431. Arrival at Nazareth.
9th May 1946.
Coming from the Sephoris countryside one enters Nazareth on the north‑eastern side, that is, on the highest and rockiest side. The entire amphitheatre, on the terraces of which Nazareth is spread, appears when one reaches the top of the hill, which is the last one coming from Sephoris and which slopes down rather steeply through ravines towards the town. If I remember correctly, because a long time has passed and many mountain places are alike, the spot where Jesus is, is the precise one where His fellow-citizens tried to stone Him, but He stopped them with His power, walking through them.
Jesus stops to look at His dear yet hostile town, and a smile of happiness brightens His face. What a blessing, ignored and undeserved by the Nazarenes, is His divine smile, which certainly pours and spreads graces on the land which received Him when He was a child, saw Him grow up and where His Mother was born and She became the Spouse of God and the Mother of God! Also the two cousins look at their town with evident joy, but Thaddeus' happiness is tempered by austere reserved gravity, whereas James' is more open and kind, more like Jesus'.
Although it is not his town, Thomas' face shines brightly with joy, and pointing at Mary's little house, from the stone oven of which rings of smoke are rising, he says: «The Mother is at home and She is baking bread...» and he utters these simple words with such fervent love, that he seems to be speaking of his mother with all the affection of a son.
The Zealot, more calm because of his age and upbringing, smiles saying: «Yes, and Her peace is already arriving in our hearts.»
«Let us go down quickly » says James. «We will go down this path and it is unlikely that any of the Nazarenes will see us arrive. They would delay us...»
«But you will be going away from your home... Your mother also is anxious to see you.»
«Oh! You may be sure, Simon, that our mother is with Mary. She is almost always there... And she will be there because they are baking and because of the sick girl.»
«Yes, let us go this way. We will pass at the rear of Alphaeus' kitchen garden and we will arrive at the hedge of ours » says Jesus.
They go down quickly along a path which at first is very steep, then it becomes more gentle near the town. They go through olive-groves and small fields bare of crops. They pass near the first kitchen gardens in town. And the tall leafy hedges around the gardens and over which hang branches of trees laden with fruit, or the little dry‑stone walls all covered with branches hanging outside from orchards, prevent their passing from being noticed by housewives moving about the gardens, or doing the washing or spreading it on the patches of grass near the houses...
The hedge bordering one side of Mary's kitchen garden, which is a tangle of thorns in winter, then thick with leaves in summer, after the hawthorn blooms in spring or the little fruits become ruby‑colour in autumn, is now adorned with a luxuriant jasmine and with the undulating calyces of a flower, the name of which I do not know, and which from the inside of the garden throw their branches onto the hedge making it thicker and more beautiful. A blackcap is singing in the thick of the hedge and the cooing of doves is heard from inside the garden.
«The fence also is protected and entirely covered with branches in bloom » says James who has run ahead to look at the rustic gate at the rear of the garden, the one which, after not being used for years, was opened to let Peter's cart go in and out for John and Syntyche.
«We will go along the lane and will knock at the door. My Mother would suffer seeing this protection destroyed » replies Jesus.
«Her enclosed garden! » exclaims Judas of Alphaeus.
«Yes. And She is its rose » says Thomas.
«As a lily among the thistles » says James.
«The sealed fountain » says the Zealot.
«Better: the well of living water which gushing impetuously from the beautiful mountain gives the Water of Life to the Earth and spurts towards Heaven with its scented beauty » says Jesus.
«She will soon be delighted to see You » says James.
«Tell me, Brother, something which I have been longing to know for some time. How do You see Mary? As a Mother or as a subject? She is Your Mother, but She is a woman and You are God...» asks Thaddeus.
«As sister and as bride, as delight and rest of God and as comfort of Man. I see everything and I have everything in Mary, as God and as Man. She Who was the Delight of the Second Person of the Trinity in Heaven, Delight of the Word as well as of the Father and of the Spirit, is the Delight of the God Incarnate, and She will be the Delight of the Man God Glorified.»
«What a mystery! So God has deprived Himself twice of His delights? In You and in Mary and He gave You to the Earth...» meditates the Zealot.
«What love! You ought to say. Love induced the Trinity to give Mary and Jesus to the Earth » says James.
«And, not with regard to You, Who are God, but with regard to His Rose, was He not afraid to entrust Her to men, who are all unworthy of protecting Her? » asks Thomas.
«Thomas, the Song of Songs replies to you: "The Peaceful One had a vineyard and he entrusted it to vine‑dressers who, being profaners instigated by the Desecrator, would have paid large amounts to have it, that is, all allurements to seduce it, but the beautiful Vineyard of the Lord looked after itself by itself, and would not give its fruits to anybody but to the Lord and it unbosomed itself to Him generating the priceless Treasure: the Saviour".»
They have now arrived at the door of the house, While Jesus knocks, Judas of Alphaeus comments: «It would be the case to say: "Open, my sister, my spouse, my beloved immaculate dove"...»
But when the door opens, and the sweet face of the Virgin appears, Jesus utters the sweetest word, stretching out His arms to receive Her: «Mother! »
«Oh! Son! Blessed! Come in and may peace and love be with You »
«And with My Mother and the house and those in it » says Jesus entering, followed by the others.
«Your mother is in there, and the two women disciples are busy baking and doing the washing...» explains Mary after exchanging greetings with the apostles and Her nephews, who discreetly withdraw leaving Mother and Son alone.
«Here I am with You, Mother. We will be together for some time... How sweet it is to come back... the house and You above all, Mother, after so much travelling amongst men...»
«And men become more and more acquainted with You and through such knowledge of You they become divided into two groups: those who love You... and those who hate You... And the latter group is the bigger...»
«Evil perceives that it is about to be defeated and it is furious... and makes people furious... How is the girl? »
«A little better... But she was on the point of death... And her words, now that she is not delirious correspond, although they are more reserved, to those which she spoke while raving. It would be a lie to say that we have not reconstructed her history... Poor girl!...»
«Yes, but Providence watched over her.»
«Now I do not know. Aurea does not belong to Me as a creature. Her soul is Mine, her body belongs to Valeria. For the time being, she will stay here, to forget...»
«Myrtha would like to have her.»
«I know... But I am not entitled to do anything without permission of the Roman lady. I do not even know whether they purchased her with money or simply used the weapon of promises ... When the Roman lady will claim her...»
«I will go in Your place, Son. It is not right that You should go... Let Your Mother see to it... We women... the least beings for Israel, are not noticed so much if we go and speak to Gentiles. And Your Mother is so unknown to the world! No one will notice the Jewess of the common people going through the streets in Tiberias, enveloped in her mantle, and knocking at the door of a Roman lady...»
«You could go to Johanna's... and speak to the lady there...»
«I will do that, Son. May Your heart be relieved, Jesus!... You are so distressed... I understand... and I would like to do so much for You...»
«And You do so much, Mother. Thank You for everything You do...»
«Oh! I am a very poor help, Son! Because I am not successful in making You loved, in giving You... joy... as long as You are allowed to enjoy some... So what am I? A poor disciple, indeed...»
«Mother! Mother! Do not say that! My strength comes to Me through Your prayers. My mind rests thinking of You, and, see, My heart finds comfort thus, with My head against Your blessed heart... Mother of Mine!...» Jesus has drawn His Mother to Himself, as She was standing in front of Him, while He was sitting on the chest against the wall, and He leans His forehead on the breast of Mary, Who gently caresses His hair... A pause of love.
Jesus then raises His head, stands up and says: «Let us go to the others and to the girl » and He goes out with His Mother into the kitchen garden.
The three women disciples, standing at the door of the room where the sick girl is, are talking to the apostles. But when they see Jesus, they become quiet and kneel down.
«Peace to you, Mary of Alphaeus, and to you, Myrtha and Naomi. Is the girl sleeping? »
«Yes, she is. She is still feverish and her temperature stupefies and consumes her. If it persists like this, she will die. Her frail body will not resist the disease and her mind is upset by remembrances » says Mary of Alphaeus.
«Yes... and she does not react because she says that she wants to die, so that she may not see any more Romans...» confirms Myrtha.
«And that grieves us because we are already fond of her...» says Naomi.
«Be not afraid! » replies Jesus going as far as the threshold of the little room and lifting the curtain...
On the little bed against the wall, facing the door, appears the little thin face of the girl, bright red at the cheek‑bones, while all the rest is snow‑white, buried in the mass of her long golden hair. She is sleeping restlessly, muttering incomprehensible words through her teeth and with her hand abandoned on the blankets she now and then makes a gesture as if she were rejecting something.
Jesus does not enter. He looks at her with pitiful eyes. He then calls her in a loud voice: «Aurea! Come! Your Saviour is here.»
All of a sudden the girl sits up in her bed, she sees Jesus and with a cry she gets up and runs barefooted in her long loose tunic towards Him, and kneels at His feet saying: «Lord! Now You have really freed me! »
«She is cured. See? She could not die because she must become acquainted with the Truth first.» And to the girl who is kissing His feet He says: «Rise and live in peace » and He lays His hand on the no longer feverish head.
Aurea, in her long linen dress, perhaps one of the Virgin's, so long as to form a train, her loose hair falling over her slender figure like a mantle, her grey‑blue eyes still bright because of the temperature which has just dropped and of the joy which has just filled her, looks like an angel.
«Goodbye! We are withdrawing into the workshop while you look after the girl and the house...» says the Master and followed by His four apostles he goes into Joseph's old workshop and they sit on the benches no longer used...
432. Parable of Painted Wood.
10th May 1946.
The rustic workshop fireplace has been lit after not being used for such a long time, and the smell of glue boiling in a can mingles with the characteristic smell of sawdust and fresh shavings, which are just piling up at the foot of a bench.
Jesus is working with zest to transform some timber, with the help of saw and plane, into legs for chairs, drawers and so forth. Some pieces of furniture, the modest furniture of the little house in Nazareth, have been taken into the workshop to be repaired: the kneading trough, one of Mary's looms, two stools, a garden ladder, a little chest and the door of the stone oven, the lower part of which I think has been perhaps gnawed away by mice. Jesus is working to repair what usage and old age have consumed.
Thomas, instead, with a complete outfit of a goldsmith's tiny tools, which he must have taken out of his sack lying on his little bed placed against the wall like the Zealot's, is working with a light hand at some thin silver plates. And the tapping of his little hammer on the burin, giving a silvery sound, mingles with the loud noise of the working tools used by Jesus.
Now and again they exchange a few words, and Thomas is so happy to be there with the Master and at his work of goldsmith - and in fact he says so ‑ that in the intervals of conversation he whistles softly. Now and again he raises his eyes and thinks, and absorbed in thought he stares at the smoky wall of the large room.
Jesus notices that and asks: «Are you drawing your inspiration from that black wall, Tom? It is true that it was the long work of a just man that made it so, but I do not think that it can inspire a goldsmith...»
«No, Master, a goldsmith in fact cannot reproduce with rich metals the poetry of holy poverty... But with his metal he can imitate the beautiful things in nature and thus ennoble gold and silver reproducing with them the flowers and leaves which are in creation. I think of those flowers and leaves, and to remember their details precisely I become fixed thus, with my eyes on the wall, but in actual fact I see the woods and meadows of our Fatherland, the light leaves, the flowers resembling chalices or stars, the bearing of stalks and leafy branches...»
«You are a poet, then, a poet singing in metal what another person sings with ink on parchment.»
«Yes. A goldsmith in fact is a poet who writes on metal the beautiful things of nature. But our work, artistic and beautiful, is not worth Yours, which is humble and holy, because ours serves the vanity of rich people, whereas Yours serves the sanctity of the house and the usefulness of the poor.»
«What you say is right, Thomas » says the Zealot, who has appeared at the door opening on to the kitchen garden, with his tunic tucked up, his sleeves rolled up, with an old apron in front of him and a tin of paint in his hand.
Jesus and Thomas turn round looking at him and they smile. And Thomas replies: «Yes, what I say is right. But I want that once in a while the work of a goldsmith may serve to adorn a... good holy thing...»
«It's a secret of mine. I have had this idea for a long time, and since we were at Ramah I have been carrying a goldsmith's little outfit, waiting for this moment... And what about your work, Simon? »
«Oh! I am not a perfect craftsman like you, Tom. It is the first time that I have held a brush in my hand and what I paint is uneven, notwithstanding all my good will. That is why I began from the... most simple things... to acquire skill... and I can assure you that my inexperience made the girl laugh heartily. But I am glad! She is reviving hourly to a serene life, and that is what is required to cancel her past and renew her for You, Master.»
«H'm! perhaps Valeria will not give her up...» says Thomas.
«Oh! what do you think it matters to Valeria to have her or not? If she had kept her, it would have been only to prevent her from being left forlorn in the world. It would certainly be a good thing if the girl were safe for ever and in everything, above all in her spirit. Is that right, Master? »
«That is true. We must pray hard for that. The girl is really simple and good, and if she were brought up in the Truth, she could yield much. She is instinctively inclined to the Light.»
«I quite believe it! She has no consolation on the Earth... and she seeks it in Heaven, poor soul! I think that when Your Gospel is announced all over the world, the first and the most numerous to receive it will be the slaves, those who have no human comfort and who will take shelter in Your promises to have some... And I say that if the honour of preaching You falls to me, I will love those poor wretches with a special love…»
«And you will do the right thing, Tom » says Jesus.
«Yes. But how will you approach them? »
«Oh! I will be a goldsmith for the ladies and... a master of their slaves. A goldsmith calls at houses or the servants of rich people come to his... and I will work... Two metals: those of the Earth for the rich... those of the spirit for slaves.»
«May God bless you for your good intentions, Tom. Persevere in them…»
«Yes, Master, I will.»
