Dear Brave one,
That you have returned in search for more is evidence of your courage. I must conclude my story. I could not continue my account of what transpired when my friend, Marcus, was crushed for I was overcome. But if you have not read the first or second volumes of this missive, I urge you to seek them. You alone know where you shall find what you seek.
But I must conclude.
There we stood before the cracked ground on which Marcus had been crushed. My dear friend, the closest thing I had had to a brother was gone, crushed into the broken pavement.
I stared at the Great Cross before me. For God’s sake, this had to mean something. For that brief moment, the Cross was no longer a sacred symbol. It was a horrible thing to me, foreboding in my sight. It was a sign of God’s judgment. Just like the judgment meted on Marcus. Was God so cruel?
The broken pavement was an icon to us all that said: ‘Beware! He loved, and was crushed for it’.
So also was the Cross, Arnold. So was the Cross.
Was this what God had done for us? Was it what He demanded of us all? To put our very lives at stake? To present ourselves for crushing, by loving others? Like Agnes, who had just spat on Marcus’ dead body? Agnes, the woman he had loved. He had dared to love, and died because of her. But she spat on him.
Had I spat in God’s face before? Have I rejected God?
The lords had decided to burn Marcus’ remains, to remove all records of his existence and of the proceedings of his trial. They would not make a martyr of him. The only memorial would be the broken pavement by the Cross, as a deterrent. His name is now a warning. The message had been passed. No one should dare utter or consider the Forbidden Word ever again, or they would be crushed.
But the full import of that message did not resonate within me until I retired to my home. I kept wondering why God would demand this from us, to risk death so that another undeserving one may live.
As soon as I got to my door, a couple stopped me. “We’re very sorry for your loss,” the man said. I turned to them, trying to understand his message. He seemed truly concerned.
“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you very much.” I was amazed and shocked that they had considered me.
“Here,” the woman gave me a bouquet of flowers. I took it, wondering what had prompted this. No one had given me flowers before, for any reason! My heart soared.
“What should I do with them?” It was a stupid question, really. I just did not know what to say.
“To let you know that you’re on our hearts,” the man said, mustering a smile. Then he whispered, “And so is Marcus.” I smiled at him and dipped my head.
They were a very queer couple. As they walked away, I noticed they were holding hands. The norm was for the man to walk ahead of his wife. Everyone knows that. But this couple held hands. I did not know then that something more was happening.
A boy and his mother came later with some pie. “In case you needed to eat,” the woman said. “I know I couldn’t eat when my husband died.” I welcomed them in, wondering what had prompted this. I had barely spoken when I heard another rap on the door. And that is how it began. Friends, fellow soldiers, neighbours, different kinds of people came to my house that day, to simply ‘apologise for my loss’. But it was more than that. These were people that I had seen every day, and not given a second thought. Here they were, showering me with such kindness.
Love. We had all grown up without hearing or knowing that word. Now we had all seen it on radical display for all to see.
I love you, Arnold. I remembered Marcus’ note to me.
Perhaps we had been capable of love for so long, but had not pursued it. We cared for our families and friends. But how far were we willing to go? Even for those we did not know?
It was new not just me, but for everyone. It was insane. They had all come, just to share a kinship with the memory of my friend, Marcus. They did not see him as a heretic. They saw him as a hero who dared to rebel, because he finally understood something called ‘Love’. Now here we were talking and laughing as friends do. There were no differences between us for the moment. We all had shared in the horror of watching Marcus’ selfless death. The implications were burnt into our hearts forever.
“And the lady did not appreciate his sacrifice,” I heard one woman say.
“No,” her husband said. “He, uh … you know … had that word for her.”
“The Forbidden Word.”
“Yes,” the man said, carefully staring into her eyes. “That … word. But we all know what it means now, don’t we?”
“Death,” his wife intoned. “It can only mean death to whoever is foolish enough to utter it.”
And he held her hands and stared into her eyes. “I love you, my fair queen.”
It was a commitment, right there. He was committing himself to die for her, if the need arose. It was a commitment to live his life so that she could live fully. His wife let the tears flow. “I love you too,” she whispered.
