Tag Archives: Sacrifice

On the Power of Guilt

Dearest Father,

As you well know, we are once again in the Season of the Fast. It seems like barely any time has passed since I wrote you about the last season, and I am certain that it won’t be long before I find myself yammering away about the next Season of the Fast, wondering what happened to the year in between. Such is the way of our childish minds; time seems to fly when we give it little attention, and appears to crawl when we focus on it most intently.

I almost missed the bells this time. So far have I travelled that the sound barely resonated in my ears. I was actually stunned by how little I was affected by the noise. There was a time when the sound of the bell would have evoked strong emotions in my heart, when I would have been compelled to face the Season with all the solemnity deserving of your trials in the wilderness. There was a time when I would have prepared for the arrival of the Season days in advance, eagerly awaiting the bestowment of ash upon my forehead so that I could mark time till the celebration of the resurrection of the Brother-Saviour. Such a time is long gone, dearest Father, for I almost entirely forgot about the Season this year, and I when I did hear the bells, it was with heavy reluctance that I dragged myself to a House outpost to participate in the receiving of ashes.

I am sure you are not surprised by this, Father. The past months have seen me devolve ever so slowly into condemning what I perceive to be the flawed and counterintuitive manner in which you have made and ruled our world. With my mind drawing farther from you is it any wonder that my heart has started to do the same? Among the greatest motivations claimed by your children for their worship is love. Where others claim to be cowed into submission by your awesomeness and power, or cajoled into acceptance by promises of paradise, your children say that they are with you because you love them and they you. They say that your love is the reason for everything around them, that your love is all that they need to live and breathe. As you can tell from the tone and topics of my letters past, I have looked upon your world and my poor eyes are finding it very difficult to see this song-inspiring love all your children seem to speak about. Perhaps if I were a child of the Crescent or the Star such an absence would have had no bearing on my closeness to you, but in a House built on love it is little wonder that it has left a sour taste in my mouth.

Of course the fact that my heart has been drifting from you did not prevent me from receiving the ash many days ago. And the fact that my ire has been raised towards you has not prevented me from wondering once again what to give up in these 40 days. Try as I may dearest Father I cannot shake off the biting guilt that I am doing something wrong by not fasting this holy season. I am angry with you, distant from you, unsure of whether or not I shall ever return to you. I have questioned everything in the doctrines that the House and the Family have told me about you. Even last year, when I was much closer to home, I pondered on the effectiveness of the Brother-Saviour’s sacrifice and in so doing drew into question the point of the entire season and the celebrations that it preceded. And yet, even as I tell myself that I owe you nothing until my questions are answered, I still cannot ignore the pangs in my chest from ignoring tradition. I feel as though I am betraying not just you by failing to observe the Season’s solemnities, but myself as well, and try as I may I cannot convince myself otherwise. My heart, it seems, is set in its guilt.

Perhaps it is my devout upbringing speaking. Perhaps it is the effect of years upon years of Universal Family training via the Catechism, and the host of prayers I had to memorise as I child. Perhaps it is in fact you that is talking to me, in one of the famously ambiguous (and quite frankly ineffective) ways many claim you speak to your children. Or perhaps it is the famed guilt all children of the Universal Family claim to possess, even those like me that have strayed far from home.

It matters not, dearest Father, for regardless of its cause this guilt has kept me up at night and caused me a lot of bother. I have considered simply defaulting to fasting from food as I did last year, but Doubt has warned that such a sacrifice would be hollow for I already go 12 hours between meals quite frequently. I do not know what to do, but I know that this compulsion will not cease until my guilt is sated.

I find it most strange that this guilt has had such sway over me these past few days. It would be funny, would it not, if my guilt ends up being the reason I remain close to you, if even when faced with all I cannot accept and all I do not understand, I end up back in your arms in a desperate bid to hush the disquiet in my chest. One must wonder how many remain in the House not because they truly believe in your power and your love, but because they feel too guilty to take a step outside the gates.

With a guilty heart,

Your Prodigal Son

P.S. Please forgive the lateness of the letter, Father. I was to send it shortly after the Day of Ashes but my earthly duties have kept me quite busy and I haven’t had the time. Hopefully it arrives before the Season ends.

P.P.S. Doubt has suggested meat, Father. Do you think that is a worthy sacrifice from a heart mired in guilt?

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On Guides and Fathers

Dearest Father,

Today your children remembered the birth of the House. Today they celebrated as they recalled the magical events of that afternoon many years ago, when you deigned to send your spirit down to your disciples and gave them the capacity to spread your word. Today, many say, marks the true beginning of the greatest House that ever was and ever will be. And today, dearest Father, I was reminded of how utterly and completely forsaken I am.

The significance of the today’s event is not one that can all too easily be brushed aside. For many it is a call to jubilation. Our Father, from his abode in the Great Upstairs, decided to send his spirit, his very essence, to guide and protect his children. This was the latest in a series of events aimed at humbling the terrible You-Know-Who and exulting your beloved offspring. First you took it upon yourself to take our form, that we may see you as we saw ourselves. Then you died for us, sacrificing the purest life to ever grace this earth, that our debt to you may be washed away and our souls cleansed of their iniquity. And then, to prove that even Death could not hold you, you restored life to yourself and gave your followers a reason to believe, to hope. And when you finally had to depart, dearest Father, you promised to come once again in a different form at a different time, to help your children weather the storms of their harsh, cold world.  Of course the day you selected for your second arrival was not one of little importance. It was perfectly timed, a day that already held deep meaning for your first House, the House of the Star. Not satisfied to lay the foundations for your new House on a new day, you decided to do it on a day the old guard celebrated a gift you gave them at their birth. You decided to arrive on the day of the Pentecost. And while I cannot speak for the rest of your children Father, I think I understand exactly why you picked such a day for your grand entrance; as with most things you do it has its significance in the day’s history.

I know you have not forgotten but permit me to remind you. The children in Egypt had enslaved the Stars, and after giving them many chances to let them go (while simultaneously ensuring that their King would not take advantage of these chances) you showed your might, taking first-borns and parting seas, and you delivered your children safely from their clutches. And seeing your children lost in the desert, you decided to give them a Law, a law to guide and protect them, to light the way in times of extreme darkness and to distinguish them from the rest of your unsaved and apparently unloved children. And impressed with your works, as you were wont to be at that time in our history, you commanded that they commemorate this day with a feast, the Feast of Weeks, so named for the weeks that passed between their deliverance and the arrival of your Law.

Looking at the history of the Stars and the Crosses, it is rather evident that you enjoy repetition, dearest Father, for the birth of your newest and greatest House followed the exact same template as that of its predecessor. Eventually, for reasons as yet only discernible by you, the time came to spread your love to the rest of the world and you performed this duty with the requisite flair one has come to expect. You sent the Brother-Saviour, and in a series of events just as magnanimous as those surrounding the first Pentecost, you had him killed and resurrected and ascended, and then you sent once again a guide for your people, this time in the form of a spirit. His death was to deliver, just as the death of all those boys in ancient Egypt served to deliver your children then, and your spirit gave the new House purpose, just as the Law did for the children of the old one.

I must stress that as it was with the Brother-Saviour’s sacrifice I appreciate the importance of today’s feast. The presence of the spirit is the only thing that gave courage to the early members of the House to go forth and spread your word. Children not originally in the House of the Star, such as myself, would never have heard about the Brother-Saviour and his wondrous sacrifice without the spirit, and some of us would never have had the privilege of being born into the House of the Cross. But as you can see, I am no longer in the House. I am a lost child, a wanderer, seeking that which would lead him home, and from my seat on the Outside I have but one very big question, Father: Why?

Do not mistake my query dearest Father; I am not asking why you sent the guide. That much is evident. The past few weeks have seen me list for you the troubles one such as myself has had with defining a concept as basic as truth. Every step of my journey has been plagued by the dangerous whisperings of my despised companion. While I doubt that the early children of the House had the very same issues that I do, I am quite certain they were beset with issues that at least bore a striking resemblance to mine. Doubt you see, is the parent of Fear, and it is well known that in those early days your disciples were quite afraid. Their meetings were secret, their ministry effectively non-existent. And it was only when your spirit arrived on this auspicious day, that they had not just the courage, but the ability, to go forth and spread the good news. The same goes for those early members of the still standing House of the Star. They were afraid, unsteady in their ignorance, surrounded by a land they did not know and presented with a purpose they could not understand. It was only with the guiding force of your perfect Law that they were able to progress.

So I understand why you sent the spirit. What I do not understand, dear Father, is why once again, there was a need for all of this. It has taken you two Houses and more than a thousand years to see your wishes for your children reach its zenith. In the first case, you had to craft resistance from the Egyptian King in order to show your might. You had to sacrifice all those boys so that all could know that you were Father among Fathers. And even this was not enough, for it was not done for all of us. You spent time and energy and (innocent) blood laying the foundations of the House of the Star, all the while knowing that eventually you would replace it with a new one by means of another death that, on some days, seems just as superfluous as the firsts.

