I didn't need Jesus to evict me this time. Inspired by all the street angels I decided for myself to leave the cathedral and try again to find the Bride in the world. Exiting the building I felt a distinctly November chill in the air and looked back and forth between the Gothic cathedral to my right with its square gingerbread spires, and big brick homes to my left and wondered which direction I should take. In the midst of cogitating, another straggler-angel approached me from behind.
Observing me ponder Pineal politely asked, "May I help you?"
"Oh, hello, I want to find Christ's Bride, the Church, in the world to learn more about Her mystical year. I tried once and failed and now have mustered the courage to try again. Any suggestions?"
"I can do better than suggest, follow me," replied Pineal. In military fashion, Pineal maintained a wingspan length in front of me. "Uh, where are we going?" I shouted to be heard over the speeding traffic.
Pineal stopped and turned to face me before saying, "I am taking you to the home of one of the little gods, as you call them, when in reality they are The Bride, inasmuch as a finger is the hand it is attached to. Without the fingers what is a hand but a useless stump? This elderly man lives alone since his long ailing wife passed away three full moons ago. He fills with prayer the emptied hours once spent in nursing her. His prayers have opened gateways through which illustrious souls have come to visit him. Let's join them. With that, Pineal turned back and flew up Massachusetts Avenue with me trailing like the tail of a kite.
In a flash we arrived at a mature tree-lined street of fifty year old homes that had been planted into a rolling hill, many of them now heavily clothed with moss and ivy.
Pineal boldly flew up to the front bay windows of house after house peeking in until he said, "This is it! Let's go. I followed him through the window to find an old man with a shock of white hair and a thick silver mustache sitting at the head of his dining room table; a game of solitaire laid out before him. He was wearing a dark blue wool cardigan sweater that had grown old with him and perfectly draped the contour of his arms and shoulders. As my eyes grew accustomed to the natural light level in the room, neither dark nor bright, but with a glow that seemed to defy electricity to make the room any more cozy than the old man, and his small cup of steaming Greek coffee, and his dining room table and cards had already made it.
As my eyes grew accustomed to the light, I saw that the man was not alone. Without moving his lips he was engaged in a conversation with two others. They were chatting away about something I couldn't understand. Again Pineal came to my rescue.
He whispered, "The man on his right is St. John Chrysostom come to visit on his holy feast day. The one on his left is St. Gregory Palamas, who is celebrated the following day. They had both been Archbishops and suffered harsh criticisms and though a millennium apart, had become close friends in heaven."
"What are they saying?" I asked with great interest. Pineal tapped my head to upload the Greek translator.
"Manolis, let me try to explain this to you again!" I overheard Palamas say, exasperated but determined. "The grace of God, His tolerance and forgiveness, His blessings when we least deserve them are not created like you and I with all our emotions and opinions are created. Before Creation there was God with all of His essence and all of His energies, and angels and life, such as we cannot imagine, and shouldn't try."
With that Pineal and I looked at each other, grinning and nodding like two bobble head dolls.
"As Spirit, Holy Spirit, God is energy. When He made humankind in His image and likeness, He poured into us this uncreated primal energy.
And then I saw John Chrysostom nod and interject, "Think of it this way Manolis, His grace, this undeserving, unmerited favor which He bestows on one person at a time is His way of continuing to pour forth throughout Creation His energy. This is God's continual interaction with mankind. He gives of Himself, as He expects His children to do. It is the difference between giving a dollar and giving succor."
Then Palamas took over by adding, "Don't you see, that if grace was created, like matter or like that anonymous dollar, we couldn't have genuine communion with the uncreated God. The uncreated grace of God brings us into himself. Matter, no matter how valuable never could do that. Grace reaches into pre-creation and extends out to the depths of human existence where we need it most to relate to us."
Manolis was quiet and pensive. His visitors obviously felt no need to keep hammering the point. Instead they waited patiently looking around his room at the old photographs of his children when they were children and his wife when she was young, and from time to time, they bowed their heads in meditative silence.
Manolis broke the silence. With his eyes he reached over to grab Chrsysostom's attention, received it and asked, "was it God's grace that carried you through those years of suffering in exile, and the damning treatment you received from so many whom you loved?"
John Chrysostom replied, "my brother, it is a dangerous world you live in. If one doesn't struggle in his ...or even attempt to become like God, to experience Theosis," and with that he looked over at Palamas and smiled, "then one must wonder if he or she is on the path to the narrow gate. And yet!" He exclaimed raising his forefinger high, "as I have always said, and these words my brother, live by, 'Christ left us on earth that we should become like beacons of light and teachers unto others; that we might act like leaven, move among men like angels, be like men unto children, and like spiritual men unto animal men in order to win them over, and that we may be like seed and bear abundant fruit. There would be no need for words if you bear witness with your deeds. Manolis, there would be no pagans, if you and those who want to be, were true Christians."
Manolis' eyes puffed-up and he shivered ever so slightly. Then he looked down at his cards, flipped three and came up with the ace of hearts. He smiled ever so slightly but with great satisfaction.
Gregory was the first to stand. "We must be going now, And you my brother should begin to prepare for the Advent fast that begins on Friday. Take yourself out of this house and go; buy your beans and tomatoes. Live from the earth and take nothing from an animal." With that Gregory smiled, knowing that this gentle man had always regarded the labor of the cow with great respect, and for that reason never ate of its meat."
"Ah, yes." Manolis responded pensively. "The birth of our Savior. The great condescension of God almighty and the greatest give of Himself. I must prepare body and soul." And this man, whose wife birthed for him ten children, four of which had died in youth, began to set in motion his journey to the birth of his Savior.
"Pineal?" I asked. "Can we follow Saint John and Saint Gregory to see where they go?"