Episode 03 - The King and the Bear

Selected excerpts are taken from traditional sources

In old Europe, they used to tear the land apart in search of buried jewels and money. It was easy for awhile; there had been so many productive and wasteful civilizations that had played their expensive games over the course of the continent’s history that ruins and their litter were everywhere. Gold would glitter for awhile, then humanity would win out, and gold would literally go out the window. It would be buried with conquests, fires, wars, rapes, and family secrets. Other generations would come along, take a stab, dig it out, and start the whole cycle over again.

When the Magi were at their height in Europe — when popes practiced the white arts, kings were gifted familiar spirits from the great Qabalists, and pre-modern shamans waged wars upon their demons and their enemies — the search for treasure was also at its height. Every poor man and woman in the old world dreamed of great riches, adornments, and pieces of art that would change and alter their destiny for the better. With their riches they would cancel debts and commitments, find prosperity and success, and achieve freedom as a goal and a means to an end.

In the days of the Renaissance, a young Italian mage by the name of Alphonse Gionfriddo discovered a large stash of Roman gold coins hidden under the ruins of the church of Our Lady of the Forest outside of Milan. He had intuited the location with the help of an Olympic spirit he had called down from the celestial heights; a spirit named Ophiel whom his ancestors had once worshipped as a god. The imperial host that served the mercurial lord opened the way to the treasure for Alphonse, indicating by subtle signs, overheard conversations, and flickers of flame and light where to find enough money to make his assets liquid for travel.

Alphonse was not the most pious and devoted of men, but he had a certain measure of humility, and was known to keep his pride in check by means of a psalm his priest had taught him as a boy. It was the shortest psalm in the entire book, gifted by the crafty cleric who knew full well that Alphonse would not have patience for more than four lines. The 131st psalm was a simple acknowledgement of freedom before The Lord, asserting a heart without haught and eyes without pride, and enjoining and enjoying the contentment and peace of children. The mage did not dwell on religion as some men do, but selected from it practically, and experienced nobility for himself.

With the money he had found, Alphonse paid for a voyage to Spain, where he met a beautiful young woman of wit and good character. Ophiel told Alphonse that this woman would be his wife if he could work for her father 5 years and provide a suitable dowry for a marriage and a settled life. There were adventures, there was patience, there was a loss of patience. There were passionate nights of love making, and equally passionate nights of verbal jousting. Eventually one night, in prayer and reflection upon his strange but beautiful life, Alphonse had a vision of Ophiel that changed him. Whenever he had used magic means to view the spirit in the past, it had appeared in its traditional and usual form of a noble lord riding upon a bear. Although Ophiel had dodged questions as to the reason and meaning of his manifestation at first, it soon became apparent that there was a symbolism in the vision that Alphonse had missed.

One particular night, after some very real fears of losing his beloved consort and having enraged her father with unforgivable mistakes, Alphonse asked the Lord to show him Ophiel’s true form. When he looked through the smoke and mirrors and into the heart, nature and power of the spirit, Alphonse saw the rider on the bear was none other than himself.

“If I am the Noble Lord who rides this beast, who is the Beast?” He asked.

 

The Beast is Also You, The Lord Replied.

***

Challenges, trials and tribulations aside, Alphonse Gionfriddo overcame his difficulties, and did end up marrying his beloved wife. They settled in a small but beautiful estate on the outskirts of Saragossa, where Ophiel’s wisdom and power passed as an inheritance to his children, and then to his grandchildren, and then later to his great grandchildren. The spirit served the family, kept them strong and prosperous, protected them against their enemies, and inspired in them a love of the arts and sciences.

Centuries later, the Italian’s descendants were living in California, enjoying the sun, the waves, the trees and the animal life. Sarah, Roger, and their cousin Sam rented a house together with a friend in Aptos on the central coast. They were trust fund kids, which was obvious to many, but most people didn’t know just how much they had been entrusted with.

Ken Brennan was not one of those people. He had recently recovered from a demonic bender in Santa Cruz, had his Zen adjusted by a spiritual ophthalmologist from Africa, and was in no mood for bullshit. But here he was once again, following the leads of angels and archetypes in search of the right people for another adventure. He knocked on the door.

Sarah answered. “Yes, can I help you?” she greeted the stranger.

“Debatable. Are you the Empress of the Venerial Heavens?”

Sarah blinked. She had absolutely no knowledge of magic, other than the Fall line.

“Um, we don’t have any acid here, but if you’re looking for cheap stamps, I know a guy that could help you out in Capitola.”

