Through Faith, we know God is everywhere, and takes an active interest in our lives. Once in a while some of us are blessed to witness a supernatural event; then there are others who for some strange reason, are visited by the Power more than once in their life. This is a short relation of one such incident.
A family I know quite well has had such events happen to them several times in the midst of their daily lives. Events that cannot be explained- nor can they be proven after the fact; one must trust to the veracity of the people involved. These stories have seldom been retold, for to people such as these the arc of their lives is a precious, private thing; much like a family heirloom. Sharing these events is akin to lending a delicate, ancient flower to strangers. Each time they are loaned out, these precious gifts are subject to damage, loss, and criticism. This is why the world is full of wonderful, miraculous things that are rarely related: their value is so dear to those involved, that the chance of damage far exceeds the prospect of edifying others.
One day the father was as his habit prostrating himself before the crucifix in his living room. During quiet times in the afternoon he would take the time to recite a Rosary, and meditate before the icon. It was an early winter day, where it gets dark around 5 PM. Nothing out of the ordinary he insists had occurred before this day; it was just another day to him, and as he finished his prayer time it was full dark in the house. As he opened up his eyes and stood up, he noticed a strange, somewhat startling sight. The crucifix before him had taken on a soft yellowish glow. Not the cross itself, but the corpus upon it was glowing steadily and obviously. He stood there for several seconds just looking at it- he was not particularly upset or excited by what he was seeing. He stepped closer, and noticed that the outline of the corpus was somewhat indistinct, as if the light it was emitting was in the manner of a cloud surrounding , rather the emanating from the corpus. He then reached up to touch it, and noticed that even with his hand upon the corpus, the light was undisturbed; he could not see a shadow or form of his hand as it was on the surface. His curiosity turned to wonder and gratitude; he stated emphatically that at no time did he feel fear or trepidation.
After a time of contemplation of this phenomenon, he walked into the kitchen for a moment and returned; the aura had gone. In examining this episode afterward he has come to certain conclusions about what had happened. Firstly he is convinced of the miraculous nature, and has absolutely no idea why he was graced with it. The way it has affected him is interesting however; to him it is a great consolation- perhaps one of the greatest of his life- that such an ordinary Faith can be visited in such an extraordinary way.
Heaven is real. This is what he now knows for a certainty. May we all come to know it as he does.
“Ut vestri equus!”
“Now we are in for it”, I thought. The call to prepare for moving out the cavalry corps was given. Calling my adjutant, we prepared ourselves for deployment. Evidently the word was out about Iesu and His seizure by the Temple. We were tasked with crowd control around the precincts of the Lithostrotos- the Gabbatha the Judeans called it. My mind raced trying to make sense of what could be happening; the judgment seat is only used by Pilate in his office as Governor. If it involves Iesu, as it most likely does, then this meant only one thing: The Sanhedrin has decided that Iesu is guilty of a capital crime. Since local governments within the Empire were not allowed to execute anyone, they had to convince us to do it for them. “What kind of idiocy is this?” I thought. There was nothing that He could have possibly have done to warrant execution. Pilate was a hard man- no doubt in my mind- even to executing soldiers in questionable circumstances; but surely for the general good, even Pilate could not see a legitimate reason for a death sentence. Since the Temple party had not harmed Iesu when He was in their power, then it seemed that perhaps He might escape their clutches through the good sense and justice of Rome.
Well, there I was on the Pavement. Having made my disposition of my troops in strategic locations, I warned my subalterns once more to keep the men in line, but most importantly keep the peace- even if it meant a few pricks of the lance or spatha. A bit of blood flowing within a mob is a sure way to make potential rioters remember who is in charge. There is nothing like cavalry for crowd control. Just below the long dais and to the right of the seat, I waited patiently behind a line of infantry. It was astounding to me how quickly the Lithostrotos filled with people. They literally burst upon the open area as if poured out of a large sack, in fairly good order. For all intents and purposes they acted as if everything was choreographed by an unseen hand. Little did I know at the time how close to correct this assumption was.
The crowd kept a wary distance from the infantry shields and forward facing pilum; my mount stood silently behind. The steady movements of his head and neck suggested relaxation to others; however I could feel the tenseness of his back and wondered if he was reacting to my own confusion of the current events, or to something I could not as yet sense. The comings and goings of runners was constant, for it is essential to keep open lines of communication during action. We were all put off by the crowd’s discipline and quiet determination to be present at this particular moment. They were packed in like fish in a basket. Something in the air … then I realized what I felt. It was a particular queasy feeling; the sixth sense developed during many years of service. I recognized the unmistakable sensation I got just before an ambush. Into the corner of my eye Pilate suddenly appeared, and sat down unceremoniously; glancing back at the crowd I heard a collective gasp- and then the next thing I knew I heard Pilate shout across the Lithostrotos,
I stumbled back to my quarters and tried to get some sleep and prepare for the morning as ordered. It is difficult to relax when one has stumbled into a garrison preparing for conflict; especially when one had assumed all was well. Apparently, all was NOT well: in fact, I felt as if I had received a blow to the head. Sitting down on my pallet, my mind swirled with … well, with everything that it had ever considered important.
