This sometimes gruesome story of the Hebrew trek to Babylon after the fall of the temple (2 Kings 25:8-11 and 2 Chronicles 20) and of life during the Babylonian captivity mirrors the Bible’s most violent and brutal descriptions enunciated in Lamentations. It is Breen’s only first person story, told by Abba,6 to his grandson. Perplexed at their fate, the Hebrews try to make sense of their misfortune and hear one elder compare the consequences of the sins of Israel to the mark of Cain. As a forgotten people they attempt a complex ritual sacrifice involving two goats to bring JHWH back to them. The first goat is successfully sacrificed to JHWH, but the second intended for Azazel7 escapes leading to additional hardships. The desperate Israelites engage in a crescendo of sacrifices which fail to bring divine forgiveness. At last the sudden overnight appearance of an obelisk at the edge of their village heralds a series of unexpected events again displaying the metaphysic of opposites.
The Last Anchorite8
Breen departs from the manuscript of the Bible starting with this story of a young 14th century Irish woman seduced by a man from whom she hears and then repeats “a blasphemy of the Holy Ghost” from which there is no divine forgiveness. When she learns of her eternal damnation, she pleads to become an anchorite, wherein she will be sealed in a 10 foot cube cell at the Church of the Blessed Virgin for life, without offering an explanation to the Bishop, who nonetheless agrees to permit her seclusion. Breen’s descriptions of her isolation are horrific, including the fact that the only opening to the outside world is a slit (called a squint) in one wall looking into the Church. She becomes famous for her sacrifice ostensibly to the Church and her community and receives many gifts from her grateful admirers. Towards the conclusion of the story she learns the Church is turning away from such martyrdom, and Breen relates her tragic end.
The Lake of Fire Church
In this story set in the near future, a traveling evangelist named Ahab Bale9 and his wife are given a gold charm – the saharon – to support their mission by a poor, elderly follower named Anna Faunel10. They sell the priceless piece, once touched by the infant hand of Jesus, for $100,000,000 at auction and use the proceeds to fund an electronic ministry which becomes the greatest in America. Events in the world and in Christianity portend the story of Revelation, and Ahab decides to deliver the most important sermon of all time. Despite warnings from his aide, Micah,11 Ahab delivers his millenarial sermon full of gruesome descriptions of the fate of non-believers and half-believers. An ending worthy of a horror film completes the tale.
(3rd continuation next post)
6Abba is the Aramaic word for Father.
7Azazel in Jewish legends was a demon to whom the ancient rite of Yom Kippur (day of Atonement), a scapegoat was sent bearing the sins of the Hebrews (from Wikipedia).
9In 1 Kings 16:29-34, Ahab was the wicked king of Israel who married Jezebel and eventually worshipped Baal instead of Jahweh.
10In Luke 2:37, Anna Phanuel was a prophetess descended from the tribe of Asher, who at age 84, with St. Simeon, was witness to the infant Jesus at the temple of Jerusalem. In ancient Hebrew, saharon means a crescent moon or crescent shaped ornament (Bible Hub website).
11Micah was the sixth of twelve minor prophets in the Hebrew Bible (and has an eponymous book in the Old Testament). His prophecies were directed at leaders in Samaria and Jerusalem particularly regarding injustice toward the unfortunate, but also included the foretelling of the birth of Christ and the coming of the millennial kingdom.