The Gathering of the Eternal Five: A Charioteer for Claudia

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Chapter 8

Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged

him. And the soldiers plaited a

crown of thorns, and put it on his

head and arrayed him in a purple robe;

They came up to him saying,

“Hail, King of the Jews!” and

struck him with their hands.

John 19: 1-3 KJV

In an admirable toga of Roman design, the governor of Judea stood before his seat of power. For those that did not know him, he was the living symbol of Roman authority. Immaculately groomed he made an impressive figure demanding a bow of their heads. His shoulders held high, Chest well placed and his face the mask of cold indifference. His spotless toga of beaming white, the wide woven banners going to the floor bound with threaded gold converted Pontius Pilate into a Godly apparition. Those that knew him well, made ready for the first act of the day. Would he be the ruthless judge making cold hearted decisions or would he submit to a kind gesture and compromise with accuser and suspect for a humane outcome. Pilate had been a cold hearted soldier coming hard through the ranks to his present position. He could weigh out the outcome of his decisions and was known to compromise for a peaceful solution. He had done precisely that on countless occasions with the Hebrew council.

Two distinctive looking men were obviously recipients of an acceptable solution to their problem. Thanks to Pontius Pilate. Shaking hands and smiling happily they made their way out of court.

With only minor personnel lingering about Onofrio and Samuel stood dwarfed by the enormous court room. Pontius Pilate looked at Onofrio with blank eyes as if struggling to recognize him. Obviously his mind was still elsewhere. Perhaps he was still in that encounter with Claudia earlier this morning. Suddenly his eyes lit up and his automatic smile came into action. “Onofrio! And Samuel? Correct? My wife’s new charioteer.” He appeared delighted to see the young men.

 

Samuel may well be a solution to his wife’s confiscation of his prize chariot and going out unescorted. Totally out of order and in complete surprise the Procurator escorted them to his private chambers. He gave orders for somebody to bring refreshments and transformed into the model of congenial hospitality. He asked about Serou with sincere tones in his inquiry then added, “Your foster father and I have struggled much with improving the water supply to Yerushalayim. You already know I admire the man’s working habits immensely and I don’t broadcast my praise too often. Please, give him my regards.”

In an ambience of peace and congeniality the young men accepted refreshments and waited respectfully for Pilate to make the next move. Somebody was trying to run a brush through his hair while someone else was dusting off his elegant toga. Soon he waved them off with his hands in a clear sign of annoyance then stated, “I’ll call you when I need you. Tell whoever is waiting,that  I’m busy and will be for a good while. I have important business with these young men.” In that statement the business of Claudia came before the business of Judea.

When they were alone he removed the toga and cast it over a nearby couch. “Hopefully you men will forgive me, but that rag is heavy and I have enough to carry around.” He was paunchy. His muscles looked saggy and his hands so carefully manicured looked out of place on him. His jovial manner rejected further inspection.  Smiling generously he asked Samuel, “Young man, I’ll ask you straight out and you may take time to think of your answer. There will be times when you may be in charge of a gold purse and my wife is known to be careless with valuable jewelry. Are you a trustworthy individual my wife and I can both depend on to guard these things?” And Pilate looked intently at the young man. He would gauge his decision by what the young man showed on his face.

In less than a heart beat Samuel answered him looking straight into the eyes of the governor. “Sir, I would be a very foolish man if I did not honor what is yours and the lady Claudia’s. I would not embarrass my father by being dishonest with what is yours. Whatever you trust me with I will honor to the best of my ability.”

Long years of weeding out liars and con men gave the procurator a unique advantage. He nodded his head in approval and accepted what he heard at face value. “I would not ask you to be a spy. I have people in my employ for that. My wife has made friends with a woman of ill repute. I have it on good authority that you and Onofrio visited that woman’s gathering a few nights ago. It is part of my business to know these things. If you decide to take the assignment and please bear in mind that you are free to decline my request.  As part of your duty I expect a full report of where you go. You would do me an enormous service if you consider that my wife’s welfare is top priority. That you may know and add importance to your decision, I love my wife. I do all I can to give and provide for her all she wants. Your information would help me grant her wishes and protect her. It is my husbandly duty and I take it very seriously.”

