605. The Crucifixion.
27th March 1945.
Four brawny men, who look like Judaeans, and Judaeans more worthy of the cross than the condemned men, certainly of the same category as the scourgers, jump from a path onto the place of the execution. They are wearing short sleeveless tunics, and in their hands they are holding nails, hammers and ropes, which they show to the condemned men scoffing at them. The crowd is excited with cruel frenzy.
The centurion offers Jesus the amphora, so that He may drink the anaesthetic mixture of myrrhed wine. But Jesus refuses it. The two robbers instead drink a lot of it. Then the amphora, with a wide flared mouth, is placed near a large stone, almost on the edge of the summit.
The condemned men are ordered to undress. The two robbers do so without shame. On the contrary they amuse themselves making obscene gestures towards the crowd, and in particular towards a group of priests, who are all white in their linen garments, and who have gone back to the lower open space little by little, taking advantage of their caste to creep up there. The priests have been joined by two or three Pharisees and other overbearing personages, whom hatred has made friends. And I see people I know, such as the Pharisees Johanan and Ishmael, the scribes Sadoc and Eli of Capernaum…
The executioners offer the condemned men three rags, so that they may tie them round their groins. The robbers take them uttering the most horrible curses. Jesus, Who strips Himself slowly because of the pangs of the wounds, refuses it. He perhaps thinks that He can keep on the short drawers, which He had on also during the flagellation. But when He is told to take them off as well, He stretches out His hand to beg for the rag of the executioners to conceal His nakedness. He is really the Annihilated One to the extent of having to ask a rag of criminals.
But Mary has noticed everything and She has removed the long thin white veil covering Her head under Her dark mantle, and on which She has already shed so many tears. She removes it without letting Her mantle drop and gives it to John so that he may hand it to Longinus for Her Son. The centurion takes the veil without any objection and, when he sees that Jesus is about to strip Himself completely, facing the side where there are no people, and thus turning towards the crowd His back furrowed with bruises and blisters, and covered with sores and dark crusts that are bleeding again, he gives Him His Mother's linen veil. Jesus recognises it and wraps it round His pelvis several times, fastening it carefully so that it may not fall off… And on the linen veil, so far soaked only with tears, the first drops of blood begin to fall, because many of the wounds, just covered with blood-clots, have reopened again, as He stooped to take off His sandals and lay down His garments, and blood is streaming down again.
Jesus now turns towards the crowd. And one can thus see that also His chest, legs and arms have all been struck by the scourges. At the height of His liver there is a huge bruise, and under His left coastal arch there are seven clear stripes in relief, ending with seven small cuts bleeding inside a violaceous circle… a cruel blow of a scourge in such a sensitive region of the diaphragm. His knees, bruised by repeated falls that began immediately after He was captured and ended on Calvary, are dark with hematomas and the kneecaps are torn, particularly the right one, by a large bleeding wound.
The crowds scoff at Him in chorus: « Oh! Handsome! The most handsome of the sons of men! The daughters of Jerusalem adore You… » And in the tone of a psalm they intone: « My beloved is fresh and ruddy, to be known among ten thousand. His head is purest gold, his locks are palm fronds, as silky as the feathers of ravens. His eyes are like two doves bathing in streams not of water, but of milk, in the milk of his orbit. His cheeks are beds of spices, his lips are purple lilies distilling precious myrrh. His hands are rounded like the work of a goldsmith ending in rosy hyacinths. His trunk is ivory veined with sapphires. His legs are perfect columns of white marble on bases of gold. His majesty is like that of Lebanon; he is more majestic than the tall cedar. His conversation is drenched with sweetness and he is altogether delightful »; and they laugh and shout also: « The leper! The leper! So have You fornicated with an idol, if God has struck You so? Have You mumbled against the saints of Israel, as Mary of Moses did, if You have been punished so? Oh! Oh! the Perfect One! Are You the Son of God? Certainly not. You are the abortion of Satan! At least he, Mammon, is powerful and strong. You… are in rags, You are powerless and revolting. »
The robbers are tied to the crosses and they are carried to their places, one to the right, one to the left, with regard to the place destined to Jesus. They howl, swear, curse, particularly when the crosses are carried to the holes, and they hurt them making the ropes cut into their wrists, their oaths against God, the Law, the Romans, the Judaeans are hellish.
It is Jesus' turn. He lies on the cross meekly. The two robbers were so rebellious that, as the four executioners were not sufficient to hold them, some soldiers had to intervene, to prevent them from kicking away the torturers who were tying their wrists to the cross. But no help is required for Jesus. He lies down and places His head here they tell Him. He stretches out His arms and His legs as He told. He only takes care to arrange His veil properly. Now His long, slender white body stands out against the dark wood and the yellow ground.
Two executioners sit on His chest to hold Him fast. And I think of the oppression and pain He must have felt under that weight. A third one takes His right arm, holding Him with one hand on the first part of His forearm and the other on the tips of His fingers. The fourth one, who already has in his hand the long sharp-pointed quadrangular nail, ending with a round flat head, as big as a large coin of bygone days, watches whether the hole already made in the wood corresponds to the radius-ulnar joint of the wrist. It does. The executioner places the point of the nail on the wrist, he raises the hammer and gives the first stroke.
Jesus, Who had closed His eyes, utters a cry and has a contraction because of the sharp pain, and opens His eyes flooded with tears. The pain He suffers must be dreadful… The nail penetrates, tearing muscles, veins, nerves, shattering bones…
Mary replies to the cry of Her tortured Son with a groan that sounds almost like the moaning of a slaughtered lamb; and She bends, as if She were crushed, holding Her head in Her hands. In order not to torture Her, Jesus utters no more cries. But the strokes continue, methodical and hard, iron striking iron… and we must consider that a living limb receives them.
The right hand is now nailed. They pass on to the left one. The hole in the wood does not correspond to the carpus. So they take a rope, they tie it to the left wrist and they pull it until the joint is dislocated, tearing tendons and muscles, besides lacerating the skin already cut into by the ropes used to capture Him. The other hand must suffer as well, because it is stretched as a consequence, and the hole in it widens round the nail. Now the beginning of the metacarpus, near the wrist, hardly arrives at the hole. They resign themselves and they nail the hand where they can, that is, between the thumb and the other fingers, just in the middle of the metacarpus. The nail penetrates more easily here, but with greater pain, because it cuts important nerves, so that the fingers remain motionless, whilst those of the right hand have contractions and tremors that denote their vitality. But Jesus no longer utters cries, He only moans in a deep hoarse voice with His lips firmly closed, while tears of pain fall on the ground after falling on the wood.
