DECEMBER 23 2017
It’s the season to be merry, so here is an episode of pure playfulness, a good example of what I think ETERNITY is all about.
Imagining Eternity (part 4)
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO AND TWENTY THREE
DAY WITHOUT END.
A ball game: unrivalled ever.
The sounds of many people and animals can no longer escape us: the roaring voices of lions, the trumpeting of elephants, the snorting sound of bears are plainly audible. Curiosity gets the better of us. What could be happening?
Initia gives me my sandals which I had left lying on the field and we hurry to the open field in a valley where we also meet Arctica and Jethro. We approach a natural amphitheater, with the edges all around rising, creating an ideal playing field, perfectly suited for spectators and players alike.
On the field are animals: lions, tigers and bears. Huge bears, grizzly bears. They are all in motion, running, jumping, kicking. They are kicking a ball! Elephants are trumpeting, calling all people who are arriving in droves. The air is electrified with excitement. I ask some people nearby what is happening.
“There is going to be a game,” they reply. “Some sort of ball competition between lions and tigers.”
Sure enough, bears wait at either end to be the goalies. Elephants extend their trunks until they touch, forming the goals. Monkeys are ready to fetch the ball when it goes out of bounds or when somebody scores.
All animals huddle together around a man who stands in the centre explaining the rules.
The session is over. A few lions need some clarification, but the elephants are off already, wobbling quickly to the ends of the field. The grizzlies race them for it. A pair of tigers try out the goalie who proves to be quite agile in catching the ball, standing on his hind legs. While he stretches, he almost touches the extended trunks. The elephants do not move one inch.
Who is the referee, I wonder, and who are manning the lines? Then I see some eagles overhead. One is hovering over the centre. He holds a large ball in his claws. Other eagles are flying over the edges of the field, apparently on the watch for any out of bounds ball. I am sure that no infraction will escape their attention.
But who is the referee? Is it the person who has given the instruction to the animals?
I count twenty tigers and eighteen lions on the field. I hear a sharp whistle and promptly a number of animals leave and settle on the side lines. The others arrange themselves in a proper position, just as in human soccer games I have watched.
I can sense the tension. The referee?” It is Jesus,” the man next to me whispers?? walks to the centre. He places the ball, which the huge eagle has dropped in his arms, in the centre. The eagle remains overhead, slowly circling above the middle of the field.
Now there is a moment of silence. Total silence to honour the Silence who made all this possible. Even the crickets are quiet. Then the birds begin to sing, one first. A nightingale, so pure, so clear, so uplifting, that soon other birds join in. Still the ball lies there, untouched.
I hear the concert, but my eyes are locked on the ball and so are the eyes of thousands of onlookers.
How long will this last?
The animals tense up. They stand, waiting for the signal to start.
Jesus looks up to the eagle, who wags his wings. Then the whistle blows.
The centre lion looks up. He moves his head from right to left to make doubly sure that his forwards are in place. His tail whips up and down. Then he jumps, and with his hind legs skillfully passes the ball to the lion behind him, while he runs way ahead to the goal.
The game is on. The ball sails through the sky, a long pass to the left corner.
A tiger intercepts it on his head and swiftly passes it to another teammate who lets it roll to the goalie. The grizzly throws a long, high ball to the centre.
The crowd is in motion too, following the game with rapt attention. I see Jesus run up and down the field with a swiftness I had never thought him capable of, but then I had never pictured Jesus as a referee in a game such as this.
The whistle blows. The eagle on the right line has detected an offside: the tigers have been a bit too eager.
Free kick for the lions.
The tension mounts, a pleasant tension, as winning is not important. Only the sheer delight of the playing counts, the display of skill, the marvel of animals acquiring such talent. Not a circus in the old world could ever have remotely approached this extra-ordinary entertainment, so delightful are the skilful passes, the marvelous motions of running, the vaulting through the air in pursuit of an elusive ball. It all adds up to a scene of amazing cheer and amusement.
I have always been an ardent soccer fan, have even attended international soccer matches. But never a game such as this.
