Father Balthasar was perplexed before his writing desk, in the scriptorium of the monastery. Hour after hour, he wanted to reproduce on the piece of vellum those illuminations that adorn his breviaries and missals and provided him artistic reputation. There was not even a year that he had finished his Book of hours for the queen of France, that was the astonishment of that Court, and now he could not even draw an insignificant flower! He, that managed to paint within the initial of Stebat Mater the face of the Mother of God, with as much beauty and art, that they could see rolling tears on the cheeks of the Painful one! He that was able to trim the tiny verses of the Magnificent with foliages and unbelievable small leaves!
One and a thousand times he tried again, but obtain nothing. With a deep sigh, he put back his paintings and brushes, and then heard the bell that called to matins.
" Six hours without obtaining anything, he thought. “God pardon this waste of time! "
He directed himself slowly to the choir, thinking incessantly about his lost faculty. The smooth ritual songs intoned by the friars, incense clouds spread through the ships of the temple; but although Father Balthasar wanted to concentrate his attention on his job, his imagination flew and felt great anguish while thinking about his art, so marvelous that it astonished the world, was now lost, perhaps forever.
He finished his job, and the friars slowly and quietly left the choir and crossed like shadows the old cloisters, to go into in their cells, to rest for brief moments. Father Balthasar, crestfallen, went into his room and laid in the hard platform that served him as a bed; fatigue and sadness weighed on his eyes and sleep provided him momentary relief.
But soon woke up trembling, and thought he heard a voice that said:
" Praised to you, Lord, by the moon and the stars, that in the sky you have formed clear, beautiful and precious! "
The friar rose from his hard bed and prayed, until, through the window of his poor cell, saw the moon and the stars turn pale.
The following day, he accomplished his duties with the greatest exactitude, but the brother Gilbert, the novice, noticed the sadness in his face, and the priory friar often watch him in the refectory.
When he was, finally, in the solitude of the Scriptorium, he took the brushes with tremulous hands and, on the stretched piece of vellum, wanted to reproduce once again the illuminations of the missal of the monastery and the Book of hours of the Queen of France; but he was not able to obtain anything. His drawings looked like a child’s drawings.
He dropped the brushes, and reclining his tonsured head on his arms, started to sob bitterly. His tears felt pitifully on the vellum, staining it and making more blotches in his ill-fated drawings.
How many days Father Balthasar spent in that one bitter state of emotion! How many nights without sleeping! The daily tasks of the monastery’s life could not make him forget his suffering: not the verses of the Psalms or the prayers of his job. One day he went to a meadow, near the monastery, in which growed a great number of flowers of diverse species, and these perhaps, that so many times he had drawn up, idealized, in breviaries and missals, brought new tears of pain to his eyes. Long time was Father Balthasar given to his deep pain and forgotten the monarchal rule completely; suddenly, smooth clarity illuminated his mind, and kneeling he exclaimed:
“Oh, pigmy and miserable race of mortals! You have not understood, sinful Balthasar, if God has taken away your art, was only because you amused yourself in admiring your work and you were filled with pride for it? Oh, vanity of vanities! "
After he had fulfilled the penance that the prior imposed on him because he had broken the rule, he went into his cell, to take a small rest. Soon after that, they played the matins, and the friar wanted to rise from his hard bed, but his sight became cloudy, and he felt weak… and his life leaving him slowly….
While the friars buried the corpse of Balthasar in the crypt of the monastery, the prior directed himself to the Scriptorium, to gather the work of the illuminator, supposing it not finished. But he found the sheet of vellum trimmed of the most exquisite and delicate work; doubtless the best work of art drawn up by the brushes of Father Balthasar.
my own translation of a religious story by a writer from Spain, written in 1922.