Even on the topic of why you sent the spirit, Father, one has to wonder why your children, children of the greatest Father in all the world, are in need of a guide at all. We have a perfect Father, one that does not – cannot – Doubt, one that is as conversant with the ways of Sophia as any being in the entire universe can be. Your Book tells us that we were moulded from your hands, that our breaths come from your lips. And yet, we are so very different from you, so much weaker, so much less… Underneath all these events, purposeless they might seem, is a very important message, one that I find driven home time and time again in the mythos of the House: It is never enough to just deliver your children. Even after we are saved we are still lost; we have no clue what to with our freedom. Given time we will eventually find ourselves in the wilderness of confusion and we will need your guidance.  And looking upon the wondrous nature of the one that bore us, one has to ask why, Father, why?

I mentioned that whilst my former siblings celebrated I was filled with sorrow, reminded of how abandoned this child of yours truly is. For on this day it was not enough for me to realise that regardless of what I do, regardless of how perfect my Father is, I will always pale before him. No, your 13th apostle, in the celebration’s second reading, did me one better. He went ahead to say that not only would I always pale before you, but in order to partake of whatever joys I found lacking while I was in the House, in order to truly be in the House, I would need to be bestowed with your spirit, I would need the wondrous guidance of my perfect Father. I, the lowly being that I am, cannot do this on my own, and until you show me the way this immense journey I am undertaking is a useless, pointless one.

Again, dearest Father, I understand. I understand the need for guides. Blind men need help to navigate the world. Ignorant men need teachers. Those with poor hearing need aids, and those with poor sight need lenses. Where there is a deficiency, Father, there is need for a guide. And if there ever was a being so deficient, it is I. Sad and confused I left my home in search of truth, and I have been plagued by Doubt ever since. It is quite evident that I do not know the things I need to know to believe, for if I did I will not be lingering on the Outside. Every thought I have will not be so easily attacked and dissected by my winged companion. Every House outpost I meet will not be a source of sadness and envy. And yet if the man so filled with your spirit, so guided by your hand is to be believed, the only way I can break free of these chains, the only way my deficiencies can be vanquished, is if you give me your spirit. I do not have your spirit because I am confused. I cannot be unconfused without your spirit. And you, Grand Arbiter that you are, can decide – no, could have decided – at any moment to send this guide down to me. And yet you have not. And so I ask once again Father, why? Why have you not yet chosen to send this spirit? What purpose does my torture serve? And if the only ones that can be in the House are those you have elected to give your spirit, what does that say about the multitudes we are told are waiting on the Outside? What kind of Father, dearest Father, will refuse to guide his children? Like your sacrifice its circular nature defeats its purpose. For if only by your spirit can your children spread the word, and if only by your spirit can your children accept it, of what use is all that happens in between?

But even all these are not reason enough for the depth of my sadness today, Father. That responsibility lies, once again, with my dear, dear friend. For as I thought these thoughts he saw fit to whisper to me a terrible question: What kind of perfect Father is so distant he needs to send guides to help his children?

With a heavy heart,

Your Prodigal Son

P.S. This letter would probably reach you after the Pentecostal festivities are over. Please be understanding; it took quite a while to pen it.

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On Sacrifices and Their Worth II

Dear Father,

But a few days ago, the Season of the Fast reached its end. Whether or not this was the initial intention of the Family elders when they planned the House Calendar, the end of the season coincides with the birth of spring and this, I believe, carries with it some powerful imagery. In my homeland, once termed the Dark Continent, we do not experience such things as spring and winter. For us, there are two seasons. The rains come and then they go, and they do so on a cycle that has nothing to do with the Season of the Fast. As a result back when I was young and in the House, any significance attached to the timing of the season’s end was lost on me. Not so in the land in which I find myself. Here the rains are beginning to fall after months of snowy skies. The trees are growing leaves again; the birds have picked up their songs, and squirrels have resumed their foraging. As the members of the House beat their drums and blow their trumpets in celebration, so too does the rest of nature. Significant, for the end of the season marks what has been termed the three most important days in the history of House, and by dogmatic extension, the history of the entire earth. It marks the death and resurrection of our brother and saviour, your perfect incarnation among your children.

But a few days ago the Universal Family, and those in the House that have not yet cast aside everything connected with the Family, bowed their heads to mark the Brother-Saviour’s crucifixion.  This, we are told, was the sacrifice of sacrifices, the sacrifice that ended all sacrifice. So great is the significance of this sacrifice that its extent is among the things that caused one of the greatest splits from the Universal Family. The reach of this sacrifice, the permanence of its effects, is a key dispute between my Family and the ever dividing Family of Rebels. Without this sacrifice, all is lost. Your children are eternally doomed, and You-Know-Who has won the battle. With this sacrifice, not only do we have a fighting chance, the tides have been turned irrevocably. Because of the blood of the Brother-Saviour, You-Know-Who is bound to lose. We know not the day or the hour, but we have been assured that when it comes, he will fall once and for all, never to rise again.

But anyone can die, or so they say. The real special thing about your sacrifice was the resurrection, the rebirth, so to speak. It makes for wonderful symbolism when your children’s voices are raised in praise, joy and exultation, marking the anniversary of your resurrection just as the very earth gives new life to the its inhabitants. Perhaps this is why the House elders in the days of yore picked this time for the season. Or perhaps, as some say, they were simply trying to garner the favour of the Outsiders whose lands and hearts they wished to capture. It is of no consequence. Your death and subsequent resurrection mark the very foundation of the towering domicile I have left behind. They give reason to the lives of all those within the House. They bring hope, they bring the good news, and they provide the basis on which the House has spread its message over continents and over oceans, growing its bounds though blood as much as through words.

Sitting, contemplating the significance of these events, with my undesirable friend on my shoulder, I was struck by how foolish, how petty, my ramblings were a little over forty days ago. While acknowledging the fact that the Season of the Fast was to prepare us to appreciate the greatest of all sacrifices, I still had the audacity to wonder whether or not certain sacrifices were worthy of your person. It is rather evident that none on this earth is. So much so that you, purest of the pure, had to take human form and die, in order to show us how it was done. You had to take it upon yourself to demonstrate to us that no sacrifice, however great could possibly match what really was necessary to save us from ourselves.

The sacrifice we celebrate marks why the House is often called the House of Love, especially in the face of other Houses. None other claims to have a Father that so loved his children he was willing to lay his life down on their behalf. None other claims to have a Father that boldly and unflinchingly went into suffering and pain and torture, just so that he could be with his children again. It is among the greatest calls to uniqueness, the greatest points of appeal, that the House has been able to lay claim to over the centuries. Deep inside, dear Father, your children simply want to be loved, and what better way to pull them to your bosom than by erecting a House whose very symbol is the ultimate gesture of expressible love?

But while I sat and mused on the wonders of the season’s end, filled with what can only be called nostalgic appreciation, my little friend, ever ready with cancerous utterances, had a word or two on this very subject. Now I would rather not mention the horrendous things he said; but I promised to write you about our experiences. Such a promise is not one that should be cast away so easily.

Per his name, my winged friend saw fit to cast his deep shadow over the very notion that the Brother-Saviour’s sacrifice, your sacrifice, is in fact the greatest of all sacrifices. If, as I have discovered, sacrifices must be measured by not just what they deprive us of but also by how much they achieve, it seems only fair that your sacrifice be brought under the microscope as well.

To that end, dearest Father, the question is thus: Exactly what were you deprived of in your sacrifice? In the weeks past I have abstained from food for the duration of the sun’s journey across the sky. I have endured my natural hungers, so that by suffering through them my mind may be driven towards you. This entire journey is predicated on discovering you more; what better way to ensure that you stay on my mind all the time than by tying it to something the body cannot do without?

Now when Doubt asked this question I was quick to provide an answer very much like the one I arrived at myself. Your sacrifice aside, the very act of coming to us and taking human form allowed you to experience life as we saw it, to identify with us. And Doubt, the ever wily and disgustingly brilliant little fellow, laughed and pointed out that per House dogma, you know everything. What more is there for you to know, dear Father? How could you, perfect being that you are, not know what being human feels like? You made us, down to the last hairs on our heads, or so they say. It is unfathomable to think that you do not know how we feel. The subject of suffering makes this an even bigger conundrum. What purpose did your suffering serve dear Father? Can one even say that you suffered, in the same way that your children suffer? And even if you did, why would it matter? For a being as knowledgeable as yourself, suffering would simply be experiencing something you have already “experienced”, something that you would not need to be reminded of as you can never forget. No. It seems your sacrifice then was for our benefit, perhaps to make us see you as we see ourselves… to humanise you, so to speak. We are the ignorant ones, not you. We are the ones that need to see the truth.