«Well, now that You have replied to Thomas, please come with me, Master... to see my work and to tell me what I must paint now. Simple things again, because I am a very incapable apprentice.»
«Let us go, Simon...» and Jesus lays down His tools and goes out with the Zealot...
They come back after some time and Jesus points at the garden ladder. «Paint that. Paint makes wood impenetrable and preserves it longer, in addition to making it more beautiful. It is like the defence and ornament of virtues on a human heart. It may be rough, coarse... But as soon as virtues clothe it, it becomes beautiful and pleasant. See, to have a beautiful paint which serves its purpose, one must take care of many things. First of all: you have to choose carefully what is necessary to make it. That is, a clean can free from mould and residues of old paints, good oils and good colours, and then you have to mix them patiently, working on them to make a liquid which is neither too thick nor too thin. And you must not tire working until the least clot is dissolved. When that is done, you have to take a brush the bristles of which do not come off, and they must be neither too hard nor too soft; the brush is to be cleaned of any previous paint, and before applying the paint, you have to remove from the wood all roughness, the peelings of old paints, dirt, everything, and then neatly, with a steady hand and much patience, you spread the paint, working in the same direction all the time. Because on the same board you meet different resistances. On knots, for instance, the paints remains smoother, that is true, but it does not cover them well, as if the wood rejected it. Viceversa, the paint sticks well on the soft parts of the wood, but the soft parts are generally not very smooth and thus blisters or stripes form... One then must remedy the defect by spreading the paint with a steady hand. Then in old pieces of furniture there are new parts, like this rung, for instance. And in order not to show that the poor ladder has been botched, but is very old, one must get the new rung and the old ones to be alike... There you are, like that! » Jesus bent at the foot of the ladder is working and speaking at the same time...
Thomas, who has left his burins to come near Jesus and see, asks: «Why did You begin from the bottom and not from the top? Was it not better the other way round? »
«It would appear to be better, but is not. Because the lower part is more worn out and will wear out more because it rests on the ground. So you must paint it several times. A first coat, a second and a third one if necessary... and not to waste time waiting for the lower part to dry and thus be ready for a new coat, you paint the top and then the central parts of the ladder.»
«But in doing so, one might stain one's clothes and spoil what was painted previously.»
«If you are careful you do not stain your clothes and you do not spoil anything. See? This is how you do it. You gather your clothes and stand apart. Not out of disgust for the paint, but not to spoil the paint which, being fresh, is delicate » and Jesus with His arms raised up paints the top of the ladder.
And He continues to speak:
«And you do the same with souls. At the beginning I told you that paint is like the ornament of virtues on human hearts. It adorns and protects wood from wood‑worm, from rain, from the sun. Woe to the landlord who does not take care of painted fittings and allows them to deteriorate! When one sees that the wood is losing its paint, one must not waste time, but fresh paint is to be put on. Paints must be refreshed... Also virtues acquired in a first fit of enthusiasm towards justice may grow feeble or fade away completely if the landlord does not watch, and body and soul, laid bare, at the mercy of inclement weather and of parasites, that is, of passions and dissipations, can be attacked and lose the garment which adorns them, and end by being... good only for the fire. Therefore, with regard both to ourselves and to those whom we love as our disciples, when we notice that the virtues which serve to defend our egos are being shattered or are fading away, we must provide at once with diligent patient work until the end of our lives, so that we may go to sleep, when we die, with body and soul worthy of a glorious resurrection. And in order to ensure that your virtues are true and good, you must begin with pure courageous intentions, which remove all rubbish and mould, and you must work not to leave any imperfection in the building up of virtues, and then take an attitude, which is neither too hard nor too lenient, because both intolerance and excessive indulgence are harmful. And the brush: your will. Let it be free from pre‑existent human inclinations which might vein the spiritual hue with material disfigurements, and prepare yourselves or other people, with suitable operations, which are laborious, it is true, but necessary, to cleanse the old ego from any ancient leprosy, so that it may be pure to receive virtue. Because you cannot mix what is new with what is old.
You then begin to work: in good order, with consideration. You must not jump here and there without a good reason. You must not work a little in one direction and then a little in another. One would get less tired, that is true. But the paint would be uneven. As happens in disorderly souls. They display perfect points, then close to them there are deformities, different shades... One must insist on the spots resisting the paint, on the knots: confusion of matter or of dissolute passions, which, of course, have been mortified by will, which like a plane has laboriously smoothed them, but they remain to offer resistance like a knot amputated but not destroyed. And they deceive at times, as they appear to be well clad with virtue, whereas it is but a light veil which soon falls off. Beware of the knots of concupiscence. Ensure that virtue covers them over and over again, so that they may not flourish again disfiguring the new ego. And cover the soft parts, which receive the paint too easily, but they do so to their own liking: if there are blisters and stripes you must insist with isinglass, smoothing and smoothing in order to give one or more coats of paint, so that such parts may become as glossy as hardened enamel. And watch that you do not overload. To exact too much from virtue makes the creature rebel, boil over and blister at the first impact. No. Neither too much nor too little. Be fair when working on yourselves and on creatures made of flesh and soul.
And if, as in most cases ‑ because girls like Aurea are an exception, not the rule ‑ there are new parts mixed with old ones, as Israelites have, passing from Moses to the Christ, as well as heathens with their mosaic of beliefs which cannot be cancelled all of a sudden and will surface with nostalgic memories, at least in the most pure matters, then one must be more vigilant and tactful and insist until the old part is homogeneous with the new one making use of pre‑existent situations to complete the new virtues. For instance, the Romans hold in high esteem patriotism and manlike courage. They are both considered almost as myths. Well, do not destroy them but inculcate a new spirit on patriotism, that is, the spirit of making Rome great also spiritually as the Centre of Christendom and make use of Roman manliness to strengthen in Faith those who are strong in battle. Another instance: Aurea. Her disgust at a brutal revelation urges her to love what is pure and to hate what is impure. Well, make use of both feelings to lead her to perfect purity hating corruptness, as if it were the brutal Roman.
Do you understand Me? And use habits as means of penetration. Do not destroy brutally. You would not dispose at once of what is needed to build. But slowly replace what must not remain in a convert, with charity, patience and tenacity. And since matter overwhelms people, heathens in particular as, even if they are converts, they are always in touch with the heathen world, in which they live, you must insist on the necessity of shunning sensual pleasures. All the rest comes in after sensuality. Watch the exasperated sensuality of heathens and which, let us admit it, is very strong also among us, and when you notice that the contact with the world spoils the preservative paint, do not continue to paint the top, but go back to the lower part, balancing spirit and flesh, top and bottom. But always start from the flesh, from material vice, to prepare the soul to receive the Guest Who does not cohabit in impure bodies or with spirits stinking with carnal corruption... Do you understand me?
And do not be afraid of becoming corrupted if you touch with your garment the lower parts, that is the material ones, of those whose spirits you are curing. Act wisely, so that at all times you may reconstruct rather than bring about ruination. Live engrossed in your ego nourished with God, enveloped with virtue, proceed gently particularly when you have to take care of the most sensitive spiritual ego of other people, and you will certainly succeed in changing even the most despicable beings into creatures worthy of Heaven.»
«What a beautiful parable You have told us! I want to write it for Marjiam! » says the Zealot.
«And for me, as all of me is to be made beautiful for the Lord » says slowly trying to find the words, Aurea who, barefooted, has been standing for some time at the door of the kitchen garden.
«Oh! Aurea! Were you listening to us? » asks Jesus.
«I was listening to You. It is so beautiful! Have I done wrong? »
«No, girl. Have you been here long? »
«No. And I am sorry because I do not know what You said previously. Your Mother has sent me to tell You that the meal will be ready shortly. The bread is about to be taken out of the oven. I have learned how to bake it... How lovely! And I have learned to bleach linen, and Your Mother has told me two parables concerning bread and linen.»
«Has She? What did She say? »
«That I am like flour still in the sieve, that Your goodness purifies me, Your grace works in me, Your apostolate perfects me, Your love cooks me and from coarse flour mixed with so much bran I will end up, if I allow myself to be worked on by You, by being flour for hosts, flour and bread of sacrifice, good for the Altar. And on the linen, which was dark, oily and coarse, and which after so much borit grass (1) and so many blows of mortification has become clean and soft, the sun will now shine, and it will become white... And She said that that is what the Sun of God will do with me, if I always remain in the Sun and I accept to be cleansed and mortified to become worthy of the King of kings, of You, my Lord. What lovely things I am learning... I seem to be dreaming... Lovely! Everything is beautiful here... Do not send me away, Lord! »
«Would you not like to go with Myrtha and Naomi? »
«I would prefer to stay here... But... also with them. But not with Romans, no, Lord...»
«Pray, child! » says Jesus laying His hand on her honey‑blond hair. «Have you learned the prayer? »
«Oh! yes! It is so lovely to say: "My Father!" and think of Heaven... But the will of God frightens me a little... because I do not know whether God wants what I want...»
«God wants your welfare.»
«Does He? You say so?! In that case I am no longer afraid... I feel that I will remain in Israel... to become more and more acquainted with this Father of mine... And... to be the first disciple of Gaul, my Lord! »
«Your faith will be satisfied because it is good. Let us go...»
And they all go out towards the basin under the spring of water to wash themselves, while Aurea runs to Mary and their two feminine voices are heard: Mary's, which is fluent in speaking, whereas the other is uncertain, of a person trying to find words. And one can hear their shrill voices laughing when a
language error is made and which Mary corrects kindly...
«The girl is learning well and quickly » remarks Thomas.
«Yes. She is good and willing.»
«And then! With Your Mother as teacher!... Not even Satan could resist Her!...» says the Zealot.
Jesus sighs without speaking...
«Why are You sighing thus, Master? Was I not right? »
«Yes, quite right. But there are men more resistant than Satan, who at least runs away from Mary's presence. There are men who are close to Her and who, although taught by Her, do not improve...»
«But not us, eh? » says Thomas.
«No, not you... Let us go...»
They go into the house and it all ends.
433. The Sabbaths in the Peace of Nazareth.
13th May 1946.
The Sabbath is a day of rest. That is already known. And men rest as well as having tools covered up or neatly arranged in their places.
Now that the red sunset of a summer Friday is almost over, Mary, Who is sat at Her smaller loom in the shade of the huge apple‑tree, stands up, covers it and with the help of Thomas She carries it back to its place in the house. And She asks Aurea, who is sitting on a little stool at Her feet sewing with still unskilful hand the dresses given to her by the Roman ladies and fitted on her by Mary, to fold her work tidily and put it on the shelf in her little room. And while Aurea is doing so, the Mother with Thomas goes into the workshop where Jesus and the Zealot are busy putting straight saws, planes, screwdrivers, hammers, tins of paint and glue and sweeping away sawdust and shavings from benches and the floor. Of all the work done so far only two small planks of wood remain, gripped in a vice, at an angle, so that the glue may dry up at the joints (it may be a future drawer), and a stool, half painted, besides the strong smell of fresh paint.
Aurea also goes in and she bends over Thomas's burin work, which she admires and asks, somewhat curious and instinctively coquettish, what it is for and whether it would suit her.
«It would suit you fine, but it suits you better to be good. These ornaments embellish the body only, but are of no use to the spirit. Nay, by cherishing coquetry, they are harmful to the spirit.»
«Why do you make them, then? » asks the logical girl. «Do you want to harm a spirit? »
Thomas, who is always kind‑hearted, smiles at the remark and says: «What is superfluous is harmful to a weak spirit. But in the case of a strong spirit, an ornament remains exactly what it is: a brooch to hold a garment in place.»
«For whom are you making it? For your bride? »
«I have no bride and will never have one.»
«For your sister, then.»
«She has more than she needs.»
«For your mother, then.»
«Poor old soul! What would she do with it? »
«But it is for a woman...»
«Yes, but it is not you.»
«Oh! I would not even think of it... And, now that you have said that those things there are harmful to the spirit, I would not like to have it. And I will take the fringes off my dresses. I do not want to do any harm to what belongs to my Saviour! »
«Clever girl! See, with your good will you have done a nicer work than mine.»
«Oh! You are saying so because you are kind!...»
«I am saying it because it is true. See: I took this piece of silver, I reduced it to thin plates as I needed them, then with a tool, or rather with many tools, I folded it thus. But I still have to do the most important work: join the parts together in a natural manner. At present, only these two tiny leaves joined to their little flower are complete » and Thomas with his big fingers lifts a graceful stem of a lily of the valley joined to a leaf which is a perfect imitation of a natural one. It is impressive to see the trinket shining with the brilliancy of pure silver held by the strong dark fingers of the goldsmith.
«Oh! lovely! There were many on the island and we were allowed to pick them before sunrise. Because we blond girls had never to take the sun, so that we might be more valuable. They compelled brunettes instead to stay out in the sun, until they felt sick, to become darker. They... What do you say when one sells something saying that it is one thing, whereas it is another?...»
«Who knows!... Deceit... swindle... I don't know.»
«See, they deceived them saying that they were Arabs or that they came from the Upper Nile, where it rises. They sold one girl saying that she was a descendant of the Queen of Sheba.»
«Fancy that! They did not deceive the girls, but the purchasers. So you say: they cheated. What a race! A wonderful surprise for the purchaser when he saw... the false Ethiopian grow lighter! Did You hear that, Master? How many things we do not know!...»
«Yes, I heard. But the sad side is not the cheating of the purchasers... it is the destiny of the girls...»
«That is true. Souls desecrated for ever. Lost...»
«No. God can always intervene…»
«He did on my behalf. You saved me!...» says Aurea turning her clear serene eyes towards the Lord. And she concludes: «And I am so happy! » and as she cannot go and embrace Jesus, she clasps Mary with one arm bending her fair‑haired head on the Virgin's shoulder in a gesture of confident love. The two fair‑haired heads stand out, in their different shades, against the dark wall. A most gentle group.
But Mary has to see to the supper. They part and go away.
«May I come in? » says the rather hoarse voice of Peter at the workshop door which opens onto the road.
«Simon! Open the door! »
«Simon! He could not stay away! » exclaims Thomas laughing while he runs to open.
«Simon! This was to be expected...» says the Zealot smiling.
But it is not only Peter's face which appears at the door. All the apostles from the lake are there, with the exception of Bartholomew and the Iscariot. And Judas and James of Alphaeus have already joined them.
«Peace to you! But why did you come in this heat? »
«Because... we could not stay away any longer. It's two and a half weeks, You know? Do You understand? We have not seen You for two and a half weeks! » and Peter seems to be saying: «Two hundred years! An enormity! »
«But I told you to wait for Judas on every Sabbath.»
«Yes, but he did not come on the last two Sabbaths... and we have come here on the third one. Nathanael remained there because he is not too well. And he will receive Judas, if he goes there... But he will not go... Passing through Tiberias to come to us, before going to the Great Hermon, Benjamin and Daniel told us that they had seen him at Tiberias and... Of course. I will tell You later...» says Peter who has stopped speaking because of a tug at his tunic by his brother.
«All right. You will tell Me... But you were all so anxious to have a rest, and now that you had a chance you have been running about like this! When did you leave? »
«Yesterday evening. The lake was like a mirror. We landed at Tarichea to avoid Tiberias... so that we would not meet Judas...»
«Because, Master, we wanted to enjoy Your company in peace.»
«You are selfish! »
«No. He already has his joys... Well! I don't know who gives him so much money to enjoy it with... Yes, I have understood, Andrew. But don't pull my tunic so violently. You know that it is the only one I have. Do you want me to go back in rags? »
Andrew blushes. The others laugh. Jesus smiles.
«Well. We landed at Tarichea also because, well, don't reproach me... It may be the heat, it may be that I become wicked when I am far away from You, it may be the thought that he left you to join... Listen, stop tearing at my sleeve! You see that I can stop in time!... So, Master, it may be for many reasons... I did not want to commit a sin and if I had seen him I would have committed one. So I went straight to Tarichea. And at dawn we set off.»
«Did you pass through Cana? »
«No. We did not want to come the long way round... But it was a long way all the same. And the fish was beginning to go bad... We gave it to the people in a house, to have shelter for a few hours... the warm hours. And we left after the ninth hour, about the middle of the following hour... It was like an oven!…»
«You could have saved yourselves the trouble. I was coming soon...»
«When the sun comes out of Leo.»
«And do You think we could stay so long without You? We will defy a thousand of such hot days and we will come to see You. Our Master! Our adored Master! » and Peter embraces his lost Treasure.
«And yet, when we are together you do nothing but complain of the weather, of the length of journeys...»
«Because we are foolish. Because, while we are together we do not really understand what You are for us... But here we are. We are all already settled. Some will stay with Mary of Alphaeus, some with Simon of Alphaeus, some with Ishmael, some with Aser and some here, nearby, with Alphaeus. We will rest now and tomorrow evening we will leave, and we will be more happy.»
«On last Sabbath we had Myrtha and Naomi here, they came to see the girl again » says Thomas.
«You can see that whoever can manage to do so, comes here! »
«Yes, Peter. And what have you done during these days? »
«We have fished... painted the boats... mended the nets... Marjiam often goes fishing with the servants, which reduces the insults of my mother‑in‑law against "the sluggard who lets his wife die of starvation after bringing an illegitimate son to her". And yet Porphirea has never been so well as now that she has Marjiam for her heart... and for everything else. The sheep from three have become five and will soon be more... It is a great help for a little family like ours! And Marjiam by fishing makes up for what I do not do, except very rarely. But that woman has the tongue of a viper, whereas her daughter has the tongue of a dove... But I see that You have been working as well...»
«Yes, Simon. We have worked. All of us. My brothers in their house, these apostles and I in Mine. To make our mothers happy and let them rest.»
«Well, we have been working, too » say the sons of Zebedee.
«My wife and I have worked at the beehives and in the vineyard » says Philip.
«And what about you, Matthew? »
«I have no one to make happy... so I made myself happy by writing down the things that I like to remember...»
«Oh! in that case we will tell you the parable of the paint. I, a very inexperienced painter, was the cause of it...» says the Zealot.
«But you soon learned the trade. Look how smooth he made this seat! » says Thaddeus...
They are in perfect harmony. And Jesus, Who looks more rested since He has been at home, is bright with joy at having His dear apostles with Him.
Aurea comes and remains on the threshold surprised.
«Oh! here she is! Look how well she is! She looks like a true little Hebrew, dressed like that! »
Aurea blushes and does not know what to say. But Peter is so good natured and fatherly, that she soon recovers and says: «I am striving to become one... and with the help of my Teacher I hope to be one soon... Master, I am going to tell Your Mother that these people are here...» and she goes away quickly.
«She is a good girl » states the Zealot.
«Yes. I would like her to remain with us in Israel. Bartholomew lost a good chance and much joy by refusing her...» says Thomas.
«Bartholomew is very respectful of... formulae » says Philip excusing him.
«His only fault » remarks Jesus.
Mary comes in...
«Peace to You, Mary » say those who came from Capernaum.
«Peace to you... I did not know that you were here. I will provide at once... Come in the meantime...»
«Our mother is coming from our house with some provisions, and Salome is coming as well. Do not worry, Mary » says James of Alphaeus.
«Let us go into the kitchen garden... The evening breeze is rising and it is pleasant in there...» says Jesus.
And they go into the kitchen garden and sit here and there, conversing fraternally, while the doves coo competing for the last meal which Aurea is spreading on the ground... It is then time to water the flower‑beds and the beautiful vegetables so useful to man. And the apostles want to do it cheerfully, while Mary of Alphaeus, who has just arrived, and Aurea and the Virgin prepare a meal for the guests. And the smell of sizzling food mingles with that of the moist earth, as the chirping of birds competing cheekily for a good spot among the thick leaves above the garden, mingles with the deep or shrill voices of the apostles...
434. Before Being a Mother, the Blessed Virgin Is a Daughter and
Servant of God.
14th May 1946.
And the Sabbath wears on. It is the true Sabbath. In the wonderful morning, when the air is still fresh and cool, it is beautiful to sit in a brotherly peaceful gathering under the shady pergola, or where the apple‑tree, close to the fig and almond‑trees, forms with them patches of shade extending that of the pergola on which grapes are ripening. And it is nice to walk up and down the paths between the flower‑beds going from the beehives to the dove‑cot and then to the little grotto, and, passing behind the women - Mary, Mary of Clopas, the daughter‑in‑law of the latter: Salome of Simon, Aurea ‑ going towards the few olive‑trees which from the cliff hang over the peaceful kitchen garden. And that is what Jesus and His disciples, Mary and the other women are doing. And Jesus teaches unintentionally, and so does Mary. And the apostles of the Former and the women disciples of the Latter are carefully listening to the words of the two Teachers.
Aurea, sat on her usual little stool at Mary's feet, almost in a squatting posture, is embracing her knees with joined hands, her face is raised and her wide‑open eyes are staring at Mary's face. She looks like a little girl who is listening to a wonderful tale. But it is not a tale. It is a beautiful truth. Mary is telling the little heathen of yesterday the ancient stories of Israel and the other women, although they already know them, are listening attentively. Because it is pleasant to hear the story of Rachel, that of the daughter of Jephthah, that of Hannah of Elkanah, flowing from Her lips!
Judas of Alphaeus comes near slowly and listens smiling. He is behind Mary Who therefore cannot see him. But the smiling look of Mary of Clopas at her Judas tells Mary that someone is behind Her and She turns round: «Oh! Judas? Have you left Jesus to hear Me, a poor woman? »
«Yes. I left You to go to Jesus, because You were my first teacher. But at times it is pleasant for me to leave Him and come to You, and become again a boy as when I was Your disciple. Go on, please...»
«Aurea wants her reward each Sabbath. And the reward consists in telling her what impressed her most in our History, a little of which I explain to her every day while working.»
The others also have come near... Thaddeus asks: «And what do you like, child? »
«So much, I could say everything... But Rachel very much, and Hannah of Elkanah, then Ruth... then... ah! beautiful! Tobit and Tobias with the Angel, and then the bride who prays to be freed...»
«And Moses, no? »
«He frightens me... Too great... And of the prophets I like Daniel who defends Susanna.» She looks around and then whispers: «I also was defended by my Daniel » and she looks at Jesus.
«But also Moses' books are beautiful! »
«Yes. Where they teach not to do what is bad. And where they speak of that star which will be born of Jacob. I know its name now. I knew nothing before. And I am more fortunate than that prophet because I can see it and close by. She told me everything and I know as well » she concludes with an air of triumph.
«And do you not like Passover? »
«Yes... but... also the children of other people are the sons of mothers. Why kill them? I prefer the God Who saves to the God Who kills...»
«You are right... Mary, have You not told her anything yet of His Birth? » asks James pointing at the Lord Who is listening in silence.
«Not yet. I want her to know the past well before the present. She will thus understand the present which has in the past its reason for being. When she knows it, she will see that the God Who frightens her, the God of Sinai, is but a God of severe love, but still a God of love.»
«Oh! Mother! Tell me now! It will be less difficult for me to understand the past when I know the present, which, as far as I know, is so beautiful and makes one love God without fear. I need not to be afraid! »
«The girl is right. You must remember that truth when you will be evangelizing. Souls need not to be afraid in order to go to God with full confidence. It is what I am striving to do, all the more when people, either through ignorance or because of their faults, are likely to be much afraid of God. But God, also the God Who struck the Egyptians and Who frightens you, Aurea, is always good. See: when He killed the sons of the cruel Egyptians, He had mercy on the sons, who did not grow up and did not become sinners like their fathers and He gave their parents time to repent of their evil doings. So it was severe goodness. One must be able to tell true goodness from loose upbringing. Also when I was a little baby, many little children were killed on the very laps of their mothers. And the world cried with horror. But when Time exists no more for individuals or for all Mankind, for a first time and for a second time you will realise that those were fortunate, blessed in Israel, in the Israel of the times of Christ, who slaughtered in their infancy, were preserved from the biggest sin, that of being accomplices in the death of the Saviour.»
«Jesus! » shouts Mary of Alphaeus springing to her feet, frightened, looking around as if she were afraid to see deicides appear from behind hedges and trunks of trees. «Jesus! » she repeats looking at him painfully.
«What? Do you perhaps not know the Scriptures, since you are so surprised at what I say? » asks Jesus.
«But... But... It is not possible... You must not allow that... Your Mother...»
«She is Saviour like Me, and She knows. Look at Her. And imitate Her.»
Mary is in fact austere, regal in Her deep pallor. She is motionless, with Her hands in Her lap clasped as if in prayer, Her head straight, looking into space...
Mary of Alphaeus looks at Her. She then addresses Jesus again: «All the same, You must not mention that horrible future! You are piercing Her heart with a sword.»
«That sword has been in Her heart for thirty‑two years.»
«No! It's not possible! Mary... always so serene... Mary...»
«Ask Her, if you do not believe what I say.»
«I will ask Her! Is it true, Mary? You know?...»
And Mary in a gentle but firm voice says: «It is true. He was forty days old and I was told by a holy man... But also previously... Oh! When the Angel told Me that while remaining the Virgin I would conceive a Son, Who would be called the Son of God and is such because of His divine conception, when I was told that, and that in the barren womb of Elizabeth a fruit had been formed by a miracle of the Eternal Father, I had no difficulty in remembering the words of Isaiah: "The Virgin will give birth to a son and they will call Him the Immanuel"… All, all Isaiah! And where he speaks of the Precursor... And where he speaks of the Man of sorrows, stained with blood, unrecognizable... a leper... for our sins... The sword has been in My heart since then and everything has served to drive it in more deeply: the song of the angels and the words of Simeon and the visit of the Kings from the East, and everything...»
«But which other everything, Mary? Jesus is triumphing, Jesus works miracles, Jesus is followed by larger and larger crowds... Is that not the truth? » says Mary of Alphaeus.
And Mary, always in the same posture replies to each question: «Yes...» without anguish, without joy, only a quiet assent, because it is so...
«Well then? Which other everything is piercing Your heart with a sword? »
«And You are so calm? So serene? Always the same as when You arrived here, a young bride, thirty‑three years ago, and I remember it so well that it seems yesterday to me... But how can You?... I... I would be mad... I would do... I don't know what I would do... I... No! It is not possible for a mother to know that and to be calm! »
«Before being a Mother, I am a daughter and servant of God... Where do I find My tranquillity? In doing the will of God. From where does My serenity come? From doing that will. If I had to do the will of a man, I might be upset, because a man, even the wisest, can always impose a wrong will. But the will of God! If He wanted Me to be the Mother of His Christ, have I perhaps to think that that is cruel, and in that thought lose My serenity? Am I to be upset by the thought of what Redemption will be to Him and to Me, also to Me, and how I will be able to overcome that hour? Oh! it will be dreadful...» Mary gives an involuntary start, She suddenly shudders and clenches Her hands to prevent them from trembling, as if She wanted to pray more fervently, while Her face grows even paler and Her delicate eyelids close on Her kind sky‑blue eyes with an expression full of anguish. But She steadies Her voice after a deep sigh of anxiety and She concludes: «But He, Who imposed His will on Me and Whom I serve with confident love, will grant Me His assistance for that hour. He will grant it to Me, to Him... Because the Father cannot impose a will that exceeds the strength of man... and He succours... always... And He will succour us, My Son... He will succour us... and there is no one but He, with His infinite means, who can succour us...»