It is now the turn of His feet. At two metres and more from the foot of the cross there is a small wedge, hardly sufficient for one foot. Both feet are placed on it to see whether it is in the right spot, and as it is a little low and the feet hardly reach it, they pull the poor Martyr by His malleoli. So the coarse wood of the cross rubs on the wounds, moves the crown that tears His hair once again and is on the point of falling. One of the executioners presses it down on His head again with a slap…
Those who were sitting on Jesus' chest, now get up to move to His knees, because Jesus with an involuntary movement withdraws His legs upon seeing the very long nail, which is twice as long and thick as those used for the hands, shine in the sunshine. They weigh on His flayed knees and press on His poor bruised shins, while the other two are performing the much more difficult operation of nailing one foot on top of the other, trying to combine the two joints of the tarsi.
Although they try to keep the feet still, holding them by the malleoli and toes on the wedge, the foot underneath is shifted by the vibrations of the nail, and they have almost to unnail it, because the nail, which has pierced the tender parts and is already blunt having pierced the right foot, is to be moved a little closer to the centre. And they hammer, and hammer, and hammer… Only the dreadful noise of the hammer striking the head of the nail is heard, because all Calvary is nothing but eyes and ears to perceive acts and noises and rejoice…
The harsh noise of iron is accompanied by the low plaintive lament of a dove: the hoarse groaning of Mary, Who bends more and more at each stroke, as if the hammer wounded Her, the Martyr Mother. And one understands that She is about to be crushed by such torture. Crucifixion is dreadful, equal to flagellation with regard to pain, it is more cruel to be seen, because one sees the nails disappear in the flesh. But in compensation it is shorter, whereas flagellation is enervating because of its duration.
I think that the Agony at Gethsemane, the Flagellation and the Crucifixion are the most dreadful moments. They reveal all the torture of the Christ to me. His death relieves me, because I say: « It is all over! » But they are not the end. They are the beginning of new sufferings.
The cross is now dragged near the hole and it jerks on the uneven ground shaking the poor Crucified. The cross is raised and twice it slips out of the hands of those raising it; the first time it falls with a crash, the second time it falls on its right arm, causing terrible pain to Jesus, because the jerk He receives shakes His wounded limbs.
But when they let the cross drop into its hole and before being made fast with stones and earth, it sways in all directions, continuously, shifting the poor Body, hanging from three nails, the suffering must be atrocious. All the weight of the body moves forward and downwards, and the holes become wider, particularly the one of the left hand, and also the hole of the feet widens out, while the blood drips more copiously. And if that of the feet trickles along the toes onto the ground and along the wood of the cross, that of the hands runs along the forearms, as the wrists are higher up than the armpits, because of the position, and it trickles down the sides from the armpits towards the waist. When the cross sways, before being fastened, the crown moves, because the head falls back knocking against the wood and drives the thick knot of thorns, at the end of the prickly crown, into the nape of the neck, then it lies again on the forehead, scratching it mercilessly. At long last the cross is made fast and there is only the torture of being suspended.
They raise the robbers who, once they are placed in a vertical position, shout as if they were being flayed alive, because of the torture of the ropes that cut into their wrists and cause their hands to turn dark with the veins swollen like ropes.
Jesus is silent. The crowd instead is no longer silent. The people resume bawling in a hellish way.
Now the top of Golgotha has its trophy and its guard of honour. At the top there is the cross of Jesus. At the sides the other two crosses. Half a century of soldiers, in fighting trim, is placed all round the summit; inside this circle of armed soldiers there are the -ten dismounted soldiers, who throw dice for the garments of the condemned men. Longinus is standing upright between the cross of Jesus and the one on the right. And he seems to be mounting guard of honour for the Martyr King. The other half century, at rest, is on the left path and on the lower open space, under the orders of Longinus' adjutant, awaiting to be employed in case of need. The indifference of the soldiers is almost total. Only an odd one now and again looks at the crucified men.
Longinus, instead, watches everything with curiosity and interest, he makes comparisons and judges mentally. He compares the crucified men, and the Christ in particular, and the spectators. His piercing eye does not miss any detail. And to see better, he shades his eyes with his hand, because the sun must be annoying him.
The sun is in fact strange. It is yellow-red like a fire. Then the fire seems to go out all of a sudden, because of a huge cloud of pitch that rises from behind the chains of the Judaean mountains and soars swiftly across the sky, disappearing behind other mountains. And when the sun comes out again, it is so strong that the eye endures it with difficulty.
While looking, he sees Mary, just under the slope, with Her tormented face raised towards Her Son. He calls one of the soldiers who are playing dice and says to him: « If His Mother wants to come up with the son who is escorting Her, let Her come. Escort Her and help Her. »
And Mary with John, who is believed to be Her « son », climbs the steps cut in the tufaceous rock, I think, and passes beyond the cordon of soldiers, and goes to the foot of the cross, but a little aside, to be seen and see Her Jesus.
The crowd showers the most disgraceful abuses on Her at once, associating Her with Her Son in their curses. But with Her trembling white lips, She tries only to comfort Him, with an anguished smile that wipes the tears, which no will-power can refrain.
The people, beginning with priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians and the like, amuse themselves by going on a kind of roundabout, climbing the steep road, passing along the elevation at the end, and descending along the other road, or viceversa. And while they pass at the foot of the summit, on the second open space, they do not fail to offer their blasphemous words as a compliment to the Dying Victim. All the baseness, cruelty, hatred and folly, which men are capable of expressing with their tongues, is amply testified by those infernal mouths. The fiercest are the members of the Temple, with the assistance of the Pharisees.
« Well? You, the Saviour of mankind, why do You not save Yourself? Has Your king Beelzebub abandoned You? Has he disowned You? » shout three priests.
And a group of Judaeans shout: « You, Who not more than five days ago, with the help of the Demon, made the Father say… ha! ha! ha! that He would glorify You, how come You do not remind Him to keep His promise? »
And three Pharisees add: « Blasphemer He said that He saved the others with the help of God! And He cannot save Himself! Do You want us to believe You? Then work the miracle. Hey, are You no longer able? Your hands are now nailed and You are naked. »
And some Sadducees and Herodians say to the soldiers: « Watch His witchcraft, you who have taken His garments! He has the infernal sign within Himself! »
A crowd howls in chorus: « Descend from the cross and we will believe You. You Who want to destroy the Temple… Fool!… Look at it over there, the glorious and holy Temple of Israel. It is untouchable, o profaner! And You are dying. »
Other priests say: « Blasphemous You the Son of God? Come down from there, then. Strike us by lightning, if You are God. We are not afraid of You and we spit at You. »
Others who are passing by shake their heads saying: « He can but weep. Save Yourself, if it is true that You are the Chosen One! »
And the soldiers remark: « So, save Yourself! Burn to ashes this suburra of the suburra! Yes! You are the suburra of the empire, you Judaean rabble. Do so! Rome will put You on Capitol and will worship You as a god! »
The priests and their accomplices say: « The arms of women were more pleasant than those of the cross, were they not? But, look, Your… (and they utter a disgraceful word) are already there waiting to receive You. You have the whole of Jerusalem as Your matchmaker. » And they hiss like snakes.
