Coarse fingers traced the strangely shaped rectangular hole. Tears coated his beard as he imagined a day of death so long ago.
He had been a willing guardian of this relic and he had spent long hours studying the cross beam that was blackened with age. He imagined a stain where His hands had been and knew that a blood stained back had rested against the rood.
Matthew drew a great draught of air and exhaled through his nose as he decried the inhumanity of the death of God’s Son. Every day the rood mocked his sense of justice and he lamented the circumstances that lead to such sacrifice.
Had there ever been such a gift given to mankind? Had mankind ever been more abusive to the very gift of God? Had they ever stopped for a moment to consider the vile acts their hate had wrought?
Yet Matthew knew it was inevitable. He knew that had he been in the crowd he might well have raised his fist and cried for the death of a religious zealot. He was firmly convinced that he was no better than those whose voices were only echoes of small mindedness and deceit.
The rood lay before him as a relic, a symbol of sacrifice and suffering. Because Jesu had risen from the dead some thought the beam had healing powers and would be useful in the world of warfare. Matthew would rather die than see the rood taken and used in such an unholy manner.
The other monks had told Matthew that he could have been the twin to John the Baptist. His wild hair and work hardened arms belied his gentle wisdom and kind heart. No one, however, wished to bear the wrath of Matthew.
Far too many had raised their voices and ventured toward the Holy City, Jerusalem in an effort to eradicate the infidel, but Matthew had heard the reports and knew that the taste of blood had ruined many good men. This ‘holy war’ had been relegated to the same small mindedness that made the cross necessary.
In the small stone chamber hidden deep within the bowels of the Abbey, Michael read the Scriptures and stood silent vigil over a section of rough timber that had been guarded for so very long.
There was an irony that did not escape Matthew, yet duty kept him linked to the rood. It was peculiar that the means of the death of Jesu was heralded in a way that His resurrection had not. The best news was not in this rock hewn chamber, but was active and living and willing to wrest the failure of humanity from the hearts of mankind.
The rood had caused Matthew and others of his order to focus their attention on an instrument of death. Yet, the blessed Jesu had tasted death and found it offensive. Long hours in prayer and reading had caused Matthew to consider something more important than the cross beam of Jesu’s execution.
Jesus was alive; yes He dwelt with men in the chasm of an Abbey, but He was alive and pursued the hearts of mankind with something other than a sword.
Yet, with a crusade taking the lives of friend and foe in equal measure the heart of Jesu must reside in tatters, for His lessons of life had fallen on deaf ears once more.
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