It makes my legs itch to go out and play soccer as well and when half time comes and the animals go to the sidelines, the eagle picks up the ball and throws it at me. How, I wonder, does he know my wish? Never mind. I dribble the ball to the centre, and, as if by magic twenty-one other players appear. We have a quick conference, the goalies are placed between the stalwart elephants, and we supply the half-time entertainment.
We don’t have the speed, the cunning, the agility the tigers and the lions have, but what fun! It is sheer joy to run the field, pass the ball, trying out new techniques, so easily done here because of our superior body condition and the unadulterated air.
What a joy, to run, to fly, to kick, to jump, to live. What a delight to do the impossible, to play against others who also do the impossible. The whole game is mathematically impossible, as we all are perfect players, kicking perfect shots, which cannot possibly be stopped, and yet are stopped, making perfect passes, which cannot possibly be intercepted, and yet are intercepted, as still some passes are more perfect than others.
What is perfect is the fun, the total abandon into sheer physical enjoyment, the outwitting of others, the rapturous pleasure of perfect co-ordination.
How long is this intermission going to last?
The eagles hover overhead, following the movement of the ball. I can sense their concentration; they do not lapse their attention for one instant.
A pass comes my way, sailing through the air. I am ready to receive it but it keeps on sailing. The ball abruptly has acquired a momentum of its own. Strange. That is not the way it is supposed to be.
All eyes are riveted on the ball. It goes outside the playing field and lands in the outstretched arms of our Brother, the Son of Man.
He laughs and we all join in. He walks from among the people, the teenagers who have cluttered around him, the women and the men, and makes his way to the centre of the field, throwing the ball up to the centre eagle with a swift motion of his arm. He calls the animals and human players to him.
In the centre of the field we gather, women, tigers, lions, men, grizzly bears, elephants, the centre eagle still holding the ball overhead, the two other eagles perched on top of an elephant.
Are we all equals to our Brother, the Son of Man?
Are the lions equal to us?
The question boggles my mind.
Our Brother looks at me. He knows my dilemma. Is this a “yes, but” situation? True, we all have eternal life. True, we are perfect, yet I cannot see myself equal to the Son of God. But is he also our Brother, the Son of Man, just as I am a son of man, born out of humanity?
Perhaps over time, perhaps in the course of eternity, as I grow more acquainted with matters eternal, my feelings–and that is what they are–will change.
What is to come next?
The eagle has dropped the ball and the Son of Man holds it up in his hand above his head. It reminds me of referees I had known, ready to signal the resumption of a game after an unforeseen interruption.
A tiger brushes against my legs; I feel its muscular body. Next to me a rather tall man is dwarfed by an erect grizzly bear. A little further I see a teenager seated on the elephant and a young woman nonchalantly leaning against a lion.
Jesus also looks at me, when he says: “Creatures of God the Father. Together we are now in charge of creation. Our work is now play, our play is now work. In all circumstances we will proceed in complete accord. The welfare of one person, the welfare of one animal, the welfare of one tree, one plant, one flower, one piece of soil, one drop of water, is the welfare of all of us. Everything and everybody is tied in with everybody and everything.
“As humans our task is to uncover the Eternal Plan, embedded in creation from the beginning. Every creature reflects the creator’s greatness, but we humans more so. Every person and animal tells us a bit more of our Creator: every tree, every plant reveals something more of His magnificence. Through any and all of us here we see God the Father as He really is and through any and all of us we can see ourselves as we really are.
“This soccer game offered us some insight into our future. The animals always have been portrayed as lower than humans. Now they too have been liberated from the suffering of our sin and have come into their own. Playing together offered us a different perspective, showing us their intellect and physical prowess.
“All of you, humans and animals, must work together for the good of the kingdom and rejoice together as well. A start has been made and having fun is an important part in this. Through recreation also we will accomplish the fullness of creation and the building of the new Jerusalem.
