dead.  His successor, Heron, seems not to have been told of Ignatius vision that led to their meeting together.  Ignatius told me he would not speak of that meeting.  It was, he told me, in God’s hands to decide the Quaestor’s path.  In the meantime he wished no embarrassment to him among the Romans. He asked me keep the matter in confidence. I am not a sincerely religious man, but I have a duty to respect my Bishop Ignatius’s intuition   He believed it was God’s own hand in the visit we made. It might have been so. It might not have been so. I am a poor judge of God’s weights and measures..  Should S. Cornelius have felt such a hand, if he  has any interest in our assembly, it is now that it needs him.  You must emphasize that. 


The new bishop is rich, clever, capable, and utter scum.  I am sure, one way or another, and I am not a man to fault a man on that “other”, you know of Eros, the whore master of Antioch, Daphne and beyond. He was never a member of the Assembly, but, one day, the  cloacae of him into  our clean waters, he came to us and said he had converted.  As to the ‘how’ of it, we heard not. Heron was dying at the time. Eros timed it right, I am sure not by accident.  He went to Tralles in Lydia/Caria for baptism, so he said. He told us of it later, said he had family there.  Heron was dead when Eros returned. He talked to the Elders first, came the next Sunday evening.  He is certainly the richest, best-connected and best known man who ever joined us.  He was unctuously pious, with much greasy scraping, and bowing.  As Presbyter, I was assisting the Elder Joseph. No one would want to trust me with liturgical responsibility. I had not been sanctified enough. I grant that, but even so,well he did not know about that or anything about me but that I was wearing robes, my costume, of rank,  Eros had taken me aside before the service to tell me God compelled him to speak as a prodigal son.  Why me?  Eros mistook me for someone important.  I could smell the money of him.  I am the last man not to please a man with money.


Eros immediately took out his coin satchel. He had two bodyguards with him to protect it. .  There were handfuls of coins, some gold, and lots of silver.  Then and there, he gave every one coin, gold to the deacons, an offer of more gold to Joseph, the serious presbyter candidate who is in every way better than I am, and best in that he is no hypocrite. But Joseph has of late a great and painful swelling in his joints. It is not response to prayers, nor the herbs nor hands of healers. We sent him to a physician trained by Dioscorides of Cilician Anazarbus himself, but even with poppy juice, quince seeds, barley soup, and distillates from the bark of a willow, while there has been relief, there is no cure. Now Joseph  is crippled so it is not easy for him to preside, With Heron so ill, he did lead in song and prayer and for the Eucharist tried to assist in holding the wine and bread, but often his limbs disallowed it.  The Second Elder, Luke, no kin to me, joins, and if necessary relieves him, officiating as Deacon.     


Joseph refused the money. I was not shy about taking my share.   Eros gave the most gold to the five willing- for the Second, Luke, also refused- Elders.  Everyone subscribed to its noble purpose, denying was a bribe, for it we say it was for the support of the assembly, its good works with the poor, and now, with the donations scaled in amount by rank for the support of the hierarchs, and so yes, the five Elders were given the higher share.  Still, Joseph and the Elder Luke refused. They wanted no taint of Eros on their hands, or more importantly, in any business forthcoming,  on their voice and vote..  (I must tell you the business of paying the hierarchs was unknown until I prevailed upon Ignatius to pay me. I did a great deal of work, for which Ignatius, having freed his several slaves, had no slaves to help. The garden itself is work for two men.  I was and am a poor man; my family could not wait until God rewarded me in the next world, about the existence of which I have my common sense doubts. If the money there has the same weight as the air of Heaven, I have no use for it.  Give me money now, I said. .


Eros presented himself to the Elders, and such younger Deacons as were not Elders as well, as prodigal son, deep in need of Christ, and the congregation’s prayer and forgiveness.  Contrite and pleading, he swore to be their patron providing wealth and influence’ for the assembly” he emphasized. His smile told us he approved diverting uses..  Repentant of his business, he suggested his rebirth had been dictated by a blinding vision of God commanding him to our fold.  He offered a salary on behalf of the work of the assembly (he must have known that pay for hierarchs was not allowed, otherwise he would not have made his offer to anyone, when others were present)  The money was, “not much, I fear, now that I have abandoned my houses” He suggested a miserly figure so low that only someone like me would consider it.


