This is a story about asking “how long?”, and then waiting… waiting for something to happen. For someone to come.
[Crisp sound of footsteps walking on a sidewalk.]
She kept her eyes peeled for the sign. She had a pretty good idea of what it would look like. The wind blew cold, and she quickened her pace. She rounded the corner and looked across the street. The sign appeared one day on her walk home from work. She always walked home; no matter how cold. She told her mom it was because she needed the steps. That was a lie.
She wasn’t sure when she’d first noticed it. It was early December, sometime. It was just sort-of there one day. A big sign by the side of the road and in an abandoned lot. There had been a building there, but earlier in the year. She’d heard rumors of all sorts of things going iin its place, but everything seemed to have fallen through, which was surprising, as this was prime Chicago real estate. a month or two ago, a whole lot had been boarded up with one of thoise plywood walls that just appear around construction sites from time to time. It was big: nearly three stories high and half a block long. The only thing not covered by the sign was the church on the corner, Emmanuel Lutheran Church, who had its own dilapidated sign out front, “JOIN US”. Whatever. As you would expect, by the next morning the sign was covered in flyers and ads: bands performing in local bars, upcoming movies, take-out joints, improv teams, new albums. It became the sort of decor one just learned to ignore, living in the city. That is, until one day when the whole wall had been turned into one giant sign. It was perfectly white except for the top left-hand corner. There, painted in big block letters were the words: “How long…”
How long… That was it. Two words, followed by an ellipsis.
It was the ellipsis that grabbed her attention. She wasn’t sure why, but there had always been something about an ellipsis that filled her imagination with a sense of hope, and a sense of possibility. ‘Period’ was so complete; so final. But an ellipsis – just two more dots – suggested more was coming, and invited you to wonder, to ponder, to fill in the blanks on your own. It invited creativity, whereas a period, or even an exclamation mark, put an end to it.
So every night as she walked home from work she found her eyes drifting to the sign. How long… how long… How long until what? Her mind raced with the possibilities. The cynic in her figured it was a marketing stunt; how long until the new GAP or Banana Republic, or a paper store, or whatever, would open up beyond the wall. But as the days passed, she found her mind filling in the blanks on her own.
How long… how long until she found a real job, how long would she be waiting tables, how long would she pursue theater, and her dreams? How long could she hold out? And if she didn’t do this, then what? How long would she put off her mom? Her mom called every night. And every night she let the call go to voicemail. Every night she sent a text apologizing for missing the call, and promising they would talk, soon… soon. Whatever that was. She snorted “how long”.
It was probably the question her mom was asking: how long would she have to wait until her daughter came home. Well, didn’t ~she~ know? Didn’t her mother know how much her daughter wanted to be home? Didn’t she know her daughter missed home? Didn’t she know her daughter was alone in this stupid city, that she was trying, and failing, and alone? But that she had nothing else? She shook her head. She didn’t need to know how long. She needed to know what to ~do~; she needed money. She needed the ability to actually change something in her life. She was stuck. She knew it. She needed to ~know~ what to change, and how to change it.
And then, on December 17th, everything ~did~ change. Just not in the way she would have expected.
It started when she was expecting to see the sign. It was there, but it was different. In the upper left-hand corner were still the words ‘How long’ followed by that ellipsis, but now on the other end of the block there was a giant circle. Well, the more she looked at it, the less it looked like a circle and the more it looked like a giant ‘O’. A well-painted script-like O.
It reminded her of medieval paintings; the sort of things she’d seen in museums or in textbooks. Pictures of ancient, hand scripted texts where the first letter on the page would be giant and colorful, with things coming out of it. The sort of things she would expect to see with Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales, or, maybe in the Bible? This was the same sort of thing: a giant letter ‘O’; ornate and beautiful.
Inside of it at the top was a bird, a bird flying straight down towards what looked like, well, it looked like a giant ‘P’, stabbing an X? Underneath the murderous PX was what appeared to be a poem, but the poem was in some type of foreign language. Some [letters] looked stenciled, others painted, others hand-drawn. The biggest was written above, and said: “How long will we have to wait for wisdom?”
