The War of the Seven Heavens
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The Archbishop sighed as he looked at the sorry miserable man lying prostrate and whimpering on the cold stone floor.
“Guard!” His voice went from sympathetic to commanding in an instant.
The guard shuffled quickly to his side, “Yes your Eminence?”
“Open the cell.”
He paused only to say, “Eminence, he is a mur…”
“I said, open the cell.” His voice went from commanding to sympathetic in another instant.
“Yes Eminence.” The guard bowed his head to the superior man of God, and dutifully searched the ring for the right key. Through the clinking clamor of the guard fumbling, trying to be swift in his charge, the Archbishop turned his aged brown eyes upon Michaele with more sympathy than he’d felt in a long time.
The guard managed to find the key, and get the cell’s door open.
“Now leave us.” His hand emerged from the arm of his robes as though they were phantasmal. The guard shuffled up the stairs as quickly as he’d shuffled down them.
The Archbishop strode into the cell confident that the majesty of his person would be sufficient to deter any sort of attack from this wayward monk.
“Michaele…” His tone wasn’t condemning or commanding. It wasn’t sympathetic. It was the tone of a father whose son had already paid his penance. Michaele began to weep harder.
“Em..Eminence I … I don’t know how!”
The Archbishop bent down and grasped Michaele’s chin.
“My son. Get up, stand on the feet God gave you Michaele.” He did.
“Now… collect yourself and tell me what happened.” During the whole of the tale, even between outbursts of crying and hacking sobs, the Archbishop stood stolidly, listening intently. His gaze betrayed a man who had seen horrible things, and was loathe to do them himself… or command thus.
Once Michaele was done explaining everything that had happened in the hallway of the sacristy, the Archbishop breath-paused to speak.
“Michaele, would you not consider the Abbot’s actions as breaking his vows to God?”
“Y-y-y yes Eminence… but but I should not have…”
“No” his voice taking on the air of command again, “you should not have done what you did, but have you considered all that involved this instance?”
Michaele’s ice blue eyes darted across the cold stone floor as though the answer would be there.
“I-I don’t understand Em…”
“Do you think you are the first of the Brothers that the Abbot had done that to? Are you so square-headed to think such conduct is done with God in mind?”
His ice blues eyes stared straight at the Archbishop this time. This time, Michaele knew the answer.
“No Eminence. What the Abbot did was wrong, and was a sin, and where he did it was a worse sin, and being a man of God makes this so…” His head began swimming with the very probable evils that this man had done, all the while demanding the respect of the parishioners, rich and poor alike. And they gave it wholeheartedly because “as you hold true below, I will hold true above…”. What the Church said was law, and if a clergyman, especially an Abbot or, moreso an Archbishop, demanded respect it was given without question. In the backs of the minds of the people who knew the corruption occurring in the Church all too well, was the desire to expose hypocrites for what they were. What prevented them was a one word death sentence. Excommunication
Excommunication was a death sentence because no Christian merchant was allowed to deal with the individual excommunicated. No Church would provide the Eucharist, or alms. No land owner was to rent his property. And in the case of Lords, or those of higher class, no serfs or peasants were to work for these people. An individual that is excommunicated may as well kill himself… but that too was one of the gravest of sins.
“Evil” the Archbishop broke the mental silence. Michaele looked up to the man standing before him, awestruck as he did, and whispered,
“Michaele, I know you are sorry for what you have done. Murder, even of evil ones such as your Abbot, is still murder. God will punish you as he sees fit, but that time is not here and now, and that punishment is not mine to mete. For now I absolve you of this sin, but you are to perform a great penance.”
Michaele’s heart… his entire gut was filled with warmth. “This is God entering me” he thought.
The Archbishop laughed softly, “Yes Michaele, you did not think I could allow you to just get away with murder did you?” His kind eyes steadily peering from beyond his statuesque nose, trying to maintain Michaele’s flowing gaze.
“No Eminence!” He said eagerly, “I-I just did not expect to… be..”
“Forgiven?” the soft hearted laugh again, “You have been told since birth that God forgives have you not?”
Michaele could only manage a silent nod.
“Now, your penance that you will perform is this…” the Archbishop slowly meandered about the cell. “ you are to travel to Padua. Padua holds our Diocese’s scribes. You must create a complete copy of our Lord’s book.”
“I am to scribe Eminence?”
“Yes… when you write I want you to think of your sins through every letter you write. That, Michaele, is your penance. It will take some time, and should you decide to stay there and possibly translate ancient texts, then… I should see to it that you do just that… Assuming you perform this penance well.”
“Yes Eminence I will do great work for you...” his eyes roamed to the ceiling, “and for our Lord.”
“I know Michaele… I know you will. You are to be released immediately. I will tell your father we have moved you to aid in a great undertaking. I will speak nothing of these events, unless… you wish me to…?”
“No Eminence! No! Please Eminence, my father would refuse me his son.”
“Let it be so then. You agree to the penance I have proscribed, and you are forgiven. Do you have anything else to tell me Michaele?”
“I…I…I was wondering if Brother Antonio was…” The Archbishop raised his hand for silence, and his look took on an air of regretful retrospect.
“Brother Antonio is paying a penance of his own.”
The Archbishop left it at that, and so did Michaele.