21. January 1 Circumcision of Christ and Saint Basil the Great

I could not take my eyes off the newborn. It wasn't the mere beauty of an infant that struck me, with His round cheeks and baby-blue eyes, there was an unusual peacefulness about Him. Gazing upon the swaddled Infant in the manger gave me a strong sensation of calm, as if in His presence nothing could go wrong. The only time I have felt this way before was while speaking with God.

I overheard Joseph pray for the star to be extinguished because it was keeping him awake, so I immediately blew it out as I had seen Gabriel do. Honestly, I had been so mesmerized by the divine Infant that I didn't realize I was still holding the star.

In the darkness I could hear Him breathing with the steady rhythm of life. Our time together during those first few days was sublime; just me, Mary, Joseph and Jesus sleeping and eating and resting. We had all been through a lot and were very happy to stay put in the manger and do nothing except tend the Infant.

Eight days after the birth, a gaggle of angels appeared at the entrance to our happy home.

My surprised look at their arrival evoked a quick response, "We are here to witness the seal of the covenant upon this great grandchild of Abraham; the priest will soon be here. Get ready."

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"The Baby must have the flesh of His foreskin clipped, remember?"

"Actually, I am new here." I could hear angels giggling behind me.

The very patient lead angel, Clarence, explained to me, "Not very long after creation, a man named Abram had proven his faith in God. So God chose Abram to mark a nation of people for Himself out of which He would become incarnated as the Holy Savior, Jesus.

To mark a family for Himself, God made a covenant with Abram. The deal was that the childless 99 year old Abram would be called AbraHAm and become the father of many nations, and that kings would come from him, which did: King Saul, and David, King Solomon and many more. Also, the land of Canaan, where he was an alien, would be his.

All Abraham had to do in return was to walk before God and be blameless, and on the eighth day, after the birth of each male child of his offspring, the baby would be circumcised to keep the covenant between God and Abram in force.

Today's circumcision of the infant Jesus, the King of kings, marks the fulfillment of the covenant between God and Abraham. Abraham was indeed the father of many nations and of the King of kings, Jesus. There was no more to gain. God waited many generations for this moment, the birth of His only begotten Son, light of light, true God of true God, of one essence with Himself. Now hush, here comes the priest."

Boy did that Baby scream bloody murder. Surely He was as human as any baby I had ever heard. All the angels winced at the sound even though they had no concept of physical pain. The infant shriek resounded throughout the manger penetrating every human and angelic heart and nearly reducing us to tears of sympathy.

The priest left soon after, and the wailing baby Jesus wore himself into a deep sleep.

Mary and Joseph napped too because Jesus woke them several times each night for His feedings.

While my holy family was sleeping Gabriel appeared. "Quick, I have just come from Herod who is furious because the wise men did not return to tell him where to find the infant king of the Jews. He has ordered all children under the age of two to be slain. We must get Joseph and Mary out of here! Take them to Egypt immediately! "

Joseph awoke in a sweat having overheard Gabriel alerting me of the news, "An angel appeared to me while I slept." He said to Mary. "We must flee. Gather your things, quickly!"

"Are you serious?" She replied while placing her clothes and cooking utensils in a large satchel.

"Of course I am. What can I do to help you?" Joseph was glad that his wife wasn't as hysterical as he was. She seemed to have an uncanny ability to go with the flow of events, never worrying, just obeying.

Within an hour, my holy family and I were ready for the journey into Egypt. Having recently travelled from Persia to Palestine, I knew the drill. Slow and steady. I had no star to help guide this little family so I stayed close and managed to keep a few snakes and wolves away.

Fleeing to Egypt with Joseph reminded me of the story I had heard in heaven about another Joseph, son of Rachel and Israel (aka Jacob) whose brothers wanted to kill him because they were jealous. Instead, brother Rueben threw him in a cistern where he was found and sold into slavery in Egypt. Was I taking Joseph and the baby Jesus into Egypt to recreate Joseph's flight from the jealous, or to remind us of the exodus of God's people from bondage? In either case, the similarities felt a little eerie, like déjà vu.

As we were about to reach the Egyptian border, I heard in the distance weeping and great mourning, women bemoaning their babies and toddlers that Herod had killed in a vain attempt to keep his throne away from God. 'Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.' Weeping with them, I was thunderstruck by how evil humans can be. Lucifer has certainly wrought havoc upon creation with his defiance of God.

Because the Bride's year is flat blending centuries into one mystical year, on this day too a mature reflection of the poor infant refugee enters the refuge of heaven. He meets God as Christ face to face. His name is Basil, which coincidentally translates in Greek as king.

"Welcome, my good and faithful servant! Enter into your rest." greeted the victorious Christ. "What a striking coincidence that you should arrive today of all days, when I was both covenant giver (God) and covenant receiver (human), you who so fervently defended my dual nature."

Basil looked curiously into Christ's eyes. "My Lord, my brothers and I were right weren't we? You truly are both completely God and completely human, right?

Jesus smiled compassionately, then said, "Basil, you see me as Christ because I want you to. Unless I was the creator of heaven and earth, then how could I elevate mankind to my level?"

Basil replied, "How I have longed for your wisdom my Lord?"

"And you have done well. By intentionally remaining poor, and by denying yourself foods and even sleep, you slowly came to understand why I relinquished power and glory to usher My children into My Life."

"Ha!" laughed Basil with the full bellied laugh of someone who is both happy and relieved. "I KNEW Arias was wrong! God, You didn't create Jesus, you ARE Jesus!" A distant sensation flashed through Basil's memory of moments of doubt which he had fought.

Jesus interrupted Basil's daydream to add. "If I hadn't become completely human, then you couldn't be here now talking to me. I had to show you the way from man to God by going there myself. Enough of all that! Come, I have had my baker make us a Vasilopita. Let's cut it together."

Basil laughed and laughed, thinking about how either he in heaven or Jesus God could benefit by winning the coin. What could be better than having a New Year's Day birthday in heaven, and talking to God?

Jesus, reading Basil's mind replied, "I just want to see if I win!" and smiled the biggest, most radiant smile Basil had ever seen.

22. January 6, Epiphany

The appearance on earth of the human form of God had been a closely held secret. Among humans, there were only the shepherds and Mary and Joseph who knew. My wise men didn't even comprehend the part they played in this grand miracle; they thought the baby was an ordinary king.

While I was guiding the holy family into Egypt and admittedly flying in circles and through my circles just for fun, I lost track of my holy family! I looked everywhere for them to no avail. I even tried traveling through time, but still could not find them. Finally, I decided to return to Jerusalem and wait for something to happen.

Flying over the wilderness of Judea I spotted a crowd by a river and flew down to see what was going on. A scruffy man with long messy hair, wearing a camel hair tunic was surrounded by throngs of people who were actually listening to him berating them. He said, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now an ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

As I was watching the scene, I heard a wooshing sound above me and looked up to see a fleet of angels pouring in from the four corners of heaven. Among them, to my surprise appeared my old acquaintances, Fabian, Pineal, Danielus and Poppy.

"What are you all doing here? Did you come to be yelled at too?" I asked.

Poppy laughed, "Of course not." Don't you know what a big day this is? Did you not get the message?"

"No, I just came from Egypt where I left the Holy Family." I didn't tell Poppy that I lost them.

"What is so special about this crowd and that scruffy man?"

Fabian said, "Shh! Listen, and maybe you'll learn something; by the way, the man's name is John."

John, unaware of us, continued, "I baptize you with water for repentance, but One who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand and He will clear the threshing floor and will gather His wheat into the granary; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire."

That's all most people needed to hear, before begging to be allowed to jump into the river Jordan and be baptized.

I turned to Danielus and asked, "What is baptism?"

Poppy answered before Danielus could speak. "Baptism is a way for humans to start life over fresh and clean. They pretend that the water is washing off their sins."

"Well then, what is a sin?" I asked, wondering if I had some.

Again Poppy took the floor. "Sin is a short word that stands for the many ways humans disobey God's commands. You see," she added, "God is very tolerant of humans, but there is a limit." Poppy shrugged her winged shoulders and smiled.

Scanning the scene beneath us, I spotted Jesus all grown up walking alone towards the river! I would know Him anywhere. He radiated the same quality of calm that He had last week when He was an infant.

Jesus grew up fast. In the Bride's year, He went from circumcision day which was exactly eight 24-hour days after His birth to become a grown man of about 30 in five more days.

This is what I have come to love about the Bride. She is not stuck in nature. She uses matter and she uses time, and she doesn't always obey their rules, only when it suits her.

Fabian shouted, "Stop thinking and listen! It's about to happen! Quiet"

I turned my attention back to Jesus and John who were arguing about baptizing Jesus.

John said,"I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"

Jesus replied, "Let it be so for now. This way I will fulfill all righteousness." Jesus meant that He wanted to be a perfect covenant man, and that this baptism for Him was a way to show the others how important repentance and baptism are for humans.

The angels hovered wide-eyed and anxious for what they came to see. Lo and behold! I saw the Spirit of God descend in the form of a dove this time, and land right on Jesus' shoulder!

Then all of the people and all of the angels heard a voice from heaven that said, "This is my Beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased."

The people standing on the bank of the river and John, and all of the angels hovering over the scene looked up to see where the voice was coming from.

I was thoroughly flabbergasted. In my very presence God presented Himself in three different forms...at the same time! That was amazing. I wondered then what the message said that I hadn't received. Had God told the angels that He was about to triumvirate, while maintaining His oneness!

I have seen God make light, and the earth with all of its matter and time, and I even saw Him shrink so much that He could enter into an infant, but to have Him appear in three forms as Jesus, as the Spirit-Dove, and as a Father, simultaneously, was amazing.

This event meant that Jesus was ready to go public. He was introduced openly to a large group of people and to scruffy John the baptizer as the Son of God. I'm not sure anyone knows what that means yet, but what an introduction!

The Voice didn't say anything else, the dove flew back up into heaven, and Jesus walked out of the river and was handed a cloth to dry himself off. He spoke to John, thanking him and giving him some advice. A few people dared to approach Jesus, but then He pulled Himself away from the crowd. He did not seem self conscious at all, but instead confidently walked into the forest, alone.

I followed Him to see where He was going and what He would do, and also to protect Him if I could. All sorts of demons lurk in the wilderness looking for ways to trip God. I wondered if as a human, Jesus could handle that all on His own.

23. January 17th. Saint Anthony Prologue

As I was trying to follow Jesus into the wilderness to protect Him, He turned to me and said, "Don't follow me now. It is okay. I am actually not going straight into the wilderness. You know My Bride, how She plays with time. The Bible says I go straight into the wilderness, but She wants me to wait until Lent which is several weeks away; then you can try to protect me."

"What is Lent, my Lord?" I said. "How will I know when to return and where to find You? You know I lost you in Egypt. Where did You go? Where are You going now?"

Jesus replied with no answer at all by saying, "Meanwhile, I want you to visit Saint Anthony of Egypt. He has much to teach you about My perspective, and that of My Bride, about time and matter. You have so much to learn. Saint Athanasius will guide you to Saint Anthony. Now go!"

"Lord!" I exclaimed, astonished at the instant change in direction; then trying as hard as I could to calmly adjust I added, "Where do I find these men?"

While walking away, Jesus added, "360 AD Alexandria, Egypt. You remember Egypt, don't you? It's where you took off on your flying escapades and abandoned Me and My Mother." And with that Jesus tossed a manuscript over His shoulder at me and then disappeared again.

I picked it up. It was called, Life of Anthony by Athanasius of Alexandria. It was in Greek. Fortunately my Greek translator was still operational. Before attempting any time or place travel, I curled up in a strato-cumulus cloud and began reading the manuscript. (Βιβλίο)

24. January 17, Feast of Saint Anthony

I am old. I am older than old. I witnessed the first light. I watched God create the universe. I saw Adam take his first breath.

God made men to make it easier to sort good and evil. Before creation, good spirits roamed the void in concert with opponent spirits. There was combat and there was hostility to disturb God’s peace. Lucifer and his troupes defied Divinity at every turn, to menace God in vain attempts to conquer Him.

When I first came to earth, I was so distracted by time and matter that I lost sight of those menacing demons that fill space with their mischievous antics. Reading Anthony's story, I was reminded of how insidious they are, and how vital to conquer them.

Anthony devoted his material life to battle the enemy. I was shocked. By his extraordinary love and devotion to Jesus Christ, he became as a magnet for demons who craved to destroy his soul and thus dishearten God again.

Anthony knew that the power of God, the power of good, will always be victorious. Instead of succumbing to the desires of his flesh, or to the power of an ego, Anthony clung to Christ by appropriating virtues one by one, (graciousness, unceasing prayer, freedom from anger, loving kindness, endurance, fasting, wakefulness, meekness, long suffering, piety toward Christ, and ultimately love.) Each virtue was won through battle with dangerous demons and self. By obeying all of the commands and precepts of Christ, and by being a vehicle of the Holy Spirit, with each victory, Anthony grew so godlike that he was able to heal as Jesus did, and drew an army of disciplined men to follow him into the desert.

The manuscript of Athanasius awakened me to the fact that Earth is not merely where time and matter exist as a stage for the little gods; it is the final battlefield in the universal war between good and evil. How blind could I have been me of all angels, to think that the enemy Lucifer would take a backseat in the Creation Project?

This manuscript energized me to leap off of my cloud and head back to Egypt, the scene of refuge and of slavery, where the old covenant collided with the new one. Where Abraham’s children fled and flourished, and were miraculously freed from slavery to fulfill his covenant, so that with the new covenant God in Christ could offer pure life and immortality. In Egypt Anthony signed this new covenant with his body, mind, and heart. This man I had to see.

It was easy to find Anthony. He was surrounded by demons and angels and a few men in robes. I found him as a man of 105 years old, aware that soon He would journey out of his body and into the arms of his Savior.

When I arrived I heard him counseling fellow disciples. "When I leave you, my brothers, be watchful and do not destroy your discipline, but as though beginning anew zealously preserve your determination. For you know the treachery of the demons,"

At that I saw a gaggle of goblins giggle.

“how fierce they are, but how little power they have. Don't be afraid of them. Breathe Christ and trust Him. Live every day as if it is your last. Have no fellowship with schismatics or heretical Arians. (I saw the Bride smile.) Be followers first of God, and then of the Saints that at your death they may receive you as well-known friends into the eternal habitations."

After he said this I observed Anthony lift his feet to get up because he saw his spirit friends coming for him, and I saw them too, a heavenly host. Anthony was so happy to see them like old friends arrive to take him home.

And take him home they did. For I saw Anthony leave his body, and on the way up turn briefly to gaze upon it as a brother with whom he shared many good times and bad.

I saw the demons dissolve as they had to give way to a great congregation of angels and saints.

I saw God, in the familiar form of Christ come to meet Anthony in the air.

On earth in front of me, I saw two men come to his shell of a body, and wrap it in a large brown cloth. Then they carried it away for secret burial. Anthony had left strict instructions not to allow the Egyptians to mummify him and put him on display as was their custom with venerated men, but instead he insisted that he be buried as Christ was buried.

As I saw Anthony’s soul being escorted into the heavens, I heard Christ’s voice resounding for Anthony’s disciples to hear. “Do not rejoice in this, that the demons are subject to you, and that you cause Satan to fall like lightning from heaven, or because I have given you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, or even that nothing shall by any means hurt you but rather rejoice because your name is written in the book of life.”

And then to Anthony, Christ said, “Anthony, my son, enter into your rest.”

Have you ever seen an angel cry?

25. Fathers of the Bride - January 21st Maximus the Confessor (650 AD) and January 25th, Saint Gregory the Theologian (391AD).

Being at the deathbed of Saint Anthony, and observing how fierce those demons were with him awakened me to the truth that this planet whose creation once annoyed me, is much more than God's playground for animals and humans. Saint Anthony opened my angelic eyes to the battlefield and the laboratory that is planet earth.

After everyone dispersed I flew up and away from Egypt to get a better perspective for my thoughts. Mostly, I wanted to remove myself from all the demonic activity on earth. To be in such a whirling concentration of good and evil, is to be thrown about like a tumbleweed. In the heavens there is plenty of peaceful and calm space in which to think. I landed on a nice comfy cloud and contemplated the past few days and my next steps.

Saint Anthony showed me how a good soldier severs from himself the slavish quest for pleasure and comfort, and from time to time, even basic physical needs in order to reject temptation and thus be delivered from evil. Freedom from physical passion allowed his soul to perceive and receive the Holy Spirit to such an extent that Anthony became saintly.

While I was thinking, a lightening-bright light flashed and startled me. I looked up to see a manifestation of the Holy Spirit of God come to visit me, me the lowliest of all angels!

"Greetings." He said.

"Your majesty! To what do I owe this honor?" I replied meekly.

"I have come to ask you how you are getting along learning about My Bride and Her year."

"My Lord, I have learned a lot. You have quite a fascinating drama going on down there."

Being one to never let an opportunity pass me by, I added, "In fact, I wonder if I have learned enough. May I ask Your holy permission to go home now? I have never liked conflict, which is why I refused to join Lucifer. If only I could return to my normal spirit-life, I am sure I could worship You better than ever."

The Holy Spirit replied kindly, "Quitting is not an option my friend. You have only gone one third of the way through the year. You will enjoy many adventures in the near future. I have disturbed your contemplation to point out to you that just as Jesus Christ called me Father..."

I interrupted, "Lord, I was wondering about that. How are you doing that? How can you be God, the Father, God the Son, AND God, the Holy Spirit, of one essence in three Persons? I always thought I knew you, but in this last millennium You confuse me. Forgive me, but are you going through an identity crisis or something?" I could not believe I heard myself say that. Immediately I wound myself into a tight little ball to deflect being vaporized.

Instead, to my great surprise, I saw God smile! Then He said, "You angels don't know Me as you often think you do. Only I know Myself, no one else, nothing else, neither spirit nor human. Your curiosity is common; I have observed men and women for centuries contemplate just those matters. My own children, at least those humans who aspire to become My children, have even dismembered others in defense of what they thought was the truth of Who I Am, especially in my human form, as Jesus."

Relieved that I wasn't blasted, and emboldened by the Holy Spirit's tolerance, I said. "Who are You, really? You can tell me, it's just us here and I won't tell anyone else if You don't want me to."

I never before considered myself to be a funny angel, but His Holiness chuckled at me again before He replied,"I liked what My child Maximus said when he confessed His faith. He said that you can know Me by what I am not!"

"That's not fair,You are everything! Well, everything good that is." I added correcting myself. "Why does it matter that people, or even us angels know details about you?"

God replied, "When I came to earth as a human, I did not change, or separate from myself, I did not divide myself in two, I didn't even confuse My two natures. I was, as Jesus Christ pure human and pure God."

Again, I asked. "Okay, but why does it matter if people don't understand this? As long as you are worshipped, be glad. Aren't You are expecting too much from mere humans?"

God answered loud and forceful, "Of course it matters! Do you want anyone to misjudge you, or turn yoqu into someone you aren't?" And then He cut me to the quick when He said, "Would you want Gabriel to think you have gone over to Lucifer's camp?"

"My LORD don't appall me!" I responded, deeply offended by the suggestion.

Then He smiled knowingly and said, "Please calm down. I am only trying to prove My point by exaggerating.

What my Bride calls dogma, Her understanding and definition of Who I am, is one with Her worship and spirituality. Again, that is what My child Maximus confessed to the dullards of his day.

Worship alone, is nothing more than raw emotion, or hollow discipline, if it isn't united to correct faith. I will accept nothing less. I don't need to draw worship from a muddy river running past me. Dogma goes hand-in-hand with spirituality."

"Lord?" I said, wanting to take a step back in a conversation that I was not prepared for, but flailing in my effort to catch up."Why is it so important that You were unchanged as God when you became a man?"

With the deep gentle and confident voice of a wise old teacher, the Holy Spirit replied, "I went to earth to make gods of men. I went to bring the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve back to the Garden of Eden, to trade their curse of death with the blessing of eternal life. I went to show them the way to the Tree of Life. I love My children and I want to live among them. I want them to see Me and know Me and be like Me. I have wanted that from the moment I created light."

God went on, "when I became a man, unless I was fully God too, I could never have accomplished My mission. Who else, but Me, knows where the Tree of Life is planted? Who else could perform the miracles and endure the trial? Who else could have raised so many from the dead? Do you think for a moment an angel could have done those things for Me?" Then He looked me square in the eye, not seeming so kindly anymore.

"Not me Lord! I don't know any angel that could have done all that." And with the courage of a Maximus or an Anthony I added, "So then you weren't human after all."

This time when the lightening struck it was accompanied by a blast of thunder.

"You MORON!!" shouted God.

Suddenly I was reminded that this was the God who parted the Red Sea, and let thousands of soldiers drown. This was the God who opened the earth to consume Dathan and Abiram.

"What! What did I say, my Lord?"

Calming Himself down, the Holy Spirit replied, "What do I look like, a magician?"

"No, Sire."

"I could go to earth right now and raise every person buried there, I could heal every man woman and child from any ailment, I can destroy and I can create, but what good would that do? Miracles, defying nature, does not bring one person to eternal life.

Only as purely human could I take My children by the hand, and usher them into My Kingdom. In Jesus I gave them someone to emulate. Take Anthony, if I was not human, how could Anthony hope to be like Me? Why would he even try, if there wasn't a chance? Because I was purely human I experienced the human condition."

ONLY by being BOTH fully human and fully God could I accomplish My mission. When the humans recognize my dual nature as Christ, they are they worshipping Me in truth."

My Bride has many Fathers who in their humility and willingness to stubbornly defend Me helped to form Her. Now go back to earth and celebrate the feasts of Maximus and Gregory with their brothers and sisters. Pick any generation you wish, and any geographical location. Have fun. We will watch from here."

In swooped Archangel Michael to guide me back. I think God sent him to make sure I took no detours.

26. January 30 Feast of the Three Heirarchs

While I was flying back to earth with the eminent Archangel Michael as my (unnecessary) escort I continued to think about my conversation with the Holy Spirit. I had heard Him referred to as the Comforter and Counselor, but I did not feel so comfortable.

There are billions of humans down on that planet who have no awareness whatsoever of the dual nature of Jesus Christ and they seem perfectly fine. Many of them regularly file into thousands of churches and mosques and synagogues, or not, and have been for millennia. The Holy Spirit didn't speak to me of any consequences, but I still felt uneasy. A desire to be worshipped for Who He really is, sounded reasonable enough, but that part about a muddy river bothered me.

I had forgotten that angels read minds when Michael abruptly slowed down causing me to collide with him. Ouch!

"Are you, pipsqueak of an angel that you are, questioning God?!" shouted Michael.

Conflict-resistant I am but not easily intimidated, so I responded,"I think, that is, if I am allowed to think for myself," then I flashed him a sassy smirk, "that everything God said about wanting Jesus to be known as fully human and fully divine makes sense. But then why didn't He just plain say that? Why was He so angry? By the way, where are we going?"

"We are on our way to Euchaita in northern Asia Minor to visit the bishop there in 1084. Hurry up, we have wasted enough time. By the way, He was angry with you for bringing up those foolish heresies that caused so much division and death. Stop talking and fly."

Now I know why Michael is called the militant angel, so I promptly surged forward leaving him at least twenty wingspans behind me. Then, realizing that I didn't know how to get to Euchaita, I slowed down and let Michael take the lead.

We landed in a small room, dark and dusty, where a wrinkly old white-haired man was sitting in a chair conversing with an apparition of three men.

"What is going on here?" I asked Michael.

"The old man is the local bishop, John Mauropous. The three men are Saint Basil, Saint Gregory the Theologian (not Palamas, or Nyssa) and Saint John Chrysostom. His parishioners have been arguing about which of these three saints is the greatest, and John was praying to God for His opinion to end the argument once and for all."

Mauropous's face was red and hot, sweat blanketed his brow as he looked at Basil and said, "Surely, Basil, you are the greatest father of the Bride for your tireless battle against Arias, and for your example of great self-denial. I have read as many of your writings as I could; your exegesis is clear and well formulated; your liturgy is splendid. Surely, you are the greatest of all."

Saint John Chrysostom cleared his throat to be noticed, and on John's behalf Saint Basil

countered, "Have you met my brother John the "Golden Mouthed" archbishop of Constantinople? His liturgy is celebrated much more often than mine, and besides it is obvious to all that I could not ever match Chrysostom in either eloquence or in bringing sinners to repentance."

Then John Chrysostom interjected. "Not me. My brother the Naziansan surpasses me in the purity and and profundity of his homilies. Did you read his treatise on the Trinity? Surely He fathered the Bride with that piece alone."

Basil looked at Mauropus and then at his two brothers and said, "If the Bride of Christ, our One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, must have an earthly father to look up to, to guide the brethren with the light of truth, then let her father be a trinity of men, the three of us."

Hearing this Mauropous's face radiated with joy. Tears streamed from his old brown eyes and he bowed his head low before his guests, and whispered, "My Lord and my God. Your brilliance and majesty are beyond compare. Praise God in His sanctuary, Praise Him in his mighty firmament. Praise Him for His mighty acts. Praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of a trumpet, and the lute and the harp. Let everything that has breath praise The Lord." And then he thought to himself, I must tell the Emperor Alexios I Komnenos about this. He can declare a feast for the three fathers united, a trinity of Heirarchs."

As John was contemplating heavenly and then earthly matters, Michael and I saw the saints rise to fly away one by one. Basil turned and looked at me and said, "Come with us angel, I want you to see something beautiful."

So I followed him up and out of the room and thought to myself. "I wonder if there is anything on earth more beautiful than what I have already witnessed since I was banished from heaven?"

Scriptures concerning the knowledge of God, and why heresies are allowed to exist:

Matthew 11:27

All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Matthew 11:26-28

Matthew 13:11

He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

Matthew 13:10-12

Luke 12:47-49

47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

27. February 2 - Presentation to the Temple

You can't trust an apparition. Saint Basil lead me out of John's room, but once out all three Heirarchs were called back to heaven for another important mission. Basil apologized for having to leave me prematurely and waved good by. Then all three saintly apparitions simply disappeared. I wonder what Basil wanted to show me?

To my dismay the Archangel Michael returned to escort me to the next point in the year.

"Hello Sir, how nice to see you again" I said saluting him, but without expression.

"Don't fret, it doesn't become you." replied Michael. "I am just here to tell you the assignment and be on my way to much more important duties than chauffeur."

That cheered me up. "Where to, boss?" I asked.

"You are to go to the temple in Jerusalem to witness the presentation of the baby Jesus. Do you know how to find it? I can call someone to take you there."

There is nothing an angel deplores more than to be underestimated.

"I will be fine sir. Thank you. Praise The Lord."

Michael responded, "Glory be to God." and took off like a bullet.

Not knowing when the fortieth day would be I thought I had better head straight to Jerusalem without delay, which, unfortunately meant without acrobatics.

The temple was easy to spot. It was the largest building in town, so I honed right in on it. I arrived to find angels of many shapes and sizes, some transparent and some iridescent hovering about.

"Welcome!" greeted a kindly angel who pulled away from the mass and shaped herself as a female figure, "My name is Cloris; we have been waiting for you! Look, there is Simeon. You just missed seeing the Holy Spirit!"

I looked over to see a very old man who sat glowing with an aura of shimmering blue light. It was the afterglow of a person who had just seen God. He was thin and his white gown hung about him like it was protecting a sapling from the wind. Simeon's wavy long white hair pointed to clear blue eyes accentuated by wisps of wrinkles that marked the decades as rings on a felled tree.

"What is going to happen?" I asked?

She replied, "The presentation of baby Jesus."

"What is that?"

Cloris replied, "God caused plagues before a stubborn Pharaoh to force him to allow His people, the Jews, to leave, and to prove that leaving Egypt was God's will."

"So what does that have to do with this Presentation?"

"The final plague was the death of the first born male of men and animals. To escape this plague the Jews were to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and with hyssop, to paint its blood on on the lintels and doorposts of their homes. When the angel of death blew through the country to kill the firstborn, it would PASS OVER those houses"

"Oh I thought that pass-over commemorated passing over The Red Sea."

"That was amazing too, replied Cloris, "but they never would have been allowed to leave had not their firstborn been spared the angel of death, when even Pharaoh's son died. God wants every generation of His people to remember that auspicious night. You will soon know why that is. On the 40th day of the life of every male child, to also commemorate the forty years it took to reach the Promise Land, he shall be presented to God in the Temple with a sacrifice of a turtledove or pigeon.

"Look," said Cloris, "here they come!"

I really do like the way the Bride plays with time. The last time I saw Jesus He was thirty years old, and now, less than a month later, but exactly forty days after His birth in the manger, Jesus is an infant again.

Reading my mind, Cloris explained,"the Bride, will respect time when it comes to the life of Jesus and His Mother. This is how She acknowledges His humanity. It is the events that demonstrate His divinity that have nothing to do with earthly time. You will see, but then you did see by witnessing His adult baptism that concluded the twelve days of Christmas. Don't be confused, the Bride's year will only, aha ...LOOK here they are!"

Before Cloris could finish, I spotted the holy family entering the temple. Joseph carried the two turtledoves in a makeshift cage for the offering while Mary who seemed younger than when I saw her in Bethlehem, not quite a woman of fourteen, clutched her swaddled infant close to her heart like a baby doll for her own security as much as for His. The infant was sound asleep in His young mother's arms.

I saw their own retinue of angels surrounding them and one whispered into Joseph's ear that he should go over to Simeon who was still wrapt in prayer. Joseph obeyed the angel voice and went over to ask Simeon where to place his doves. Simeon peacefully looked up at Joseph and then across to sweet young Mary. Then he stood up and walked over to the mother and baby, and like a proud grandfather Simeon asked if he could hold the Infant.

Reading Simeon's gentle nature with her heart, Mary carefully passed her holy bundle into the cupped arms of the fatherly sage. Angels fluttered with joy as the old man and the new one united in spirit. I saw Simeon's sea-blue eyes well up with tears, and then he said, "Master, now You are dismissing Your servant in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel."

And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about their baby. Then Simeon blessed them as Isaac blessed his son Jacob by saying to His mother Mary, "This Child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed and a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Upon listening to Simeon's compound blessing Mary's eyes opened wider and her forehead wrinkled with astonishment. How did this old man know, except by The Holy Spirit, Who they were, strangers in Jerusalem? Mary quickly looked up at Joseph who shot back a comforting protective smile. She then curtsied with her head bowed while Joseph went to take the baby back and thanked Simeon.

Simeon released the child with much hesitation, as if he did not want this most glorious moment of his life to be over. Yet, he let go knowing that before him lay the adventure of leaving his mortal shell and, if granted to him, seeing the face of God, the Father.

The family proceeded to the altar where the temple priest was waiting for them. He received the offering and recited the services he had said a thousands times before, because his people were prolific and many firstborn sons had been born to Israel (i.e. Jacob) during his days as a priest.

On their way out of the temple with their entourage of angels Mary was approached by an old woman who had witnessed the exchange with Simeon, and the ceremony.

"Greetings, my child." said Anna, a prophetess who lived in the temple and worshipped God both night and day. Anna was a very slight old woman but her spirit was vibrant. Mary turned the baby whose eyes were then wide open so that Anna could see His face. Baby Jesus looked up and smiled with a hearty toothless grin. I think He was looking at the angel Cloris who was cooing and making faces at Him. "All glory to God!" exclaimed Anna, "The Messiah, has arrived!" And she turned to say, "Come and see, the Messiah who will redeem Israel from our distress and free us from these Romans once and for all! Hallelujah! Glory to Thee o' Lord! Glory to Thee!" Anna was overwhelmed with a joy that she hadn't experienced in over seventy years. Her old face hadn't received such expression before and didn't know quite how to respond to what her heart was telling it to do.

A dozen or so people rushed up to see what old Anna was talking about. But at that, Joseph politely excused himself and his wife, and they briskly made their exit with their angels shielding them from further attention. Cloris turned to look at me with an expression of uncontainable glee and pride. I smiled back in complete agreement. We had both witnessed our Lord's first public reception among His holy men, and His presentation as a baby to His Heavenly Father.

Once out of the temple the Holy Family managed to blend into the crowd in the marketplace for it was the eve of Shabbat and many had shopping to complete before sunset.

In fact, they blended in so well that I lost them too. How that little troupe could evade me the way they do! Unlike when I lost them ...or will lose them, as refugees going into Egypt, this time I really thought I was watching them! Where did they go?

28. The Triodion Begins

I did it again! I lost the Holy Family as they disappeared into the crowd of shoppers in Jerusalem. After giving up I decided to look instead for the older Jesus to see if He was ready for me to protect Him in the wilderness when to my surprise the Holy Spirit appeared.

"Your Majesty!" I exclaimed and bowed low. "To what do I owe this honor- again- so soon?"

His majesty replied in a soft calming voice, "I regret that you felt uncomfortable after our last conversation. You most certainly have a lot to learn. I would have sent Gabriel to tell you about this new phase, but it is too complex to delegate. Knowing you as I do, you may need extensive explanation."

I wasn't sure if I should be honored by God's visit or insulted, but His words certainly aroused my curiosity.

The Holy Spirit continued,"You are entering the period of the year that the Bride calls the Triodion. In her loveliness, She tries to mimic Me by knitting together the Old Covenant with the New."

"A Bride who knits, you could have done worse, My Lord!" I responded to see if I could make the Holy Spirit smile, and to see what that would look like.

Success! He flashed me a sparkle and continued: "My Bride will soon play with time more than you have ever seen Her play with it before. She will layer and fold it tidily until centuries appear to be as one concept, one purposeful stepping stone."

"Sounds interesting my Lord. I suppose the Triodion has something to do with Your Trinitarian-ness. So, what is She going to do?" I asked, trying to get back on topic.

"Very good! Sorry I got side-tracked. Like Me, She loves the number three. Today marks the beginning of the Triodion period because it is three weeks before the Great Lent. This three week period is the first of three. To top that off, each day She reads three lessons, 1. Historical from Genesis during Lent, and the Exodus during Holy Week, 2. The Prophets; Isaiah during Lent and Ezekiel during Holy Week, and 3. Wisdom literature; Proverbs during Lent and Job during Holy Week."

"My Lord," I commented, "don't you think that is a bit too much play on the number three?"

"No I don't!" retorted the Holy Spirit in a way that had me cringe. Then He added, "No one minds kaleidoscopes do they? I think it is beautiful! The second Period of the Triodion is the 40 days of Great Lent."

"So, why isn't it 30 days of Lent," I asked, "and take the theme all the way?"

"Where have you been all this time? Are you the most ignorant angel in the heavens?" I could tell that this was not a rhetorical question. The Holy Spirit demanded an answer.

"Well, sire. The truth is that I like to fly." I confessed sheepishly. "I was flying through the universe, always trying to stay on the dark side, so I could imagine that this time-fling of yours would be over and we could go back to the way it was. Before being exiled to earth, I had no idea of what was transpiring here; nor did I care." I said frankly.

With my response, the Holy Spirit's thoughts drifted back to life before time, when all was darkness and void and spirits formed a miasma of ennui that was so strong and powerful that God felt compelled to do something bold, like create the universe. Snapping back to my pathetic situation, God patiently said, "without giving you an entire history lesson let me say that the number forty has been repeatedly significant. Remember just last week when Jesus was presented at forty days because of the 40 years of traveling through the wilderness after the Passover? There was also Moses who visited me on Mt. Sinai for 40 days when I gave him the tablets of the Law, and soon you will be accompanying Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days, and then there was the 40 years of David's..."

Cutting His Holiness off I said, "Okay, okay, I get it. What is the last of the three parts of the Triodion?"

"The last," He answered, "is Holy Week. I will let you go there to find out for yourself what that means. The important thing to know is that the Bride will knit together many of those experiences of forty in her Great Lent. But the overriding theme will be the fall of mankind, when Adam and Eve did the one thing in the whole wide world I told them not to do, so they lost their immortality and I expelled them from Paradise. Did you even know about that?" He said looking at me at the same time exasperated and compassionate.

"I believe Gabriel mentioned it to me." I replied, not quite sure I was right, but to save face. I intended to learn the details as soon as I could.

The Comforter was comforted in the knowledge that my experience of the full Triodion Period would teach me part of all that I had to learn about the Church, the Bride of Christ, since the beginning of time.

God bellowed, "Now I command you to return to the church of your choice today, and pay special attention to the Gospel reading. Jesus will teach you from His parable about the Publican and the Pharisee. It is about the difference between hubris and humility, something you, of all My angels, need most to learn about. Go, and without any acrobatics!"

It took me a moment to absorb all the knowledge and wisdom that God had just tried to impart to me. Remaining in place, I sat perfectly still and quiet. I tried not to think, lest I would distort the message with misunderstanding, but rather I allowed echoes of the rich hallowed vibrations to penetrate undefiled into my angelic psyche. After a time and a half, I allowed myself to consider which church to fly to. The cathedral of the Holy Wisdom in Washington, DC instantly came to mind, surmising that the Wisdom of God would want me to be there.

I arrived to find a chanter and a priest chanting and praying in the large Cathedral with only one worshipper, ten minutes later, a second person arrived. Then I recalled that the people drift in little by little, not seeming to mind that they had missed the part of the service that related most to the uniqueness of the day.

"Welcome back!" exclaimed Poppy. "It's so good to see you! Where have you been? We have missed you!"

"Shhh! I can't talk now. I am on a mission. I'll tell you later; it's a long story." I replied, agreeing in my heart that it felt great to be back and to see Poppy again."

Everyone in the pews stood up, as the tall young dark-haired priest in an elegant deep green satin vestment embellished with a gold cross on his back turned with book in hand which he set down on a golden podium and read:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The priest shut the Book gently; looked up at his flock and said, "Humility is the foundation for all our spiritual labors. The best way to prepare for the fast ahead, the best way to prepare for our journey through the wilderness of the Great Lent is to do everything in our might to shed our pride and self righteousness.

The stench of self-esteem and of boasting drives away the grace of the Spirit. Pride strips man of all his virtue, and casts him away from our great and most powerful God who condescended to take on flesh and suffer for our sakes. The contrite prayer of the Publican, who recognized his true state of humility was actually being Christ-like, and through that divine attitude qualified himself to enter Paradise.

Not at the beginning of Lent, but NOW in the pre-Lenten season of the Triodion, let each of us guard our own heart from the corrosive effects of pride. Let the strongest, and richest, and most successful among us know that our earthly strength is our heaviest burden, like having a bolder tied to our ankles, when it comes to our ability to traverse the wilderness, combat the devil, survive the cross, and receive Christ's outstretched hand to pull us too out of Hades."

Stunned at these words I looked at faces in the congregation and noticed a tear here and a bowed head there. A couple here and there were clutching each other's hand. The scene was no less than marvelous. Then snapping back into my old sarcastic mode, I thought, 'So the Bride can knit, AND She is a good mother. What a lucky guy.'

29. Prodigal Son-day

Can an angel change? I have spent all week thinking about my pride, and if that's what makes me dare to sass God. I thought about how the publican debased himself which reminded me of how God lowered Himself to become human. Humility must be a common denominator between man and God, the place where Father and child meet.

I think that when men try to show off their power, which compared to God's power is absurd, they become trajectories blasting away from Him.

Somewhere in all this thinking I vowed to try to control my attitude. Who knows how much more I could be loved if I didn't love myself so much?

But why would I want to become humble? I don't have to worry about Hades or death. There is nothing threatening me, and there is no reward of paradise to lure me.

The only thing I have in common with humanity, well, some of them, is that I love God. Perhaps simply to please Him I should want to be more respectful and not irritate Him as I often do. After all, I do believe that God is amazing! He is unique among all the powers of the heavens, light-years ahead in brilliance of mind and thought, and compassion and love. I love Him for Who He is and I love Him for His amazing acts.

"If you love Him so much, then why don't you ever show it? In fact, why do you do the exact opposite sometimes?"

"Who said that?"

Poppy flew up to me in the dome without greeting, as lacking in social graces as when she had disappeared without saying good-bye many months ago.

"Poppy if you were listening, you would have heard me vow to change, to become humble. I want God to be proud of me. Maybe He has tolerated me this long because He was waiting for me to repent. Well, I haven't done it yet, but I want to try."

"Stick around then," said Poppy. "The Bride will show you the steps to take. You weren't here, but the Sunday before last, the Gospel lesson that preceded the Triodion was about a short man named Zacchaeus who was so eager to see Jesus that he made a fool of himself by climbing a tree. When Jesus noticed Zacchaeus He honored him. Maybe God will notice how eager you are to become humble. Desire to be near God is the very first step into the Lenten period of metamorphosis! Have you ever seen a caterpillar become a butterfly?"

"No. That sounds impossible." I replied.

"It is fantastic but real! The Triodion season is a cocoon. By the time it is over you too can be one hundred times more beautiful, spiritually of course, than you are now. Sh, let's be quiet, here come the people."

Poppy had given me even more fodder for thought, and as much as I wanted to fly around and contemplate it all, I controlled myself and picked a spot in the balcony pew to hover over, pretending I was human. The chanters and priest, the altar boys and deacons, and the parishioners one by one took their positions filling that sacred space with their holy spirits. This manifestation of the Bride as a building, especially this building which was becoming so familiar to me, suddenly felt like a mother's womb, or a cocoon where my transformation could occur.

About an hour later, so agitated by my thoughts that my self-control vanished, I took off to fly around the large volume of space knowing that no one could see me, and only a few of the people could perceive me. My whirring mind had made it impossible for me to sit still. I needed to stop thinking, but I didn't stop listening while flying figure-eights and somersaults. Looking closely at the mosaic of Saint Barbara in the balcony it seemed as if each little tile was a gigantic cell that God used to form her.

When the time for the gospel reading came Poppy flew over to me. "Stop flying now and listen. The second Sunday of the Triodion is about to tell you the next step. Pay attention."

Today, the shorter and older priest brought the Book out and read, "Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’"

After the reading the priest closed the Book, turned around, and went back into his cave while Poppy said, "This story tells the people when they miss the mark that God gave them in the Law and in Jesus commands, they are drifting away from God farther into a mean and insecure world.

Today in the Bride's year suggests that children of God return to their Father from that world out there that is so very full of foolish people pretending they are powerful. It's like a suggestion that Adam and Eve try to return to Paradise where they last saw God, their Maker."

Then Poppy added, "For the humble publican, his modesty already made him close to the Father. But the Pharisee is oblivious to ever having left, much like the Prodigal Son's brother, who did not leave physically, but who with his pride, alienated himself from his family!"

Poppy's eyes grew wide with fear as she still fretted over the condition of the Pharisee.

I tried to comfort her by saying, "Come on Poppy, they are only stories. Relax!"

The Bride's Procession to The Great Lent -




.... Judgment

30. On Death, Saturday of the Souls and Judgment Sunday

"It's NOT just a story!" Poppy pleaded passionately for me to understand why she had been fretting so much about the spiritual condition of the Pharisee and the Prodigal Son's brother.

"It sounds like a story to me. Isn't a parable the same thing as a story? Didn't the priest call it a parable?" I said trying as hard as I could to sound sincerely curious rather than cocky.

Poppy penetrated my core with her eyes and said: "Death."

Then my fairy friend lost all form as her spirit sunk to the marble floor and turned into a puddle of gray fog.

"Poppy! Stop that! Get up!" I cried. "We were talking!"

The puddle didn't stir. I sat in the dark silence of the midnight Cathedral with wispy spirits whooshing around a gray gloppy Poppy, not knowing what to do. Before I had a chance to contemplate my next move, I suddenly felt very hot. Then I saw flames build a wall around me, until I was imprisoned by them. I didn't know whether to scream or weep. I tried to reach through them, but the heat was unbearable. I could neither stop thinking nor stop feeling the pain, so I screamed louder, "Poppy help me! Lord, help me! My God, please I beseech you to save me from this fiery death!"

Cold doesn't bother angels at all. When the sun was created though, we were aghast. Nothing scared us so much as that big fiery planet that threatened to vaporize us in milliseconds. Surrounded by those flames felt like landing on the sun. What happened? I must get out!

I used every telepathic power at my disposal to scream for salvation, but no one heard me. In fact, I couldn't even hear myself. My hysteria was silent and alone.

The inability to communicate seemed to me to be more frightening than the flames. Just as I began to resign myself to obliteration I noticed a figure of a man walking through the fire towards me.

"Do not fear," he said, "fire cannot harm you as long as you love God with humility, and trust Him to rescue you."

That was the problem. After the way I had treated God, I doubted that He would save me.

"Daniel, can't you tell how painful this is?"

Daniel didn't even blink to hear me utter his name as other humans would have. Surely I have lost every ounce of my angelic power.

With rivulets of sweat streaming down his brow, Daniel replied, "For you it has been given to taste the pain of death. I am spared."

There is that word again. Death. Of course I had heard about death, but to hear what he would say, I asked Daniel, "What is death!"

Daniel replied, "Death is separation from life."

Oh, now that is brilliant, I thought surprised at my ability to be sarcastic in this situation.

Daniel added. "God is life, He is the source of life, biological life, and spiritual life. Human beings die physically when they separate from their bodies, and become like you." He added, "They die spiritually when the separate from God, which always brings suffering.

Suffering is relative though. The same situation that causes tremendous suffering for a person away from God, can affect the one who clings to God much less."

It was enough for me to spit out what I had already said. This was no time for philosophy lessons. I was desperate for relief. How could God expect me to converse with Daniel in the midst of this torture? Paralyzed with fear, and tormented by the heat of the flames, all I could do was weep.

Daniel came over to comfort me. His arms were as cool as a waterfall and as soothing as a poultice. Instead of being vaporized, the flames vaporized Daniel, and both he and the flames vanished!

Hallelujah! I was left stunned staring at the fog that had been Poppy. Shocked by the abrupt transition, my weeping turned to full blown crying. Looking down at my puddled friend, I screamed, "Poppy please come back. I need to talk to you!"

Slowly Poppy resurrected herself. I was never so happy to see any angel or even God as much as I was happy to see Poppy at that moment. Drained and confused I continued crying.

Ignoring my tears, Poppy spoke as if nothing had just happened and as if she was in front of a class of children. "Death" she said, "is separation, and isolation. Humans hate it, but they must experience it, just as they must experience birth without warning or permission. God uses physical death to sort people out. Separating from the physical body, and separating from God, the source of life, are two different kinds of death. A person must experience physical death, but spiritual death can occur with or without the body, or not at all."

Angels don't die. Before coming to earth I never ever had to think about death, or suffering. Today was a horrible. I wanted to GO HOME!!!

Ignoring the interference of my loud thoughts, professor Poppy continued. "Human souls, like us who love God never die!"

Poppy reminded me, "You have met several spirits in this Bride's year, saints and people who have come to speak with you. You have seen the spirits of parishioners in the church, they were considered physically dead but they were just as alive as you and me. Right?"

Without waiting for my response, professor Poppy continued, "When the Pharisee died in body, if he had not yet realized how offensive was his pride, he would have been sent to a place of suffering. Those flames you felt were very real; there are spirits who must endure such suffering without relief."

I shuddered, imagining still being imprisoned in those flames.

Poppy looked down into the nave of the cathedral and said, Look! There is a funeral going on down there! We didn't even notice; come and see!"

"What is a funeral?" I whispered.


Poppy replied, "The Bride, the Church, will commend the soul of God's servant to The Lord. Family and friends have a chance to say good bye, and pray to God for mercy and forgiveness so s(he) won't suffer."

I couldn't help but smirk, wondering if Poppy heard herself mention how important it was to say good bye.

Oblivious to my criticism, Poppy said, "Here comes the body!"

Six men were carrying John in a wooden box with brass handles into the church. When they set it down on the altar, it was opened. Inside, John was laying on a white satin bed. He looked like he was sleeping.

John was beloved. Five priests and two chanters were there to bestow the sacrament of burial upon him. I had never seen so many priests at one time. The church was filled with sad people in black.

John's coffin was surrounded by angels preparing to accompany his soul to the judgment seat of Christ.

Poppy and I stayed in the dome to watch from above as John's beloved friends and family filed past his lifeless body with tears and prayers to bid him farewell for his spirit's journey.

Never before had I been so grateful not to have a body, never to have to transition to a new kind of being, never to be so separated from my companions who could not hear me speak to them. That was a truly horrible sensation.

After the church emptied again, I did not feel like flying, or even talking with Poppy. I didn't want to go out, so I spent the next few days and nights alone in the dome, close to King Jesus pictured on His throne. I quietly worshipped Him in awe that God would be willing to take on a body that would some day have to die. Glory to Thee, my God. Praise Him sun and moon, praise Him all you shining stars! Praise Him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! I the rolled myself into a perfect sphere and found a corner to rest in while light and darkness took turns making time.

On the fifth day I unfolded myself as the chandeliers were being lit and the chanters and priests were taking their places. More angels arrived than I had ever seen there before, and I even noticed a few bodiless souls. I went looking for Poppy to tell me what was happening.


"Good morning sleepyhead!" she said in her perkiest tone of voice.

I stopped myself from telling her that I wasn't sleeping; I was praying. Changing into a less egotistical angel was going to take some work. Instead I said, "Is today special, I don't think it is Sunday yet; I have been counting."

"Right! Today is the first Saturday of the Souls of the year. Those people who make up the Bride of Christ on earth, commemorate their loved ones who have passed into their bodiless state and are waiting for the Last Judgment."

"Wait a minute! When is the first judgment?" I asked afraid that I had missed something.

Poppy replied, "Remember when you saw the funeral of John a few days ago?"

"Yes." I answered.

"When he first separated from his body, his soul was escorted by the angels to the place of judgment where Jesus evaluated his life and determined where he will go to wait for the Last and Final Judgment."

"What are the options?" I asked.

"He will either go to a peaceful pleasant place where he may continue to worship The Lord and to taste the eternal life that God has prepared,


If he does not deserve that, and many people don't, unfortunately, he will go to a place of suffering where he will taste eternal punishment.

"Eternal punishment!" I gasped.

"Look angel! God gave these people every tool imaginable, every warning, every blessing. He even came down to earth to show them the way to live for others. But if they choose to squander all that, like the Prodigal Son, or if they are so full of pride like his brother and the Pharisee that they think their own judgment is at the center of the universe, I mean they are self centered rather than God centered, then the consequence is that they will go to a place away from the holy community, not because God wants them there, but because they separated themselves. They left."

"You know I have seen these people for several months now, and I haven't met one that is all good or all bad. How is Jesus to judge?" I asked.

"True. It can't be easy. " I replied, "They will be judged fairly on the totality of their lives. Many factors will be taken into account. But that is why the prayers of the living are so important. Love is powerful. If God hears prayers of love, then those people who are being prayed for will be given refreshment if they are suffering. Their lots may even improve, at least until the Last Judgment when all decisions will be final and the place they go to will never change."

"I should think if I was a person I would work at nothing harder than a good judgment after death."

"Me too," said Poppy. "But it doesn't seem to occur to most people that they will be judged. Indeed some, a very few people will bypass judgment, but it is the foolish ones who assume they will fall into this exclusive group. Most humans go so far as to think they will live forever with their notions of power and glory, and then fall into a deep void of sleep.

"Delusional." I replied.

"Well, that is why this Saturday is such a big day for the souls. They not only receive the prayers of a few, but from many."

I looked over to notice a few souls waiting patiently to see if their names will be called out by the priests. I looked into their spirit faces when the names were read and he and he and she appeared to have been given a glass of cool water, while they and them waited till the end and heard not their names but were enfolded into the greater unnamed group and smiled gratefully.

I looked over at a young spirit who radiated a baby blue light gazing upon the table in front of the altar that was filled with plates and bowls full of mounds of wheat covered with a powdery sugar decorated with almonds and lit candles. I read in his mind that the wheat reminded him of his muscular body, and how he treated it, what he filled it with, and what he did with it. How he longed for the new body that Christ promised him after the last judgment of his soul. How he hoped he would be able to receive one, for still he wasn't sure if the second judgment would be more or less difficult than the first. How sad he was about all the anger and bitterness he had expressed in his embodied life. How surprised at how it boomeranged back to him, bitterness and anger and criticism of himself.

"Let's go, let's go, don't dawdle. It is time to return!" ordered a very militant angels who was obviously in charge of the fortunate souls that had visited the cathedral that morning.


Meanwhile, back in the church, another darkness passed bringing a new day in time. Once again the cathedral gradually filled with people, each with his or her reason for being there, each with his or her own distracted thoughts. Those people who come regularly filled their favorite spots, chosen for its proximity to a particular person, to be near a favorite saint, or to be near a nameplate on the pew because that name was a beloved friend or father by whom they wished to sit.

The time had come for the doors to be shut. No one was allowed to walk into the nave. Guards were positioned at every entrance to make sure of that inside everyone stood as the priest, the tall young one, Father Dimitri, emerged to read the Holy Gospel.

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and He will put the sheep at His right hand and the goats at the left.

Then the King will say to those at His right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you gave Me clothing, I was sick and you took care of Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’

Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw You hungry and gave You food, or thirsty and gave You something to drink? And when was it that we saw You a stranger and welcomed You, or naked and gave You clothing? And when was it that we saw You sick or in prison and visited You?’

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of My family, you did it to Me.’

Then He will say to those at His left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and His angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not give Me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Father Dimitri gently shut the book and with a most somber heart and face, looked up at the figure of Christ seated on His throne, and then straight at his flock. With a tear running down his cheek he said,

"God is merciful but even He has limits. No one is so patient and merciful as God but even He does not forgive those who do not repent, who do not try hard to change, who are not willing to enter the cocoon of Lent and come out a butterfly.

The God of love is also a God of righteousness, and when Christ comes again in glory, He will come to judge the living and the dead, those who loved and worshipped God and worked at modeling him, and those whose pride separated them from Christ-likeness. It was always their choice, but there were consequences.

The message of Lent is to turn back and go home to the Father while there is still time. The Great and Last Judgement will be the happiest of days and the worst of days. Let us be ready. Please brothers and sisters, let us ever be mindful of the impending reality of our death, and let that thought alone guide our actions, while there is time."

Then he turned and chanted, "Grant that being ever protected by Thy power, to Thee we may ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages." while returning to his cave.

Upon hearing that, I shuddered and was never so grateful to be an angel.

Poppy flew up to me and said, "Whew! Me too, I am sorry that I was ever jealous of the people with bodies." Agreeing, I sent her a spirit hug.

31. Expulsion, Forgiveness and the Wilderness Cocoon-The Great Lent

It feels so good to be an angel!

Right before we spotted a young couple huddled together in the last row of the balcony weeping, Poppy and I had been rejoicing that we would never have to die, neither the involuntary death of a body we don't have, nor the death of a soul because we were God's angels.

We swiftly flew over to them to see what was wrong. Poppy said, "Did someone you love very much die? I am so sorry."

The woman answered with a sob, "You could never be as sorry as I am."

"We can try. Tell us who it was and we will pray for their souls to be refreshed and forgiven."

The young man answered for her, "It was us; we died. In fact, we are the reason that humans must die at all."

Poppy and I gasped together. "How could you do that! How did you do that?"

Adam and Eve explained their colossal act of disobedience, and in shame bowed their heads and cried even more. "It's all our fault. Every person who is torn from his family has us to blame for their grief."

I looked over at Poppy. It was an awkward moment because we naturally want to console the grieving, but these two characters deserved a whack instead!

Being more thoughtful and generous than me, Poppy replied, "I think God knew you would do that, please don't cry. Your tears of regret won't do anyone any good."

"I just want to go back to Eden. It was paradise!" exclaimed lovely Eve with all her heart. I who also yearned to go home and was evicted from my heavens could relate. But my eviction was not punishment, or was it? Well, my eviction did not bring down the entire body of heavenly hosts!

"Of course it was paradise." I replied, quickly shedding every ounce of sympathy. "To be able to see God, to never die. How could you have been so reckless?!" I blurted out, surprised at how angry I felt towards this couple."Did you see all those souls begging for mercy, and the people crying at John's funeral? Well, multiply that by trillions of souls who ever lived and had to die!"

Poppy shot me a fierce look and canceled my rebuke by adding, "Good news! God sent Jesus to earth to reopen the gate to your paradise! He will soon make it possible for you to reach the Tree of Life. Undo! It will be okay, better than ever maybe. Forgive yourselves and God will forgive you. Relax."

I refused to let go of my anger so soon. "Right! God came to earth as a human so even He would have to die, to save humans from the curse that you inflicted on mankind; in fact, on the whole earth! So you see, you are also responsible for Christ's death! And you sit here pitying yourselves! Pathetic!"

Poppy turned to me and in a calmer tone said, "Forgiveness is at the core of this situation. Don't you see that God wants humankind to learn how vital it is to repair the tear, to close the wound, that is caused by separation from Him and separation from each other. That's what forgiveness is. Unity is God's desire and His objective. Your attitude only perpetrates divisiveness." Then, in her most serious tone of voice Poppy closed by saying to me, "You are as much at fault as Adam and Eve if you are unable to forgive, because you are reopening the wound instead of healing it."

I countered, "These two characters caused death for humanity, God's replicas, because they didn't trust Him. Instead they allowed themselves to be influenced by Lucifer, and now I am supposed to forgive THEM and welcome them into the fold!"

Poppy frowned while retorting, "You sound like you are the one who will go to the cross for humankind! Relax! All you have to do is LOVE and forgive. Can you manage that? I can't wait for you to enter the cocoon. You are such an ugly caterpillar!"

Adam and Eve watched us angels argue. Slowly the sobbing stopped, and I think I heard Eve giggle. I was offended by her giggling. After all, I was agreeing with her that their fall from grace caused so much suffering. Instead of being laughed at, we should have been crying together. I was in a real dilemma. I was sure that my attitude was justified, and yet, it was neither kind nor humble.

Reading my thoughts, Poppy whispered so as to keep her advice private, "Does your attitude, justified as you think it is, unite or separate? Keep it up angel and you will find yourself in outer darkness whether you say you love God or not." And to Adam and Eve she said,"Don't despair. Have you repented of your doubting God's love and trustfulness?"

"Of course we have!" they chimed in unison.

"Then, be patient and prayerful. Jesus will see to it that you and your children's children who trust Him and who practice forgiveness and mercy will find their home in paradise and eat from the Tree of Life at the end of the Lenten journey."

Adam's face began to brighten, and he said, "When does this journey begin, count us in!"

I added, "Don't you live in Hades? How did you get up here anyway? I suggest you go back and wait. Pray and wait; you have done enough. Jesus will come for you after He suffers your punishment."

Poppy shot me another fierce look and said, "You really know how to ruin a beautiful moment."

Adam and Eve vanished, and I was left with an angry Poppy.

"You clearly have a lot to learn. We were so happy that we couldn't die, but your attitude is deadly. How can an angel like you be allowed to serve God?

You are assigned to a human during Lent. It will be your task to walk every step with him and make sure he gets to the Tree of Life. As for me, I don't want to see you again until that happens. Goodbye angel. I hope you can turn into a butterfly but somehow I doubt it. Prove me wrong. By the way, did you hear me say good bye! GOOD-BYE.

Poppy vanished, and I was left wondering who my person was, and how I would find out.

I hovered in the hallowed space of my new home hoping that I could change into a more humble and loving angel of The Lord. I travelled over to the iconostasis in front of the altar and spent some time in front of the icons, looking into their eyes and listening for words of wisdom. I started with the Archangel Gabriel on the far right, then moved left to John the Baptist who reminded me of the baptism of Jesus. I was remembering that clear day when I felt a shadow of a man approach me. I looked up to notice that Jesus had stepped out of His icon!

"Angel, it's time! Do you still want to accompany me into the wilderness?" He said. "We leave at sunset. Pray that your journey will be long and difficult and that that you will emerge thoroughly changed. Frankly, Lent is not meant for angels, but I know none that need transformation more than you. Let's go!"

32. Triodion Two - Lent Begins

32. Triodion Phase Two - Lent Begins

As we headed into the wilderness Jesus said to me, "Poppy wants me to keep you close during Lent. I have gotten some unfavorable reports on you angel. Why is your attitude so bitter and sarcastic? Don't you realize how much you harm yourself by looking through those mirky lenses?"

"If I can be honest with you Sir, I don't feel any harm at all. I am just being myself. I thought that Poppy assigned me to a human for Lent. She lied; You aren't really human."

Seeing how difficult this journey with a recalcitrant angel was going to be, Jesus replied, "You have known Me forever. Before the world was recreated we flew through the heavens together, so I will forgive you for saying I am not human. But remember that you also witnessed My very human birth. I don't expect you, a bodiless angel, to understand. That's why you must stay near me throughout the journey, or the cocoon as Poppy calls it. You will soon see what it means for a soul to be burdened with a body."

Jesus and I moved quietly side by side for a long while; each of us immersed in our own thoughts. I wondered what a body could do for me, if I had one. The wilderness grew darker and darker.

When we entered a clear illuminated patch, I decided that it was safe to break the silence and said, "Lord, what is a soul; do I have one?"

Jesus responded,"No, you don't have a soul, but exactly like humans, you ARE a soul. When We formed humans, We blew the spirit of life, souls, into them. We used you angels as models. Each infant born is like an angel given a body."

I think Jesus said that to help me identify with humans, and it did, a little. I wondered, but didn't dare ask, for fear of ridicule, if someday I too could be born into a body. In an attempt to show Jesus that I had learned a thing or two about being human, I said, "Lord, since you are so human, do you want to stop first to get a satchel of food for the journey?"

Jesus replied, "Now I will confuse you." and He grinned large and bright. "The answer is 'no'. It is not because I don't need food; I love to eat, but mastering My appetite strengthens me. I will need as much strength as I can muster in the days to come."

"Is there something in this wilderness that we are going to find?" I asked.

Jesus replied, "Our mission to is travel beyond the wilderness to Eden to reach The Tree of Life. This Tree will restore immortality to humankind, but it is being guarded by twirling swords and flames that we must first break through.

My Bride and Our children will go with us. Like warriors training for battle, we will strengthen our individual wills to conform to the will of God by limiting what we eat. My Bride has told Her children not to eat anything during this 40 day journey that contains the blood of an animal, neither meat, nor any product of a creature with blood, even milk or eggs, for in the blood is life. She teaches Our children to forsake animal life in order to gain eternal spiritual life and someday, a new immortal body.

Our mission is dangerous because the world with its array of demons will try hard to stop us. Just as the devil, by cunning robbed Adam and Eve of immortality, he will do everything in his power to keep us from reaching the Tree of Life.

Our will shall be tested every day of this journey. Every day we must decide whether to indulge the body, or strengthen the spirit. We must fight temptation, and pleasure seeking. Just as a soldier cannot battle the enemy if (s)he is looking for pleasure and comfort, so we too cannot battle the enemy of God and His people if we succumb to the appetites of the flesh."

When Jesus finally paused, I interjected, "Lord, I don't have a body, remember? Besides, satan and his angels never bother me, let's just leave them alone. I can fly over the flames to reach the Tree for You."

Jesus responded, "I am sorry to tell you this angel, but satan doesn't care about you; he is after the precious children of God. He will do everything he can to keep HUMANS from reaching the Tree of Life. I am the only one who can do this, but I need your help. Adam and Eve are counting on us. When my flesh becomes weak, I will need you to minister to Me. Buck up."

I replied enthusiastically, "What You need Lord is the Archangel Michael to come on this journey. He is the warrior angel, not me. I just like to fly. I have never been trained for battle."

"Thank you, I have thought of that. Michael will join us, but My Bride needs you, and I need you. Like Michael, My Bride is militant and the Lenten season is her favorite battleground. You have come to earth to learn of the Bride's year. This is the battle season. Aren't you the angel who followed me after my baptism and wanted to accompany me into the wilderness? I thought this was your idea."

I replied meekly, "Yes, that was me, Sir. Do I still have a choice?"

Jesus said, "Not unless you would rather go over to the dark side. That may seem easier for now, but I warn you that ultimately satan and his angels will lose everything and be forever condemned." Then He added to scare me, "Remember that fire experience? You won't have Daniel to extinguish the flames for you next time."

In my typically sassy manner I responded, "I already have immortality, why do I need to reach the Tree of Life?"

Jesus answered, "The death of a soul is much more catastrophic than the death of a body. A dead angel is most horrifying. Adam and Eve are depending on Me, on Us, and I need you to fight with me and for me, do you understand?"

"Yes, Sir." I said, not quite sure that I wanted to be trained to fight, neither evil spirits nor myself.

33. The Lenten Wilderness - I

Listening to my silent thoughts, Jesus said aloud, "Don't fret angel, worry could destroy you.  I do not intend to issue you a rifle and grenades. I am the one who will fight. As with a boxer in the ring, your job is to refresh me between bouts."

Feeling relieved that I would not have to go to war by myself, I sparkled greens and magentas triggering another glowing grin from the God-man. Then I wondered about the Bride's role in this journey to the Tree of Life, so I asked, "Did your Bride abandon you? Where is She?"

"She is in me," He said, "in my heart from the beginning of My life. Every child of God who travels through this wilderness is in Me as part of my humanity that struggles against the evil one."

"That sounds sweet Lord," I said, "but I am looking around and I see lions and tigers and bears; I don't see any other humans. Did you eat them?"

Jesus smirked and said, "You know the Bride plays with time, right?"

"Yes my Lord," I replied, "that happens to be what I love the most about Her."

"Thirty years after My birth, I am taking this journey that we are on now, right?"

"Yes my Lord, I see that you are a man of thirty, even though in the Bride's year you were born three months ago, not thirty years; but who is counting?"

Jesus smiled knowingly and said, "Take my word for it, I am thirty. Every year forms layer of time, like rings that show the tree as older, and and stronger. Likewise this wilderness journey in

Lent is part of the Bride's holy mystical year. As I struggle alone in the wilderness, each of My children struggles alone in the Lenten wilderness. Trust Me, She is here too.

A tree growing stronger in time does not form a new tree, but is the same tree. My Bride and I do not repeat this wilderness journey, we add to it as a tree accumulates rings." 

This exchange was followed by a long period of silence.

As if dealing with me wasn't hard enough on Jesus, the heat of the sun on this unusually hot day was beating down like irons pelting Him with fire causing sweat to drip like streams of tears. Climbing the steep bare mountainside with no trees for shade, Jesus stopped from time to time to crawl into caves for rest. Each time, I stood at the mouth of the  cave to protect Him from scorpions and demons.

At one rest stop a mountain lion approached me and roared mightily as if to say, "This is MY territory. Get out! Then a flock of demons rushed in and shouted into the cave, "Jesus, why did you abandon your mother and father Joseph? Go back to the cool sea where you came from and honor them with your presence."

I shouted back, "The Creator of this earth has a right to walk anywhere He pleases. YOU be gone! My Lord, must exercise the ability to confront discomfort, temptation and yes, even your harassment to get through the fiery swords. Now you shoo!"

The demons did not obey me. In fact, even more arrived on the scene. I looked around for signs of the Archangel Michael, but he was nowhere to be seen. I suspected that He was staying away to spite me for the way I treated him during the Feast of the Three Hierarchs. I was clearly flustered and didn't know what to do.

In unison the demons called over to me, "Why are you protecting that man? We know you are one of us, we heard how you spoke to the Holy Spirit, and to others. Don't be a hypocrite. Come over to our side and let Him die in this heat lest we die on the last day. Save us angel, you who despise creation as much as we do!"

I was aghast to hear these demons try to tempt me away from my God. I didn't know how to defend myself. They were right in their accusations. Yet I knew this was the time for battle. I had to keep them from tormenting Christ.

To stall them I said, "So, what do you have to offer?"

I looked over to see Jesus looking up at us from the mouth of his resting cave. His eyes asked if I too would abandon Him. Of course not! My Lord and God! I was trying to stall them to give you rest.

Suddenly I heard Jesus in my heart say, 'If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.' I knew in an instant that I had to sever myself from my ego, my need to sound clever or cynical. I needed to hit them head on, not obliquely. 

I looked over at the mountain lion and wondered if it was a demon in disguise. That gave me an idea. I also knew how to play that game and so I spun myself into a large white tiger and roared like thunder! "Don't be fooled you mangy demon creatures! Thank you for helping My God train for the ultimate battle ahead. Give us all you have and more, and still it will not be enough to keep you from eternal damnation!"

Neither the demon spirits nor the mountain lion seemed phase by my performance, but depart they did. Fortunately by then the sun began to set and with its setting there was relief from the blazing heat.

Jesus fully emerged from the cave and stood by me.

"Lord, I don't know that I am capable of helping You, or myself. I have no idea of how to fight demons. I am afraid that I was floundering.

Jesus said, "That's why we are here. You must learn how to identify and combat the enemy lest Satan deceive you as he did Eve, and you too end up in hell with him.

Just then I saw another devil fly over to us. Jesus looked at me as if to say, 'Let me handle this one.

The devil flew up to Jesus and said, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." He answered, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." With that the devil flew away.

I smiled so hard my eyes twinkled. 'Good job!' I noticed that He didn't even have to yell louder or turn into a tiger and roar. He was so calm and collected!

"Now do you see why I refused your satchel of food for this journey?"

"Not really Lord; he couldn't have tempted you with food if your belly was full."

"True, but I could not have proven that the word of God was better than food for my soul, if my belly was full!"

"Touché Lord." I replied.

"The body must be trained by sacrifice to place God above all and to serve Him and Him alone; a body driven by the stomach cannot be guided by the soul, no matter how good the intentions. Hunger must be sublimated by a soul fixed on God to fight evil. The body that is not properly trained is more likely to be vulnerable to the devil."

"As You see, Lord, I don't have a body, but I believe you."

At that moment I looked up to see a flock of white angels headed our way, spraying a mist of fresh water in their path. As they approached Jesus turned His face upward to soak in the refreshment and they continued on their way. Now that's what Jesus needs from His angels, I thought.

"You don't need me Lord. I am more of a hindrance to You than a help." I muttered in shame. 

"But I do, angel friend. You remind me of the struggle of souls whose inner fight ebbs and flows like the waves, never still, but always wanting to reach for God, to be sheltered under Our wings."

Imagine that, Jesus, the human Person of God identifying Himself with a lowly angel like me, that is wild!

"Shall we walk?" I asked wishing for a body so I could at least have an excuse for my inadequacy. 

34. Lenten Wilderness -II, Sunday of the Cross

What made me think that the wilderness was going to be a flat walk in the woods with furry little squirrels frolicking at our feet and birds tweeting harmonious melodies to uplift us along the way?

Watching Jesus climb this steep and barren mountainside erased from me every desire for a body. It was obviously grueling for Him. Often He slipped back down over mean rocks and suffered painful cuts and scrapes. I saw Him wince more than a few times; I heard grunts and groans. I saw bruises appear on His holy legs and arms. How I wished that Jesus could hop on my wings and let me fly him up to the mountaintop. But it was the physical material world we are engaged with and as spirit I had nothing to offer Him but cool breezes that I blew over his filthy sweaty face.

To make it more miserable, those parasitic demons remained near to taunt him with jeers.

This trek was Man v. Earth. The earth He created was resisting Him just as the human creation would. There was no peace in this wilderness. Threat of dehydration, of wild beast attack and starvation accompanied Christ every step of the way. Our way.

I thought back upon my journey from Persia to Bethlehem with the three wise men. At the time it seemed so grueling, but was by comparison easy. The wise men had each other and they had me to guide them. I was not guiding the Christ, He was being lead by the Spirit, not eagerly, but as being dragged. He was going through a hellish experience.

I had missed seeing Jesus' childhood, but I am sure that He had never before experienced such trauma to His body or soul until this day. My suffering was in watching Him, knowing the glorious heavens from whence we came and how far He stooped to be at the depths of this wilderness climb. If the Bride's Lent is to join Christ in this wilderness experience, She must be a masochistic or have a very good reason, perhaps the same reason as Jesus. She must love Him very much.

Grieved by these silent thoughts, I looked down and noticed a honeycomb with honey dripping on the ground and pointed this out to Him. Jesus looked over but did not bend down to fetch the sweet nourishing honey to comfort his parched mouth and growling stomach. I looked at Him and said, "Lord, surely the Father has provided this honey for you, to help you get through the wilderness; eat it." He replied, "Get thee behind me satan. Food is not the giver of life, God is."

I did not appreciate being called satan when I was only trying to help Him, and yet with these words and His refusal of the honey Jesus made it clear that He was training for a much more difficult battle than the one with His stomach.

Hiking on a shallow incline we were startled by the sound of hissing. If honey didn't tempt Him, neither did rattlesnakes and scorpions threaten Him as they do to lesser men. Jesus stopped and stared down at the swarm of poisonous creatures rattling and hissing. Instead of screaming, as I would have, to my surprise He began to reason with them in a wordless language that convinced them to allow Him to pass through their territory unharmed. Then with trans-species friendship the vermin lined up in single file and for a while moved ahead of us as in a royal procession up the mountain.

Reading His mind, while He climbed Jesus was thinking back with sympathy on the days of the Exodus from Egypt when His people were often without food or water. He was glad for the experience and wiser in a way that without suffering it firsthand He never could have understood. God had ached to know what the Exodus experience felt like, to know how difficult it was for man to trust Him in a physical way.

Within this physical hardship Jesus was learning step by step how to separate the body from the spirit, and how to live on both planes simultaneously. The lessons of the wilderness would serve Him well. With spirit eyes I perceived Him grow stronger and wiser every day.

It is here in the wilderness that Jesus came to understand firsthand about the plight of the ill and infirm, knowledge that will evolve into compassion and motivate Him in His healing mission ahead.

Fortunately for me, because I think it was harder for me to watch this suffering than for Him to endure it, we came to a large plateau and stopped for several days. The air was thin, fragrant and sublime. The sky in its richly azure blue was more beautiful than I had ever seen it before since I landed in Israel. I didn't dare speak to to Him because it was obvious to me that silence was His preferred companion.

It was at this respite that the Holy Spirit appeared.

He said, "The Father has sent Me to speak with You. How are you faring?"

"All Glory to God, the lessons that this barren earth are teaching Me appear numberless."

"Is the angel helping you?" Then the Holy Spirit looked over at me cynically.

"He is doing the best he can," replied Jesus, "I am grateful for his companionship."'

The Holy Spirit began to speak as a man who must deliver bad news. "Jesus, We have brought You here to talk about your mission."

Jesus quickly interjected as a school boy who eagerly raises his hand while blurting out the answer. "I know that I am to find the Tree of Life and go through the flaming twirling sword to restore immortality to humankind so that Adam and Eve can be released from Hades, I know."

The Holy Spirit patiently listened to Jesus and added, "There is more to it, the flaming sword will kill you, your body. Your closest friend will betray you to your enemies. You will beg the Father to spare you, and He will not. Men will curse and revile you, and they will drag you through the injustices of their court systems, and make a mockery of You, and finally they will nail you to a cross and crucify you.

It will be through the death of your body that you will reach Hades, to pull out Adam and Eve and the others. Only then will you be able to give mankind the leaves of the Tree of Life to ensure their immortality. In fact, Son of God, the Tree of Life is the tree of the Cross that You will be crucified on."

Jesus solemnly bowed His head in deep concentration over what He heard.

To quickly administer the final blow, the Holy Spirit added, "You only have three more years to live as a man on earth."

I could see that Jesus, the Son of Man was stunned by this announcement. I could also see that because of the strength that He had derived from our journey so far, Jesus, the Son of God was ready to accept the challenge of it.

He reacted with a daydream. In thoughts that were clearer and easier to read, Jesus remembered His grandfather David, about how bravely David was willing to take on Goliath, trusting only in the power of God and a few pebbles to slay the giant that sought to enslave the chosen ones.

As David was emboldened by the lions he had slain barehanded, Jesus knew that His success in this 40 day journey through the wilderness would fortify Him for whatever His Father called Him to do, even to death on a cross.

After delivering this fateful message, the Holy Spirit vanished. Noticing Him left alone and tender the devil boldly approached and said, “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,

and they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

Knowing His Father God would only want to uplift, not cast down, and also knowing it is foolish to attempt to overcome the devil with miraculous prideful displays, Jesus shrewdly responded, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Then the devil vanished.

I was impressed, but not surprised, that after learning about the suffering He was to endure Jesus didn't veer an iota from his solidarity with His Father God.

To tease Him, I flew over and said, "You aren't dead yet and there is more mountain to climb!"

Jesus smiled and replied, "I knew you would cheer me up, angel. Let's go."

35. March 25th, The Annunciation

The next day was certainly the quietest since we started out weeks ago. Jesus was getting better at climbing, more muscular and tanned. He seemed determined to reach the top as soon as possible. I imagine that He was longing for the days before His incarnation when as part of the Spirit Godhead the heavens were His home, the days before suffering and death ever crossed His holy mind. (I am probably projecting my own feelings here.)

As the sun was setting Jesus appeared exhausted and crawled into a small cave where He soon fell into a very deep sleep. Assuming my post at the entrance I tried to rest too by clearing my mind of all thoughts and my heart from all feelings. Unexpectedly, I saw an archangel approaching. 'Thank God,' I thought. Finally Michael has arrived! I was never so relieved to see him as now. I wondered what took him so long.

As the archangel drew nearer I realized that it was actually my old friend Gabriel.

"Gabriel! Welcome; what are you doing here? Where is Michael? I have been waiting for him. We need his help. There are demons everywhere taunting Jesus, and the devil has shown up twice."

"Sorry to hear that but you must come with me now, quickly. Don't fret, Michael will be here soon. Let's go!"

I hesitated, not wanting to leave The Lord while He was sleeping, but Gabriel was insistent. I looked over to see on the horizon a flock of angels heading our way to replace me.

After watching Jesus struggle day after day, flying never felt so good. I even tried a few figure eights, and my favorites, the spirals.

"Stop that, and fly straight, I don't want to be late." barked Gabriel.

"Where are we going?" I snapped back. "And why did you wait until the last minute to come for me?"

Gabriel and I were communicating telepathically while flying at jet speed. "I was just told to come for you. We are going to visit the young maiden Mary, whom God has chosen among all the women in Israel to become the mother of His Son. I must ask for her consent."

I laughed heartily and for a long time. "Do you mean to say that the man I just left snoring in the cave has not yet been conceived in the Brides year? I LOVE IT."

"Before you laugh your head off," explained Gabriel, "let me explain that human development in the womb requires nine months of time, or nine full moons. To affirm Jesus Christ's humanity, the Bride must use lunar time to celebrate His conception. March 25th is nine months before Christmas. So what you see as playing with time is actually going back to real-time. You are coming from the twilight zone of the wilderness journey."

Together the Archangel Gabriel and I, the lowliest of angels, slowed down upon our approach to Nazareth. "Here we are; be quiet now I need to concentrate." requested Gabriel.

Indeed, there she was, a delicate maiden flower hardly what you would call a woman. She looked so much younger and even more sweet and innocent than the young mother I had met in Bethlehem on Christmas Day three months ago.

I could see that Gabriel had to concentrate to make himself visible again. How I envied his ability to go in and out of human form, well, not fully biological, but visible nonetheless. It was the best of both worlds.

By the time we landed in Nazareth, Gabriel was in full archangel regalia. Light radiated from him like the sun on a shimmering spring morning. I moved invisibly behind him down the marble streets of the city until we spotted the young maiden alone fetching water from the town well.

I winced as Gabriel announced his presence, concerned that fright would overcome the doe. "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." He proclaimed as a trumpet with words.

Instantly Mary looked up at us, but only seeing Gabriel, she smiled with gentle curiosity. I wondered why I was more surprised than this maiden at the sight of this large regal archangel. Gabriel explained later to me that Mary had been warned in a dream. Instead of fear, she was perplexed, for she had not been told in the dream about the reason for the visitation.

Mary looked at Gabriel curious and eager to hear what he had to say. His silence provoked her to speak first. She said, "Hello your majesty, to what do I owe the honor of your visit? What have I to offer such an eminent servant of my Lord and my God?"

I looked up at Gabriel to see how he would respond to such a delicate flower. Gabriel headed right for the point. "Beloved maiden, you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you will name him Jesus." He paused to let that message soak in before proceeding with the most fantastic part. Mary looked at Gabriel patiently but wide-eyed, in full command of her emotions.

"He will be great," continued Gabriel, "and will be called the Son of the Most High, and The Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."

At this astonishing proclamation, Mary matter-of-factly replied to Gabriel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"

I was glad that no one could hear me chuckle. What innocence, what beautiful spirit this girl displayed.

As to a child describing how to make green from yellow and blue, Gabriel replied in a straightforward way, as with a doctor's bedside manner, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God."

There, he said it. The most phenomenal outrageous message that any human could be given fell upon the ears of a barely grown child, carefree and pious. I suspect that if Mary had been any older or more worldly, this announcement could not have found its way into her heart and psyche. But she was not so mature and vitreous. She was still a soft and thirsty sponge willing to learn the deep mysteries of God's cosmic universe, as if the mysteries were simply more lessons that life had to teach her, like the difference between good and evil.

I gazed at her face to read her mind. How will she accept this awesome use of her very body? Would she freely turn it over to Him, or would she have more questions or even make requests of conditions and costs for the loan of her form.

To bless her with a companion, older and wiser, but just as pregnant Gabriel added, "And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

I did not think Gabriel needed to add that last line. What an overstatement after the miracle of a virgin conception. But I thought it was particularly poignant how God paired an old woman who had longed for pregnancy with this young lady full of grace for which child bearing came too soon.

Then as an unblemished ewe lamb, like the little lamb who rushed up to Abraham moments before he was about to sacrifice Isaac, Mary delivered her decision when she said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Can an angel hug a maiden? How I wanted to rush over to her and fold her under my wings, and take her for a ride around the stars. Instead, just as abruptly as we arrived, Gabriel looked at me and said, "Our work is done here. You have seen the conception of both the Son of God and simultaneously His beloved Bride. I need to get you back to the wilderness, Jesus is about to wake up." I said goodbye but wasn't sure if Mary heard me. Deep in thought, she did not look up to see us go.

Then Gabriel and I promptly left Mary at the well full of grace and with child, wondering how she would tell her parents Joachim and Anna, and oh yes! her betrothed, Joseph, the good news.

36. Wilderness III- Saint John Climacus

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.

I gasped!

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?"

37. Mary of Egypt

I could not shake the image of a hairline thin path back to my home in the heavens where I used to sing praises to The Lord continually. 'How could it be so hard to return when I flew down here so effortlessly? Is it possible that God doesn't want me back?' I fretted.

Worry is in my nature, so this fear actually made me feel great!

Saint John Climacus, who had been focused on his writing, looked up at me and said, 'Your ego is far too big to travel that hairline path. I heard that your chanting sounds like clashing dishes falling and breaking in pieces, like the sound of pride and hypocrisy whose tone would shrivel a flower and turn it brown before it blooms, and yet you insist on standing in front of the heavenly hosts crooning out-of-tune.'

John's critique rang true. I remember being aware of my voice cracking, and other mistakes. Then he asked, "If your singing distresses the other angels, are you aiding worship or harming it? Do you chant for yourself or for worship?"

Instead of responding I wondered if my exile was a punishment. Here am I, a lover of God, and a lover of myself. Like waves in the sea I draw close to the shores of true love only to retreat again. I am caught between heaven and hell in a world of clashing angels and demons, anchored to neither. How can I break free from this invisible prison of pride?

John interrupted, "If you are looking for consolation you won't get it from me. Not far from here and at this moment there is a promiscuous woman who, like you, disregards the condition of other souls and her own when it comes to her ambition. She even elevates herself by refusing payment, thinking that gratification is payment enough."

By the time Climacus finished firing at my pride with his canon I could no longer hold myself together. I became a loose mass of fallen gray vapor, without form. At that moment I would have preferred Poppy's deadly fire. I knew neither how to annihilate my spirit self, nor what sort of form I should take.

With complete disregard for my misery Climacus continued, "Courage angel, that whore is in the process of becoming a Saint. Go to her and learn how to shrink your ego so you may safely travel the hairline thin path home."

Given the ounce of hope he offered I rose to a semblance of my former form and said sarcastically, "Did she read your book?"

Climacus patiently replied, "Angel, to tell you the truth, she has been helping me write it. Now go. In the time we have spoken, she has travelled from Alexandria to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Do you need directions?"

The hyper-critical Climacus gradually morphed into a caring father figure, so off I flew in search of a promiscuous woman at the Holy Sepulcher.

When I arrived at the massive and crowded church I flew inside and out in search of a young Egyptian woman. Frankly, I didn't even know what a sepulcher was and why it was so crowded, but that wasn't relevant. I needed to find this woman. Hundreds fit the description, but my senses didn't point out any of them.

I was becoming quite discouraged when a distinguished man approached me. "Angel, may I help you?" he asked.

"No sir." I replied politely. "I am looking for a young woman. Thank you anyway."

He responded knowingly and with a somber tone, "You are too late. Mary of Egypt passed away on April 1st."

I was flabbergasted! "What do you mean? I flew here as fast as I could. I didn't even come from very far and practically in the same year. This can't be! I need to speak with her; it's a matter of life and death!"

I admit that I exaggerated imagining that my passion could bring her back from the dead.

He replied, "I have never met such an hysterical angel before. Are you okay?"

"No, I am not okay!" I cried, "I was sent to this lousy war-zone of a planet to learn about the Bride and her mystical year, and now I think that I was tricked into coming down here to get rid of me. I was told that this woman could show me how to go home, and it turns out she left without me!"

"Calm down angel." He responded. "Your problems are not so dire. My name is Sophronius. I have recently written down her story and can tell you what you came to learn. Come."

I followed Sophronius into his grand office in the Patriarchate embellished with reds and gold. He walked slowly over to his desk, opened a drawer, and carefully pulled out a manuscript which he proceeded to read to me. (Follow this link to read the original manuscript, rich in valuable details of Mary's amazing story). http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/maryegypt.asp

A promiscuous woman went from Alexandria to Jerusalem to visit the Holy Sepulcher during the feast of the Elevation of the Cross. When a mysterious force prevented her entry, she was at first perplexed, but soon realized that her lifestyle prevented her contact with the sacred. She felt great shame and offered the Virgin Mary to leave the world and never commit any licentious crime again if only she would be allowed to enter. Her prayer request was granted and she went into the church easily and witnessed the Elevation of the Cross.'

As I was listening to the story, I wondered if Mary's entry into the church was like my return to heaven, and if I needed to make promises to God like a willingness to leave the choir.

Sophronius continued, 'When she left the church a man handed her some coins with which she purchased three loaves of bread and proceeded into the desert wilderness where she lived in isolation for 47 years. In the 47th year, a monk named Zosima was lead by the Holy Spirit to meet her.

"I know the Holy Spirit!" I blurted to impress Sophronius.

Unfazed, he continued, 'He encountered Mary naked and emaciated, horrified by the sight of this woman who appeared barely human. He was even more surprised when she spoke his name to address Zosima. How could she have known him? After giving her his cloak for a covering, and begging for her story, Mary recounted her life and then asked Zosima to return in a year with the sacrament of Holy Communion.

The following year Zosima eagerly went to the spot where they agreed to meet by the Jordan River and waited for Mary to arrive. After a while Zosima saw the emaciated figure approach the river, make the sign of the cross over it, and proceed to walk on the water towards him. She received communion and sent Zosima back, asking him to return again the following year at the same time in Lent.

The second year when Zosima returned, he found her lying dead on the ground with her head facing east. After praying many psalms and prayers for the deceased, Zosima then noticed words traced on the ground by her head: 'Abba Zosima, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary.'

Zosima was glad to learn her name and continued to read the inscription that said she passed into the arms of a God on April 1st, soon after receiving the holy Eucharist the year before. After burying Mary Zosima returned to his monastery where he told his fellow monks the secret story of the remarkable repentance of this woman.

After finishing, Sophronius gazed at me for several moments piercing my angelic soul, and said. "Do you see how in the cocoon of the desert, the caterpillar Mary evolved into a beautiful butterfly?"

I wasn't quite sure how Sophronius expected me to relate my situation to this story of a promiscuous woman.

Patiently, Archbishop Sophronius asked, "Tell me angel, why did Mary want to repent?"

I replied, “She wanted to repent because she saw that the Holy Spirit would not let her into the Church."

"Exactly, perhaps just as He won't let you return to heaven, but why not?" He said, insisting on a better answer.

I thought more and said, "Because she cared so much more about her own physical gratification (something I have NO interest in) than she cared about the condition of her soul, or anyone else's."

"Isn't that like you who care more about yourself than even the quality of heavenly worship? Then how did she get in after all?" Sophronius insisted.

"The whore made a deal with the Virgin Mary, promising to renounce the world and never seek this gratification again. She asked for credit, and promised to pay later." I replied wishing I had time to think more about what I had just said.

"Did she pay her debt?"

"Yes, immediately and for 47 years. I suspect that she suffered with the excessive cold and heat of the desert and starvation," then I added, "Not having a body though, I cannot expose myself to any of these hardships."

Sophronius added, "She battled demons as well, as you should. In the desert Mary would get cravings and thoughts of the past, for wine and sex and she would beg the Virgin to remove them from her. She would lay prostrate crying all night until the thoughts went away when she would feel warm peace. That was not physical suffering.

Angel, I have news for you. It is your stubborn ego, not your voice, that makes you too big to traverse the hairline path.

Would you be willing to step down from the holy choir and find a role for which you are better suited rather than clanging away?"

"But I love to sing, it makes me so happy!" I insisted. Lying, I added that I didn't realize that my singing wasn't good.

Torn between desires to escape from this interrogation and to go home I forced myself to stay and listen to Sophronius. I asked, "Don't you think that the extent to which Mary polluted her soul makes her story and her conversion unique. After all, I hardly think being off-key can compare to adultery!" I doubted that I managed to say that with even the slightest humility, but out it went, and I had no choice but to wait for his reply.

He answered with a question saying, "Tell me the difference between separation from God with adultery or with pride?"

I knew what to say, but I didn't even like my own words, nevertheless I replied, "Hell is hell, and there is a highway of shocked people going there because Christ said, 'Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.' and 'The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.'

There is a tendency to assume that by loving us more than we love ourselves, that God loves our egos too, even when our egos make us love ourselves more than we love Him."

"Good!" replied Sophronius, and I perked up like an honor-student with my feathers all erect and fanned out.

Sophronius added, "You are fortunate angel. We humans in the world must not only fight to rid our souls of parasitic demons, but we must at the same time battle with the demons in others.

Follow the example of Mary, not by living in the desert and starving a body you don't have, but by becoming as alert as she became to the demons that her pride had invited into her soul. You my angelic friend have been imitating the dark angels more than you will admit to yourself. Yet, only God can heal the infirmity of your soul."

I gasped to think of myself as entertaining demons!

Sophronius then stood up to usher me out of his royal office and said, "Farewell. Ask Saint Mary to intercede for you, and lead you into the cocoon of repentance. I have faith that you will make it. You are in for a real shock soon. Good bye angel."

38. Palms Sunday

Here I was in Jerusalem having been booted from both heaven and the Patriarchate. The only instruction I was given was to ask Saint Mary of Egypt to lead me into the cocoon of repentance. So I did.

"Blessed Mary, if it is possible, please show me today what took you decades to learn, and without all the suffering, how to become faithful to Him, by forsaking the ways of those mischievous demons who continually lure me onto their webs. I want to be an angel of God, I really and truly do.

I am afraid, dear Mary, of being a deluded angel, of thinking that I am translucent, when in fact my rebellious attitude muddies me up. Can it be that I am not the angel I think I am? I have been banished from heaven and I fear I will never be able to return. Please I beg of you, please guide me. Mary, pray for me. Woes is me if I am consigned to this Hades of Earth forever!" Did she hear me?

Weeping, I wandered aimlessly through the stone streets of Jerusalem, flying in and out of doorways and alleyways. I flew out of Jaffa Gate and headed towards the Mount of Olives when I saw a large raucous crowd in the distance, so I went up to see what the commotion was all about.

Easily passing over layers of men, women, and children, a fantastic sight appeared before my angel eyes! There was Jesus sitting on a colt. All of the people along the road were shouting in a cacophony of 'Hosannas' and 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of The Lord!' and 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' And 'Hosanna in the highest heavens!'

Men spread their coats on the street, and children gathered branches from palms trees and laid them over the coats to create a cushion for the colt to walk on. The scene reminded me of a wedding procession where the bride follows flower girls strewing rose petals on her path to adorn the ground she walks on. Was Jesus pretending to be a royal bridegroom?

What in the world is going on here? I thought. Is this real? They are treating Jesus like a king, but He is riding on a little colt instead of a regal horse. The parade was heading to Jerusalem. For miles and miles it was the same scene. Old women and young men running out of their houses and up to the road to join the crowds. Young women and boys jogging alongside Jesus. Miles and miles of palms and coats blanketed the dusty road. With His holy head held high Jesus soaked in the glory.

I even saw gaggles of angels overhead alternately chanting Hosanna and Alleluia in perfect harmony. I cringed to be reminded not to join them. Instead I hovered behind Jesus wondering how it would end. As we approached the Golden Gate, I flew in front of Him so Jesus could see me.

Waving at the crowds, He noticed me and smiled with recognition. I gazed at Him in unbelief and said in angel-speak, "What is going on here?" He replied telepathically, "I'll explain it to you later." and kept on riding. By the time we reached the city, it too was in turmoil. People were asking each other, "Who is this?"

Every few hundred feet someone would shout above the din, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee. Remember, the man who has been performing miracles. Come, let's follow Him and see what He does next."

When Jesus and His colt had arrived at the temple, He dismounted, and with the authority of the master of the house, He surveyed the temple flea market. Jesus had known about the flea market and always despised it, but today He decided it was time to provoke and to purify. I could see the anger welling up in His soul until He looked like He was about to explode. What was He going to do?

I could hardly believe what happened next.

With royal confidence and authority, Jesus actually turned over table after table and yelled at the merchants! I had never seen Him so angry, not even at me. He hollered, "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers!" Doves flew out of their fallen cages and shekels were strewn all over the ground so that from one merchant to the other, no one knew whose money was theirs. Boys ran up to scavenge the change and merchants didn't know whether to yell back at Jesus or fight for their fallen money. Some merchants fought and others scrounged adding to the frenzy in the temple.

Meanwhile, the crowd of men, women and children that had followed Jesus all the way from Bethphage were still near and shouted, "Hooray and Hosannas." Such holy chaos had never been seen on Jerusalem, not since the Romans took over anyway.

After His tirade with the merchants, Jesus regained His composure, and walked over to the east corner of the temple. And then the most unusual thing happened, the merchants retreated to their homes, the loyal crowds dispersed, and the hosannas were hushed.

All that remained were the blind and the lame. One by one a blind child, an old woman with a cane, a man being carried, approached Jesus. And one by one He healed him or her so that all walked out of the temple on that day whole and healthy, some for the very first time. Mothers wept with joy; the necks of the newly sighted turned back and forth, back and forth blessed with vision for the first time in their lives. 'Is this what a face looks like, and a column, and a dove flying high in the temple?'

Shouts of exaltation softened into hymns of praise and thanksgiving to God.

Young boys, anxious to participate in the celebrations of healing gathered around behind Him and softly sang rounds of Hosannas to the son of David in choral harmony while Jesus continued to heal man, woman and child who approached Him with hope and faith.

After a short while, priests and scribes in groups of two and three strutted up to Jesus, as if infected by His former rage. The chief priest roared, "Do you hear what these children are chanting? Tell them to stop!"

Jesus replied, "I hear what they are saying. Have you never read (challenging their scholarship) 'out of the mouths of infants and nursing babes You have prepared praise for Yourself."

The chief priest looked around at his colleagues and shouted, "Did that vagabond just tell us that he accepts the praises due to God alone?" They were all appalled, looking back and forth at each other for affirmation. They were more than appalled, they were incensed. Who does this man think he is, who evicted their commercial tenants, and accepts praises in their temple! Does He think he is God or something?!"

Frankly, I was frightened for Him. Witnessing this day, I had left my own problems behind. I didn't have time to consider my ego or my voice or even how to get home. I realized that I had only one thing to do and that was to stay as close to Jesus as I could, and to guard Him as best as I could because this young man seemed bent on getting Himself into big trouble.

39. The Bride Groom

As the sun set on that glorious but dangerous day Jesus managed to slip away from hostile priests and scribes, and having healed everyone who approached Him in faith and longing, He walked towards Bethany to spend the night. No one was on this dusky road to cheer the healer- hero. He walked alone, no soft palms to trod on, no colt to carry his weary body, the hosannas had halted. The night air was chilling His chest and arms.

I was there. So I flew up to Jesus and said, "My Lord, what just happened back there? Why did you make such a scene at the temple? Do you want to get killed?! Did you see how angry those priests were? Let's go back to the wilderness and hide out for a while."

Jesus replied, "Stay by my side, angel. I will need you more than ever. I am coming closer to the Tree of Life. The time is coming when I must blast through those flaming swords. It is for this day that I have come to Earth, and you as well. This is the climax of my Bride's year. Pay close attention and don't distract Me or misdirect Me. Clear yourself of all those opinions, keep your mind wide open. Whatever you do, trust the Holy Spirit and don't complain!

I will soon teach you how to die to your self-centered ambitions. Follow me through those flames and come with Me to the Tree of Life and I will feed you of its leaves. No demon can go there.

I didn't know what He was talking about, so I nodded and smiled. It was a relief though to hear that I could go to a place where demons were forbidden. I don't think I had ever seen Jesus look so tired, even when we were climbing the wilderness mountain. I wanted to be able to carry Him on my wings, but fortunately Bethany was only a few kilometers away and we were soon knocking on a door.

"Come in brother! You must be exhausted." exclaimed a vibrant young woman. "I have your bed all made up. Are you hungry? I have a pot of stew on the fire. I will get you a plate. Lazarus will be home in a moment."

"How is Lazarus?" asked Jesus.

"Better than ever!" said Mary. "It is hard to believe that he was actually dead for four days. You should see him chopping wood. He has more energy than he has had in years."

"Remember what I told you Martha."

Just then Martha's sister entered the room saying, "You are the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in You, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in You will never die. Lazarus was never really dead Martha."

"Greetings Mary! How have you been faring?" and then to Martha, He said, "Sure, I am as hungry as a lion." Jesus became re-energized in the presence of His friends.

But after dinner the spurt of energy wore off and the king of the colt went to the bed that Martha prepared for Him and fell into a deep and restful sleep.

Not needing sleep myself I hovered close by Jesus as He lay snoring quietly. Strangely, thoughts of His Bride came to mind. I wondered where She was now, as there was no church building for Her to gather Her flock into, and no human body to inhabit, except for one, Her Bridegroom's body. I wondered if She too, in Him would also go through the flaming swords to the Tree of Life. I wondered how that was going to happen, because I had no idea where to find such a miraculous tree.

During my vigil I concluded that His Bride is as divine as Jesus is, and that these are the days before Her incarnation in bodies and buildings. Because I too am spirit, I could see that She is as alive as He is, and because She is timeless, even at this moment before her appearance on earth, She inhabits the billions of faithful souls that someday will form the visible body of Her Beloved on earth and the thousands of church buildings they will give Her.

It occurred to me while wondering where the Bride was at that moment, that as Jesus is in His Father, our God, His Bride is in Him, and He is in His Bride. So I sat quietly admiring the Bridegroom and His Bride sleeping soundly and peacefully united in one body in the bed in Bethany that night, wishing that I could experience sleep too... but not complaining about it.

40. Holy Wednesday - Betrayal and Healing

While the Bridegroom was sleeping peacefully in a cozy clean bed under the dry thatched roof of Lazarus' home one of the men in His inner circle of friends was meeting with the very same chief priest who hours before, Jesus had provoked to anger. On the first Passover night the Angel of Death passed over the homes of the people of God, but on this Passover night, through Judas, the Angel of Death pointed to the Son of God. 'I warned Him, didn't I?'

When I heard this from the angelic grapevine, I was in such a dither that I didn't know if I should wake Him up right away and take Him back into the wilderness or let Him get a good night's rest first. I waited.

In the morning Jesus woke up refreshed. Mary and Martha were scurrying around trying to find ways to please Him. Martha set out bread and honey and fish for His breakfast, His favorite foods. Mary was praying. Jesus ate heartily while I tried repeatedly to get his attention. Finally, when Martha forced Mary to go with her to feed the chickens, I got my chance.

"Jesus, we have to talk. Can you break away from here? We need privacy." I whispered nervously.

"What's wrong?" He responded. "Never mind; I'll meet you out in the field behind the Joshua Tree in fifteen minutes, okay?"

I went straight away and rehearsed ways to tell Him the bad news.

Jesus arrived refreshed, happy and healthier-looking than I had ever seen Him before.

"What is it angel?" He asked.

"Lord, I have some very bad news for you. Your friend Judas Iscariot just made a deal with the chief priest to turn you into the authorities for 30 pieces of silver. See, I told you he would try to kill you! I'm afraid they will come to arrest you soon. Listen, I will do everything in my power to prevent that!"

Jesus smiled and said in jest, "Only 30? I think he should have held out for a lot more! I'm offended."

"Lord! This is not a joking matter. What are we going to do?"

"Angel, he replied, I know that My time has come, and I will be betrayed into the hands of My enemies. Be prepared. I will go through a trial and I will be crucified. It is for this reason that I was born. Don't you remember when we were in the wilderness and the Holy Spirit told Me that I only had three more years to live? Well, I have made the most of it. I think I am ready. Will you stay with Me? I will need you more than ever, my friend."

"Every step of the way My Lord. Does that mean we are going to reach the Tree of Life together, and let Adam and Eve out of Hades?"

"Yes," He replied, "The Father sent John the Baptist on to Hades to give everyone the good news that I will release them soon. They are preparing themselves."

"Jesus, something just occurred to me." I said, then asked the unthinkable,"Did you provoke the chief priest on purpose?"

He replied, "Yes, and soon you will see me doing even more to set myself up. The only way I can reach the Tree of Life is through the flaming swords of death, and I can't die naturally. The Holy Spirit wrote all about it in the Scriptures. Have you read the Scriptures angel?"

Changing the subject I mumbled "Poor Judas" under my breath, and then out loud to Jesus I said, "So what should we do tonight Lord, since your days are numbered and all? Are there any weddings in town?"

Surprisingly Jesus already had the answer. "My Bride and I are going to hold a healing extravaganza! It will be the biggest, and best healing services the world has ever known!"

Jesus looked wide-eyed and cheerful like a five year old on Christmas Eve. "This evening, Wednesday, and on this same Wednesday in every country around the world throughout history from this day forward, in every one of thousands of my Bride's churches, my priests will be anointing all of Our Children for the healing of their bodies and souls.

We are going to go through this crucifixion together, and I want everyone going into it to be as strong and healthy both physically and spiritually as I am."

"Lord, surely you are joking," I said as seriously as I could. "This is your idea of a good time? You are about to be tortured, and your last wish on earth is to hold a healing extravaganza?" I could not believe He was serious.

"Yes angel," replied Jesus "and what is wrong with that? Do you remember your daydream when we were visiting John Climacus?"

I had to think hard, it seemed like lightyears ago. Then it came to me. I had been remembering when 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.

"Yes, it is that same Spirit that turned the hard little olive into an oil light-giver, that My Bride uses to anoint priests and kings. Not only are our children anointed for spiritual and physical health but also as fellow kings and queens of My Father's Kingdom, to reign with Him forever. My Father reigns, not by His almighty might, nor by His infinite power, but by His loving Spirit."

Then Jesus seared my soul with His X-ray eyes and added, " Angel, you will never reign, you are a little lower than Our kings and queens, but to serve God, as you say you want to, is nevertheless an awesome honor, and you must have a pure heart to do so.

For My sake, please stop insisting on chanting out-of-key and ruining the heavenly worship services."

I immediately fell flat on my face before Him and cried, "Forgive me my Lord, my King and my God."

From that healing moment on, I knew that I wanted more than anything on earth or in heaven, even more than returning to heaven, or singing with the heavenly hosts, to cling to my Lord like feathers to a dove, and worship Him with the gift He gave me, a softer heart.

As I sat there weeping, Jesus lifted me up with His eyes and said, "I love you to death angel. Come, we have work to do to reach that Tree of Life."

"Lord," I said, not wanting to ruin the moment with my curiosity, but nevertheless I asked, "Were those two olive trees that poured their light giving oil into the lamp, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life?"

Jesus flashed me a mysterious smile and simply replied, "We have eons to talk about these things. Hush, and follow Me."