“When would you like me to start, Sir?” was Samuel’s matter of fact reply with a nod of consent. “I will be going to my home in Caesarea later today. Find something to do and be here about mid afternoon. You can drive me there; we can get better acquainted on the journey. It takes two days to reach home and we’ll have to spend a night at a camp with my soldiers I keep on call. I’ll see you get proper instruction and set up your living quarters. I like your fresh haircut, your shaven face. You look very presentable, almost like a healthy young Roman.” He added smiling as he did not pass out praise very often.

The governor’s official residence was the actual seat of Roman power in Judea. An opulent palace built by Herod the great, to honor Augustus Caesar sat by the sea. It was caressed daily by refreshing breezes, majestic views of hills and brimming ocean. The waves never ceased to change color before the wondrous eye. Purple and green to aqua marine. Shades of blue to challenge the majesty of the sky. It was often difficult to tell where ocean stopped and sky began. Countless villas in blinding white lodged against the cliffs like miniature bird houses. The castle was filled with luxurious accommodations. Pillars of flawless stone rose to reach the sky high ceiling. An open area in the center seemed big enough to hold camel races. In a far corner, a fountain flowed musically surrounded by lounging and active stone cherubs. Carved birds suspended by near invisible strings swayed in the breezes that were felt but not seen. The carved birds seemed alive and in motion. Magic, sheer magic. Separate areas filled with furniture to please the most sated demand. Couches filled with decorative pillows enough to support any posture.

Large tapestries hung from floor to ceiling with art work of remarkable beauty. Mythological gods and busts of ancient heroes abounded. At the symmetrical center was a round highly polished stone base on which stood a larger than life statue of Augustus Caesar in a pose saluting the admiring crowds. In multiple shades of green indigenous plants surrounded the statue and kept at their prime by an expert staff. Several fashionably dressed visitors explored art works in awe and wonder. It was obvious some had business to conduct since they carried scrolls and tablets in their hands. Others were followed by servants or slaves attentive to their calls and demands. Samuel had to take a grip on himself and remain as calm as he could waiting to be found by someone in Pilate’s staff.

He was near stunned by such opulence. Luxury and beauty he could not have imagined lay before his astonished eyes. His mouth slightly agape unable to speak he could only think of how far away he was from the humility and comfort of a camel trader’s camp.

By invitation this place was visited by high ranking government officials, royal dignitaries and special emissaries. A generous crew saw to all maintenance matters and household necessities. An official staff kept the governor informed on who sought audience in person or favor by written request. Pilate planned to rely on his chosen personnel to keep his vacation time undisturbed and quiet. He wanted time with Claudia. He needed it. Hand in hand they would walk the beach at night.  He planned to have wine and edibles planted at a specific location for him and Claudia to find as if by accident. They would marvel at the stars and watch the moon peacefully waltzing on the waves. In the past he had often rolled a blanket over his shoulder and they had lain on it and listened to the music of the waves lapping on the shore. A few times they even slept there. It was a private world all their own. It was delightful to bathe together and wash the sand from each other’s bodies. Even Adam and Eve could not have had such wondrous times. He would retrieve that past with an added bonus. He would court his wife again. He would send her flowers. He would send poets and read to her. He would send musicians to sing and play by her window at night. He would send her boxes of inexpensive trinkets for her and their two daughters to play with. He knew she loved their two girls and spent precious times with them. He would win her heart with late night private dinners and splendid culinary delights she adored. He would work his fingers to the bone to have her forget that in his official capacity he was forced to lash and crucify her healer hero Jesus of Nazareth. He wanted her forgiveness and understanding that in order to maintain peace in Judea he was forced to comply with a decision he tried very hard to avoid.

Through all his private concerns loomed the greater reality of the day. Disciples of Iesus of Nazareth were being rounded up and brought to Hebrew trial. There was no place for Roman interference in the Hebrew council’s religious arguments. In a semi joking fashion Pontius Pilate surmised that that these people loved to argue. It was inborn. It was abundantly clear that if all things were in peaceful harmony, they would argue about why it was. They were not happy that the words of Iesus still roamed the streets in amplifying echoes. The disciples were recruiting other disciples. They were like a bad weed that sprouted from even the poorest soil. The salt of the earth became the Hebrew council’s daily concern. The council’s reality was that Iesus was not their expected Messiah. What had been predicted did not match the appearance of Iesus. No God would allow his son to be born in an animal stall with a floor covered in odorous droppings. Stale hay and sweaty animals; speak not of the insects that dwelled in such an environment. The sons of every god known to man were born in respectable conditions. Their God would not disrespect their expectations in this manner. It was a clear sign that their sacrifices, the beliefs in their brand of an almighty God were being cast aside and this pretender invaded the place of the true son of God.

They believed God would expect them to cleanse their own house. And yes, they had a right of feel mistreated, ignored and rejected. It was impossible for them to accept Iesus at face value. He was a thief, stealing away their paying congregations. He perplexed the masses with tricky miracles and they followed him entranced by his ramblings in parables they did not understand. And yet the crowds somehow knew that what Iesus said was right. The task became clear. The disciples had to be weeded out and removed from the land.

From the growing inquiries, pursuit and persecution of the known apostles, Mary of Magdala learned to hide. Magdalene as she was now clearly called and her sister Martha, pooled their resources and provided food and shelter for the twelve disciples. They contributed heavily to promoting the lessons of the absent Nazarene. They knew not when or if He would ever return. Numerous reliable witnesses reported that Iesus was seen ascending to heaven escorted by angels strengthened their resolve. She, Mary of Magdala was left with the task of guiding the twelve far afield to recruit new believers. She would not allow them to forget that He entrusted them all with a mission and there was no turning back. For which they all suffered penalties in one form or another. Stoning, exile and crucifixion became a future to look forward to. And the Hebrew hounds never rested. They were determined to rid the land of these zealots without base and regain their status as the supreme representatives of God. The congregations had to be regrouped into an obedient mass to replenish the receding coffers at the temple.

To further burden Mary of Magdala was a revelation that came in a distant, hazy dream. Had her mentor not suffered the penalties of the cross, men would be doomed to eternity without salvation. Sinners as we all are would provide a rich harvest for Satan. God sacrificed his only begotten son that man would have salvation was a plan Satan struggled to destroy. Mary Magdalene had been tempted by the follies of youth. She was accused of a sinful behavior that nobody could prove. She nonetheless lived with a label the accusers put on her. She would redeem herself and prove them wrong. That hazy dream became her beacon of dedication. She Maria Magdalena feared what the dream demanded. She was human and the salvation of mankind was a mandate belonging to the Gods. Not her, a female whose voice was rejected in a world dominated by self serving men. She had no godly powers to achieve what the dream demanded. Magdalene was accused of many things. It was a shame nobody accused her of being resourceful. It would be safe to say that she turned to her private source of Devine guidance. The Goddess Isis. If the Goddess could resurrect her brother twice, she might help Magdalene resurrect Iesus once. She did not expect the goddess to directly bring Jesus back to life. Magdalene would beg for guidance to bring the task to reality by her own hand. Selfishness has often been the bread of greed. Magdalene was not able to think that if her quest became reality, she would forfeit the salvation of mankind. Her pleas fell on deaf ears and her efforts to carry on the work of the Nazarene ever heavier to bear. Hiding apostles from the inquisition of the council became a nerve wrecking fox and hound game. Her time was consumed with the needs of the apostles and new recruits, there was no time left for herself. She became slovenly in her appearance giving the gossip mongers fresh fodder on which to feed. It was considered sinful to neglect oneself and Magdalene put the need of others before herself. She was often too exhausted to tend to her personal needs.

No day went by that the council did not demonstrate some degree of success in eradicating the followers of Iesus.

Through the tumultuous crowds of the trade center, Samuel drove the lady Claudia to the slave market. She received a note from Magdalene requesting they meet there. Although Claudia was pleased to have her personal charioteer, she was also wise enough to know that her husband would expect a report on where his wife went. She decided to test Samuel’s character by asking, “Samuel, is my husband expecting you to report on where I go and what I do and to whom I speak?

Only a moment of careful thought passed and the young man replied to his mistress. “Your husband stressed that his primary concern was for your safety and well being. It is to that effect that I will adhere to his requests.” Claudia thought on that for a moment. Looking at him inquisitively she asked, “And how did he express his concern for my welfare?” “He said he loved you and did everything he could to make you happy. He said that it was his duty as your husband to keep you from harm.”I see nothing wrong with that. Husbands are supposed to take care of their wives. He wanted me to tell him where we went to improve your trips. Perfectly normal of any husband,” Samuel concluded with a degree of finality to the irksome inquiry.

Pilate had related his inner most feelings for her to a total stranger and yet denied her the three little words she most longed to hear him say. Just the same she felt a tug at her heart. He confessed he loved her most likely knowing she would question Samuel and Samuel would speak the truth and Pilate would have delivered his message without him saying it. In spite of the Judean hardships, Claudia was a very attractive woman. Many admirers attested to that. Pilate was effectively letting the young man know that his wife was forbidden fruit. And to keep his hands to himself.

A military escort on horseback along with chariots and foot soldiers made the trip to Yerushalayim. A special surrey with an excellent team of horses for Claudia’s comfort was a gift from Pilate. He saw the surrey driven by an expert far safer than a chariot driven by her. He had business with the Hebrew council and reserved special private time for himself.

It was tax time. It was time when he needed his wits be sharp and his personal advisor(s) close by. There would be the usual bickering over the amount of taxes they had to pay. The number of lambs they possessed and how they should not be taxed since they were under age. It was a mundane task he hated. It was below his dignity as a seasoned warrior. That alone made him harder to deal with and more so when discounts were demanded.  Vast amounts of money were collected and counted then recorded from whom it was taken. It would take days to get it done and Pilate had successfully done it for almost ten years. Rome would be happy with the yield and so would Pontius Pilate.

Claudia dressed in a regal full length gown of majestic blue. Her hooded over cape protected the elegant dress from collecting overloads of dust. Her hair was done in curls and swirls all around her head and golden bangles decorated her upper arms and wrists. She held a purse and looking at Samuel keenly with a tinge of a smile she asked, “Did he tell you that I lose jewelry all the time? And I might lose this.” And she plunked the heavy purse in his palm. He did not vocalize his answer he simply smiled and nodded like an innocent boy. The purse quickly found its way to a leather bag Samuel wore at his waist. They found a stable to house and care for their horse and surrey. Samuel out of a lifelong habit carried a shepherd’s staff as a walking aid and protection. Slowly, methodically they filtered their way through the crowd to the noisy slave auction. Claudia stood at the outer fringes of the crowd looking for someone. A hooded female form became her target. With Samuel close behind she approached her destination.

Claudia had grown fond of calling her friend “Magdalene.” She called the name out in a mellow tone. And Magdalene turned to the familiar voice. The woman was actually stunning in broad daylight. Her complexion was golden tan, smooth as silk and warmly glowing. Her hair in sweeping stands to her shoulders was created to match her skin. Some people would call it a native tan with a golden caste. Her eyes matched to comprise a perfect analogous combination of feminine beauty. Two inverted graceful arcs were her lips tinted in a delicate shade of pink. She dressed in creamy white with a soft tan over robe and hood. Long slender fingers graced her hands visible when she put her arms around Claudia’s neck. There they held each for a few moments. Grateful in each other’s arms, like sisters long in absence.

Hard to confirm back yard gossip suggested they were sisters at the temple of Isis. It was said they formed a strong bond by what the rules of the temple demanded of them. And yet nobody bothered to confirm or deny the rumor. In back yard comfort it was easier to invent or add to the stories. Their attraction to each other seemed to confirm what others had to say. Speaking ill of the wife of Pontius Pilate could have disastrous effects. Embellishing stories about their native daughter was less dangerous. It provided entertainment, snickers and a target for pointing fingers. It urged men to seek confirmation of the rumors in hopes of sinful pleasure.

Magic happened when Magdalene found Samuel dutifully standing by. In near amazement she stated, “I know you. Where do I know you from?”Her face was a question mark as her eyes searched him for recognition.

“We met at your meeting in Bethany. I’m to tell you about my trip to China on foot.”

“Ah! That’s where I know you from. Yes. I remember now. There are so many new faces running through my mind. Yours escaped me for a moment.” Her voice had a tone of humble sincerity yet positive to the ear as she aimed a polite finger at him.  Young Samuel was momentarily dumbstruck to a noticeable degree. He was between two beautiful high quality women and could not find his voice. He didn’t know whether to attempt to shake their hand, bow or do what to be socially proper. The lovely Claudia smiled at his discomfort and gently nudged her friend. “Samuel is Pilate’s gift of peace. We’ve had words and I know it adds to his discomfort. This young man is a remedy to our discord. But tell me, what can I do for you? Why did you send for me?”