It was then he paused, oh, how serious his look, careful his words, that as a prodigal whom God himself to whom God had extended His hand, of whose divine favor he was sure, from that God had come a further vision, that he should lead an assembly.  He sped ahead with his words, yes, were he to have the honor of serving as God’s will had ‘expressly’ directed, of being Bishop, he would serve God for free, go forth to gain new and honest wealth, one half, “yes, fully one half’, of which he would tithe to the church. He said he would sell his whorehouses and give us some of the profit as well. The idea of making money from a whore and whoremaster struck me as absolutely righteous. There was lots of hemming and hawing, but we all but Elders Joseph and Luke agreed we are a good and Godly cause, the poor need charity, the sick need care, I want the money and, while the five practical elders dissembled, these were slavering over the idea.  One in particular, out of charity I will not name him, is as unctuous as Eros. He claims to be an accountant for God.


Eros had, of course, rigged it in advance.  Payment to all, good sums to the Elders, John, the younger deacons, all according to the recent ruling,  the honest presbyter.  Five of  the elders, an amazing coincidence, had already a letter (scribe-written)  to the  Council of Bishops  (our Syrian and Asian authorities) for their approval of any choice they, with assembly concurrence “surely’, would make..  The nominees’ name had only to be inserted. Eros, in exceeding charity, would pay for the fast post himself.  I suspect each rider carried an handsome  contribution to each recipient bishop’s church.  I suspect Eros had supervised the writing of the letters to the bishops.  I suspect that any bishop’s letter in return, if suggesting another for bishop, never was placed in the message pouch. Any messenger’s pay can enjoy augmentation.  And yes,  for the occasion of the letters going out, Eros provided his “other name” , God-given, he said,  when he was born, named, “Xeiros”  he said, meaning ‘brave or power”.  When he said that I almost gagged. It was laughter being stifled.  


The votes were for Eros, sometimes “the Brave” The fact is there was no other candidate. This assembly is of quiet people, most not entirely poor, but running a market stall, fishing in the Orontes, being a slave with an owner kind enough to allow attendance, is hardly training for leadership.  Running a chain of the most successful whorehouses demonstrates skill.   Another fact; it is said that the Emperor Hadrian, in spite of his earlier gifts to the city, has come to dislike Antioch, “hate” us one report had it.  Martyrdom can be a risk of whim. It happened to Ignatius even under the sensible Trajan.  If those who denounced Ignatius are still about, if they are people still within the assembly or competing, there is risk of denunciations being heard.   This assembly has grown little under Heron   There are still wide fissures and fervid ill will as major issues still divide the folk, those continuing arguments as to whether or not Christ was God at all, whether or not Jesus was ever a mortal at all, whether there was a Resurrection at all, whether or not they should be more or less Jewish, follow the Jewish law, all of that. There is enough passion and spite to lead another coup to topple a bishop and what he advocates.  Death at the hand of the convenient Romans is, as you Balthus know very well, with a vengeance.   Right now, not many Christians have in mind deserting their family to go to a lion.


Let me grant Eros his dressing himself in new piety.  I certainly grant him a need for purification and a new life, even if I do not see these at work in him.  I am ashamed that I so little appreciated Ignatius, nor paid much attention to Heron, who out of goodness and the need for a non slave cook, gardener, housecleaner, errand boy, paid me.   Heron was a bit odd; he had some strange rule against owning slaves. He needed me.  My family and I still reside in the shanty in the back alley against the wall of the church garden.  We are comfortable, but Heron in keeping me on, added the duty that I be night watchman. I am dutiful. I watch the night go by in Night’s very arms, sleeping. Night herself watches over my sleep.


In contrast with the dull but decent Heron, Eros is disaster.  As I compare either of the two with my Bishop Ignatius, I am ashamed for my lack of appreciation.  If nothing else I did not have to work nearly as hard, and the man talked to me. Eros won’t bother.  He’s up to something big, using us, already talking about selling tickets to Heaven, selling God’s forgiveness sin by sin, and cheaper by the dozen. You should see the women Eros has brought to a Sunday.  They’re standing out front in the street selling themselves, half price if their customers join the assembly.  But to get in, and to get a season ticket to bed them, the customer has to pay Eros a fee.  It’s s reduced if the customer brings another customer in with him.  It’s working of course. Soon we’ll have to hire the arena.  Already Eros has bought the big house next door for the strumpets.  


I now admire Ignatius’ success in this world and beyond. gained by his own fire and lights. I cede him all of faith, tolerance, kindness, and a bishop’s skills in service, celebration, and words. Allow him also some love and kindness, no moral breach of which I know.  Give him medals for success in bringing new recruits to religion, a new religion as he helped change it, for example celebrating, at Ignatius had instituted, a new Sabbath day, now Sundays.   He would have no Jewish to ‘day honor those self impeached’, as were coming to be called the Jews who not to follow Paul, chose to be left behind.  (As for “Sunday”, ironic perhaps, for in this, and of course his temple at Daphne, Apollo the sun god still rules, as much of Greece about us does. And in Egypt, remember the rascal Alexandrian’s grandmother, Cleopatra,?  Hers was also the one and only god, the energy of the sun, Aten or as in Syria, Adonis, and Lord.  God as energy.  Quite a scientific notion I grant. It would please the Greeks who also, in more detail and scientific theory, proposed such understandings. 