Others throw stones shouting: « Change these into bread, since You multiply loaves. »
Others mimicking the Hosannas of Palm Sunday, throw branches and shout: « Curses on Him Who comes in the name of the Demon! Cursed be His kingdom! Glory to Zion that cuts Him off the living! »
A Pharisee stands in front of the cross, he raises his hand in an indecent gesture, and says: « "I entrust You to the God of Sinai" did You say? Now the God of Sinai is preparing You for the eternal fire. Why don't You call Jonah so that he may repay Your kindness? »
Another one says: « Don't ruin the cross with the strokes Of Your head. It is to be used for Your followers. A whole legion of them will die on Your cross, I swear it on Jehovah. And Lazarus will be the first one I'll put there. We shall see whether You free him from death, now. »
« Yes. Let us go to Lazarus. Let us nail him on the other side of the cross » and parrot-like they speak slowly as Jesus did, saying: « Lazarus, My friend, come out! Unbind him and let him go. »
« No! He used to say to Martha and Mary, His women: "I am the Resurrection and Life" Ha! Ha! Ha! The Resurrection cannot drive death back, and the Life is dying! »
« There is Mary with Martha over there. Let us ask them where Lazarus is and let us look for him. » And they come forward, towards the women, asking arrogantly: « Where is Lazarus? At his mansion? »
And while the other women, struck with terror, run behind the shepherds, Mary Magdalene comes forward, and finding in her grief the ancient boldness of her days of sin, she says: « Go. You will already find the soldiers of Rome in the mansion, with five hundred armed men of my land, and they will castrate you like old billygoats destined to feed the slaves of millstones. »
« Impudent! Is that how you speak to priests? »
« Sacrilegious! Filthy! Cursed! Turn round! On your backs, I can see them, you have tongues of infernal flames. »
Mary's assertion sounds so certain that the cowards, who are really struck with terror, turn round; but if they have no flames on their shoulders, they have the sharp-pointed Roman lances at their backs. In fact Longinus has given an order, and the fifty soldiers, who were resting, have come into action and they prick the buttocks of the first Judaeans they find. The latter run away shouting and the soldiers stop to block the entrances to the two roads and protect the open space. The Judaeans curse, but Rome is the stronger.
The Magdalene lowers her veil again - she had raised it to speak to the revilers - and goes back to her place. The other women join her.
But the robber on the left hand side continues to insult from his cross. He seems to have summarised all the curses of the other people and he repeats them all, and ends by saying: « Save Yourself and save us, if You want people to believe You. You the Christ? You are mad! The world belongs to crafty people, and God does not exist. I do. That is true and everything is permitted to me. God?… Nonsense! Invented to keep us quiet. Long live our egos! Man's ego alone is king and god! »
The other robber, who is on the right hand side with Mary almost near his feet, and looks at Her almost more than he looks at Jesus, and for some moments has been weeping murmuring: « My mother », says: « Be silent. Do you not fear God even now that you suffer this pain? Why do you insult Him Who is good? And His torture is even greater than ours. And He has done nothing wrong. »
But the robber continues to curse.
Jesus is silent. Panting as a result of the effort He has to make because of His position, because of His fever and heart and breathing conditions, the consequence of the flagellation He suffered in such a violent form, and also of the deep anguish that had made Him sweat blood, He tries to find some relief by reducing the weight on His feet, pulling Himself up with His arms and hanging from His hands. Perhaps He does so also to overcome the cramp that tortures His feet and is revealed by the trembling of His muscles. But the same trembling is noticeable in the fibres of His arms, which are constrained in that position and must be frozen at their ends, because they are higher up and deprived of blood, which arrives at the wrists with difficulty and trickles from the holes of the nails, leaving the fingers without circulation. Those of the left hand in particular are already cadaveric and motionless, bent towards the palm. Also the toes of the feet show their pain, especially the big toes move up and down and open out, probably because their nerves have not been injured so seriously.
And the trunk reveals all its pain with its movement, which is fast but not deep, and tires Him without giving any relief. His ribs, wide and high as they are, because the structure of this Body is perfect, are now enlarged beyond measure, as a consequence of the position taken by the body and of the pulmonary oedema that has certainly developed inside. And yet they do not serve to relieve the effort in breathing, all the more that the abdomen with its movement helps the diaphragm, which is becoming more and more paralyzed.
And the congestion and asphyxia increase every minute, as is shown by the cyanotic colour that emphasises the lips, which the fever has made bright red, and by the red-violet streaks, which tinge the neck along the turgid jugular veins, and widen out as far as the cheeks, towards the ears and temples, while the nose is thin and bloodless, and the eyes are sunken in a circle, which is livid where no blood has trickled from the crown.
Under the left costal arch one can see the throbbing imparted by the point of the heart, an irregular but violent palpitation, and now and again, owing to an internal convulsion, the diaphragm has a deep pulsation, which is revealed by a total stretching of the skin, for what it can stretch on that poor wounded dying Body.
The Face already has the aspect we see in photographs of the Holy Shroud, with the nose diverged and swollen on one side; and the likeness is increased by the fact that the right eye is almost closed, owing to a swelling on this side. The mouth, instead is open, with the wound on the upper lip by now turned into a crust.
His thirst, caused by the loss of blood, by the fever and by the sun, must be burning, so much so that He, with automatic movements, drinks the drops of His perspiration and His tears, as well as those of blood, that run down from His forehead to His moustache, and He wets His tongue with them…
The crown of thorns prevents Him from leaning against the trunk of the cross to help the suspension on His arms and lighten the weight on His feet. His kidneys and all His spine are curved outwards, detached from the cross from His pelvis upwards, owing to force of inertia that makes a body, suspended like His, hang forward.
The Judaeans, driven beyond the open space, do not stop insulting, and the unrepentant robber echoes their insults.
The other one, who now looks at the Mother with deeper and deeper compassion, and weeps, answers him back sharply, when he hears that She also is included in the insult. « Be silent. Remember that you were born of a woman. And consider that our mothers have wept because of their sons. And they were tears of shame… because we are criminals. Our mothers are dead… I would like to ask mine .to forgive me-… But shall I be able? She was a holy woman… I killed her with the sorrow I gave her… I am a sinner… Who will forgive me? Mother, in the name of Your dying Son, pray for me. »
The Mother for a moment raises Her tortured face and looks at him, the poor wretch who through the remembrance of his mother and the contemplation of the Mother moves towards repentance, and She seems to caress him with Her kind gentle eyes.
