All At Sea

As this fateful month of December opens, let us relate this parable:

100 years ago there was a fine and noble ship that set sail with a captain, many officers, a large crew and many passengers, seeking refuge in a safe haven, for a Great Storm had begun on the land. Over the generations the ship came to be captained by a line of wise men, who visited many foreign ports all around the world, looking for refuge and picking up new passengers and also some stowaways. Unfortunately, some of the officers, crew and passengers were less wise and at times advised steering the ship near the rocks and reefs which turned out to be infested by pirates.

After many years and many adventures which will be related in detail at another time and in another place, the port that the ship had sailed from finally opened again. The Great Storm on the land was over. The ship’s elderly captain, a man of destiny, brought his vessel through thunder and lightning back home to its native haven that had become safe once more, ready to help rebuild and relate the stories of the past to those eager to know. The fine old ship was welcomed back with understanding and admiration. Here was a safe haven again.

However, after this perilous voyage and such great efforts, the elderly captain soon passed away, still at the wheel.  A new captain was chosen from among the officers, a man whose soul was as fine and noble as had been that of the previous captain, but who was not as strong. After all, surely his task, to captain a ship while it was at anchor in port, would not be so difficult?

However, disgruntled officers and passengers, who had got on board in foreign ports and who preferred the rocks and reefs of pirates, secretly plotted and saw their chance. Dissatisfied with the conditions in the port, which in their pride they deemed not good enough for them, they thought to take the ship from its calm haven and seize it for themselves. With great cunning they persuaded the new captain to weigh anchor, on the pretext that they should take the ship out from its port on a pleasure cruise, ‘in memory of those who had sailed on her in the past, so as to celebrate their feat’.

Unable to refuse what seemed like a worthy endeavour, the new captain agreed, but on condition that the ship should simply go round the lighthouse in the bay, in full view of the port. However, as the ship left the port under cover of night, many younger crew and passengers on board realised that the captain had been tricked, that the mutinous had seized control and were taking the passengers not on a pleasure cruise, but on a torture cruise, far out into the ocean.

None of this cruise was in memory of the great feats of the past and the weathering of the Great Storm, all of this was because the mutinous officers wanted to steer the ship and rob the passengers on board, some of whom were wealthy, and meet up on the high seas with a band of very powerful pirates, anchored off the rocks and reefs, who had secretly been paying the mutinous officers and passengers to seize the ship.

Just in time, many younger crew and passengers who had realised what was happening were able, not without great difficulty and danger to themselves, to get out of the ship into a large lifeboat near the lighthouse at the entrance to the bay, in full view of the safe haven. The mutinous traitors complained that these crew and passengers were ‘rebels’, that they had left without their permission, all the time gloating and hoping that those who had disembarked in their lifeboat would be dashed to pieces on the rocks around the lighthouse. This was not so. All was calm and all who wished were brought to safety.

As the refugees safely tied up their boat at the landing stage, climbed over the rocks and up the stairs inside the lighthouse and reached the lamp room, they saw the ship sailing out ever further into stormy seas which threatened to sink it. At once the refugees lit the lamp, in the hope that the ship and those on board could still be saved from the mutinous and return to port. This shining light, they thought, would also wake up the port authorities who had all this time been fast asleep.

Meanwhile, on board, the remaining loyal officers and passengers, quite a few of them elderly and confused, slowly began to realise that they had been tricked while they had been asleep in their cabins. This was not a pleasure cruise in memory of the glorious past. In reality, the mutinous officers and the passengers who supported them, wanted to go out onto the high seas to meet up with pirates. In the gathering dark and the blowing wind and rain a great division was revealed and those who had been paid by the mutineers to go along on their ‘cruise’ began to come to their senses.

Fighting broke out on board the ship as provisions began to run out and all slowly began to realise what had happened. ‘Save Our Souls’ was shouted out by some of the officers, crew and passengers, but the ship was by now so far out to sea that their voices could not be heard above the crash and roar of the ocean waves, except by those in the safety of the lighthouse, who looked on with alarm.

Meanwhile the port authorities, alerted by the flashing lighthouse, from where we could see everything, began to realise that something was amiss, that the old ship was not going to return, that the ancient vessel was in danger of sinking and the loyal on board were in danger of drowning. Other ports also began to send out messages of alarm. Mayday! Mayday!

What happened next?

This parable will be continued, as it is not yet clear how it will end. But we are praying for a miracle.