About Ignatius, Bishop, if, Balthus, you Romans, thought lion spit and his own blood would smother the Ignatian flame, you were wrong.  No more is my Ignatius Bishop here, but thanks to him there are many more Christians.  They admire the courage of the martyrs, and the faith.  Some day, if they forget all that meekness, they can make an army against the Romans.  Keep that meekness going, I advise you Romans.  I myself hate wars.  Everything gets disrupted.  


No, keep the Christians as they are, I say.  Good folk, kind and trusting, unless smothered with the gold, and rationalizations, of Eros. Antioch Christians are far happier than most anyone else hereabout, but for the times of mad emperors like pogroming Domitian. Now with Eros in charge, beginning with our reputation, it will all come tumbling down, like one of those four or five story Antiochean apartment houses.   Tumbling down not because of, as in apartment houses, bad construction, weak materials or, ferocious earthquakes, but because Eros will pull it down.  Even this hypocritical runt that I am, hates to see that happen.   


As for the new Bishop Eros, his name tells it.  Even peasants without any Greek know it means sexual love and lust.   He chose it because it suited a brothel master, and his own strong predilections.  His name signifies all of him.  Hear what I wrote down of what Eros said in his first sermon, 


“ God in Christ is flesh.  Flesh is good. In worshipping we adore God in ourselves expressing himself.  Consider each position in sex as innovative prayer.  It praises God in your partner, praises God in man and a man’s member in your partner. “ By now Eros was building to a demagogic rhetor’s shout,  “Praise be to God and the Lord Jesus “ He then threw in an “Hallelujah, God is great” He grinned, whooped, and whetted further appetite as he looked at the women in the congregation as though he were shopping for future whores in the slave market, or closer to home,  one of the assembly women for a paying customer’s pleasure. It was understood, gossip travels like fire, he tried out the most pneumatic ones himself first..  There are a few pretty ones. If I were any of their husbands, I wouldn’t sleep easy.

 

Then he shouted, “God love us all!” and went out from the lectern into the assembly throwing coins over them all, even gold pieces. “God loves love, God loves lovers, be a lover, be God in loving!   Look how God loves me!  Look how God has made me rich, that’s a proof if ever you need one!  He flung a couple more silver coins at the assembly, it was shameful to watch a couple of the women lunge and grab for them, and he walked away from the lectern. He earlier had me, unfit and unqualified, conduct the holy meal.  The swelling-bound Joseph, the Elder (other) Luke, protested that it, and I of it, were wrong. That Luke, disgusted, would have none of it.  He walked out.  The assembly knew it was all wrong.  None knew what to do about it, these are not forceful people.  Eros had taken control.


Afterwards Eros called me in, not the Elders, for he must have sized up my practical side, “What do you say, Luke, in Greece at some temple’s Apollo’s priestesses, some Roman ones now, are sacred prostitutes. I know some fellow who wanted to set that up at Daphne. Good entrepreneurial idea, good for the priests, the girls, the god. The money goes to the temple.


So now, right here, it’s a business model for us.  We set up the women out back, pronounce each one a priestess.  I’m Bishop, who’s to stop me?   We let the town know our priestesses come cheaper if the customer has converted,  so they’ll be doing it for God. Like the good old days in Greece, my boy, just like the good old days in Greece. Marketing, Luke, marketing.  We’ll bring in new Christians by the drove. And they’ll still have to pay.  I already have the girls of course, but I’ll wager some of the women in this church will volunteer, after all, their servicing is also in the service of God, and more sincere about it. And don’t tell me those faithful wives won’t welcome a paying roll in the hay with new  stud, even though, I grant, not many customers are that studdish. No matter,they both get what they came for.   Oh Luke, my dandy, you want some of that stuff free and you can have it, courtesy of your Bishop   As political relations, we let any official in the palace get the Christian rate or less, no need to convert.  The top guys of course get all they want for free.  Give a little, get a little, that’s what I say, Luke.  A world of charity going both ways. Ask Jesus, charity pays.


