A short story by JQuisumbing
It had been a long five weeks. Elpida knew she had been away from home longer than she desired. But when she had received a message from a fellow Greek acquaintance who had come to her some seven years ago, she had to go. On the back of a slow moving cart drawn by a pair of oxen, one of a dozen transporting wheat to Tyre, her eyes were glazed, mesmerised on the passing dusty road under her dangling feet.
“Elpida… Elpida?” Elpida looked up to the craggy old face of the cart driver who left his place up front. She blinked twice then glanced at the empty seat.
“Who is doing the driving?”
“Ah… the road is fairly straight for three miles. My oxen will not veer… I hope,” he chuckled. “You have been quiet back here for some time. I thought maybe you fell asleep and fell out.”
“No… I was just deep in thought.”
“And by the look of your face in this entire return trip, you were not successful in your search.”
She slowly shook her head and stopped with her head bowed.
“Well, let us see,” said the old cart driver thinking to change the subject. “When we last talked, you were telling me about the reason you left Greece. You stopped short of the unknown god. Who is the unknown god again?”
That is a good question. To this day, she still did not know. At one time, she was a seeress to the Temple of Hermes. This always amused her. As a young girl, she was abandoned by her relations to the priests of this impoverished and unpopular small temple just in the outskirts of Athens. Hermes was not as widely venerated as the more prominent gods and goddesses of Athens. Since his temple lacked the kind of in-pouring of gifts like the other temples, the priests saw in her a cunning opportunity to increase their coffer. The priests did not hesitate to train her the art of being a seeress. The training took no more than three days. Her part was to rant on cue and always end with her eyes rolled back and twitch crazily on the floor. Her reward was a clean bed and good food to eat. And there was food aplenty, especially after the priests scoured the district announcing that they had sheltered a child touched by the gods. But her time there was not just play acting. One of the older priests took it upon himself to educate her. She was taught to read and write and the secrets of herblore. When she grew to womanhood and the temple had other little girls to fill her place, she was given other tasks, one of which was to visit other temples basically to spy on them.
It was on a narrow street to the Acropolis that she came upon an unusual non-descript shrine in a recessed alcove between two houses. She thought that it was ransacked and it’s carved image was stolen for what was left was the carved pedestal base and inscription. But then an old couple walked up to it left a handful of flowers on the pedestal. Elpida approached it curiously. She lifted the flowers and found that no statue ever sat upon the pedestal. She bent down to read the worn out and somewhat small inscription on the base which read “Agnostos Theos”, that is “Unknown God”.
To be continued…
Though this short story is basically fiction, the character of Elpida is based on an actual female personality described in Mark 7. She was a gentile who showed great faith.
There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them were not named at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.