There’s one last lesson that every priest from my school must learn. We teach it through a parable because parables have been better to us than life.
Imagine: it’s the cusp of winter, when the grass can’t help but stiffen, and rivers don’t freeze enough. The priest knows not to test the ice and preaches thus, but not everyone goes to his services. A poor mother and son slide to the center of the river, trying to catch one more autumn trout. They fall in with their trout.
Now our priest happens along. He knows to lose his robes. He knows how to tie a rope between a tree and his waist. He knows how to swim. He knows what he’s supposed to do, and with a great deal of sputtering, he drags the mother and son to shore.
But it’s the cusp of winter. The boy is paler than the river. The priest knows how to check for fever and hypothermia. He knows how to first dry himself, then strip and cover them. He knows how to build a fire whose heat will assist here and attract attention from on far. The priest knows all this because he was a very good student. He’s read very many parables.
He doesn’t have to be learned, however, to know the mother’s gone blind. He knows how to stall her as he tries to keep her son breathing. When she asks him to pray for her boy rather than her own sight, he is burdened with knowing that the gods don’t work that way. Like all priests, he knows to pray anyway.
And she calls for her boy. She calls, and calls, and her voice is plainly getting weaker. Soon she sounds not ten feet away from her boy, but ten worlds away.
The priest looks up the road. No one is coming; no one has seen the smoke soon enough. Now the mother looks at him with useless eyes and a purposeful face. Now she calls to him, asking. Is he alright? Is he alright? Is he alright? Every time softer, farther toward the veil.
Put yourself in his moment, as this naked servant of the gods looking into a blind plea on the cusp of winter. You’ve learned the medicines, and the physics, and the scriptures, and very plainly the boy is dead and his mother is following. This is why every priest I teach must learn how to lie.