The mystic brushes the leaves and dirt carefully, in a simple, meditative circular motion. In this as in all things he is precise, deliberate and on the brink of peace.
The morning is only just breathing, the light of a freshly emerging sun painting the preternatural sky. All is stillness and silence following the exertions of his worship and the drives of his love.
“For the Beloved,” he whispers to the indifferent morning air. He can feel it so close, yet achingly out of reach.
Always after his sacrifices and his rituals he touches the ineffable almost-there.
He studies all religions. Raised as a christian he has strayed so far from its dictates in so many ways and in this he is catholic more in the original sense of the word. All seekers follow the same path, he knows, though the names and words and actions are different. And so he studies them all, at least all the People of the Book.
It is not enough, he thinks, because it is never enough. His body aches from the efforts and his heart is heavy from the horror of it all. And yet, and yet, he offered not death but liberation. Liberation and the chance to see, for one glorious moment, the face of God. The Beloved.
There is a Sufi tale, he recalls, about a glorious house where the master has been absent many a long year. There the servants dutifully keep the house in perfect order, expectant always of his return and observant of his comfort. Yet the master never comes. The master, he knows, is the Beloved and he has gone, long gone, with no intention of returning. The mystic believes he knows the point of the tale. That ritual and beauty and dedication will not fill a home, or a church, with spiritual light. And yet, the ritual itself is the foodstuff of faith. The effort sustains the faith, and without faith, how can the Beloved ever return, ever recognise the home?
The paradox of all love: that the very things we use to make it stay are the things that drive it away.
We all have our dark nights of the soul, the mystic thinks. St John of the Cross is his patron guide. My dark night is suffering and blood brought to others, brought from others. I envy them. Those that I bury beneath the fresh earth at morning’s first light. This is my ritual, this is my faith, and without such sacrifice, how can my journey continue?
And yet, how empty is my heart, and how empty is my home. The Beloved never comes.
The mystic stands and brushes down his peasant clothing. he will walk barefoot through the forest to his humble abode, his feet bleeding and he will welcome the pain, the blood. His blood should flow, just as he has made another’s veins open and pour forth their red life. Another, and another and another. Prostrate before a cross, if he is lucky, he may get closer. So close he may almost feel himself leave his own body, in the embrace of the Beloved.
But only the ghosts of those he has killed embrace him now, and it may ever be so. Life is a chain, and it is not his right to cut the links for another.
But what is faith without an offering, and what is the Beloved without faith?
(c) Helen M Valentina 2016