While this answer seemed to send Doubt flapping away in silent thought, the reprieve was not to last too long. He was back soon, with even more disturbing words. He pointed out that this fact, that the incarnation of yourself in flesh was simply to humanise yourself, had diluted the effect of what was to be considered an amazing sacrifice. You cannot suffer, in any way that makes sense; the feelings cannot be new to you, and you in your almighty glory, were already aware that you were to break the chains of death and rise again on the third day. In fact, this last bit reduces the sacrifice even more. There is, in effect, no sacrifice, for you died knowing full well that you would rise. There wasn’t, at the very least there shouldn’t have been, any fear or uncertainty in your heart. There was no finality. Listening to his words the sacrifice that defines the House suddenly seemed like a small thing, a simple formality. When one knows the outcome of an event, when one knows that it shall go in his favour, does one really lose anything by fulfilling all righteousness? Does one learn anything by going through the motions?

Of course I have heard such musings before, and it seems Family dogma on the full humanity and full divinity of the Brother-Saviour was crafted specially for such purposes. By being just as human as the rest of your children, he was subject to the fears and uncertainties that we feel every day. So even though he knew that he would rise, it did not make the experience any more enjoyable, or perfunctory. I can understand this. But my friend was not convinced, and I am afraid I must agree. Just as the Brother-Saviour is a man, he is also you. And you do not fear; you are not ignorant nor are you weak. It feels safe to assume that in a battle between Fatherly natures and childish natures the Fatherly would win, awesome and mighty as it is, especially when it exists in such great amounts as it did in the Brother-Saviour. So even as he approached the cross, bleeding from back and breast, he must have known all too well how everything would play out, and I cannot help but feel that that makes him no more than an actor on a very elaborate and realistic stage. And actors make no sacrifices, except to sell the act that they are making sacrifices.

Now there is the issue of the justice which must be served. We, your children, abandoned you Father, and made a rift so great that only the death of someone as awesome as yourself could heal it. To that end the sacrifice was absolutely necessary. Of course this raises other questions, such as the nature of justice itself, and punishments and sin, questions I hope to pose as I grow wiser on this journey. But it doesn’t answer the question of ultimate purpose. Per your omniscience, you already knew this was to be done; one can go as far as saying you already “did” it. You gained nothing doing it, and, perhaps more importantly, you lost nothing. You didn’t really die, and whatever part of you one can say perished that day was soon recovered … resurrected. Once again, it feels like everything was nothing more than a performance, more for our adulatory, love-seeking eyes than anything else.

In a final attempt to wipe the smirk off my friend’s face I half-heartedly muttered that perhaps this was one of the many things we could not understand, and he laughed a deep, cruel laugh, his eyes rolling in their dark sockets. Even he could see that I knew (as well as he) that such an answer, such a subdued acceptance of ignorance, would not be enough to quiet him. A quest for truth is among the reasons for my journey; what would be the point if whenever confronted with the tough questions I simply waved my hand, like the wizened and disinterested elders of the Family, and said “We cannot understand.”? The Numidian references such wonderful, unfathomable paradoxes in his Confessions, waxing poetic about how you are “most merciful, yet most just … stable, yet incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet all-changing; never new, never old…”, and for a case like this, I suppose he would say that you are “dying while still alive; suffering, yet unaffected; reduced yet whole”. But while such words filled me with awe and wonder once upon a time, on this day they do little to calm my faltering, perturbed heart.

It pains me to say it, Father, but my little friend does have a point. A sacrifice’s worth is measured by things lost and effects had. I lost some culinary satisfaction, and in return I can only imagine that I was brought closer to you in some manner; I certainly felt so. But your sacrifice, when put against yourself, feels hollow, staged. A being that has everything has absolutely nothing to lose. And looking upon this earth you have made, looking upon the children in your image, I cannot help but feel that nothing has changed. There were wars before your death on the cross; there are still wars today. We died of disease and hunger and pain before your death; we still die today. We murdered and pillaged and lied and stole and cheated and raped before your death; we still do so today, with more pomp and flair in fact. As I sit here and pen this letter to you dear Father, I cannot help but feel that whatever You-Know-Who was supposed to have lost that day must have been trivial, for he carries on like nothing happened. Whatever the effects your death was to have had that day, they must be ethereal, for we are not much different than we were before. We are just as sad, just as fallen, and this realisation fills me with a sorrow that eclipses whatever appreciation I may have felt as I contemplated the joys of spring many days before.

And so, confused and afraid, I ask you my dearest Father: what was the worth of this sacrifice, this greatest sacrifice of them all?