“Now, go your way, discover the cosmos, roam our realm, learn her secrets, investigate all things and retain what is fitting for you. You will find the Father’s world infinite as you are infinite. Enjoy yourselves, be merry, and take your time.”
With words like this, understandable to humans and animals alike, our Brother speaks.
He throws the ball up in the air. A grizzly neatly bounces it from his head to the next towering bear who catches it in his paws and throws it to me.
I am taken by surprise, am a bit dazed by this unexpected throw. I nevertheless react swiftly and kick it out of my hands high and far up in the sky where the eagle catches it and keeps it.
The crowd disperses.
I join Initia, Arctica and Jethro, who have remained among the spectators and have followed the games with great interest.
“What is your opinion of all this?” I ask Jethro.
He rubs his chin or scratches his beard: it is hard to tell which. It is plain that he seems a bit confused by it all.
“This is all so foreign to me,” he says finally, “such an emphasis on fun now, on play. In my first life, lions were my enemies: they wanted my sheep. I killed them. Now I walk up to a lion and embrace it as I saw you doing. Before, we were mortal enemies: my cunning versus his. Now we will combine our abilities to discover God’s greatness. Fantastic. I am eager to try it, especially now that I know that there never will be failure or disappointment but only success and satisfaction.”
“Do you want to join us?” I ask. “Will you come with us?”
Jethro looks at Arctica who is quietly but intensely following our conversation. “I don’t have a flying tool,” he objects.
“Why don’t you share mine,” offers Arctica. “I can sit on your back or, better, we can extend the platform a bit so that we can stand on it together. You are actually not much bigger than I am. As a matter of fact I think you are smaller,” and with a mischievous grin, she jumps up and makes him stand back-to -back with her. “See, I beat you, you little squirt.”
Jethro laughs. “OK, let’s try it. I’m curious to find out how this works anyhow.”
Arctica explains the simple tool to him. Jethro, by placing his two feet on the left pedestal, sees it extend automatically. He asks Arctica to step on the right footrest and this too extends to comfortably fit her. So, in no time the first two-person space hopper is ready.
“Handy fellow to have around,” I say to Initia, as we watch them improvise the first two-passenger space stilt. Together they balance on the foothold, and with Arctica setting the instruments and saying ‘go,’ they take off, disappear, and the next instant, it seems, return.
“Beautiful way to travel,” says Jethro, “Let’s go.”
“Not so quick,” interrupts Initia. “I would still like to know more about Moses. Tell us more, first about you and then about Moses. Will you?”
Jethro looks at us and we all sit down again. “I came back to this oasis to take up my old life, but it seems that this plan is not working out. I wanted to take up where I had left off. Life in Midian had its tensions but in many ways, it almost was perfect.”
Lost in thought, he muses, “True, my daughters were bullied by their male counterparts in the sheep-herding business. And I never had a son, although that had not bothered me too much. I loved my seven daughters and then suddenly Moses was there. He became like a son to me, even more than that: my closest friend as well. His coming changed my life.
“What a surprise it had been that late afternoon when Zipporah brought him home. He was a good-looking man. In spite of his dusty appearance, I could see that his clothes were expensive, the finest of Egyptian linen.
“He spoke a different language, but knew enough words of our language to explain that he came from Egypt. He already knew a lot about us and our family, because after my daughters had come home with the sheep, he had asked the other shepherds about the settlement and in particular about our family, the family with the seven fair daughters.
“How different he was. He asked the silliest questions, but was quite guarded about himself at first.
“With my daughters he was a real hit. Especially with Zipporah, who was head over heels in love with him from the minute she had met him. She was the one who had raced back to fetch him when all of them begged me to invite him.
“It took a while for him to tell his story. We invited him to stay for the night and we had a special meal. You know most of that story. Soon he became my son-in-law.
“He knew an awful lot. He spoke many languages. In no time he had mastered our language and also learned Arabic. It was fascinating to see him write. He made all his notes in Hebrew and he guarded his notes quite carefully.
