The Path of Glory
For many days Elizabeth and Catherine watched Napoleon in his dying madness until his energy wound down and his body died. When he died, a young man carrying many pouches of maps appeared next to the two women. The young man was very upset. Great changes were taking place which made his work outdated. Catherine introduced Elizabeth to the man, who just happened to be the great poet Dante. Elizabeth was pleased to meet Dante. She told him how she had loved to hear his work read aloud. He stuttered a “thank you,” but was quickly distracted by what he saw and felt coming out of the ocean.
The island began to shake. Dante pointed to the waters of the Atlantic. Out of the waters rose Lucifer shaped like a man with great bat wings. He was completely made of ice. The sun’s light reflected on Lucifer’s icy form making him as brilliant as he might have been when he was Lord of Light before he led his rebel angels into Hell. His brightness did not diminish his coldness, and the cold surrounding Elizabeth reminded her of the loneliness she had felt when she was alive on Earth.
Pergatory Road 2Catherine, unaffected by the chilling satanic presence, greeted Lucifer, “Why have you come to this island?” Satan coldly replied, “I am here to claim the soul of Napoleon.”
At this moment, Napoleon’s soul left his body. His soul was an ever-changing mercurial presence, but looked like the figure of a man in his twenties standing above the body of Napoleon. Catherine herself stood between this emerging soul and Lucifer. She looked Lucifer right in the eyes and declared thatshehad come to claim Napoleon’s soul in the name of the Trinity. Lucifer laughed and his laugher hung suspended in the air as ice. He turned his attention to Queen Elizabeth.
“I have no claim on you, my virgin Queen,” he said to Elizabeth,”and I have always admired your sensibilities about justice.” Elizabeth thought she had heard this voice and these words many times before. She nodded for him to continue. “I have been misrepresented to the people of Earth.” He waved his icy hand and a painting appeared to tell Lucifer’s side of the story.
The painting showed Lucifer standing before the Trinity arguing an important point. The Trinity hovered in a glowing triangular shape above the head of a sleeping man and woman. In the painting scene Lucifer was objecting to what the Trinity was about to do. “If these human animals were to be given the freedom of accepting God’s love, then the balance of the great work of God and the angels would be lost. Had not the Trinity and the angels shared in building a physical universe in unity and order that stretched from the smallest particle of the smallest part to the expanding vastness of the largest galaxies?”
For a moment Elizabeth lost her sense of standing over the body of Napoleon. She was caught in Lucifer’s words as he described the brilliant creation of a universe more complex, yet subtle and simple. Lucifer’s words rang with a lucidity. He questioned the Trinity on their sincerity in telling the angels they were partners in this plan. Now because of a whimsical idea of the Holy Spirit, an insignificant part of that vast creation was going to be made free and equal partners, too.
Lucifer pointed to the sleeping figures. This man and this woman and the others that would follow were not worthy of this power. They would fail in their freedom and the universe would fall away from its order. They would make wrong choices that would become compounded until nothing would be right, until there would be no justice. God the Father, speaking for the Three, declared, “All the plans of the Trinity always leads to justice and to love.”
Lucifer responded, “You and I are always free to disagree.”
Quickly the images in the living painting showed the rest of the story of the rebellion. Lucifer spread the news of the Trinity’s decision to give freedom to a remote species in a far-flung planet of the physical universe. Many angels agreed with Lucifer and could not understand how this decision of the Trinity could result in any justice or peace. They joined with Lucifer and complained loudly until the other angels asked them to leave Heaven and the presence of God. At this point the living painting shrunk until it was small enough to fit in Lucifer’s hand.
Elizabeth reached out to touch Catherine’s shoulder. She knew Lucifer was trying to throw her equilibrium off and she felt Catherine’s solid strength steadying her as she responded, “It is a very compelling story and you’ve obviously learned to tell it well.”
This response seemed to annoy Lucifer, who asked, “Don’t you agree that human history has proven me right? Isn’t life on Earth filled with disorder and injustice? You know that to be true.”
The Queen felt like her old self in command of the moment as she snapped at Lucifer. “My experience with you, sir, is that this was a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Lucifer dismissed Elizabeth with a scoffing laugh and turned his attention back to Catherine and Napoleon. In a commanding voice he stated, “By all standards, Napoleon’s actions has earned him damnation. At least in Hell, we can attempt to distribute a fitting justice where every punishment fits every crime. If you don’t believe that, ask the poet here.” He pointed at Dante, who became flustered by Lucifer’s bold assumption of his supposed support. “Oh, well, um, that’s true up to a point in a very limited structure,” Dante said. “But it isn’t actually holding up very well. Human choices have become more complicated. Of course, Hell is very organized and a form of unerring, unremitting justice was being handed out. But it, too, is dependent on a certain amount of human acceptance, and I’ve noticed a great deal of discontent the last time I was there.”
This was not what Lucifer wanted to hear. He silenced the poet by bellowing, “I have at least five unquestionable reasons why Napoleon belongs in Hell.” Then Catherine asserted in a strong, but gentle, voice, “I’ve got one irrevocable reason why that isn’t true. The Trinity has decided that Napoleon can enter Heaven once he has walked the Purgatory Road.”
Lucifer laughed his iciest laugh, the one that suggests he had planned things to work out just this way. “If that is God’s judgment on Napoleon, so be it. In justice, however, I will allow everyone out of Hell who has equal or less reason than Napoleon to be there.” At this he rose above the island like an icy meteor and then plunged into the ocean, shaking the island with great force.
“Something terrible is about to happen,” said Dante. At this a great gulf appeared in the Ocean revealing the entrance to Hell. The voice of Lucifer reverberated from the deep icy depths of Hell shaking the old gate of relinquished hope.
“Go, go, find your own justice,” yelled Lucifer, sounding almost petulant. With one last “Go!” his voice shook the old gate off its foundation, causing it to shatter into many pieces. Winking at Elizabeth, Catherine said, “Just another self-fulfilling prophecy.”