With a heavy heart,

Your Prodigal Son

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On Successes, Greeks, and A Man From Numidia

Dearest Father,

I am proud to inform you that the fast has been a success. If you remember I ended my last missive with uncertainty, informing you of my plans to stick with a food-fast while my irresolute mind struggled with picking a sacrifice befitting a being of your stature. I admitted that my lazy, albeit occasionally busy mind, would in all likelihood simply settle on this choice and not bother to change it, and alas I was correct. They say no one knows us better than ourselves, and this case was no exception. I will not bother you with excuses, Father. Suffice to say that in the weeks that have followed I have spent no more than a few minutes thinking about fast-worthiness, and my initial decision to abstain from food during the sun’s journey across the sky has stuck, just as I feared. To say that this has been a bad thing is, however, is to do it a great injustice, and I will show you why.

As you know, this is not the first time I am engaging in a fast. It is, however, my first since my departure. And while my fast last year was important because it was done largely for the same reasons as this one, this year’s fast has had a much better effect upon my depraved soul. Perhaps it is because I have finally left the House, thus providing myself with the very different perspective of the Outside. Perhaps it is because I now write you with some regularity, forcing myself to communicate with you in a manner that has brought me much closer to you than any prayer has since my childhood. Regardless of reason Father, these past weeks have convinced me that sacrifices are never to be judged simply by attachment, by the pain they cause, or by the pleasures they deny.  In these weeks, every time the short sharp pangs of hunger rose from my small belly, every time the compulsion to eat assailed me, I was reminded of you and you alone. It mattered not that I had felt hunger many times before; it mattered not that with enough endurance and distraction the pangs soon disappeared. All that mattered was that my mind was drawn to you. Each time I felt the need to eat, each time I looked upon a simple snack that lay begging to be devoured, the question arose (and thankfully not from my friend): Why am I doing this? And the answer always came: Because of You. Through the simple virtue of hunger I found myself contemplating you more times than I have in recent months. I was reminded of you in more places, drawn to you in newer ways. I was forced time and time again to face some of the issues that drove me from home in the first place, and to remember some of the things that made me smile while I was there. And while I cannot say whether the fruits of these thoughts will bring me closer or push me farther from you, I think I can safely say that it is good that I am having them. In a wonderful way they are preparing me for the celebration at the end of the season, the most significant in the House; they have provided me with a deeper awareness of you, and with that I hope comes a deeper understanding of everything you and your House stand for. In that manner Father, I believe my sacrifice to be worth every uneaten morsel, however small and insignificant.

In other news, my quest for Sophie continues and I have found myself on an agreeable path. As I mentioned previously, I have decided to begin my lessons with the ancients. Your Book certainly falls into this category, but I have opted not to focus on it at this time. Do not ask why, Father; I have no concrete reasons. Besides I find that my winged friend becomes most annoying whenever I think about things that revolve around you. You do not know how angry I was with him when I wrote my last letter. He seems to feed on my uncertainty, and since my immense battle over worthy sacrifices he has grown bigger and fatter. He now rests upon my shoulder on occasion, perhaps because his wings aren’t growing quite as fast as his body. I am cataloguing his characteristics and am starting to hazard a guess as to his true nature, but that is a discussion for another letter. Suffice to say, for now, that neither your Book nor he is the centre of my attention.

On my quest, I trust you will agree that I am in good hands. I am currently studying the works of two great initiates of Sophie, and one of them is Greek. You must know that if ever a people were credited with paving the path towards the love and discovery of Sophie in a manner most remarkable, it is the Greeks. The insight provided by their civilisation has shaped the way a vast majority of the world has viewed and has come to know the great Sophia. Even those that do not care much for the nuances of her precepts have undoubtedly been influenced by the works of these masters of wisdom, and the House is no exception. Its culture, its very structure, bears the indelible mark of Hellenic influence, as do almost all peoples that have been touched by your House. This always struck me as an odd development Father, as Family and House doctrine has unequivocally stated that all that is good and wise and true comes only from you, and that you deigned to bestow only upon the leaders and elders of the House these good and wise and true things. By all standards the Greeks were, in their time of greatness, in the service of You-Know-Who, and yet even the most ardent of House members employs many a tool devised in their schools. Perhaps the purists within the House have a point. Perhaps the House has been in fact been corrupted, but that is once again, Father, a topic for another letter.

Among the greatest of these peoples is a fellow I shall refer to as Platocrates. Nominally he is called Plato, but it appears to me that the person disseminating his doctrines and postulations is a man known as Socrates, identified by some of the students I have met on this path as his teacher. I cannot quite decipher whether he simply documented the words of his tutor or whether he wrote in this manner to lend authority to his work, but I have decided, for the time being, to consider them a single person. It matters not, really; I am interested more in what they have to say and less in who they are. They are both among the most revered in the Hellenic tradition, and a famous, long dead elder of the Family is said to have been influenced by Plato himself. (Of course, very few lovers of Sophie can claim to have escaped his influence.) On initial perusal it seems the work I have selected tackles the issue of justice, a fact that I find most delightful. You are said to be justice itself, dear Father; perhaps Platocrates would help me come to a deeper understanding of this facet of your being. File this under one of the many things I shall be writing you about, hopefully in the near future.