“I was a priest and he wanted to know everything about our religion and told me about his. He learned from me, as I learned from him. We both believed in the same God, the God Creator, who had revealed himself in his creation, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
“After he had done a lot of traveling in faraway countries, he asked me to let him tend our sheep. He had acquired so much material, heard so many stories that he wanted time to reflect and to record all this.
“He also wanted to become intimate with the ways of the desert and to be close to God. He was a most scholarly man but also practical. He was a great man to have around: a good husband, a good father, a good son. Fun too. He played the harp and took it along when he tended the sheep, just as David did later.
“Moses learned a lot more in his forty years with us. Those were really his maturing years when things fell into place for him. He walked with God continuously and slowly through the Spirit of the God Creator he learned more. He also gained much knowledge from others about the birth of creation. He had pored over old records everywhere and so he had pieced together the lives of Cain, Lamech, Noah, Abraham.”
Jethro pauses to take a bite from one of his fruits.
“One day he came home, his face shining, radiant, as if the light of the sun was bouncing off him.
“The sheep had followed him home in such an orderly manner, so subdued, as if he was leading them on a string. Unbelievable. I have been around sheep for a long time and never seen such a scene before or since, I knew something extraordinary had happened.
“It was days before Moses talked about it. When Zipporah saw him, she actually was a bit scared. He acted very differently, as if he had seen God.
“‘Yes,’ he told me when the shine had faded somewhat from his face. ‘Yes, God has appeared to me.’ Well, you know the rest.
“He went to Egypt. Went the same route he had traveled forty years earlier. Alone, as he had done so often in the past years. The Lord Creator would be his guide.
“Our life was different without him. Later he sent word that the Exodus had taken place. After that, I met him again and brought his family along. I was glad I could be of some assistance to him then.”
“I wish I could talk with him,” I say, when Jethro falls silent.
“Well, go ahead,” I hear a voice behind me and when I turn around I see a rugged-looking young man.
“Welcome back, Moses,” says Jethro, embracing him and introducing us. Moses is different from any other person I have met. Is it because his grave has never been found? Is it because he has been in the Lord’s company, and, together with Elijah, has planned the early stages of the new creation?
Here he is standing in front of me, a giant in the kingdom, a prince in the Church. So far none of the popes or cardinals, princes in the earthly church, have been noticeable by any particular sign. Moses is not really different at first glance and yet he stands out: his expression, his bearing, his authority, his radiance are striking. In a world filled with saints, he catches the eye.
We sit down again. Initia and Arctica sit on either side of Moses with Jethro and I opposite them.
Jethro gives us a drink, rather thick and white, like cream, which he has taken from a coconut-like fruit.
I drink it cautiously first, more curious about its taste than its nutritional value. There is no such hesitation on the part of Moses and Jethro. Apparently the fluid is familiar to them and the eagerness with which they reach for it reveals their desire.
There is so much I want to know from Moses, so after he has finished his drink I ask him, “The first five books of God’s record to us, the Pentateuch, are called after you, the five books of Moses. Jethro told us a few things about them. Can you give me some more details?”
Moses smiles and looks around at the others, expecting more questions, but all four eagerly look at him. Before speaking he extends his cup to Jethro who fills it again with the cream.
“Well,” he says, “I did not write five books. I wrote one story about the people of God from the beginning till just before my death. In my writings I first relied on documents I located in the library of Pharaoh where I started my research. I then simply wanted to learn more about my ancestry. There I found interesting material about Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. Joseph had written down much of what Jacob had told him. Later, when I met Jethro and married his wonderful daughter, I settled in Midian and traveled throughout the Middle East, questioning many wise people and scholars. Guided by the Spirit of God I found all sorts of creation accounts, most of them similar.
“Of course you know that I was not there when God created the cosmos. I could never, in exact detail, describe God’s creative actions. Yet, to an agricultural people as the Israelite nation was, I had to give an account of the origin of God’s kingdom in such a way that it would be understandable to my people who lived so close to the land, and who had no real schooling. When I finally put the creation account on paper, I did it with a great degree of prayerful caution, because what I really did was put myself in God’s place and asked myself time and again how God would have wanted me to do it and I think his Spirit guided me in this. I wrote it, in the first place, for the people of Israel while they were in the desert and needed more precise ideas about the ways of the Lord Creator.