He smiled a genuine smile at me, no ounce of cunning in it.  The man was, can you imagine, sincere.  Oily, yes, crafty, yes,opportunistic sure, but only a fool is not, so, truly Sincere. Eros went on,


 “Oh I’m so happy to be a Christian, so happy to be your Bishop, now Antioch will learn what Christianity can do for them” He paused, “Well, we won’t forget the other stuff either, not by a long shot.  Charity, forgiveness, eternal life, I’ll go heavy on the eternal life part.  Add some virgins to the vision of Paradise, lots of wine.   Pity the pagans, all of them going to Hell, I don’t know about the Jews, haven’t figured out yet whether they have first rights on Heaven or whether, since they’ve left themselves behind, they’re bundled off to Hell.   What do you think, Luke? “


That, the all of it, did it. It was one of the few times in life I felt a moral conscience separate from good sense in living and just getting on without making trouble.  I told the sleazy bastard I would quit.   Eros didn’t blink an eye. “God goes forward with or without you, Fat Boy, He’s on the march.  Don’t forget to pick up your things on your way out”


So now the assembly has Eros, entrepreneur, impresario, tempting good women in the assembly to be bawds for God.  They have him, Eros, vicar over Venus mounts, Priapus partnering, centurion of a hundred beds, Pan with a long and oft inserted flute, the music of “more” and moan, an equestrian class unto himself when it comes to riding rear ends, no doubt recruiting for converts use, some sweet buttocked boys.  Here the thief god Hermes, thief of virginity and many men’s wives, is here as Eros, Bishop.  Can you imagine it?  This be-bishop literally over brides, for he’s already talking of invoking the old Roman latifundia owner’s’ law of the first night’ where the owner gets the bride before the groom does. He told me it should be the marrying Bishop’s lusty right of precedence, “the Lord’s hand upon, her’ , so to speak,  that “lex primum nox”  So,  this Eros Bishop wants the Roman master  florists’ ritual of taking the bud itself.  What a marrying Bishop he is, as if he had left the Roman no-ceremony ease of it, for this East Syrian tribal one, simply to assure himself the first fruit of each bride’s nest. Here then,  marriage despoiled, and the rightful husband deprived of the great moment of deflowering, that her first moaning moment of penetration, plunge and explosion.  What irony, what if the bride so initiated dos not find the surrender of her orchid of Venus more pleasurable with Eros the Experienced,  than what follows with her husband?


Eros is himself, the “eros” Greek of the word,  lust, avarice in and for the flesh, the money in and from it,  this man and bishop, not pretending to virtue at all, and so he honestly avoids the sin of hypocrisy.  I give him other credit; when he blesses them he means it., for he is what he is and no devil there.  He is nothing but a clever  business man doing the best he knows how on behalf of himself and, I don’t deny the possibility, what he thinks God wants which, conveniently, is what his God’s child Eros wants. There’s compatibility in that. I’m no moral anatomist.  I can’t count any abnormality, nor evil bones in his body, but to observe he bones as many sweet bods as he can find. He is an entirely normal man; venal, self serving, lying, exploitative, indifferent. No heresy in it; it has nothing to do with religion. He hasn’t set out to harm religion, not even goodness, for he doesn’t know what these are. That makes him morally an ordinary Antiochean, only more successful at it. As priest or rabbi he is a surprise, a new type preaching, but given the many lower designs for minds and bodies, you know, below Plato’s waist, others like him will follow.  In the meantime, it is this assembly, the reputation of the priesthood, and faith as such- in other than himself- that suffers.  The Assembly doesn’t know what to do.


I only work there for a living, whatever I pretend to believe.  Balthus, you know me and I know you, and neither of us are much to brag about. I can’t afford to get upset about the world as it is. But this time, well even I am unhappy.  Not for me, but for the poor bastards who are that really quite decent assembly. If S. Cornelius has interest at all in doing the small right thing, as opposed to the big one of running an honest Syrian province, ask him to give it thought. Keep in mind, it’s not my business. If he does it, respect him as I do for what he has been and is, I think he’s nuts. But what do I know about Roman heroes?


It’s not that the Assembly is entirely crumbled under this Erotic onslaught;  it’s that none know what to do.  As Ignatius trained them,; “You are to your bishop as your bishop is to God”.  Empire rules over subjects, masters over slaves, with Ignatius, bishops over Assembly member, and everywhere in Empire the message, think of the Jewish revolts, is punishment for even being suspected of thinking rebellion. They have heard the lordly threat,  ‘”God will damn you to no salvation and eternal Hell.”  Eros is Bishop. Poverty, and Ignatius taught them submission, just as the Romans do.


