THE TRUTH REVEALED
The night had been a long one, even though it could only have been a few hours, or what remained of it, when the vigil of prayer started. Joseph and Nicodemus spent much of the time with their hands raised in the traditional Hebrew fashion chanting psalms quietly. The Pope and his entourage spent much of the time kneeling, and the Patriarch and Archbishop Hilarion were obviously lost in deep contemplation in the Eastern Monastic fashion as over and over again they said the Jesus prayer. It was such a strange meeting of the Old and New Testaments, such a strange meeting of two different times. The Professors prayed in their own manner, and were now realizing the enormous truth of who Christ was, and is. The cats sat intently looking towards the Eastern Window waiting for dawn and the dogs did much the same, with animals from both groups apparently resting at intervals, but in truth absolutely alert to any noise or smell. All the visitors from our time were gripped with the drama of Redemption, while those of the Old Testament were at a loss as to what was happening. All they could see was disaster. The visitors from the 21st century calmed them somewhat and gave a hint that all might be well, somehow.
The very large room was lit by only two large lamps, but there were carpets on the floor that gave it a warm quality. It felt safe and that was just as well considering the events of the night, and what was to happen at day break. Bushy had fallen asleep and was snoring loudly, and Tommy was about to do the same when there was the sound of footsteps. The curtain of the door to the room was drawn, and a bell was rung, as a shaft of light pierced the shutters of the Eastern window. The ringer of the bell was David who approached his master, bowed and said softly, “Dawn has broken, My Lord.” “Thank you, My Son.”. Everyone came to themselves, and those who were not already standing stood up, and waited for what Joseph had to say.
“Nicodemus and I are going to a meeting of the Sanhedrin, to see if we can save Jesus’ life. We will come back as soon as we can, and if not we will send David back to you with news. Please feel free to use my home as if it was yours. May God be with you all, and please pray for us.” With that Joseph and Nicodemus were gone, and David with them.” Everyone standing in the room, both the animals and the humans knew what was going to happen, but were somewhat at a loss as to know what part they were to play. However they did know one thing that when the trial of Jesus was over they would then know where they must go.
A moment after Joseph and Nicodemus had departed, a servant appeared and invited the company to another room, where sweetmeats had been set before them with cheeses, and various herbs and sauces. The dogs and cats were given meat to eat in the courtyard, which was very much to their liking. They were delighted that it was beautiful and sunny morning. “They offer very good fare here.” said Bushy, “it’s almost as good as the food that the hermits give us.” “I don’t think it has quite the variety” remarked Lizzie sounding like one of those rather imposing women chefs on the Television. “I think my dear” said Molly that you are quite right. The rest of the cats and the dogs were too busy eating to indulge in such observations. It was clear that they were enjoying their meal.
Soon the animals were joined by the humans in the courtyard, which had around its four walls delightful stone benches. The clergy and the professors sat down on them, and spoke softly to each other. The Patriarch and the Pope were in deep conversation. “I wonder why we are so favoured as to witness these events and in such a fashion as this?” said the Patriarch. “ It would be hard to guess, but do you think it may be the seriousness of the times in which we live?” replied the Pope. Continuing he said, “We look at the world of our day, and all we see is vice and greed, so few who are rich, and so many millions in utter poverty. We see the sorrow and poverty of the elderly, and the near despair of youth, without work, or working as slaves, and no future, as it would seem for them; in temporal terms that is.” “True” said the Patriarch, “but is not the problem with so much of Western Christianity that the social gospel has sidelined the drama of salvation, the spiritual battle between Satan and his devils on one hand and God, the angels and us humans on the other.” “Precisely” interrupted Lizzie, “All that really matter is that you get to Heaven. However wonderful the social programmes are, civil society can never be a substitute for the Kingdom of Heaven, which is precisely heaven, and the Church is meant to be part of that Kingdom on earth.” “Yes indeed, Christ does tell us that ‘My Kingdom is not of this World’ and we spend our time trying to make the Church like the world, or to get it to go along with the World”. “You ask why you are here” said Dolly, “But perhaps the question you should be asking is why you are here with eight cats and three dogs?” “That is a very good point” the Pope said. “God wants your hearts and ours, and it is a simple as that” said Koni. She was a very wise dog.
At this point the professors entered into the conversation. From their different view points they all were truly won over to Christ. Such joyous utterances fell from their lips in rush of enthusiastic joy. “I could never have believed that Jesus was the Messiah until now, but it all makes sense. How could I have been so blind?” said Moses, and Ibrahim said, “He is so different from Mohammed; such peace and such joy”. Raj summed it up in slightly differently when he said, “We thought of him as one among many gods, but there is, as I can now see clearly, only one God.” The three men had only seen Jesus at the Epiphany, but in bowing before the infant Jesus, they had understood everything.
