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Anastasia in Ecclesialand

Chapter I: Into The Vestry

It was the Sunday of the Council Fathers, and Anastasia was falling asleep in church as a gentle rain fell on the roof. Suddenly, a large white bird flew into the nave and out through the doors that led to the vestry on the left side of the sanctuary.

Normally, Anastasia would have ignored it, but the bird was so beautiful and the deacon’s voice so dull that she leapt from the pew and followed the bird through the door.

Much to her surprise, the vestry had disappeared. Instead, she found herself in a large room covered with spray-painted slogans and bumper stickers. She turned to go back to the nave, but the door had been replaced by a large dodo, who stared at her disconsolately. 

“Why are you here?” demanded the dodo. 

“I was following a bird, a white bird. Have you seen it? And what has become of the vestry”?

“What do you mean?” asked the dodo crossly.

“To which part do you need explanation?” said Anastasia, trying to remember if dodos were harmless or not.

The heavy bird shifted its weight to the left and said, “I mean what I said. It was an ontological question.”

“I am not sure I know how to give an ontological answer,” said Anastasia.

“Well, there you betray your position right away!” The dodo was close to screeching. “Why are you looking for the vestry? Are you seeking holy orders?”

“One need not be seeking holy order to come to the vestry,” said Anastasia. “I was following a bird, as I told you.”

I’m a bird,” said the dodo. It looked as if it expected some sort of response.

“Yes,” said Anastasia carefully. “But you are not the bird I was looking for. That bird was flying.”

“So you feel that only birds who can fly should be in vestries!” The dodo screeched loudly, and Anastasia hoped the sound would not interrupt the liturgy-wherever it had got to.

“I never said such a thing, honestly . . .”

“I see you are uninformed. We must have a dialogue, ” said the dodo. From under its wing it produced a silver whistle and blew. But instead of whistling, it formed the words “HELP! I AM BEING OPPRESSED! COME DIALOGUE!” From out of the corners swarmed a remarkable collection of creatures. There was a raccoon with bumper stickers stuck to every part of its fur except the head. It kept pulling them off and reattaching them to other parts of itself. There was a mouse with a Roman collar who tried to avoid the dodo, which kept squawking at him and making him nervous. There was a possum who looked terribly offended. And there was a host of others besides. All sat in a large circle around Anastasia, who was amazed to find that they were all much the same size as herself, though she could not remember growing smaller.

“Now, said the dodo, let us begin the dialogue.” She stared at Anastasia.

“I don’t know what to say,” said Anastasia.

A .asp went up from the assembled creatures; indeed, several fell into swoons and toppled over (these were chiefly otters for some reason; Anastasia imagined it was because they did it so well and sprawled so wonderfully).

“Such a poor way to begin a dialogue!” said the dodo to Anastasia. She turned on the mouse. “Its all your fault!” The dodo fetched him from under her feathers and glared at him. “I do hope you are properly ashamed!”

“Please, sister,” pleaded the mouse, “I am only a wee mouse.”

“Oppressor!” snapped the dodo and flung the mouse away. He sailed though the air and would have hit Anastasia, except that she jumped out of his way with a little shriek. She regretted her impulse and ran to see if he was all right. The mouse looked up at Anastasia and said, in a hopeless tone, “I’m only a wee mouse.” He then wandered back to sit by the dodo and try to avoid her stare.

“Let us continue the dialogue,” said the possum, sounding as offended as possible.

“Well, how should I start it?” asked Anastasia, who was anxious to get back to the liturgy.

“Why, by swearing undying loyalty to everything we say and do!” said the dodo, shocked.

“But. . .” Anastasia felt sure she would regret this question, “what is it that you say and do?”

The raccoon sat up wide-eyed. Anastasia wasn’t sure if her question had upset him or if he had hurt himself pulling off bumper stickers. The raccoon waddled over to her, put his paws on her shoulders, and poked his large nose into her face. (This was distressing, since his breath had a definite scent of raw frog.) He stared deep into her eyes and announced, “Many incredible things.” Evidently feeling that was a sufficient answer, the raccoon waddled back to his place in the circle and began working his bumper stickers again.

Anastasia looked around at her audience, increasingly hostile except for the mouse, who looked rather as though he felt sorry for her, when he was not looking fearfully up at the dodo, and she dared not speak.

“Come, come” said the offended possum, “What we believe is immaterial; your acquiescence is all that is called for. That is what dialogue is-agreement with us. 

“I don’t see how you can mean that!” said Anastasia, trying to spot a weak section of the circle-preferably some herbivores-through which to make her escape.

“Well, I see you question my rank as a mammal,” sulked the possum. “Just like the butler.”

“It never occurred to me to do so,” said Anastasia.

The possum looked wounded. He shouted to the dodo, although she was quite close, “THIS IS DOING NO GOOD WHATSOEVER! WE MUST MAKE A PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION.” Squeals of delight greeted this announcement, and the dodo nodded. 

So all the animals, with the exception of the mouse, who was trying to hide in Anastasia’s shoe, and the raccoon, who was sitting to one side furiously writing, began to run about in a circle and wave placards at one another, shouting about what a bounder the butler was or denouncing the major domos or Anastasia. Presently they began pushing one another and shouting “bourgeoisie” or “sellout” or “conciliationist” at one another. 

Suddenly they all grew quiet. A white figure had drifted into their midst, and they all regarded it reverentially. Then they began shouting and tussling with each other over it. “What is that?” asked Anastasia, to no one in particular.

From her shoe came the answer, “That is the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.”

Anastasia looked down at the mouse. “Don’t be silly, that’s just the possum under a sheet.” Presently the tussling grew violent enough to rip the sheet asunder and prove Anastasia correct.

“No, really,” said the mouse in a pleading tone, looking from Anastasia to the dodo who had wandered near them again, “It is the spirit of the Council. Please, you have to believe me.”

“This is ridiculous!” said Anastasia, and while the animals were busy squabbling, she noticed a door on the right side of the room and quietly walked away.

Chapter II: The Hard-Core Believers

Anastasia was relieved to escape from the dialogue. On the other side of the door, she found she was in a library. It seemed extremely old, dense with the smell of musty books. At first it seemed quite a pleasant place. Then, from somewhere to her right, came a sound like someone saying Psssssssst! 

She followed the sound to find a large blue .asp spraying an aerosol can on which was written “MUSTY BOOK SMELL.” He seemed shocked to see her and tried, clumsily, to hide the can behind his back. It was too large, so he threw it on the ground and himself on top of it. He tried to look up at her, but the can was rolling dangerously. 

“What are you doing here?” asked the .asp, staring at the floor.

“I seem to have lost my way back to the nave,” said Anastasia, trying not to laugh at the .asp’s ridiculous position.

“Well, well indeed!” came a loud voice from behind her. “You have definitely come to the right place for finding your way back to the nave.”

Anastasia turned about to see a chess piece, a rook. She could not figure out how it was speaking or where to look at it, since it had neither mouth nor eyes.

A few minutes passed in total silence. Anastasia decided she must speak. “Well, do you know the way to the nave, then?”

“Oh, do I indeed! I have collected all these ancient manuscripts for just that purpose!” The rook’s voice was emphatic, as though it were trying hard to convince someone of something.

Anastasia glanced at the books on the shelves. “These books aren’t that old,” she said and plucked one from the shelf. “Well, this one is old, but it has been mutilated.”

“Nonsense!” said the rook. “Follow me!” He moved off (Anastasia could not figure out how) at a right angle. She followed gamely, and the .asp watched her go, then recommenced with the aerosol can. 

They walked a long way, past many shelves of books, which Anastasia noticed were either by the same three authors or mutilated like the book she had picked up. Presently they came to an open part of the library, where another chess piece (a rather well-worn bishop) was opening books and pouring tea into them, staining their pages brown. Behind him was a group of .asps, furiously tearing out pages from other books.

