+JMJ+ Last year I began writing a scene for Holy Week, for Palm Sunday, but it turned into more than one or two scenes, into a rough draft for a novel, really. No one was more surprised than I was. I wrote the scenes twice a week, on my regular posting schedule, and, with the most cursory proofreading and editing, uploaded them. There is no denying that the results put the rough into rough draft. But this little experiment got me writing fiction again and kept me writing and I am glad I tried it. Working on a revision now. Tonight I’m sharing an early part of the story. (I edited a couple of things while I got this ready to share tonight, but not much. I’m re-writing the whole thing, anyway.)
“Exult greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
Behold: your king is coming to you;
a just savior is he,
Humble, and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim
and the horse from Jerusalem.”
We were on the road before daylight, traveling in the cool of the pre-dawn morning. So far we have avoided trouble with the soldiers, either ones still in service to Rome or the ones who have gone rogue because of a falling out of one kind or another. They may no longer be in the pay of Rome, but they are still happy to ply the trade they learned so well at her knee. There are few as adept at humiliation and torture as a well-trained, well-equipped Roman soldier, and fewer still who derive as much pleasure from visiting suffering and pain on others. And none who enjoy it more than those who are filled with the lust for revenge on those more “fortunate” than they have been.
We saw the remains of one such incident. They hadn’t tried to hide it. And why should they? Who will complain and to whom? About whom? All one does is mark oneself as a target. A request for justice most often elicits swift revenge meted out by the subject of the complaint. Better to complain under an assumed name or no name at all, but unless one complains in person and in his own name, the accused cannot be officially accused. And if one provides one’s name, one is marked and no friends or family is high enough on the social ladder to come to such a one’s aid. My father knew this and tried to teach me the lesson he learned the hard way.
Ah, but I can’t think about that now. Other memories have risen to the fore. I brought with me some stone vessels and after the Sabbath, as my men were bringing them in, my friend there, Yaakov, and I were talking and I was basking in the glow of my generosity and magnanimity. The workmanship of the vessels was of a good quality and I was proud of them. Until, that is, Yaakov beckoned me to follow him down the hall where he showed me a storeroom filled with vessels whose workmanship far surpassed any I had in my possession to give. I moved through the room, and something about them seemed familiar. Examining one of them more closely I had one my men roll the jar over on its side so I could inspect it more closely, and then I saw it, on the bottom of the jar: the unmistakeable sign of the quarry master near Nazareth. And below that was the mark that Joseph made on every item he ever fashioned. And beside his mark, by another hand, was the word, Shema. And that hand was undoubtedly the hand of Jesus, Joseph’s son.
“Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God: the Lord is One.”–The Shema, From Deuteronomy 6:4
For a moment I did not see the room filled with stone vessels or Yaakov or the others. I felt I was in a workshop back in Nazareth, watching as my father spoke to a man a little older, but who seemed far older, wiser, more regal in bearing. And that’s saying something. My father was someone everyone looked up to. Highly respected and not only for his wealth. I can see him watching Joseph working away, his son nearby. Often the old man looked at his son with such love. Even now I feel the tears stinging my eyes. My father never looked at me that way. I am surprised at the ache in my chest when I realize this.
My father never looked at me with such love and affection and such pride. Not the pride that is sinful but the pride in a son who is well-loved and cherished. I have never known that kind of love. And I find that I am more than a little jealous of the rabbi even now. And the ache in my chest grows until I almost cry out.
My reverie is cut short when Nico appears in the doorway. Word from home has reached him. The rabbi has entered the city, riding on a donkey, and throngs of people greeting him in the most amazing way, shouting praise and strewing their garments and palm branches on the ground before him.
I am startled by this news and I can see that Nico is, too. We have to cut our visit short. Trouble is brewing in Jerusalem and the good rabbi is in the thick of it. I ask Nico who his source is. It’s one of his friends, someone I know of but do not know very well at all, another member of the Sanhedrin: another Joseph, this one from the place called Arimathea.
I know the Sanhedrin is filled with those who are jealous of the rabbi. I have my own jealousies, as I have mentioned, but there are some who seriously wish him harm, and, from what Nico’s friend has told him, there are those who do more than wish.
We spur our beasts onward and ride through the desert, pushing the poor creatures as hard as we dare. What we will do when we reach the city I do not know. I only know it is imperative that we get there as soon as we can. Nico and his friend Joseph are older and wiser and they have more connections in the city and all over Judea—and beyond—than I do, and I am fairly well connected.
We ride and as the horses’ hooves thunder through the night, a feeling of foreboding grows. And it has nothing to do with ruffians and robbers lying in wait to waylay us upon the road. Something larger is afoot and exactly what it is, neither of us knows.
End of Part 4 of A Journey.
For more see the Fiction page.
Thanks for visiting the blog and reading. I pray that you and I will stay holy and virtuous this Holy Week, and may we become who the Lord intends us to be: SAINTS. God bless you and may His Peace be always with you. +JMJ+
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Image: Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, by Jan van Orley, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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