I had known that it was happening. Or, if not known, surmised, suspected. I did not want to admit it to myself.
I had found peace again. Against all my expectations. Tranquility. Happiness, even? Dare I admit it? Yes, now I will say it. Before I feared, perhaps, to acknowledge it, even to myself. Always when I had known happiness and contentment before, something had occurred to snatch it away from me. But I had grown happy in those years after my escape from Rome. Even without my Samaethea and my friends.
When I’d fled Rome, glistening, corrupt, beautiful Babylon that she is, I’d gone home. Not to the lands of the Marmorca. Nothing remained for me there. All those whom I’d loved amongst their number were dead at the time I had left them, save for Oran, and I half expected, if I had chosen to go back, that I would have found him deceased as well. Also I could only expect that the Romans would come after me, seek to recapture me, and where would they search if not in the place they had first found me? My presence among the Marmorca would guarantee the attention of their enemies. If the Centurions returned to the land once and found no sign of me there, perhaps they would not return again. I could but hope, and pray.
No, I returned to my first home, to Arcadia. Nothing waited for me there, either, but God willing the Romans would not hunt for me there. I sought respite from pursuit, expected nothing more. God surprised me. As Job had lost all, all family, and had it restored to him, so did I. God bestowed on me a new family to replace the one that I had lost—not that any could replace it, in full, but they served as a balm to my grief, all the same. As food to an empty stomach, these filled me heart, not to its capacity, as it had known fullness among the Marmorca, with Samaethea, but enough to ease, if not alleviate, my sufferings from loneliness.
Returning to that land of dark forests and laughing birds and thick ferns, I found that the tiny Christian enclave I had known as a child had grown into a thriving community. They had established a town, which they called Gilead. What’s more, a traveling bishop had established a colony of ascetics there, and these men, upon hearing my tale, welcomed me with open arms.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Henceforth in the narrative I will use the appellation “monks” to refer to this group, as it is evident from the reading that this is what they were, although Christopher never refers to them as such. To the modern reader, the term “ascetic,” which is how Christopher describes them, has taken on a slightly different meaning than it would have carried in his time. It is also worth noting that the order had taken on certain attributes, celibacy in particular, which would become the standard for the Christian Church in the Middle Ages but were not so at the time the Confessions were written. Thus the Confessions narrative comprises one of the earliest documentations of the practice of celibacy as an enforced lifestyle. One would expect the Catholic Church of our present day, which still holds to this practice as being of primary importance, to cite with more frequency the Confessions manuscript as supportive of the same.]