|Ordained and Christened
Author: Titus Villanueva PM
This is the story of Daniel, a newly ordained priest who becomes a missionary on another planet. It explores the pointlessness or significance of religion in a vast cosmos.Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 3,559 - Published: 02-07-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3099002
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Ordained and Christened
Ohrugh sat in his prison cell awaiting his execution.
"How did it come to this?" he asked the cold night air.
It seemed barely three years ago that his life looked out for the best. All of a sudden, he found himself convicted for murder. He looked out his cell window wondering what went wrong. He felt that his mission was at its end, and it was about to end in failure all because of an idealistic earthman who didn't know when to quit.
The sacrament of Holy Orders was one Daniel had been looking forward to his entire life. He walked away from the church newly ordained and ready to set out into the world. It was customary for priests of his order to take on three years of missionary work elsewhere. A long time ago, priests would travel to different countries and even explore foreign lands just to preach the word of Jesus Christ our lord and saviour, but those days were long past. Ever since the purge, the Earth was entirely Christian. Years ago, global conversion was thought to be impossible, but that never stopped them.
Given this, Daniel like many of his fellow priests had to take the next star ship to a foreign planet. Interstellar travel was unthinkable a thousand years ago, but now, people couldn't even live without it. He couldn't wait another day. That's probably why by the time he got home, his things were already packed and ready to go. He stopped by his mother's house and gave everybody his goodbyes. The traditional going away dinner was held, and Daniel was off to the Planet Betazexlabin. Unable to pronounce the name of his temporary home, his friends simply bid him farewell and good luck at "elsewhere".
Before he even knew it, he was in his sleeping pod aboard the star ship, Legazpi. It had a good view of the outside of the ship. He saw his home planet shrink into a pale blue dot, and as he passed star after star, he wondered what other cultures existed and what differences they could be from his. For the first time, the priest's mind began to wonder how it was that God managed to rule the entire universe. Even after humanity discovered that other universes existed, it was hard to fathom how there could be only one God that ruled them all. Then the question came to his mind as to the fact that if people on other planets didn't have access to people like Moses, Abraham and Muhammad, would they have any concept of God similar to his? What was the whole point of spreading Christianity to other planets if God created them so far from Earth? Could they have their own versions of Jesus or Buddha? Could the Son of God have visited more than one planet? The questions came ceaselessly through his dreams and waking thoughts.
When life was discovered on Mars, the Pope ordered an attempt to send missionaries straight to the red planet to spread the good news. Speculation had it that the Pope encountered an angel in his dream telling him that it was the duty of the people of Earth to spread the word elsewhere. Ever since then, the Vatican Conversion Doctrine was put into effect.
It was Daniel's dream to be part of it. Ever since he was a boy, he wanted to do God's work in a place where the word of Christ didn't reach. He was going to be God's holy vessel. Before he was ordained, he did his research on his new home planet, Betazexlabin. The planet was no larger than the Earth. The inhabitants of the continent on which he was to work were a primitive race ruled by a cruel king. It seemed like a good idea to introduce Christianity to a people that needed it most. After all, what else was religion but a beacon of hope in a world that doesn't seem to matter in the universe? The newly ordained Father Daniel arrived to be greeted by his guide and interpreter, a man named Otab.
Daniel stepped off the gang board and onto the planet soil. The entire planet looked like a desolate wasteland. Whatever buildings were there looked dilapidated and poorly built. There were ditches that once looked like rivers and gardens that were long dead. The people from the look of it were unhappy and unhealthy. He wouldn't know for sure. Since he wouldn't know what a happy or healthy person really did look like on this planet. They looked at him with disdain as well as wonder whispering to each other in their own language. His guide was waiting for him just outside the gate of a town called Htherazhann.
"Welcome, Father Daniel!" said Otab.
Daniel would be known as a teacher from a faraway planet. He felt far away indeed for Otab's greeting sounded more like "Wil-khumeh Fah-tah Dinal" than anything. The language barrier was as evident as his mission's impending doom. Otab began to walk Daniel to his lodgings while asking him questions.
