Here is the seventh entry from my upcoming booklet “Our Darkness, His Light”. These events would have historically occurred on Good Friday.
Cletus pushed the broom across the worn tiles, straining to get at the blood. Skritch, skritch, skritch. A sound he had come to endure, repeated all day, every day for the last twenty years. My, how filthy the floor was. Especially after yesterday’s record crowd. Again, he scratched at the blood soaked deep into the mortar between the tiles. Black, aged, dried from years of shed blood, the tiles would never be clean. The blood could never be removed. It was there forever. And everyday, the people came, strewing dirt and straw and leaves across his carefully scrubbed floor. And every evening, he cleaned. Skritch, skritch, skritch.
The never ending pattern of his sweeping was well rehearsed. He could do it in his sleep. He always began in the back corner and ended up near the curtain. Today, he had been fortunate. The usual crowds were gone. The vast chamber empty. They were all out there, watching the show. He did not complain. It gave him the opportunity to finish his task earlier. Perhaps tonight, he would get home before sunset.
Cletus paused at the marble steps that led up to the curtain. Leaning against his broom, his eyes traveled up the great expanse of cloth. It hung from golden hooks; its velvety folds thick and impenetrable. Deep maroon cloth rustled thickly in the breeze that stirred in the temple, gold thread gleaming in the light of hanging braziers.
He smiled as he gave into his daily fantasy. In his mind, he walked up to the curtain, hands eager, hands strong. He grasped the thick, coarse cloth and he pulled with all his might. With a great rending sound, the curtain tore from bottom to top and he hurled the remnants aside.
Cletus did not know what he would find inside if his fantasy were to ever become reality. He could not know. These thoughts bordered on blasphemy as it was. To imagine Jehovah seated on the altar was going too far.
He stepped up the stairs, and glancing around to insure that no priests were watching, reached out his trembling hand to touch the fabric. It seemed to shudder at his touch, as if fearing him.
What lay beyond? He thought. He would never know. The priest forever stood between him and God. Only the priest could carry his sacrifice to the mercy seat of God. Only a man could bridge the gap.
Cletus stepped down from the curtain and walked across the huge chamber, his footsteps echoing. Outside, he heard thunder cascade against the roof. Rain pattered on the closed windows. Lightning leaked through the cracks, spilling sharp edged shadows onto the clean tiles.
He opened a window, the wind and rain hurtling into the room. He stood there in the cool, damp air, his eyes drawn to the distant hill where the people who normally filled the temple waited. Where the priests who stood before God waited. Where a cross rose against the sky. Where the world waited.
Now, there was a man who knew how to clear out a temple, he thought. Cletus had watched the man wield the cat-of-nine-tails like a sword of God as he had chased the money changers away. And the priests had nailed the carpenter to a tree. They had. The men who bridged the gap between he and God had nailed a good man to a cross.
Cletus turned back to the curtain, his heart filled with resentment, hatred, anger. Silently, he cursed the priests and their lofty words; he cursed the curtain that stood between he and God; and he cursed the people, like himself, who had stood by and let an innocent man die. A man who had claimed to be their savior.
The ground suddenly began to shake and Cletus stumbled away from the window, his broom clattering against the tiled floor. Light began to fill the chamber. He squinted against the brightness and searched for its source.
The light gushed from behind the curtain. Cletus watched in amazement as the top of the curtain moved, lifted as if gripped by unseen hands. The sound began, a groaning that penetrated to his very soul. He fell to his knees, his hands clasped to his ears as the curtain tore. It tore from top to bottom, hurled away, exposing the brilliant white light from within. He squinted, eyes nearly shut, and for a fleeting moment saw a great figure in the light, seated on the mercy seat of God.
Just as suddenly as it had come, the light was extinguished. Cletus stood shakily to his feet in the eerie silence that followed. He walked across the tiled floor, now littered with bits of fabric and gold thread to the stairs leading up to the curtain. It was gone, cast aside like grave cloth. The Holy of Holies lay within, dark, shadowy, yet exposed to the world. God no longer needed the curtain. Man no longer needed the priest.
Cletus picked up his broom and returned to the window. Outside, the rain had stopped. Across the wind swept city, sunlight chased shadows as the clouds receded. Upon the lofty hill, a lone shaft of sunlight fell on the central cross.
“Yes,” he smiled. “He really knows how to clean a temple.”
Matthew 27:51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;