Indeed I knew full well that Iesu was someone who polarized the entire region, and that the Temple party was none too pleased with both what He was doing and what He was saying. There were rumors of foul play, but I was certain that He would keep himself safe from enemies. How could He have let them get hold of Him? Of course the world is full of spies and traitors- the most useful man to the Empire was a traitor; the Army especially depended on these types to advance our interests and make our jobs easier. But how could He not discern who was a foe- especially after all the wonders He performed? Ferreting out someone who has your demise at heart should not be so hard for one such as Him. Well now- being a Roman soldier and soon to be a citizen, perhaps there is still much more to learn. This was a shock, for I had thought that in the last year and a half, I had learned everything I needed to know. Wrong again.
Over a decade of service in Judea, I had come to love the country and the people, (believe it or not) despite what my comrades say about the whole situation here. More importantly, I have come to be a believer in their God; or should I say The God, Yahweh. Most of my free time in Jerusalem has been spent in the court of the Gentiles at the Temple; that in fact was where I first heard of the Rabbi from Nazareth: it was this time spent at prayer and instruction that led me to the decision to become a Jew immediately after my mustering out upon retirement, when I could then more fully enter in to a deeper life with God.
I had even listened to Iesu speak a time or two when I was on leave. His words filled me with hope, and the inherent good sense of what was said backed up the hope that they promised. Of course there were plenty of Rabbis around; the country was full of them-messianic fever had reached a full throated roar in many regions of Judea. It was not just His words; I saw with my own eyes a beggar who could not walk- one who was always in the vicinity of the Court of the Gentiles. One day, there he was… standing just as sound and well as any man. He told me that Iesu had healed him just by touch and saying, “Your sins are forgiven”. If that is not enough, there is more to tell. We were coming back to garrison one day about six months previous, and there was a funeral procession going on; a dead young man was on the bier, and Iesu happened by. He walked up to the bier and grabbed the dead man’s hand—right away the corpse came back to life: I saw it. There have been many times when I was scared; a soldier’s life is full of death, dying and horrific wounds- but never did the thrill of fear and awe run through me as it did that day. Even after that, when a gentile barbarian such as myself came to believe that Iesu was who He portrayed Himself to be, all the Temple party could do was go on about how He had defiled Himself by touching a dead body!
Now, I feared the worst for Him, and for all of us who believed in Him.
Cavalry and Calvary
Just a short time ago everything seemed so different; the only way to describe it is to re-imagine the feeling of the period leading up to my marriage. I was so in love, full of optimism and anticipation. My friends were wittier; all wine exquisite and even the colors of the world around me were brighter and sharper. Looking became actually seeing for the first time; and in seeing I was filled with Joy wherever I turned. Time seemed to slow down, and so did my mind- answers that previously had been hidden away in some remote dusty corner, appeared before my heart- they were there the entire time in fact, hiding in plain sight. This is how it felt in those days… and not just to me; but for a certainty; everyone else felt the exact same way. Voices and eyes- even the way everyone moved exposed the reality that we had experienced something: we were changing, the world was changed, and nothing was to be the same. And now, this happened.
I was late getting back home that year. My duty in quartermaster took me away from time to time and on this trip we were delayed by some bad weather. Buying horses for the officer corps is a delicate business; one needs discernment of both animals and the men who sell them to procure the best lots. This is what I was commissioned to do in the Army, and after almost 20 years, I was good at it. Being good however entails patience; and it was this patience that cost me some precious days- and I fear my eternal soul.
It was near weeks end when we eased back to Antonia in the dead of night. Stabling the new stock took little time as they were trail broke and weary, anxiously seeking feed and rest. After dismissing my men I turned in my paperwork to the officer in charge. He asked me to take my ease as he checked over my report, but I protested and remained standing; three weeks horseback in the Eastern Wilderness gives a man an appreciation for standing up from time to time. “We thought you had deserted!” It was Felix, who had snuck up behind me during the inspection. He grabbed my mantle, spinning me around and embraced me like the brother he was… then he kneed me in the groin- an old greeting we had adopted during our long service together. “Foolish business” I countered, “for it is only six weeks until retirement and then, on to the happiness due me as a loyal citizen and gentleman farmer!” We both laughed, for those were the standard dreams of all of us: and after two decades of constant service they were a close reality. Twenty years of marching, fighting, and now garrison duty; soon to be in the past.
“Your plans may change, Antonius. There have been some big developments since your departure. Did you not notice anything when you arrived?” In truth I had not- being so intent on the horses and in getting back, my mind was occupied with the task at hand- and I said as much. “This town has been in an uproar these past few days. That Iesu fellow you carry on about arrived for the Passover, and the entire city welcomed Him as Royalty. Now as a kind gesture in return, the Temple this very night has seized Him and is planning some evil deed for horning in on their power. Things are looking grim for Him; and for us I fear”