Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana Page 20

When the morning came and the bitter wind died in the glare, I walked on, letting these countless moments come, letting my mind fling them in my own eyes and at my own heart, like the sand that burnt my eyes, and burnt my lips. I went on remembering.

In the night I awoke. Was this my own voice reciting what was written? " 'And every secret thing shall be opened, and every dark place illuminated.' "

Dear God, no, do not let them know this, do not let them know the great accumulation of all of this, this agony and joy, this misery, this solace, this reaching, this gouging pain, this . . .

But they will know, each and every one of them will know. They will know because what you are remembering is what has happened to each and every one of them. Did you think this was more or less for you? Did you think - ?

And when they are called to account, when they stand na**d before God and every incident and utterance is laid bare - you, you will know all of it with each and every one of them!

I knelt in the sand.

Is this possible, Lord, to be with each of them when he or she comes to know? To be there for every single cry of anguish? For the grief-stricken remembrance of every incomplete joy?

Oh, Lord, God, what is judgment and how can it be, if I cannot bear to be with all of them for every ugly word, every harsh and desperate cry, for every gesture examined, for every deed explored to its roots? And I saw the deeds, the deeds of my own life, the smallest, most trivial things, I saw them suddenly in their seed and sprout and with their groping branches; I saw them growing, intertwining with other deeds, and those deeds come to form a thicket and a woodland and a great roving wilderness that dwarfed the world as we hold it on a map, the world as we hold it in our minds. Dear God, next to this, this endless spawning of deed from deed and word from word and thought from thought - the world is nothing. Every single soul is a world!

I started to cry. But I would not close off this vision - no, let me see, and all those who lifted the stones, and I, I blundering, and James' face when I said it, I am weary of you, my brother, and from that instant outwards a million echoes of those words in all present who heard or thought they heard, who would remember, repeat, confess, defend . . . and so on it goes for the lifting of a finger, the launching of the ship, the fall of an army in a northern forest, the burning of a city as flames rage through house after house! Dear God, I cannot . . . but I will. I will.

I sobbed aloud. I will. O Father in Heaven, I am reaching to You with hands of flesh and blood. I am longing for You in Your perfection with this heart that is imperfection! And I reach up for You with what is decaying before my very eyes, and I stare at Your stars from within the prison of this body, but this is not my prison, this is my Will. This is Your Will.

I collapsed weeping.

And I will go down, down with every single one of them into the depths of Sheol, into the private darkness, into the anguish exposed for all eyes and for Your eyes, into the fear, into the fire which is the heat of every mind. I will be with them, every solitary one of them. I am one of them! And I am Your Son! I am Your only begotten Son! And driven here by Your Spirit, I cry because I cannot do anything but grasp it, grasp it as I cannot contain it in this flesh-and-blood mind, and by Your leave I cry.

I cried. I cried and I cried. "Lord, give me this little while that I may cry, for I've heard that tears accomplish much. . . ."

Alone? You said you wanted to be alone? You wanted this, to be alone? You wanted the silence? You wanted to be alone and in the silence. Don't you understand the temptation now of being alone? You are alone. Well, you are absolutely alone because you are the only One who can do this!

What judgment can there ever be for man, woman, or child - if I am not there for every heartbeat at every depth of their torment?

The dawn came.

And the dawn came again, and again.

I lay in a heap as the sand blew over me.

And the voice of the Lord was not in the wind; and it was not in the sand; and it was not in the sun; and it was not in the stars.

It was inside me.

I'd always known who I really was. I was God. And I'd chosen not to know it. Well, now I knew just what it meant to be the man who knew he was God.

Chapter Twenty-Two

FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS. That's how long Moses remained on Sinai. That's how long Elijah fasted before the Lord spoke to him.

"Lord, I have done it," I whispered. "I know, too, what they expect of me. Only too well, do I know."

My sandals were falling to pieces. I'd retied the thongs more times than I could count. The sight of my sunburnt hands unsettled me, but I only laughed under my breath. I was headed home.

Down the mountains, towards the bright shimmering desert that lay between me and the river I couldn't see.

"Alone, alone, alone," I sang. I had never felt such hunger. I had never felt such thirst. They rose as if in answer to my own pronouncement. "Oh, yes, so many times did I devoutly wish for it," I sang to myself. "To be alone." And now I was alone, with no bread, no water, no place to rest my head.


It was a voice. It was a familiar voice, a man's voice familiar in timbre and pitch.

I turned around.

The sun was behind me, and so the light was painless and clear.

He was about my height, and beautifully garbed, more beautifully and richly even than Reuben of Cana or Jason - more like the figure of the King. He wore a linen tunic, embroidered with a border of green leaves and red flowers, each little floret glistening with gold thread. The border of his white mantle was even thicker, richer, woven as the mantles of the Priests are woven, and hung even with tiny gold bells. His sandals were covered with gleaming buckles. And around his waist he wore a thick leather girdle studded with bronze points, as a soldier might wear. Indeed a sword in a jeweled scabbard hung at his side.

His hair was long and lustrous, a deep rich brown. And so were his soft eyes.

"My little joke does not amuse you," he said gently with a graceful bow.

"Your joke?"

"You don't ever look into a mirror. Don't you recognize the image of yourself?"

A shock spread over my face, and then all of my skin. He was my duplicate, except I'd never seen myself in such attire.

He made a small circle in the sand so that I might better see the picture he made. I was fascinated at the expression - or lack of it - in his large puckering eyes.

"You might say," he began, "that I feel some obligation to remind you of what you are? You see, I'm aware of your particular delusion. You don't hold yourself to be a mere prophet or a holy man, like your cousin John. You think you're the Lord Himself."

I didn't reply.

"Oh, I know. You wanted to keep it a secret, and you do indeed often veil your mind quite well, or so it seems to me, but out here in this wilderness? Well, too often, you've murmured aloud."

He drew closer, lifting the edge of his sleeve so that he himself might admire the embroidery, the sharply pointed leaves, the flowers exploding in crimson thread.

"Of course you're not going to talk to me, are you?" he said with a faint sneer. I looked like that when I sneered. If I ever had.

"But I know you're hungry, dreadfully hungry. So hungry you'd do almost anything to have something to eat. You're devouring your own flesh and blood."

I turned and started to walk away.

"Now, if you are a holy man of God," he said, catching up with me, and walking alongside me, staring at me eye to eye when I glanced at him, "and we'll forget the delusion for the moment that you're the Creator of the Universe, then you can surely turn these stones, any of them here, into warm bread."

I stopped. I was overcome with the scent of it, warm bread. I could feel it in my mouth.

"This would be no problem for Elijah," he said, "or for Moses for that matter. And you do claim to be a holy one of God, don't you? Son of God? Beloved Son? Do it. Make the stones bread."

I stared down at the stones, and then I started walking again.

"Very well then," he said, keeping pace with me, the bells jingling softly as he walked. "Let's return to your delusion. You are God. Now according to your cousin, God can raise up sons of Abraham from these stones, or those stones, or any stones, no? Well, then make these stones into bread. You need it badly enough, don't you?"

I turned and laughed at him. " 'Man doesn't live by bread alone,' " I answered him, " 'but by everything that proceeds from the mouth of God.' "

"What a wretchedly literal translation," he said, shaking his head, "and may I point out to you, my pious and deluded one, that your clothes have hardly been preserved during these mere forty days, like those of your ancestors in the forty years they wandered, but that you are a ragged beggar who will very soon be barefoot as well?"

I laughed again. "Nevertheless," I said, "I'm going on my way."

"Well," he said before I started, "it's too late for you to bury your father. That's been done."

I stopped.

"Oh, what, don't tell me the prophet whose birth was accompanied with so many signs and wonders doesn't know that his father, Joseph, is dead?"

I didn't answer. I felt my heart grow big and begin to throb in my ears. I looked out over the sandy wastes.

"Since you seem at best to be a sometime prophet," he went on in the same calm voice, my voice, "let me give you the picture. It was in a toll collector's tent that he breathed his last, and in a toll collector's arms, can you imagine, though his son sat nearby and your mother wept. And do you know how he spent his last few hours? Recounting to the toll collector and anyone else who happened to hear all he could remember of your birth - oh, you know the old song about the angel coming to your poor terrified mother, and the long trek to Bethlehem so that you might come howling into the world in the midst of the worst weather, and then the visit of angels on high to shepherds, of all people, and those men. The Magi. He told the toll collector about their coming as well. And then he died, raving, you might say, only softly so."

I looked forward, down at the desert floor. How far was it to the river?

"Weeping! Well, look, you are weeping," he said. "I never expected it. I expected you to be properly ashamed that such a righteous man would die in the arms of a well-respected thief, but I didn't expect such tears. After all, you did walk off and leave the old man at the river, did you not?"

I didn't answer.

He whistled to himself, idly, a little song such as one might whistle or hum as one strolled, and stroll he did around me in a circle as I stood there.

"Well," he said, squaring off in front of me. "You are tenderhearted, we know that much. But a prophet? I think not. As for the delusion that you created the entire world, well, let me remind you of what you no doubt already know: a delusion similar to that cost me my place above in the Heavenly Court."

"I think you gloss it over," I said. My voice was thick with tears, but my tears were drying in the hot desert wind.

"Ah, you speak to me, not to quote Scripture, but in actual words," he said. He laughed in a perfect imitation of my earlier laugh, and flashed a warm smile at me that was almost pretty.

"You know, holy men almost never do speak to me at all. They write long sonorous poetry about my speaking to the Lord of Creation and His speaking to me, but they themselves, the scribes? At the mere mention of my name, they run shrieking in dread."

"And you do so love to have your name mentioned, don't you?" I said. "No matter what name it is." I went on slowly. "Ahriman, Mastema, Satanel, Satan, Lucifer . . . you love it, don't you, when you're addressed?"

He was silenced.

"Beelzebub," I said. "Is that your favorite?" I said it in Greek: "Lord of the Flies."

"I loathe that name!" he said with a flare of rage. "I will not answer to any of those names," he said.

"Of course you won't. What name could ever rescue you from the chaos that's your very purpose?" I asked. "Demon, devil, adversary." I shook my head. "No, don't answer to them. Don't answer to the name Azazel, either. Names are what you dream of, names and purpose and hope, of which you have none."

I turned and started to walk on.

He caught up with me.

"Why are you talking to me?" he asked in a perfect rage.

"Why are you talking to me!"

"Signs and wonders," he said, the blood flaring in his cheeks - or so he would have it seem. "Too many signs and wonders surround you, my miserable ragged friend. And I've talked to you before. I came to you once in your dreams."

"I remember," I said. "And you took on the raiment of beauty then too. It must be something you want so badly."

"You know nothing of me. You have no idea! I was the firstborn of the Lord you claim as your father, you miserable beggar."

"Careful," I said. "If you become too angry you may dissolve in a puff of smoke."

"This is no jest, you fledgling prophet," he said. "I don't come and go at whim."

"Go at whim," I said. "That will be sufficient."

"Do you know who I really am?" he asked, and his face was broken suddenly with grief. "Well, I will tell you." And in Hebrew, he spoke the words: "Helel ben-Shahar."

"Bright sun of morning," I said. I raised my right hand and snapped my fingers. "I see you falling . . . like that."

A terrific roar went up around me, and the sand went flying as if a storm had come out of the placid sunlight and was about to carry me down the cliff.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies