Redeeming Aphrodite: The Sword (Part 2)

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Continued from Part 1.

I follow Jesus through the back wall of the temple, marching straight toward where the goddess awaits.

She is there, unsurprised by my presence.  Beautiful, beyond all earthly beauty.  A slight mysterious smile on her lips.  She is wreathed in a flowing gown that enhances rather than conceals her perfect figure.

“Welcome back, Ernie.  Are you here to worship?” she mouths seductively, as her gown fades to transparent.

I smile grimly, pulling a sword from my belt.

“Oh, you want to fight me?” she says in seeming mock-disappointment, as her gown turns into the hardness of diamond, though still translucent.  

“Actually…” I reverse the sword, burying the point in the ground.  It cuts through the marble like loam. “I was hoping we could become friends.”

She laughs, a deep throaty laugh.  Genuinely amused, not cruel. “Really? Surely you know I rarely make friends with mortals, and never with men.  I have much better use for them than that…” she winks.

I shrug.  “Allies, then.  Let’s talk.”

She arches an eyebrow.  I’ve made her curious.  She mutes her robe, snaps her fingers, and a table and two chairs appear.  She slides down into one, seemingly all business, except perhaps for the long length of perfect leg peeking out of a slit in her gown.  “Drink? She asks.

“Coffee,” I say, a little too quickly, before I wonder too much at the potential of divine libations.

She laughs, and snaps her fingers again.  I sit down with a sigh of relief.

“So, talk to me then,” she says, gazing at me with fascination. “I don’t often get THAT sort of proposition from mortals.”

I blush momentarily, but quickly regain my composure. “Well, let’s start by talking about you.  What do you most want?”

She laughs, “Oh, silly man, what do you think I want?  Isn’t it obvious?” she gestures to the walls, liberally covered with erotic imagery of all kinds.

I shake my head. “No, actually it isn’t.  Yeah, I know, everything thinks of you ask the god of lust, or perhaps romance.”  But I look at her directly.  “But is that really want you want?  Or just what you’ve settled for?”

She gazes at me seriously, perhaps even with respect.  “My, you are an impertinent one.  I’m a goddess! Why should I have to settle for anything?”

I shrug.  “The same reason the rest of us do.  We live in a fallen world.  There are always imperfect tradeoffs.  Even the gods don’t get to remake the whole world in their image.  They have to work with what they’ve got.”

She eyes my shrewdly, “So what do you think is so imperfect about the tradeoff I’ve made.”

“Love,’ I say bluntly.  “I actually believe in you.  You really are the goddess of love.  You are the embodiment of beauty, of sex and romance and everything that goes along with. The ultimate women, representing their highest ideals.”

She raises an eyebrow, “From anyone else, I’d consider that flattery. But you seem to be going somewhere quite different.”

I nod. “Of course.  Tell me, in your ideal world, would women be prized solely for their sexuality, then discarded when they were no longer attractive?  Would men be slaves to their lusts, not caring whom they abuse or exploit, never mind the families destroyed by their infidelity?”

She looks at me with a hint of anger, and something that almost akin to fear. As if I’d touched on her deepest shame, the secret she’d been hiding for millennia. “No,” she says quietly, finally averting her eyes.

I nod. “I do not condemn you. Who am I to even judge you?” I lay a comforting hand on her shoulder.  

She flinches, and glances up, surprised.  Then places her hand over mine, accepting the gesture.

“I know you have your purpose, and your calling.  If you were weaker, there may be slightly less cruelty, but also much less daring and fertility.  Your job is to call forth the bifurcated essence of manhood and womanhood, those things that make us more than just mere human. The very thing that makes us like unto the gods, able to create new life.”

Her eyes shine, though they retain their sorrow.

I grimace sympathetically. “And yes, also the very thing that makes devils of us.  I know your heart.  You exist to ensure love and sexuality are exalted to their proper place in the universe, for otherwise life would cease to exist, even to be worth living.  But that means the price you must are willing to pay is to see your boundless gift debased and debauched, as a proxy for power, shame and fear.”

She hangs her head, not in shame, but in sorrow.

I squeeze her shoulder in sympathy.  “I understand.  Fear not.  I come not to fight you, or berate you.”

She glances up, quizzically.  “No, you have not.  Nor do you appear to have come — as you once did — to find your manhood.”

I smirk.  “Ha!  Well, perhaps I have, at that. Not,” reacting quickly to her arch glance, “to satisfy my lusts, as I often did of old.  But to transcend them, by delving into the deeper purpose behind them.  And perhaps even unbending what has been twisted and perverted so long in the past.”

She stares at me in awe, hope barely daring to rise in her face.