Pardon of the Good Theif Tissot
Disma weeps louder, which raises even more the mockery of the crowd and of his companion. The former shout: « Very well. Take Her as your mother. So She will have two criminal sons! » The latter aggravates the situation saying: « She loves you because you are a smaller copy of Her darling. »
Jesus speaks for the first time: « Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing! »
This prayer overcomes all fear in Disma. He dares to look at the Christ and says: « Lord, remember me when You are in Your Kingdom. It is just that I should suffer. But give me mercy and peace hereafter. I heard You speak once and I foolishly rejected Your word. I now repent. And I repent of my sins before You, the Son of the Most High. I believe that You come from God. I believe in Your power. I believe in Your mercy. Christ, forgive me in the name of Your Mother and of Your Most Holy Father. »
Jesus turns round and looks at him with deep compassion, and He smiles a still beautiful smile with His poor tortured lips. He says: « I tell you: today you will be with Me in Paradise. »
The repentant robber calms down, and as he no longer remembers the prayers he learned when a child, he repeats as an ejaculation: « Jesus Nazarene, king of the Jews, have mercy on me; Jesus Nazarene, king of the Jews, I hope in You; Jesus Nazarene, king of the Jesus, I believe in Your Divinity. »
The other robber continues cursing.
The sky becomes duller and duller. Now the clouds hardly ever open to let the sun shine. On the contrary they cluster on top of one another in leaden, white, greenish strati, they disentangle according to the caprices of a cold wind, which at times blows in the sky, then descends to the ground, and then drops again, and when it drops the air is almost more sinister, sultry and dull than when it hisses, blowing biting and fast.
The light, previously exceedingly bright, is becoming greenish. And faces look strange. The profiles of the soldiers, under their helmets and in their armour, which were previously shining and have now become rather tarnished in the greenish light and under an ashen-grey sky, are so hard that they seem to be chiselled. The Judaeans, the complexion, hair and beards of whom are mostly brown, seem drowned people, so wan are their faces. The women look like statues of bluish snow because of their deadly paleness, which is accentuated by the light.
Jesus seems to be turning ominously livid, because of a beginning of putrefaction, as if He were already dead. His head begins to hang over His chest. His strength fails Him rapidly. He shivers, although He is burning with fever. And in His weakness, He whispers the name that so far He has only uttered in the bottom of His heart: « Mother! Mother! » He murmurs it in a low voice, like a sigh, as if He were already lightly delirious and thus prevented from holding back what His will would not like to reveal. And each time Mary makes an unrestrainable gesture of stretching Her arms, as if She wished to succour Him. And the cruel people laugh at such pangs of Him Who is dying and of Her Who suffers agonies.
Priests and scribes climb up again as far as the shepherds, who, however, are on the lower open space. And as the soldiers want to drive them back, they react saying: « Are these Galileans staying here? We want to stay here as well, as we have to ascertain that justice is done to the very end. And from afar, in this light, we cannot see. »
In fact many begin to be upset by the light that is enveloping the world and some people are afraid. Also the soldiers point to the sky and to a kind of cone that seems of slate, so dark it is, and that rises I like a pine-tree from behind the top of a mountain. It looks like a waterspout. It rises and rises and seems to produce darker and darker clouds, as if it were a volcano belching smoke and lava.
It is in this frightening twilight that Jesus gives John to Mary and Mary to John. He lowers His head, because the Mother has gone closer to the cross to see Him better, and He says: « Woman, this is Your son. Son, this is your Mother. »
Mary looks even more upset after this word, which is the will of Jesus, Who has nothing to give His Mother but a man, He Who out of love for man, deprives Her of the Man-God, born of Her. But the poor Mother tries to weep only silently, because it is impossible for Her not to weep… Tears stream down Her cheeks notwithstanding all the efforts to refrain them, even if on Her lips there is a heartbroken smile to comfort Him…
Jesus' sufferings increase more and more. And the light fades more and more.
It is in this sea-bottom light that Nicodemus and Joseph appear from behind some Judaeans, and they say: « Step aside! »
« You are not allowed. What do you want? » ask the soldiers.
« To pass. We are friends of the Christ. »
The chief priests turn round. « Who dare profess himself friend of the rebel? » ask the priests indignantly.
And Joseph replies resolutely: « I, Joseph of Arimathea, the Elder, and noble member of the Supreme Council, and Nicodemus the head of the Judaeans, is with me. »
« Those who side with the rebel are rebels. »
« And those who take sides with murderers, are murderers, Eleazar of Annas. I have lived as a just man. And now I am old and close to death. I do not want to become unjust, while Heaven is already descending upon me and the eternal Judge with it. »
« And you, Nicodemus! I'm surprised! »
« So am I. And of one thing only: that Israel is so corrupt that you cannot even recognise God any more. »
« You disgust me. »
« Move aside, then, and let me pass. That is all I want. »
« To become even more contaminated? »
« If I have not become contaminated being with you, nothing else will ever contaminate me. Soldier, here is the purse and my pass. » And he gives the decurion who is closest to him, a purse and a waxed board.
The decurion examines them and says to the soldiers:« Let the two men pass. »
And Joseph and Nicodemus approach the shepherds. I do not even know whether Jesus can see them in the thick fog that is getting thicker and thicker, and with His eyes that are already veiled by agony. But they see Him and they weep without any respect for public opinion, although the priests now abuse them.
The sufferings are worse and worse. The body begins to suffer from the arching typical of tetanus, and the clamour of the crowd exasperates it. The death of fibres and nerves extends from the tortured limbs to the trunk, making breathing more and more difficult, diaphragmatic contraction weak and heart beating irregular. The face of Christ passes, in turns, from very deep-red blushes to the greenish paleness of a person bleeding to death. His lips move with greater difficulty, because the overstrained nerves of the neck and of the head itself, that for dozens of times have acted as a lever for the whole body, pushing on the cross bar, spread the cramp also to the jaws. His throat, swollen by the obstructed carotid arteries, must be painful and must spread its oedema to the tongue, which looks swollen and slow in its movements. His back, even in the moments when the tetanising contractions do not bend it in a complete arch from the nape of His neck to His hips, leaning as extreme points against the stake of the cross, bends more and more forwards, because the limbs are continuously weighed down by the burden of the dead flesh.
