Bethlehem Inquiry

by Earl Wajenberg <earlw @ mc . com>

**Flaming Feather**

Even angels long to look into these things. -- 1 Peter 1:12

**Flaming Feather**

Inquisitor: Please state your name, Choir, and Word for the record.

Witness: Peniel, Mercurian of Fire.

Inquisitor: Thank you for coming.

Witness: Huh?! You're-- you're welcome.

Inquisitor: Wasn't it made plain that this was a voluntary interview?

Witness: I-- I guess so. Now that I think of it, yes. I was just so flustered... I mean, when the Inquisition calls you, it's usually--

Inquisitor: We are seeking information on the recent activities of your Archangel -- more information than he has been willing to give in person.

Witness: Oh! Does Gabriel know about this?

Inquisitor: Yes, and has given permission. [Wryly] No futher information, but permission.

Witness: Very well.

Inquisitor: Thank you. Did your Archangel tell you to participate in a mass appearance to a group of mortals?

Witness: Yes.

Inquisitor: Please tell us about it.

Witness: He had us rehearse a song, then led us down to the Corporeal. It was over a hillside near Bethlehem. There were several shepherds out on night-watch. One had just grumbled something like, "Nothing ever happens in this job," when Gabriel appeared to them.

Inquisitor: What did he say?

Witness: He waited for them to stop wailing, then said, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Lord Messiah. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Inquisitor: And then what?

Witness: Then we all appeared and sang. It's very pretty. Like the old days, before the Fall. I don't know if you remember... Anyway, it goes, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to folk on whom his favor rests."

Inquisitor: Very nice. The chorus included angels of all Choirs? Even Seraphim and Cherubim?

Witness: Yes.

Inquisitor: In celestial form? Even Kyriotates?

Witness: Well, we kept them toward the back. You know how humans get twitchy when they see Kyriotates.

Inquisitor: Were there Serivtors of other Archangels there?

Witness: Oh, yes. It was quite a crowd. Stone. Flowers. War. Destiny. Um... in fact, I remember seeing him there.

Inquisitor: What? The bailiff? (Let the record state that the witness indicates Daniah, Malakite of Judgement.) Daniah, why didn't you saysomething?

Daniah: You didn't ask.

Inquisitor: [sighs] We'll want your report. To resume: Did the Archangel Gabriel say anything to you regarding the message given to the shepherds?

Witness: No. I know what the Messiah is supposed to be, of course, but--

Inquisitor: [a little impatiently] Do you? And what *is* the Messiah supposed to be?

Witness: Ah... Means "anointed one." Taken to be a prophecied king of Israel that will usher in, um, something. A golden age. End of the War. Something big and good. And of course I *did* hear what Gabriel said to the Seraphim Council.

Inquisitor: I had better check this for rumor control. What did you hear?

Witness: That Gabriel said the baby was the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. That Yves told him this and told him to go to this girl, Miriam, to announce the conception. Isn't that true? What do *you* lot know? I mean, if you want rumors controlled, hadn't you better put out the straight story?

Inquisitor: What you have heard is true. Dominic asked Yves to confirm it. Yves said only, "Are not many of you Seraphim?" So we know that Gabriel believes what Yves has told him, but no more.

At any time, from Gabriel or anyone else, did you hear anything about the nature of the child? Whether it was a mortal, a celestial, or even an aspect, emanation, or hypostasis from the Upper Heavens?

Witness: No. I don't know anything about Upper Heaven, or aspects, emanations, or, uh, hypostases. What's a hypostasis?

Inquisitor: [flaps wings disconsolately] I don't know. I'm only repeating a question I was told to ask.

**Flaming Feather**

Inquisitor: Please state your name, Choir, and Word, for the record.

Witness: Ithniel, Elohite of Destiny. It may save time if I tell you that my Archangel has told me nothing about the nature of this case that was not also said before the Seraphim Council, which is to say, precious little.

Inquisitor: Indeed. Please tell us, then, of the assignment he gave you regarding this case.

Witness: My normal work is uplifting the activities of the Persian Magi. These are priests of the monotheistic religion of Persia. Many are also astrologers. I influence their astrological interpretations in various ways, to urge them and their clients toward their destinies.

