Chapter 4: A Pious Woman Named Bernice
Spellbound with so much history and local facts Onofrio listened intently to his private mentors. Searching for something intelligent to contribute and knowing his offerings would be miniscule, he settled back to continue his journey into knowledge. But, not before he asked his learned companions, “What more has been said about the woman Bernice? Serou was recipient to many news items in his capacity; the story of Bernice had reached his attention. “Son, you should know this first. The Greeks have been translating the history of our world since the conquest of Alexander the great. Of the three languages in constant use Bernice will most likely be given a Latin name in the future. It’s reasonable to guess it may even be Veronica. Since the Greeks are known to favor the truth regarding what they write. Vera is their word for “truth” and “icona” means image. My guess is they will call her “Veronica of the veil”. Even though Bernice is a respectable Jewish woman, historians will not give her a Hebrew name. Think back to the inscription on a rude plaque over the head of Jesus at the cross. It read “Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews.” It was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. Based on that, I believe history will call Bernice by her Greek name, Veronica. “The bearer of the truth.”
Bernice (Veronica) suffered from an unexplained blood issue for twelve years and went to consult Jesus. According to the story she was healed of her malady the very same day. That made her an instant believer with no qualms. She repeated her story to all that would listen. It was rumored that she was at the beheading of John, the Baptizer. How she fit into those high ranking guests, I do not know. That story would make her a witness to the sorrows that plague young Salome. The horror of seeing the head of John on a platter then passed around for all to see put a tamper on the evening’s festivities. Friend, foe or critic of John’s accusations found reason to be elsewhere. Bernice may have been a front row witness to all that. Her pious ways would urge her to be home instead of such a place. After seeing all that and knowing that Jesus and John were related, her reverence for Jesus may have amplified. Should that be the case, imagine her agony to see Jesus in torment on his way to Golgotha. The weight of the cross and the crude surfaces adding grief to His painful journey.” Serou stopped his story to look at his adopted son. “Onofrio, may I go on. Can you stand to hear of that ordeal once more?” Glassy eyed Onofrio looked at him and crimped his lips. “Yes, it’s become easier over time. And I want to hear how Bernice fits into His final journey. I was there but cannot remember ever knowing who she was.”
Many of the Jews read the sign, for the
Place where Jesus was crucified was near
The city, and the sign was written in
Aramaic, Latin and Greek.
John 19:20 NIV
“Bernice is the woman that struggled past the guards and used the mantle from her head to wipe His face of sweat and blood. She is a kind and gentle local woman with no malice in her heart. She was severely torn to see this kind and gentle man so brutally penalized. So deep was her torment that she felt the pains Iesus suffered herself. Once His face was cleansed to a reasonable degree she was forced from His side but not before Iesus thanked her.
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years came up behind him and touched the edge of His cloak. 21. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed!” 22. Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart daughter,” He said “Your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
Matthew 9: 20-22
Then Serou placed a gentle hand on his adopted son’s shoulder and added with cautious wording. “Son, what I tell you next is to help console your heart. I know you still suffer from your day at Golgotha. This is for you to carry in your heart. Salome the dancer is said to have become intrigued with all the talk of stone castles in the sky, eternal life and the healing power of Jesus. She knew Jesus and John the Baptizer were cousins and she risked going to Golgotha. She feared hell fire and damnation from the heavenly father of Jesus. In disguise she was at His crucifixion. She was still hounded by the eyes of John looking at her in eternal condemnation. She wanted to sleep in peace and could not do so. In the depths of her grief and close to witnessing a second murder, she begged Jesus to forgive her for her part in His cousin’s beheading. The furious rains came down and Salome with her companions were forced from the scene. Only Salome went untouched by the downpour and saw the blood stains on her forearms and chest disappear in the midst of that hellacious storm. She was forgiven for her actions with the same words that forgave you, for building the cross.
“Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.”
Only a stone heart would not want to be held in loving arms at that moment. Onofrio was not a stone heart. No words were exchanged in that loving and peaceful embrace. None were necessary. Onofrio had learned to accept his pardon and grew ever more curious about Jesus and the things that happened around him. It was Onofrio’s turn to pour the wine and asked for what happened to Bernice after the crucifixion?
“Bernice went home in arduous lament with the mantle over her head as her only protection in that awful storm. Finally safe, she took it off and almost suffered a heart attack to see a portrait of her healer’s face emblazoned on her mantle. She fell to the floor in awe as well as fear. How could it be? The portrait of Jesus complete with blood trickling down his face and thorn wounds dug into his flesh.
But, there it was. A miracle appearance by the healer from Nazareth. A man of destiny, a man on a mission not yet fulfilled.