Good question. By the looks of this messed-up world, a long time.
She began reading the questions; thinking, pondering, wondering… lost. Until, auddenly, the sound of a guitar pulled her out of her reverie. She looked up and noticed for the first time that at the end of the block, just before the church, was a young girl. She couldn’t have been more than nine or ten. She was sitting on a folding chair outside in the snow, holding a guitar. The sound of the guitar was inviting, yet dim. But somehow it still pierced the wind and the noise of the city.
Actually, that was the moment when she realized she couldn’t ~hear~ any noises. She looked around, and the cars were stopped. People were stopped. Everyone was looking, and listening. The song the girl was playing was familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it. It was a Christmas song, but not one of the major ones; it wasn’t Silent Night or Jingle Bell Rock, or even Santa Baby. But it ~definitely was~ a Christmas song. The little girl played it twice, and when she finished it, everyone clapped. As they clapped, she stood up and handed her guitar to a nearby man.
Now that the girl was standing, she was amused to know that they were wearing identical clothes, the classic garb of a waitress: black pants, white blouse – in this case, button-down. The girl even had the same half-apron thing that she herself always wore at work. From the front pocket, the place where she always kept her notepad and pen, the little girl took out a stack of small cards and began to hand them out to all the passers-by. While she did this, a woman came out and stood where the little girl had been playing. She was wearing the same waitress uniform. She stood alone in the cold, shivering but smiling, and began to recite:
“O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightiliy ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.”
Eventually the little girl made her way over and handed ~her~ a card. It was a plain white card identical to the sign, but on the back, in neatly typed letters, it said: “Please join us tomorrow as we wait”, and below that, what appeared to be a QR code. She fumbled for her phone, the phone on which she missed yet another call from her mother, and scanned the code. An app downloaded called “How Long…”. Should she open this? Should she trust this? Was this going to hack her phone then – oh heck with it!
The app asked for access to her camera: she clicked ‘Allow’. A screen appeared that looked like the back of the card, plain white with the words “Please join us tomorrow as we wait”, but this time, below the words was a button that read “Read the poem”. She clicked the button. Her camera opened. What was this? She looked around. Many people had left, cars were driving again, but there were still a lot of people there. She could see that she wasn’t the only person there fumbling with the card and her phone, looking confused. But there were a number of people holding their phone up, pointing it at the wall, taking pictures. She held hers up and scanned the sign. As she did so, she hovered over the foreign poetry and the letters began to move in her camera. ~The poem translated itself.~ It went from gobbledygook to the English poem she had just heard. This was awesome! It was a riddle. Here she was, walking home in the midst of an existential crisis, minding her own business, ~ignoring~ the world around her, and, somehow, she had walked right into some giant – game? Some real-life puzzle?
And it wasn’t over. This ‘game’ wanted her to come back tomorrow, and, ~wait~. But wait for what? Were we just supposed to show up and be a bunch of… waiters? Waiters! Ha! She got it. ~That’s~ a dumb joke. Everyone dressed as a waiter because… dumb! But, kind of cool, too. Well, maybe tomorrow she would come by, depending on when she got out of work. Never could tell.
December 18th, 5PM. In the middle of her shift, her phone pinged. ‘Pinged’ wasn’t quite the right word; ‘chimed’ would have been better. A giant church bell she didn’t know was in her pocket rang once would have been a better description. The “How long…” app had a notification. Great. What had she gotten herself into? She didn’t have time for this!
She opened the app, meaning to look for some way of disabling notifications, but glanced at the notification quickly: it was just two words: “Four hours”. Four hours?
Then at 6:23 it pinged again: “Two hours and thirty-seven minutes”.
So, she was guessing that was supposed to mean to try and come back at 9. The church in her pocket chimed again: “Yes, that means nine o’clock”.
Okay, that was just getting weird. Funny, yes, but weird. Of course, she liked both funny and weird, so, at a quarter to 9 she came around the corner. The sign was still there. In the upper left-hand corner the words “How long” followed by that ellipsis still beckoned her forward. The giant O with the bird was still there, but next to it was a new picture. This was also a giant O, but within the O was a mountain with thunder and lightning and two rocks covered in Roman numerals. Below the picture was a new poem.
