– Father, father, why does that angel have a hole in the wing?
Little Carlos was tugging at the sleeve of his tired father, who was trying to enter the chapel of ordinary masses, which are not celebrated on festive days, behind the high altar of the cathedral in Milan. Louis was too tired to pay attention to his son… so he asked again:
“Yes, Father, that angel over there.” The boy was pointing with his index finger at the image beside the tabernacle, “which is beside Jesus!”
“Now we have to go in, the Mass will begin,” said Louis. “But if you behave well and be attentive, I will tell you the story of the angel with the hole in the wing.”
But Louis said to himself: “Me and my promises! What shall I tell you?”
It had been a very hard day’s work, and since he was always home late, he had decided to leave his job early to take the little boy to mass. It was a few days before Christmas, and she wanted to spend a little more time with him, make her feel the real Christmas in her heart. So, in addition to strolling through the downtown streets, full of lights and dazzling storefronts, she had decided to enter the church with her son.
The priest’s homily was not particularly interesting and Louis’s tiredness was noted…
In the open field by an olive grove stood a small legion of angels, twelve to be exact. The cloudy sky promised snow; a cold, sharp breeze shook the branches of the trees. The clouds opened a small clearing from which sprouted a dust of tiny stars that shone the hair of the angelic beings gathered there. All standing upright in rows of four listened attentively to their captain’s speech:
– Remember our important mission! Tonight we will accompany the little King on his escape to Egypt. Not long ago he came into the world, but there are those who want to kill him. We warned Joseph and the kings of the East. It is now up to us to act. But beware: we must not interfere in the affairs of men. We will be invisible to your eyes! We will only strive to protect our King and keep him hidden for a time. If we hide it, He and his family will go unnoticed. But remember well the command given by Miguel, our General: “Do not interfere!”
The captain’s gaze seemed to turn to the last angel on the right in the last row. She stared at him for a moment and then they all started on their way.
Joaquim, the last angel of the group, had spent the previous days giving free use to his thoughts. The Divine Word had been born as a boy, and was now wrapped in cloth over the straw of a manger. He was born poor, in a cave, without honors or party. Only his friends from the first angelic choir, the angels of glory, could chant in his praise. So big a mystery! Joaquim had been there on guard the first night, and this was his first contact with humans.
How poor were the shepherds who had come to worship the little King! Among them was also a little boy. In his huge eyes Joaquim had been able to read admiration as well as poverty, but above all immense hope. In addition, he was beginning to know more about the little King and his mysterious birth. He would have wanted to know more, to be even one of those shepherds, to understand why his dear King would have become small like them, small as one of his little ones.
As he advanced, he was so lost in his thoughts that he had not realized that the angelic legion was already surrounding the King, and that the family had slowly and patiently resumed its path. They would not have traveled a great distance when, in the distance, a great crash was heard.
The soldiers! Exclaimed Joseph. “They are heading for the village.”
And he marched on, pulling the donkey vehemently and starting to walk faster and faster.
“We have to hurry,” he said.
As they all ran, Joaquim heard shouts in the distance. They were shouts of pain and distress, and among them he recognized the weeping of children. He knew that because his little King had cried the day before, but when his mother had taken him in his arms, he had quieted. He recognized that weeping, but now it seemed different to him, sharper and more tormented than his master’s. And suddenly he understood: The soldiers were looking for the King, but they didn’t know who he was, so they killed all the boys!
Suddenly she was startled. He felt a shadow that lowered him and obscured the purity of his angelic light. Something caught his attention. It might seem strange, but out of all those screams, one seemed closer to her, or rather it was not a single scream, but… two distinct screams! An adult scream and the cry of a boy. Looked back. In the distance, on the way, he saw a woman with something in her arms. The woman screamed but was very tired. It seemed that it was walking towards them. Yes, that was it, that woman was precisely seeking his assistance.
In the small, fast-moving platoon no one seemed to notice anything. His companions had only their mission in mind. Maria and Joseph were worried about the boy and were continuing their escape… Wouldn’t it be better to stop them and ask the captain to excuse himself to help this woman who was running with her son in her arms? Not at all. They had to keep running. And besides, the captain had reminded them of their orders: the little King had to be hidden and not interfered with human affairs. And orders that are thus remembered are orders that cannot be transgressed. CONTINUED … Antonio Anastasio A ward on the wing Madrid, Encuentro Editions, 2008 (Translation and adaptation)