The people cannot see this situation very clearly, because the light now is like dark ashes, and only those who are at the foot of the cross can see well.
At a certain moment Jesus collapses forwards and downwards, as if He were already dead, He no longer pants, His head hangs inertly forward, His body, from His hips upwards, is completely detached from the cross, forming an angle with its bar.
Mary utters a cry: « He is dead! » A tragic cry that spreads in the dark air. And Jesus seems really dead.
Another cry of a woman replies to Her, and I see a bustle in the group of the women. Then some ten people go away holding something. But I cannot see who goes away so. The foggy light is too faint. It looks as we are immersed in a cloud of very dense volcanic ash.
« It is not possible » shout some of the priests and of the Judaeans. « It is a simulation to make us go away. Soldier, prick Him with your lance. It is a good medicine to give His voice back to Him. » And as the soldiers do not do so, a volley of stones and clods of earth fly towards the cross, hitting the Martyr and falling back on the armour of the Romans.
The medicine, as the Judaeans say ironically, works the wonder. Some of the stones have certainly hit the target, perhaps the wound of a hand, or the head itself, because they were aiming high. Jesus moans pitifully and recovers His senses. His thorax begins to breathe again with difficulty and His heads moves from left to right, seeking where it may rest in order to suffer less, but finding nothing but greater pain.
With great difficulty, pressing once again on His tortured feet, finding strength in His will, and only in it, Jesus stiffens on the Cross, He stands upright, as if He were a healthy man with all his strength, He raises His face, looking with wide open eyes at the world stretched at His feet, at the far away town, which one can see just indistinctly as a vague whiteness in the mist, and at the dark sky where every trace of blue and of light has disappeared. And to this closed, compact, low sky, resembling a huge slab of dark slate, He shouts in a loud voice, overcoming with His will-Power and with the need of His soul the obstacle of His swollen tongue and His oedematous throat: « Eloi, Eloi, lamma scebacteni! » (I hear Him say so). He must feel that He is dying, and in absolute abandonment by Heaven, if He confesses His Father's abandonment, with such an exclamation.
People laugh and deride Him. They insult Him saying: « God has nothing to do with You! Demons are cursed by God! »
Other people shout: « Let us see whether Elijah, whom He is calling, will come to save Him. »
And others say: « Give Him some vinegar, that He may gargle His throat. It helps one's voice! Elijah or God, as it is uncertain what this madman wants, are far away… A loud voice is required to make oneself heard! » and they laugh like hyenas or like demons.
But no soldier gives Him vinegar and no one comes from Heaven to give comfort. It is the solitary, total, cruel, also supernaturally cruel agony of the Great Victim.
The avalanches of desolate grief, which had already oppressed Him at Gethsemane, come back again. The waves of the sins of all the world come back to strike the shipwrecked innocent, to submerge Him in their bitterness. And above all what comes back is the sensation, more crucifying than the cross itself, more despairing than any torture, that God has abandoned Him and that His prayer does not rise to Him…
And it is the final torture. The one that accelerates death, because it squeezes the last drops of blood out of the pores, because it crushes the remaining fibres of the heart, because it ends what the first knowledge of this abandonment has begun: death. Because of that, as first cause, my Jesus died, o God, Who have struck Him for us! Because after Your abandonment, through Your abandonment, what does a person become? Either insane or dead. Jesus could not become insane, because His intelligence was divine, and since intelligence is spiritual, it triumphed over the total trauma of Him Whom God had struck. So He became a dead man: the Dead Man, the Most Holy Dead Man, the Most Innocent Dead Man. He Who was the Life, was dead. Killed by Your abandonment and by our sins.
Darkness becomes deeper. Jerusalem disappears completely. The very slopes of Calvary seem to vanish. Only the top is visible, as if darkness held it high up to receive the only and last surviving light, laying it as an offering, with its divine trophy, on a pool of liquid onyx, so that it may be seen by love and by hatred.
And from that light, which is no longer light, comes the plaintive voice of Jesus: « I am thirsty! »
A wind in fact is blowing, which makes even healthy people thirsty. A strong wind that now blows continuously, and is full of dust, cold and frightening. And I think of what pain its violent gusts must have caused to the lungs, the heart, the throat of Jesus, and to His frozen, benumbed, wounded limbs. Everything has really combined to torture the Martyr.
A soldier goes towards a jar, in which the assistants of the executioner have put some vinegar with gall, so that with its bitterness it may increase the salivation of those condemned to capital punishment. He takes the sponge immersed in the liquid, he sticks it on a thin yet stiff cane, which is already available nearby, and offers the sponge to the Dying Victim.
Jesus leans eagerly forward towards the approaching sponge. He looks like a starving baby seeking the nipple of its mother.
Mary Who sees and certainly has such a thought, leaning on John, says with a moan: « Oh! and I cannot give Him even one of My tears… Oh! breast of Mine, why do you not trickle milk? Oh! God, why do You abandon us thus? A miracle for My Son! Who will lift Me up, so that I may quench His thirst with My blood, since I have no milk?… »
Jesus, Who has greedily sucked the sour bitter drink, makes a wry face in disgust. Above all, it must act as a corrosive on His wounded split lips.
He withdraws, loses heart, abandons Himself. All the weight of His body falls heavily on His feet and forward. His wounded extremities are the parts that suffer the dreadful pain as they are torn open by the weight of the body that abandons itself. He makes no further movement to alleviate such pain. His body, from His hips upwards, is detached from the cross, and remains such.
His head hangs forward so heavily that His neck seems hollowed in three places: at the throat, which is completely sunken, and at both sides of the sternum cleido-mastoid. He pants more and more and interruptedly, and it sounds more like a death-rattle. Now and again a painful fit of coughing brings a light rosy foam to His lips. And the intervals between one expiration and the next one are becoming longer and longer. His abdomen is now motionless. Only His thorax still heaves, but laboriously and with difficulty… Pulmonary paralysis is increasing more and more.
And fainter and fainter, sounding like a child's wailing, comes the invocation: « Mother! » And the poor wretch whispers: « Yes, darling, I am here. » And when His sight becomes misty and makes Him say: « Mother, where are You? I cannot see You any more. Are You abandoning Me as well? » and they are not even words, but just a murmur that can hardly be heard by Her Who with Her heart rather than with Her ears receives every sigh of Her dying Son, She says: « No, no, Son! I will not abandon You! Listen to Me, My dear… Your Mother is here, She is here… and She only regrets that She cannot come where You are… » It is heart-rending…
And John weeps openly. Jesus must hear him weep. But He does not say anything. I think that His impending death makes Him speak as if He were raving and that He does not even know what He says, and, unfortunately, He does not even understand His Mother's consolation and His favourite apostle's love.
Longinus - who inadvertently is no longer standing at ease with his arms folded across his chest, and one leg crossed over the other alternately, to ease the long wait on his feet and is now instead standing stiff at attention, his left hand on his sword, his right one held against his side, as if he were on the steps of the imperial throne - does not want to be influenced. But his face is affected in the effort of overcoming his emotion, and his eyes begin to shine with tears that only his iron discipline can refrain.
The other soldiers, who were playing dice, have stopped and have stood up, putting on the helmets that had served to cast the dice, and they are near the little steps dug in the tufa, looking heedful and silent. The others are on duty and cannot move. They look like statues. But some of those who are closer and hear Mary's words, mutter something between their lips and shake their heads.
There is dead silence. Then in utter darkness, the word: « Everything is accomplished! » is clearly heard and His death-rattle grows louder and louder, with longer and longer pauses between one rattle and the next one.
Time passes in such distressing rhythm. Life comes back when the air is pierced by the harsh breathing of the Dying Victim… Life stops when the painful sound is no longer heard. One suffers hearing it… one suffers not hearing it… One says: « Enough of this suffering! », and then one says: « Oh! God! let it not be His last breath. »
All the Maries are weeping, with their heads leaning against the scarp. And their weeping is clearly heard, because the crowd is now silent again, to listen to the death-rattles of the dying Master.
There is silence again. Then the supplication pronounced with infinite kindness, with fervent prayer: « Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit! »
Further silence. Also the death-rattle becomes fainter, It is just a breath confined to His lips and throat.
Then, there is the last spasm of Jesus. A dreadful convulsion that seems to tear the body with the three nails from the cross, rises three times from the feet to the head, through all the poor tortured nerves; it heaves the abdomen three times in an abnormal way, then leaves it after dilating it as if it were upsetting the viscera, and it drops and becomes hollow as is it were empty; it heaves, swells and contracts the thorax so violently, that the skin sinks between the ribs which stretch appearing under the skin and reopening the wounds of the scourges; it makes the head fall back violently once, twice, three times, hitting the wood hard; it contracts all the muscles of the face in a spasm, accentuating the deviation of the mouth to the right, it opens wide and dilates the eyelids under which one can see the eye-balls roll and the sclerotic appear. The body is all bent; in the last of the three contractions it is a drawn arch, which vibrates and is dreadful to look at, and then a powerful cry, unimaginable in that exhausted body, bursts forth rending the air, the « loud cry » mentioned by the Gospels and is the first part of the word « Mother »… And nothing else…
His head falls on His chest, His body leans forward, the trembling stops, He breathes no more. He has breathed His last.
The Earth replies to the cry of the murdered Innocent with a frightening rumble. From a thousand bugle-horn giants seem to give out only one sound and on that terrible chord there are the isolated rending notes of lightning that streaks the sky in all directions, falling on the town, on the Temple, on the crowd… I think that some people were struck by lightning, because the crowd was struck directly. The lightning is the only irregular light that enables one to see at intervals. And immediately afterwards, while the volley of thunderbolts still continues, the earth is shaken by a cyclonic whirlwind. The earthquake and the tornado join together to give an apocalyptic punishment to the blasphemers. The summit of Golgotha trembles and quakes like a plate in the hands of a madman, because of the subsultory and undulatory shocks that shake the three crosses so violently that they seem on the point of being overturned.
Longinus, John, the soldiers grab whatever they can, as best they can, not to fall. But John, while grasping the cross with one arm, with the other supports Mary Who, both because or Her grief and the unsteadiness, has leaned on his chest. The other soldiers, and in particular those on the side sloping downhill, have had to take shelter in the centre, to avoid being thrown down the precipice. The robbers howl with terror, the crowd howls even more and would like to run away. But it is not possible. People fall one on top of the other, they tread on one another, they fall into the fissures of the ground, they hurt themselves, they roll down the slope as if they had gone mad.
The earthquake and the tornado recur three times, then there is the absolute immobility of a dead world. Only flashes of lightning, without the rumble of thunder, still streak the sky illuminating the scene of the Jews fleeing in every direction, at their wits' end, their hands stretched forward or raised to the sky, at which they had so far sneered and of which they are now afraid. Darkness is mitigated by a dim light which, increased by the silent magnetic lightning, enables one to see that many are lying on the ground, I do not know whether they are dead or have fainted. A house is on fire inside the walls and the flames rise up straight in the still air, a bright red spot in the grey-green atmosphere.
Mary raises Her head from John's chest and looks at Her Jesus. She calls Him, as She cannot see Him well in the dim light and Her poor eyes are full of tears. She calls Him three times: « Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! » It is the first time that She calls Him by His name, since She has been on Calvary. Then, as a flash forms a kind of crown over the top of Golgotha, She sees Him, motionless, all bent forward, with His head hanging so much forward and to the right, that His cheek touches His shoulder and His chin rests on His ribs, and She understands. She stretches out Her hands in the dark air and shouts: « My Son! My Son! My Son! » She then listens… Also Her mouth is open, She seems to be wanting to hear also with it, as Her eyes are wide open to see… She cannot believe that Her Jesus is no longer…
John, who has also looked and heard and has understood that everything is over, embraces Mary and tries to take Her away saying: « He no longer suffers. »
But before the apostle finishes his sentence, Mary, who has understood, frees Herself, She turns round, She bends towards the ground, She covers Her eyes with Her hands and shouts: « I no longer have My Son! »
She then staggers and would fall if John did not hold Her against his heart, and he then sits down, on the ground, to sustain Her on his chest, more easily until the Maries, no longer held back by the upper circle of armed soldiers - because, since the Jews have run away, the Roman soldiers have gathered in the open space below, commenting on the event - replace the apostle near the Mother.
The Magdalene sits where John was, and she almost lays Mary on her knees, holding Her between her arms and her breast, kissing Her deadly pale face, which is reclined on her compassionate shoulder. Martha and Susanna, with a sponge and a linen cloth soaked in vinegar, moisten Her temples and nostrils, while Her sister-in-law Mary kisses Her hands calling Her in a heart-rending voice, and as soon as Mary opens Her eyes again and casts a glance that Her grief makes, so to say, dull, she says to Her: « Daughter, my beloved daughter, listen… tell me that You see me… I am Your Mary… Don't look at me so!… » And as the first sob opens Mary's throat and Her first tears begin to fall, the good Mary of Alphaeus says: « Yes, weep… Here with me, as if You were near a mother, my poor holy daughter »; and when she hears Her say: « Oh! Mary! Mary! have you seen? », she moans: « Yes, I have… but… but… daughter… oh! daughter!… » And the elderly Mary can find no other word and weeps. She weeps disconsolately, echoed by all the other women, that is, Martha and Mary, John's mother and Susanna.
