Setting, a Christmas tale #writephoto

Setting

silhouette

 

It was the time in the evening, when, wherever I may be, whatever the season, I love to wander: when Sol prepares to set, that is when our small globe turns his face away from the star. This was perfect. When you reach my age, a clear sky at dusk, a small cloud lit by the dying rays of the sun, those clichés suffice to make one happy, at peace.

The megaliths stood silent in darkness. I was close to one and started walking slowly around it. Bless this world, I thought, men have walked this ground for tens of millennia, already, four thousand years back, they knew much about Sol, the stars, Space, and the Moon… A tall shape was facing me, but I could not decipher if it was human or… With my stature I am rarely surprised, and most potential aggressors are deterred, but it was human, or, of human shape; as he turned his head toward me, pushing back his hood, I saw a young man, so much like many others, long hair and a short beard, a beautiful, luminous face. He smiled – oh that smile… – and talked. I thought I recognised the smile, I had seen it so often, on those ancient paintings, but I was disconcerted by the tongue he used. At first I could not understand, but I knew. The young man smiled again, walking slowly away, back to the shadows. I knew: it was Aramaic, and then I understood, the words of reassurance, the angel’s smile. His hand was on my shoulder, so strong, so warm, He wished me a happy Sabbath, I was drinking His words.

When you reach my age, you may expect miracles, but mostly, they don’t happen. I fell on my knees, words failing me, He laughed, and glided away. Petrified, I kissed the ground where He’d had His bare feet a second earlier…

“Are you alright Sir?” The young ranger was shaking my shoulder. I had not moved, and it was now pitch dark. “These hills can be dangerous at night, Sir”, said the ranger, who probably meant to add “for an old man like you…” I stood up, thanked him. “No worries, I have a wise guardian angel!” I said smiling, picked up my bag, and started walking toward the hills.

His smile was lighting my path.

Arch #writephoto

Arch

arch

 

For centuries the great abbaye had stood, in its majesty and glory, in the peaceful landscape. It was then a centre of faith and science, where wise men worked, and kept the flame of civilisation burning. They were frugal, up in the frosty mornings before dawn, ploughing the fields and teaching the children; their chants filled the vales and forests, rising to the sky.

Then the heretics had come, plundering, burning, torturing the faithful. A dark veil had fallen on the earth, the Dark Lord’s reign had begun.

But today, in the faint light of dawn, I can hear the monks’s voices, the soft footsteps of their sandals. I sense their presence, their curiosity, even, about this strange creature, this human being who survived the fall. Their anthem is but a light breeze through the icy air.

The arch stands, witness to a millennium of folly. And there, on the cold stones, I kneel, praying to the true God, in submission and piety, the last, shivering survivor of the war, that ended the evil empire.

Dedicated to the builders of the great abbayes of Yorkshire, and their defenders.

Of a lost character named D

Wittenberg

On Reformation Day he reflected on the times, the church’s door in Wittenberg, the theses, the peasants revolts, the rivalries, the spies, and yet, the hopes. Lost in the pages were smaller stories: people’s own struggles, love, and death. How he associated D with those times is hard to tell. He had not thought that much about her in recent years, but she was not totally forgotten. Walking in the pale light of October, his steps muffled by the thick layer of dead leaves, he must have recalled other autumns, other storms, and tried to invoke her supple form.

He saw her at first as his alter ego, the sister he never had. She was wise, she had lived many lives, she knew about rites long forgotten. As he wanted to write about her, he sought the right places, the right times. He discovered Q, the long story of what happened after Wittenberg, of Münster, of Venice. She had many disguises, even more lovers. Often he changed her name, often she rebelled: she was not his thing, but a much alive being, even out of his own world. Later, he sought her shadow in the darkened streets of the old city, trying, even in dreams, to remember her scent.

He concluded she was lost, to him. He would have to reconstruct, to follow his steps, back in time, through forgotten paths, hidden from view, away from the living. He would have to read, and understand. Perhaps he would have to become D?

 

#BlogMeMaybe: May 31 – May I tell you something about someone else?

Constantine

Constantine For the last post in this series, I want to share with you a few facts about a remarkable man, and a historical being who has haunted me since my youth. He was the son of an officer in the praetorian guard of emperor Aurelian, and of a mother named, inevitably, in my mind, Helena, a christian Bithynian Greek. His were times of uncertainty, of civil wars and barbarian assaults on the Empire. During his life, he made his mark on five cities that are at the vortex of Western civilisation: York in Britain, Trier and Aachen in Germany, Rome itself, and Constantinople. He is, genuinely, the real defender of the Christian Faith. He was born, on 27 February, circa 272 AD, in Naissus, in present day Niš, in Serbia. He died on 22 May, AD 337, in Nicomedia, now İzmit, in Turkey. He became the 57th emperor of Rome.

In his youth he fought for the emperor against barbarians in Asia, the Danube, in Syria and Mesopotamia: he was a brilliant and fearless officer. He went on to campaign in Britain, in 305 AD. From the largest roman garrison in the country, Eboracum, now York, he campaigned against the Picts, beyond the Hadrian’s wall, at his father’s side. At the death of the then western ruler of Rome, Constantius, he was proclaimed emperor and Augustus in Eboracum, immediately recognised by the armies, in Gaul and Britain. His share of the Empire was then Britain, Gaul and Spain. As such he commanded one of the largest roman armies, stationed along the Rhine. In 306 AD he left Eboracum for Augusta Treverorum (today’s Trier) and drove the Frank invaders back, capturing two of their kings.

He continued to fight the germanic tribes whilst Italy was ravaged by civil war, but eventually was forced to intervene. After protracted battles he entered Rome on 29 October, 312 AD. In 313 he and Licinius, his brother in law and Eastern emperor, agreed the Edict of Milan, granting tolerance to Christianity and all religions in the Empire. Alas, civil war soon broke out again in 320, this time with Licinius, helped by Goth mercenaries, challenging Constantine and religious tolerance. But by 325 Constantine had triumphed against his enemies, and was sole emperor of the Roman Empire.

Constantine, after some hesitation, decided to make the city of Byzantium, his capital, Nova Roma, unifying once again the Western and Eastern Roman empires. The city was renamed Constantinopolis in 330 AD. He became the first christian emperor, and founded the new Church of the Holy Apostles on the site of the temple of Aphrodite. Throughout his rule, he would support the Church, build basilicas, and grant privileges to the clergy. In 325 he summoned the first Council of Nicaea – the first ecumenical council of the christian church – that instituted the Nicene creed, and gave the Roman Julian calendar precedence over the lunar Hebrew calendar. In his later life he considered Constantinople as his capital and permanent residence. After his victory against the Goths in 332 AD, he extended his control over Scythia. He resolved then to campaign against Persia, for the treatment of Armenian christians, and called the war a christian crusade.

He fell seriously ill after the Feast of Easter  337. As he was praying, in his mother’s city of Helenopolis, at the church of Lucian the Apostle, he knew he was dying. Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, baptised him, as he lay dying, a few days later, in Nicomedia. He died on 22 May, 337 AD, a christian.

The Byzantine empire Constantine founded would last another 1,000 years. Its successor, Charlemagne’s Holy Roman empire, recognised Constantine as its predecessor. For eastern christian churches he is a saint. So for me.