Gabriel and I promptly flew away from maiden Mary leaving her with big thoughts and the most experienced guardian angel God could find. It wasn't the distance from Nazareth to the Mount of Temptation near Jericho that bothered me as much as the thirty years time travel. This flight was much more turbulent than when we came from there. Besides the bumpy ride, I did not particularly want to go back. In fact, if Gabriel had not been following me so closely I might have taken a detour which is probably why he accompanied me the whole way back.
We arrived to find Jesus just waking up. "Greetings Gabriel. What are you doing here?" He asked groggily, "How could I have slept so long and so soundly?"
Gabriel looked around for Michael who was nowhere to be seen before saying, "I took your angel friend on a quick trip, but as You see I have returned him safe and sound my Lord. I must depart now. God, the Father asked me to report immediately to Him about the Annunciation. Tootle-loo!"
"Tootle-loo!!" I shouted disregarding Jesus who looked amused by my fear. "How could you leave us here? This place is crawling with demons and I am NOT a fighter angel."
"I am not a fighter either," Gabriel snapped back, "I'm sure that Michael will arrive soon. You will be fine. The Holy Spirit has you on His radar. I'll see you at Saint Sophia's in a few weeks... and a couple of millennia, okay?" added Gabriel more calmly before taking off.
No sooner had the Archangel left when the devil appeared. Without consulting me, Jesus followed him up the mountain. 'Hey Jesus!" I shouted as loud as I could. What are you doing?!' I started to panic, 'Don't you realize how shrewd and diabolical he is? Come back here before it's too late!!"
I was completely at a loss because I had never confronted the devil before, and frankly I was afraid to approach him, even if it meant saving Jesus, so I decided to follow from a distance and watch.
To my horror, Jesus and the devil reached the top of the mountain together. They stood side-by-side gazing at the broad vista. From that position they could see towns and villages that dotted the plains below. It all looked so splendid. I overheard the devil say to Jesus "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." I saw Jesus look around in silence imagining what He would do with so many kingdoms.
Then, calmly after looking over and shooting me a reassuring smile, Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'Worship The Lord your God, and serve only Him."
With that the devil left, and a gaggle of white angels appeared to shower Christ with mists of cool spring water. I watched. It seemed so easy, no artillery, no grenades. Jesus simply stated the obvious; something that the devil should finally admit to knowing.
"Can we go back down now?" I asked Jesus after the angels flew away.
"Actually, I want to take you to Mount Sinai in the seventh century to pay a visit to my brother John Climacus. He has made a science of warring with the devil by climbing a different kind of mountain and I want you to meet him." Since I have my ways of travel and you have yours we will have to meet there. Go immediately to the vestry of the Monastery of Saint Katherine, NO DETOURS! "
"Wait a minute!" I shouted in vain since Christ had already disappeared. Nevertheless I continued my thought. 'If you could travel so easily, why did we have to struggle so much to climb this mountain?' Then I heard a little voice as of the Holy Spirit reply in my heart, 'You are about to leave the time zone when Christ was human and had to climb the mountain. Because the Bride's Great Lent spans centuries and transcends time, Her mystical 40 days does the same. Now hurry, there is still plenty to experience and Lent is quickly coming to a close.'
Heeding His advice I took off immediately and surprisingly had no trouble at all finding my destination.
In a small and dusty room I found an old man with a long gray beard sitting at his desk writing. Jesus was in the room too standing in the corner, but he didn't look as He did on the mountain. I wondered when He had found the time to bathe and to change His clothes, and where.
Even more strangely, John was not paying any attention to Jesus but kept writing. I looked at Jesus and asked, "Why is John ignoring you?"
"He is not ignoring me," replied Jesus, "I am helping him write His book, 'The Ladder of Divine Ascent.' But the truth is that John cannot see me. He just knows that I am here. He knows I need neither water nor food, and so there is no reason to play the host. Enough of that, I want you to sit in John's presence to learn more about My Bride's disdain of time and matter, and about Her extraordinary fighting skills. Look over his shoulder and read."
Several pieces of parchment were scattered around John's desk. My eyes fell on one that read,'We have countless hidden enemies-evil enemies, harsh, deceitful, wicked enemies with fire in their hands, wishing to set the Lord's temple alight with the flame that is in it. These enemies are powerful, unsleeping, incorporeal and unseen."
I knew he got that one right, but I wondered if John could see them too or if Christ had told him about them.
Jesus spoke up. "He can see them. Yes, they are vicious and everywhere. What John and I have been discussing is how vital My Bride is to the war with the demons and even satan himself."
"With all due respect my Lord, a female against the army of demons?" I replied, "Certainly you overestimate Your Bride."
Jesus retorted, "Angel, after all these months, you still know so little about My Bride. John here is one of many officers in Her holy army who trains Our children for battle. His 'Ladder of Divine Ascent' describes very different steps than the ones we climbed to reach the summit of the Mount of Temptation. The Generals in My Bride's military forces have constructed a tightrope for our children to walk upon spiritually so that each step is sure and safe, to dodge the bullets of the evil one in all its forms, and so they may land safely in My Kingdom. More than that, these tiny stepping stones actually serve to quash the enemy."
I looked down at a very old man with a long white beard, and was reminded of a story a fellow angel had told me ages ago.
My angel-friend was speaking to Zechariah who wanted to know what was meant by the two olives trees pouring oil into a golden lamp. My friend told him that it was the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.' I thought then and now that for the olive oil to create light was certainly more amazing than a hundred suns. I thought too how the word of The Lord was a form of light. Certainly the spirit is mightier than the sword.
Jesus crashed into my daydream to say, "During these days of journey through the Lenten wilderness, Our children are buffeted by the demons more than usual. It is during these days that John's book is read daily to illuminate the safe path through this valley of the shadow of death."
After giving me a few moments to absorb all that He was trying to teach me about the Bride and Lent, Jesus said to me, "Angel, count yourself blessed that up until now, you have had no need for the tools of battle. I warn you, it will get worse here in this wilderness before it gets better. I must depart now. Please stay here and learn from John about the hairline thin path back to your home and mine." With that, and no goodbye, Jesus vanished.
'Hairline path through the valley of the shadow of death to go home again?' As that thought was conjuring up all sorts of bad feelings, a strong and powerful voice pierced my heart. It was the voice of Climacus still at his desk. He said to me, "Angel, read these pages about obedience and dispassion. How is it that an angel of The Lord has so much to learn?"