The other pious women are no longer there. I think that they have gone away, and the shepherds with them, when that feminine cry was heard…
The soldiers are speaking in low voices to one another.
« Have you noticed the Judaeans? They were afraid, now. »
« And they were beating their breasts. »
« The priests were the most terrorised! »
« What a fright! I have seen other earthquakes. But never like this one. Look: the ground is full of fissures. »
« And a whole stretch of the long way has slid down over there. »
« And there are bodies under it. »
« Leave them! So many snakes less. »
« Oh! another fire! In the country… »
« But is He really dead? »
« Can't you see? Do you doubt it? »
Joseph and Nicodemus appear from behind the rock. They had certainly taken shelter there, behind the protection of the mountain, to save themselves from the thunderbolts. They go to Longinus. « We want the Corpse. »
« Only the Proconsul can grant it. Go quick, because I heard that the Judaeans want to go to the Praetorium to obtain permission to fracture His legs. I would not like them to disfigure His body. »
« How do you know? »
« A report of the ensign. Go. I will wait. »
The two men rush down the steep road and disappear.
It is at this moment that Longinus approaches John and in a low voice says something to him, which I do not understand. Then he makes a soldier give him a lance. He looks at the women, who are all attending to Mary, Who is slowly recovering Her strength. They have all their backs turned to the cross.
Longinus places himself in front of the Crucified, he ponders carefully how to deal the blow and he strikes it. The lance penetrates deeply from the bottom upwards, from right to left.
John, wavering between the desire to see and the horror of seeing, makes a wry face for a moment.
« It is done, my friend » says Longinus, and he ends: « Better so. As for a knight. And without fracturing bones… He was really a Just Man! »
A lot of water and just a trickle of blood, already tending to clot, drip from the wound. I said drip. They only come out trickling from the neat cut that remains motionless, whereas, had there been any breathing, it would have opened and closed with the movements of the thorax and abdomen…
… While on Calvary everything remains in this tragic situation, I join Joseph and Nicodemus, who are going down along a short cut to gain time.
They are almost at the bottom when they meet Gamaliel. An unkempt Gamaliel, with no headgear, no mantle, with his magnificent garment soiled with mould and torn by bramble. A Gamaliel who is running, climbing and panting, with his hands in his thin very grizzled hair of an elderly man. They speak to one another without stopping.
« Gamaliel! You? »
« You, Joseph? Are you leaving Him? »
« No, I am not. But how come you are here? And in that state?… »
« Dreadful things! I was in the Temple! The sign! The Temple door unhinged! The purple hyacinth veil is hanging torn! The Holy of Holies is open! There is anathema upon us! » He has spoken while running towards the summit, driven mad by the test.
The two men look at him go… they look at each other… they say together: « "These stones will shudder at My last words!" He had promised him!… »
They hasten their pace towards the town.
In the country, between the mountain and the walls and beyond them, many people looking idiotic are wandering, in the still dim light… They howl, weep and lament… Some say: « His Blood has rained fire! » Some exclaim: « Jehovah has appeared in the midst of the lightning to curse the Temple! » Some moan: « The sepulchres! The sepulchres! »
Joseph gets hold of a man who is striking his head against the walls and calls him by his name, dragging him as he enters the town: « Simon! What are you saying? »
« Leave me! You are dead, too! All dead! All outside! And they curse me. »
« He has gone mad » says Nicodemus.
They leave him and they hasten towards the Praetorium.
The town is a prey to terror. People roam beating their breasts. People who jump backwards or turn round frightened upon hearing a voice or steps behind them.
In one of the many dark archivolts, the apparition of Nicodemus dressed in white wool - because, in order to be quicker, he has taken off his dark mantle on Golgotha - causes a fleeing Pharisee to utter a cry of terror. He then realises that it is Nicodemus and he clings to his neck with a strange effusion, shouting: « Don't curse me! My mother appeared to me and said: "Be cursed for ever!" » and then he collapses on the ground moaning: « I'm afraid! I'm afraid! »
« They are all mad! » say the two men.
They arrive at the Praetorium. And it is only here, while waiting to be received by the Proconsul, that Joseph and Nicodemus understand the reason for so much terror. Many sepulchres had been opened by the earthquake, and there were people who swore that they had seen skeletons come out of them, and that for a moment they resumed human appearance and were going about accusing and cursing those who were guilty of the deicide.
I leave them in the entrance-hall of the Praetorium, which Jesus' two friends enter without so many stupid horrors and fears of contamination, and I go back to Calvary, joining Gamaliel, who by now exhausted, is climbing the last few metres. He is proceeding striking his breast, and when he arrives at the first of the two open spaces, he throws himself on the ground, face downwards, a long white form on the yellowish ground, and he says moaning: « The sign! The sign! Tell me that You forgive me! A whisper, even only a whisper, to tell me that You hear me and forgive me. »
I understand that he thinks that Jesus is still alive. And he changes his mind only when a soldier, pushing him with his lance, says: « Get up and be silent. It's of no use! You should have thought of that previously. He is dead. And I, a heathen, am telling you: this Man, Whom you have crucified, was really the Son of God! »
« Dead? Are You dead? Oh!… » Gamaliel raises his terrorised face, he tries to see as far up as the top, in the twilight. He cannot see much, but he can see enough to realise that Jesus is dead. And he sees the compassionate group that is consoling Mary, and John standing on the left side of the cross and weeping, and Longinus, standing straight on the right side, solemn in his respectful posture.
He kneels down, stretches his arms out and weeping says: « It was You! It was You! We can no longer be forgiven. We have asked Your Blood upon us. And It cries to Heaven, and Heaven curses us… Oh! But You were Mercy!… I say to You, I, the destroyed rabbi of Judah: "Your Blood on us, for pity's sake". Sprinkle us with It! Because only Your Blood can impetrate forgiveness for us… » and he weeps. And then, in a lower voice, he confesses his torture: « I have the requested sign… But ages and ages of spiritual blindness are upon my interior sight, and against my present will rises the voice of my proud thought of the past… Have mercy on me! Light of the world, let one of Your rays descend on the darkness that did not understand You! I am the old Judaean faithful to what I thought was justice, and it was error. I am now a barren land, no longer with any of the ancient trees of the ancient Faith, without any seed or stalk of the new Faith. I am an arid desert. Work the miracle of making a flower, that has Your name, spring up in this poor heart of an old obstinate Israelite. Since You are the Liberator, come into my poor thought, which is a prisoner of formulas. Isaiah says so: "… He paid for sinners and took upon Himself the sins of many". Oh! also mine, Jesus Nazarene… »
He stands up. He looks at the cross which is becoming neater and neater in the light that is clearing up, and then he goes away, stooping, aged, destroyed.
