Chapter Fifteen: Christina the Astonishing Part Three

Editor’s Note: the primary source here, again, is pages signed “Friends of Christina the Astonishing.” I find myself wondering about the extent of Christina’s followers’ devotion. Today, 100+ years on, she’s a fairy tale—the Church prints up little tracts with her story, cute little crudely-drawn pictures of Christina holding hands with an Elder and a beaten-down-looking woman, caption: “Christina was a friend to the high and low of Vine”—but how powerful did her followers think she was? Were any hanging around the Holy Funeral Site, expecting her to stroll out of the forest, undying once again? 

Speaking of, it’s worth noting that Christina outlived Preacher Alphonse Weber. He died shortly after her first funeral, and upon his death, the seven souls who had perished while Alphonse Weber was Head Preacher were simultaneously ejected from the earth in which they were buried, as if the land had been holding the bodies in contempt for the Preacher’s stubbornness and inability to understand it. Preacher Gastron Hofsteder, who took over Head Preacher duties, immediately resumed the practice of leaving the bodies in the woods at the Holy Funeral Site. Many years later, Preachers would once again freak out over improperly disposed bodies.

In those years despite minor setbacks The Lord looked kindly upon Vine, and the people saw bountiful yields in crops and pleasant harmony with the seasons. While Vine remained closed to settlers, the number of those living humbly and serving God was growing every day, with believers and pilgrims coming from lands as far away as Rhode Island. All claiming to have been called to Vine. It was after many years of prosperous growth that time eventually cast its ravages on Christina and she became frail-legged and wispy. 

“Do not go,” her loved ones said. “You must not leave us in darkness.”

“My friends,” she said “I leave you not in sorrow but on the eve of many blessed years to come. For the Lord has been kind to Vine. Through living humbly and serving our God we have learned to be kind to one another. If men are not wicked the glory of Vine can only multiply.”

Thus it was that Christina The Astonishing passed again into the realm of the Lord. As a sign of peace and eternal happiness the Lord God placed a dove on the poplar tree overlooking the lake. Through the dove’s sharp eyes and strong wings all that the dove could see was blessed with bounty for seven years as the glory of God shone on Vine to honor Christina. 

Christina The Astonishing’s Second Funeral

“Say Preacher,” old Joe called. “Ever given someone’s second funeral before?”

The Preacher shook his head. He had not been born the first time Christina dropped dead then resurrected herself as they were trying to bury her. To old Joe—ravaged by the age of a long life serving the Lord and the prosperity of Vine—the Preachers were all one in the same. 

Now in those days Vine was still a young settlement and traditions and revelations on worship were still being developed, but the people of Vine were devout earnest and eager in their understanding of new ways of worship. The congregation prostrated on their knees while the Elders sang hymns voices locked in sacred harmony: perfect fourths and fifths. Suspension and resolution. Though no piano accompanied them, the Lord blessed the Elders with synchronized pitch like the Gregorians of old. 

Thus the Preacher read from the Book of Vine:

“For life springs eternal in the woods. To stand amongst the trees is to sense the land as alive. To feel the power of God’s creation and its independence. To be consumed within the dead leaves turned to afghan rugs; to be consumed within brambles that spring produce fruit; to be swarmed by the insects and sung to by the birds; to sink toe-first into damp earth the realm of worms and grubs and roots; to glimpse flecks of blue from jagged shimmerings of leaves. Thus is humanity’s purpose: to understand the land; to consecrate; and to maintain dominion over the land by the chosen people of God in order to manage the land according to the standards of the Lord. No greater honor can it be to sing the praises of the Lord while working the fields.”

“This is the Word of the Lord.”

“Thanks be to God.”
The Elders began singing again: a mournful minor dirge. Clouds darkened and loomed as the angels of the Lord prepared to receive. Wordlessly the people of Vine took Christina’s body and returned her to the woods. 

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