“Why are you doing this?” asked Anastasia, quite shocked.

“We need the tradition, of course!” stated the rook.

“What are you talking about? What sort of tradition is this?”

At this, the bishop left off pouring tea into the books, stood upright, turned his nose in the air, and began to chant in Latin, which I translate here (although Anastasia could not understand it at the time): 

Well, we certainly don’t need any books 
Which are only historical fibs. 
And we know the books much better 
Than the authors themselves ever did. 

Ignatius, Chrysostom, and Basil, 
Augustine and Ambrose the same, 
Before we apply our tender mercies 
Their writings are always quite lame. 

So we stain books that were written 
In Nineteen Twenty-Four 
To create our glorious tradition 
And we don’t have to look anymore! 

“Whatever is he doing?” Anastasia asked the rook. 

“Traditional Latin chant of course. The only true way to worship God.”

“Who told you that?” Said Anastasia.

“The butler, the servant of the servants.”

“Oh, he did no such thing! We use the vernacular nowadays or perhaps old Slavonic or Aramaic.”

The air burst into angry hums as the .asps tried to cover their ears (of which they had none, so they just groped their heads wildly with their forelegs). The rook was rocking back and forth in shock, so the bishop ran over and ordained him in order to keep him steady. 

Suddenly a messenger ran in, gave the bishop a note, and ran out again.

“There, you see, said the rook, that was the butler sending a congratulatory telegram.”

Anastasia snatched up the note and read it. “But this says that you are both banned from the palace until you stop ruining books.” 

“Ah, I can tell you don’t know how to read Ecclesialand documents correctly.” At this, the rook stuffed the document into one of the crenellated gaps on is head and began to twirl madly. “It will say what we want once we pour tea over it.” 

The bishop gleefully began pouring tea onto the document, which was unfortunate since the tea ran onto what Anastasia suspected was the rook’s face.

“Besides, my daughter,” said the bishop, “it is not as though this message were from a real butler. There has not been a real butler at the palace since the hummingbirds arrived.

“What hummingbirds?” asked Anastasia, deciding that these folks were just as mad as the animals.

“Big, ugly hummingbirds. They eat meat.”

“Hummingbirds don’t eat meat. Now, please, the rook said you know the way back to the nave. I am quite anxious to get back to the liturgy.”

“Well, this is the way back to the nave,” said the rook, rather bubbly through the tea. “You follow us. 

“But you aren’t going anywhere!” cried Anastasia. 

“Exactly. Therefore, this is the nave. Quick trip, don’t you think?”

“But it is not the nave. We were worshiping there.” Anastasia was beginning to wonder if these folks were not quite a bit madder than the animals.

“Oh, you were speaking Latin?” asked the bishop.

“No, but speaking Latin doesn’t necessarily mean you are worshiping.”

“Of course it does!” insisted the rook. “When you speak Latin you worship, and you only worship if you speak Latin. Therefore, we are worshiping.”

“Well, there I have you,” said Anastasia quickly, “we are speaking English.”

“How vulgar,” said the bishop, so upset that he drank a whole pot of tea in one gulp. The .asps began humming angrily, and Anastasia decided she had best leave. She spotted a large window, more like an archway, and went through it into a garden.

Chapter III: In A Garden Of Quarrels

The garden was pleasant after all the madness inside, but it was not the nave. Anastasia looked about, trying to see a path back to the church.

“Look out where you are stepping!” she heard a tiny voice say. She looked down to find a hyacinth bending backwards to avoid her.

“But I am nowhere near you,” said Anastasia.

“You are too close! You might Latinize me.”

“I only want to get back to the nave and the liturgy.”

“Liturgy, hmmph, I am sure,” said a Russian rose from down the bed.

“Keep it to yourself,” said a cedar of Lebanon sapling between the two flowers.

“Keep it to yourself, indeed,” said the Russian rose. “As though you were not covered with Latin pollen all over.”

“It must be terrible to quarrel so if you three share the same bed,” said Anastasia.

“This is not the same bed!” said the shocked heliotrope. “My roots are sooooooo much deeper than theirs, I am sure.”

“I beg your pardon,” said a Nile lily from a pond on the end, “but I must correct you. Say what you like about that cedar there, but mine are the deeper roots.”

“Could you leave off bickering for a few moments and tell me how to get back to the nave?” pleaded Anastasia, who was tired of all these queer and quarrelsome creatures.

“It is so simple,” volunteered a Syrian brushbloom, “just go east.”

Anastasia realized that the sun was directly overhead.

“Which way is east then?” she asked.

“Toward me!” said the heliotrope.

“Toward me!” sang the cedar.

“Don’t listen to them-it’s toward me,” said the Nile lily, “Obviously, I am the only way to orient yourself.”

An Armenian sunflower was about to speak up, but someone pushed it down. The rest of the flowers pretended not to notice. 

Angry, Anastasia picked a direction at random, prayed it was east, and began walking, trying to escape the sound of the flowers bickering about who was the original occupant of the flower bed. Suddenly before her was the possum. He did not look offended this time, but furtive, as he slid out from behind a bush. He saw Anastasia and blanched.

“You did not see me here,” he whispered and crept away.

“What a lark!” said a voice from above her head. Anastasia looked up to see the raccoon scribbling wildly at his notepad.

“What’s a lark?” asked Anastasia.

“The way you all carry on.” said the raccoon, not looking up but continuing to inscribe furiously.

“And you are not carrying on?”

The raccoon drew himself up on his hind legs. “I WILL HAVE YOU KNOW THAT I HAVE THE BUTLER’S EAR!”

He seemed to be addressing a crowd, although Anastasia could see no one there except the two of them.

“What are you talking about?” said Anastasia, “and who are you talking to?”

“I am talking about my POSITION!” said the raccoon crossly. “And I am talking to the WORLD! It is watching, you know. Every little step we make, it is watching. I HAVE THE EAR OF THE PEOPLE!”

“Either I am quite mad or you are,” said Anastasia. 

“I? Mad? Surely not! I have a copyright on the spirit of Vatican II!”

Anastasia sighed, relieved, “Then it is you who are mad.” Flustered, the raccoon poked his nose into his notepad again and began writing madly. Anastasia was walking away when the raccoon shouted at her. 

“If you go that way, you will run into a party of madmen. Of course, if you go the other way, you will run into the same party.” So saying, he squeezed into the notepad and shut it after himself. She noticed for the first time that the cover read, National Catholic Reposer. 

Anastasia sighed and walked in the first direction the possum had indicated, feeling that things could not get much madder.

Chapter IV: Not Enough For Only

The path soon became wooded and darkened. Anastasia was glad when she came to a clearing where a little light filtered through. There she saw, sitting at a table alone, a man with a tall hat that read THIS SIZE ONLY. The table before him was laden with all manner of victuals, but the man was drinking only tea; his plate was empty. Since the man seemed the most sensible-looking creature she had encountered so far, she decided to ask if he knew the way back to the nave.

“Excuse me,” she began politely.

The man jumped up and quickly covered all the things on the table with a large cloth, except for the teapot, the sugar bowl, and his cup. He regarded her with great surprise and more than a little fear. 

“Are you a Jesuit?” he demanded.

“I don’t think so, but so many strange things are happening today, I am beginning to wonder what I am.”

“There is nothing strange happening here! Surely you can see that. Nothing at all!”

“Well, as I do not know your customs, I could not judge,” said Anastasia, beginning to think that this man was a little strange. He looked at her suspiciously and then, stiffly and suddenly, offered his hand. Anastasia tried to shake it, but he snatched it away as soon as she touched it.

“I am the middleman,” said the man.

“The middle of what?” asked Anastasia.

“Just the middleman. The middleman alone. Would you like some tea? I have nothing else to offer, just tea. Tea alone.” He eyed the cloth over the food nervously as though it might jump up and run away of its own accord. To Anastasia’s surprise, it did exactly that, and there was the great feast spread on the table again. The cloth made little squeaking sounds and ran into the woods.

