Monday, January 26, 2009

By God's Grace..

The following is based on a Romanian Folk Tale. It is one of many stories that I used to introduce literature classes to folklore, legend and stories in the vocal tradition during a period in which I served as a visiting artist at a local Junior College.

This is folklore. You won't find it in your bible, no matter how hard you look. To find this story you have to look in your heart. It could have been. Like many other stories of this type we hope it was. It has a happy ending.

Long ago and far away in the time of Noah and the Ark this story happened and from that time to this day cats lie in the sun to sleep and dream. This is the story of why they may do this.

As the rains began to fall in that long ago time and the great floods began to form as small trickles upon the mountainsides Noah, a man chosen above others by his god, was commanded by the Lord to gather his family and animals, one of each sort both male and female, and take them aboard a great vessel he had built and thereby save them from the flood sent to destroy all else of Mankind because they had grown wicked in their ways. Noah and his sons and the wives of these good men along with their children were all that had been chosen to be saved because of their goodness and their devotion to God.

As the rains fell, Noah and his family took aboard all the animals and all of their belongings as they had been commanded and prepared to close the massive doors of the ark. Just as the doors were closing, last of all, came the cat, racing through the rain to squeeze through the last crack of the closing doors and disappear between Noah's legs and into the cavernous hold of the ark, there to hide in the dark and wonder what possible new adventure might await.

Day and night the rain thrummed a steady drumbeat on the roof of the ark as the waters rose steadily upon the land until at last the ark was afloat and the land in it's entirety began to submerge beneath the murky roiling waters of the flood. Inside the ark Noah and his family tended the animals, gave their prayers to the Lord and listened to the falling of the rain.

Deep within the hold however, different drama was beginning to unfold. The devil had also come aboard and was even then plotting ways to bring about the downfall of the last good men on earth, chosen of the Lord, Noah, his sons, all their wives and their children. Through his evil plot the devil would prevent the triumph of the Lord.

Taking the form of a rat, the devil scurried off to find a dark place in which to work his evil. Behind sacks of grain and well hidden from the sight of men, the devil began to gnaw the planking of the ark. He was sure that when his work was finished water would pour through the hole he would make and the ark would founder then sink from sight into the waters that covered the earth, taking with it the pride of the Lord. Intent in his plans against these chosen of God the devil set to his work, eagerly gnawing at the planks of the ark and absorbed in his evil work, he gave no thought to that most special of animals, the cat.

Unpredictable, untamed, and caring not for the worries of men, gods anddevils the cat slept atop the piles of supplies in the belly of the ark and dreamed of the heroic things he might accomplish if only it wasn't raining and over all of this God watched as the drama unfolded.

For many days and nights the devil gnawed the side of Noah's Ark for it was stoutly built. All about him men and animals went about their business and listened as the rain fell, unaware of their ever approaching doom. The Devil, intent on gnawing his hole, gave no thought that his plan might fail.

Cats sleep with only their eyes closed. They listen all the time. This is one of the reasons that often people will put the cat outside the room if secrets are to be told. For cats are capricious by nature and might tell the secrets to anyone. Noah's cat was no exception and when, although seemingly asleep, it heard the tiny scuffling and gnawing of the rat it awakened there in the dark and readied itself for the hunt.

On silent paws the cat crept ever closer in the dark, guiding itself with its sensitive whiskers and its sharp hearing until at last with a rush and a spring the cat held the Devil, in the form of a rat, fast in its claws and then, with a quick, hard shake and a bite from its jaws, lined with very sharp teeth, the cat ended the evil plans of the Devil against the family of Noah, chosen of God.

Proud of it's accomplishment, the cat carried the body to Noah that it might be petted and awarded as was befitting a hero, however small. Laying the rat at Noah's feet the cat began to groom itself only to be frighteningly interrupted as he was grasped roughly, lifted into Noah's arms and carried out into the rain and thence to the railing.

Holding the cat tightly in his hands and full of wrath, Noah scolded, then cursed the cat for having broken God's commandments by taking a life. In his wrath Noah flung the cat over the rail and into the waters of the flood. The lightening flashed and thunder rolled across the sky as the little cat was lost from sight in the waves.

Then God in his infinite wisdom and mercy, granted Grace upon the cat. He reached down from his heaven and lifted the cat from the flood and set it gently once again upon the deck before Noah. He bathed the cat in warm sunlight. Then, speaking to Noah, who stood amazed at the sight of this miracle, told him to go and examine the planks of his ship that he might discover the truth of the cat's deed.

Noah and his sons and all the wives and children searched the ship with great diligence and soon discovered the hole the devil had gnawed almost all the way through the planks and stood quietly in awe at how they and all that was theirs given by the Lord might have been lost but for the cat.

Falling to their knees they begged forgiveness of the Lord and the Lord in his mercy granted it but to the cat he granted a special blessing and when all returned to the deck they found the rain stopped and the cat fast asleep, warm and dry in the sunshine and dreaming of heroic things he might do tomorrow.

From that day to this cats sleep in the sun as is their special privilege and they dream of the heroic things they might do tomorrow if it isn't raining. And sometimes, if you watch them sleeping, you'll see their paws twitch as in their dreams they once again do the work for which they were once blessed by the Lord or how once a small cat saved the chosen of God from the plots of the Devil.

No comments: