Across the entire eastern sky a hazy line of golden light pushed the purple shroud of night gently away. A few dim stars twinkled here and there flirting with the brightening clouds. It was Onofrio’s favorite time. A time he cherished with his prominent God, Nature the god of all living things. No golden altars required. No priests in costly robes to instruct followers on how to praise nature’s promise of a fruitful day.
He had several scrolls to deliver among them some for Pontius Pilate regarding the finished improvements to the water way. Now cleansed of rotting debris and widened to supply ample water to Yerushalayim. The fields already flourished in such abundance. He had scrolls to deliver to the Hebrew council pertaining to border line adjustments between properties they would have to address among themselves. The new military commander would be invited to Serou’s home for continued discussions regarding improvements to the military facilities. In all, Onofrio would have a full day mingling with the heads of power in the city of David.
He dressed in light blue with a white leather belt over his outer robe. A new pair of black shiny boots graced his feet. He wore a white turban headdress with a blue ornament at the forehead. He only wore his wedding ring and a copper bracelet he was fond of. It was said to protect one’s health.
His favorite two horses pulled his chariot with ease. They seemed to know where Onofrio wanted to go. He often spoke to them in transit and perhaps, they understood his missions and hastened to oblige.
It was past midmorning when he finally entered Pilate’s outer chamber, a private place where he rested between cases. After a few minutes wait, Pilate appeared. He wore an elegant purple toga adorned with three inch wide symmetrical bands of Gold thread going from foot to shoulder. Very Impressive. He looked tired and overly groomed. His face brightened at the sight of Onofrio. After amiable greetings Pilate proceeded to his usual seat. Refreshments were soon provided and Pilate spoke in abbreviated sentences. “I’m so tired all the time. I need to go someplace and be by myself. Get away from these “Jewish gripes and petty quarrels.” He examined the scrolls and was seemingly pleased with what he read.
“Serou is a remarkable individual. “Every concern is carefully addressed and neatly answered in sequence. Remarkable. It’s the badge of a brilliant mind. In total amiability Pilate continued non-sop.”My wife, Claudia will soon be here. I would like for you to meet her. You’ve never met my wife, have you?”
Onofrio was momentarily displeased with the proposal pulled on him so unexpedctedly. He had other stops to make. But courtesy to Pontius Pilate took first place and so he answered courteously,
“No sir. I’ve never had occasion to meet your wife, Claudia. I’ve been told she is a brilliant and lovely woman. I would be pleased to meet the lady.”
Soon thereafter, Claudia made her appearance. She was truly beautiful. She had high cheek bones and sensuous lips. Her stride revealed an admirable elegance and she dressed in a light green gown with fine gold jewelry. Her lips were lightly tinted in a delicate shade of pink making her appear even younger. Her eyes were filled with a friendly glow and he could not tell what color they were in haste. Proper introductions were made and she sat next to Pilate. By way of apology, she looked at Onofrio and silently bid for a private moment. She caressed her husband’s face and spoke in a voice invented by angels, “I was hoping to find you resting. Has it been a busy morning?” Her concern had no place to hide. Before Pilate answered, her face lit up with a recovered realization and spoke in astonished tones.
“You’re the young man known for building the cross on which Jesus of Nazareth died. Aren’t you? She was obviously thrilled by it.
Onofrio had no place to hide. He had grown to despise the question but could not deny the wife of Pontius Pilate an answer.
“Much to my regret yes Mam, I built the cross on which Jesus died.” Onofrio stated calmly taking a deep breath and looking for an escape route. He had no desire to rekindle painful memories. He swiftly became uncomfortable, apparent to Pilate and Claudia. She sensed his discomfort as if she saw visions wandering through his mind.
With undeniable regret she reached to touch his hand and spoke with a warm and gentle kindness.
“I’m sorry. I heard of your ordeal after the crucifixion. I have no desire to stir unpleasant memories but if I may, I’d like to ask you one question.” She saw his glassy eyes and felt a kindness toward him. Noticeably Onofrio bowed with visible reluctance. He could not deny a request by the wife of Pontius Pilate.
