Who is Silvia? What is she,
That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair, and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her,
That she might admirèd be.
Will Shakespeare never had the chance meet my friend Sylvia Patterson-Scott who helped me to write The Gospel According to George, but I'd like to introduce her to you. Sylvia and I met in 1983, when my family was preparing to move to Mozambique (see my bio page). She and her husband, Beverly, a violist with the Indianapolis Symphony, had joined my home church in Indianapolis. They invited us—the missionaries—for dinner and, to our great delight after our years in Brazil, served Costa Rican black beans and rice.
The idea for The Gospel According to George came to me at a Messiah sing-along at Yale University several years ago. The beautiful hall was crowded with enthusiastic music lovers who brought their own scores or bought one at the door. The soloists were exquisite, the music powerful.
The Chinese graduate student sitting next to me had never heard the oratorio before; she only knew that it was famous. She didn’t sing, but as a Christian, she came along to find out what all the excitement was about. At the intermission she turned to me. “Do all these people believe what they are singing?” she asked in an awed voice. Sadly, I had to confess that most loved the music but had no idea what it was about. After that I couldn’t shake the idea of a book to take Messiah-lovers beyond the music to grasp the depth and breadth of the story Handel told.
It wasn’t like I had never seen a crucifixion before. Of course I had. Even as a child in Gaul, I had witnessed executions. My grandfather died resisting the legions. My grandmother still hates them. My mother does not. At least, she married my father, a legionary from northern Italy who took his parcel of land along the banks of the Somme when he retired and married her.
No, I, Decimus Longinus, Centurion of the Tenth Legion, had seen many crucifixions over the years. This wasn’t even the first I had carried out. It was part of the job when you were a Roman centurion—a part I would like to forget. For some reason, the locals never seem to take kindly to Roman rule, no matter the improvements Rome brings in roads, baths, aqueducts, and free trade.
The little procession approached the city gate jammed with pilgrims come for the local Passover feast—something about their invisible god “passing over” houses with blood on the doorposts.
Blood. Gruesome thing to celebrate.
As far as I could tell, it was some kind of commemoration of their independence from…Egypt maybe? A thousand years ago. As long they focused on the distant past, it made no difference to me.
“Move along!” I shouted in a vain attempt to clear the way.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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