Book II: Chapter 32
God has set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom it.
I was sitting on my back porch, wasting another day. Off in the distance I spied a raccoon nosing around the area that covered the body of my intruder from a month ago. It set me to thinking…
What is Man? He is nothing but an animal – for his fate is the same – all come from the dust and to the dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man goes upward and if the spirit of animal down to the earth? It’s all meaningless!Eccl 3: 19-21
I took another sip of my drink (Stone Pale Ale) and got ready to ponder further, when suddenly a new vision was forced upon me — a view of my friends as they continued on with their pointless escapade…
Alan and Miriam were now sitting at a corner table in a small cafe in Rome, sipping espresso or some such girly drink.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Alan was chagrined.
“Alan, it was not my place to tell YOU about your own secrets.” Miriam soothed, knowing that he was both embarrassed and pained.
(Lord, do I really have to sit here and watch this lover’s quarrel?)
“But, Miriam, what a fool I have been in front of you all these years!”
“Hush; don’t say such things.”
“So Jesus told you about me?”
“Yes. In the same way that The Teacher told you about my mission.”
“Of course — for surely if Jesus was willing to tell me about your purposes, why did I not realize he would explain to you about me? Oh, how bloody stupid I’ve been!”
“Alan, stop. What’s done is done. I knew eventually you would come clean with me before our time was through.”
“And yet… would it… have been different between us?”
Miriam blushed, barely able to whisper, “Oh, Alan, who can say? We can’t change the past.”
(Now ain’t a classic woman’s answer? Ha!)
Alan sank into his chair, “I suppose there’s always a consequence for the choices we make.” But then, raising his head, chin jutting out, he averred, “Miriam, I’m going to believe that, had I honored you by telling you the truth immediately, then events would have turned out more like Jesus promised me – if I had only trusted in him completely, rather than trying to figure everything out according to my own designs.”
Miriam smiled warmly and reached across the table to grasp Alan’s hand, “Thank you, Lazarus.”
“But, what about the future? What happens now, Mary?” Alan’s face was hopeful.
(Sorry, buddy, it’s not happening…)
Looking down, Miriam pulled her hand away, “Alan, right now we have a mission to complete.”
And after a pause, she whispered, “I’m sorry, but there is no time for a love that might have been.”
I watched as Alan did his best to swallow a (re)broken heart. In a stony voice he replied, “Alas, Miriam. You speak the truth. Even Solomon echoed your words, ‘No man can control the evil times that fall unexpectedly upon him.’ Such is the case with us too, neh?” And rising from the cafe table, “Well, we best be moving forward again. Ready?”
“Ready.” Miriam nodded, keeping her head down as she arose so that Alan would not see her tears.
There was a brief haziness to my Sight, but soon enough it returned.
Apparently some time had passed, because when I saw Alan and Miriam again they were now disguised as tourists – complete with obtrusive cameras, dollar-store sunglasses, and an armful of sightseeing brochures.
They were visiting The Vatican – as part of group on a tour of Saint Peter’s Basilica. It was amusing to see them pretending to listen to the clergyman giving the tour as he told all about the history of the grand structure – pointing out the architectural contributions of grand masters like Bramante, Michelangelo, and Bernini; explaining how the church could seat upwards of 60,000 people for a mass; and even giving interesting tidbits of knowledge about some of the unique furnishings inside the cathedral.
I could tell that Alan was rather enjoying the tour. Oh, probably not because the information provided was new to him – for in truth, Alan knew far more about this place than the young priest who was their guide – but instead because the subject of Religious Antiquities was his passion. I’m sure that such a discussion allowed his mind to escape some of the recent pains that had been reopened regarding Miriam.
Unable to resist, Alan ventured a question – masking his voice in a Hungarian accent, “My friend, I noticed that you didn’t mention the old church of Santo Stefano degli Ungheresi?”
Miriam’s face bespoke her surprise at Alan’s unexpected query, yet she quickly masked it.
Meanwhile, the tour guide hesitated only a moment before advising, “Oh, scusi me please, I didn’t realize you were Hungarian. How could I forget to mention your country’s national church? Certainly, my friend, Santo Stefano once stood over here.” And he led the group to a different area of Saint Peter’s. “In 1776, Santo Stefano was torn down in order to make this section of the Grand Basilica. My apologies, friend, but surely you’ll agree the space was put to good use, eh?”
“Of course. Grazie.” Alan smiled.
“Shall we move outside to the Piazza?” The guide asked the group.
As it turned out, Alan and Miriam never did go outside with the rest of the tour; instead they loitered inside Saint Peter’s, using their talents to get lost in the shuffle of life and eventually making their way into a cordoned off section known as the Chapel of the Choir.
Once inside, Miriam shuffled Alan into one of three wooden stalls.
“We can’t hide here,” Alan protested. “Surely the guards will check these stalls before closing.”
Miriam merely smiled, pulled a hidden lever under a section of molding that opened a secret inner chamber and then proceeded to pull her startled friend into it.
(Oh, you didn’t know about that hide-away? No matter. But surely you DO realize that The Vatican is filled with hidden labyrinths, right? Why there are probably more secret meeting places there than anywhere else in the world).
Ensconced in their hiding place, Alan and Miriam were able to remain on site long after the church closed. Although my Sight thankfully did not force me to endure the monotony of waiting in real-time, I was amused to catch one tidbit of their conversation – Alan coaxing Miriam to tell him the history of this secret chamber, clearly unable to believe that there was yet another piece of religious history that he was not aware of.
(It wasn’t the last time he was due to get such a surprise).