And on Calvary there is once again silence, just broken by Mary's weeping. The two robbers, worn out by fear, no longer speak.
Nicodemus and Joseph arrive back running and they say that they have Pilate's permission. But Longinus, who is not too trustful, sends a horse-soldier to the Proconsul to learn what he has to do also with regard to the two robbers. The soldier goes and come back at a gallop with the order to hand over Jesus and break the legs of the other two, by will of the Jews.
Longinus calls the four executioners, who are cravenly crouched under the rock, still terrorised by what has happened, and orders them to give the robbers the death-blow with a club. Which takes place without any protest by Disma, to whom the blow of the club, delivered to his heart, after striking his knees, breaks in half, on his lips, the name of Jesus, in a death-rattle. The other robber utters horrible curses. Their death-rattles are lugubrious.
The four executioners would also like to take care of Jesus, taking Him down from the cross. But Joseph and Nicodemus do not allow them. Also Joseph takes off his mantle and tells John to do likewise and to hold the ladders, while they climb them with levers and tongs.
Mary stands up trembling, supported by the women, and She approaches the cross.
In the meantime the soldiers, having fulfilled their task, go away. And Longinus, before descending beyond the lower open space, turns round from the height of his black horse to look at Mary and at the Crucified. Then the noise of the hooves resounds on the stones and that of the weapons against the armour, and fades away in the distance.
The left palm is unnailed. The arm falls along the Body, which is now hanging semi-detached.
They tell John to climb up as well, leaving the ladders to the women. And John, after climbing up where Nicodemus was previously, passes Jesus' arm round his neck and holds it so, hanging completely on his shoulder, embraced at the waist by his arm and held by the tips of the fingers not to touch the horrible gash of the left hand, which is almost open. When the feet are unnailed, John has to make a great effort to hold and support the Body of his Master between the cross and his own body.
Mary has already placed Herself at the foot of the cross, sitting with Her back against it, ready to receive Her Jesus in Her lap.
But the unnailing of the right arm is the most difficult operation. Despite all John's efforts, the Body is hanging completely forward and the head of the nail is deeply sunk in the flesh. And as they do not want to make the wound worse, the two compassionate men work hard. At last the nail is seized with the tongs and pulled out gently.
John has been holding Jesus all the time by the armpits, with His head hanging on his shoulder, while Nicodemus and Joseph get hold of Him, one at the thighs, the other at the knees, and they cautiously come down the ladders.
When on the ground, they would like to lay Him on the sheet that they have spread on their mantles. But Mary wants Him. She has opened Her mantle, letting it hang on one side, and She is sitting with Her knees rather apart to form a cradle for Her Jesus.
While the disciples are turning round to give Her Son to Her, the crowned head falls back and the arms hang down towards the ground, and the wounded hands would rub on the soil, if the pity of the pious women did not hold them up to prevent that.
He is now in His Mother's lap… And He looks like a big tired child who is asleep all cuddled up in his mother's lap. Mary is holding Him with Her right arm round the shoulders of Her Son and Her left one stretched over the abdomen to support Him also by the hips.
Jesus' head is resting on His Mother's shoulder. And She calls Him… She calls Him in a heart-rending voice. She then detaches Him from Her shoulder and caresses Him with Her left hand, She takes and stretches out His hands and, before folding them on His dead body, She kisses them and weeps on their wounds. Then She caresses His cheeks, particularly where they are bruised and swollen, She kisses His sunken eyes, His mouth lightly twisted to the right and half-open.
She would like to tidy His hair, as She has tidied His beard encrusted with blood. But in doing so, She touches the thorns. She stings Herself trying to remove that crown, and She wants to do it by Herself, with the only hand which is free, and She rejects everybody saying: « No, no! I will! I will! » and She seems to be holding the tender head of a new-born baby with Her fingers, so delicately does She do it. And when She succeeds in removing the torturing crown, She bends to cure all the scratches of the thorns with Her kisses.
With a trembling hand She parts His ruffled hair, She tidies it and weeps, speaking in a low voice, and with Her fingers She wipes ,,he tears that drop on the cold body covered with blood and She thinks of cleaning it with Her tears and Her veil, which is still round Jesus' loins. And She pulls one end of it towards Herself and She begins to clean and dry the holy limbs with it. And She continually caresses His face, then His hands and His bruised knees and then reverts to drying His Body, on which endless tears are dropping.
And while doing so Her hand touches the gash on His chest. Her little hand, covered with the linen veil, enters almost completely into the large hole of the wound. Mary bends to see in the dim light which has formed, and She sees. She sees the chest torn open and the heart of Her Son. She utters a cry then. A sword seems to be splitting Her heart. She shouts and then throws Herself on Her Son and She seems dead, too.
They succour and console Her. They want to take Her divine Dead Son away from Her and as She shouts: « Where, where shall I put You? In which place, safe and worthy of You? » Joseph, all bent in a respectful bow, his open hand pressed against his chest, says: « Take courage, o Woman! My sepulchre is new and worthy of a great man. I give it to Him. And my friend here, Nicodemus, has already taken the spices to the sepulchre, as he wishes to offer them. But I beg You, as it is getting dark, let us proceed… It is Preparation Day. Be good, o holy Woman! »
Also John and the women beg Her likewise and Mary allows Her Son to be removed from Her lap, and She stands up, distressed, while they envelop Him in a sheet, begging: « Oh! do it gently! »
Nicodemus and John at the shoulders, Joseph at the feet, they lift the Corpse enveloped not only in the sheet, but resting also on the mantles which act as a stretcher, and they set out down the road.
Mary, supported by Her sister-in-law and by the Magdalene, goes down towards the sepulchre, followed by Martha, Mary of Zebedee and Susanna, who have picked up the nails, the tongs, the crown, the sponge and the cane.
On Calvary remain the three crosses, the central one of which is bare and the other two have their living trophies, who are dying.
« And now » says Jesus « pay attention. I spare you the description of the burial, which was well described last year: on 19th February 1944. So you will use that one, and P.M. at the end of it will put Mary's lamentation, which I gave on 4th October 1944. Then you will put the new visions you see. They are new parts of the Passion and are to be put very carefully in their places to avoid confusion and lacunae. »
White Crucifxion Marc Chagall
Written by Maria Valtorta. From POEM OF THE MAN-GOD, Volume 5, Chapter 605.
Copyright 1990 by Centro Editoriale Valtortiano, srl, Isola del Liri, Italy. All rights reserved in all countries.