The Numerary's Jar - Part I
The driving rain pricked hard at my skin that night, making it difficult to grasp the large jar in my aging hands. The sound of the waves crashing
against the edge of the rocks had drifted into the background as my eyes bored through the thick, muddy glass. I could catch short, sporadic glimpses
of the contents. I became weak and was unable to stop myself from remembering my early years at Yale and the many evenings spent before Church
studying the pages of the .Voynich Manuscript
. So many times I dreamt of
unraveling the mysteries surrounding the aging text, and would often spend my time in prayer asking for such an opportunity.
The parchment in the jar was yellowed by time, but the elegant script and carefully drawn pictures of flora were still clear. Like a crazed circus
performer, I wrapped my hands around the lid, and tried to twist it from the spiraling grooves that held it tight. I stopped after a few seconds,
realizing what a foolish thing I was trying to do. I was not explicitly instructed not to open the jar, but doing so would surely bring forth the
anger of the General Council. I found myself in a battle between wants and needs. It had been many years since I had experienced such feelings, and I
felt a crushing guilt for having such thoughts.
I dropped to my knees before my mind could wander further, and proceeded to remind myself of why I was there and who I was. I dared not take the time
to remove my shirt before whipping myself, fearing that even such a short delay might cause me to fall even further into sin. With each strike, my
mind began to clear, and I slowly regained control of myself. I stood quickly, knowing that giving in to the pain was giving in to sin. I clutched the
jar with an intensity that I had never before felt before, finally feeling the incredible responsibility I had been given.
I looked around, not sure how far I had walked since stepping foot on the sharp, rocky island. How long had it been? Minutes? Hours? I was unsure of
how much time had passed. I wasn’t even sure of how many days had passed since my meeting with Father Rively at the parish of St Thomas More.
It had been raining in London that day as well, which put me in a contemplative mood as I made my way down Finchley Road towards the Parish. My mind
was going through many scenarios as to why Father Rively had requested my presence. It was not very often that he sought the company of others,
preferring instead to remain in prayer most of the day. But Father Rively was also one not to dole out punishment, so I felt comfortable that my
summoning was not one made out of such a desire.
As I stood next to the barely visible ruins of a long forgotten church, my mind snapped back to the present as I stared down the muddy slope toward
the ocean’s edge and then up at the rocky outcropping that capped the steep hill. The sky was shifting from light to dark, numbing my vision as I
hunted the landscape for the trail that had brought me to the ruins. If only I hadn’t been assigned this task alone, I might be able to concentrate
more - to think things through. But that is not what the Prelate had wanted, and I understood his reasoning. Of all the years that we have been
berated, downgraded and insulted, even by the Catholic Church itself, to finally have something tangible that would teach the world that all we have
been doing is what was right.
I began to make my way to the top of the hill, struggling to pull myself up with only one free hand and shoes that failed to grip the muddy soil. The
fading light forced me to turn on my torch, but I had no worries of being spotted. The tiny island had faded from memories long ago, and had
disappeared from maps before that. I began to feel the cold dig into my skin, the pounding rain long since washed from my senses. As I approached the
top, I saw a rock that bore resemblance to a human, and had assumed it to be a weathered statue. As I drew closer, I could indeed make out certain
features, such as the distinct outline of a face, and the form of an arm draped across a bare chest. My mind flashed back to the Parish and the Statue
of Thomas More, where Father Rively had grabbed me by the arm.
He quietly asked me if I had heard the news about the Voynich Manuscript? I told him I had, but that I did not believe the manuscript to be a work of
deception and a hoax. Father Rively leaned close my face, his eyes wide, his mouth arched in a wincing smile. He whispered in my ear that it was good
that I did not believe what was on the news, and handed me a small piece of paper. I looked at him with questioning eyes, holding the paper firmly in
my hand. As he turned to walk away, he looked over his shoulder and told me to read the piece of paper in the quiet of my chambers and to not speak
with anyone, not even members of The Work, until I had done so.
As I made my way up the hill, I listened for the sound of my boat gently bumping against the rocks. My boat was near; this I knew for the island was
small, yet with the torch light hacked and slashed by the pouring rain, I could not make out the trail that would lead me back to where I started. I
turned and slowly slid my back down the side of the statue, my eyes trained forward, and my ears reaching out to each and every sound in the hopes
that one of them would lead to my boat. I was shivering from the cold, and felt as if I had been placed in a world of continuous corporal
mortification. As I stared out into the night, illuminated only by my torch, I saw something in the distance. It wasn’t something bright or shiny,
or something I could even explain. But something was there, several hundred meters in front of me.
I slowly stood and began to make my way toward the thing in front of me, my feet shuffling along in the rain, as they did when I left the Parish that
afternoon after my meeting with Father Rively. Perhaps I shouldn’t have listened to him. Perhaps if I had not disobeyed him, I would not have been
struggling to survive on top of those jagged rocks only a meter above the swelling ocean.
As I sat in a taxi on my way to Golders Green Station, I took out the piece of paper and flipped it through my fingers, curious about what was
inscribed on the inside. For a fleeting moment, I contemplated reading it right there in the taxi, but thought better of it after watching the taxi
driver watching me. The Prelate had eyes everywhere. But my curiosity began to get the better of me, and I slowly began to unfold the piece of paper,
my eyes feigning a gaze out the window in a ridiculous attempt to fool the taxi driver. Written on the paper were the words: You Looked You Are
Chosen. I had only looked at the paper for a brief moment when the taxi driver pulled over to the curb and struck me in the head.
I awoke some time later, pain wrenching through my head, my vision hazy. I was seated on a bed in a room as plain as the white terrycloth towels we
were given on weekly basis at the Living Center. A man wearing a red tunic approached me and asked if I recognized him. I told him that I did, and
attempted to kneel before The Prelate, but fell to the floor, the pain in my head not allowing me to stand.