“That,” said the middleman hastily, eyeing the feast, “is not there. But if it were there, it would be superfluous. Tea, tea alone, is what is here.”

“No thank you,” said Anastasia. “I am only wondering if you can direct me back to the nave. I am sure the liturgy has gotten quite on by now.” 

“You don’t need the nave. You need tea. Tea alone. Liturgy is superfluous.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. If tea alone is necessary, why did you lay such a feast out?” Anastasia was sure she would be sorry for continuing this conversation.

“I didn’t lay it out,” said the middleman, sulkily, “the pagans did.”

“What pagans?”

The middleman looked at her suspiciously again, then evidently decided to confide in her. “There were seven of them, and they all wore miters and crowns. They claimed to be from the apostles, but I know better. They laid out all this stuff and put the tea in the middle where it was hard to find it. Their names were foreign, too, like Nicaea (there were two of them) and Ephesus and Chalcedon. So you see, there is only tea here!” he concluded confidently.

“Surely if they laid you such a feast, they were trying to be generous at least,” said Anastasia, 

“Ah, I think you are a Jesuit,” said the middleman, his eyes growing wide.

Just then an owl flew down from a tree and began stomping through the feast things, kicking dishes off the table. The middleman pretended not to notice. The owl arrived at the end of the table where Anastasia was sitting and hooted in her face.

“My, you are rude!” said Anastasia.

“I must be,” declared the owl, “to such a wretched creature as yourself!”

“And how do you know I am so wretched?”

“Of course you are wretched! You are breathing, are you not? All things that breathe are wretched.” Then the owl turned to the middleman. “I shall have some tea.” 

“Granted, you shall have some tea,” the middleman bowed. “Will you take sugar in it?”

“Wretch!” hooted the owl, “It is tea alone. TEA ALONE! Tea alone, tea alone . . .” and he repeated those two words in a singsong voice for some time, until he appeared to run down.

“Please,” said an e.asperated Anastasia, “does either of you know the way back to the nave?”

“She is rather dull, don’t you think?” quipped the middleman to the owl.

“Quite dull,” agreed the owl. “Should we tell her the truth?”

“By all means,” said the middleman, surreptitiously spooning sugar into his tea as the owl turned to talk to Anastasia.

“First, you must know how wise I am,” began the owl, importantly.

“Must I?” asked Anastasia.

“Indeed you must, or you shall not know how important are the things I am about to tell you!

Anastasia tried to keep a smile on her face, but she had to strain to keep it from turning into a laugh. She had a strong feeling about the things she was about to be told, and she was sure it was not in accord with the owl’s opinion.

“I,” said the owl, “am wiser than history. I know this, because I know how things must have happened, yet history will not agree with me. I am wiser than all the doctors. I know this because I know what they really meant to say, when in fact they said something quite different. I am wiser than all the saints and martyrs and quite a lot wiser than any of the major domos.” The owl cocked his head toward Anastasia. “And do you know why I am so wise?”

Anastasia smiled noncommittally, which the owl evidently took as an entreaty to continue, “I am wiser than all of them because I drink only tea. 

“Hear hear!” cried the middleman.

“Hear what?” asked the owl.

“Here is your tea.”

“Quite in your debt, I am sure. Did you remember to send some over to the library? They are probably running out by now.” The owl turned to Anastasia again. “We supply the tea for the library, and they are coming along quite nicely.”

Suddenly the owl dropped his cup and began to thrash his wings wildly. “There is a tea bag in my cup!” he cried.

“Well, certainly there is,” said the middleman. “How else would you know that it was tea?”

“Its tea alone that I want,” cried the owl, “and you are giving me bags!”

The two of them began to argue about the validity of tea bags. Anastasia glanced about to see if any path looked as if it might return her to the nave. She saw the tablecloth at the edge of the wood. It rose, as if there were an arm beneath it beckoning her, and suddenly the white bird she had chased into the vestry emerged and flew off down a certain path. Leaving the two creatures quarreling over their tea, she ran after the bird.

