Wednesday 20 July 2016

He has fixed His sign in the sky

I wonder how long it took for the news to filter through, that things had changed, that the sons of the old emperors had fought and one had died, driven headlong into the river as the Milvian Bridge collapsed and his own retreating forces, panicking, tried to cross, dragged to the bottom, drowned.

I wonder if any of you who had survived in the face of the burnings and the beheadings and the devourings were present as the Augustus rode through the city and paid no respects to Jupiter, or to the Invincible Sun. If you saw, flaking, battered, but still visible, the marks of a strange symbol painted on the shields of the men, and wondered what it signified, if you dared to understand what it meant? If you dared to hope?

The stories, came then. The X in the sky. Dreams. Words. The Christians in their catacombs and houses, your hidden assemblies. You have dreamed dreams, have seen visions for an age now.

The statues of the emperors lay down before a man wearing Christ's seamless garment.

Jesus, nailed dead on the scaffold, travels with the resurrected prophets and saints and flings open the gates of Hell, routs the demons and the fallen angels, stands face to face with Satan and beats him unconscious.

The Spearman's eye, healed by a drop of gushing blood, the spear given the power of victory to its owner and passed from hand to hand in secret.

The shroud kept in trust by Veronica, imprinted with the face of Christ.

Thecla, delivered from the beasts and clothed in light.

The Theban Legion, six thousand, six hundred and sixty-six men converted to the faith, every last one of them martyred in dreams.

Simon Magus, changer of faces and shapes, thaumaturge, would-be ally turned enemy, ripped from the air by the prayers of Peter.

Signs of blood, of revenge. And now the sky itself shows itself as on your side.

And Christ, the bringer of peace, wins the day in war. The persecutor brought low.

But the flames, you can see the flames dancing in front of your eyes, that day you stood silent when someone braver than you stood and witnessed and was consigned to glory with smoke and heat and screams and the smell of charred meat.

And you watched.

The Emperor believes. The Emperor believes. You know people who refuse to credit that, but here he is. With his sign that is now your sign, and you're with him now. The upper hand is yours. You have the blessing of the state. And now you have the apparatus. You have a network of communication and you have a hierarchy that functions and continues. You have the high hand now.

And the pagans look at you like cowed wolves, cowering in the corner. Oh, the changes that you will see. Oh, the reckoning that will come. They know this as well as you. The lamb is led to the slaughter no more. The lamb shall turn and bite.

And your numbers are growing now, new people are joining daily, but they're not like you, they haven't seen the hard times, they haven't seen the flames, the flames you still see behind your eyes, the sword, the arena beasts licking their chops.

Oh, the reckoning. He has fixed His sign in the Sky.

Rome is yours. What will it be like for you when the change comes, when you travel from persecuted to holder of power in the space of months? What vengeance will you take?