The Pope found himself in a steep and narrow street. Immediately he knew where he was. “This is Jerusalem!” he said to himself. This was somewhat strange as it was at night time, and ancient Jerusalem was not the same 2000 years ago as it is today. No doubt Binyamin would have found it difficult to recognize too. Pope Francis wondered why he was there. He quickly prayed to God for enlightenment, and decided to walk up the street, for he was at the bottom of it. It would also enable him to get a better view of things. He walked up the street, all the while praying “Lord what do you want me to do?” Lost in this prayer he continued up the street. He had gone, not more than three hundred yards, when he heard a man sobbing, or it was more like a terrible moaning sound. As the Pope drew nearer to the man, he heard the sobs punctuated with words. “O God what have I done? O God.... O God I denied your Son.” Then the Pope knew who the weeping man was. It was Peter. He was leaning against the wall of a house under an arch that connected the two sides of the street. Crouching against the wall he looked as if he was trying to disappear into it. The Pope went up to him, and very gently touched his shoulder. Peter started as, if he was a wounded animal, unable to defend itself. “Who are you?” he asked. Francis said “I am your friend. Do not worry. All will be well.”
The Patriarch Kirill, Archbishop Hilarion, Cardinals Goodfellow and Boniface with Bishop Placid, found themselves in a large room, which looked like an ancient dining room. There was a smell of recently eaten food. “Now where could we be?” said Bishop Placid. “It feels like the Middle East.” replied Archbishop Hilarion. “Well I don’t think it’s Baghdad or Damascus. It feels safe.” said Cardinal Goodfellow. The Patriarch looked very thoughtful. They all fell silent. Kirill then smiled to himself the kind of smile that comes when one has solved a problem. “Look” he said, “When we left 'The Cathedral On The Blood' at Yekaterinburg we entered the Garden of Eden.” The bishops all agreed and said “Yes”. The Patriarch continued, “After that we found ourselves at the beginning of the Flood.” “And then” Cardinal Goodfellow cut in “we witnessed the destruction of Sodom”. “Are we at the Passover then?” asked Cardinal Boniface, “At which Passover?” asked Kirill, “Well the one on the eve of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt; I think...” Before he could finish the sentence Bishop Placid became very animated and shouted in a very un-placid way “I’ve got it! They have just eaten the passover meal at “The Last Supper”, “ And Jesus has instituted The Eucharist said Archbishop Hilarion with his eyes filled with great tenderness. “Exactly” replied the Patriarch.
The group were plunged into a deep and peaceful silence. Lost in their thoughts and prayers, their silence was broken by a noise of a door being opened somewhere beyond the room, and a curtain, that was covering a doorway opposite the bishops, was drawn aside. Into the room came two men, one a tall and well built man with a friendly but very worried face, and the other, a young man with a marvellous open expression. Both men started on seeing the assembled bishops. This was not because they were dressed differently. They were, in the eyes of the two men, wearing similar clothes to themselves, but they looked very distinguished and were obviously not Jews. The bigger of the two men asked, “Where do you come from? What are you doing here? Are you Magi?” KIrill said, “You could say that we are Magi I suppose, but we are not so very different from you.” The younger man asked, looking intently at the bishops, “Are you spies?” “Goodness no!” said Cardinal Boniface, “We are friends, and we have come to bring you hope.”
“What hope can you bring?” asked Andrew, for that was who the big man was, and the younger one of course was John. He looked, by now, distraught and dishevelled. The Patriarch,looking with great compassion at Andrew, said, “We can say very little, but soon everything will make sense. You are weeping now, but soon joy will be yours.” “How can this be?” asked Andrew. “Just think of us as angels.” said Bishop Placid. Archbishop Hilarion, despite the great drama of the redemption, that was unfolding before their eyes, could not help smiling, as a more less angelic looking group of men, as they were all,with the exception of himself, in late middle age and ranging from the stout to the fat . “What is very worrying” said John “is that our leader, after Jesus, is Peter, and he” “has denied his Lord” said Kirill. “How do you know that?” asked John. “As I said we can say very little. But where is Peter now?” asked Kirill. “He ran off after saying to some hostile folk that he did not know Jesus.” said John, who continued; “However before the ending of the trial, I noticed something very odd. There were hiding in the shadows of the hall some dogs and cats, and it was as if they understood everything that was going on.” “Oh they would have done.” said Cardinal Boniface. The two apostles looked on amazed. “Are you mad?” asked John. “Well some people might think so.” the cardinal replied without showing any concern as to what the apostles thought. At that moment there were footsteps and a woman entered and went up to Andrew and whispered something into his ear. Andrew looked startled, then relieved, and said, turning to the bishops, “Hannah here has said that Peter has been found. A stranger is with him, trying to comfort him, and has succeeded in calming him down. She says, having obviously only just seen you now, that he seems to resemble yourselves.” “How could that be?” asked Cardinal Goodfellow, “Your Emminence, perhaps it is the heavenly journey that we have been on that has made us so.” said the Patriarch. He then turned to Andrew and asked “Could you take us to Peter and this man?” Andrew turned to Hannah and said, “I know that you will be safe with these strangers, for they do seem to be like angels. They are definitely messengers. I do not want to force Peter to do anything. I know that his grief is great, and though I am his brother, I cannot comfort him now. Tell him where we are, and if he does not want to come here, tell him to go to Barsabas’ house; he will be safe there. Then take these men to Joseph of Arimathea. They will be safe with him. I cannot think anymore about things. Perhaps Jesus will be saved. There is nothing that we can do now.” “Oh yes, there is one thing you can and must do.” said the Patriarch, “You must hope against hope.”
Before they knew it, and with swift goodbyes to Andrew and John, the bishops found themselves outside in the street following Hannah, who was walking very fast. The bishops, with the exception of Archbishop Hilarion, were only just able to keep up. The journey seemed surprisingly long to the bishops, though they could have only walked along five streets at the most, when they espied Francis beside Peter who was still in a state of extreme distress. He had his arm around Peter as if he was trying to comfort a son. The Patriarch and the bishops were deeply touched at the sight, as was Hannah. Here was Peter’s successor, looking like the Father, for indeed he was much older than Peter, who would have been around forty at the most. The Patriarch could only wonder at the strangeness of it all, as did the others. What did this meeting of different times and eras mean? What did the prophetic presence of cats and dogs mean? What did this journey from Eden to the Passion mean?
Hannah went to Peter and bending down to him gently took his hand and said, “Would you like to come with me? I will take you to Barsabas’ house, or you could go with these good strangers to the house of Joseph of Arimathea.” “I can’t, I can’t” he wailed. “I have denied my Lord.” Francis gently took him by his arm, and said, “I know how you feel. I once found myself in a situation that was very like yours. I too have failed a great friend.” Peter looked into Francis’ eyes looking for forgiveness, and seeing something of Christ’s compassion in his look, grasped his hand, hugged him impetuously, picked himself up and ran off into the darkened street, leaving the bishops looking both gentle and solemn. They, like Francis, were being changed beyond recognition by the events that they had been witnessing.
