As we kneel before those acting as channels for our great line of Masters, we each one pray aloud, “I seek purification by the grace of God.” And the answer comes, “The Master says, ‘Open your heart to me, and I will enter and take charge of your life.’”
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The Roman emperor Tiberius, whose rule encompassed the final years of the life of Jesus, sank in his later years into a violent paranoia. Striking out in all directions against foes real and imagined, Tiberius became universally feared and detested. Only the aged nurse of his childhood was safe from his irrational suspicion. Berenice had watched over his rise to power, his years of capable leadership, and his descent into cruelty and madness. In these dark years Berenice was the only one he trusted, the only one who could speak frankly and so help to moderate the emperor’s excesses.
Naturally devout, Berenice turned often in prayer to the gods of Rome on behalf of her emperor — who was to her also friend and child of her heart. But the day came when even her beneficent influence could not penetrate the emperor’s embattled mind and heart. Thinking her abrupt departure might shock Tiberius awake from his long nightmare of fear and retribution, Berenice returned to the Sabines, the mountains of her childhood home, there to grieve, but there also to keep alive a spark of hope for Tiberius’s return to sanity and righteous rule.
When word of Tiberius came to Berenice, living so far from well-traveled roads, seeing only mountain shepherds for weeks on end, she felt in her heart the beginning of an answer to her prayer. Tiberius had been stricken with leprosy and had in only a few months been so crippled that he could not stand and could barely see. Hidden away at his palace in Capri, the emperor — in an agony of fear that he would be poisoned — drove away all his retinue and neither ate nor slept.
Her heart overflowing with love, Berenice made the arduous journey, knelt by Tiberius’s side, and took his ravaged head in her lap. For the first time in many months Tiberius felt safe, and slept. Holding in her arms this suffering shell of the one she had nursed from childhood, Berenice told Tiberius of the story that had come to her, of a miracle healer, known as the prophet of Nazareth, one who was said to have the power to cure any disease, even the dreaded leprosy.
And so Berenice, ninety years old but made strong by her devotion to Tiberius, made the journey to Palestine, seeking the one who could heal her emperor. When she finally came upon the one she sought, what she beheld was nothing like the shining prophet of her hopeful imaginings. Lying before her in the road was a man covered in blood, his lacerated body pinned beneath a heavy wooden cross. Ignoring the screaming mob and the Roman soldiers driving everyone back from the fallen man, Berenice went forward to pour out her heart’s love on this tortured innocent, to lay on his face her veil of sheer fine linen, as would a mother to comfort her suffering child, to wipe away the tears and the blood. As she had opened her heart to Tiberius, surely one who had “sinned most greatly,” so now did she open her heart to this radiant soul, and in so doing felt a bliss beyond anything she had known in her long life.
Berenice returned to Tiberius and told her tale. At first the emperor scoffed at her for her credulity. But when she showed him her veil, he could descry the shadowy image of a man’s face, an image made of blood and tears, an image that gradually sharpened — until he could see as through a window in time the man’s face just as it had been, blood drops on the forehead, a crown of thorns. And as he gazed more deeply he beheld, beneath the suffering exterior, eyes sparkling with an inner sublimity and purity beyond anything he had known.
Suddenly the emperor’s armor of cynicism fell away. Falling to his knees before the image, Tiberius wept with love and compassion, his heart at last open to this image of perfect goodness, and in that moment, his terrible disfigurement vanished and he was healed.
The grace of Jesus Christ flowed into Berenice, freed her of her long grieving for her tormented friend-child-emperor, lifted her into the bliss of divine communion, and finally into awakened soul discipleship and a life of missionary service to Christ her Master. Henceforth Berenice would be known as Veronica—“true image.” Her love and prayer had opened a channel through which this same grace flowed into the cynical heart of her emperor, freeing him of the disease born of the fear and hatred that lived within him, freeing his spirit to know humility, compassion, and devotion.
“Long we feared to face Your love,
Lest our emptiness it prove.
Now at last our hearts we give You,
Who remain our Friend.”
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Those who come forward for purification, after kneeling and praying together with those acting as channels for the Masters, after opening their hearts and inviting His presence within, hear at last the glorious words of promise: “By the grace of our Masters, you are free!”
In divine friendship,
For Ananda’s “Thank You, God” Tithing