Monday, June 2, 2014

Chapter 10: The Empress and the Aged Priest


            “YOU know who I am?”  Asked the young woman to the aged man.
“Of course!  My colleague had spoken a lot about you.  And I have been expecting you.”  The aged man answered.
“Then you must know the reason for my visit.”  The young woman said, as if to test what else did the colleague of the aged man said about her.
“As to that, your majesty, my colleague had been very frugal with words.” The aged man answered.
“Your colleague surely has been faithful in his service,” added the young woman.
“Perhaps not entirely,” said the old man.  The young woman posed a questioning look to the old man.
“My colleague didn’t tell me that your majesty is not only beautiful, but also graceful.”  Said the old man.
Lest the readers keep guessing, the young woman was none other than Constantia, and the aged man was the central figure of the controversy, Arius.  Constantia had asked Eusebius, the bishop of Nicomedia, for a meeting with Arius.  Eusebius was close to the court of Constantine, since Constantine at that time resided in Nicomedia.  Constantine later on moved his royal residence to Byzantium, and renamed it Constantinople, the city of Constantine, after Byzantium was massively rebuilt. 
Yet, close as he was to the royal court of Constantine, Eusebius did not have much influence upon the emperor at that time, as did Hosius.  Further, unlike Hosius who bitterly opposed Arius and his doctrine, Arianism, Eusebius was actually the supporter of Arius’ doctrine.  In fact, both Arius and Eusebius of Nicomedia were colleagues.  They had been studied together under the great Lucian the Martyr, one of the illustrious Church Fathers.  Eusebius was to be the Royal Bishop later on.  He would have a degree of influence upon the emperor, and the one to baptize Constantine when the latter finally decided it was time to undertake the ritual making him fully Christian.  But as of that moment, in the year 325 AD, Eusebius was just one of those big town bishops.
In any case, because of his close relationship with Arius, Constantia had asked Eusebius to arrange a meeting with the latter a few weeks before the great universal gathering commenced.  As to the reason why Constantia wanted to meet Arius, this she did not disclose to Eusebius, and Eusebius, on his part, did not find it proper to ask.  It was a request from the emperor’s sister.  That was all Eusebius needed to know.  Thus, when Arius said that Eusebius did not disclose the intent for the meeting, Constantia knew that this respected patriarch of Nicomedia had carried his duty to the letter, without a slight alteration to it.
The meeting took place in a secret location.  All precautions were made on both sides to ensure that the meeting remained private and confidential.  To maintain such secrecy was no small feat, for both Constantia and Arius were very much public people.  However, with no help of modern mass media technologies, such as in the modern times, it was not exactly impossible either for that secret meeting to take place.  
It was the first time each met the other.  The young empress of the late co-emperor was beautiful and graceful; the aged priest was poised and wise.
“Don’t you want to know why I request for a meeting?”  Constantia asked.
“Any invitation to meet a royal family is a great honor, with or without reason,” answered the aged priest.
“Even if the meeting could endanger your life?”
“I am a man closer to meeting my Lord.  My days in this world are numbered.”
The young empress smiled.  The aged priest had a point.  He was already 75 years old.  Most of his contemporaries were already dead.
“How about endangering your reputation?”  Somehow the young empress felt drawn to tease the old man.  She was apparently amused by the way the aged priest viewed things.
“I am already a reputed troublemaker.  What can be worse than that?”
“Quite right.  You are quite right there, wise priest.  But are you not curious at all, as to why I asked for a meeting?”
“Curious?  Yes, but when you reach my age, your majesty, even curiosity loses its senses,” said the old priest, cheek in the tongue.  The young empress laughed at his wry sense of humor. 
“Yet you are not old enough to play havoc with your religion!”  The young empress provoked.
“Never old enough to speak the truth, your majesty.”  The aged priest corrected.  And never old enough to tease a younger woman, Constantia thought.  In later years, one of the things his opponents accused of Arius was that he had a way with the lady.  That of course had nothing to do with hanky panky.  Arius was a charming man, even when he was old.  He had a gift with words, and it is this gift that drawn people to him, not just the ladies.
There was silence for a moment.   
“I thought you should know that this universal council convoked by my brother is actually to get at you,” said the young empress.
“I thought as much already.  The question is, how to approach a situation like this,” muttered the aged priest and paused for a while before continuing, “you wouldn’t have any idea, I suppose, of how best to approach an episode like this?”
“Frankly, no,” the young empress replied, looking disappointed.  The aged priest also looked disappointed.
“You must forgive me, your majesty, but you have brought me the news I already know without giving me any direction as to where I should lead.  That doesn’t sound right.  Surely you have other reason for wanting to see me.”
“I don’t, except that I would rather my brother not have his way the way he wants it.”
“As a revenge for putting your husband into a grave?”
“No, not exactly a revenge, or at least not for that reason.”
“A revenge nevertheless.”
“If you insist, but not for having my husband executed.”
 “But for other reason that you would rather not disclose?”
“Precisely.”
“Pray tell me, your majesty,” said the aged priest, “what exactly do you want me to do?”
The question from the old priest jerked the young empress somewhat.  Truth be told, the only reason for her to meet the old priest was to tell him that Hosius and his cohorts were using his brother to nail Arius’ down.  She had naively expected that the old priest wouldn’t know about it.  Now that she found the old priest was well informed, the whole purpose of the meeting appeared to be unnecessary.  Further, there was something about the old priest that made her slightly uncomfortable.  It was something that made her felt drawn towards him, yet because of that, she also felt rather uncomfortable.  In any case, it was nothing sexual.
“If I say that the only reason I want to see you is to warn you that they are going to have you nailed, would that not be good enough reason?”  The young empress asked.
“It would, your majesty, but what good would it do to me?”
“Even after knowing that, you still want to attend the conference?”
“Pray tell me young empress, what other choice do I have?”
There was silence again.  This meeting was supposed to be brief and simple.  At the rate things were going, it was not all that simple.  Simple to the aged priest perhaps, but to the young empress, it made her looked like a fool. 
“All is not lost my young empress.  If your interest is to thwart your brother’s plan, which in a way is not really his plan, but of Alexander, Hosius and the gang, there are other means by which we can cooperate together.”  The aged priest broke the silence. 
“I am all ears, wise priest,” rejoined the young empress.
“I was thinking that you perhaps can be my eyes and ears in the court of the emperor.  I may lose the battle in this conference, which I think I will, but at least I can still fight for my cause.”
The young empress thought for a while.  The request did not seem difficult to grant, except that she would have to be close to Constantine, whom she had been avoiding for the last few months.
“What exactly do I have to do?”
“Let me and Eusebius know what is going on.  Just be our eyes and ears.”
“Your request would mean that I will have to be close to my brother?”
“Would that be a difficult thing to do?  Is he not your brother, and you, his beloved sister?”
“Our relationship has been strained of late.”
“To be expected after the demise of your late husband, I would say.”
“There is more to it than that,” said the young empress.
“And I suspect it is something you’d rather not disclose.”
“It has nothing to do with you.”
“Of course not, but could you make amend, I mean, with your brother?”
“It is my heart that I fear, not his.  After all he is the guilty one.”
“Could you then amend your heart?”
“I suppose I can, but what exactly do you have in mind?”
“I myself do not know as yet, but being our eyes and ears would be a good start.  Knowing your opponent’s moves is winning half a battle already.”
The young empress agreed.  It was not too difficult a thing to do.  All she needed to do was to be aware of what is going on in the Constantine’s court.  The only problem was that she had to start getting close to Constantine.  That too was not difficult, since it was Constantia who had been avoiding Constantine.  Her brother had been trying to meet her quite a few times already.