Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ioannes interrogantibus respondet,

And the multitudes asked him, "What then shall we do?"

What shall we do, Beloved? Gaius pondered how to be righteous with the gifts of the estate. Is not his history recorded in our earlier book? How he was schooled in Rome. How he lost his child and wife, the one to a brawl at the springs of Pirene and the other from excess of the vine of the estate. How he traded in Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus - even to the inland sea as far as Pontus. How he was baptized by Paul and freed his slaves. How he regarded Tertius as his heir and Prima and me as his grandchildren. How he died thirteen years after the destruction in a Corinthian prison. So I have come into this inheritance.

How do we use this wealth? There is both give and take. The estate's fortunes wax and wane depending on the crops, on the success of the sea crossings, on the taxes and brokerage costs, and so many other factors. As we can, we take on other workers. It has not changed these past forty years, as far back as I remember before Gaius' death in the Roman prison.

But set down this. Do we do our work only for work? Note this one thing only. This one thing is necessary and sufficient. Things changed on the estate since the baptism of Gaius. And Tertius and his successors did not change them back to the brutality of the past. We have remembered the lessons the owner of the estate taught us.

We too have to escape our fear and resentment. Anoint your every care. Our success requires a certain unpredictability so that we learn how to respond to the needs of the moment: deliveries, demands, regulations, requirements of the guild of potters and presses, or whatever we might encounter - even unhappy customers or lost shipments.

So we learn to support each other in the work and to learn to bear with each other's limitations, to regroup when things go awry as they do, and to rejoice together when the work is successful and the harvest plentiful. And we work with many in the fields and in the presses, in the vineyards and in the caves, in our suppliers and our clients, Jew, Greek, Macedonian, Italian, Asian, and African - some foreigners, some citizens of the New Corinth (not so new any more) and some knowing the Anointing and some unaware but all its agents.

Gaius and Tertius assembled both for the Sabbath and the Lord's Day. My pattern changed. Leaders in Antioch, Rome, and even here in Corinth take charge of the assembly on the Lord's Day so that it is no longer as free as it was in my youth. I keep a lower profile than Gaius did. My sister and I did not conform to expectations among some. They should learn to mind their own house. I foresee that women will be excluded and their creative roles suppressed. Prima was among the best of scholars of the old tongues as Prisca had been. I wonder if such freedom will be seen again.

Will you allow the knowledge to disperse and remain hidden?
– I will not leave you comfortless.
Collect no more than is appointed you.
Rob no one by violence or by false accusation,
and be content with your wages.

No comments: