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3000 Years of a Family Life
By Arnaldo Ricciulli
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Arnaldo Ricciulli
All rights reserved.
January 18, 1562 ...
And from thence we fetched a compass and came to Rhegium and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli" (Acts, 28:13).
"What does that mean?" Dan asked, after he read the Bible verse transcribed in the book he held open in his lap. "Isn't that the city where Peter stopped in 56 AD before making his way to Rome?"
"Very good, Dan," Damianos, the shepherd replied. "The city is called Reggio de Calabria during your present era."
"And what's so significant about this city? Why are we here anyway?"
As Dan spoke these words, a single sheet of paper emblazoned with a family crest and describing the lineage of some age old descendants of the house of Gharios and Ghassan fell out of the book and onto the tiled floor.
"What is this?" Dan asked, picking up the sheet of paper from the floor.
Dan and the shepherd were sitting on a pew of the central nave of some church. Dan looked around him. He had absolutely no idea what he was doing there. "Why are we here, Damianos?"
"Try concentrating on the life you have lived thus far, Dan, and read the Sovereign and Royal Appointment in your hands. Read it carefully and then tell me if any of the names sounds or looks familiar to you?"
Dan knew better than question his companion before he had read the whole page. He lifted his gaze to Damianos and said, "Okay, now what? I don't see what these people have to do with me. Who are they?"
"Why don't we go back to a century where you play an important role in the Catholic Church's reformation?"
"Me?" Dan sounded utterly baffled. "I know I have been raised in the Catholic faith, Damianos, but that's as far as my involvement with the church went, or goes for that matter."
"That's where you're wrong, Dan. You see, one of the reasons we are sitting here today is to retrace the steps of one of your ancestors, a man by the name of Gaspare Ricciulli del Fasso ..."
"Is that the same Ricciulli mentioned in the lineage description?" Dan asked pointing to the name of Ricciulli.
"Precisely. Gaspare was instrumental in executing fundamental changes in the conduct and the timing of certain rites and rituals."
"Are you saying my ancestor was some sort of prelate in the church?"
"Yes, Dan. He was known as the Archbishop Gaspare Ricciulli del Fasso as I said ..."
"But what has that got to do with me, today? I don't understand."
"The road to your redemption is a long one, Dan, as you know, and in order for you to understand each step toward such redemption, it will be imperative for you to understand where your ancestors succeeded and where they failed; each time drawing a lesson from their lives' work."
Dan looked down at the book he found in his old house in Pennsylvania eons ago now. This book, entitled, The Twelve Herculean Tasks of the Shepherd, allowed him and his family to attain thorough understanding of values and virtues that furnish one's life until an unexpected incident saw Dan condemned to earning his redemption through recognition of his ancestors successes and failures.
"And is this the church of the Archbishop Ricciulli?" Once again Dan looked around him. The architecture was perhaps more modern than he had first expected for a church located at the very tip of Calabria in southern Italy.
"Yes, it was. However, this is not the edifice the archbishop knew. The city of Rhegium, as Reggio was known in the time of Christ, has lived under many dominions such as the Byzantines, which took the church from Rome, and placed it under the control of Constantinople, then under the Normans in 1061, who, fortunately restored control to Rome. After a fire that had been ignited by Turkish dissidents in 1574, the church was rebuilt under the guidance of none other than our friend Gaspare Ricciulli. For nearly 120 years afterward, this building saw many renovations and reconstructions. Yet, the edifice wasn't able to stand the earthquake that shook the south of Italy to practically its complete destruction in 1783. Diovan Battista Mori reconstructed the church then, only for the building to be destroyed once again in 1908. The damage to the city and to the church was so extensive that it took another 20 years for the cathedral to be ultimately rebuilt to its present state."
"Where did it get its name?"
"It was finally consecrated as the Cathedral Maria SS Assunta in Cielo. When we'll go outside you'll see that it's located in the middle of piazza ..."
"Yes ...," Dan interrupted, his impatience flaring up, "but what am I supposed to do here?"
"Perhaps, we should have a look at history and let you be the man you were in 1562." And with a snap of his fingers Damianos transported the two of them to a place in Rome and in a room where a mirror told Dan he had taken on the appearance of his ancestor or maybe he was re-living a life he had forgotten.
Dressed in his clerical robes, Dan – or Gaspare now – turned to Damianos. The latter had donned the garments of a priest and secretary to the prelate Gaspare Ricciulli.
"I have chosen for my subject the Authority of the Church and the power of the councils," Gaspare said, "The bishops had the satisfaction of hearing it declared, as in the too famous sermon of Musso, that the Holy Spirit was about to speak by their mouths. As for the Church's Authority," he went on, "is it not it, among other reasons, that substituted the Lord's Day for the Sabbath, which was instituted by God himself? Did it not abolish circumcision, also instituted by God?"
