They had no names here in the Realm of Redemption. Left on the stoop when she was but a babe, she was known only as “Sister”, the same as all the others. Until now. Now the old ones had given her a name. Now she was called “Seeker.”
It was her last night in the temple. The sisters were preparing a parting feast for her. She suspected it was intended to remind her of all she was leaving behind. A vase of white roses stood on the banquet table. She loved white, but she had grown weary of it. Everything was white here, from the walls to the furniture to the window coverings to the very clothes they wore. White for purity and love. Until her meeting with the elder sisters, she, too, had worn white. Always white.
The elders were puzzled by her questions, her doubts, her curiosity. They knew her heart was pure. She was a good girl, one of their favorites. But sometimes these things happened. Now and then a seeker would come forth from among the faithful. One whom the heavens themselves had touched, had singled out to find her own way, to seek a deeper fellowship with all creation.
The Seeker cringed as she stood in the middle of the sanctum and the elder sisters stripped her, not ungently, of her garments. Her beautiful white robe and soft kid slippers were left in a pile on the floor. A chest was brought into the hall and she gasped as she saw the colors of her new attire. She raised her arms as the sisters lowered a pale peach shift over her head. Unlike her white gown, this shift did not reach the ground. The Seeker was thankful for that. It would have been filthy in no time. Over the shift they placed an olive green tunic. Its sleeves were long and golden embroidery graced the cuffs and neck. The garments were secured with a leather belt at her waist.
Finally the elder Mother placed a green beret on her head, pulling it down over her long golden hair. A feather of the Bird of Knowledge, white and black for discerning truth, and red for courage and determination was sewn into the front of the cap.
“Never be parted from your beret and feather,” said the Mother, “for it will teach your mind what your heart already knows.”
One sister then placed a bracelet on each arm. The Seeker wondered if they were only for adornment or if they served some useful purpose as well.
Lastly the Mother handed her a staff. It looked ordinary in every way. But before she could ask what it was for, the Mother answered.
“It is an aid for walking,” she said, then paused, a weighty sigh escaping on her breath, “and a weapon.”
“But why would I have need of a weapon,” the Seeker asked.
“Because, dear one, the world outside is not a kind place. Here in the temple you have been protected and nurtured. The world outside is a beautiful place as well. Miracles will abound wherever you travel. But there are also many worries and much evil. The time may come when your staff becomes your protection. And only the heavens can instruct you on its use.”
The Seeker shivered, and for a brief moment, but only a moment, she wondered if she had made the right choice in leaving. It dawned on her then that the ground of the world outside was also different from the smooth marble floors of the temple.
“I have no shoes,” she said to the Mother.
“That is correct.”
“There are two reasons. First your feet must connect to the earth for it is a living, breathing thing. It will be one of your greatest allies on your journey. Secondly, your bare feet are to remind you that you are always vulnerable. When you leave the protection of this house and your sisters, you expose your heart to the whole world. Guard it carefully. Never forget that you are neither better nor worse than anyone you will meet.”
The Seeker bowed her head and wondered what others would see when her heart was so exposed. Would it still be pure and full of love and light? Or would the world cause her light to go out? She could feel hot tears stain her cheeks as the twelve elder sisters gathered round her and joined arms, locking her in a ring of prayer.
The Mother stepped into the circle, and putting her finger beneath the Seeker’s chin, she raised the girl’s eyes to heaven.
“Always keep looking up,” she said, “for from thence will come your greatest help.”
And while the Seeker’s head and eyes were raised, the Mother dotted her forehead with rose oil and kissed her on each cheek. Then one by one the elder sisters each bestowed a kiss before bidding her farewell and retiring from the room.
Suddenly the Seeker felt unable to breathe. She hurried through the banquet hall grabbing a white rose from the vase as she went. She opened the foyer door of the temple house and stepped through the stone arches onto the grassy knoll outside where she gulped the cool night air as if her very life depended on it.
© Cheryl D. Carter