Et vidi caelum novum
Et terram novam
Everything in this world ends eventually, just like a beautiful dream that ends when it is time to rise up and venture into the world. Many centuries ago, at a time when one empire was passing away and another rising, Basilios Bessarion — monk, diplomat, bishop, scholar, and cardinal — became a homeless man. He left his beloved homeland and spent the rest of his days in exile bearing in his heart the sadness of a mother who has lost her only child.
But life didn’t end for the great Cardinal Bessarion. He honored the home and the people he left behind in Constantinople when he took up residence in a simple villa just outside Rome’s ancient walls and began life anew. I used to pass by that villa and still today I think on the power of that man — of any human being — to begin life again and again and again … when there is good reason. Bessarion found his reason, just as you and I find ours today, in this very moment.
At the first light of dawn
The family awakens together
To celebrate the sacred feast
And welcome the ancient Friend
One day our world will disappear, but for now we’re here. And we’re not alone.
There’s a funny thing about human beings, a quality most of us are numb to, just as warriors returning from battle might be numb: Though small, insignificant creatures of dust and water, when we feel all alone, when we’re afraid or in despair we become cruel and violent, terrifying gods of death and destruction, the destroyers of worlds spoken of in an ancient book.
But when we dwell together as a family, we find power to transform ourselves into Friends. We become benevolent beings surrounded by more brothers and sisters than we thought possible. Our hearts, once empty and useless, are filled with more power than the Sun in the sky and the stars in the heavens. It is difficult for us to recognize who we are, just as ancient stories tell us that a god walking among men might forget his origin or at least betray no sign of it. But those who know us well — those who are Friends to us — have no reason to doubt our ability to awaken and come together. This has happened in the past and can happen even in our day.
We can sleepwalk through existence for thousands and thousands of years like dead men in forgotten tombs, but when the moment arrives for us to unite as a family we spring to life, just like a dog guarding the door to his master’s home.
Therefore, look to the dog:
This lowliest of beasts sits at the door of the family home doing nothing, seemingly useless, of no good or useful purpose, at times a burden. But when a visitor approaches in the quiet of night or without warning, the dog unfailingly performs his duty to rouse all in the house. Whether welcome or not, whether expected or not, the visitor never goes unannounced.
When the visitor is a beloved friend or a family member returning from some long journey, the dog offers welcome without hesitation. The dog has no need for words. He simply offers love and reassures everyone in the home that all is well. That the family is safe. That the time of rejoicing has at last returned.
And if the visitor is not welcome, if the guest is wicked or intent on harming the family, there is no more fiercesome foe prepared to sacrifice his body, ready to shed his blood for the sake of those he loves. Even if every last person in the house is paralyzed by fear, the dog doesn’t hesitate. The dog doesn’t doubt. In one moment he seems a pup but when provoked he becomes an unstoppable war dog able to tear though armies, charging on and fighting until the last bit of life leaves his body.
Today the dog barks, but he is no war dog on this day. He is already nuzzling the visitor, showering the guest with a thousand thousand kisses. Just like my own dog. Just like yours.
The dog knows that all is well.
June 27, 2017