From Chapter Three. The Tomb of Jesus
A few days later a waiter led Sarah and Simon to a very private nook in Il Vero Alfredo. Father Faccini stood up to greet them, telling them to call him Giorgio. As he pressed Sarah’s hand warmly, she glanced at his eyes, murky blue and green like algae. His manners were impeccable and his thin body swayed like a willow tree. His mellifluous voice resonated in her chest as he told her what he thought about her recent novel, Queen Bee and the Olive Branch. “It challenged me, but I welcome new ideas, especially from a serious scholar.” She was wary yet pleased, however she was getting strong psychic signals. Maybe that book about Pope Francis as a dictator is making me leery?
After enjoying wine and a large platter of olives, cheese, antipasto, salami, and thin-sliced bread, Giorgio led the charge. “Sarah, I’d like to discuss your novel, if you can excuse me for not describing things exactly as you have? From recently discovered lost documents, many people believe James, the brother of Jesus, was unfairly written out of history.”
She was attentive and Father Faccini continued. “When Christianity was formulated in the first through the fourth centuries, some Judaic elements were stripped out, but the Old Testament was retained. Jesus’ Jewish heritage was played down as the Gentiles flocked to the inspiring teacher, Paul. His story of Jesus dominated after the Temple was destroyed in AD 70. Jews were persecuted, yet Jesus, Paul, John the Baptist, and James came from Judaism. In your novel, Jesus and the early Jerusalem church led by James is more true to Jesus than Paul’s version is.” Pausing to see if he was explaining things adequately, Sarah nodded while Simon listened. Then Faccini surprised both of them.
“Assuming my summation is adequate, a major revision of early Christianity is happening. But there are many other things in your novel I do not support, such as Mary Magdalene being his wife as well as a major disciple. You think Mary Magdalene as Jesus’s wife could transform Christianity, but that won’t happen! The faithful will cling to the old story to avoid Hell. That is how it is! For most Christians, stories about Jesus concocted by modern scholars are fake news, silly conspiracy theories that confuse their minds and threaten their beliefs. Worse, you’re asking them to think.”
“Well, Giorgio,” Simon broke in. “Thanks for being so truthful about what you think about Sarah’s novel. If I’m hearing you correctly, you can see that the early Christian sources discovered in the last hundred years are more accurate, but people will resist these new ideas because they are so attached to the old story and they are lazy. You may be right; Sarah probably thinks so. Regardless, Pisces, the age of organized religions, is ending and a new paradigm is emerging. After two thousand years, change is afoot; I bet you’re worried about that?”
“Not a bit, Simon! But, you shock me! Surely a reporter of your stature doesn’t take the Age of Aquarius seriously, that silly stuff in the 1960’s musical, Hair? How can you remain in your profession if you do?”
“I take the world age model very seriously as do many other credible people. You would too if you observed current events that way. Without it, what’s happening globally doesn’t make any sense! But, you won’t because it is easier to believe things are falling apart; the apocalypse is coming, isn’t it? The apocalypse incites fear in the minds of childish Christians, doesn’t it, father? But, the collective mind is agitated as it was two thousand years ago; that you can’t deny!” Well that was rude, Simon said to himself as he pushed his chair back from the table, reached for wine, and fixed his reporter’s eye on Giorgio. What’s his game? Why is he here with us? As a worthy adversary, Simon sat up straighter, and before Sarah could say anything, he charged on.
“Father. You said you wanted to meet with us to discuss whether the tomb of the Jesus family might inspire dialogue between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Yet, you believe the Christian paradigm will not change because it coddles people, makes them feel safe with their faith. If you are right, there is no hope for reconciliation. But, what if Christianity did promulgate a more accurate story of Jesus after distorting it so egregiously for 2000 years? As far as I am concerned, since your Church is the main source of the early Christian fairy stories, without taking the lead on a more accurate portrayal of Jesus, it will shrink down to a minor religion. It already is.”
Sarah placed her hand on her heart because she hated rancor. Her voice emerged haltingly. “Giorgio, could we, for the sake of discussion, try to imagine how Judaism and Islam might respond if Christianity embraced the emerging new story of Jesus? After all, that is why you said you want to talk to us.”
Sarah had turned the tables on Faccini very adeptly just when the second course was served. Giorgio curled fettuccini on his fork, slid it into his mouth with delight, and then buttered warm bread as he said slyly, “Well, of course, absolutely, my dear. But, since you are so delightfully knowledgeable about the new story, the new paradigm as you say, can you take the first stab?”
“Happily,” she replied. “The new story is not about the destruction of old ideas; it’s about the addition of new ideas, as the excellent theologian James Tabor says. There has to be space for new stories, new heroes. The collective mind connects us when we discover new stories. Things are going along faster than you think, Father Giorgio . . . If Christianity did value its Jewish roots, Jews might reconsider whether he was a messiah, not the Messiah. For Muslims, Jesus, or Issa, is one of their major prophets, a great teacher who spoke the true word of God. All three religions would see that the same great teacher inspires them! In mutual reverence, the discord could end.
“If this did occur, the central teaching of Jesus--love in all its forms--could flourish and spread. People might practice charity and love God, forgive their enemies, and take care of the suffering ones. We would have peace on Earth, the lion lying down with the lamb as Isaiah said. We have already come a long way. Going back to the beginning of the Age of Pisces, John the Baptist was beheaded, Jesus was crucified, and James was stoned to death. Thankfully, this violent and abusive age is ending, but addiction to the coming apocalypse has poisoned the collective mind. Waiting for the end, people stop caring for the Earth. We know we won’t survive unless we change. Survival is the strongest human instinct, so we will!”
. . . “Yes!” Simon expelled utterly impressed by Sarah’s boldness. “The truth is, if this story takes hold in Christianity, the Vatican will deflate. Power and riches, that’s what you can’t do without. So many millions have died for it, lust for power and money. I can’t believe it’s still worth it. I can’t believe it means anything to Francis, but lately I wonder.”
“Sarah and Simon, I think you are extremely unfair, but of course it’s what I think. I’ve enjoyed this discussion very much and would like to meet with you again. Can we be friends? The world is in terrible straits and although we disagree, we have many common interests. I care about reconciliation, but Catholicism will not revise the story of Jesus after 1600 years. The astrological ages are a silly fantasy that offers you hope for a better future, but false hopes don’t change the world. Can you both accept what I think? Can we meet again some day?”
They agreed to see him again, but Faccini made Sarah very nervous. Something about him set off peculiar psychic signals. Maybe it was because she distrusted priests, especially Jesuits. They projected their shadows on her as a woman who expressed her own ideas. Simon was impressed by her ability to defend her research and he wondered what made Giorgio tick. He loved how Sarah’s confidence was rising after getting good reviews on her novel. A friendship with Father Faccini was good for her, but he would not have encouraged this if he’d known why Faccini sought them out.
As for Father Giorgio Faccini, he was meeting his objectives. His assignment was to befriend Sarah Appel, a young lady with the dossier assigned to him in 2011 when she came to Rome for graduate study. She was a top student of Sister Hildegard Brennan, a famed Carmelite feminist scholar that he despised. Alessandro de Medici’s invitation had paid off. Ah, will the enemies of the mother Church ever be gone?