She couldn’t be sure, but if she had to guess, she imagined that this was the same foreign language as the one from before. In front of the sign was a man. She couldn’t tell how old he was from where he stood, but if she had to guess, he was in his sixties, maybe seventies? He was dressed in the same wait staff uniform: black and white button down that the little girl had been wearing the night before. He sat in a folding chair, holding an oboe. Just then her phone began to chime. She pulled the phone out of her pocket and saw that it was the app. It was 9 o’clock. The church bells on her phone rang nine times. But it wasn’t just from her phone: from all around her she heard bells ringing in unison with her phone. So she wasn’t the only returning guest. It ~wasn’t everyone~; there were pockets of people ringing, and others looking around in bewilderment. Ha! You snooze, you lose! For once in her life she was on the ~inside~ of something.
As the bells finished ringing the man stood up and began to play his oboe. The reedy sound pierced through the wind. It was undeniably the same melody as the night before, but in the hands of the oboe, it was somehow completely different: inviting, yet haunting.
Like the night before, when he finished he pulled out a stack of cards and began bringing them to all the people gathered round. As he did this, more waiters emerged from the church and joined him, walking through the crowd and handing out cards. Last to emerge was the woman from the night before. She walked out and began reciting in a voice that somehow pierced the cold darkness:
“O Adonai, and ruler of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him The Law on Sinai, come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.”
Something about the words bothered her. Lord, ruler, law. They sounded so – final. So ~uninviting~. As the man approached, her phone buzzed. Her mother. Let it go to voicemail. She would call – soon.
Thanking the man for the card, she examined what was in her hand. Once again it was a plain white card that looked identical to the sign, but on the back, in neatly typed letters, it said: “Please join us tomorrow as we wait”. Well, maybe she would. But first she opened the app and scrolled the camera over the poem: she wanted to see the translation. She marvelled as the letters rearranged themselves and went from nonsense to the poem. Quickly she scanned through the words of the translation: Moses, Israel, Law. This was some kind of church thing. This was some kind of a scam! Of ~course~ it was, it was happening right there, next to that old church! She should have known! It was all just some way of drumming up business.
She left in disgust.
December 19th. At 5:30, her phone chimed. “Four hours”. Her boss walked in and reminded her to have her phone on ‘silent’ during work. Oh, and they were going to need her to stay late tonight; no chance she would leave before 10.
At 6:53, it pinged again. “Two hours and thirty-seven minutes”. Huh. 9:30 tonight. The church in her pocket chimed again. “Yes. That means 9:30”. She’d be at work. Oh well, the whole thing was dumb, anyway.
December 20th. At 9:30AM her phone chimed. Oh, for crying out loud! What kind of stupid app was this thing? She grabbed for her ophone, intent on delting the app once and for all, but as she grabbed the phone, her eye caught the text: “Radix Jesse”. Underneath was a button: “Push to see”. She stared at it for a moment. She didn’t really care, but, but, she pushed the button. Inside the O this time was a tree stump. At first glance the stump looked dead, but there were branches growing out of the stump: branches with leaves. Life. And the artist had added a cross-section to the ground underneath. The roots went deep. They looked strong. They reached down and out, forming a ‘T’, or a cross. Oh, who was she kidding? It was clearly a cross. These ~were~ Jesus people. She pushed the image wondering if she could expand it and the image faded into the words of the poem, this time clearly in English:
“O root of Jesse, standing as an ensign before the peoples, before whom all kings are mute; whom the nations will do homage: come quickly, and deliver us.”
Root? Of Jesse? What in the world was that all about? And what does it mean to be an ensign before the peoples? Although she had to admit she liked the image of a mute king. If you asked her, the kings of the world ~needed~ to learn how to shut up.
The church bell in her hand chimed, bringing her attention back to the phone. The poem had disappearred, and a new text appeared: “We missed you last night”. What? How did it know? This thing had just left cool and taken a quick trip to Crazytown. Was this thing tracking her? Did it know where she went? She took a deep breath. Maybe, maybe, but it could also just be a proximity thing: it can know if the app is nearby. Either way, this was getting too weird for her. “Please join us tonight at 10 as we wait. Or if you would prefer, click this button to delete”. Her thumb hovered over the delete button. Well, they were creepy Christians, but at least they were polite.
At quarter-to-ten that night, she came around the corner.
“Clavis David”? She couldn’t read any of the other words in the poem. The word ‘David’ seemed fairly self-explanatory, and if she had to guess, based on the pictures, she’d guess Clavis had something to do with a key, or a lock. She didn’t even wait for the new card. She fumbled in her pocket for phone; two missed calls, one missed text: “Soon.” Soon.
A woman about the age of her mother stood in front of the sign, with a French horn. She began playing the same tune. She used the app to translate the poem even as the woman from the other night came out to recite:
“O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel: you open and no one can close. You close and no one can open. Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.”
Open and close, close and open? She’d been right, this was a riddle. Some sort of puzzle that only Christians can answer. Well, she knew some Christians.
December 21st. The phone rang so long she was certain it would go to voicemail, “Dad?”
“Pumpkin, it’s so good to hear your voice. Hold on, let me go get your mom.”
“No! I mean, no.”
“Pumpkin, why not? She’s worried about you. I’m worried about you. She just wants to hear your voice to know you’re okay-”
“But I don’t really have time tonight, I’m just on a break at work, but I – I’ll call soon. I – I’ll talk to her.”
“I love you. Your mother loves you.”
“I know. I just have a quick question.”
“Yes?” “Well, I think it’s a church question.”
“You ~think~ it’s a church question. Well, you have me intrigued.”
“Well, it’s just that I’m pretty sure the church is doing the whole thing in the app… Oh, uh, yeah, you see, apps are things you download to your phone.”
“I know what apps are. Your mother and I are old, but not that old. She can still use a phone to figure out when I leave work and when I get home. No, I’m just not making sense of what app you’re talking about.”
“Well, that’s just the thing. I don’t really know, it just keeps using churchy words, but I think it’s like a puzzle. It starts out in a foreign language, and then if you use the phone, you can read the English, and they’re playing a song that sounds so familiar. Tonight it’s saxophone, it sounds kinda jazzy, but last night it sounded all classy, and I missed the one the night before that, but then the oboe was really haunting, and I know the song, but I can’t remember what it is. But it’s definitely something from Christmastime at church, and I just need to figure this whole thing out, and you guys know more about this stuff than I do, and I figured you could help, or at least tell me what to look up, because the whole thing is almost familiar, but not quite, and whatever it is, it’s old!”
“I could be wrong, but I don’t think that I even understand a single word you just said.”
“It’s hard to explain…”
“Yes, I can tell. Try again. I’ve got the time.”
“well. There’s this big sign, and it keeps changing every day, and the sign is right next to this church, and there are people who come out every night – I think from the church – and they sing, and hand out cards, inviting everyone outside to come back the next day. And each day there’s a poem in some foreign language, but if you use the app, you can read the poem in English.”
“Ahhh… What’s the poem for today?”
“Hold on, let me read it to you.”
“Wait, not while you’re at work.”
“Dad! I’m on break! I had to come down and see what it said today. Anyway, it says: ‘O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting, come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.’ Do you know what that is?”
“Actually, I think I do. Tell me, the picture, is it something like a sun, with a cross or something?”
“Yes! It looks like a mountain range with a sun rising or setting, I’m not sure which, and then this PX thing, in the middle.”
“How did you know?”
“Sounds like you found a church who we agree with about antiphons. But the song is O Come O Come Emmanuel.”
“That’s the song! That’s been driving me crazy! How did you know?”
“Because the song is based on the O antiphons.”
“What’s an antiphon?”
“It’s like a short poem that they would chant way back in the day.”
“And, so this ~is~ an old thing, like from the middle ages?”
“Oh, much older than that. The O antiphons date back to the early 6th century? There are seven of them, and they were used in worship the week before Christmas. Each is based on the name of the promised Messiah. For Jesus. And each comes from the old testament book of Isaiah, I think.”
“Great. That’s exactly what I needed. Thanks! Gotta go, sorry dad, gotta go.”
December 22nd, 10:30PM. Once she knew what to look for, it wasn’t much of a puzzle. And dad was pretty much right. These were the O antiphons, and there was a lot about them, right out there on the internet. These poems dated back to sometime in the early sixth century. Monks would pray them every week leading into Christmas. There were references to them in just about every century the church had existed. Lots of churches still use them; mostly ‘formal’ churches: Catholics, and Anglicans, and people like that. So she guessed that maybe her parents were doing it too: her parents were Lutheran. From what she could tell, it was like being a hybrid. Half the time when she went to church they seemed all formal, all smells and bells. The other half the time they were all hippie-happy-clappy. Personally, she wasn’t really anything. Labels were so… final. So closed. So uninviting.
She shivered. Each night they were starting later. Her phone buzzed. She felt guilty, but ignored it. Let it go to voicemail; she’d called – sort of.
She looked up at the new painting, a crown with two letters next to it. She was ahead of the game this time. She knew what those were. An Alpha and Omega: the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet – which made sense, because the Bible – or at least parts of it – were written in Greek. The strange part was the other language. She had found out that it was Latin. Why people wrote it in latin, she would never know.
A man stood in the snow in front of the sign with a double bass beside him. The cold must be hard on an instrument like that! Why would someone ~do~ that to their instrument! What could be worth it? The church bells began to chime all around her, and the man took his bow out of a small case slung to the front of the bass, and began to play. It was the same tune she had heard every night – one she could now name: O Come O Come Emmanuel. But once again, it sounded completely different. The low tones sounded m ournful, yet majestic. Appropriate. O Rex Chantium, O king of nations. She’d cheated. She already knew how the poem translated, and this time, as the man brought cards to everyone, she used her phone to read the translation: “O king of the nations, and the ruler they long for, the cornerstone uniting all people: come and save us all whom you formed out of clay. King of nations, come and save us.”
She had to admit, Christians would probably do a lot better if they talked like this. Uniting people instead of controlling people. This, this is what people long for – it’s WHO they long for. For someone to bring them together.
“Please join us tomorrow as we wait.”
December 23rd, 11PM. Monks would gather. So here she was, part of this long line, one person in a long chain of people dating back 2,000 years, who on this day had paused and prayed for the coming of… of… Who?The personification of wisdom? Or some cure for national discord? Some promised descendant of a king? Some Arthurian Tolkien-like return of a king? But it was more than that: this predated Lord of the Rings. This predated King Arthur. Heck, this even predated Jesus! It didn’t make sense, but there you were. These words might have stemmed from the early sixth century, but they were quoting something from hundreds of years before Jesus was born. They were the longers of the Israelites in exile as they read the words of the prophet Isaiah, and yet, somehow, they had become the words of Christians after Jesus had supposedly fulfilled all these prophecies!
She stepped up. Her heart was racing. This was ridiculous. She felt like she was peeking in on some Dan Brown conspiracy, some secret cult with the truth the church had been hiding from everyone, and she was somehow just getting a glimpse of it. Her eyes fell down on the embossed invitation. Well that was the difference! This wasn’t some controlling cult. This was an invitation. Come, join us. This was just church. This was stupid. They were just trying to get her in the door. This was all part of this church’s scam; it was all a big secret plot to, to – what?
The band played. She looked at the app, ready to translate the poem, but this time, this time it said something different. “Ero Cross. Tomorrow, I will come.”
Who did they possibly think they were going to get with something like this? Who comes out in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve? Who traipses all over town by themselves in the freezing cold on one night in a year when every store an every restaurant is closed and everyone is at home cozeying up with their family?
Someone with no family.
Someone all alone.
Someone with no place to go.
Someone just like… she grabbed her coat.
December 24th. She kept her eyes peeled for the sign. She had a pretty good idea of what it would look like. The wind blew cold, and she quickened her pace. She rounded the corner and looked across the street. “Ero Cross. Tomorrow I will come.” There were people everywhere. some were standing in clumps of two or three, but many – not most – were standing on their own, looking at the sign, taking it in. Waiting for something to happen.
But this time, there were no waiters in front of the sign. The phone in her pocket chimed the now=familiar chime of the app. She could hear the same sound coming from all around her. Chrurch bells ringing. Not from the building, but from purses, and pockets… from people.
And then she heard the voice. It came from a woman standing all alone in front of the church. Like those who had come before her, she was dressed as a waitress, her hair pulled back and tucked under a knit cap. But the woman wore no coat. Her voice rang out, piercing the darkness.
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel,
Ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”
When the woman finished, the night was silent. Then, distantly, people were singing in the church, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” The doors of the church opened and light pierced the darkness as people streamed into the streets. Each person wore a waitstaff uniform, dressed as servers. Each carried a tray.
“Let earth receive her King.”
The waiters stopped as they came to people on the streets and she could see that people were each taking something from the tray.
“Let every heart prepare Him room.”
People in the crowd began walking toward the open church doors, entering. Some stood indecisively just outside. Others began to go away. But the majority entered.
“And heaven and nature sing.”
She was staring so intently at the scene that she didn’t even notice the waitress approaching on her left until the waitress was talking to her. Would you like a cup of hot cocoa, asked the server. She looked at the tray before her: it was filled with cups of hot cocoa. Without thinking, she took one.
“The wait is over”, said the server. “The feast has begun. We have more than enough food and there is room for you to join our celebration. Please, come in.”
She didn’t know what to say. But then she heard a voice on her left, someone had walked right up to her without her noticing.
“I don’t know about you”, said the voice hesitantly, “but I’m pretty hungry. Being on the road all day will do that to you.”
It was her mom. They walked in, together.
Note from @EatingToAscend:
I am overjoyed that the Lutheran denomination, which was my formative church from birth to age 15, has come forward with this rapture parable, in spite of the restrictions on discussing it which come from the top down, the top of the pyramid which oversees churches and media and what can be professed. It really is true that there is a total rapture cover-up, and all the churches – almost – are ‘in on it’, or they lose their 501c3 funding, or even worse. So when I heard just the end of this yesterday, flipping the radio on to listen to the weather report I heard just the end, and downloaded and transcribed this parable written by Jason Broge today, for my readers. I am sure that it will be a comfort to all who are waiting for the Wedding feast to begin, as Our King Christ Jesus calls us from the clouds and we hear the trumpet of God blown by the Archangel Gabriel. NASA has informed us sotto vocco that a massive CME is coming tomorrow, December 27th (2022). Enoch was translated during Hanukkah, named after him, meaning celebration.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
LOVE IS SERVICE.
“the truth the church had been hiding from everyone…”, what the protagonist in the story said.
“Except they see signs they will not believe.”
THIS IS THE SIGN YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR.
The verses from Isaiah: Emmanuel – Isaiah 7:14, Wisdom – Proverbs 1:20-21, O Lord – Isaiah 33:22, Jesse’s Stem – Romans 15:12, Key of David – Isaiah 22:22, Dayspring – Isaiah 9:2, King of nations – Isaiah 9:6
Also sung each day as “O Antiphons”, December 17-23.
December 26, 2022 - Laura Rohrer Little Brooks, Ps. https://EatingToAscend.com | https://TheAscensionDiet.com https://AscensionOffgrid.com | https://TheImperfectCapitalist.com https://Elocutrix.com | https://TeaAndTwilightCircus.com Ways you can support this soul-saving ministry include: Sharing articles and links Reading my books Join my Patreon https://patreon.com/TheAscensionDiet Donate via Paypal: firstname.lastname@example.org Donate via Stripe: email@example.com Also Wise.com, account: P26824048 As an Amazon Affiliate, qualified purchases support this ministry. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LauraRohrer Little Brooks and The Ascension Diet - Eating To Ascend with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. © EatingToAscend.com, 2018 - 2022