«Yes, Mother. Love will succour us, and in love we will succour each other. And in love we will redeem...» Jesus has gone beside His Mother and lays His hand on Her shoulder and She raises Her face to look at Him, at Her handsome healthy Jesus destined to be disfigured by torture, killed with a thousand wounds, and She says: «In love and in sorrow... Yes. And together...»
No one speaks any more... Standing around the two chief Protagonists of the future tragedy of Golgotha, the apostles and women disciples look like pensive statues...
Aurea, on her little stool, is petrified... But she is the first to collect herself and without standing up she slides on her knees and thus finds herself facing Mary. She embraces Her knees and bends her head on Her lap saying: «All that also for me!... How much I cost You and how much I love You for what I cost! Oh! Mother of my God, bless me, that my cost may not be fruitless...»
«Yes, My daughter. Be not afraid. God will help you as well, if you always accept His will.» She caresses her hair and cheeks and feels them wet with tears. «Do not weep! The first thing of the Christ with which you have become acquainted is His sorrowful destiny, the end of His mission as Man. It is not fair, having learned that, that you should be unacquainted with the first hour of His life in the world. Listen... Everybody will be pleased to come out of the dark bitter contemplation by recalling the sweet hour, full of light, of songs, of hosannas, of His Birth... Listen...» and Mary, explaining the reason for Her journey to Bethlehem in Judah, the town predicted to be the birthplace of the Saviour, in a soft gentle voice tells the story of the night of Christ's Nativity.
435. Jesus and His Mother Converse.
15th May 1946.
I do not know whether it is the evening of the same Sabbath. I know that I see Jesus and Mary, sitting on the stone seat against the house, near the door of the dining‑room, from which comes the faint light of an oil lamp placed close to the door. The little flame palpitates in the air, rising and sinking, as if it were breathing. It is the only light in the moonless night: a faint light visible in the kitchen garden where it illuminates the small strip of ground before the door and dies on the first rose‑bush in the flower‑bed. But the feeble light is sufficient to illuminate the profiles of the Two engaged in intimate talk in the calm night full of the scent of jasmines and other summer flowers.
They are speaking of their relatives... of Joseph of Alphaeus persistently stubborn, of Simon not very brave in his profession of faith, overwelmed as he is by his eldest brother, who is as overbearing and obstinate in his ideas as his father was. It is the great sorrow of Mary Who would like all Her nephews to be disciples of Her Jesus.
Jesus comforts Her and to excuse His cousin He points out his strong Israelitic faith: «An obstacle, You know? A real obstacle. Because all the formulae and precepts form a barrier against the acceptance of the Messianic idea in its truth. It is easier to convert a heathen, provided his spirit is not completely corrupt. A heathen ponders and sees the good difference between his Olympus and My Kingdom. But Israel... the more learned part of Israel... finds it difficult to follow the new concept!...»
«And yet it is always that concept! »
«Yes. It is always that Decalogue, those prophecies. But their nature has been perverted by man. He has taken them, and from the supernatural spheres where they were, and has brought them down to the level of the Earth, in the atmosphere of the world, he has handled them with his humanity altering them... The Messiah, the spiritual King of the great Kingdom ‑ which is called Kingdom of Israel, because the Messiah is born of the throne of Israel, but it would be more correct to call it: the Kingdom of Christ, because Christ centralises the better part of Israel, both past and present, and sublimates it in His perfection of God‑Man ‑ according to them the Messiah, cannot be the meek poor man, without yearning after power and riches, obedient to those who rule over us by divine punishment, because obedience is holiness when it does not invalidate the great Law. We can therefore say that their faith works against the true Faith. Of such stubborn people convinced that they are right, there are many... in every class... and even among My relatives and apostles. Believe, Mother, that their dullness in believing in My Passion lies in that. Their errors in valuation originate from that... Also their obstinate aversion to consider Gentiles and idolaters, not looking at man, but at the spirit of man, that spirit which has only one Origin and to which God would like to give only one Destiny: Heaven. Take Bartholomew... He is an instance. Very good, wise, willing to do everything to honour and comfort Me... But before, I will not say an Aglae or a Syntyche, who is already a flower compared with poor Aglae, whom penance only restores from filth to a flower, but not even before a child, a poor child whose lot excites pity and whose instinctive modesty draws admiration, does his disgust for the Gentiles vanish, neither does My example convince him, nor My words that I have come for everybody.»
«You are right. Nay, Bartholomew and Judas of Kerioth, the two most learned, or at least: the learned Bartholomew, and Judas of Kerioth, who I do not know to which class he belongs exactly, but who is imbued and saturated with the air of the Temple, are the most resistant. But... Bartholomew is good and his resistance can still be excused. Judas... no. You heard what Matthew, who went to Tiberias on purpose, said... And Matthew is a man of experience, particularly of that life... And the remark of James of Zebedee is correct: "Who is it that gives so much money to Judas?". Because that life costs... Poor Mary of Simon! »
Jesus makes His gesture with His hands, to say: «It is so...» and He sighs. He then says: «Did You hear that? The Roman ladies are at Tiberias... Valeria has not told Me anything. But I must know before I resume My journey. Mother, I want You to come to Capernaum with Me for some time... You will then come back here, I will go towards the Syro‑Phoenician border, and I will come back to say goodbye to You before going down towards Judaea, the obstinate sheep of Israel...»
«Son, I will go tomorrow evening... I will take Mary of Alphaeus with Me. Aurea will stay with Simon of Alphaeus, because her staying here with You for several days would certainly be criticised... Such is the world... And I will go... To Cana as first stage, then at dawn I will leave and stop at the house of the mother of Salome of Simon. Then I will set out again at sunset and we will arrive at Tiberias in daylight. I will stay in the house of Joseph, the disciple, because I want to go personally to Valeria's house, and if I went to Johanna's, she would want to go... No. I, the Mother of the Saviour, will appear in her eyes, different from the disciple of the Saviour... and she will not say no to Me. Do not be afraid, Son! »
«I am not afraid. But I am sorry for all Your trouble.»
«Oh! to save a soul! What are twenty miles in a good season? »
«It will also be a moral strain. To beg... perhaps to be humiliated...»
«A passing trifle. But a soul remains! »
«You will be like a lost swallow in corrupt Tiberias... Take Simon with You.»
«No, Son. Just the two of us, two poor women... But two mothers and two disciples. That is, two great moral strengths... I will not be long. Let Me go... Just bless Me.»
«Yes, Mother. With all My heart as Son, and with all My power as God. Go and may the angels escort you along the way.»
«Thank You, Jesus. Well, let us go in. I will have to get up at dawn to prepare everything for those who leave and for those who are staying. Say the prayer, Son...»
Both Jesus and Mary stand up and they say together the Our Father... They then go back into the house, they close the door... the light disappears and human voices are heard no more. Only the rustling of the breeze among the leaves can be heard and the soft gurgling of the water in the fountain basin...
436. The Blessed Virgin at Tiberias.
16th May 1946.
Tiberias is already in sight when the two tired pilgrims are proceeding in the darkening twilight.
«It will soon be dark... And we are still in the middle of the country... Two women alone... And near a large town full of... Ugh! what people! Beelzebub! Beelzebub mostly...» says Mary of Alphaeus looking around frightened.
«Be not afraid, Mary. Beelzebub will do us no harm. He harms only those who receive him in their hearts...»
«These pagans have him!...»
«Not only pagans are in Tiberias. And also among the heathens there are just people.»
«What? They have not our God!...»
Mary does not reply because She understands that it would be useless. Her good sister‑in‑law is but one of the many Israelites who believe that they are the only depositaries of virtue... simply because they are Israelites.
They are silent: only the shuffling of the sandals on their tired dusty feet can be heard.
«It was better to take the usual road... We knew that one... it is more beaten by people... This one... among vegetable gardens, solitary... unknown... I am afraid, that's all! »
«No, Mary. Look. The town is over there, a few steps from here. And here are peaceful kitchen gardens of the cultivators of Tiberias, and over there is the shore, only a few steps from here. Do you want to go to the shore? We will find fishermen there... We have only to go across these vegetable gardens.»
«No! We would be going away from town again! And then... The boatmen are almost all Greeks, Cretans, Egyptians, Romans...» and it seems as if she were mentioning infernal classes. The Blessed Virgin cannot help smiling in the shadow of Her veil.
They go on. The road becomes an avenue, and thus darker... and Mary of Alphaeus is more frightened than ever and she invokes Jehovah at every step, while they proceed slower and slower.
«Come on, take heart! Make haste, if you are afraid! » says Mary urging her after replying: «Maran Atha! » at each invocation.
But Mary of Alphaeus stops and asks: «But why did You want to come here? To speak perhaps to the Iscariot? »
«No, Mary. Or at least that is not exactly the reason. I have come to speak to Valeria, the Roman lady...»
«Goodness gracious! Are we going to her house? Ah! no! Mary! Don't do that! I... I am not coming with You! But why are You going there? To those... those... anathemas!...»
The kind smile of the Blessed Virgin becomes a severe expression while She asks: «And do you not remember that Aurea is to be saved? My Son began her liberation. I will complete it. Is that how you practise love for souls? »
«But she is not from Israel...»
«Truly, you have not understood one word of the Gospel! You are a very imperfect disciple... You do not work for your Master and you grieve Me so deeply.»
Mary of Alphaeus lowers her head... But her heart, full of the prejudices of Israel but congenitally kind, gets the upper hand and bursting into tears she embraces Mary and says: «Forgive me! Don't say that I grieve You and I do not serve my Jesus! Yes! I am very imperfect and I deserve to be reproached... But I will not do it again... I will come! Even to Hell if You should go there to save a soul and give it to Jesus... Give me a kiss, Mary, to tell me that You forgive me...»
Mary kisses her and they resume their journey, walking fast, cheered up by love...
They are now in Tiberias, near the little harbour of the fishermen. They look for the little house of Joseph, the fisherman disciple... They find it and knock at the door...
«The Mother of my Master! Come in, o Donna! And may God be with You and with me, who am giving You hospitality. And you, come in, too, and peace be with you, the mother of apostles.»
They go in while the wife and young daughter come to greet them followed by a little group of younger children...
The frugal meal is soon over and Mary of Clopas, being tired, withdraws with the children. On the high terrace, from which the lake can be seen ‑ it can be heard lapping the bank, rather than be seen, because there is no moonlight as yet ‑ are the Blessed Virgin, the boatman and his wife, who endeavours to be good company, but in actual fact is nodding...
«She is tired!...» says Joseph excusing her.
«Poor woman! Housewives are always tired in the evening.»
«Yes, they do work. They are not like those there, who lead a gay life! » says the boatman disdainfully, pointing at some illuminated boats departing from the shore among songs and music. «They are going out now! They begin to work at this time, when honest people go to sleep! And they do harm to workers, because they go to the best spots, pretending that they are fishing, and they drive away us, who earn our living on the lake...»
«Who are they? »
«Roman women and the like. And among the latter you can count Herodias and her lustful daughter and some Jewesses as well... Because we have many Maries of Magdala... I mean Maries before repentance...»
«They are poor wretches...»
«Poor wretches? We are poor wretches because we do not stone them to rid Israel of those who have become corrupted and bring down on us the curses of God.»
In the meantime other boats have left and the lake reddens with the lights of the revellers' boats.
«Can you smell resin burning? First they become intoxicated with smoke, and they do the rest in the course of banquets. They are quite capable of going to the hot springs on the other side... In those Thermal baths... Infernal things take place! They will come back at daybreak, at dawn, perhaps later... drunk, lying one on top of the other, men and women, just like sacks, and their slaves will carry them home, to sleep it off... All the beautiful boats are going out this evening! Look! Look!... But I am more angry with the Jews who mix with them. With regard to them... we know! Shameless animals. But we!... Donna, do You know that Judas, the apostle is here? »
«He is not setting a good example, You know? »
«Why? Does he go with those people?...»
«No... but... with bad companions... and a woman... I have not seen him... None of us has seen him in such company. But some Pharisees have sneered at us saying: "Your apostle has changed master. Now he has a woman and he is in the good company of publicans".»
«Do not judge, Joseph, what you have only heard people say. You know that the Pharisees do not love you and they do not even praise the Master.»
«That is true... But the rumour is spreading... and is harmful...»
«As it rose, so it will fall. Do not sin against your brother. Where does he live? Do you know? »
«Yes, with a friend, I think. One who has a warehouse of wines and spices. The third warehouse on the eastern side of the market, after the fountain...»
«Are all the Roman women alike? »
«Oh! more or less!... They do wrong, even if they do not let people see it.»
«Which are the ones that do not let people see? »
«The ones who came to Lazarus' at Passover. They are more retired... I mean... they do not always go to banquets. But they go so often that people can say that they are impure.»
«Are you saying so because you are sure, or is it your Jewish prejudice that makes you say so? Think it over carefully...»
«Well... really... I don't know... I have not seen them any more in the boats of the filthy ones... But they go out on the lake at night.»
«You go out, too.»
«Certainly! If I want to go out fishing! »
«It is very warm! Only out on the lake is there relief at night. You said so yourself while we were having supper.»
«That is true.»
«So, why not consider that they go on the lake for that? »
The man is silent... He then says: «It is late. The stars say that it is the second watch. I am withdrawing, Donna. Are You not coming? »
«No. I will stay here and pray. I will go out early. Do not be surprised if you do not see Me at dawn.»
«You are free to do as You like. Anne! Come on! Let us go to bed! » and he shakes his wife who is fast asleep. They go away.
Mary remains alone... She kneels down and prays... but She never loses sight of the boats sailing on the lake, the boats of rich people, all bright with lights,. with flowers, singing and smell of incense... Many sail eastwards, they become very small in the distance, their singing is no longer heard. A splendent solitary boat remains out on the lake in a sheet of water upon which the moon, setting in front of Tiberias, is shining brightly. It sails slowly up and down... Mary watches it until She sees it steer towards the shore.