“Quick” said Hannah, “follow me. It is not far.” Within a few minutes they found themselves outside Joseph’s house. Hannah knocked on the door. A voice on the other side asked “Who is it?” “it’s me Hannah.” said Hannah. The door was opened by one of Joseph’s servants, who led the company across the courtyard to the House, and into a large Hall. There they found Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Joseph, with all the delicacy of true oriental courtesy, bowed low to his guests, and said “You are most welcome. Everything that I have is at your disposal. Bring water for our guests, David.” A young servant came with a flagon of water and their feet and hands were washed. The symbolism of the washing of the feet at the last supper was not lost on them. It was barely finished before two things happened. The dogs and cats erupted into the Hall, and there was a loud banging at the outer door. “Who could that be?” said Nicodemus. “I do not know.” said Joseph. “We, I do not think, are in any danger, but who knows for there were only five of us who stood up to Caiaphas at Jesus’ trial.” The servant, who was the doorkeeper entered from the interior of the house, bowed to Joseph, and said “My Lord; should I answer the door again, for it might be the High Priest’s soldiers?” “I think so.” replied Joseph, “for in a night of strange wonders, new wonders will only clarify the truth of Jesus’ sufferings, and our salvation. Please go and see who is knocking at the door. We have nothing to fear. ” The Pope, Patriarch and the bishops were deeply impressed by Joseph’s dignity and calm. The dogs and cats sniffed and then were quite calm. Lily said, “I can smell the professors.” “So can I.” said Buffy. Sure enough, a moment later the Professors entered all with solemn smiles looking quite wonderful in the clothes that they had been wearing when they were attending on the Magi. Dolly chirped up; “O, you are still wearing those beautiful clothes when you came with the Magi.” Nicodemus looked very thoughtful and said. “When did you see these men with the Magi, for you could not have been born when these wise men visited Jesus, for he was only a small baby.” Lizzie felt it time to make her point in a most definite fashion. “We were with the professors and the Magi about two hours ago; at the most.” The final words were uttered with such emphasis that Nicodemus was amazed. “You see, there is no time with God. Everything is present to him.” she concluded. “It’s very confusing until you accept it as the most natural thing in the world, after a manner of speaking that is.” said Molly. “I see, or I think I do.” replied Nicodemus.
The Professors greeted Joseph and Nicodemus with deep bows, and then went over to shake the Pope and Patriarch’s hands, and greet the other bishops in a similar fashion. “I am afraid, we do not know your names” said the Patriarch. The shortest then said, “But of course we know your names, for you are all well known, especially the Pope, the Patriarch, and Archbishop Hilarion. Let me introduce my fellow academics: Ibrahim al-Askari, and Raj Patel, and I am Moses Weizmann. We cannot tell you what a privilege it is to have been with you, since our meeting in the Clementine Hall. We have learnt so much more than we ever thought that we could learn.
Joseph waited for the introductions to finish, then clearing his throat, he addressed the company of clerics and professors. “My brothers can I get you any refreshment, for your brothers and sisters, the cats and dogs, have been fed and watered. Perhaps some wine, or some pomegranate juice.” They all replied that water would be quite sufficient. After they had slaked their thirst, Joseph asked them if they were ready to retire. “My Lord, we would like nothing more than to spend the night praying for Jesus in his sufferings.” said the Patriarch. The Pope and the others agreed. Joseph was very gratified by this answer. “I have a large room that I will make available for you. May I and Nicodemus join you.” “Certainly” replied the bishops. Summoning David, Joseph said “ David please make sure that there are enough carpets and rugs in the East Room.” David withdrew, and came back about five minutes later. “All is ready My Lord.” “You may retire then David. Nicodemus and myself will show our new friends to the room. When dawn breaks come and get me, and we will see what the day brings.” David bowed and retired. Joseph then led the company through the Hall and down a corridor which led into another courtyard, which was very like a pillared monastic cloister. “Oh such beauty, I cannot believe it.” Said Contessina. “Really Contessina, I will have to have a word with Pope Benedict when we get back to Rome. Christ is in prison, and you go on about beauty!” said Lizzie. “Oh I am so sorry, truly sorry.” said Contessina. “Never mind my dear.” said Lizzie, her tone softening. “We can all get distracted, especially when disaster is staring us in the face.” “But it isn’t a disaster, it’s a triumph!” said Dolly as they entered the East Room. “These animals are extraordinary.” said Joseph. “Yes they are.” said Pope Francis. “They’ve been sent by Heaven.” Joseph and Nicodemus looked at each other, looked at the animals and raised their hands to Heaven in prayer. The Vigil had begun.