"Yes, Monsignor," Damianos replied, "but now I think it is time to leave for the Council."
"Very well then," Gaspare said, looking at his reflection one last time before stepping out into the courtyard of the building. Thus, at eight o'clock in the morning of January 18, 1562, the four Conciliar Legates Gonzago Seripando, Hosius and Simonetta, together with Ludovico Madruzzo, Duke Guglielmo Gonzaga of Mantua and the patriarch, archbishops, bishops, abbots, generals of the orders and many other proceeded to the Cathedral San Vigilio, where Cardinal Gonzaga began the proceedings by singing the solemn mass of the Holy Spirit and where Gasparo Ricciulli del Fosso, Archbishop of Reggio de' Calabria delivered the sermon that changed the face of the Catholic Church for centuries to come.
Gaspare began by saying that the Authority of the Church was not less than that of the Scriptures, because it received it from God; so that "whoever hears it, hears God; and whoever despises it, despises God: That the Church alone has Power to distinguish Canonical Books from Apocryphal, Catholic from Heretical; to interpret the Scriptures Faithfully, to reject whatsoever may be hurtful, and to embrace what may be profitable: That this was the reason of St. Augustin's saying, I should not believe the Gospel, if I were not induced to it by the Authority of the Church: That what they called the Church, was the Assembly of the Faithful, and of Prelates, which cannot err, because it is enlightened by the Holy Ghost; by Jesus Christ its Head; and that whosoever does not acquiesce in its Determinations, opposes Jesus Christ himself, and ought to be esteemed as a Heathen Man and a Publican. ... That on the contrary, the Authority of the Church borrows its Luster and Majesty from the Scriptures, when it declares, That these Holy Books come from God, when it gives them to be read, when it faithfully explains their Sense, when it condemns what is contrary to the Doctrine which they contain, even then, when by this Authority we see legal Ceremonies abolished, though commanded in Scripture by our Lord; the Lord's Day substituted in the room of the Sabbath, so famous in the Law of God; Circumcision ordained to Abraham and his Race with threatening, so entirely done away, That St. Paul declares to the Galatians, That if they are circumcised, they are fallen from Grace, and Jesus Christ profits them nothing: That yet all these Ceremonies and others of the same sort, were not abolished by the Preaching of Jesus Christ, since he came to fulfill the Law, and not to destroy it: And therefore, That this change is wrought by the Authority of the Church; and, That if this Authority were destroyed, since Heresies must be, Truth could never be discovered, nor the obstinacy of Heretics be confounded; and Disorder and Confusion would be quickly seen in Religion ..."
As if waking from a dream, Dan opened his eyes – aghast. He was sitting in the den of his house and looking at Damianos.
"What have you done?" Dan demanded. "Who's that man, that archbishop? Did he really exist? Was it a dream?"
"No, Dan. It wasn't a dream, the man you met, the man you became for an hour or so, was yourself four and half centuries ago. You were Archbishop Gaspare Ricciulli then. And your speech at the Council of Trent ignited a number of reforms within the Catholic Church."
"But why is it important for me today?"
"Such as Gaspare did then, you are fighting established rules. You cannot destroy the cathedral of your mind such as the earthquake destroyed Maria SS Assunta in cielo, but you can build upon its ruins such as the Archbishop did."
"Are you saying my mind is in ruin?"
"No, Dan, but I'm saying you have a trove of knowledge in your ancestors' accomplishments and each of them will assist you in rebuilding your strength and in leading you to return to your present."
"You mean return to 2014?"
"Perhaps, Dan. It largely depends on your aptitude to abide by the precepts established through your ancestral work."
"And the speech I made; you said it ignited changes within the church – what were they exactly?"
"I think the most important thing to remember, Dan, what ever change you wish to implement, whether in your own life or in the lives of millions of people such as Gaspare did, you need to understand the impact the changes will have on your descendants. Before Gaspare made his speech he had seen his faith – not only his religion or his church – being attacked from all sides. His own ancestors as you read were Ghassans – Middle East people of great staying power. They lived in peace with their neighbors. They had earned the respect of their peers and that until Islam came to be. For Gaspare to accede to the bishopric or even the status he enjoyed in earlier years, he had to remain steadfast in his faith in God. He didn't instigated changes for the sake of changes, but for the sake of his faith. He could have been sanctioned to death for challenging the Word of God, but he didn't. He could have been imprisoned for making such a speech or offering such suggestions as changing the Lord's Day, but he didn't. He believed in God, Dan. He believed in God's power. He didn't stand in front of the prelates to declare that they were wrong, but to encourage them to see past the ancestral laws and adopt the laws of the Holy Spirit as spoken through their mouths."
"So, let me understand this," Dan said, closing his book and depositing it on the coffee table before him. "You're saying that my faith in God should be my guiding light through the next while, right?"