The cloth she used was common among housewives and often called a sudarium in Latin. It means a “sweat cloth.” The humble cloth with the face of Jesus vividly imprinted will no doubt become an object of envy and plots to obtain. The Hebrew council will go far to discredit the image as a hoax. They have yet to accept the workings of their God. If I were God, I would quit trying so hard. Some knowledgeable people examined the cloth and have not come up with a conclusive answer. Other than to say that the image is definitely not a painting and the image shows up in the color red. More mystifying is the fact that the image seems to disappear into the fabric under various positions. Some seem to think that it is affected by light. Held to the light, the image comes forth and fades when in darkness. Jesus may be relaying a message through that mysterious veil. “Come unto me in the light for I am the way and away from me remain in the dark.” I cannot say for sure, but it’s possible. Close associates of Bernice felt healing power from the cloth and now people are calling it a veil. A sweat rag is hardly a veil. However, the imprint of Jesus’ face makes it the finest piece of fabric in the known world.” The Egyptian had listened well to his paid messenger. Having seen the works of various Gods in his youth as well as his mature years, Serou was an open door to the magic of his most recent Godly guest. Iesus, son of IamthatIam. Yehovah. Thinking deeper, Serou reached another point of vital interest. Isis had been totally helpless against the works of Yehovah in Egypt. The plagues, the death of Egypt’s first born, the insect infestations and the parting of the Red Sea were marveled even by the powerful Goddess Isis and held the works in reverence with head bowed. Perhaps it was time for Serou, the Egyptian to reinvest his faith.
A few days passed and the hunger to hear his learned scholars speak urged Onofrio to seek them out and re-gather their knowledge in Tremiyo’s back yard. Pleasant warmth rode on the desert breeze causing overhead branches to gently sigh and sway. No clouds sashayed across the sky. Only a mantle of pale blue announced the makings of a flawless day. The usual birds flew, fluttered and flitted around the patio while baby Horacio played with a wooden horse Onofrio carved. It was the Sabbath and most people were spared the task of going to work. A day of rest and meditation. A day to praise individual Gods for the generosity of their gifts. Onofrio was no exception.
Although Serou’s wife, the lady Clavenia had called on the young man for various errands and minor tasks she remained reserved not to ask too much of her adopted son. She had developed into a refined lady with impeccable manners and a beauty rare among women. Her skin was a flawless sheath of glowing mellow tan. She had eyes the color of muted chocolate with flashes of light when she made sudden turns. Posture and stride were reflections of unpretentious grace. She liked being in the company of Onofrio but would delay their time together as much as possible. She would never betray her husband but she had an inherited right to fantasize. It’s possible she harbored a secret jealousy of Senobia and her time with Onofrio. She nonetheless felt obligated to contribute to Onofrio’s ongoing education conducted by her husband and Tremiyo. Serou was at a distant location and would be gone a few days. Tremiyo gathered his wife, Camia, Senobia and the children then went into the city for a prayer meeting and some needed items in Tremiyo’s vast kitchens. The lady Clavenia summoned Onofrio to her presence by way of a faithful servant. A sumptuous array of edibles and wine rested on a large low level table along with finger bowls and fresh linen towels. Serou’s two young daughters were in a music class in the distant corner of the vast banquet hall. Special people roamed around cleaning, sweeping, wiping and generally just going through the motions of working. Re-arranging the furniture was ignored today. Their interest was divided between the handsome young man dressed in white with touches of gold and the girls plunking off key notes on their string instruments. One of the girls was practicing her vocal notes that sounded more like crickets chirping in the night.
Clavenia was first to speak, “My husband tells me how interested you were in our local history and I thought I could contribute to your store of knowledge. It is often said that women understand the plight of their fellow women far better than the most learned man. You were at the crucifixion and suffered much for your part in that. In your state of mind, you may have missed some vital instances. I have all the respect in the world for your ordeal. I could not endure what you went through. But, your quest for knowledge must fill in all the gaps, that you may have a fuller picture. My husband said you called Yerushalayim (Jerusalem in Hebrew) a cradle of miracles. Son, that is only partially true. The miracles we see are the workings of Gods that we mere humans cannot understand. Take heed and beware where you place your faith and dedication. Jupiter, the God of Rome is considered a heavenly father by name. Numerous Gods have found earth women attractive and have sired children through them. Our history is filled with such stories. Therefore the Romans are making a serious effort to achieve two goals. Unite all people in Judea under their God or Gods and second bring peace and prosperity to the region without bloodshed. Son, the Greeks are advancing to the same goal from an opposite direction. The Greek God Zeus is closer to being connected to our local son of god, Iesus. Listen carefully when they’re saying “hail Zeus”. It sounds close to saying hay-sus, the birth name of the Nazarene. The people hunger for a god to bring an answer to all their problems free of charge. Iesus came close to answering that wish with his miracle cures. His being conceived by the Holy Spirit and Mary is much talked about. But the young girl within Mary is cast aside by people anxious to pass out unpleasant labels. My heavens son, she was only fourteen years old. Brought up in the bowels of sanctity and devotion to the God the Hebrews worship. The child was pushed into obedience to the temple rules at the age of three. She never had the opportunity to take the knowledge she gained, sort it out and decide what she wanted to believe and what to reject. The child never had a will or her own. That an angel named Gabriel came to her is well known. Such an apparition can scare a grown person into docile submission. Moses is said to have groveled on the ground in the presence of his God. Can you not see how intimidated the child Mary could be? She was scared out of her wits. Hardened Romans were rendered like dead men in the presence of the angel that came to collect the corpse of Iesus. The Gods have much business to conduct in Judea. Add a miracle to the list of the obvious. The Gods have chosen Judea for their battle ground. Mary the virgin is a key in the ongoing struggle for supremacy. Mortals may condemn and call her unfavorable names. Stone hearts make mockery of the Immaculate Conception but the Gods will give her an honorable place in their domain. The Holy spirits visit to her was like a sun beam passing through a drop of clear water. Seemingly disturbing nothing, yet leaving a seed of life to develop in warmth and protection. Only a God could leave young Mary’s virginity intact. And, don’t forget that while on earth she was a child bride with no say in her own destiny. I am proud and happy to see you frolic with your son, Horacio. Can you fathom the depth of your grief, if he was claimed by death? Can you not accept that your grief would be equal to Mary’s as her only son was spiked to a cross and waited in deathly agony for him to die and pray and wish that a miracle would occur? You had your day with Iesus, now think of Mary. Iesus is gone to be with his heavenly father. Mary is still alive living and reliving her son’s ordeal every day of her life. Her day at Golgotha will last a lifetime. Nobody pays heed to her daily ordeal. Nobody reflects on her as a child, programmed and guided to her present position. She is treated as though she was born a mature adult in full command of her decisions. I feel safe to say that people accept the stories of Gabriel’s visit with a degree of uncertainty. Furthermore she is not poor. Her parents left two homes and some gold for her support. She was entrusted to the disciple John by Iesus while on the cross. The gossip heads have a new question: What does Mary and John do after the candles are snuffed?
When Jesus saw his mother, and the
disciple whom he loved standing near
He said to his mother, “Woman, behold
your son!” Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother!” And from that
hour the disciple took her to his home.
John 19: 26-27 NIV
Onofrio remained speechless before the insight of his step mother. Momentarily amazed at what she knew from her secluded domain. She seemed to always be home. She was surrounded by people that served her every need. Rightfully Onofrio surmised they were the lady Clavenia’s fountain of knowledge. An obvious source of information would be a lady music and voice teacher that came every day to instruct Clavenia and her two daughters, Banafrit (beautiful soul) and Irisi (fashioned by Isis). The girls had a mature woman tutor them every day on all matters of life. Clavenia’s quest to learn was constantly nourished by three sources. Serou was generous in sharing many things he gathered from his sources of information. She was always a good listener being a perpetual student of the world. Onofrio realized that her concept of events around her, were well based. It led him to wonder if men gave serious thought to the tribulations of women.
He left the company of the lady Clavenia after extended good buys from his step sisters who adored him. Banafrit and Irisi clung and begged for his attention at every opportunity.
His wife Senobia had been raised with the liberty of her thoughts. Her father and step mother, Camia were careful daily instructors in all matters of life. She was invited and spent much time in the same tutorship as the lady Clavenia. In that ambience of learning Senobia gathered much knowledge about music, voice and other feminine interests. She grew into the graceful manners of lady Clavenia by association. Senobia by standards was a free mind like few other females. She read and wrote fluently like an experienced scholar. She wrote an entire story about the humble beginnings of Iesus and recorded all his sermons and lessons on numbered scrolls. They were in fact books on the life of the Nazarene for future reference. And though her father allowed her the privilege of indulging in such work, he had ulterior motives. The activity kept her from dwelling too much on her growing biological needs. He was staunchly devoted to preserving her virginity for her wedding night. Senobia was too innocent to understand his motives and obeyed as any child would.
It was not uncommon for Onofrio to encounter a phrase or word he did not understand and call on his wife for help. It grated him at first to ask but soon learned how much she liked being a help to him and so he accepted her assistance. It nourished a special time together.
In a far away dream Onofrio often remembered his introduction to Senobia’s butterfly kisses. She fluttered her eyelashes on his cheek to cause a miniature thrill on his masculine senses. To this day and on special occasions Senobia would come to his side and flutter her eye lashes on his cheek. It was in fact an invitation to some private time. It pleased him infinitely that she would take his hand and lead them to their private chambers, as if he needed help finding the way. These were times when she was a miniature dictator. Love was a wondrous thing that lived comfortably in his home. Lady Clavenia’s oratory opened a new door to Onofrio’s life. He compared how Tremiyo and Camia had carefully tutored their child to obey the same things taught to the Virgin Mary at the temple. An undeniable correlation to both young girls’ lives opened brightly in his mind. A deeper appreciation of Mary’s ordeal and her daily torments found reverence in his heart. While Iesus recuperated comfortably in the house of his heavenly father.
Out in the streets dissention, political unrest and religious upheaval were having a game day for all parties. There remained no doubt that the Hebrew authorities used every possible means to eradicate the followers of the Nazarene. Supposedly righteous men committed heinous crimes removing human obstacles to regain control of their eroding congregations. Many members of the Hebrew council resolved never to be penniless slaves again. There was power in gold and they used it as a weapon. A practice in use since the birth of greed.[Previous episode] [Next episode]