The Emperor Hadrian has recently decreed a master may no longer kill a slave. Slaves are thereby somewhat protected. But who is to protect us from Roman justice, or our own fears, or, here, the Bishop invoking the fear of God?  It would be nice if life were not a constant round of tight stomachs, racing hearts, and anxious sweats.  But the Bishop Eros,  easy as he is on what is required in life, almost nothing, hints at God’s terrible reprisals of we don’t like Christianity his way. The older assembly members, worry that any protest would be denounced as sin, as Eros himself warned in one of his few deep moments,” A sin unforgiven will suck you dry of your soul.”  He added casually, for he is man used to managing two sides of a bed,  “So beg and pay for forgiveness, and do so without obstinacy, for to rebel is proof you are insufficiently capable of love”. He smiled then, adding, “It’s easy enough,  we sell forgiveness and love around here at a price anyone can afford”.


This Eros Bishop is a success. This bishop’s flock are generally tame, as is the duty of sheep.. Some lusty ones are added now, these his supporters, as are half the whores in town who attend. It is wrong to protest their attendance, but I worry that it is their income more than lives which concerns them.   Wonderful if they are here for a better life now and after, but with Eros presiding, it is more a party. Eros is not rigid about ritual,  the girls can fill the chalice,  and when they do, they pour the wine of the holy meal liberally. I give Eros credit, he is not aiming at destruction, sometimes he seems interested in what he reads from the scriptures, but when the goat, not the herder, is in charge of the pen, it’s the goat’s goaty bearded, yellow eyed, reeking nature that rules.  Eros is a clever goat. I  give him credit, he likes the gig, he’s trying. I know he read a few Commandments. He tells us, “Love the Lord, thy God”  He adds, “and remember what Bishop Ignatius told you, your Bishop stands second only to God’

 

Balthus, you can be sure this new bunch is no political worry.  They will make offering to the Roman gods happily, indeed, a small wooden Venus is already on the front steps.  Eros has gone out to the farmlands, recruiting retired legionnaires, for, as you know there are many who have land grants hereabouts. Their patriotism is never in doubt.  Eros is a man’s man, has an easy way, tells as good a dirty joke as any of them, and his welcome his hearty.  Nothing pale like Heron, nothing abstract and self-preoccupied like Ignatius.   Eros innovates, amuses. He’s taken to serving real meals and wine after the service. It’s convivial, and free food recruits. He has brought in some town entertainers to make a drink-along sing-along. The songs they know are hardly holy. I shouldn’t be too critical, they’re not a rowdy bunch.. The members listen to Eros telling about Jesus and Mary Magdalene; affirms she was a good sort, a loving whore, and Jesus was getting plenty. He says that in a moment of blinding revelation, he met her. He grins, “nice stuff” .  Eros gives it a moral ending, Jesus and the Magdalene marry, God comes down to preside over the ceremony. Eros gets applause  when he says God looked Syrian, not European at all. The new bunch like it, and if this be Christianity, lots of  food, wine, sing-alongs, sociability, the girls available for cheap, it’s a good place to spend a Sunday .  The old timers don’t know what to do, other than go along..  The new-coming legionnaires’ wives are local women, all fitting in, so things are not as stiff and proper There’s hardly any serious God talk but really rousing stuff, and  Jesus is a most-anything- goes kind of fellow, but it’s Eros still bent on whore mongering and getting the members’ wives that’s troublesome.  The old members in particular claim it’s no longer religion, but a Bacchus’ festival.


Eros is at ease with folksy stuff,  “set an extra plate for God at your table because he’s there with you” or “maybe someone you meet on the street is Jesus great great grandchild. You smile at him, he’s smiles at you, and right there you know Jesus and you’ve got Salvation ready to take home.  So smile at people, that’s all it takes” and then, “You see, it’s easy. Let the deep minds ponder the Other world, if Resurrection happened or not.  I don’t have a deep mind and I’m your Bishop. If it’s too difficult, don’t think about it.  If you’re worried about something, pray. But stay on the cautious side; be generous with your prayers, include the old gods you know” Then he’d wink, he is a jolly sort, and add, “But, when it comes to giving your money, you save it for right here. I pay for some of your good times now, ,but there are no free rides in this world or the next.  Pay your way. God loves a giver. If you’re horny tonight, a randy toad”, he winked again, waved his hand toward the alley houses, ” Don’t forget your friendly  priestesses out back. Remember, they’re not tarts, their God’s working girls.  When you’re having at them, both of you do God’s work”


Eros knows what he’s doing.  The congregation is growing, the newcomers are happy, but no one no goes much beyond where they already are, there’s nothing, well, spiritual or reverent about it.  Members are as they are, nothing more,  and when more so, not always so nice. I’m a  tubby, homely ,Syrian, not fit for any office I’ve held ,but even for me, Eros has me a little ashamed of what’s going on, even when I’m laughing with him.