Chapter V: Ecclesialand Labor

The bird led Anastasia a merry chase through the woods on a path that seemed well worn. It flew into the trees, and Anastasia lost sight of it. She pondered where to turn, for she was at the intersection of several paths. 

All at once, she heard snuffling sounds and looked to see a large furry animal coming. The animal caught sight of her and partly ran, partly waddled, and partly pounced toward her.

“Hug me?” it cried.

“Excuse me?” asked Anastasia, not at all sure she would want to hug the beast, since its fur appeared rather sticky, as if drizzled with Karo syrup.

“Hug me!” cried the beast again. “Don’t you feeeeeeeeeel like it?” It ran the word “feel” on so long that Anastasia admired its lung capacity.

“Why should I hug you?” asked Anastasia, tired of being bossed around by the creatures here in Ecclesialand.

“You don’t feeeeeeeeeeee . . . mmmmph!” said the beast, because Anastasia had grabbed its snout in vexation and clamped its mouth shut.

“I shan’t hug you. I do not know why you should want me to. My feelings are not for discussion at the moment.” Then Anastasia let go of her grip on the snout. The creature snuffled a little sourly.

“I,” it said, looking up at the trees, “am a Buscaglia beast. I like to feel things.”

“Yes,” said Anastasia, not wishing it to be depressed, “I imagine you do. It is just that at the moment I am searching for the way back to the nave.” 

“How do you feel about that?” asked the Buscaglia beast. 

Anastasia ignored the question and tried to make her case more directly, “Do you know the way back to the nave?” she asked.

“Hug me first,” said the beast with an inane grin.

Gritting her teeth, Anastasia hugged it quickly. To her surprise the fur was soft and not sticky at all. The beast grinned even more foolishly.

“Well?” asked Anastasia.

“Well, there you are.” said the beast.

“Where?” asked Anastasia.

“Anywhere you want to be. My hugs are magic.”

“But this is not the nave.” Anastasia was getting cross again.

“It is,” said the beast, looking about in all directions, grinning, “a beautiful day. Don’t you feel swell? 

Anastasia turned on her heel and walked away.

“One road,” called the beast after her, “leads to the house of Mother Kirk, who can certainly tell you where the nave is. The other road leads back to me.”

“Which road leads where?”

“I’ve never been there. Hug me.”

Anastasia walked away. She walked on until she found two people loading a wagon. At least, that had been the original idea, but they were going about it in a crazy manner. One of them would load a box and the other would move that box to another position, throwing the load completely off balance and knocking another box off the wagon. They were both dressed in elaborate costumes, one wearing bib overalls and a shapeless red cap and the other dressed in an expensive business suit which he had to keep brushing off. 

When they noticed Anastasia, the one in overalls stopped to say, “Its his fault you know. He is going about this all fifteenth-century-ish.”

“Modernist!” cried the one in the suit, flinging a box off the top. “How, oh how, shall we ever get this wagon on the pilgrimage.”

Anastasia noticed she still had in her hands the book from the library. On the cover, it said, “READ ME.” She opened it to an illustration of the wagon perfectly loaded, with full instructions on how to load it.

“Would this help?” she asked, offering the book.

“My dear, that book is positively twelfth-century-ish” cried the one in overalls.

“That book is full of modernisms,” said the one in the suit.

“It’s repressive!”

“Untraditional!”

“Restrictive!”

“Not authoritative!”

They kept up until Anastasia saw the bird fly out from under the wagon and onward down the path. As she followed it, she noted the sign on the side of the wagon: “LITURGY MOVERS-LET US MOVE YOU IN CIRCLES.”

Chapter VI: Mother Kirk’s Palace

Anastasia followed the bird for a short way to a turn in the road, then she lost sight of it again. Before her was a sight to take the breath away, a palace with hundreds of roofs. 