“Robert Anton Wilson is dead. Listen, I need to talk to your brother — Roger?”

Sarah was defensive and skeptical. “How do you know Roger?”

“His name’s actually Roger?! Oh God, that’s funny!” Ken exclaimed, laughing at the inside joke that only a madman for magic squares would appreciate.

“What’s so funny?” Sarah asked.

“No really; all jokes aside, I was recommended to him by a business associate. He and I need to discuss some insurance issues that have come up with his driving habits.”

Sarah knew Roger’s driving was no joke whatsoever. He had racked up two DUIs in the last year, but since they had enough money to pay the great fines, and always had enough money to pay all the great fines of life, Roger really hadn’t learned anything.

“Please come in. He’ll be back shortly” she said, ushering Ken inside their home.

***

Roger returned about 40 awkward minutes later, inebriated, trying to butter up his sister with silliness which fell flat. He stumbled around, and looked quizzically at the stranger.

“Are you here in search of my genius?” he asked Ken.

“No, I already found him a long time ago. He says ‘Hello and fuck you for wasting your inheritance’."

Roger was offended, as drunks often are. “Who the fuck is this guy?!” he asked Sarah.

“He’s from the insurance agency — I think.”

“I might as well be. I’m a friend of your father’s, Mr. Gionfriddo.” Ken inserted

“Oh great! Just what I need: a messenger from dear old dad!” Roger retorted.

“Yeah, the guy that put up with your crap and still gave you all that money. What an evil old bastard. Listen kid: I need you to sober up and come with me on an errand tonight.”

“The fuck?! I’m not going anywhere with you, you sketchy-ass weirdo!”

“Yeah, you really have no idea. But hey, while we’re dealing in the weird, have you ever seen this symbol before?” Ken pulled out and presented an image drawn on napkin:

00.jpg

At first Roger was going to dismiss the glyph as scrawled nonsense, but then he stopped. A faint glimmer of recognition came over him, but he was not ready to admit his knowledge to the stranger.

“Vaguely familiar?” Ken implied. “Its an ancient European glyph; Roman I believe. The seal of…”

“Ophiel” Roger remembered.

Ken smiled. He had already won. “Meet me at the end of State Park Drive at midnight if you want to know what’s really behind this.”

***

Why am I here? Roger thought to himself. The symbol stirred something in him, but he wasn’t sure what. It was bizarre, being out here on top of the beach in the middle of the night with someone he had only a slight connection to. Yet here he was.

“Over here” he heard Ken calling from a bench overlooking the ocean and the beach. 

Roger walked over and sat down next to him.

It was a cool night, but clear. The rhythm of the waves was peaceful, and the stars were highly visible. Roger stared up for a bit.

Ken nodded; it was a good sign. “Find the star” he commanded.

“What star?” Roger scoffed.

Ken rolled his eyes. “Don’t play stupid: you KNOW which star I’m talking about! YOUR star, smart-ass!”

“I don’t like your attitude, weirdo. And I don’t like being insulted.”

“Me neither, but even Jesus had to take shits. Now please, focus. I know you are very well aware of which star I’m talking about.”

Roger remembered being four years old, held in his father’s arms, the end of a long, youthful, gleeful day of joy. They were on this very beach. How did he know? Who WAS this strange man anyway?

“Who are you?” he asked.

“Ken Brennan, weirdo extraordinaire. Finder of threads of fate and forgetful people. What are you forgetting Roger?”

Roger stared up at the night and the sea of small lights. He remembered his father holding his hand gently, their pointer fingers out. Eric Gionfriddo oriented his son, pointing out Regulus, Aquila, Venus, and then the Bear. Roger followed his father’s fingers in both times.

“Dubhe, Merak, Phecda, Megrez, Alioth, Mizar, Alkaid” Ken intoned.

“What the hell?! You think you’re some kind of wizard or something?” Roger exclaimed.

Ken laughed. “Maybe, but those are also the brightest stars of Ursa Major. Doesn’t Arabic sound magical?” he observed, laughing more.

Roger connected the dots. In the past, he and his father were tracing lines in the sky as his dad showed him where to fly his spaceship. In the present, he was tracing the lines of the very seal that Ken had shown him only hours earlier.

“Ok, creep. So who is Ophiel?’

“He’s you” Ken replied.

“Now who’s being a smart ass?”

“Well hee-haw, I thought you’d figure it out for yourself. The bear is your lower nature, Roger. Its eating you up right now and destroying your life, because you don’t know how to ride it.”