Mary then stands up saying: «Lord, help Me! Let it be...» She then goes downstairs nimbly, She enters a room the door of which is half open... In the moonlight it is possible to see a little bed. Mary bends over it and calls: «Mary! Wake up! Let us go! »
Mary of Alphaeus wakes up and, overwhelmed with sleep, rubbing her eyes she asks: «Is it already time to go? Is it already daylight? » She is so sleepy that she does not realise that it is not the light of dawn but moonlight the feeble phosphorescence which enters through the open door. She becomes aware of it when she is outside, on the small piece of cultivated ground in front of the boatman's house.
«But it's night‑time! » she exclaims.
«Yes. But we will finish sooner and we will get out of this town sooner... at least I hope so. Come! This way, along the shore. Quick! Before the boat sets ashore...»
«The boat? Which boat? » asks Mary. But she runs after the Virgin, Who is walking very fast on the deserted shore, towards the little pier, where the boat is heading.
They arrive panting a few moments before it... Mary is watching carefully. She exclaims: «Praised be the Lord! It is they! Follow Me now... because we must go where they go... I do not know where they live...»
«But Mary... for pity's sake!... They will think that we are prostitutes!...»
The Most Pure Mother shakes Her head and whispers: «The important thing is not to be one. Come! » and She draws her into the shadow of a house.
The boat lands and while it is manoeuvring, a litter, which was waiting nearby, is brought forward towards it. Two women get on it, while two remain outside and walk beside it, when it leaves carried by four Numidians walking in step and wearing very short sleeveless tunics, which hardly cover their trunks...
Mary follows it, notwithstanding that Mary of Alphaeus protests in a low voice: «Two women alone!... Behind those men! They are half‑naked... Oh!...»
After a few metres the litter stops. A woman gets off while the leader knocks at a portal.
«Goodbye, Lydia! »
«Goodbye, Valeria! A caress to Faustina from me. Tomorrow evening we will read again in peace, while the others revel...»
The portal is opened and Valeria, with her slave or freedwoman, is about to go in.
Mary goes forward and says: «Domina! A word! »
Valeria looks at the two women enveloped in very plain Jewish mantles lowered over their faces, and thinks that they are beggars. She orders: «Barbara, give them offerings! »
«No, domina. I am not asking for money. I am the Mother of Jesus of Nazareth and this is a relative of Mine. I have come in His Name to ask a favour of you.»
«Domina! Your Son is perhaps... persecuted...»
«Not more than usually. But He would like...»
«Come in, Domina. It does not become You to remain here in the street like a beggar.»
«No. A few words will suffice if you can listen to me in secret...»
«Go away, all of you! » Valeria orders her slave or freedwoman, whatever she may be, and the doorkeepers. «We are alone. What does the Master want? I did not come because I did not want to harm Him in His town. He did not come in order not to harm me, perhaps, with my husband? »
«No. I advised Him not to come. My Son is hated, domina.»
«And He finds comfort only in His mission.»
«He does not seek honours, or armies; He does not aspire to kingdoms or riches. But He asserts His rights on souls.»
«Domina... He should hand that girl back to you... But do not be offended if I tell you, she could not perfect her soul for Jesus here. You are better than the others... But around you... there is too much filth of the world.»
«That is true. So? »
«You are a mother... My Son has the feelings of a father for every soul. Would you allow your daughter to be brought up among people who can ruin her?...»
«No. I understand... Well... Say these words to Your Son: "In memory of Faustina, saved in her body, Valeria gives You Aurea that You may save her soul". It is true! We are too corrupt... to assure a saint... Domina, pray for me! » and she withdraws quickly, before Mary can thank her. She withdraws, I would say, weeping...
Mary of Alphaeus is dumbfounded.
«Let us go, Mary... We will leave during the night and tomorrow evening we will be in Nazareth...»
«Let us go... She gave her up... as if she were a thing...»
«She is a thing to them. To us she is a soul. Come. Look... It is already dawning over there. One can say that there is no night-time in this month...»
They go along a road which is no longer semi‑dark and which opens in front of them, instead of taking the shore. It is a road behind a row of modest houses... When they are half way along it, Judas springs out from a corner, manifestly drunk. A Judas returning from who knows what party, with dishevelled hair, crumpled clothes, his face beaten.
«Judas! You? In this state? »
Judas does not have time to feign that he does not know Her and he cannot run away... Surprise clears his thoughts and keeps him fixed where he is, immobile.
Mary approaches him, overcoming the repulsion which the sight of the apostle stirs in Her, and She says to him: «Judas, wretched son, what are you doing? Are you not thinking of God? Of your soul? Of your mother? What are you doing, Judas? Why do you want to be a sinner? Look at Me, Judas! You have no right to kill your soul...» and She touches him trying to take his hand.
«Leave me alone. I am a man after all. And... I am free to do what everybody does. Tell Him, Who has sent You to spy on me, that I am not yet all spirit, and I am young! »
«You are not free to ruin yourself, Judas! Have pity on yourself... If you behave like that you will never be a happy spirit... Judas... He did not send Me to spy on you. He prays for you. Only that, and I pray with Him. In the name of your mother...»
«Leave me alone » says Judas rudely. Then realising that he has been rude, he rectifies himself: «I do not deserve Your pity... Goodbye...» and. he runs away...
«What a demon!... I will tell Jesus » exclaims Mary of Alphaeus. «My Judas is right! »
«You will not say anything to anybody. You will pray for him. Yes...»
«Are You weeping? Weeping for him? Oh!...»
«I am weeping... I was happy having saved Aurea... I am now weeping because Judas is a sinner. But to Jesus, Who is distressed, we will take only the good news. And we will snatch the sinner from Satan by penance and prayers... As if he were our son, Mary! As if he were our son!... You are a mother, too, and you know... For that unhappy mother, for this soul of a sinner, for our Jesus...»
«Yes, I will pray... But I do not think that he deserves it...»
«Mary, do not say that!...»
«I will not say it... But it is so. Are we not going to Johanna's? »
«No. We will come back soon, with Jesus...»
437. Aurea Does the Will of God.
20th May 1946.
The Virgin is very tired when She sets foot again in Her little house. But She is very happy. And She looks at once for Her Jesus, Who is still working, in the last light of the dying day, at the stone oven door, which He is repairing. Simon opens the door to Her, and after greeting Her, he wisely withdraws into the workshop. I do not see Thomas. Perhaps he is out.
Jesus lays down His tools as soon as He sees His Mother, and goes towards Her cleaning His greasy hands (He is oiling hinges and latches to make them run smoothly) on His apron. Their reciprocal smiles seem to brighten up the kitchen garden where it is growing dark.
«Peace to You, Mother.»
«Peace to You, Son.»
«How tired You are! You have not rested...»
«I did, from dawn to sunset in Joseph's house... But if it had not been so warm, I would have left at once to come and tell You that Aurea is Yours.»
«Yes?! » The joyful surprise makes Jesus' face look even younger. It seems the face of a man about twenty years old, and as joy rids Him of the gravity which is generally on His face and in His gestures, He resembles even more His Mother, Who is always such a serene girl in Her deportment and looks.
«Yes, Jesus. And I achieved that without any effort. The lady agreed at once. She was moved admitting that she and her friends are too corrupt to educate a creature for God. Such a humble, sincere, true avowal! It is not easy to find people who admit they are faulty without being forced to do so.»
«No, it is not. Many in Israel are not capable. They are beautiful souls buried under a crust of filth. But when the filth falls off...»
«Will that happen, Son? »
«I am sure it will. They tend instinctively to Good. They will end up by adhering to it. What did she say? »
«Oh! Only a few words... We understood each other at once. But we had better have Aurea here at once. I want to tell her this, but only if You wish so, Son.»
«Yes, Mother. We will send Simon » and in a loud voice He calls Simon who comes immediately.
«Simon, go to Simon of Alphaeus' house and tell him that My Mother is back, then come here with the girl and Thomas, who must be there finishing the little job which Salome asked him to do.»
Simon bows and goes away at once.
«Tell Me, Mother... Your journey... your conversation... Poor Mother, how tired You are because of Me! »
«Oh! no, Jesus! It is no trouble when You are happy...» and Mary tells Him about Her journey and Mary of Alphaeus' fears, their rest in the house of the boatman, the meeting with Valeria, and She concludes: «I preferred to see her at that time, since Heaven allowed it. She was freer, I was freer, and Mary of Clopas was comforted sooner, because she was terrified at the idea of two women being all alone in Tiberias and only her love for You and the thought of serving You overcame her terror...» and Mary smiles remembering Her sister‑in‑law's anxiety...
And Jesus smiles saying: «Poor woman! She is the true woman of Israel, the ancient woman, reserved, wholly devoted to her family, the strong woman according to Proverbs. But in the new Religion women will not be strong only at home... Many will exceed Judith and Jael, being gifted with the same heroism as the mother of the Maccabees... And our Mary will be such. But for the time being... she is what she is... Did You see Johanna? »
Mary smiles no longer. She is perhaps afraid of a question about Judas. And She replies quickly: «I did not want to cause more worries to Mary. We remained in the house until half the time between the ninth hour and evening, resting, and then we left... I thought that we shall soon be seeing her on the lake...»
«You did the right thing. You have given Me proof of the feeling of the Roman ladies with regard to Me. If Johanna had intervened, we could have thought that they were yielding to their friend. We will now wait until the Sabbath and if Myrtha does not come we will go to her with Aurea.»
«Son, I would like to stay here...»
«I can see that You are very tired.»
«No, not because of that... I think that Judas may come here... As it is right that someone should always be in Capernaum to wait for him and give him a friendly welcome, it is equally right that someone should be here to receive him with love.»
«Thank You, Mother. You are the only one who understands what can still save him...»
They both sigh thinking of the disciple who causes grif...
Simon and Thomas come back with Aurea who runs towards Mary. Jesus leaves her with His Mother and goes into the house with His apostles.
«You have prayed very much, My daughter, and the good God has listened to you...» begins Mary.
But the girl interrupts Her with a cry of joy: «I am staying with You! » and she throws her arms round the Virgin's neck kissing Her.
Mary returns the kiss and holding Aurea in Her arms all the time She says: «When one does a great favour, it is necessary to reciprocate it, is that right? »
«Oh! Yes! And I will repay You with so much love.»
«Yes, My dear. But above Me there is God. It is He Who did you this great favour, this immeasurable grace of receiving you among the members of His people and making you a disciple of the Master Saviour. I have been but the instrument of the grace, but He, the Most High, granted the grace. What will you, therefore, give the Most High to tell Him that you thank Him? »
«Well... I don't know... Tell me, Mother...»
«Love, that is certain. But love, to be really such, is to be united to sacrifice, because a thing has more value if it costs, has it not? »
«Then, I would say that, with the same joy with which you shouted: "I am staying with You!", you should shout: "Yes, o Lord" when I, His poor servant, tell you the will of the Lord concerning you.»
«Tell me, Mother » says Aurea whose countenance becomes grave.
«The will of God entrusts you to two good mothers, Naomi and Myrtha...»
Two big tears shine in the clear eyes of the girl, and stream down her rosy cheeks.
«They are good women. They are dear to Jesus and to Me. Jesus saved the son of one of them, I suckled the baby of the other one. And you have seen that they are good...»
«Yes... but I was hoping to stay with You...»
«My daughter, it is not possible to have everything! You see that I am not always with My Jesus. I have given Him to you all, and I am far, so far from Him, when He goes about Palestine preaching, curing and saving girls...»
«That is true...»
«If I had wanted Him all for Myself, you would not have been saved... If I had wanted Him all for Myself, your souls would not be saved. Consider how great is My sacrifice. I am giving you a Son to be sacrificed for your souls. In any case, you and I will always be united, because women disciples are and will always be united around Christ, forming a large family united by our love for Him.»
«That is true. And then... I will come here again, will I not? And we will meet again? »
«Certainly. As long as God wants...»
«And You will always pray for me...»
«And I will always pray for you.»
«And when we are together, will You still teach me? »
«Yes, My dear...»
«Ah! I wanted to become like You. Will I ever be able? To know, in order to be good...»
«Naomi is the mother of a head of a synagogue and a disciple of the Lord. Myrtha is the mother of a son who deserved the grace of a miracle and is a good disciple. And the two women are good and wise, besides being so full of love.»
«Can You assure me? »
«Yes, My daughter.»
«Then... bless me and may the will of the Lord be done... as Jesus' prayer says. I have said it so many times... It is only right that now I should do what I said to obtain the grace of not going any more among the Romans...»
«You are a good girl. And God will always help you. Come, let us go and tell Jesus that the youngest woman disciple knows how to do the will of God...» and holding her by the hand Mary goes back into the house with the girl.
438. Another Sabbath at Nazareth.
21st May 1946.
Another Sabbath at Nazareth. That is, another beginning of a Sabbath, because Myrtha and Naomi arrive with young Abel, just when the sunset of Friday is beginning. They dismount from their little donkeys, which Abel takes away, obviously to a stable, probably to that of the two friendly ass‑drivers of Nazareth, who have become disciples. The women go in through the workshop, door, which has been left open to ventilate the large room, where up to a short time before, the heat of the coarse fireplace has joined the intense summer heat.
Thomas is putting away his tools, Simon is sweeping the sawdust, while Jesus is cleaning pots of glue and paint.
«Peace to You, Master, and to you, disciples » greet the two women, bowing low as soon as they enter and then, after walking across the workshop, prostrating themselves at Jesus' feet.
«Peace to you. You are very faithful, to come in this heat! »
«Oh! nothing! One feels so well here, that one forgets everything. Where is Your Mother? »
«She is in there, finishing a dress for Aurea. You may go in.»