The Cardinals Goodfellow and Boniface were surveying the beautiful trees in the courtyard garden and the flowers. “How strange it is” said Cardinal Goodfellow that the day is so beautiful, and the events so tragic, and yet....” “They are not tragic” continued Cardinal Boniface, because this is the day of salvation, the day of Christ’s sacrifice, the unending mystery of the Mass.”
Bishop Placid who was sitting with Arhbishop Hilarion was, like his name, looking very peaceful. “I know I should be entering into the sufferings of Christ, but all I can enter into is the glory of the Cross, and the immensity of Jesus’ immense love for us.” “Is that wrong?” asked Archbishop Hilarion. “For surely God is magnified by our different ways of loving him, much as a mother is delighted at the different ways that her children love, and they will all be different, all unique.”
And the morning was passed like this. Each person understanding Christ’s redemptive love in new and wonderful ways. For the most part animals dozed. It had been all very tiring for them, and cats and dogs find thinking in an analytical way both tiring and tiresome. “How do they manage to talk so much?” questioned Lily, “and reflect so much” said Dolly “They’re completely different from us.” said Sammy, “Which is just as well!” replied Freddie enigmatically. Tommy and Bushy snoozed, and the other cats just looked around in wonder.
This strange reverie, which seemed to have lasted only half an hour, but which in fact lasted the whole morning was shattered, by the sound of opening doors and running feet. David almost exploded into the courtyard. “They’re taking him to crucify him. Everything is finished. We have been deceived. He is not the Messiah.” With that the poor young man fell to the ground weeping, while pounding his head with his fists. “Come come” said the Patriarch, who got down on his haunches and raised David up. “This not the end of the story, it is only the beginning. It looks terrible; it looks like disaster, but Jesus is the Messiah and more. You must believe us. We know for we come from the future. Take us to the place of execution.” David was not much comforted by these words. He thought the Patriarch might have gone insane, or had been insane all along, but he allowed the Patriarch to lift him. “Come!” he said, “I will take you to the place, but be careful the crowds are unpredictable today. Many are for Jesus, but many are against.” “We know all too well what crowds are like.” Said the Patriarch, “They are fickle.”
The humans and the animals quickly followed David out of the courtyard, through the house, and out of the door onto the street. Turning right David almost ran down the street, which was almost empty bar a few stragglers who seemed confused and frightened. The cats and dogs were able to keep up with David, but the Pope and Patriarch, the bishops and professors were lagging behind. This meant that David and the animals reached the end of the street a minute before the company. The end of the street was blocked by crowds of people. There was a lot of shouting and the atmosphere was electric. “This must be the Via Dolorosa” said Lizzie. “No, It’s not called that” said David, but before he could tell them its ancient name, the crowd surged back up the street that the animals and David had come down. David was knocked to the ground, and the dogs and cats found themselves engulfed. “Try and keep together.” shouted Lizzie. Instinctively all the cats turned right up the Via Dolorosa. They found themselves about a hundred yards behind Jesus who was weighted down by the huge cross. It was amazing that the cats and dogs were not crushed, but what they and the bystanders could not see, and certainly the soldiers could not see either, was that there were great crowds of angels everywhere, and they were not only supporting all the good people who were trying to help Jesus, or give him their love and prayers, but were protecting the cats and dogs. “I can’t see where we are going” shrieked Dolly, “Just keep your eyes fixed on me” shouted Lizzie. This was almost asking too much, because of the crowd and the soldiers. “Don’t worry Dolly.” Shouted Bushy, “Tommy and I are at the back of you all, and the dogs are behind us. Just keep going and praying.