I walked away to hide my own tears.
Something was being stirred in our hearts. I was not the only one that felt it. Marcus had been on to something after all.
We had all thought the Forbidden Word was vulgar, but now we saw it for what it was.
It is so divine, that it is dangerous. No one can forget the cracks. Love is death, we knew. It is not a word to be used lightly, except death is meant.
It had taken one man to dare to seek Love, and to proclaim it for us to know.
I heard no one else say the word, but for that moment we shared it. All around, here were people apologizing for past hurts, laughing over awkward situations, crying, talking, and sharing. That was Love. We could not say the word in public, but we could live it. Because we knew it was right.
I was in heaven that day. Marcus had not died in vain.
But it only lasted that day. By the next day, everyone returned to their secure lives. Yesterday was forgotten. Reality had dawned. There really was a law that still banned even the very thought of the Forbidden Word. I saw people on the streets walk by each other, as though they were strangers. I saw husbands walk ahead of their wives. I saw young men argue with one another. I held out hope that none of these were the ones that had come to my house yesterday. I hoped they had understood what love is, and vowed to follow God’s way of Love. Like I had.
I could bear it no longer. Mortals are incapable of continuous love. But I wanted to be capable. I could not bear to live if I knew I was not following God. Marcus’ death could not be in vain.
I had to leave Duchinson that day, vowing never to return. I wanted to be free to pursue God and His love in a land where freedom to love is not denied. Not just to honour Marcus’ memory, but for myself as well. I too was incapable of love. There I was criticizing the townspeople, instead of loving. I needed to find God’s love for myself.
I have been free to find Him. I have leafed through the pages of the Holy Bible, and they burst with such love and justice. Now I see what it was that Marcus’ saw. I cannot live without loving, for God wants to love through me.
Jesus did not remain dead. He arose, and came with an even greater life for us to live, if we accept it. I have, and now my heart burns with such love for others. Now I can love without condition, without precedence, without expecting reward. I am filled with God’s Love, and I must share it. This flame cannot die.
In this time, I have seen how ‘love’ is said in the most appalling ways in other lands. I am even more broken at this. ‘LOVE’ is said so flippantly and leisurely. Everyone says it, but few mean it. It tears my heart every day. They do not know. They are free to pursue God’s Love, and to express it. Why must they pretend to love, keep speaking about it, but not show it? I began to understand why our fathers had put a ban on the word, however wrong they were. It is too sacred for mortals, without the spark of the Divine.
But now I know that I must return. This Light must shine in the darkness. My home is Duchinson. For here, we have seen the risk that love is. The cracked pavement by the Great Cross remains for all to see that Love is Death. But there is no better way to live. I know we know what love is. We experienced it that day. Why not forever?
I urge you, dear brave one, to join me in this cause. Find God’s Love. We may be denied the right to speak the Forbidden Word, but we are surely not denied the freedom to express it in every way. We will not be silent, for we cannot hide the truth that changes everything. We will be seen, even if not heard.
Be sure of this, we will be crushed.
It may not be by the mallets of the Crushers, but worse – we will be rejected. Many will not see or understand our sacrifice. Most will despise our acts of love toward them, and the rejection may be as gut-wrenching as the Crushing. But we will take the risk. We will remember our Lord’s words when he urged us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him. We will take our deaths with us. For it is God’s way.
We will bring death upon ourselves so that others may live.
We will let the light shine through the darkness.
For LOVE’S sake.
For God is LOVE, and anyone that does not love does not know God.
And I hope that, one day, when I finally meet my maid, I will be willing to give my all for her. I know that when we stand before our Master, He will tell us that we were right to follow His Way of LOVE, as He instructed us.
Redeeming Love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
I leave you with the words of one that found our Master’s love, and learned to live it.
Love suffers long and is kind;
Love does not envy;
Love does not parade itself;
Is not puffed up;
Does not behave rudely;
Does not seek its own,
Is not provoked,
Thinks no evil;
Does not rejoice in iniquity,
But rejoices in the truth;
Bears all things,
Believes all things,
Hopes all things,
Endures all things.
And be sure of this:
Love never fails.
Fare thee well, Brave one.