"Yes, Dan, and you must have heard this hundreds of times, it is not the fact that you sit in church every Sunday that will prove your faith in God, but your assiduity and you listening to his voice when ever he decides to speak to you. You have faith on which to rebuild your house, your cathedral, Dan, such as Gaspare did in 1574. He knew that the building may not stand another assault from the earth's tremors, but he used his faith and his determination to have the building erected over the rubble of the past."
"When did these changes finally take place?" Dan asked after a moment of pondering what he had just heard.
"Whoa! He had to wait eighteen years before he saw his dream realized?"
"Yes, Dan. Only patience, determination and fortitude led him to victory."CHAPTER 2
A descendant of the Sabaeans
"It was both encompassed by the Nile quite round, and the other rivers, Astapus and Astaboras," (Josephus, Jewish-Roman historian.)
Still sitting in the den, Dan seemed lost in thought. He looked at the Sovereign Imperial and Royal Appointment in his hand and decided to ask, "I have heard of the Queen but I have never heard of the King of Sheba. Is he another one of my ancestors?"
"Perhaps you should read the Royal Appointment more carefully, Dan," Damianos suggested. "If I recall correctly, the man was a descendant of the 'Kings' of Sheba, which means a descendant of those who reigned over the Sabaean Kingdom."
"Okay, and what do we know about these people apart from the fact that one of their queens was the subject of King Solomon's poems in the bible."
Damianos had to laugh. "I'm sorry, Dan, but the Sabaeans have left us a lot more than a few poems addressed to the Queen of Saba. The kingdom of Saba was a Semitic civilization located in Southern Arabia, in today's Yemen actually ..."
"Hold on a moment," Dan said, "So, you're saying the Kingdom of Saba is the same as the Kingdom of Sheba? Why the different appellation?"
"The two names Sheba (spelled in Hebrew with shin) and Seba (spelled with samekh) are mentioned several times in the bible with different genealogy. For instance, in the Table of Nations, Seba, along with Dedan, is listed as a descendant of Noah's son Ham (as sons of Raamah, son of Cush). Later on in Genesis, Sheba and Dedan are listed as names of sons of Jokshan, son of Abraham. Another Sheba is listed in the Table of Nations as a son of Joktan. Another descendant of Noah's son Shem ..."
Dan waved a hand in front of his face. "Sorry, I shouldn't have asked," he said, grinning. "Go ahead with the story." He reclined in his seat, the grin on his face not disappearing.
"As I was saying," Damianos went on, "the Semitic civilization of Saba lived in what is known today as Yemen from 1200 BC until its downfall in 275 AD. The kingdom fell at the hands of Yemenite dynasties at the issue of several civil wars, which gave rise to the kingdom of Himyarite."
"Interesting, isn't it?" Dan heard from over his shoulder.
He spun around in his seat to look up at a face he had come to know for a while – Gustavo. "What ...? What on earth are you doing here?"
Gustavo, a big, burly sort of a man, plopped down in the chair beside Dan's. "I heard that you were going to travel into your past and decided that I might as well join you. And here I am."
"But you can't be!" Dan yelled. "You can't be here ..., you're not ..., I mean you're not ..."
"Dead? Is that what you're trying to say?" Gustavo chuckled. "Perhaps not, but as you recall, I made a commitment to you which entailed my accompanying you in your travels. And since I have not changed my mind, and my destiny hasn't offered me a life worth pursuing, I decided to have a glance at what you were doing."
Dan turned to Damianos. "Are you to blame for this?"
"Partly, Dan, yes. You see, Gustavo ought to have returned to Key West upon your departure and although he did and even returned to working for the transport company where he worked shortly after the two of you met; he also returned to drinking and had an awful accident. At present, Gustavo is in a coma. He will remain so until his body heals and until you, Dan, have completed your travels through your ancestral lineage."
Dan looked dumfounded. He shook his head and then fixed his gaze on his friend. "Why did you go back to drinking? Wasn't the first time costly enough for you?"
Gustavo broke into another loud chuckle. "Wasn't your first dare-devil accident enough for you?"
"Alright, alright, I hear you," Dan said, bowing his head as he put his elbows on his knees. He looked up at Damianos. "Anyone else joining us on this trip?"
"No, Dan. The three of us will make the journey – no one else."
"What about Solange and Damian?" Gustavo asked. "Or even Nicolas?"
Damianos shook his head. "No, Gustavo, no one will join us or should appear during our travels. You see, this is quite a different situation from the one you've experienced previously. This trip is not destined to take you down to Dan's past, but rather for him to relive his past lives."
"You mean like past-life regression?"
Excerpted from Ricciulli by Arnaldo Ricciulli. Copyright © 2015 Arnaldo Ricciulli. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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