Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Advent 2016

A Roman Soldier

"A Journey from Nazareth "


(A letter from Attius Euclid Ovidius, a soldier of Augustus Caesar serving in the Hades of Galilee.)


My dearest Lucetta,


            I send greetings to you, whose light will illumine my way back to Rome where you and peace reside.  Springtime now embraces Italy wherein soft breezes, verdant hills, and skies the color of the sea mark your loveliness like the gardens of Lucullus are marked by Judeans gazing upon their plush beauty for the first time.

            There is no peace in Nazareth.  I dwell in a land flowing with mud and bloody fanatics.  My cohort has been assigned to keep the Judean road between Nazareth and Jerusalem safe for travelers, but five hundred men now are forty.  Few of us venture past Nain, which is one day distant on foot.  Zealots and disease beset us day and night.  Our centurion, Drasticus, died from consumption.  He has not been replaced.

            I do not write to worry you with fears for my life, Mars keeps me safe enough; rather, I write to report something remarkable that happened yesterday when I deserted my cohort.  Since we may not now embrace, let us be held by this memory you hold in your hands, but I must implore you to share it with no one since it may be misconstrued to be a confession of desertion. 

            Although verily I would be marked as missing and vulnerable to attack striking out on my own, I journeyed with two Galileans on their way to a hamlet below Jerusalem called Bethlehem.  They were pious Jews such as you find in those villages that are spread throughout Judea.  Both spoke Greek as well as I, which struck me as unusual since they were poor.  At first they regarded me with caution, for I am the invader.  I spoke of my service to the peace of Augusta the son of god.  I withheld from them the fact I had seen unceasing war.  Peace, Lucetta my love, is in your presence.

            After a day's journey, the Galileans began to trust me.  The man, Joseph, was a carpenter, which explained why he spoke Greek since it is the lingua of commerce.  He said I had been sent by his god to protect Miriam, his wife, on the way.  Apparently, his god did not send me to protect him.

            I asked him to explain his god to me.  He spoke of a law, a torah.  He recited passages from his law that made my heart burn with fire and my mind blaze with light.  He said his god is god and all others are not.  We Romans know bloody well this peculiar doctrine of the Judeans, yet his law proclaimed that his god loves all the nations.  This love will create peace for all humanity.  This peace shall be such that the emperor's peace, born from fear and hate, will vanish the way I hear burning pitch vanishes when it misses a pirate's vessel and plummets into the sea.

            Next, they told me a remarkable story.  Both said messengers from their god appeared to them to proclaim a son of their god was about to be born to teach the world how to love.  In all my life, Lucetta, I never heard such news.  Our poets say the gods become animals, even men, but their aims are self-serving and vulgar.

            I stayed with the Galileans until we safely reached the outskirts of Bethlehem.  There I departed them to hasten back to my cohort.   Before I turned to go, I saw something I had not noticed before.   Lucetta, the woman Miriam was great with child.

            Lucetta, you know how much I value your opinion in all things.   Please write to me, my love, and tell me if it is true to your mind that a son of God would bring the love that exists in heaven to our violent world.  Furthermore, if that proposition is true, would he come as a Judean carpenter's son and not a Caesar?


Your Adoring Attius


-- Bill Heard



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