One part had stone towers with gargoyles, another had a brightly painted onion dome, another was pitched steeply and thrust a cross high into the sky, while another part was all red tile and clerestory windows-and on and on.

“Someone really has Catholic tastes,” said Anastasia.

In the lawn before the palace were gardeners planting fig trees and grapevines and magnolias and all sorts of shade plants over people who looked uncomfortably hot. In the midst of them was the possum, with his sheet on again, wandering around trying to scare people by shouting “BOO!” No one paid him much mind here.

One poor old soul, who had just had a grape arbor planted about her, said to Anastasia, “You’d best go in dear. You look as though you have questions, and Mother Kirk is really clever with answers.”

So Anastasia went into the palace. She entered through a shabby little door, seemingly more suited to a sheepfold than a wondrous palace such as this, but it only served to make the palace more marvelous to Anastasia. Inside the door was a great hall, with much going on. The animals she had met earlier were all scurrying about doing extraordinary things, along with the .asps and the chess pieces, and they were constantly tripping up the servants, who wore fantastic livery. 

At the end of the hall sat a woman on a throne. She was quite mirthful in appearance, even though the dodo and the chess bishop each had hold of an arm and seemed to be trying to pull her apart.

“No, the throne should be this way,” cried the bishop trying to pull to the right.

“That way is totally archaic!” cried the dodo, pulling to the left.

“Stop that!” cried a servant, stepping forward from the crowd (Anastasia had crept quite near the throne and could hear everything going on).

“Don’t tell them to stop that. You haven’t the right!” said another servant, stepping forward.

“I am the butler, and I keep this house in order,” said the first servant.

“I am the major domo of the east wing, and I say you are acting without proper warrant,” said the other servant, crossing his arms, which caused him to drop the tray he had been carrying. It hit the floor with an alarming clang that seemed to make no impression on the crowd.

“He is the butler!” cried another servant. To the butler he said, “Show her your contract. It says you are the boss.”

“It does not,” said the major domo, “It says he is supposed to be my servant!”

Anastasia tried to see the document they were squabbling over, but it had been overwritten many times in many different hands, and she could make neither heads nor tails of it.

“You should both stop squabbling and hire some maids,” chimed in a third servant.

“I am not a maid!” cried a maid, ” I am a major domo!”

“Children.” It was a sweet, low voice, but it sent everyone quiet. 

“It is time to go outside and help the gardeners. Go- shoo. ” The woman on the throne had spoken.

Most of the servants and animals went outside (with varying degrees of enthusiasm), but a few remained in the back, stopping their ears and trying not to look at the woman on the throne. 

“Hello Anastasia. I am Mother Kirk,” said the woman. She smiled sweetly, and it took Anastasia’s breath. Her dress was simple, but she wore it like a queen.

“Don’t be frightened, but, the next time you hear me speak to my children, remember that it applies to you also.” Mother Kirk smiled again. “I daresay you are confused with all the goings-on here in Ecclesialand? Well, don’t be. Most will go out and help the gardeners when they are told. The rest I must work on with patience.”

“Please, ma’am, I should like to go out and help the gardeners, but I think I need to get back to the nave. Liturgy is going on,” said Anastasia. 

“You are quite right. Helping the gardeners is hard work, and you must be well nourished to do it. Do not mind the squabbling. When my husband comes home, he shall put all things in order. For now, let’s get you back to the nave. My husband’s gift will show you the way.”

With that, Mother Kirk reached into herself and pulled out the white bird. It flew out through a door. Anastasia smiled gratefully at Mother Kirk, curtsied as best she could, and ran through the door after the bird . . . 

. . . and the baby on her lap grew restless and began to stir.

Anastasia blinked, shook her head, and noticed her husband smiling secretly to himself while looking at her from the corner of his eye.

The congregation began to sing, and Anastasia joined in with the others:

Let those who mystically represent the Cherubim 
And sing the thrice-holy hymn 
To the life-creating Trinity 
Now set aside all earthly cares, 
Set aside all earthly cares.

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