“Had I written it in your time, I would have said it quite differently, I imagine. God’s Spirit guided me, but also, the Lord in his goodness allowed me a great range of different experiences in life, and this made me more suitable than anybody else to write about the beginning. Later, when I was with the Lord Creator and I saw the entire picture, I could see how my description of the creation account was inadequate at best; no more than a mere retelling of an act basically beyond the power of words. No mortal could ever have fully described the creation of the world.”
“Where did you find the accounts of Abel and Cain, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel?” I ask. “Did you try to find the Ark and were there still some ruins of the Tower of Babel?” asks Arctica, while Jethro refills our cups.
“Yes, I did find the Tower of Babel, or what was left of it. It was just a pile of rubble. Roving tribes had carted away much of the stone and only some irregular pieces were still around. But even those were impressive. No, I never looked for the Ark. I have spoken to people who have seen its location, but there again, all of the remnants were used for firewood and building materials. I found documents aplenty describing the two events as well as references to Cain and Abel. About the big Flood, too, I located numerous accounts. I called often upon the Spirit to infuse me with the Truth.”
Arctica nods, and remarks: “Now that we know what really happened I am truly amazed how simply you have worded the Scriptures and how comprehensive your accounts were.”
“Thank you very much.”
For a while nobody says anything, then Jethro says to no one in particular, “When I join the three of you on your world tour, I would like to go to Egypt.”
Moses looks around the circle and smiles. He is ready to leave but Initia still has a question. “Moses, as you can see, we all are from different parts of the cosmos and also from different time periods.
“I have noticed,” says Moses, “that each one of you has your particular accent. You also use expressions that are typical to your origin. You also look different, of course. What is your question?”
“Did you know about us at all, before you met us here?”
“I knew about you, Initia, and about you too, Arctica. For a long time, you Initia, were the lone star in your big country. Later many of your kin became part of the Way. Many of your people, Arctica, were close to the Creator and I must say that I deeply admired your way of life in the barren north. Too cold for my liking, but admirable.”
“Ours was a clean life, peaceful, harmonious, close to the earth,” responded Arctica. “The winters were long and that is what I liked the best: the stories, the tall tales, the togetherness, almost like this. We talked about the Infinite, about God, and later about the Son and the Spirit. We talked and prayed and sang our Inuit songs.”
“Actually I know quite a lot about you two,” says Moses. “Just as I was in charge of the wandering Israelites in the desert for forty years, so the Father Creator gave me, upon my request, the supervision of the diaspora, people like you and Initia, the loners of the Way. I supervised Cornelius, your guardian angel. Now I am visiting my past flock.”
“Were you are in charge of a number of the guardian angels?” wonders Initia.
“Well, ‘in charge’ is too big a word. They really were quite independent but we discussed the more difficult cases, difficult in the sense of their communal support or lack of it and so I helped them to arrange periodic visits from other saints. Oh, before I go, I have something here for you, Jethro. You will find it interesting, I am sure. I have to go now but I do know that we will meet again soon. ”
“A remarkable man, this Moses,” says Jethro. “He looks younger now than when I first saw him at forty years of age. When I met him later, in the desert, he still had that youthful appearance, even though he was well over eighty. Zipporah told me that when the Lord took him at one hundred and twenty years of age, he still was like a young man, full of strength, full of zip, with keen eye-sight and a sharp brain. He truly was a man of God and the more years he added to his life, the greater his reliance on God, the Father Creator.”
“What did he give you?” asks Initia.
Jethro hands her the parcel Moses left, another seeing device and disks, all in one unit.
Since I have handled them before, Initia gives them to me. On the box it plainly says, “To be viewed on location in Egypt.”
I show this to the rest of our group and thus we set our dials for Egypt, the Nile Delta where we find ourselves in the next instant.