The two women walk away with their knapsacks and one can hear their clear voices, which are rather deep, blend with the shrill rather strident voice of Aurea and with the silvery voice of Mary.
«They will be happy now! » says Thomas.
«Yes. They are good women » replies Jesus.
«Master, Myrtha has not only kept the son she had, but she got another child. And in little more than one year...» says the Zealot.
«Yes! In little more than one year! It is already over a year since Mary of Lazarus was converted. How time flies! It seems yesterday... How many things last year! The lovely retreat before the election! Then John of Endor! Then Marjiam! Then Daniel of Nain, then Mary of Lazarus and then Syntyche... But where is Syntyche? I often think about her and I cannot understand why...» Thomas stops speaking to himself, because Jesus and Simon do not reply to him, on the contrary they go out into the kitchen garden to wash themselves and then join the women disciples.
And we begin to see again... Abel of Bethlehem in Galilee comes back and finds Thomas who is still pensive, in front of the place where he generally works, moving, lost in thought, his tiny masterpieces in gold‑work.
«Have you found work? » asks the disciple bending over the tiny objects.
«Oh! I have made all the women in Nazareth happy. I would never have thought that there were so many buckles, bracelets, necklaces and lilies to be repaired. I had to ask Matthew to bring me some metal from Tiberias. I have more customers... ha! ha! (he laughs happily) than my father has. It is true that I do not ask for money...»
«You lose. everything? »
«No. I charge only the value of the metal. My work is a present.»
«You are generous.»
«No. I am wise. I am not idle. I set an example of industriousness and detachment from money and... I preach... Be quiet! I think that I have preached more by doing so, without telling a parable, without saying a word in the synagogue, than I would have done if I had spoken incessantly. And then... I do a bit of training. I have promised myself to propagate our faith with my work when I will have to go and preach Jesus among the infidels. And I am training myself.»
«You are wise both as a goldsmith and as an apostle.»
«I strive to be so for Jesus' sake. So you have acquired a sister. Treat her well, you know? She is like a little dove in its nest. I am telling you, because in my trade I am accustomed to dealing with women. She is a candid dove who was scared to death by a hawk, and who is looking for motherly and brotherly wings to defend her. If your mother had not wanted her, I would have asked to have her for my twin sister. One child more, one less! My sister is so good, you know?»
«Also my mother. She lost a little daughter when she remained a widow. Perhaps her milk had gone bad, grieved as she was over the death of her husband... I can hardly remember my little sister... and perhaps I would not remember her at all if my mother did not mourn her death so often, and if every poor girl in Bethlehem were not entitled to some food and clothing in our house, in memory of the dead baby... But as I was brought up in the company of my mother only, I have ended up by loving little girls very much myself... I realise that this one is not a little girl... but I will consider her such, because of her heart, if she is as my mother, Naomi and you say...»
«You can be sure. Let us go into the other room.»
In the other room, that is, in the dining room, are the women, Jesus and the Zealot. And Myrtha, who came full of hope, is winning over Aurea by fitting for her a linen dress which she made for the girl.
«It fits you really well » she says taking it off her and caressing her while she adjusts her dress which had become crumpled when putting on the new one. «It really fits well. And everything will be all right. You will see, my dear daughter... Oh! here is my Abel. Come here, son. Here is Aurea. She will be a member of our family now, you know? »
«I know, mother, and I am happy with you.» He looks at the girl... he studies her... his dark eyes stare at and get lost in her large pale blue ones. He is satisfied with his examination. He smiles at her. He says to her: «We will love each other in the Lord Who saved us and we will love Him and have Him loved. And I will be a brother to you in spirit and in affection. I promise it in the presence of the Master and of my mother » and with a beautiful limpid smile of a pure youth, well advanced in high spirituality, he holds out his strong tanned hand to her.
Aurea hesitates and then, blushing, she puts her left hand into the right hand offered to her and says: «We will do that. In the Lord.»
The adults smile...
«One can enter here without knocking at the doors...»
«Here is Simon of Jonah! This time he could not resist temptation...» says Thomas laughing, while he runs out.
«Yes! I did not resist... Peace to You, Master! » He kisses Jesus and is kissed by Him. «Who can resist? » He sees Mary and bows greetings, he then resumes: «But, to satisfy our consciences, we came by Tiberias and we looked for Judas. Because... we are all here, eh?! The others are coming. Including Marjiam... So I was saying that we came by Tiberias. H'm! Yes! to look for Judas in the event that... he should think of coming to Capernaum, at least on the fourth. Sabbath... It would not be nice if we were all away... And we found him... yes! Nay, Isaac found him, as he had gone to see Jonathan... Because Isaac ended up by coming to Capernaum waiting for You with I don't know how many more, who have remained there to become more learned under the good guidance of Hermas and Stephen, of your son, Naomi, and of John, the priest... But Isaac came with us, because he, too, will die if he does not see You... Poor Isaac! he was not made welcome by Judas. But Isaac, during his long sickness, must have destroyed all feelings of impatience, grudge and anger... He never reacts! Even if they box his ears, he smiles... What a peaceful man! Well. He said to us: "I saw Judas. He is not coming. Do not insist". I understood. I asked him: "Did he answer you insolently? Tell me. I am the chief and I must know...". "Oh! no" he replied. "He did not answer insolently, but his insolence did. He is to be pitied..." Well, let us pity him... Well, we are here. And happy to... Here are the others...»
And with the others there are Judas and James of Alphaeus with their mother and the disciples of Nazareth: Aser, Ishmael and Simon of Alphaeus, and, a rarity, also Joseph of Alphaeus.
They unburden themselves of their bags. Nathanael has brought some apples and Philip a basketful of grapes as golden as Aurea's hair. Peter and Zebedee's sons some pickled fish. Matthew, who has no home cared for by women and thus has nothing good, has brought a jar full of earth with inside it a slender trunk, which judging by its foliage, I would say is a lemon or orange‑tree or another citrus‑tree and he explains: «It's a rarity... Only who goes to Cyrene can get them, and I know a man who was at Cyrene, one of the revenue authorities like me once. He has now retired at Ippo. I went to him to get the plant because it must be planted out at the new moon. The fruit is beautiful and good, its flower is sweet-smelling and looks like a waxen star, a star like Your name... Here » and he offers the plant to Mary.
«But what a trouble for you, Matthew, all this weight! I am grateful to you. My garden is becoming more and more beautiful, thanks to you all. Porphirea's camphor, Johanna's roses, you rare plant, Matthew, the other flower plants brought by Judas of Kerioth... How many beautiful things, how kind you all are to Jesus' Mother! »
All the apostles are moved; they only cast sidelong glances at each other when Mary mentions Judas' name.
«Yes. They love You. But we love You, too » says gravely and stiffly Joseph of Alphaeus.
«Of course! You are the dear children of My dear relative Alphaeus and of Mary, who is so good. And You love Me. It is natural. We are relatives... These instead are not our blood, and yet they are like sons to Me, like brothers to Jesus, as they love Him so much and follow Him...»
Joseph takes the hint immediately, he clears his throat, searching for words... He finds them... He says: «Of course! But if I am not yet with them, it is because I think also of the consequences for Him, for You... and... and... Well! I love You, too, You especially, poor woman, as You are left all by Yourself too long... And I have come to tell Jesus that I am glad that He has remembered also the needs of His Mother and has done what was necessary here...» and, satisfied with being the «head » of the kindred and thus in a position to praise and admonish, he deigns to commend Jesus for all the work of carpentry, painting and other jobs done in that month: «That is how it should be done! One can now see that this woman has a son! And I am happy to be able to say that I have found again my wise Jesus of Joseph. Bravo! »
And the wise Jesus of Joseph, the most wise Divine Word humiliated in our flesh, meek and humble, accepts the praises mixed with... the authoritative advice of His cousin Joseph, smiling so kindly, that it helps to check any untimely reaction of the apostles in His favour.
And Joseph, having set off, seeing that they listen to him, does not stop, but he continues: «I do hope that from now on Nazareth will no longer see a poor woman forlorn, while Her Son unwisely leaves the trodden path to beat paths which are uncertain, both with regard to their ends and their consequences. I will speak to my friends, to the head of the synagogue... We will forgive You... Oh! Nazareth will be happy to open out her arms to You, as to a son who has come back... as an example of virtue to all the citizens. Tomorrow I will take You to the synagogue myself and...»
Jesus raises His hand imposing silence and calmly but very resolutely, He says: «I will certainly come to the synagogue, as a believer, exactly as I went there on the other Sabbaths. But it is not necessary for you to plead in My favour. Because one hour after sunset I will set out again to evangelize, as it is My duty to obey the Most High.»
A bad let‑down for Joseph!... A very bad one!... All his good naturedness is shattered and his hostile intolerance comes to light again: «All right! But do not look for me in the hour of need. I have done my duty and Your certain misfortunes will not fall on me. Goodbye. I am one too many here because I cannot understand you, and you cannot understand me. I am going away, with no grudge, but very sad... May the Lord protect You as He protects all those who... are simple‑minded, incomplete... Goodbye, Mary! Take heart, poor Mother! »
«Goodbye, Joseph. But I must take heart for you, not for Him. Because you are the one who is out of the path of God and you grieve Me » says Mary calmly but sure of Herself.
«You are a fool, that's what you are! And if you were not the head of the family I would give you a thrashing, as you are a creature of my blood but not of my spirit...» shouts Mary of Alphaeus. And she would have said more, but Mary implores her: «Be quiet! For My sake.»
«I'll be quiet. Yes. But... tell me if I have to see a rascal like him among my sons!...»
The rascal in the meantime has gone away, while good Mary of Alphaeus unburdens her soul with regard to that stubborn son. And she ends giving vent to her feelings by bursting into tears, and sobbing she expresses her greatest pain: «And I will not have him with me in Heaven, I will not have him! I will see him in torments! Oh! Jesus! It's for You to work the miracle! »
«Yes, Mary! Do not weep! His hour will come, too. The eleventh perhaps. But it will come. I can assure you. Do not weep...» says Jesus comforting her... And when her weeping is over He says to the apostles and disciples: «Let us go into the olive grove while the women prepare their things. We will speak among ourselves.»
439. The Departure from Nazareth and the Journey towards Bethlehem in
22nd May 1946.
It is the evening of the true Sabbath and life begins again after the Sabbatical rest. Here, in the little house in Nazareth, it begins, after the rest, with the preparations for departure. Provisions are packed, clothes are crammed in knapsacks, the straps of which are fastened tightly, sandals are examined to ensure that the leather laces and buckles are in good condition, and the little donkeys are watered and fed near the hedge of the kitchen garden... and greetings and tears shed among smiles and blessings, and promises to meet again soon... And the unexpected offer of Thomas to Mary: a buckle, we could call it a brooch, to keep a dress closed at the neck. It is made of three thin, airy, perfect stems of lily of the valley, enclosed in two leaves, so like real ones, as the metal has been wrought by a master‑hand.
«I know, Mary, that You will never wear it, but please accept it just the same. I have been anxious to make it since the day when my Lord spoke of You comparing You with the lilies of the valley... I have done nothing for Your house... but I made this for You, so that the praise of Your Son may be expressed in a symbol for You Who deserve it more than any other woman. And if I have not been able to give the stem the softness of a living one and the sweet scent of the flower, may my sincere respectful love for You soften it like a caress and put on it the scent of my devotion for You, Mother of my Lord.»
«Oh! Thomas! It is true. I never wear jewels, as they seem vain things to Me. But this one is not so. This is love of My Jesus and of His apostle, and it is dear to Me. I will look at it every day and think of good Thomas who loves his Master so much, that he remembers not only His Doctrine, but also His most humble words about the most humble thing and the most humble insignificant people. Thank you, Thomas. Not for its value, but for your love, thanks! »
Everybody admires the perfect work and Thomas, beaming with joy, pulls out a smaller piece of work: three tiny jasmine stars with a tiny leaf bound in a thin circle, and gives it to Aurea. «Because you did not behave coquettishly to have it, because you were here when the jasmine bloomed, and so that these little stars may remind you of our Star. But mind! With your virtues you must perfume flowers and be a flower yourself, a candid, beautiful pure flower scenting towards Heaven. If you do not do that, I will take my brooch back. Come on, do not weep... everything passes... and we will soon come back to Mary's or She will come to us... and...» But Thomas, seeing that Aurea is shedding more and more tears, feels that it is better not to continue and he goes out, mortified, saying to Peter: «If I had known that... it was going to make her weep more, I would not have given it to her... I made that brooch just to comfort her in this hour... I guessed wrongly... »
And Peter, in the confusion of the moment, does not control himself and says: «It is always like that when parting... You should have seen Syntyche...» and he realises that he has spoken, he wants to correct himself, he becomes purple... but... it is done...
Thomas understands, and kindly throws his arm round Peter's neck saying: «Don't be distressed, Peter. I know how to be quiet. And I understand why you have not said anything... Because of Judas of Simon. On the God of our fathers I swear to you that what I have learned involuntarily is forgotten. Do not be upset, Simon!...»
«It's because the Master did not want...»
«He certainly had good reasons for that. I don't take offence.»
«I know. But what will He say? »
«Nothing, because He will not know. You can trust me.»
«Ah! No! I will not resort to subterfuges with the Master. I made a mistake. I deserve to be reproached. And at once. I will not have peace unless I confess my error to Him. Thomas, be good. Go and call Him... I am going into the workshop. Go, and come back with Him. I am too upset to go and the others would notice me.»
Thomas looks at him with compassion full of admiration and goes back into the house to call Jesus: «Master, please come here for a moment. I have something to tell You.»
Jesus, Who was saying goodbye to Mary of Alphaeus, follows him at once. «What do you want? » He asks while walking beside him.
«I, nothing. Simon wants to speak to You. There he is...»
«Simon! What is the matter, why are you so upset? »
Peter throws himself at Jesus' feet moaning: «I have sinned! Absolve me! »
«Sinned? How? You were there with us, happy and peaceful ...»
«Ah! Master, I disobeyed You. I told Thomas about Syntyche... I was upset because of the tears and he was more upset than I was; he thought that he had increased them... to comfort him I said: "It is always like that when parting... If you had seen Syntyche..." and he understood!...» Peter raises his troubled face, he looks mortified and desolate.
«Praised be God, My Simon! I thought you had done something much graver than that. And your sincerity cancels even that. You spoke without malice, you spoke to one of your companions. Thomas is good and will not divulge the news...»
«He swore it to me, in fact... But see? Now I am afraid that I am too foolish and that I cannot keep a secret.»
«You have kept it so far.»
«Yes, but just consider! Never one word to Philip and Nathanael! And now...»
«Come on, stand up! Man is always imperfect. But when he is so without malice, he commits no sin. Be careful, but do not distress yourself any more. Your Jesus can but kiss you. Thomas, come here.» Thomas approaches Him. «You have certainly understood the reasons for being silent.»
«Yes, Master. And I swore to respect them as far as I am concerned and capable. I have already told Simon...»
«The foolish Simon » says Peter with a sigh.
«No, my friend. You have edified me through your perfect humility and sincerity. You have taught me a great lesson, which I will never forget. For prudential reasons I shall not be able to make it known, and that grieves me, because only a few among us are or would be as just as you have been... But they are calling us! Let us go. »
Many in fact are already in the street and the three women - Naomi, Myrtha and Aurea ‑ have already mounted their little donkeys. Mary and Her sister‑in‑law are near Aurea, and they kiss her again, and when they see Jesus approaching, they kiss the two women disciples and they greet Jesus last and are blessed by Him, before He sets out...
And the Blessed Virgin and Mary of Clopas go back into the house... where, in remembrance of what was there a short while before, there are chairs out of place, kitchenware lying about... the disorder which takes place at every departure.
Mary, lost in thought, caresses the little loom on which She taught Aurea to work... Her eyes are shining with tears She has restrained.
«You are suffering, Mary! » says Mary of Clopas who is weeping without any effort to hold back her tears. «You had grown fond of her!... They come here... then they go away... and we suffer...»
«It is our life of women disciples. You heard what Jesus said today: "That is what you will do in future; you will be hospitable, supernaturally hospitable, seeing in every creature a brotherly soul, considering yourselves pilgrims and welcoming your guests as pilgrims. You will give them help, comfort, advice, and then you will let your brothers go to their destiny, without holding them back with jealous love, sure as you are that you will meet them after your death. Persecutions will come and many will leave you to go towards martyrdom. Do not be cowardly and do not advise cowardice to anybody. Remain in your empty house praying to support the courage of martyrs, unperturbed to fortify the weaker ones, strong in order to be ready to imitate heroes. Get accustomed to separations, to heroism, to the apostolate of brotherly charity, as from now…". And we do so. Suffering… certainly! We are creatures made of flesh… But the spirit rejoices with a supernatural happiness which is to do the will of the Lord and cooperate to His glory. On the other hand... I am the Mother of everybody... and I must not be the Mother of one only. I am not even the Mother of Jesus exclusively... You see how I let Him go away without holding Him back... I would like to be with Him, that is true. But He deems that I must stay here until He will say: "Come". And I am staying. His days of rest here? My joys of a mother. My peregrinations with Him? My joys of a disciple. My solitude here? My joys of a believer who does the will of Her Lord.»
«That Lord, Mary, is Your Son...»
«Yes. But He is still My Lord ... Are you staying with Me, Mary? »
«Yes, if You will allow me... My house is so sad during the first hours, when my sons go away!... Tomorrow it will be different... And this time, I would weep even more...»
«Why, Mary? »
«Because I have been weeping my heart out since yesterday... I am like a cistern... A cistern in the rainy season.»
«But why, My dear? »
«Because of Joseph... yesterday... Oh! I don't know whether I should go and reprimand him severely, because after all he is my son, because I carried him in my womb and I suckled him at my breast and no first‑born son is above his mother, ... or whether I should not speak any more to that rascal who was born of me and offends my Jesus and You and...»
«You will do nothing of the kind. You will always be his "mother". The mother who pities her stubborn, sick, perverted son and soothes him with her kindness, and leads him to God with prayers and patience... Cheer up, do not weep!... Come with Me. We will pray for him in My room, and for those who are travelling, for the girl, that she may not suffer too much and she may grow in holiness... Come, Mary » and She takes her away...
The pilgrims in the meantime are going their way south-westwards. The women are in front, on their donkeys, which, being well fed and rested, are trotting lively, compelling Marjiam and Abel, who for prudential motives are at either side of Aurea, as she is in the saddle for the first time, to proceed almost at a running pace. But although it is tiring, it helps to take the girl's mind off the sorrowful separation from Mary. Now and again, to let the two young men take breath, Myrtha reins in her donkey and makes a halt. And she resumes going only when the apostolic group joins them. And during such pauses, Aurea becomes sad again, as she is not distracted by the adventures of horseback riding...
Marjiam, who is experienced in the misfortunes of a little orphan taken in, out of charity, by an adoptive mother after he had known Mary, comforts her telling her how one becomes attached to the adoptive mother «exactly as if she were one's own mother », and mentions his own impressions and relates how happy are Mary and Matthias with Johanna, and Anastasica with Eliza.
Aurea listens to the stories, and when Marjiam concludes by saying: «Believe me, the women disciples are all good, and Jesus knows to whom we poor wretches should be entrusted », and Abel corroborates saying: «And you must trust my mother who is so happy to have you and has prayed so much during these days to have you from God », Aurea replies: «I believe it. And I love her... But Mary is Mary... and you must bear with me...»
«Yes. But we are sorry to see you sad...»
«Oh! but I am not so sad as I was in the house of the Roman or during the first hours after my liberation... I am only... lost. For years I have never received a caress... Only Mary caressed me after I had been subjected to masters for many years...»
«My darling! But I am here to caress you! I will be another Mary for you. Come here, near me... If you were a little girl, I would take you in the saddle with me, as I used to do with my Abel when he was a little boy... But you are already a woman...» says Myrtha approaching her and taking her by the hand. «You are my little woman and I will teach you many things, and when Abel goes away evangelizing, you and I will receive pilgrims as the Lord says, and we will do much good in His Name. You are young and you will help me...»
«But look at that light over there, beyond that hill! » exclaims James of Zebedee, who has come up to the women.
«Is it a wood on fire? »
«Or a village? »
«Let us run up there and see...»
No one is tired any longer, because curiosity overwhelms all sensations. Jesus follows them benevolently, leaving the road to take a path which climbs up a hillock. They soon reach the top...
But it is neither a wood nor a village which is on fire, but a large hollow moor all covered with heather, lying between two hills. The heather, parched by the summer heat, has caught fire perhaps because of a spark which escaped the woodmen working higher up cutting trees, and is now burning: a carpet of low but bright flames which move around seeking new heather to burn, after having consumed where they had been burning previously. The woodcutters try to fight the fire by striking the flames. But in vain. They are too few and if they work on one side, the fire spreads on another.
«If it reaches the wood, it will be a disaster. There are resin trees there » says Philip.
Jesus, with folded arms, standing on the extreme edge of the hillock, looks and smiles... thinking...
The contrast between the white moonlight to the east and the red glow of the flames to the west, is strong and the backs of the onlookers are white in the moon‑beams, whereas their faces are red in the reverberation of the flames. And the flames spread unceasingly, like water which rises, overflows and floods... The fire is now only a few metres from the wood and it is already lighting up the piles of wood placed at its borders, while the light, which is becoming brighter and brighter, shows the little houses of a village on the top of the hill where the fire is climbing.
«Poor people! They will lose everything! » say many. And they look at Jesus, Who is smiling, but does not speak...
Then... He unfolds His arms and cries: «Stop! Die down! I want it.»
And suddenly, as if a huge bank of earth had fallen to suffocate the flames, the fire goes out prodigiously, the lively nimble dance of the flames changes into red flameless embers, then the red becomes violet, grey‑red... an occasional flash quivers among the ashes... and then only the silvery moonlight shines on the forests.
In the clear light the woodcutters are seen while they gather gesticulating, looking around, above... for the angel of the miracle...
«Let us go down. I will work on those souls through the unforeseen opportunity given to Me and we will stop in the village instead of resting in the town. We will leave at dawn. They will certainly have room for the women. The wood is quite enough for us » says Jesus and He goes down quickly followed by the others.
«But why were You laughing? You looked very happy! » asks Peter.
«You will find out from My words.»
They are already where the fallow ground is covered with ashes still warm and creaking under their sandals. They go across it. When they are in the middle, where the moon shines fully, they are seen by the woodcutters.
«Oh! I told you! He is the only one who could do that! Let us run and venerate Him » shouts a woodman and he does so by throwing himself on the ashes at Jesus' feet.
«What makes you think that I could do it? »
«Because only the Messiah can do that.»
«And how do you know that I am the Messiah? Do you know Me, perhaps? »
«No. But only the Good One Who loves the poor can have had pity, and only the Holy One of God can have given an order to the fire and be obeyed. Blessed be the Most High Who sent us His Messiah! And blessed be the Messiah Who came in time to save our homes! »
«You ought to be more anxious to save your souls.»
«We save them by believing in You and endeavouring to do what You teach. But You realise, Lord, that the distress of being deprived of everything can weaken our already weak souls... and lead us to doubt Providence.»
«Who informed you of Me? »
«Some of Your disciples... Here are our families... We had them woken because we were afraid that the whole hill would catch fire... Come here... Then we sent another man to inform them that a miracle had been worked and to come and see. Here they are, Lord. Mine. Jacob's, this one is Jonathan's, this one Mark's, this is the family of my brother Tobias, this one is of my brother‑in‑law Melkia, this is Philip's and this is Eleazar's. The others are the families of the shepherds who are now at the pastures up in the high mountains...»
It is a group of about two hundred and fifty people at most, including the little ones, sucking infants or babies just weaned, whimpering half asleep, or sleeping unaware of the danger in which they had been.
«Peace to you all. The angel of God has saved you. Let us praise the Lord together.»
«You saved us! You are always present where faithful people believe in You!» say many women... And the men nod solemnly.
«Yes. Providence is present where there is faith in Me. But one must act with constant circumspection both in spiritual matters and in material ones. What set fire to the moor? Probably a spark from one of your fires or a little branch which one of the boys wanted to light on the fire to play with it, waving it and throwing it down the slope with the thoughtlessness of his age. It is in fact pleasant to see an arrow of fire furrow the air at dusk. But you can see what an imprudent act may cause! It can cause serious damage. A spark or a little branch which fell on the dry heather was enough to set a valley on fire, and if the Eternal Father had not sent Me, the whole wood would have become a bonfire, which in the grip of fire would have consumed your goods and your lives.
The same applies to matters of the spirit. You must pay continual prudent attention to ensure that no arrow of fire or spark may cling to your faith and destroy it, after smouldering unnoticed in your hearts, by means of arson wanted by those who hate Me and committed to deprive Me of believers. Since the fire was stopped here in time, from malefic it became beneficent, destroying the useless heath which you allowed to flourish in the valley, and preparing, by such destruction and the fertilizing ashes, a ground which you can exploit with useful cultivations, if you are willing to do so. But with hearts it is quite a different matter! When all the Good has been destroyed, nothing but bramble for the fodder of demons will grow in them. Remember that and be vigilant against My enemies' insinuations, which will be thrown into your hearts like infernal sparks. Be ready to fight the fire then. And what is that fight? A stronger and stronger Faith, a firm will to belong to God. It means to belong to a holy Fire. Because fire does not consume fire. Now, if you are fire of love for the true God, the fire of hatred against God will not be able to harm you. The Fire of love defeats every other fire. My Doctrine is love and those who accept it enter the Fire of Charity and cannot be tortured by the fire of the Demon.
From the top of that hill, while I was watching the heather burning and I heard the words of your souls to the Lord their God, more than I noticed your actions aiming at putting out the flames, I was smiling. And one of My apostles asked Me: "Why are You smiling?". I promised him: "I will tell you when speaking to those who have been saved". And I am doing that now. I was smiling thinking that as the flames spread among the heather of the valley, in vain restrained by your efforts, so My Doctrine will spread throughout the world, persecuted in vain by those who reject Light. And it will be light. It will be purification. It will be beneficent. How many little snakes have perished among these ashes, and other harmful insects with them! You were afraid to come to the valley, because there were too many asps in it. Well, not even one has survived. Likewise the world will be freed of many heresies, of many sins, of many sorrows, when it becomes acquainted with Me and is cleansed by the fire of My Doctrine. Cleansed and freed of harmful vegetation, it will be ready for the seed, and will become rich in holy fruits. That is why I was smiling... In the fire which was advancing, I saw a symbol of the spreading of My Doctrine in the world. Then the love for our neighbour, which is never to be separated from that for the Lord, made Me consider your necessities. And I lowered My thoughts from the contemplation of the interests of God to that of the interests of My brothers, and I stopped the fire, so that while rejoicing, you might praise the Lord. You can thus see that My thought rose to God, it descended from Him made more powerful, because union with God always increases our powers, and rose, once again, to God with yours. Thus, through charity, I did at the same time promote the interests of the Father and of My brothers. Do likewise in your future lives.
And now I ask you to give shelter to these women for the night. The moon is setting and the fire has delayed our journey. We cannot therefore proceed to the next town.»
«Come! Come all of you! There is room for everybody. We might have been homeless! Our homes are yours. Our houses are poor, but clean. Come and they will be blessed » they all shout.