“I wanted to bring some peace to your heart.” Magdalene clearly stated in a low mellow tone and looked at young Samuel. Was he to be forever present in her conversations with Claudia? Unsure, she gave Claudia an eye to eye signal and nodded to Samuel. The young man was a stranger in the area. He was unacquainted with current problems and being sent by Pilate made him a possible spy.

“There’s a place I’ve visited across the square that serves good food. We’ll go there and we can talk.” Claudia promptly led the way with young Sam not far behind. The square reduced to streets and alleys going in various directions. Claudia chose one and they were soon in an open patio of numerous tables with guests and food al fresco. As to be expected a few masculine flies hung around examining the guests and possibly hoping to grab a purse or a free meal. Claudia requested a small private room where they would not be disturbed. The ladies were promptly escorted to a secluded table under a protective awning and seated with utmost courtesy. Claudia signaled Samuel to stand by in the not too distant shaded wall. Her only instructions were, “Keep an eye on us and you’re expected to pay for our meal.”

Duty bound and curious Samuel stood his post. He was forced to smile when the ladies dropped their hoods to their shoulders and their faces were recognized. A servant girl came and dislodged their outer robes and draped them over their seats. Hushed whispers echoed around the patio and they were soon the object of everybody’s attention. Young Samuel thought, “The gossipers will have this story all over Judea by dawn. Claudia Procula and Mary Magdalene sipping wine all afternoon in some reclusive place in the back streets of Yerushalayim.”  It was juicy fodder for the gossip heads to double in size by nightfall tomorrow.

A fairly descent looking man approached Samuel and stood by him for a moment examining the ladies now deep in conversation. “Who are those lovely female specimens? Are you their eunuch or just a body guard?” Not given to a quick temper, Samuel surveyed the man. He was well dressed and groomed. Rich boots at his feet and a sense of self assurance. Samuel decided not to challenge but answer the inquiry.

One is the wife of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. The other is her closest friend. Neither one are to be tampered with. Their body guard stands over there and Samuel nodded to a soldier that had faithfully followed them through the crowd. His assistant is standing over there,” and Samuel nodded to a second trooper silently stationed on the opposite side of the square. “Which one is Mary of Magdala?” The man continued his interest unperturbed.

“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask one of the soldiers?  They will surely know.” Samuel’s cold response and distant look in his eyes discharged the man. Samuel was told that several men pursued the fair Magdalene, each with a reason of his own. He would not contribute to their goal. A familiar face came by and Samuel called out to the man to ask, “That stranger that was just here with me, do you know who he is?” The man craned his neck to catch a glimpse of the stranger in question and almost immediately responded, “Oh, yes. He’s one of the new people the Sanhedrin hired to search for the disciples of the Nazarene. The high priest wants to find them all and prosecute them  for rebelling against the council and telling people that this Jesus individual is the son of God, In effect stating that the Jewish Messiah has been to earth and is gone to heaven to be with his  heavenly father. Most likely the disciples of Jesus will receive heavy punishment for associating with what the council calls a false prophet. The Sanhedrin will not rest until they are all rounded up and done away with in one way or the other.” The man nodded his head as if satisfied with his story and bid Samuel good day as he walked away.

An artificial smile betrayed her real concern when Magdalene looked at Claudia. “I don’t know where to start.”She finally said almost in tears. “We, my brother, sister and I have it on good word that the Hebrew council is seeking ways to find fault in our ownership, force us to sell or simply take over our properties. They seek ways to penalize us for associating with Jesus of Nazareth. They have hammered us to tell them how Lazarus came back to life after four days dead. It’s been brought to us that the council has considered assassinating my brother to discredit Iesus and his resurrection miracle.

Because of our social position and background it is suggested that they seek ways to exile us from Judea altogether rather than kill us.”