Two years ago, I reported what appeared to be outside influence to my Archangel. There were three closely-spaced conjunctions of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn at that time. For no very good reason, my Magi took these to indicate the birth of the Jewish messiah. I tried to disabuse them of this, but failed.

Inquisitor: But, in fact, the Jewish messiah -- or one identified as such by Gabriel -- *was* born around that time.

Witness: Yes, but I did not know that. And there was no compelling reason for my Magi to make that inference.

Inquisitor: What did Yves say when you reported their interpretation?

Witness: He told me to continue fighting against it. If they continued to believe it, I was to try to keep that interpretation quiet, or at least keep them from acting on it. I failed. I failed even despite the use of Divine Logic. They decided to seek out this newborn king. I reported to Yves, and he told me, in that case, to direct them straight to Bethlehem. Again, I failed. They went to Jerusalem, to King Herod. As a result--

Inquisitor: Yes. Do you believe you were up against covert infernal resistance?

Witness: I do. I am not so incompetent, nor are my charges so unreasonable, that I would normally fail. It is possible that the interference was Ethereal, or even Celestial, but that seems very unlikely.

Inquisitor: We may hope so.

**Flaming Feather**

Inquisitor: Please state your name, Choir, and Word.

Witness: I am Christopher, Cherub of Protection, Angel of Children.

Inquisitor: That ... is true, but...

Witness: I have only recently taken the name "Christopher."

Inquisitor: Meaning "messiah carrier." Then you believe the assertion?

Witness: I do.

Inquisitor: Please describe your involvement in this case.

Witness: Zadkiel has told me to protect the messiah child personally.

Inquisitor: Did she say why?

Witness: She said Gabriel and Yves had asked both asked her to see to it.

Inquisitor: At what point did you become involved?

Witness: Immediately after the conception.

Inquisitor: Did you observe anything unusual about the pregnancy?

Witness: No. I had heard the claims about the ... paternity of the child, so I made what inquiries I could. No demons of Lust were known to be working in the area--

Inquisitor: Hardly conclusive; humans need little inspiration for most acts of lust.

Witness: As you say. But I also had various Malakim resonnate Miriam -- the mother. They found no stain upon her honor.

Inquisitor: I see. When did--

Witness: None. At all.

Inquisitor: ... Oh. Well. Thank you. When did she realize she was pregnant?

Witness: She suspected immediately after Gabriel's announcement. She was sure within the month, of course. She went directly to her fiance, Joseph, and told him the entire story. He was very upset.

Inquisitor: Did he believe she was lying?

Witness: That was, I believe, part of what upset him. I believe he thought she was a little mad. Perhaps he thought she had been raped or seduced. and was covering up the pain or shame with a mad memory. But she didn't act mad, you see. He wanted to break off the engagement, but he also wanted to make sure nothing bad happened to her. Conceiving out of wedlock is quite a disgrace, in that culture, you see. I decided it was in the child's best interest for him to marry her, though, and raise the child as his own, so I spoke to him about it, in a dream.

Inquisitor: Yes, we will be interviewing your escort from Blandine later.

Witness: There were no great dangers after that, until after the birth. They had to go to Bethlehem in order to continue his claim to some family property in a census the Romans were doing, but that was not too late in the pregnancy. The census had the town packed, so they set up temporary housekeeping in the stable of the inn. The birth itself went without difficulty. A few weeks later, they moved out of the stable, into rooms on the family property. And some weeks after that -- I can give you dates if you want -- these Magi arrived from Jerusalem. That's when I met Ithniel. It told me of the events at Herod's court, and I realized Herod would be hunting for the child. So I went to the Marches again and warned the Magi to go back to Persia without returning to Jerusalem. Then I warned Joseph to get out of town.

Inquisitor: He took his family to Egypt?

Witness: Yes, to the Jewish community in Alexandria. I took the liberty, at one point, of assuming a vessel and helping them across a stream in the delta region there. They are there now.

Inquisitor: And the child--?

Witness: Is now four years old.

Inquisitor: Is he in any way remarkable?

Witness: He has never had a serious illness or injury; I have seen to that. He is quite intelligent and intense. And also ... very nice. Empathetic. But he seems quite human. What did you expect?

Inquisitor: That's the problem. We don't know what to expect.

**Flaming Feather**

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