A History of Christianity

By Abbe Faria

I

My death they demanded, the hysterical throng.
The sponged vinegar – why vinegar? – parches my lips.
Mary, for your fierce touch and kind kiss, I long.
The desert wind – at my tortured, tattered shell – nips.
Unforgiven, my father – harsh and relentless makes
No exit, no release. Only forsakes.

II

By the uncluttered light of the cock’s crow,
His master, Peter had thrice betrayed,
Walked the streets sullen, head sunk low,
‘til the first stones of a church he laid,
Upon the tomb of a radical, no longer flesh and bone.
It is His image the House of Peter casts in stone.
III

With my own eyes, I saw the empty grave.
Resurrected is my beloved one
The stone removed from the cave.
How many times will innocent blood run?
To the Dead Sea where salt mingles in the deep.
I gaze into threaded embers of dying fire, weep.

IV

One man stands by his new found belief
Admonitions of the timid he dismisses.
From the struggle of life, a final relief
Immortality he kisses.
The first martyr, shrouded fear his faith unravels
Is now the patron of each of us who travels.
V

Four scribes come together to tell the well-known tale
Of a prince and bridesgroom none had ever met
Myth’s flow they chisel in words – the passion’s betrayal
Transforms a savior’s tears into hierarchy, set.
The quadrumvirate celebrate the babe in a manger
And forget the experience of the stranger.
VI

Under the weight of the law, he cowers,
A witness to blinding light, no longer Saul,
He exalts his release, the world his word empowers
And damns all for one man’s fall.
Farmers scorn and chains rustle in Ovid’s home,
A spark is lit in Imperial Rome.
VII

In steps, the mavericks make their mark
Driven to practice in catacombs
Faith grants sight in the dark
Sharing and compassion sustain homes
The one is whole, all anonymous
Each day, each act is miraculous.
VIII

The flowering faith grows in the decadence
Of the empire’s last gasp; the saint burns.
The powers – nervous and tense –
Reconcile the rebels and turns
The state into the guardian of the holy vision
By decree of Diocletian.
IX

The barbarians are at the gate
In apocalyptic dance, Rome in flames
Constantine cedes to the third Fate
And discovers the genius of a convert’s claims.
Before all is gone, he moves the faith’s locus,
Begins again on the Bosphorus.
X

Hippo’s penitent, opens to confess
Acknowledges his lack of self-worth
But goes on to address
The problem of man on earth
Endorses the elect with a pagan intensity,
Points assuredly to an imaginary city.
XI

The elders gather to conspire and collect
Tales of poets and pariahs and begin to revise
History’s record, the Bible (a historical text).
Dogma displaces stories into truth and lies
Granting blessings on the strong to inflict
By the power vested in the Council at Edict.
XII

Catholicism on the rise, fellowship on the decline
Brothers and sisters beg in tatters for a thin crust
As Holy Roman Emperors dine
Creeping is the sickness of antiquity, its ego, its lust
The fever for power rages in crazed excess
They rule by taking more, giving less.

XIII

Last night, the virgin mother appeared to me
A soft, caressing light – she illuminates
A trail, teaches to forget hostility.
Laughter and joy anticipates
A world of friendship, pregnant with chances
My self merges with others, abolishes Francis.

XIV

Self-appointed judges condemn infidel savages
Suspicious eyes concerned with an other’s sin
As an indulgent, urban plague ravages
Popes and pagans fill deeper coffers, grin
From grieving widows and God-fearing pious they heist,
And instruct workmen to forge a thinner Christ.

XV

Clarity his weapon, he bows to no pope nor sire
Alone and defiant, from his words he acts
Incinerates the church’s authority
The brash, brazen rebel’s hammer cracks
And echoes throughout Wittenberg, throughout Holy Lands
He articulates our hopes, our demands.

XVI

The leash is cut
‘cross Europe, men run free
Protest their rut
Reform the hierarchy,
The fire acts as Robespierre, engulfs euphoria
An ember floats away, touches America.

XVII

The gentleman from Geneva, the aristocrat’s prophet
Gives the capitalist sermon, gains notoriety
Holds faith and piety subject to audit
Extends salvation to the moneylender, establishes a parity
Then presides by consent of the elite
The ghost of Pontius grins in conceit.

XVIII

Enlightenment descends in strange, blackened light
Brings a barbaric treason
Cult of Science discovers truth in lonely light
Trades agape for reason
Snuffs animas, extinguishes all that is vital.
In the concrete room lies the empty porcelain idol.

XIX

Bearing a lantern in mid-day
The first apostate to the First Man
Strip sense from myth, call for a new way
Dismiss God: on their own feet they stand.
Nauseated by modernity’s mad bustle
They forecast the locust wind’s rustle.
XX

Come close bewildered child, extract all fear
Grasp tight your trembling, blessed mother,
Whisper softly, dearly into her ear:
The apocalypse of one age is the genesis of an other.