What is Known

I witnessed my first Transcendence within a month of joining the Believers, which was only a few days after Brother Simon had removed my Shroud. I was only a novice, but he encouraged me to take part in the ceremony of Sister Bernice, who was on the sheer cusp of being taken away. It is a memory that I've cherished ever since.

Sister Bernice was an astonishing sight to behold. She had Resolved most of the things that she had left behind, and had carefully peeled away most of the connections between herself and that one, last thing. And as she was fasting in preparation for the day, she was so dark and lightless that she seemed a human stain compared to the rest of us. In fact, when I first met her, I thought I was seeing a shadow, as bad as that sounds in a place like this.

But unlike so many others that I have seen in a similar state, she moved with great vigor and energy. Her smile was radiant enough to light the entire room when she was introduced to me, and when she prayed with me for God's favor in her ceremony, I felt a power inside her that I've only ever felt with those who've been ready to Transcend. It was as though she were already standing next to God, even though the ceremony was hours away.

Many Believers I know have to take the ceremony to the Angels, but ours always comes to us when we need him. That time was no exception, and it was also my first time meeting one of the Ferrymen. I remember that he scared me, because he looked more like a demon than anything else. But Brother Simon counseled me that, in times of war, the Angels must be as terrible as their enemies, and God has terrible enemies, indeed. {That has never assuaged my fear, I'm sorry to say}

When the ceremony came, there was a sense of anticipation and hope, mixed in with more than a little dread. While Brother Simon didn't say it then, and indeed never did, I've come to recognize that the dread accompanies our fear that the ceremony might all be for nothing. All too often, one of our Flock has gone through the long, slow process of Resolution, and sought God's wisdom and guidance every step of the way, only to falter at the last moment. I've seen it happen many, many times, and it is a terrible thing to see someone go so far, and then fail to take that last step.

After an hour of silent prayers and solemn chants, Sister Bernice stood and made her way to the Angel. He {I never like to think of them as 'it'} held out his hands to her, and asked her if she was ready. That was the first time I'd heard his voice, and it was so like thunder, splitting the air, that it almost made me stop in the chant.

Her reply was like a gentle breeze in comparison: yes, she was ready. She was ready to meet God. She had made her peace with who she'd been, and what she'd done. She had no regrets and no last wishes. She was ready.

Was she ready to meet his judgment? the Angel asked, and she said that, yes, she was ready for that, too.

Was she finished with her old life? the Angel asked, and this was the important part of the ceremony, because it was the part where she had to let go of that one, last attachment to her life.

We all stood, clasping hands and making a chain of faith and power. Brother Simon walked us all behind her, and placed his hand just barely upon her, so that we could give her the last bit of energy she needed to make the cut.

As we did, the darkness that had been upon her rolled away, and she blazed with our combined power. She threw back her head and gasped in ecstasy, and I could see that she was reaching out, in her mind, to that one last thing that had held her back for so very, very long.

She shuddered a few times, wracked with the effort. And she shook her head as though she were fighting off a fever. She might have even cried out, once or twice, but it is hard to be sure if I remember that, or if I think I remember that.

I wanted to cheer her on, or say "God be with you," but Brother Simon had expressly forbade it, much for the same reason that only he placed his hands upon her, and just barely at that: any weakening in concentration might be disastrous, and a sign of love or friendship or fellowship from even one of us might make her wonder if she was really ready to go or not.

But she was. There came a moment of perfect calm across her face, and she stopped struggling altogether. Her body began to flicker and ripple as she lost hold over this world, and it was only the excess power around her that was keeping her together. Either that or the Angel, who stepped forward, with a hand outstretched, just out of her reach.

He asked her if she was ready, one last time. And she said yes. It was all she could manage to say, but she meant it.

And she stepped forward, flaking away more and more with every inch of movement, and took his hand with both of hers. He clasped his other hand right on top of hers, and walked backwards to where he'd been. Each step made her seem less and less there, but it was as though she was changing, and not merely falling away.

And then they both just walked into nothingness, as though turning a corner the rest of us could not see. Sister Bernice had Transcended, and we all fell to our knees in joy, thanking God for this day, and praying for her soul.

That was the first Transcendence I ever witnessed. I have been through dozens of ceremonies since, and the vast majority of them have failed for one reason or another, which fills me with some doubt. But I have also seen nine others succeed, all in much the same way, both in our Flock and other Flocks who share our beliefs. And that cannot help but fill me with hope...

But my hope is always tainted with the need to understand, much like my belief is always strongest when I have something solid to put beneath it. Hence this essay, if I am being completely honest.

{And to be more honest, would I have been one of those people who would have needed to see the holes in Jesus' hands, feet and side before I believed it was Him, back from the dead? "Blessed are those who do not see, and yet believe." I have seen, and I believe, but why do I feel like I need to know more before I can really be at ease?}