As for those priestesses, Eros expanded what had been a shanty next to ours in the back alley, next to the garden gate. A big place now. Cribs galore. You  Business is good, lots of noise and whoops, but my wife isn’t one bit happy.  I have hankerings, I admit. So last night she put a chain around my wrist, hooked it to her ankle and told me whatever I wanted I had better get at home. When she feels like. As for the new house , the girls tell me Eros has outfitted it with a shrine to Jesus, with a little idol of him in it, candles in front.  Moses said no idols, so I don’t know where he had this stone Jesus made.   His idea is to distinguish priestesses serving the shrine from whores, make the place kind of an adjunct Lord’s House. 


Legionnaires after a life of camps, marches, killing, a lot of them are tired, They like Eros simple message, and the wine and meals, none are averse to being kind when they can. Even Eros gets the new high god Jesus across.  That simple part, that people can be good and the new god helps, is fine.  Eros is  a very demon of a preacher; he’s getting on to a “fire and brimstone” pitch that, he proclaims, is the fate of anyone not joining the assembly. 


He’s begun rolling his eyes as he talks of Hell.  I can tell he likes to think of so many souls burning, but I’m not sure why, because whatever people do seems alright with him. As I said, he’s no hypocrite like I am; he believes he’s got God on his side, Jesus on his arm, and I hear he once asked a maybe Mary Magdalene to work a crib for him.  Confident, as he says,  “Hear it folks, hear it from me, I got the Word, I am the Word, now you got the Word from me.  He’s got them up and dancing, even the old timers get the rhythm, he’s brought the drums, trumpet, cymbals, flutes, into the services now.   Next thing, this is Antioch after all, he’ll be having “holy” gladiators standing on the altar table fighting, some new deacon making book, the house taking 10%.   First gladiator off the altar loses.  I’ll be the one to have to clean up the bloody mess. 


All the while, the “priestesses” are waiting out back.  If a customer wants something different, Eros keeps a list of assembly wives, little boys, even sheep the gossips say, Balthus, can you imagine this nothing of a Luke getting so stodgy?   See, I’m writing to you as if we were friend, A Syrian nothing, and you a great man in the palace.  Well, if you don’t like it, come hack my head off. Or rather,you bastard as ugly as I am,  just try. Otherwise, do your job for your superior.  Tell S.  Cornelius the assembly needs him. I say all of Syria needs him much more..


NOW HEAR THE  BUSINESS FOR THE QUESTOR ALONE: It is that sealed letter enclosed written by my Bishop Ignatius after that meeting in the palace. It’ signed by all the bishops of our local Council, from Troy to Tyre and Caesarea, It’s a formal invitation to become Bishop of Antioch, Syria, Mesopotamia, and India.  In it he says he, they, are writing because Ignatius had a vision of God, because God spoke to S, Cornelius that day, that Ignatius when he issued the invitation was possessed by God. He allowed that his favorite prophet, Elijah, may have foreseen this all as preparation for righteous kings and the kingdom coming.   In that trance Ignatius understood the vision as no illusion.  


“There will come a time of trouble,” Ignatius told me as he wrote this letter, “before which S. Cornelius will have had his own visitation.  S. Cornelius will know his path is revealed to him. “  Ignatius then told me the contents of the letter. He said,


“S.  Cornelius will know that he is to called to be Bishop, called by voice and spirit, compelled by a mighty force.  He is to come to lowly Luke, who impudent, lazy fellow he is, is also, strange blessed. Mysterious indeed are the ways of the Lord.  Luke will tell of the time of troubles. Luke will introduce him to the conscientious Elders. Of them, our Joseph will know what to do.  I prophesy there will be ease in the transition.  Here’s what he wrote, gave me to give when the time was- how do I know something like that?  -right. 


S .Cornelius, Quaestor, you will be consecrated as Bishop. The great Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, will instruct. Thrice bless you, Bishop to be, you, S, Cornelius. Bishop to lead. A light shines on you; it illuminates you and your path. Your path has been shown you.  Delay not, come.  It is your moment, made so by Christ and a host of revelations. Let your soul lead you. Faith is your road. It is a great, great calling. 


I will tell you of my feeling about that letter: Ignatius, as always when on God’s business,  full of himself as well as the Lord, and at the time putting on his Elijah face, with much gravity in the doing of it, handed me the “fore-destined” letter.  I was almost frozen with the seriousness of my commission, responsibility being something I do my best to avoid. I was trembling. Imagine!   What if the Bishop and the high god were right in foreseeing S. Cornelius called to the Christian kingdom?  What if Elijah saw it too? A ruling Roman aristocrat converting? And this letter given to my keeping,  my commission to judge when to deliver it. Save me from important work! I hate it .


And the happenstance of telling you, Balthus, of all people you Balthus, to be entrusted with knowing this holy business of my Bishop and his reverence for Elijah, well, it has just now.What comes to my mind is like fleas jumping, landing light and unpredictably, and sometimes soiling, biting when the can. A biting wit? That is the favorite flea of me.  The flea of his memory has landed here, and why not?  It is the letter you are foretold to give to the Quaestor. So, now you worry!


I know you better than you know me, high all- spy that you are.  Everyone in the marketplace does, for every wagging tongue has its own stall advertising the latest in the market’s dossier on anyone important in the palace. Scandals real or invented,  secrets pried open or presumed, weaknesses- well these are a delight to anyone,  and in the marketplace their telling is like the news of the latest arena gladiator to die “thumbs down.”  We like the failure of others.  And you, Balthus, looking down on us poor Syrians, are assuredly marked for it. That the great Helen disdains you,  puts you in your place?  Everyone knows and smirks. That you were drunks as a man can be, and Eros mocked you, that you puked on yourself? Oh yes, we know. Spies indeed, so much for your well paid sneaks.  Our best sources  are household slaves who are everywhere listening, and the silly  little priestesses too, and the whores and the stall-keepers and? Well whom among the lowly doesn’t enjoy slinging mud on the face of the great?   It’s our favorite cosmetic for them. Oh my yes, everyone nattering on.   Belittle me, great spy you are, but first think about who fills that marketplace dossier, all those little birds flying about chattering tidbits. Those birds would have worse to say about me, oh, I know that, but we are, none of us,  important enough to be tidbit for a sparrow.    


I tell you, this prophet Elijah was important.  I mentioned Ignatius’ “Elijah” look, because he considered Elijah more than great and gifted,  My Bishop once told me that Elijah , like later Paul, discounted ceremony and the law, in contrast to right conduct.  Elijah who was sure of a forgiving entirely holy God, that certainly new to folks like Job but, Ignatius said, Jesus understood that perfectly. Elijah, Ignatius told me, was close to his own heart in building assemblies with a strong leader. Ignatius own vision of sacred imprint on respect for authority. Elijah, my Bishop said, was really a Christian in his prophetic optimism, for as Elijah foresaw a glorious future for Israel under a righteous kind, it forecasts, he said, Christians. The Bishop explained “Israel” meant the world, whereas the ‘king” was obviously Jesus whose disciples were more than the names noised about, but also bishops such as himself.


So I puffed myself up to my most prophesying self, a sacred tongue in my savoring sacred nonsense which Ignatius, when not doing it himself, would believe. I said,   “The Quaestor is a potential disciple, whether he knows it or not” My Bishop nodded, patted my hand. If he had lived it the weight of me, ponderous,  might have been worth a raise in salary. So I say unto you, Balthus, this letter  is a great mission you undertake, you silly ass”


As for what further happened, the Bishop instructed me as to how I would know the time to take this letter to the palace,  as it turns out, to you Balthus, to give in all conscience and duty  (I love those big words) to your Quaestor.   


“The time will be,”   oh, he was very grave, this Elijah Nourani, “the time of troubles, when the shepherd does not know his sheep,  when wolves become shepherds, when sheep turn into wolves, when a false idol replaces Jesus, when rain turns to silver showers penetrating the very  roof of our sanctuary bringing a floor of corruption,  when the Word of God is slurred by wine and spoken by priestesses whores, and when the altar itself is weak and the carpenter  brought to repair, installs instead,  cobwebs of words for legs. That is the time, Luke, that is the time to deliver the letter.  It is precious, more so than your, I have always thought it in soul’s jeopardy, life”


And so, Balthus, I am moved by the mission, the signs that came to me showing our times to be exactly as Bishop Ignatius foresaw.  So now, I will go on with the story of it, post ponderous.  I ignored his derision saying, “Bishop, Excellency, “Even now,  I am not fully wise enough to recognize the signs for delivering this letter.”


“Luke, you are a worse man than you think, a better man than I say.  God will see to it you will know the moment and your duties’


My bishop left the room.  I had the letter in my hand, but mindful of the need for confidence and the prying eyes of false prophets, placed it not in the sanctuary chests, but in my own house, underneath my bed, hidden in a chamber pot we never used because its cheap potter edges were chipped and sharp.  Use it and bleed.  We saved the pot because it was a relic from my parents’ house and my childhood.  Ask me how poor I am and I will show you the chamber pot as my only inheritance.  Ask me what I learned at home and I will tell you, “to save chamber pots”.  Ask me if I am the poorest and I will tell you “No”, for we now have several chamber pots and food and wine enough to require the use of them.  Ask me if I told my wife of the letter.  I will tell you “of course”, for I will tell you I tell her almost everything.  “Almost”, and more the fool who believes of me more than I am.   That I also kept a bit of gold coin in the pot, underneath the letter, was hers  likewise not to know.


-------------------------------

I had carried the letter to Balthus to the palace.  I was denied entrance but the guards, mindful of S. Cornelius courtesy even to those of us nothing, and mindful, I told them it was a letter of great importance that I carried from a man of great importance,  they then called a clerk from the Quaestor’s office.  He looked at me as dirt, but took the envelope that was addressed in the fine hand of the Bishop. I told him that you, Balthus, knew me and its author, and would vouch for S. Cornelius early reception of us.  The guard, of course, was rude. The clerk, as it goes with those of even less importance, was ruder. 


 “Leave, don’t wait for a reply” He ordered.   Whether or not you, Balthus, will see to that this letter gets to your Quaestor,  how can I say.  If Elijah was right, if Ignatius was right, if there is a God who guides such things, if a fool like me can, nevertheless, recognize the time as right,  if you remember me enough to loathe me, are angry enough at what I have told you I know of you,  angry enough to be aroused to any action at all, but realize S. Cornelius will demand of you, right action, as he does of himself,  then all will be satisfied.  I hate to talk like a bishop, but it strikes me God will be pleased,  although what do I know of such things?


As I say, too much religion might make any honest man tremble.  I have done my duty. As for the rest of the parable, prophecy.silliness, whatever  it was.  I will  not waste time at the palace doors waiting for a miracle, and   what the dead Ignatius asks is certainly that. To my mind, away from those frightening moments with Nourani cum Elijah and the trembling, of miracles there are none but the inexplicable natural. 


I return to the history of it:


This last Sunday evening Eros, Bishop was in fine form, preaching up a storm, belching a bit between breaths, tottering a bit, as he acknowledged, “Tonight, I’m drunk on Jesus.”


We were, he said, after the social meal, going into the garden. Bowls of wine would be set out.  The priestesses, he said, would join us.  So, he said, would be Jesus who had in a vision he just had had, taken the form of Bacchus.  God, he said, had spoken to him.  God had said that we must be closer in communion with one another. We were to pray together, drink together, and do what we liked with whomever we liked.  We were to have, he said,” a sacred orgy”  


Even legionnaires gasped in shock. Some scowled in disgust, for in spite of Eros, some of them had begun to apprehend the holy and that high god whom some call, fearful of wrong names, “ The One”  That is respectful but has no power to summon the good.  The leginnaires had entered by way of the beckoning door of lust, but once in the sanctuary were moved to, eventually, the right name of  God.  The old timers in the Assembly had seen to the newcomer’ instruction for which all were increasing glad. 


Eros was a portly fellow, had had a lot wine before the service; he said wanted to say something more from, “my podium”.  He tried to climb on the altar table but, fat, tipsy, middle aged and quite drunk, he slipped as he made the effort.  He banged his head on the heavy wood of one leg.   There he was, fried to his eyeballs, fully snookered,  a totality of smashed, a near paralysis of stupor, and now conked hard on his head.  Perhaps sacrilege is punished.  Maybe Ignatius had been on to something.  I paid no attention to Eros, called no one in to help. Let him sleep it off or die. So be it and God’s will. Whatever else I am and mostly am not, this was beyond even my limits of forgiving.  Disgust triumphed over self-interest. I had to quit. I did. 


I have since that unnatural flood in me of moral ourtrage, realized my future income depends now on Eros dead or departed, on the disciple in S. Cornelius, seeing the light, called loudly to his vocation, and  reinstating this loyal ecclesiastical servant who, if nothing else, knows where the valuable plate and`likewise bequeathed  crystal and gold Eurcharist chalice is hidden, where the finest bishop’s robes are also hidden, for I was not unmindful, upon leaving, of safeguarding these and the future need for my services


Disgust triumphed over self interest. I am so anxious about my wife’s and my future, I have sworn before my ancient Urukian gods’ household shrine, elsewhere to those Olympian, out of a cunning understanding of Hecate who in these, her forlorn days, is much in neeed of supplicants, and finally in worshipful spirit and fear to him, oh no, “Him” it is, the God near, high, and Christian, I swear never to let that happen again.  



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