As Ash and Candle Smoke: A Holy Mystery

The story of the twelve members of the Order of the Chalice, twelve modern day souls, each on a holy crusade.


The Prologue

One by one the twelve tallow candles were touched by the passing of the Holy Light, an ancient fire that had not gone out since the Order had first been formed.  That ancient fire had come to life on Maundy Thursday in the year of our Lord, 1788, the holy day of consecration for the Cathedral of Holy Sorrows.  Many more stones of granite had been placed since that first night; many more priests had taken their vows prostrate on the massive Maltese cross embedded in the great cathedral floor; many more candles had been lit and melted away their lives. 

Tonight, the Twelve gathered once more in hushed whispers and in sober stares to etch once more these solemn words in the air of eternity, "Pietas , Humilitas , Obsequium".  Once more their hands would hold the chalice of their inherited destiny.  Once more they would drink the wine in turn and in so doing, seal their fate.  Once more the ancient fire would melt the wax and souls would become as ash and candle smoke.

In the Amber Light

The towering stained glass windows that in the daylight were radiant art, living memorials in ruby reds and royal blues and rich and regal golds of the Twelve from whence it all began.  Each now gazed down upon their present heir, two thousand years distant from each other, yet their souls were as near as living breath. 

Now in the amber light cast by the candle flames, the faces of the present Twelve came to life.  These were souls snatched from another world, the world of the everyday, the commonplace, the here and now.  A call had haunted each of these, the seductive call of voices from another world.  They had been beckoned, each and every one; they has answered, each and every one.

On this night, Matthew would be the first to break the silence.  "Pietas, Humilitas, Obsequium."

Then echoed solemnly the eleven voices.  "Pietas, Humilitas, Obsequium."

Then silence once more.

The Crimson Seal is Broken

The candles burned on for another inch or so before Brother Matthew drew out from within the folds his gray wool robe the folded parchment always sealed with crimson wax.  This was the way of the Order when the cathedral carillon chimed the summoning call for a meeting of the Session.  There would be one, the Beckoning One, who would come with the mission penned on virgin parchment.  It would have been sealed in crimson wax with the impression of his ring upon it.  The note would be passed to the member on his right.  That member would break the seal and then in the candlelight read silently the mission.  The note would pass from one to the next until all twelve had read.  There would then be prayer with all heads bowed.  The oldest of the Order would cast his vote.  If he blew out his candle, his vote was no, and the Session would end.  If he stood, his vote was yes and then the voted would proceed to the next eldest.  If in the end, all Twelve were standing the holy mission would proceed.

This night the Beckoning One was Brother Matthew, the oldest of the Order, a gray haired man of seventy-three years.  He was a man of handsome features, eyes of Nordic blue, lean, rugged.  In his day, he was a banker of high prestige in his daily life out there in the world that took place outside these great walls of stone and glass.  In here, within this holy cloister Brother Matthew served as the Master of the Apprentice. 

The mission he had brought to the Order had come by way of a confidential confession made to a priest in the Church of the Holy Family.  A man had confessed that he had recently murdered  a man.  The priest had offered him penance to assist him in his repentance.  The priest had counseled him to surrender to the police, but he refused to heed the priest's plea.  The mission for the Order was thus to guide this man to his full repentance.  The man's name whose soul was in mortal danger was Ethan William Paul.  He had no idea of his fate.

Again as was the Order's way, it would be left to one and only one to lift his chalice and drink the wine.  This would be the one who would undertake the mission.  This night, young Brother Bartholomew, a wounded veteran of the war, a carpenter by trade, rugged, strong, even with his limp,  who would accept this mission.

Again there was holy silence as all shared sober breaths of the cathedral mist.  Then Bartholomew would call out, "Deus exsisto nobis."  Then all would answer, "Deus exisisto nobis." 

They would not speak of this again, forever.  It was simply to be done.  It was simply to be done.

Beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest, the candles would be snuffed.  They would watch the last gray smoke rise heavenward until it was no more.  Then in silence they would each and all return to the world, leaving the ways of the Order hidden in the ways of their sacred virtue.  Pietas.  Humilitas.  Obsequium.



The End

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