She looked at her husband and cocked her chin. A signal he knew well to mean, “I’m going to do it. Whether you agree or not.” Then she beamed her eyes on the handsome young man before her.
“I have every reason in the world to believe that our son’s presence before Jesus healed his club foot.” Again she reached to touch Onofrio’s hand.
“Do you think that since He is now dead that our son’s affliction will return?” Glassy eyes never demand explanation. She was on the brink of tears. She had suffered much from Pilate’s attitude towards her for delivering unto him a crippled child. She could not bear to be castigated again for the same reason.
For a fleeting moment Onofrio and Claudia Procula suffered a similar anguish. Onofrio took only a moment to think and clearly stated, “I cannot answer your question honestly. As much as I would like to ease your concern my answer would not be truthful. However, allow me to tell you this real to life story and perhaps it will give you strength to face the future. What I tell you now is verifiable truth. On our way to Yerushalayim not long ago, we rescued an old lady that was injured on the road. She had a swollen, black and blue ankle she claimed to have suffered with for years. We took her close to the market square where Jesus was healing multiple afflictions. Later that day we met the old lady and her ankle was healed. She told us that Jesus assured her that if her affliction returned to think of him and she would again enjoy the benefit of his cure. She promised to always think of him in order to keep the cure in effect. My dear lady Claudia, I do not know if it would apply to your son. I am not one to give you false hope. But from what I know and have seen, I say there is no harm in keeping that thought alive. I would dare to say that your son may be too young to think of Jesus very often. This leaves you and your husband to share the burden of that aspiration.”
Through all that Pilate sat intently listening to Onofrio and logged it in his mind. Then he spoke again, “My wife and I disagree on how Pilo’s cure came about. I say Mighty Jupiter is the reason for my sons cure.” And he chuckled a bit as if to sting her harmlessly. Claudia was never one to accept being put aside as she promptly replied with an equal sting.
“My dearest Lucius, let us not disagree on who is most benevolent to our child. Instead, you pray to your Jupiter and I reserve the right to pray to whom I wish. That way we both contribute to our child’s welfare. This tongue in cheek compromise could well be the only genuine peace in all Judea.”
Her smile was clear acceptance of what Onofrio proposed. But in the process of all this Onofrio saw a way to even give Pontius Pilate a time off from his arduous tasks. Without effort he mustered his most diplomatic tone, “Sir, I have an excellent suggestion to make. I urge you to accept it. The villa by the lake on Serou’s property is newly refurbished. It is even better now than it was before. It would serve you well to consider spending fruitful time there with the lady Claudia. You would be well away from “Jewish gripes and petty quarrels”. And he clicked his jaw twice and winked an eye at the mighty procurator. “My wife Senobia and I spend much time there. Last week we caught a nice size fish we grilled over an open fire and slept al fresco in a tent with the children. They loved it. Senobia and I dipped in the lake like children on holiday. There’s no one to bother us for miles. There are slave quarters in back that could see to your comfort. There’s a fully stocked kitchen and the water well is close by. There’s also a large barn to shelter your horses with access to good grass and fresh water. It would please me immensely if you accepted my invitation.”
With crimped eyes and chin in hand Pilate thought for a moment and commented, “We have children to consider you know,” and seemed pleased to accept the invitation by pensively nodding his head.
Claudia tuned in with,” we have nannies to see about them, you know.”And so with no further ado, it was clear that the couple would avail themselves of such an inviting offer. A second honey moon was in a budding stage. Onofrio cautioned, “Tell only your most trusted associate where you will be. In case you are urgently needed.” To which Pilate bowed in silent acknowledgement.
Serou had seriously suggested Onofrio move his family to the Villa by the lake. It was peaceful there and the children would adore it. Their household staff would find adequate accommodations and all would be comfortably happy. It was a gift from the Egyptian Onofrio had not decided to accept.[Previous Episode] [Next Episode]