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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Pontius Pilate Waits

Pontius Pilate, prefect and governor of Judaea, dressed in his full equestrian regalia, found himself alone in a room of pale stone. And though the room had no windows or visible sources of illumination, the room was radiant with light, as if the pale, sand-colored stones were themselves glowing.  He stood, silently, patiently waiting, but for what he did not know. How long had he waited? Hours? Days? He couldn’t say. He waited with stern nobility. He would not allow himself to be irritated. He would not allow his reputed furious disposition to flare up. He would wait.  And those responsible for his prolonged detention would have to answer to the sovereign authority of Caesar and the power of Rome.

As he waited, he could hear a murmuring crowd, a chanting mass of voices from somewhere nearby, but not visible to him. He could not make out what they were saying, but it seemed to him that they said his name at regular intervals in their repeated litany.

After an indeterminate time a thin man came into the room carrying a small sheaf of cream-colored note cards. “Mr. Pilate,” he said, extending his right hand, palm turned flat sideways.

Pilate stared at him, at his hand with disdain. He crossed his arms against his chest and said. “What am I doing here? Where is here? Who is responsible for this?”

“Oh, Mr. Pilate…” said the thin man. “Yes, I can understand your confusion. This must seem odd. And, indeed, it is odd. There has been an unfortunate mix up in some of the necessary paperwork. But, do not worry too much; the man in the office at the end of the hall is working, even now, to clear up the confusion. He will have it all sorted out quickly, I assure you.”

Distracted for a moment by the chanting which again seemed to include his name, Pilate said, “What is that damned noise? Why are they mentioning me in their murmuring?”

“Yes, the Brothers and Sisters do speak of you, it’s true. And an honor. Yes. You, my lord, are one of only three individuals that they mention by name. Imagine that! Out of the whole of human history, out of all the billions of souls that have lived, out of all those that will ever exist, you are singled out in their declarations.”

“Tell them to stop,” Pilate demanded. “They must stop. I won’t have my name bandied about by strangers like that.”

The thin man quivered. “I’m sorry, my lord. I don’t think that’s possible. They are part of a divine convocatio. They have been summoned, called out for this. You understand, yes?”

Pilate glared at the thin man in inflexible silence. The thin man trembled. He fumbled the cards in his hand and they drifted to the floor. He knelt down to scoop them up. He stood again, shuffling the cards, trying to put them back into their proper order.

“What am I doing here?” Pilate demanded.

“My lord,” the thin man said nervously. “You must understand the need to reward the wicked and punish the good.” He hesitated and re-read the card in his hand. “You see.” He tore the card in half. “There has been a terrible mix up here. Things are out of sorts, as I said. But it will all be cleared up soon. We’re sorting it all out.”

And he held up two of the cards for Pilate to examine. One read: EXINANITIO. The other: EXALTATIO. 

“You understand, yes?”

Pilate snorted, and made a half turn away from the quivering little man. “I must be released. You cannot keep me here. Send me back to Rome, I insist.”

“My lord,” the little man answered. “You cannot return to Rome, not at this time. The Tiber is still reeling with a storm of demons. You are not welcome there.” He shuffled the cards again and then said, “You could go to Switzerland, I suppose. There is a mountain there for you.” He read from the card again. “Though, there may be a dragon there. I’m not sure how you’d feel abou…”

“Away with you!” Pilate said. “Leave and find someone who can speak as an equal to me, someone with rank. I will not quibble any longer with a lowborn slave such as you.”

The thin man nodded. “Yes, my lord.”  He nodded again and left the room.

After a moment alone, Pilate shouted after him, “I am pure from the blood of the Son of God!” There was no response. He shouted again, “I am pure from the blood of the Son of God, damn it!”

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