Gone was the day of St. Benedict. Gone was the day that the monk who brought bread came by, gone was the nights of cold air, the scorching days. He had been asleep for three days, waking up on the floor and finding dried blood on the side of his head where he’d hit it against the bed. He got up, head feeling sore, and stumbled towards the door. There was his bread, dried hard in three days of desert sun. He brought it in, satisfied that with his water he could reclaim some of it.
It would have to do.
He tried to recall what had happened before he’d fallen down.
He drank water, poured some on the dry bread, scooped out and ate. He went to the cupboard, pulled out dates and preserved olives and ate. He drank again, deeply.
Had no one checked on him?
Had no one stopped to see that he was alright?
It wasn’t the custom. Even if a monk had knocked upon his door, had he not greeted him, his fellow monk would’ve considered him deep in prayer, and left.
His strength started to come back. He saw the dust on his feet, recalling that he’d walked back from the cave where Mass was said; he’d walked into his hermitage, lit a candle to give him some light, turned, and seen a face.
A face? Had he seen a face? No, it couldn’t have been. It must have been his imagination, or a dream after he’d fallen down. Faces don’t appear in walls.
He laid down on his bed. He knew in a day or so, the Abbot would be there to see him as he did all the hermits. He would discuss it then. In the mean time, there was prayer. He looked down, saw that his rosary had been in his hand, the cross clenched so hard it had left an imprint in the palm. He reached over, grabbed the bible, opened it and read:
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
He felt comforted in reading the scripture. He picked up his rosary, began to pray. Today he would pray, tonight he would hold vigil. Tomorrow was Passion Sunday, and he would need to be at the cave where Mass was said.
As he moved the beads in his fingers, he felt stronger again.