"Father Daniel. It is said that on Earth, many societies allow all your people to make decisions that govern the land."
"Yes, that's been around for a while. What of it?"
"Well, it does bother me to wonder why you would let even the stupid people make important decisions. It seems dangerous."
"That's because they're people just like everyone else. On Earth, we give people equal rights, even the uneducated ones."
"But they are stupid, Father Daniel."
This was the point where
"Yes they are... Otab..."
"No... no... My name is..."
Otab made a sound come out of his mouth that sounded something like "Otab" but at the same time sounded nothing like "Otab" to Daniel's ears.
"That's what I said... Otab" replied the priest.
"No no no... You do not hear right. My name is..."
Otab said his name once again. It was a word the neither the English alphabet nor Daniel's own vocal chords could describe. To him it sounded closest to "Otab". "I'll just call you Otab. I think it's easier for both of us."
"If you insist, Father Daniel. If you do not mind my insult, I think that the other natives will not be able to pronounce your name."
Everytime Otab said his name, it sounded different. Sometimes it was "Deh-nil"; other times it was "Dah-Nu-Uil". Otab suggested:
"I think it would be better if we called you by our word for "teacher"."
"What is your word for teacher?"
Otab mouthed another word Daniel couldn't understand or pronounce, but it sounded like "Ohrugh". They arrived at the house Daniel would be staying in. He would be sharing Otab's personal abode. It was a simple structure. It was made of the planet's version of wood shaped into what seemed like a cube.
Dinner was composed of some liquid that seemed like their equivalent of porridge. It tasted awful.
"Otab, how is everyone taking to life here?"
"It is very difficult. Our leader taxes us heavily. We do not even know where the money goes."
"Could it be that he is stealing some of it?"
"It could be. But we never really know for sure. We just take and eat what we can."
"What about your elders? Don't you have people among you who lead?"
"We do, but they always tell us to listen to our... How do you say it?"
"Yes, our king. Times have always been hard, but we endure."
Once the sun went down, it was time for the tired priest to rest for the day. Tomorrow, the preaching would begin and he knew it would be hard to do. He unpacked his things and went to sleep. The next day, he arrived at the town's gathering place and began to speak to people. Bible in hand, Daniel began to preach.
"I can tell you about a man who will change your life! His name is Jesus Christ!"
Some people stopped to listen and the others just continued walking. Those who listened left after it got boring and repetitive. Reading from the Bible didn't work with them. It just so happened that the inhabitants of this planet who by definition were not human couldn't relate with a human from Earth and his suffering and death. Daniel began to wonder why he even came to their planet. Hours went by and nobody listened. Eventually, he was preaching to air; cast down as a mere annoyance.
"It's useless..." thought the priest as he sat down on a nearby mound.
He reached into his pocket and found a pack of cigarettes. His family gave him one for the road. There was no tobacco there, so he had to make do with the few he had. He promised himself that he would quit once he got there, but given one last pack of cigarettes, one more pack couldn't hurt. Daniel brought his favourite lighter to the cigarette he had just placed in his mouth and lit it up. The stress was unbearable. As he lit his third stick, he noticed the crowd gather around him.
It turns out people in the area have never seen a lighter in their life. People were running from corner to corner raving about the man from the sky who could make fire and smoke from his body. It wasn't a sin to take advantage of the attention so Daniel stood up and began to preach. He began with the beatitudes, then the parables. In between passages from the Bible, he'd show them another trick with his lighter. He'd pretend to eat the flame and produce it back onto the lighter from his ear. It was obvious to Daniel that the people were more there for his little magic tricks, but at least he knew they were listening to his sermons. Day one was over when the sun began to sink. As before he began to walk home, Otab and a few others were with him. They asked him more about what he had to say. Even though many were there for his magic tricks, the few who listened became interested. He spoke to them as he walked back about their problems, their families and how God had a plan for everything. To them, it was the best comfort they got in a while.
They gathered in Otab's house and shared a meal before another night of listening to their ohrugh, Father Daniel. As he spoke, they began to understand that he wasn't there to improve their lives, but to teach them how to live. They bid Daniel goodbye before setting off to their own homes. As Daniel pondered on what to do next, he planned what to teach and how to teach them. Still, they could not grasp the idea of Jesus. He stopped using the name altogether. He tried as much as he could. He told them about the Son of God, the Son of Man and their saviour. The idea of this man of salvation was still foreign to them.
The next day, he brought his medical supplies and visited the place where they kept their sick and unhealthy. He taught them about love and compassion as he administered his ointments, bandages and remedies that he brought from Earth. They thanked him before another round of stories relating to their lives. People began to challenge him, but Daniel always had a rebuttal for every argument. Seeing their inclination to question him, he traveled to the local courthouse to see how they were governed. Otab and the rest of his friends followed him there.
"We do not normally go near the courthouse." said Otab.
"Why not?" answered Daniel.
"The police scare most of the people. It is easy to be accused of saying something to offend the king."
"Don't worry, Otab, I won't say anything offensive."
Daniel stood at the steps of their courthouse. It was the biggest building in that area albeit still a bit smaller than one you'd find on earth. It was nothing special other than the fact that it was large. Apart from that, it looked like any other building on the planet. The same could have been said for its inhabitants. The longer Daniel stayed, the more he realized everybody looked practically the same.
Daniel stood at the steps of the courthouse, and naturally people began voicing out their problems. Some of them started to complain about what God thought of the taxes. He simply told them that God and the government do not meddle in each other's affairs. He told them that God was someone you created a relationship with personally and that he makes no effort to control how things are run. The concept was interesting to them for they never really could separate anything else they had from their rulers. To some of them however, it seemed disappointing that Daniel wasn't there to do anything about the king's cruelty. All the same, people listened.
Days went by, stories were told and people were helped. Shelters and food stations were put up and the community was able to help each other without the help of those who governed them.
It was finally time for Daniel to move to the capital city. As he travelled, people began to follow. It was at this time that Daniel discovered that his following as a missionary began to grow. People were following him from everywhere. His closest companions however were Otab and a small few including a historian whose name sounded like Whehtam and one of his closest followers, Ahladgamn. By this point, he had enough friends to grant him free lodgings and food as well as the resources to help as many people as he could. On the way, Ahladgamn warned him about what was there.
"Ohrugh, I think you should know that the people of the capital may not take to your teachings as much as the rest of us have."
"And why is that?" asked Ohrugh
"The elders there are very strict with their ways. They won't take kindly to new teachings."
"Well, maybe it's time they learned to be a bit more open minded."
Shadduh, one of his close companions interjected.
"But Ohrugh, maybe it would be better if we did oppose them. We've been waiting for a man like you to change our lives. Maybe your God meant for you to do something greater."
"Before anything like that happens, I need to spread what's important first, and that's the holy word of God." answered Ohrugh
The capital reminded him of New York. The buildings actually looked different from each other as well as large. For some reason, he felt more at home. He did the same thing he did in the village he arrived in. The same thing happened. He lit a fire with his lighter, he helped the sick with his ointments and preached the good news. Still, there was no sign of comprehension about The Son of God no matter how much he spoke of him. Whenever he mentioned him, they either forgot about it or ignored it as they couldn't relate to his story at all. He spoke of forgiveness and tolerance to which they agreed heartily, but the idea that a person died for all that still didn't register in their primitive minds. He preached for a few more months occasionally mentioning the Son, but on the 11th month, he gave up. Maybe changing the way they looked at life was enough for these people.
Eventually, the elders called him to what seemed to be their temple. The chief elder rattled him with questions regarding where he came from or what he intended to do. He told them that he was merely a teacher: an ohrugh. He left the temple sensing that the elders felt threatened by him.
He carried on teaching them how loving one another brought them closer to happiness and true salvation. He taught them to seek truth and goodness in all they do and that thinking freely for yourself for the purpose of doing what is right is the path to a good life. People's hearts were soothed and lives were changed. Broken families were mended and conflicts were resolved.
The months turned to years and the people felt empowered by their ohrugh's words. Riots sprung up and people began to speak out against the king more often than they used to. In the ensuing chaos, the elders decided that it was time to put an end to this great ohrugh after one of their own was found stoned to death by those who believed their ways needed to change.
One day, Ohrugh stayed in the house of his friend, Shadduh. They were preparing dinner for Shadduh's family. Shadduh prepared the cooker with his flints and Ohrugh was cutting the ingredients with a knife.
"You're killing our people, Ohrugh"
"How would I be doing that, Shadduh?"
"All you do is talk when they want change. Because of this, they believe that God will help them no matter what they do, so they try to fight. The king always has them killed."
"They shouldn't be doing that. Violence is never-"
"So what?" interrupted Shadduh "You think your words are enough to feed their families? They need a leader. You have many followers. If you organize them, they will win."
"I did not come here to fight a war with you."
"Then perhaps I was wrong about you, Ohrugh. Perhaps you have done more harm than good."
It happened in the blink of an eye. Shadduh grabbed the hand in which Orugh's knife was grasped and shoved it into his chest. He let out a scream as Shadduh's family ran into the kitchen in response to the sound and ran for help. When they were alone, Shadduh whispered.
"You could have been great. I'm sorry. The elders were right."
He died with that last word and the shocked Ohrugh had no recollection of how he got into his cell.
Ohrugh sat in his prison cell awaiting his execution.
"How did it come to this?" he asked the cold night air.
Whehtam the historian and Ahladgamn appeared at his window.
"What news?" asked the prisoner.
"Otab is dead. They killed him when he spoke out against your imprisonment. He fought back when they grabbed him I am sorry, Ohrugh." said Ahladgamn
"We spoke in your defence. I'm afraid there was nothing we could do." said Ahladgamn in tears. "They will kill you when the sun rises. You should never have come here."
"No. I'm glad I came here. It's enough that I was able to change some lives here."
He thought of them; the smiling faces at the shelters and homes, the people who regained their health from their sickness after he taught their doctors to heal better and faster. He thought of the lives he changed and the goodness that may follow however small it may be. His mission was to spread the good news and he did more than that. He spread hope, enlightenment and tolerance. He could see the people of this country and maybe the entire planet see an age of gold and goodness just as his people at home did. Then he remembered that he never got them to understand the concept of Christ and why his beloved Christianity was named so. Maybe that was never the point. Maybe religion didn't revolve around the man himself or how he died. It was all about living your life to the fullest and understanding the beauty of the world as well as sharing it with everyone you can. It was about touching hearts and opening minds to newer brighter things. Even if he left out a crucial part of his mission, he was content with its fulfilment.
"We will never forget you. Whehtam has already compiled your teachings in his books. I'm sure many others have done the same. You will always be in our hearts."
Whehtam finally spoke; his face and voice burdened with tears.
"We have been calling you Ohrugh all these years. It is unfair that you will be known plainly by your profession. You are already in my books, but I must know your name so the world may know it."
"My name is Da-" he began to realize what it was he missed "Tell them my name was Jesus. It means God saves."
He wrote the word on the dirt of his prison wall in the letters and symbols of their people so that they could understand, read and say it.
"He indeed does. He sent you to us after all" said Ahladgamn "I am afraid that our histories may not capture your stay here perfectly in all its true details, but we will try to remember what is important."
"I am content... If that's how it is to be... It will be. Let His will be done."
With that, his friends left him. The sun rose sooner than he expected it to as he viewed the crowd of people jeering and mocking the murderer. He saw his friend's solemn faces as he left. His words did not match his thoughts.
"It is finished." said his mouth.
"The cycle continues" said his heart.