“Yes, that.  I am the third Adam.  My calling is to reverse the curse of Adam.  I am beginning to dimly understand exactly how and why Adam betrayed Eve, and how that curse has been passed down through the generations.  For too long, men have blamed women for their own folly, and used that to justify both neglect and exploitation.  The pagans married sex and religion, while Western Christianity divorced them.  My task is to develop a healthy regard for both women and sex, without either being mastered by them or denigrating them.”

She rises, shaken, and falls to her knees before me. “I don’t why I believe you.  You must be mad, or an utter fool, to tackle so great a curse.  Do you have any idea of the forces arrayed against you, that even a goddess like myself must make parcel with?”

I laugh self-mockingly. “Of course not!  But does any young lover truly understand the quest he is engaged in when he seeks to woo a wife? Is it not our very naiveté that is our greatest weapon against the forces of apathy and despair?”

Then my voice hardens. “But I am not entirely unaccustomed to battle. I have stared in the abyss, and been betrayed by — and yet forgiven — all those closest to me.  I too have tarried in Gethsemane, perhaps only for a little while, but enough to taste the terrors of the damned.  I am willing to drink the cup, if there be no other way.”

She gazes deeply into my eyes, then nods, as if seeing something there she recognizes from long ago.  “Very well,” she says, rising to her feet, “I am the patron saint of foolish young lovers, after all.  If you are determined to face an impossible foe for the sake of love, I am duty bound to urge you on.” She smiles wryly and offers her hand.

I rise, and bow to kiss her hand. “Thank you, my lady.” I turn to leave, stopping to pull my sword out of the stone.  Then pause, as if remembering something.  I turn back.

“At the risk of a double entendre,” I grin, “it seems only fitting that I ask you to bless my sword before I go.” I kneel, holding the sword across my open palms, just to make sure she takes me literally.

She laughs gaily.  “How can I refuse so gallant an offer?”  She walks closer.  She reaches into her bosom, and retrieves an amulet from a chain around her neck.  She opens the locket and pulls out a small vial.

“A love potion?” I ask.  “Seems a bit incongruous for a sword.”

She cocks her head.  “Surely no more so than on cupid’s bow and arrow?” she remarks, eyeing my askance.

I shake my head, “As you wish, my lady.”

She touches one delicate fingertip to the top of the vial, then stretches her hand out above the sword.  She closes her eyes, as if in prayer.  And to my surprise, she does in fact pray:

“O sovereign LORD, God above all gods, Lord above all Lords.  Thank you that my years of bondage are at last coming to a close.  We rejoice that the salvation earned through the sacrifice of your Son is at last being fulfilled within our domain.  I ask that you would hear my prayer, and grant this foolish mortal the boon he so desperately needs.”

She then raises her fingertip to her lips, seals the potion with a kiss, then taps on the exact center of the sword.

I stare in wonder as the hard cold steels slowly transforms into a rich warm gold.  I expect my arm to droop under the weight, but if anything the sword seems to become lighter, though without losing anything of its balance and heft. 

“What wonder is this?” I stammer out.

She looks at me, suddenly severe and stern.  “I am no goddess of war, or of wisdom.  If you have the temerity to ask for my blessing, then you shall have it — but the price will be high.  Never again may you use your sword to maim, kill or destroy.  If you wish to reverse the curse of Adam, you must also renounce the right to impose your will on women through power, shame, and fear.”

I swallow hard, unsure of what I’ve gotten myself into.

“Well should you tremble, son of Adam.  For too long have men used coldness and strength to lord it over those weaker than they, whether through physical or intellectual violence.  If you would be my champion, you must forswear such means.”

I pause.  This was not at all what I was looking for.  Part of my wonders if this is some sinister plot, if I have somehow betrayed myself into the hands of the Enemy.

But then I remember who she prayed to.  And the golden sword seems living proof that God heard her prayer.

But how is this a blessing instead of a curse?

As if reading my mind — which is entirely possible, given who I’m dealing with — she replies, “Fear not, my son.  What you have lost in brute power you have more than gained in moral authority.  This sword will be your light in the darkness, a source of hope to the weary, and warmth to those shivering in the cold. The blade is as sharp as ever, but it will only cut that which is already dead, in order to allow what remains to live.”

I stare in wonder at the enchanted blade, suddenly all to unaware of my own unworthiness to bear such a legendary weapon.  I hold the sword up to her again, silently asking whether she is really sure she wants to give it to me.

She laughs, “Of course you are not worthy, you silly child.  But you are willing.  That is enough.”  She raises her hands, and claps…

I am sitting on a chair in my bedroom.  A Bible sits on my upward-facing palms. It is open to Philippians 4:13:

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

To be Continued

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