Shades of Claudia’s childhood Rome came to visit. That distant place of plot, ploy and scheme that time had faded sprung bright into Claudia’s mind. Like a fox in danger all her senses came to immediate attention. Magdalene and Claudia were sisters of the soul. The temple of Isis had been the adhesive that bound them to each other. The pain of one was the pain of both. She raised her regal chin and asked, “Tell me what you need be done and I’ll see to it.” There was no pretense or sounds of an empty promise. Claudia was a woman of her word and what she promised, she delivered. Two sets of hands met at table center allowing strength and mutual admiration to flow free from  one heart to the other. In tears Magdalene held tight to the hands of Claudia. She appeared to gather her strength into a knot to finally ask, “Will you please see into my future? Precious Claudia, have I become a victim of fairy tales and trickery while I search for a true love? Please tell me that you see my faith and dedication attached to a rightful purpose. I can survive exile, I cannot survive being wrong.” Claudia could rightfully be called a soothsayer. She was reserved where she used this ability and guarded it jealously. She  studied Magdalene closely and after a minute in thought answered her dearest friend “This may take a little time to put my words in order. Pease bear with me. That you may know, Pontius can be a cruel and cold hearted individual given cause. In turn he can be courteous, considerate and even kind. He castigated me something fierce when our son, Pilo was born with a club foot. He blamed me entirely as if he did not contribute to the boy’s condition. You already know I love my husband and I suffered his coldness immensely for a very long time. His distance and coldness was artificial because there were times when he would be his old self and bring forth his thoughtfulness. Magdalene, I wanted to redeem myself for my part in our son’s affliction. My heart was in constant turmoil because of it. I, like everybody else heard of Iesus and his miracle cures. I decided to take Pilo to Iesus. The crowd was immense that day. Every sick person in the world was there. The mob fought like crazy for a spot close to Iesus. I struggled hard for my position. Nobody knew me. I was in disguise. I was tripped or stumbled and was soon the carpet everybody stomped on. I was bruised on elbow, knee and hip with a small cut on my cheek when I hit the ground. Worse of all Pilo was gone. Eaten up by a frenzied mob. My dear Magdalene, I never prayed so hard in all my life. I prayed that Pilo would find Iesus and that Iesus would answer his plea. Yes, my dear friend I was in horror that I may have lost my son forever in that mob. When my despair was at its peak and had almost decided to get a soldier to help me find Pilo, my son, my dear beloved son came running out of the crowd to find me. No greater joy have I ever known than to see my boy running free of his affliction. I held him so close to my heart it made my arms ache. My son, our son was healed by the power of Iesus of Nazareth. The son of God. I cried tears that would not stop. Yes, my dear Magdalene your faith is well invested in this man. You chose from a heart without direction to channel your life to his.

Claudia did not know how to deceive or invent lies. She tightened her grip on Magdalene’s hands, closed her eyes and bowed her head in a devoted plea. Long anguished minutes passed in silence and she finally spoke in a strange voice not at all like hers. “The deeds of wrongful men will condemn innocent lives to torture and pain. Corral your strength and dedication for you are destined to live far beyond your earthly time.” As though she woke up from a dream Claudia almost sheepishly smiled at her friend and loosened their hand grip. Magdalene looked at Claudia in unquestioned awe and she too had a sheepish smile. But Magdalene’s smile had a tone of gratefulness she did not invent. Words she spoke came from her tormented heart.

“My dearest Claudia, I have so much to tell you. I am filled to the brim with what I have to say. I feel within my heart that I have been granted an honor, I don’t know if I can fulfill. I had been tormented by unsaintly things that filled my life. I was sick from them constantly badgering me.  Jesus is the Lord of my life. He has made me the primary herald of his resurrection because I was first at his grave the morning after his death. In shock I called him, “my Lord” when he appeared and spoke my name. I said, “Rabboni” as an expression of my reverent love for him. He forbade me to touch him as I wanted to attend to his wounds. But he said “no” because he had not ascended to heaven yet and soon faded away before my eyes. I was told to go find his brethren and tell them what I saw and was told to do. I was struck with awesome fear the whole time and yet a voice within caused me to be calm and listen well. Claudia my dear friend, I feel as though I have been touched by God himself. I feel compelled to do his bidding without question. I fear not what mortal men will do to me.  For I know now that God is with me. Disown their child as I am disowned, I am Jewish too, you know. Condemn me to exile, steal my properties and commit monumental perjury against me. These are the acts of sinful men in disguise as being holy representatives of a righteous God. I have some faults that Iesus healed me of. In my past, I would have sought sinful vengeance against my attackers. I am happy to say that with His help, I have overcome that blemish on my soul.

I have been told by learned men that “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord.” What the council steals from me will become salt on the ruptures of their soul.”

Love as we all know has countless avenues and trails on which it flows. Two ladies from distant worlds found ground on which to accept that magic to the soul, Love. Claudia, of deep Roman ancestry, granddaughter of the emperor of Rome, Tiberius. The master of the mortal world held her in such high esteem that he saw to her protection with a strong man in distant Judea. He saved her from the turbulence and undertow of court life in Rome.

Mary of Magdala, whose family royal line could be traced to the life of David. She was the third child of Syrus and his wife Eucharia. A wealthy family with multiple means of income of which Mary was a recipient at the time of her father’s demise.

Two ladies from distant horizons and different cultures drawn together by fate, destiny or heavenly plan. Each to serve a part in the unfolding story of the savior of mankind. Jesus now called the Christ. The Messiah had walked among men and some men chose to ignore, plot and scheme against him.

Relieved and filled with a sense of joy clearly on her face Magdalene spoke. “I drew pleasure from him calling me, Magdalene. It was his way of making me special. He spoke to me for what seemed hours about all the things he told his disciples. He too had been to the temple of Isis and I have no doubt he learned something there. It seems evident in the way he spoke to me. Please forgive me; I’ve taken too much time talking about me. I have something special to tell you and perhaps bring some comfort to your heart. I sat in utter fascination when I heard you wrote a note to your husband beseeching him not to prosecute the Nazarene. Someone found the discarded note and could hardly wait to share the news with others. It took a brave heart to do such a thing. The governor is the ultimate law in Judea and he may be your most intimate companion but he is not allowed to listen to his wife’s opinions regarding the law. The Hebrew high priests do not have the power to execute an offender. Their attempts to assassinate the Nazarene failed three times. Once they attempted to push him off a narrow hillside trail to his doom. They tried to stab him in a crowd and one of the disciples foiled that scheme. Then they tried to hire an assassin and nobody took the assignment. That left only your husband as a candidate to commit murder. My dear Claudia, disguised in the most proper sense of the law what they did was still murder. My dear friend, I am told that you turned your heart to stone because of your husband’s decision. The council roused their henchmen to threaten revolt if the procurator did not comply with their demands. And yes, Your husband can be a hard hearted man when the occasion calls for such. But keeping the peace in Judea was a prime concern of Rome. To allow a riot to take place would add to the hardship of keeping Judea at peace. Adding fuel to the flame came when Pilate asked Jesus if he was king of the Jews. With his head bowed Jesus answered “they say that I am.” The Jews wanted Jesus dead and refused to accept him as the Messiah. For tormenting his rightful decision your husband ordered a rough plaque be placed at the head of the Nazarene’s cross. He did it out of stone hearted vindictiveness and to antagonize them that antagonized him. An eye for an eye, so to speak. He had that rude plaque written in three languages so no one could go uninformed. INRI translates to “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. And let us not think of the bloodshed a revolt could cause. Understand this, to wash his hands of the affair is not a Roman custom. It is a custom of our own people and he used it to declare an important point. He told them “Have it your way.” And conceded to declare the Nazarene guilty and condemn him to the cross. Claudia, my dear Claudia your husband never wanted to do that. You must remember that he held a reserved feeling towards the Nazarene for healing his only son, Pilo of his affliction. To allow a revolt would endanger you, the only star in his heaven. Your little girls Marcella and Horatia and your son Pilo. Can you not see that his concern had to be you and the children first of all. That my dear friend is an awesome declaration of love that needs no added words. The world condemned Pilate for releasing the known criminal Barabbas. While your husband had knowledge of where he would be. It is only a matter of time before Barabbas is host to his just reward. And your husband will see to that.” Magdalene reached out for Claudia’s hands and found them warm and moist. Claudia had a glassy haze over her pretty eyes and held hands firmly with her best friend. She crimped her lips and let the tears flow. Yes it was true, she had turned away from her husband’s attempt to rekindle their love. She knew he planned something special on their vacation time in Caesarea. She had planned to refuse his efforts and remain aloof.

Magdalene still had things to say and so did. “I will be going to Rome soon. I will see the emperor Tiberius. I want him to grant authority to Pontius Pilate to intervene in my behalf if the council tries to  force us from our property and homeland. I would be glad to deliver a note or letter to your grandfather, if you so wish.

And as soon as it was morning the chief

priests, with the elders and scribes,

and the whole council bound Jesus and

led him away and delivered him to

Pilate. And Pilate asked him,

“Are you the king of the Jews?”

Mark 15: 1-2 NIV

With hesitant hearts the two friends parted. Each carried a sense of joy from giving to a friend as well as receiving.

 

Pilate’s quarters in Yerushalayim were newly refurbished and many new pieces of furniture added. New attendants were assigned to care for him, his quarters and wife. Claudia was fed second hand gossip that her husband had acquired a mistress. And where at first, it bothered her terribly she rose above it. It was second hand gossip. It could be embellished to make her suffer. It was a ploy commonly used back home. Men had mistresses in Rome and anywhere else that their power exceeded their sense of honor. It was a thing men did to prove their manhood to others. It seemed necessary to them. She was the granddaughter of Tiberius and wife of Pontius Pilate and would not stoop to openly accept such lowly gossip. She would store it in her mind. In the meantime, she prepared a small celebration for two, in their private quarters. The finest wine the land could provide. Snow from the distant mountain tops delivered in protective canvas bags to last for days. She would use the snow to embellish his drinks and rekindle old memories of when he did the same for her. Slow roasted doves as he liked them. Basted with butter, lemon and garlic sauce. His taste had grown fastidious with so many culinary delights and Claudia would not be outdone. She found Pilate’s favorite chefs and bid them come to her. She asked they search their vast experience while serving her husband and provide a sumptuous feast for two. She asked they discharge their other obligations and concentrate on her request. And so they did. The wife of Pontius Pilate was a royal person not to be denied. She secured some fine Egyptian paper on which she wrote a short note to her husband. It read, “my heart is lonesome for you. I’ve prepared a celebration for you and I tonight.” Signed with two hearts entwined and the letter “C”.

The once majestic warrior from the tribes of central Italy that won  her teen age heart arrived in hastened pace. His robes were somewhat tangled. The sash that held them in place appeared lost somewhere in his ample back. He had allowed a beard to grow and it showed flecks of grey as well as his receding hairline. He had made a hastened detour to freshen himself after a long day at his judicial seat. She saw his plight and shadowed eagerness. He had a right to wonder what his wife had in store. She had been purposely absent from his presence since the crucifixion. Not to look overly attentive, she  bid him a friendly nod of her head with a welcome smile. “How well you look. Have you had a hard day?” She asked. At a given signal musicians went to work. They played love songs he dedicated to her in a paradise where they once lived so long ago. She brought the children to see their father and visit for a short while. He sat in comfort on an easy lounge chair as she brought Horacia swinging by her arms and laid her on her father’s lap. She was Pilate’s favorite little girl. While he addressed his child with care Claudia kissed him on the cheek and softly added, “So glad to see you home.” Happy moments passed and she soon had the children’s nanny take them to their quarters.

Once alone she poured wine for him and asked with a smile, “Snow or no snow?” The sound of loving laughter is music to the soul. She sat comfortably on his lap. One arm went around his neck and the other took his wine away to place on a nearby table. She tipped her head back and took a deep breath, ”I have a confession to make.” And his  heart stood still for several beats. Not like a royal child, she bowed head humbly and spoke directly to her husband. “I condemned you for crucifying the Nazarene. It has taken me too much time to fully understand why you had to do it. I was selfish and did not see the terrible position my husband was in, squeezed between the demands of Rome and Hell hole Judea. I have ignored my duty as a wife and treated you badly.  I ask you to forgive me. I am truly sorry I wasted precious time between us. I have no quarrel left with you over what is already done. Talk on the street is that Jesus escaped his tomb and was seen rising into the sky on a cloud and escorted by a band of angels. The Hebrew prophesies declared this would happen eons ago. All of that leaves you and I to put away  our differences and live well while we are honored guests of this world. I am a citizen of Rome and saw and heard much of the secret lives of honorable people. I was brought rumors that you have acquired a mistress.” He made an effort to say something and she covered his mouth. “Please, let me finish.  I say this to you as of now. I will not promise this will last forever, because I want your forgiveness for mistreating you. I am going to ignore what I’ve heard this time. I wish it were not true. And if it is, I will ask you this “Please donot let the dirt you pick up on the street tarnish the love you have at home. With that said, I wish to retire the subject and enjoy what I had prepared for us. I want to recapture a very wonderful time in our lives and I’m asking for your cooperation. As you can well see, I am trying very hard to overcome my Roman shortcomings.”

A good wife is so many wondrous things. Among them, is being an ambassador to a happy reunion. For better or for worse.

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