The other fellow I have my sights currently set upon is one that hews closer to the House and Family I have left behind. Praises have been sung about this man for as long as I can remember; he is among the foremost of the elders of the House, and both current and past elders have been so convinced of his greatness that he has been elevated to the level of saint, a shining example for all we lost and weak children to follow. There is no doubt in the minds of Family leaders that this man is Upstairs with you. He is the great Numidian, Augustine of Hippo, and I have stumbled upon his Confessions. I must say Father that I really like the manner in which he writes. It is filled with the requisite humility of a child that has not only returned home, but has matured considerably in your service. The praise he offers, the questions he asks, all these resonate with this lost child of yours. In many ways Augustine gives me hope Father. I suppose he can be considered among those that strayed from the beaten path and left the safe confines of the House (it must have been so much smaller back then), but found you and eventually returned, transforming into one of your most influential champions. I have only just started to read his work, so I cannot give you full impressions, but as I mentioned, I feel a deep connection. While I have my doubts concerning the state of the House and my place in it, a spark still ignites in me whenever I am made aware of some of the majesty and rich history contained in its walls, and cracking open Augustine’s Confessions filled me with such a feeling. I suppose I really haven’t walked too far from home. It is quite evident from these past few weeks that in many ways I am still your child; from my participation in the season to my appreciation of the Numidian’s words of exultation, it seems to me that there may yet be hope for this your prodigal son.

Between Platocrates and Augustine I have my work cut out for me, but I expect it would be fun. I am, after all, embarking on this journey of my own compulsion and volition. Unlike some I do not pursue Sophie out of some perceived duty; I do so because I want to.

And so armed with hungry thoughts and a reverent heart I will continue to march down this reassuring path. I know not where it would take me, and I implore you, dearest Father, keep a watchful eye on your wayward son.

With a jaunty step,

Your Prodigal Son

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On Sacrifices and Their Worth

Dearest Father,

I was walking on an ill-seen path when I heard the bell toll. The sound was a powerful, familiar one; it was a sound I had heard many times in my childhood. When I left the House I had taken it for granted that I would hear the bell again, and lo and behold, with heaven knows how much distance between myself and the Gates of the Rock, I was greeted with its deep, rich, overtones. The pitch, the number of strikes, meant one thing and one thing only; the Season of the Fast had begun.

As you know, Father, not many in the House still pay attention to the Season of the Fast. Many years after the House was built it was beset by a number of scuffles, and where there had once been simple, amorphous groups, united under the same roof, monolithic Families began to sprout. As with all things, I assume you sat on your Holy Throne in the great Upstairs, watching in whatever inscrutable emotions you possess as your children squabbled over who had the right to make Families and who had the right to break them, each of them claiming authority from your lips and inspiration from your spirit. I, by virtue of birth, am of the Universal Family, a name so given because we trace lineage to the foundation of the House itself, when the House’s purpose was to serve all men upon this earth. I need not tell you how vehemently said lineage has been disputed, even to this day. The Universals, dare I say, are by and large the most popular amongst the Families, mainly through conquest and age, but also because the other Families were for a long time defined by their non-Universalness, and the disunity that came with it.

Regardless of reason Father, many of your children within the House do not observe the Season of the Fast. However, they can by no means ignore it. The tell-tale remnants of ashes on the foreheads of all Universals alert them to the beginning of the season, and the requisite festival at its end is one that no child in your House can claim to ignore. And then there are people like me, who, while no longer squarely within the boundaries of the House walls or the enclosures of a Family wing, still hear the bells and still feel the strong pull of years of instruction and indoctrination. This is the season, Father, the season in which we get ready to celebrate our reason for existence. But in order to fully appreciate this celebration we are told that we must suffer; we must find ways to come in contact with our limitations and our weaknesses. We must give up the things we value most, so that through our simple penance we may come to appreciate the greatest sacrifice of all: your sacrifice.

Per the aforementioned tradition, members of the Family are required to give something up in this season; by and large the most common I have seen is food. As I a child I was spared this choice; I was much too young to willingly give up the pleasures of a full stomach. Nonetheless my good parents made sure to instil the spirit of sacrifice in me and my siblings; the season was, and still is, marked by a universal absence of meat in my home. As a young man however, I am free to choose my object of abstinence, and it, quite frankly, is a very difficult choice. As you know, while I am not austere, Father, I am also not extravagant. I can go hours without food; oftentimes I find that the more occupied I am the more likely it is that I would forget to eat altogether. Sacrificing food, while a tad inconvenient, is by no means difficult.