The Pope, Patriarch and the rest of the clerical entourage and the professors had now managed to enter the Via Dolorosa, and the crush had eased somewhat. The shouting was ear-splitting. It was hard to know why it was so noisy. The Pope afterwards reflecting on it wondered if it was because of the humans were being worked upon by the Satanic armies, which would have been alerted by Satan, who would have known that something extraordinary was happening, and that boded ill for him. “I hope the cats will be alright” said Cardinal Boniface. “Of course they will.” Said Bishop Placid, “ because we and they are not really here, as regards the people who truly witnessed the Crucifixion. We are mystically involved.” “Yes, I think I see your point.” replied the Cardinal. He and the others could see Christ’s huge cross weaving back and forth like sail beam. Simon was under hidden between the cross beams and the main beam. Suddenly rearing up before the crowd was the gate. Soon the animals had passed through, and a few minutes later were followed by their clerical companions and the Professor. Once outside the city walls, the procession turned north and the road began to climb. The animals now had a better view, and they saw Jesus had fallen, and Simon, exhausted had fallen also. The soldiers sent Simon away, and Jesus was left alone. The cats who were about two hundred yards behind Jesus then along with the dogs veered off the path to the right, and made their way to the place of the skull, namely Golgotha, which was a round flat space. They and the dogs hid themselves behind a low stone wall and watched. From this vantage point they had a perfect view of the city, and the great Temple with its shining golden roof, and its great courts with the dazzling colonnades of coloured marble pillars, yellow, green, red, and blue. But the sight of it did nothing for them. A terrible sorrow completely gripped them. The saw the soldiers roughly stripping Jesus’s white tunic off him. The sight of his body, which was like one great wound was so horrific that the cats and dogs began to shudder with terror. Then came the nailing to the Cross, which they could hardly bare to watch. By this time the Pope, the Patriarch and the others had arrived, and now the Cross was raised aloft between the two thieves. As the Cross was levered into place, the sky began to darken even though it was midday. A cold wind suddenly blew. There was quite a crowd now around the Cross. “Shall we make a dash for it and get close to the Pope and Patriarch?” said Lizzie. The others said, “Yes”. There were more and more people spilling onto the site. The Pope looked down and saw the animals, and smiled at them, and placed his forefinger to his lips for them to keep silent. The dogs had placed themselves close to the Patriarch. As they stood there they saw Mary and the Holy women approach the Cross. The sight of Mary would have broken the hardest heart. Her grief was like no other that any of them had seen. So many of the people around them seemed completely unmoved. So many of them had hard cruel faces. Some were smiling. Dolly whispered to Lily, “They must be the Pharisees and Sadducees.” The Pope looked down and with a kindly look once again signed with his finger for silence.
It was getting darker, and darker. The clouds in the sky were changing to that blue-black colour, but not only was the sky changing colour, but the people on Golgotha were changing, or not so much changing as being added to. More and more people kept arriving, and the space around the Cross began to expand. Koni said to Buffy, “There lots of new people and they’re from every age.” Sure enough people from every age since the creation of the human race began to appear, Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, ancient Chinese, Mesoamericans, Africans, Romans, and then all the peoples of Europe. Emperors and kings, queens, ordinary people. Yume looked through the crowd to catch a glimpse of how big the crowd was now, and gasped. The crowd was so enormous as to defy any description, and the city of Jerusalem had disappeared. Everywhere around the Cross was a great and endless plain. More and more people were coming up Golgotha, which was now the size of a large cricket ground and still growing. The animals and the Pope and Patriarch and the others in the company were, however, very close to the Cross. Koni felt a familiar hand patting her on her head, and there was Valdimir Putin, but dressed like a seventeenth century Tsar. He was smiling at her but his face was stained with tears. Bushy noticed that King Abdullah had appeared looking like the breathing image of Nebuchadnezzar. He thought that did not bode well. Molly caught sight of Binyamin Netanyahu and his red tunic, which looked the same colour as Christ’s blood. Both he and King Abdullah had been weeping, but they did not seem to be the same as Vladimir Putin’s tears. Their tears looked like the tears of guilt and remorse. “I do hope that they change” said Molly to herself, “That depends on them” came a voice, and looking up Molly saw St. Catherine of Siena.
The wind was icy now and cutting through the humans’ clothes and the animals’ fur. The sorrow that the cats and dogs were feeling was so painful, but not as painful as Pope Francis’s grief. He felt that he was being nailed to the Cross. The Patriarch felt that his heart would break physically and emotionally. And the cold was now unbearable. Vladimir had never felt cold like this in all his life.
Suddenly there was a great cry from Christ, “I thirst.” A soldier ran to him with the sponge of vinegar on the hyssop stick. Christ sucked at the sponge, and then said in a clear, calm and beautiful voice, “It is finished!” A man close by said “My Lord and God.” It was Joseph of Arimathea, and next to him was Nicodemus, who fell to the ground moaning. There was a tremendous cracking sound, and the ground shook violently for about thirty seconds. A soldier rushed forward brandishing a spear, and opened Christ’s side with it. Mary who had been standing before her Son on the Cross for most of the time he was on the Cross now raised her hands towards him, and from her came a great light. She became transparent like crystal, and her heart like a beautiful carnelian pulsated with light which went back and forth from Christ’s, which was like a great ruby. From the wound in his heart poured out blood and water in a great torrent. It was like fire, and the water was like liquid diamonds, everywhere this great torrent of mercy flowed. The clouds were dissipated by the blood and water. The cats and dogs found themselves swimming in a sea of blood and water, but not only they but everyone around them. It was not so much swimming but more like flying or dancing. They found themselves with the Pope the Patriarch, and the bishops. It was as if they were dancing in fire mixed with a water fall. They were joined by Vladimir. Then came the other saints who had been with them on the journey. Below them were the vast crowds from every nation and time since the Creation of Adam and Eve. They were all being taken up into the great flood of blood and water from Christ’s side.
The strange dance in which our friends were caught up in was gathering more and more momentum, and more and more dancers were joining the great dance of salvation. The dance, at first moved slowly, but became faster, and went around the Cross which was now huge beyond telling, as was Christ. His body was like liquid light, and his heart was pulsating with lights and colours that brought intense joy to all who looked upon them. Great shafts of golden light were issuing from his hands. Mary was now gazing at ecstasy at her Son. The dancers who were now a countless number were joined by millions upon millions of angels, and still Mary looked with joy at her Son. By her side was St. John the Baptist, and then she was joined by her spouse St. Joseph and all the Old Testament Prophets and Patriarchs.The soldiers and the jeering crowd dissapeared. Great rainbows spread out over the sky.
Then there appeared by the side of St.Joseph, St. Peter and St. Paul and all the apostles. It was at this moment that the Pope and the Patriarch and all their company, along with the cats and dogs realized that the great dance around the Cross had left not only Calvary, but the first Good Friday, and now the Redemption and the Cross were straddling all Creation, and Time itself. The dancers were now flying higher and higher, and the Earth now looked quite small as the whole of the space that the animals were viewing and inhabiting was certainly not the solar system. Music never heard on the earth, and colours never seen led the great dance of redemption faster and faster around the great Cross. Lizzie and all the cats along with Koni, Buffy, and Yume were filled with such joy that they could hardly bear anymore of it, and just when they thought that their hearts would break with joy, they fell asleep.
When the cats awoke they found themselves in the Vatican gardens. It was night and a great crescent moon hung in the sky over St. Peter’s. They were all silent, and blissfully so. They did not want to think, or move. They simply wanted to recall the beauty of the vision of Christ before they had fallen asleep in utter joy. Their reverie was broken by a voice calling out. It was Pope Benedict calling “Contessina, Contessina, where are you?” “I had better get back. Poor Pope Benedict must be very worried.” “We’ll come with you as he must have wondered where you have been all this time.”
But what had happened to the others of the company? Vladimir Putin found himself back in his sitting room with his three dogs at his feet. “I must have been dreaming” he said to himself. “No you weren’t” said Koni, and the others concurred that he had not. “So it was all true.” “Oh yes most certainly it was true!” said a woman’s voice, and there was the Tsarina Alexandra and the Tsar Nicholas with their family. “The truth is so much better than a dream and Heaven is so infinitely more exciting than earth." Vladimir Vladimirovich smiled to himself, chuckled and then began to laugh a laugh of pure delight. He felt for the first time in his life truly alive.
King Abdullah was back in his royal bedroom looking at the Crescent Moon. On the Crescent moon stood the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. The Woman said to Abdullah. “My dearest Son time is running out. The gate to Heaven is humility. My Son you must learn humility, and gentleness. Then the fairest woman that he had ever seen had gone. “I wonder what this thing humility is?”
Binaymin woke up and looked at the Television. “Well that was the most amazing programme I have ever seen.” A figure moved across the screen and switched it off not by remote control, but by his spirit. The figure turned around and Binyamin gasped, “So it is true. You are...” “The Messiah. Yes” said Jesus and took the weeping Binyamin in his arms, who kept sobbing and saying “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” “Worry not my son, just love, simply love.”
Ibrahim, Moses and Raj found themselves before the tomb of St. Peter in St. Peter’s. There was a man kneeling there. He got up and turned round. It was St. Peter himself. Beaming at them, he said “You are most welcome, you are most welcome.” “Will you have us among your band?” “Of course, it would bring me great joy.”
The Pope, The Patriarch, Archbishop Hilarion, Cardinals Boniface and Goodfellow, and Bishop Placid found themselves in the Pope’s small apartment in the Domus Martha. “What an amazing experience” said the Patriarch, “Indeed it was” replied the Pope. “Could you set it to music, Hilarion?” asked the Patriarch, “I doubt it.” Everyone was brought down to Earth by Cardinal Boniface, who said “I wonder where the cats are?” The Pope said “I think I know; come with me.”
Contessina bounded over to Pope Benedict purring and dancing excitedly. “Oh it is so good to be home.” She said. “But you haven’t been away long.” Said Benedict. “You only left the Clementine Hall this afternoon. I’m sure your friends would like something to eat.” He continued. However, before Contessina could say anything, the other cats started making lots of chirping and bleating noises and shouting, “Look there, the hermits are coming for us.” They started jumping around and getting ever so excited, and might they well, for hovering above them was the most beautiful balloon that you have ever seen. It was silvery, and sparkled like a star, and it was also musical. It kept making beautiful tinkling and bell like sounds. “It reminds me of a Fabergé egg” said Pope Benedict, “It does rather.” said a voice and there by the side of Pope Benedict was Archbishop George. They both were joined by the sisters. “Oh it is so beautiful" they said “And who’s that walking towards us?” “It’s The Holy Father.” Said Archbishop George, “So it is.” Said Pope Benedict “And he’s got the Patriarch of Moscow with him, and my dear friend, Archbishop Hilariion. Well what a delightful treat, and there are Cardinals Boniface and Goodfellow, and Bishop Placid. "Now what a beautiful Balloon. Have you ever seen such a thing?” asked Pope Benedict. "i can't say I have" replied Archbishop George.
The beautiful Balloon was no ordinary balloon, because when it landed the Balloon did not fall over sideways or anything like that. It and the basket remained quite rigid. “Oh there’s Sister Colette, and Brother Damon and Brother Stephen” shouted Bushy in his rather hoarse voice. “Have you come to take us home?” “Yes we have indeed.” said Sister Colette, “We were so worried, you have been away for days and we had no idea where you were, and here you are - talking!” “We even had a Police search for you.” said Brother Damon. “I was convinced that you had been kidnapped.” said Brother Stephen. “He always expects the worst doesn’t he?” said Brother Damon to the cats. “Well not always.” said Dolly, “At least he doesn’t worry about us quite as much as you do.”
“So you are cat loving hermits?” asked Pope Benedict, “Very much your Holiness. In that we are just like you.” said Brother Damon.
Pope Francis stepped forward and said, “This is most unusual, hermits in a balloon. It is almost as strange as all the extraordinary events that we have participated in recently. The world is indeed a strange place.” The hermits had not heard anything that the Pope had said. They had dropped to their knees and were absolutely captivated by something. A voice, that sounded like the most glorious breeze on a summer's day, and the roar of a waterfall, said “The World is a wonderful place, and everything I created is most wonderful.” “Oh Father, what have we done to deserve this visit?” said Brother Stephen. “Nothing, nothing, all is love, all is grace.” Tears were pouring down Brother Damon’s face for in the arms of the Father were the first cats that the hermits ever had, Smokey and Scruffy, who bounded out of the Father’s arms and ran towards the hermits, and then another one emerged from deep within the Father’s arms, and Brother Damon jumped out of the basket and ran towards Teddy, the brother of Lizzie and Molly. He wept with joy to find Teddy alive and not dead as when he had found him outside the Church two years before, when he had been run over and killed.
Before this adventure, the humans would have thought that hermits should not get so attached to animals, but now they were looking at things differently. The Pope looked at The Father who was radiating a love so profound, so ancient and pure, so almighty. The Patriarch was lost in wonder, as were the two bishops and two Cardinals. Pope Benedict smiled and understood.
“Nothing that I have created is lost, nothing.” Said the Father, “Now my dear hermits, Damon, Colette and Stephen, remember humility, above all humility." The hermits looked with great love at the Father, and He looked into the depths of their hearts and his love flooded through their hearts and souls. Then he was gone, and they were with the cats not outside Pope Benedict’s residence, but in the kitchen in their hermitage.
“I suppose you will be wanting something to eat Bushy love, won’t you?” asked Brother Damon, “And the rest of us as well", said Lizzy. Sammy, who as usual was striding around with his tail pointing straight up in the air broke in, "First, don't you think we should give a little performance, we know how much our hermits love Gilbert and Sullivan, but they haven't seen our version yet!" "Oh yes!" Dolly and Lily were jumping up and down in excitement, "Please Lizzy, please say yes!" Lizzy laughed, "Only if Sammy starts us off with Mystic Way, and if our Daddy Damon clears the refectory table for us, the kitchen worktop is too small." To the hermits delight and amazement the cats all danced two by two into the refectory with Freddy bounding in last after having dashed into the internal garden to get a stick for Sammy to use as a baton. Six of the cats then lined up as a chorus line behind Sammy who started his song: