Once upon a time there was an orphanage. An orphanage enclosed by a towering, dark, ugly wall, topped by a huge wrought iron gate with pointy bars, standing in the middle of a stretched meadow surrounded by tall pines, like an island encircled by the seas. In the midst of this open field, a courtyard enclosed by an excessively robust fortress. In the center of this courtyard is the entrance to a mine, the Gold Mine. There was thus the outside domain beyond the institution’s walls - which was strictly forbidden and barely known to the orphans - the orphanage or home itself and the court and Gold Mine.
The set is impressive, the beauty of a chateau with the strength of a fortress.
Many children reside in this orphanage and none of them have known anything other than this place. Despite not having born there they had arrived at too young of age to remember or even imagine their outside origins.
The main activity of these children consisted of descending into the mine to extract gold through hard labour. The supervisors handed over the booty to the guards who then passed it on to the Director.
The orphans couldn’t have fallen any deeper: their lives were hard, the rules were strict, but those who worked hard and obeyed the guards and supervisors were justly compensated. They earned a small salary paid out in ridiculous tokens ... plastic tokens bearing the likeness of the home’s Director: a radiant portrait wearing a crown.
For children less courageous and assiduous there were less tokens. It was the Law.
For a child without any tokens left, these tokens became no longer ridiculous at all. On the contrary. Everything in this orphanage was paid for with these tokens: drink, food, care ... Without them, the child even lost his or her right to sleep in a bed, for everything that was not for sale was up for rent. They bought everything they ate, they rented everything that was used.
One evening the little Spiros watched the other children play in the playroom. He was left with only a handful of tokens, saving them for food. He was sad, but he encouraged himself that the following weeks he would work hard enough in order to join his friends. He lifted his spirits.
A supervisor passing by saw the boy’s dreary face and he approached him and said: “Why are you sad, Spiros? Instead of being sad, you should be ashamed! You know the rule, you know what the Director said: ‘If you don’t have enough tokens, it’s your fault!’ You’ll just have to keep your head out of the clouds and your feet on the ground!”
It was true. Little Spiros dreamed at times, told himself stories, and last week it affected his work; he had “weakened” as others said. Weakening was serious given the importance of tokens in this place, but there was worse than that: disobedience! Disobeying the Law provoked the wrath of the guards and could cost you dearly.
Some things must be clarified concerning the Law. Not only did everything have to be earned, it had to be paid. Never shoud there be made fun of a guard or supervisor. But there was also that which was called the “Director’s Law”. The Director astutely dictated a certain law that would enforce respect to the guards and help the supervisors. It was a peculiar law which required children, for example, to put on their caps with the left hand only or clapping their hands three times before tying their shoelaces, to apologize seven times for scratching away an itch, and many more. These were the Minor Laws. The Major Laws related to food: do not eat peanuts near a chair, do not eat zucchini when wearing a turtleneck sweater, … These laws were ludicrous, just like the plastic tokens. But for the orphans, these Laws were dead serious, as any breach of these Laws reported to the guards or supervisors could result in very expensive fines and the savings of weeks of work could well disappear. In reality, the children were afraid. They greatly feared the Director and his guards and the more their fear augmented, the more the guards told them that they were wise. It was also forbidden to try to look through a window. All windows in the orphanage were seven feet from the ground and hence did not interest most of the children in the first place.
The orphans had heard of the garden that surrounded the orphanage, because one day, one of the supervisors who took pity on little Spiros who spent his nights staring at a window, had in secret found a passage leading to the attic. “Do not show this passage to anyone!” said the supervisor. “If any of my colleagues finds out that an orphan knows it, they’ll surely close it and the punishment would be terrible!” From the attic Spiros could look out the windows and see the area surrounding the Estate.
Keeping his newly acquired secret, but delighted nonetheless, Spiros had told of this domain outside the walls to the other orphans and they all yearned for leaving the Estate to explore and play in this field. Before hearing about this place outside their confines, these children lived from day to day, barely acquiring enough tokens to survive. But now, they dreamt of what was to them a beautiful, large garden. When the supervisors were informed of this, they said it wasn’t good that they desired something that wasn’t for sale.
“So!” shouted a supervisor. “You dream of this garden? This is not how you earn tokens, you lazy band!”
Chagas and Hanoch, two supervisors annoyed by the situation discussed:
Chagas: “I think one of the kids, don’t ask me how, had a look through a window and saw what’s outside. They deserve their fate, all these idiots. Do you realize they are dreaming of going there?! I’d like to see their faces if they met Athoth or Harmas!”
Hanoch: “The problem is that the more they dream, the less we can control them.”
Chagas: “We must take this to the guards. The Director will tell them what to do.”
When the Director was informed of this intricacy, he frowned and thunder rumbled through the orphanage.
“We could make them forget”, suggested one of the guards frightened by the Director’s anger.
“Naive!”, yells the Director, whose face grew grimmer by the second. “There will always be one that remembers who then will preach his ‘truth’. The slightest glimmer of hope for a “new world” sometimes takes several generations to disappear. Use their hopes in order to make them my slaves: that will limit the damage!”
Hanoch assembles the orphans to bring them the news:
“The Director gave me the following revelation, that one day, you will go to the garden he designed especially for you. But know that it is for you and your sake that he built this house. Work to redeem your fault and repay your debt, comply fully with the Law and this garden will be your reward. Never forget that it is the Director who conceived this splendid mansion where you are all so well now. It is He who built this immense wall that separates you from this foul shoal surrounding this domain. A terrifying Serpent prevails in these lowlands, the stinking swamp where you would be swayed by the horrible Dragon if the Director had not, long ago, cut off his head!”
Little Spiros, astonished by this news, could not resist to ask a question:
“Our Sacred Texts say that it is the Director who created everything?”
“Absolutely”, said Hanoch.
“And the Dragon? And stinking swamp too?”, Spiros asked.
Chagas whispered into Hanoch’s ear: “Do not answer. It’s because of the window that he’s asking these ignorant questions.”
Hanoch ordered the children to return to work, but grabbed Spiros by the arm:
“Do you think you’re smart? Or brave? But since you really want to know, the Tohu wa-Bohu, that slimy, stinking swamp is the place where your father went for a little swim before rotting away, pushing up the daisies … poor filth that you are! You want me to explain that to the rest to make them happy?”
Hanoch threw Spiros to the ground.
The promise of the garden as a reward based on merit darkened the children’s morale, including Spiros and Agapios. But Dellis for instance, didn’t care too much. He was simply too tired from his work and the Law.
Dellis: “The Director will justly reward and punish all children, that’s all.”
Spiros: “That’s what worries me. He made the Law, but we didn’t make ourselves … “
Agapios: “The other day I apologized seven times before putting on my turtleneck sweater and I clapped my hands three times while they were filled with peanuts … I keep mixing everything up and now don’t have a token left.”
One winter evening with heavy snowfall, many tired children had gathered in the large entrance hall of the residence. The dormitories were cold and a lot of tokens were spent on heating, and the game rooms were a luxuary where many spent the winter.
The supervisors were quite satisfied. They educated the children well. The Law and the Director inspired the children with great fear. “All is well”, they said.
Suddenly, three huge bangs were heard! Three knocks on the front door which led to the Front Gate and the field beyond. The supervisors froze up. Never ever had anyone knocked on that door!
Filled with terror, their gazes crossed eachother’s.
“Uh ... I .. I-m I’m not opening the door”, said Chagas nervously but determined.
“Shut up, idiot! Who says anything about opening the door? I’ll take a look through the peephole”, said Aviâz, one of the other supervisors.
“Okay”, said Chagas. “Come on, kids! To your dorms immediately, all of you!”
“It has to be a Guard of the Estate”, yelled one of the overseers who came rushing in.
Taking advantage of the fuss, Spiros slipped to the attic where he looked out the window located above the front door.
In the mean time, Aviâz approached the door and opened the peephole …
“And?”, asked Chagas.
“We’re not opening“, said Aviâz, barely opening his mouth.
“Was it one of the guards?”, asked a supervisor.
“No”, said Aviâz. “But it looked like a man.”
“Impossible!”, said Hanoch. “How would he have passed? The guards would have torn him to shreds, there’s no way he would have escaped them!”
“I don’t know how he got here”, said Aviâz. “There are no footprints in the snow.” These words paralyzed the supervisors with fear.
“We need to barricade all windows and doors!”, said Hanoch.
The Guards of the Estate, informed, were terrified by what happened as well as anxious for the reaction of the Director, to whom they sought guidance and protection.
“And you, Astaphaïos?! You didn’t see anything either?!”, screamed an infuriated Director. ”Sabaoth, Iabel, all of you, you all let it happen! He moved the seven Gates without you even noticing?! Why don’t you tell me that he went through the walls while you’re at it!”
None of the seven Guardians of the Estate dared answer.
“It was well worth creating you with eyes of fire and heads of snakes and hyenas. It was well worth giving you the power of a thousand hurricanes to let some individual walk right to my doorstep! Let him pass one more time and I'll … I’ll replace the lot of you!”
The next morning Agapios woke Spiros: “Spiros, come quickly! The man that you spoke of, the one you saw through the window … He ... He's here!”
Standing tall in the great hall stood a stranger overlooking the children.
“Stand back, kids!”, ordered the guards, headed by Hanoch. “He has no authorization here!”
Hanoch: “How have you passed, intruder? What do you want?!"
"How dare you remain in silence and not answer?! Do not move an inch until we have received instructions about your fate! And children, do not approach him! He may be struck by the Director’s lightning any time now! … Now answer me! Who are you?!”
Spiros: “It’s true, Agapios. How did he pass? He didn’t answer them.”
Agapios: “He didn’t even look! It scares me.”
Dellis: “The Director must do something! Fast!”
Hanoch went face-to-face with the stranger and said in a threatening tone: “For the last time … who are you and what are you doing in the Orphanage without permission?!”
But the stranger had already turned and approached the children who did not dare to move.
“We are but defenseless kids and we possess nothing that you can take from us”, said a trembling orphan.
“Who are you?”, asked Spiros.
“Your Father sent me.”
And at that time, a terrible thunder rumbled like an incessant rattle, the fortress shaked on its very foundations … The Director could not imagine anything worse than these few words.
(to be continued)
Faith receives, love gives. No one will be able to receive without faith. No one will be able to give without love. Because of this, in order that we may indeed receive, we believe, and in order that we may love, we give, since if one gives without love, he has no profit from what he has given. He who has received something other than the Lord is still a Hebrew. - Gospel of Philip