And they slowly climb the rather steep slope as far as the little village, which miraculously escaped destruction, then each pilgrim disappears with his host...
440. Judas of Kerioth with the Blessed Virgin at Nazareth.
23rd May 1946.
Dawn is breaking and the eastern sky is just beginning to redden, when Judas of Kerioth knocks at the door of the little house in Nazareth.
On the road there are only peasants, or rather: small landowners of Nazareth, who are going to their vineyards or olive‑groves with their working tools and are greatly surprised at seeing the man knock at Mary's door so early in the morning. They speak in low voices to one another.
«He is a disciple » says one replying to the remarks of another. «He is certainly looking for Jesus of Joseph.»
«It's no use. He went away yesterday evening. I saw Him myself. I will tell him...» says another man.
«Never mind! It's Judas of Kerioth. I don't like him. Perhaps we are guilty of much wrong doing with regard to Jesus and we are making a mistake. But he, that man over there, did much harm to us here last year... We might have been converted. But he...»
«What? How do you know? »
«I was present one evening in the house of the head of the synagogue and I foolishly believed everything at once... Now... that's enough! I think I have sinned and...»
«Perhaps he also realised that he had sinned and...»
They move away and I can hear nothing else.
Judas knocks once again at the little door, to which he has been clinging, his face pressed against the wood, as if he wished to avoid being seen and recognised. But the little door remains closed. Judas makes a gesture of disappointment and he goes away along a path skirting the kitchen garden and he goes to the rear of the house. He casts a glance over the hedge of the quiet garden. Only the doves animate it.
Judas considers what to do. He talks to himself: «Has She perhaps gone away, too? And yet... I would have seen Her. And then! No. I heard Her voice yesterday evening... Perhaps She has gone to sleep at Her sister‑in‑law's... Ugh! This is as annoying as a bee on one's face, because She will come back with her, and I want to speak to Her alone, without that old woman as a witness. She is gossipy and would raise objections. And I don't want any. And she is as sly as every old wife of the people. She would not ‑accept my excuses and she would point that out to that stupid dove of her sister‑in‑law... I know I can make a fool of Her... in every way. She is as dull as ditch‑water... And I must put right what happened at Tiberias. Because if She speaks... I wonder whether She has mentioned it or has kept quiet? If She has spoken, it is more difficult to put matters right... But She will not have spoken... She confuses virtue with foolishness. Like Mother like Son... And the others are busy while they are fast asleep. In any case they are right. Why leave them aside if they seem to be wanting... But what do they want after all?... My notions are foggy... I must stop drinking and... Of course! But money is a temptation, and I am like a colt which has been kept inside too long. Two years, I say! Even longer! Two years of all kinds of abstinence... But in the meantime... What did Helkai say the day before yesterday? Eh! He is not a bad teacher! Certainly! Everything is legal providing we succeed in putting Jesus on the throne. But if He does not want that? But He must certainly consider that if we do not triumph, we will all end up like the followers of Theudas or of Judas the Galilean... Perhaps I ought to part company with them because... well, I do not know whether what they want is right. I don't trust them very much... They have changed too much recently... I would not like to... How dreadful! I to be the means to damage Jesus? No. I will part company. But it is sad to have dreamt of a kingdom and have to go back to what? To nothing... But better nothing than... He always says: "He who will commit the great sin". Hey!? It won't be me, eh! Me? Me? I will sooner drown myself in the lake... I'll go away. It is better for me to go away. I will go to my mother, I will get her to give me some money, because I certainly cannot ask the members of the Sanhedrin to give me the money to go away. They help me because they hope that I will help them to get over their state of uncertainty. Once Jesus is acknowledged as king, we will be settled. The crowds will side with us... Herod... who will bother about him? Neither the Romans nor the people. They all hate him! And... and... But Jesus is quite capable of renouncing the throne as soon as He is proclaimed king. Oh! Well! When Eleazar ben Annas assures me that his father is ready to crown Him king!... Afterwards He cannot remove His sacred character. After all... I am doing what the unfaithful steward of His parable did... I am having resort to my friends on my behalf, that is true, but also on His. So I am making unfair means serve as... Well, no! I must try once again to persuade Him. I am not convinced that I am doing the right thing by resorting to this subterfuge... and... Oh! If I could only convince Him! Because it would be so beautiful! Yes... very! That is the best solution: to tell the Master everything frankly. To implore Him... Providing Mary has not told Him about Tiberias... What did I say I should tell Mary?... Ah! yes! The refusal of the Roman ladies. Cursed be that woman! If I had not gone to her, I would not have met Mary that evening! But who could have imagined that Mary was in Tiberias? And yet I never went out on the day before the Sabbath, on the Sabbath or the day after it, as I did not want to see any of the apostles... What a fool! I could have gone to Hippo, to Gerghesa to find a woman! No! I had to go just there! To Tiberias through which the people of Capernaum must pass to come here... And all that because of the Roman ladies... I was hoping... No, that is what I must say to excuse myself, but it is not true. There is no sense in saying that to myself, as I know why I went: to meet some of the powerful people in Israel and to have a good time, since I had plenty money... But... how quickly money goes. I will soon have none left... Ha! Ha! I will invent some story for Helkai and his partners and they will give me some more...»
«O Judas! Have you gone mad? I have been watching you for some time from the top of this olive‑tree. You are gesticulating, speaking by yourself... Has the sun of the month of Tammuz harmed you? » shouts Alphaeus of Sarah leaning out of the forked branches of a huge olive‑tree, about thirty metres away from the spot where Judas is standing.
Judas starts, looks round, sees him and moans: «May death rake you! Cursed village of spies! » But smiling affably he shouts: «No. But I am worried because Mary is not opening... Is She perhaps not well? I have knocked several times!...»
«Mary? You can knock as long as you like! She is in the house of a poor old woman who is dying. They sent for Her at the third watch...»
«But I must speak to Her.»
«Wait. I will come down and I will go and tell Her. But do you really need Her? »
«Eh! I should say so! I have been here since sunrise.»
Alphaeus climbs down the tree solicitously and runs away.
«He has seen me, too! And he will certainly come back with that other woman! Everything is going awry? » and he hurls a string of insults at Nazareth, the Nazarenes, Mary of Alphaeus, and even at the Blessed Virgin's charity for the dying woman and at the dying woman herself...
He has not yet finished when the door, which from the dining-room leads into the kitchen garden, is opened and Mary appears looking very pale and sad.
«Judas! », «Mary! » they say simultaneously.
«I will now open the door to you. Alphaeus said to Me only: "Go home. There is someone wanting You" and I ran here, also because the old woman no longer needs Me. She has finished suffering because of a bad son...»
Judas, while Mary is speaking, runs along the path and goes back to the front of the house... Mary opens the door.
«Peace to you, Judas of Kerioth. Come in.»
«Peace to You, Mary.»
Judas is somewhat hesitant. Mary is kind, but serious.
«I knocked so much, at dawn.»
«Yesterday evening a son broke his mother's heart... And they came looking for Jesus. But Jesus is not here. I am saying that to you, too: Jesus is not here. You came late.»
«I know that He is not here.»
«How do you know? You have just arrived...»
«Mother, I will be frank with You, since You are good: I have been here since yesterday...»
«And why did you not come? Your companions came here every Sabbath, except one...»
«Eh! I know! I went to Capernaum but I did not find them.»
«Do not lie, Judas. You never went to Capernaum. Bartholomew remained there all the time and he never saw you. Bartholomew came here only yesterday. But you were not here yesterday... So... Why are you telling lies, Judas? Do you not know that a lie is the first step towards theft and homicide?... Poor Esther died, killed by grief because of the behaviour of her son. And Samuel, her son, became the shame of Nazareth through little lies, which became bigger and bigger... And from them he passed on to all the rest. Do you, an apostle of the Lord, wish to imitate him? Do you want your mother to die broken‑hearted? »
She reproaches him slowly, in a low voice. But Her words bear heavily on him. Judas does not know what to reply. He sits down abruptly, his head in his hands.
Mary watches him. She then says: «Well? Why did you want to see Me? While assisting poor Esther I prayed for your mother... and for you... Because I feel sorry for both of you, and for two different reasons.»
«Then, if you pity me, forgive me.»
«I have never had ill‑feelings.»
«What?... Not even because... of that morning at Tiberias?... You know? I was in that state because the evening before the Roman ladies had maltreated me as madman and... as the traitor of the Master. Yes, I admit it. I did the wrong thing in speaking to Claudia. I was mistaken with regard to her. But I do it for a good purpose. I grieved the Master. He has not mentioned it to me, but I am aware that He knows that I spoke. It was certainly Johanna who told Him. Johanna has never liked me and the Roman ladies grieved me... To forget, I drank...»
Mary's expression of compassion is unintentionally ironic, and She says: «Jesus, then, should get drunk every night, considering the grief He supposedly enjoys every day...»
«Did You tell Him? »
«I do not increase the bitterness of the chalice of My Son with the news of fresh defections, falls, sins, snares... I have been and will be silent.»
Judas falls on his knees trying to kiss Mary's hand, but She withdraws, without being rude, but quite decided not to be touched or kissed.
«Thank You, Mother! You are saving me. That is why I came here... and that You might make it easier for me to approach the Master without being reproached or ashamed.»
«To avoid that, all you had to do was to go to Capernaum and then come here with the others. It was very simple.»
«That is true... But the others are not kind, and they had me spied upon in order to reproach and accuse me.»
«Do not give offence to your brothers, Judas. Stop committing sins! You have been spying here, in Nazareth, the fatherland of the Christ, you...»
Judas interrupts Her: «When? Last year? They have distorted my words! But believe me, I...»
«I do not know what you did or said last year. I am referring to yesterday. You have been here since yesterday. You know that Jesus went away. So you have been investigating. But not in the friendly houses of Aser, Ishmael, Alphaeus, or of the brother of Judas and James, or of Mary of Alphaeus, or of any of the few people here who love Jesus. Because if you had done so, they would have come and told Me. Esther's house became crowded with women at dawn, when she died, but none of them had heard of you. They are the best among the women of Nazareth, those who love Me and love Jesus, and they strive to practise His Doctrine notwithstanding the hostility of their husbands, fathers and children. So you made inquiries among those who are enemies of My Jesus. What do you call that? I do not want to know. I tell you this only. Many swords will be plunged into My heart, which will be pierced over and over again, mercilessly, by the men who grieve My Jesus and hate Him. And one of the swords will be yours, and it will never be withdrawn. Because the memory of you, Judas, who do not want to be saved, who are ruining yourself, who are frightening Me, not because I am afraid for Myself, but for your soul, the memory of you will never be forgotten by My heart. Just Simeon pierced my soul with one sword, while I was carrying My Baby, My holy little Lamb, against My heart... You... you are the other sword. The point of your sword is already torturing My heart. But you are not yet satisfied with distressing a poor woman thus... and you are waiting to thrust your sword, like an executioner, right through the heart which has given you nothing but love... But it is foolish of Me to expect pity from you, who have none for your own mother!... On the contrary, now, I tell you! With one blow you will transfix Me and her, o wretched son, whom the prayers of two mothers cannot save!...»
Mary weeps while speaking, but her tears do not fall on Judas' dark‑haired head, because he has remained where he fell on his knees, apart from Mary... The holy tears are absorbed by the brick floor. And the scene reminds me of Aglae, on whom, instead, Mary's tears fell, because she was pressing against Mary in sincere desire of redemption.
«Can you not find one word, Judas? Can you not find within yourself the strength for a good purpose? Oh! Judas! Judas! Tell Me: are you satisfied with your way of living? Examine yourself, Judas. First of all, be humble and sincere with yourself, and then with God, so that you may go to Him, after removing your burden of stones from your heart, and say to Him: "Here I am. For Your sake I got rid of these stones".»
«I haven't... the courage to confess to Jesus.»
«You have not the humility to do it.»
«That is true. Help me...»
«Go to Capernaum and wait for Him, humbly.»
«But You could...»
«I can but tell you to do what My Son always does: to have mercy. I do not teach Jesus, but it is Jesus Who teaches Me, His disciple.»
«You are His Mother.»
«And that concerns My heart. But, by right, He is My Master. Exactly the same as He is for all the other women disciples.»
«You are perfect.»
«He is the Most Perfect One.»
Judas is silent and pensive. He then asks: «Where has the Master gone? »
«To Bethlehem in Galilee.»
«I do not know.»
«Is He coming back here? »
«Yes, He is.»
«I do not know.»
«You do not want to tell me! »
«I cannot tell you what I do not know. You have followed Him for two years. Can you say that His itinerary was always certain? How many times did the will of men compel Him to change it? »
«True. I will go away... To Capernaum.»
«The sun is too strong to travel. Stay here. You are a pilgrim like all the others. And He said that the women disciples are to take care of them.»
«My presence is unpleasant to You...»
«The fact that you do not want to be cured is grievous to Me! Only that... Take off your mantle... Where did you sleep? »
«I did not sleep. I waited until dawn as I wanted to see You all alone.»
«Then you must be tired. In the large room there are the little beds which Simon and Thomas used. It is still quiet and cool in there. Go and sleep while I prepare some food for you.»
Judas goes away without discussion. And Mary, without a rest after sitting up the whole night, goes into the kitchen to light the fire and then into the kitchen garden to get some vegetables. And tears and tears fall silently while She bends over the fireplace arranging the firewood, or when She stoops to pick the vegetables, and while She washes them in the basin and prepares them... And tears fall with the golden grains of corn when She feeds the doves, and they fall on the clothes which She takes out of the wash‑tub and hangs out in the sun... The tears of the Mother of God... of the Faultless Mother, Who was not exempt from sorrow and suffered more than any other woman, in order to be the Co‑Redeemer...