“Look, I know I’ve got my problems and vices man, but I can handle them without your help, thank you very much!”

“Of course, of course. Here, take a look at this.” 

Ken held out another napkin. On the napkin was a spell of words:

PURSON

URIESAN

RVWERA

SAPHOR

EVERYO

STRAIT

Roger was about to protest that all of this was getting extremely stupid and ridiculous. But when he went to shout, he heard a terrible animal roar instead. And the roar had come from his own mouth.

“Just bear with me Roger — this won’t take long” Ken stated nonchalantly.

Roger looked down and screamed, but again, the scream came out as pure bestiality. He was a bear! Paws, claws, fur, muscle — the whole deal! Of course, being transformed without your consent is a terrifying experience that verges on rape, so Roger panicked and ran away.

“Fuck, now where’s he going?” Ken asked his angel.

He’ll be fine. Proud of yourself, asshole? Shams replied.

“Very!” Ken affirmed. “I never thought that thing would actually work!”

***

Roger was terrified as he ran along the pavement. There wasn’t anywhere to hide out here. In one direction were the good folk of Aptos and animal control. In the other was the park ranger. He’d be captured and sedated, or worse.

This is some kind of nightmare, he told himself. I’m at home, dreaming. In the morning I’ll smoke a bowl and tell my friends over coffee about the fucked up shit I dreamt last night.

But in the meantime, he was a bear. Roger roared at the heavens, and for a moment, he felt power instead of fear. If this was a dream, then what was the point of being upset? Maybe he could enjoy this for a bit. He certainly felt strong and massive. This could be fun.

He sniffed. As a human, Roger rarely ever used his nose except to complain about his friends farting in his car. But as a bear, he experienced an entire range and spectrum of smells as they entered his wet, large snout. He could smell barbecue, and it smelled enticing.

Lumbering in the direction of the smell, Roger set aside what little compunction remained. 

Alright, I’m a bear! And its time for a midnight snack!

As Roger turned in the direction of the food though, he heard his name being called. And it wasn’t Ken’s voice.

He turned again, and roared as loud as he could when he saw who it was. Then he was enraged, furious, hurt, screaming, running towards the man to attack him and rip him to pieces. The man showed no fear as the huge bear came ramming towards him, bloodshot eyes filled with hate, cruelty, and a need for revenge.

“Roger, I am so sorry” he stated simply. “I need you to forgive me for being human and making such a terrible mistake. Its the only way we can move on.”

There would be no forgiveness. He would tear him apart, eviscerate him, make him bleed for all the pain he’d been through — for a mother left blaming herself, for all the alcohol it took to numb him, for all the times he wondered why he hadn’t been good enough to live for, and the deepest fear inside that he was the real reason his father had decided to kill himself.

“NO! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU FOREVER! BURN! BURN! BURN!!!” he screamed, human again, naked, tears streaming down his face, the ghost and the bear gone and only the man he had become remaining.

Ken gave him his time.

***

They were warming up with coffee at an all night diner in Santa Cruz. They sat in silence for a long time. Roger didn’t know what to say, and Ken didn’t want to ruin the moment.

They allowed the quiet and everything that had transpired to settle and bring them both to Center.

Finally, Roger asked a question. “How did you do that? How did you turn me into a bear?”

“You weren’t really changed. It was an illusion. My demons played on yours.”

“Demons? Are you like a satanist or something?”

“Not anymore, God Willing. But I’m a human, and humans get banged around in the course of our lives and evolution. I like to think of our species sometimes as precious stones being tumbled so that  they shine and all the dross is ground away. But I doubt that will give you much comfort at this moment.”

Roger processed for a bit. “Ok, so maybe we all have our demons. But most people can’t command them, much less order them to perform acts of magic!”

“Most people just don’t try” Ken countered. “But I read an old Jewish book once upon a time that taught me how to do just that.”

Roger shook his head. “This is all so much to handle. So Ophiel — he’s a demon too? Am I a demon?” It was an honest question born of reflection.

“All humans have a dark side. Ophiel’s no more a god than you or I. He’s a Servant of The Lord. He’s an emperor of the Divine Mountain; a lord of mercurial heavens and alchemy. Medieval magi used to summon and call upon him to lengthen their lives and discover philosophic mercury.”

“Philosophy? Mercury?”

“The Mind” Ken explained. “Our minds are like quicksilver, darting to and fro. A true philosopher knows how to use and regulate the mind. That’s a secret of Alchemy, but everyone wants to live forever individually, and experience endless physical pleasures, so they try to shortcut it and find an outer vehicle in the exoteric world to satiate their desires.”

“Like revenge.”

“Or suicide” Ken noted.

The rage still burned somewhat inside Roger, but he put it aside for a moment in wonder and boldly asked the mage if another dream could come true.

“That ghost — it was some kind of projection, right?”

Ken nodded.

“But, my real father — could we really bring him back, if we tried?”

Ken nodded opposite, side to side. “It wouldn’t be him Roger. The greatest Qabalists in Europe could only reanimate the dead bodies of kings and priests with God’s permission. And even then, it only restored enough vital spirit to live like a zombie. We can’t bring back the soul, and without that there’s no bringing back what we really loved about the people we’ve lost.”

Roger accepted this, hard as it was.

“I called you a kid when I met you, Roger. And you did behave childishly. No matter how great the pain and fear of losing your father, you could kill yourself and others driving drunk. Even in your greatest moments of sadism, I don’t think that’s what you really want, deep down.”

“Ok Mr., so I what do I want?” he asked.

“I think you want to be a man, despite or even because of what has happened. There are gates of repentance and freedom all throughout our lives sir, because in all kinds of highs and lows it is always possible to discover and act on the nobility within us.”

“Being rich hasn’t made my life any easier” Roger countered.

“Well, not that you’d know any different, but yes: it has.” Ken continued. “Besides, that’s not the nobility I’m talking about. Material wealth will not solve all your problems, useful as it can be. You need a deeper treasure to sustain you: Holy Spirit.”

“Oh, what? I have to find Jesus and be born again?”

“Who’s Jesus?” Ken asked.

“Don’t play with me.”

“I’m not — I mean, no more than you’re playing with me anyways. But sincerely: who do you think Jesus is? Do you think he’s just going to pop up in the sky one day after thousands of years and just fix everything for all of us? Punish all the people who’ve hurt us, and reward all the people we like? This isn’t a Tim LaHaye book.”

Roger laughed a little, and Ken was happy as he began to understand.

“So, I have to be Jesus? And — be crucified?” It was an intimidating notion.

“Well, don’t get ahead of yourself. How about we start by taming that bear of yours?” Ken suggested. “I know someone who isn’t full of shit and could actually spell the whole thing out for you quite nicely. You’re not working tomorrow, right?”

Roger confessed he was unemployed and without plans, other than his usual combination of drugs and sex.

“Great then! Let’s go to Santa Rosa!”

“Ok” Roger consented. “But, can we at least drive there? Instead of teleporting?”

***

It was a mostly quiet drive for the two men, aside from various musical presentations they made to each other. After the initial discomfort and fear, Roger found he was actually beginning to like Ken. The older man had a good sense of humor and a practical wisdom that he sensed came more from experience than from textbooks. He had knowledge of the Bible, but he didn’t bang it over people’s heads like a hammer. What magic he knew came from a deeper fountain he had found within himself. It was humbling, but every time he wanted to look down or up at Ken, he found he could only look across. He knew the man had struggled and suffered too, and it was reassuring to have a guide who was as human as himself.

After many hours, Ken pulled off the main highway and onto a rural road that led out into the green, verdant backroads of Sonoma County. The view was majestic and beautiful. Ken drove until they came to a campus of small buildings with a sign that read “Saint Seraphim Orthodox Church”.

“Orthodox? Like Russians?”

“Or Greeks, or others. But thats important only insofar as Seraphim and those he inspired were Russian, and it was the context for his revelation. Come with me.”

Ken led Roger inside the church. The inside was scaffolded and covered with paintings of the various Orthodox saints, proudly painted by the church community members. Roger recognized some but not most of them. His eyes fell on a group of three women. The scrolls over their heads read “Faith, Hope, Love”.

“Were these actual people?” he asked Ken.

“They were, in the sense that every believer was married to them. But these are just archetypal pictures unless you live those virtues. Here, look at this guy.”

Ken pointed out St. Seraphim, the patron saint of the church. “What do you know about him?” he asked Roger.

“Nothing. I mean, a seraphim is a kind of angel, isn’t it?”

“Angels. Its plural; it means the Burning Ones. They could appear as many-winged, beautiful creatures, or as poisonous snakes who bit the heels of unbelievers. Incidentally, “Ophiel” may come from the greek word for serpent “Ophis”, but it might also come from the Hebrew “Ophanim”, which were the angels of great cycles of time. The Seraphim were the highest, most lofty angels in Judaism. They occupied a place of reverence next to the very Throne of God Himself.”

“What was their purpose?”

“To burn with love, and to sing the praises of God and what He has made night and day.”

“So, Seraphim was named after the angels?”

“Yes, because he had a burning desire too. And if you look close at his picture, you can see the flame burning over his head.”

It occurred to Roger that this was probably a symbol. “He didn’t literally walk around with his head on fire, did he?”

“No, but he certainly had Light. Would you like to see for yourself?”

Roger shuddered. “More magic?”

“Sure, but only if you’re comfortable.”

Roger looked around to ensure they’d have privacy. Although he trusted Ken now, he wasn’t certain the congregants would share his unorthodox views.

“Alright. Give it to me.”

Ken took out another napkin, thought for a minute, and spelled out his desires with words:

 

SERAPHIM

ERANTOSA

RIVERRUN

AMPLIERY

FIRESTOR

IMMINENT

EVANGELI

LARGESSE

“I can’t believe you cast spells with napkins.” Roger shook his head.

“Quiet unbeliever” Ken motioned, and sent Roger into the vision trance.

***

It was Thursday, Motovilov noted. The day was gloomy. The snow lay eight inches deep on the ground; and dry, crisp snowflakes were falling thickly from the sky. Father Seraphim conversed with him in a field near his hermitage, opposite the river Sarovka, at the foot of the hill which slopes down to the river bank. He sat Motovilov on the stump of a tree which he had just felled, and squatted opposite.

"The Lord has revealed to me," said the elder, "that in your childhood you had a great desire to know the aim of our Christian life, and that you have continually asked many great spiritual persons about it."

From the age of twelve this thought had constantly troubled Motovilov. In fact, he had approached many clergy about it, however their answers had not satisfied him. This could not have been known to the elder.

"But no one,' continued Father Seraphim, 'has given you a precise answer. They have said to you: 'Go to church, pray to God, do the commandments of God, do good that is the aim of the Christian life.' Some were even indignant with you for being occupied with such profane curiosity and said to you, 'Do not seek things which are beyond you.' But they did not speak as they should. Now poor old Seraphim will explain to you of what this aim really consists."

"However good prayer, fasting, vigil and all the other Christian practices may be, they do not constitute the aim of our life. Although it is true that they serve as the indispensable means of reaching this end, the true aim of our Christian life consists of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ's sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. Mark my words: only good deeds done for Christ's sake brings us the fruits of the Holy Spirit.”

Motovilov had heard the phrase “for Christ’s sake” countless times, usually as swearing, but now he wondered to himself what it really meant, especially to Seraphim.

"All that is not done for Christ's sake, even though it be good, brings neither reward in the future life nor the grace of God in this life. That is why Christ said: "He who does not gather with me scatters"

"Acquiring the Spirit of God is the true aim of our Christian life, while prayer, fasting, almsgiving and other good works done for Christ's sake are merely means for acquiring the Spirit of God."

"What do you mean by acquiring?" Motovilov asked Seraphim. "Somehow I don't understand that."

"Acquiring is the same as obtaining," he replied. "Do you understand, what acquiring money means? Acquiring the Spirit of God is exactly the same. You know very well enough what it means to acquire in a worldly sense, your Godliness. The aim of ordinary worldly people is to acquire or make money; and for the nobility, it is in addition to receive honors, distinctions and other rewards for their services to the government. The acquisition of God's Spirit is also capital, but grace-giving and eternal, and it is obtained in very similar ways, almost the same ways as monetary, social and temporal capital." 

"Christ compared our lives with the market, and the work of our life on earth he calls “trading". He says to us all: "Trade till I comebuying up every opportunity, because the days are evil". In other words, make the most of your time getting heavenly blessings through earthly goods. Earthly goods are good works done for Christ's sake that confer the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, on us."

"Your Godness deigns to think it a great happiness to talk to poor Seraphim, believing that even he is not bereft of the grace of the Lord. What then shall we say of the Lord Himself, the never-failing source of every blessing both heavenly and earthly? Truly in prayer we are granted to converse with Him, our all-gracious and life-giving God and Savior Himself. But even here we must pray only until God the Holy Spirit descends on us in measures of His heavenly grace known to Him. And when He deigns to visit us, we must stop praying."

"Why should we then pray to Him, 'Come and abide in us and cleanse us from all impurity and save our souls, O Good One,' when He has already come to us to save us, who trust in Him, and truly call on His holy Name, that humbly and lovingly we may receive Him, the Comforter, in the mansions of our souls, hungering and thirsting for His coming?

"Imagine that you have invited me to pay you a visit, and at your invitation I come to have a talk with you. But you continue to invite me, saying: 'Come in, please. Do come in!' Then I should be obliged to think: "What is the matter with him? Is he out of his mind?"

"So it is with regard to our Lord God the Holy Spirit. That is why it is said: 'Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth'".

"Many explain that this stillness refers only to worldly matters; in other words, that during prayerful converse with God you must 'be still' with regard to worldly affairs. But I will tell you in the name of God that not only is it necessary to be dead to them at prayer, but when by the omnipotent power of faith and prayer our Lord God the Holy Spirit condescends to visit us, and comes to us in the plenitude of His unutterable goodness, we must be dead to prayer too."

"The soul speaks and converses during prayer, but at the descent of the Holy Spirit we must remain in complete silence, in order to hear clearly and intelligibly all the words of eternal life which he will then deign to communicate. Complete soberness of soul and spirit, and chaste purity of body is required at the same time. The same demands were made at Mount Horeb, when the Israelites were told not even to touch their wives for three days before the appearance of God on Mount Sinai. For our God is a fire which consumes everything unclean, and no one who is defiled in body or spirit can enter into communion with Him."

Seraphim continued to explain and interpret the teachings for Motovilov. "Nevertheless," he replied, "I do not understand how I can be certain that I am in the Spirit of God. How can I discern for myself His true manifestation in me?" 

Seraphim replied: "I have already told you, your Godness, that it is very simple and I have related in detail how people come to be in the Spirit of God and how we can recognize His presence in us. So what do you want, my son?" 

"I want to understand it well," Motovilov said. 

Seraphim took Motovilov very firmly by the shoulders and said: "We are both in the Spirit of God NOW, my son. 

Why don't you look at me?" 

In the center of the sun, in the dazzling light of its midday rays, was the face of a man talking to him. Motovilov saw the movement of his lips and the changing expression of his eyes, heard his voice, felt someone holding his shoulders; yet did not see his hands, not even himself or his figure, but only a blinding light spreading far around for several yards and illumining with its glaring sheen both the snow-blanket which covered the forest glade and the snow-flakes which besprinkled him and the great Elder.

"I cannot look, Father, because your eyes are flashing like lightning! 

Your face has become brighter than the sun! My eyes ache with pain!" 

Seraphim said: "Don't be alarmed, your Godness! Now you yourself have become as bright as I am. You are now in the fullness of the Spirit of God yourself; otherwise you would not be able to see me as I am." 

After these words Motovilov glanced at his face and there came over him an even greater reverent awe. 

"How do you feel now?" Father Seraphim asked Motovilov. 

"Extraordinarily well," he said. 

"But in what way? How exactly do you feel well?" 

He answered: "I feel such calmness and peace in my soul that no words can express it." 

***

Roger came back, and the peace came back with him. The Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Nobility, was with him. Ken saw it, and acknowledged it.

“I prayed too, you know.” Roger said. “I never stopped. Day after day, I would try to unburden myself to God. I kept asking him to save me and relieve me, to tell me why he let my father lose faith and kill himself, and why I couldn’t find the strength inside me. It only made me feel worse after awhile. I hated God and religion. But… nobody who’s religious ever tells you there’s a point you’re supposed to stop praying.” He was amazed.

“One more thing to show you before we are on our way.” Ken motioned to another icon of Seraphim, on the other side of the church:

01.jpg

“A nun reported seeing a bear come out of the woods, and she shrieked in fear that it would eat up the old master. But Seraphim was perfectly calm, and the bear was peaceful too. It even ate right out of his hands.”

“The bear WAS Seraphim.” Roger realized.

“And not just him; it was all of Russia. Which was Seraphim too. In a time of cold, he was Light and Joy and Warmth. The devil, to him, was a cold heart and a cold spirit.”

Roger stared at the image for awhile. “Poor old Seraphim" had humbled himself even with his great power and wisdom. And he had seen God shining within his friend Motovilov too, and shining no less bright than himself. He wasn’t proud or ashamed to share humanity and divinity with those he loved.

***

On the way back to Aptos, Roger was at peace. He watched the Bear Flag of California waving in the wind. And Roger wasn’t just Roger, or a bear. Roger was California itself.

Whatever his father had taken, he had given him this. 

David Stolowitz