A richly peopled and dramatic allegorical journey into the evolutionary and yet constant core of human spirituality -- corruption and despair; aridity and quest; dignity and ""the labors of the heart."" Father Albrecht, of a Benedictine Order in 11th century Cologne, is sent to investigate a lost colony of the Order which was cut off from the mainland by a tidal wave 100 years before. Albrecht, sour, disaffected, and aware of ""corruption at the core of holiness,"" sets out on his wilderness journey and arrives there ill and unconscious. What was once a Christian community is a sparse but settled group of mainland descendants living in the certainty that they had been abandoned by God. The inhabitants had passed through years of Doomsday passivity, an era of visions, miracles and mad saints, a period of internecine terror, to arrive at some order and peace under the present Abbot. Father Albrecht sees bizarre observances commemorating a brief folk history; the Brothers married and with children; the monastery, nunnery and chapel desecrated. At first tentatively and then abruptly, out of his own sense of death, Albrecht draws the ""lost children"" back to the Church. But as sins are exposed there are disturbing fatalities and vacant withdrawals, and one dissident Brother objects: ""Maybe our lives were aimless, hopeless but they were not cheap."" Father Albrecht then finds an unexpected resurrection on earth with the chatelaine Julianne who had once spoken of renewal: ""Nothing can bring it forth but the labors of a living heart."" They become lovers, finally part, and Father Albrecht returns to die in a world which, he discovers, shrinks before the visions of ""God's creatures."" Conceptual elegance, allusive craft and a sustained fidelity to the subtleties of spiritual progress -- in an individual and a society.