by Monica Said
“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.” Revelations 6:9
I can hear the waves crashing against the shore and a tranquillity fills me. I breathe in the stinging cold air, paralysing my voice. The ocean breeze feels like a heavy blanket pushing against me, its tiny granules whipping my exposed ankles. The fresh air is a stark reminder of what it’s like to be alive. With every step, my feet sink into the wet sand dampening the rim of my orange jumpsuit.
I am led by a man clothed in black from head to toe, but I am following You. I see You ahead. Limping. Naked. Wounded. Carrying a large, wooden burden over Your bare shoulders. I watch You, oppressed, afflicted, being led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, You open not Your mouth (Is. 53:7). I watch as You stumble, getting up tirelessly every time until You collapse into near-unconsciousness. As I get closer, I can see the splinters digging into Your pale skin, moistening as they filled with Your blood. A woman rushes to You and wipes Your face with a cloth, Your blood absorbing through its yellow seams leaving behind a scarlet imprint of Your sublime face. The silence of the beach transposes into the ridiculing of a crowd, forming into a mob as they mock You, the loud muffled noise so real that it almost ruptures my eardrums. All these men and women have forsaken You – betrayed You! But I will still follow You. I will be loyal to my King.
You remained focused, walking along Via Dolorosa, while I keep my focus on You.
Love suffers long and is kind
I breathed in the invigorating air smelling of grass and manure, running freely around the field with the sheep. My uncle smiled as he watched me.
“Bishoy!”He called out to me.
“Yes Umo [uncle]”I replied obediently, immediately planting my feet into the muddy ground.
“Come, I want to show my favourite 13-year-old nephew how I prepare dinner.” He said while waving his hard-laboured arm in the air, signalling for me to follow him.
“I’m your only 13-year-old nephew” I replied, raising my eyebrows whilst broadening my smile. As we laughed, he tousled my curly black hair.
“I’ll help you. What should I do first?” I asked naively.
“Your job is to choose a lamb from the flock and bring him to me.” He said.
I stopped in my tracks. Now a few steps ahead of me, my Uncle also stopped, turned and faced me. We momentarily looked at one another in silence. I must be obedient.
I ran around the field out of breath while chasing after the sheep, stumbling and grazing whilst my uncle stood steadfast watching me. I finally took hold of a young lamb, and held him in my arms, his soft coat tickling and warming my slick fingers. I walked towards my uncle who now held a coil of rope in his hands.
“Now bind his feet with these ropes”
The handcuffs imprison my wrists, pinching the skin that remains where my Coptic Orthodox cross was tattooed. They knock against my back, the metal harmoniously clacking with my fellow brothers in the row of orange which is linked to the row of black. Although I cannot see You now, I precede to walk resolutely until we stop.
I am pushed softly into the sand allowing my weak knees to fall gracefully. The coldness of the wet Arab sand further numbs my knees, deadening my legs.
My weak body erects itself into a straight posture in Your felt presence. The commander begins speaking daggers into my ears. I can feel him waving his knife in the air, sending currents across my neck and chills down my frail spine. A whirlwind of fear encompasses me. What must I give up for my testimony…?
I tilt my head to glance at my uncle and the others kneeling on their knees staring into the distance where the dark sand meets the freshly planted grass. Behind us stand the row of slaughterers clutching the collar of our jumpsuits from the back.
I stare helplessly into the clouds. I see You facing me now.
Love bears all things,
Believes all things,
Hopes all things,
Endures all things.
The impotent lamb helplessly clicked its hooves together. My uncle laid the bound animal on the muddy grass to be slaughtered. It was innocent. Unblemished.
I sat on the grass next to the lamb with my legs crossed. I laid my hand on the lamb and as I stared into its eyes, it stared into mine. Its pupils dilated, its golden sclera now filled with twinkling black. Immediately I was filled with sympathy and distress, my chest wrenched with anxiety as my brows creased and tears uncontrollably ran down my tensed face.
It saw the terror and helplessness in my own eyes. It bent its head down in understanding.
It knew this had to be done.
I knew this had to be done.
As the thin cold metal slides effortlessly across my neck, I feel a magnetic field surrounding me, although my head is being thrust into the sand, I am rising. I am drawn towards the sky – towards You. I stare into Your calming eyes of an unexplainable colour, almost a pale blue with a tinge of orchid, beneath Your perfectly shaped golden-brown eyebrows. An overwhelming feeling of joy and peace overcomes me. As You smile at me I am blinded by the glaring of Your milky teeth so pure a white that it makes the snowy clouds look grey. But this does not offset the fluorescence of Your glowing beard, each hair lit with electricity moving in the wind elegantly like a current. Your light proliferates throughout the entire sky, filling the atmosphere and metamorphosing into sweet smelling incense. So, bright that it sears into my retinas, burning into near blindness.
I stare into Your graceful eyes as my body dissolves into the sand.
I am one of the 21.
Love never fails.
“For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17