I had spent the past few days of my journey wondering what to give up, when I was greeted with a message from the winged creature. His question was simple, and is one that has bothered me since: Why must I give anything up?

Now, this question came as I quite nearly discovered an apt item to fast upon in this forty-day period. As you know, my time on this green earth has been dubbed the Age of Networks, perhaps because your children have never been more connected, and in some ways more distant. It has oft been suggested in these times that we ought to give up the tools that facilitate these connections, freeing ourselves from the glut of information and embracing silence and solitude. I have never considered myself to be one of those bound by such admonitions; in fact I have many times looked down upon those that considered such tools fast-worthy. That one could be so attached to the network that liberation from it could take on religious significance is a phenomenon I have always found deplorable. And yet it was but a few moments before I realised that I relied on similar tools for my fill of news and information, which, while not centred around my person, had become intrinsic to my way of life. I immediately rejected the thought, telling myself that my habit was not a guilty pleasure, but a necessary one; it pays in my field to be abreast of the happenings of the time, payments that have come in handy in the past. It would be senseless to give up something that I, in my opinion, do not overindulge in. And in that moment my irritating friend had the audacity to whisper his first horrible statement: The fact I considered my sources important, but by no means indispensable, was the very reason I should let them go. As I turned to the fellow in anger, a random thought entered my mind: Shouldn’t an item’s worth in sacrifice be evaluated by how much said item drives me from you, instead of how much I rely upon it?

This thought calmed me. It seemed I had found a good counter to the irksome whisperings of my pest. My thoughts turned then to whether or not I could give up other things that this network provided, such as entertainment. No sooner had this thought crossed my mind than did the dastardly creature return, in his tiny, high-pitched voice, asking whether or not this consideration was an attempt to find a more palatable alternative to the immense sacrifice of my news sources. I was back in my ugly bind, with a tiny pang of guilt eating at my core. Was I trying to shirk my Universal responsibility by finding an item easier to give up?

I would spare you the back-and-forth between me and this fellow I have been cursed with, Father. As I brought new items that I could give up, he questioned their relevance, their position, and the weight of their sacrifice, each in a harsh and biting tone. Would it be true sacrifice if one such as myself could be made to feel nothing in their absence? Would I have to force myself to constantly wish for these things, only to be reminded that I could not have them, in order for my sacrifice to be made complete? I found myself wishing that the initial thought had not occurred to me, only to have the question put forth on whether or not my wishes were sound and just, whether I had the right to even think such thoughts.

It was at this juncture that he asked me the question I mentioned initially: Why must I give anything up? I have left the House, and while some parts of my being still lie within its confines, my behaviour, and the very nature of these letters, betrays my true position. Should I put myself through the stress and strain of deciding on a worthy sacrifice when the true question of my soul must be answered first, before the sacrifice would mean anything? Last year, when I told a friend of mine from the huge and segmented Family of Rebels about my fast, he frowned in what I felt was pity, asking how the elders of the Universals had convinced me that my place Upstairs was dependent on the timing of a few scraps of food. His pity was misguided, for I did not do it for my salvation, but his question has remained with me, resurfacing from the lips of my unwanted acquaintance. Where does this compulsion come from, and why is it so strong that I devolved into a bottomless argument with my acquaintance about worthy sacrifices and guilty consciences? Is any sacrifice worth it when I know that I will still indulge in other vices this season, when I know that nothing I give up would cause me to turn around and return to the House I was raised in, before my journey ends?

We are five days into the season, and I am yet to make my decision. I am considering simply abstaining from food by default, but even I know that that is by far the easiest of all my options, and that I run the risk of complacency in defining the actual sacrifice. The tendency would be to keep with the food-fast, all the way until the day that marks season’s end, ignoring perhaps more admirable choices for abstinence. If I do decide to fast, it would be for the same reasons that I did last year: in the hopes that by giving something up specifically for this season I would be constantly reminded of your role in my life, and perhaps come to see that to which I have been blinded this entire time, the impetus behind my journey. It is unlikely, in my humble opinion, but at least I would be able to say that I tried.

I will end here dearest Father, but before I go let me leave you with the question that has plagued my irresolute heart since I heard those bells many days ago: What would be a worthy sacrifice from this your prodigal son?

With indecision,

Your Prodigal Son

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