6th September 1944.
A very blue sky of a mild February is over the hills of Galilee. The gentle hills that I have never seen in the early history of Mary, are now instead as familiar to me as if I were born there.
The main road is fresh looking because of last night's rain and it is neither dusty nor muddy. It is hard and clean as if were the street of a town and it runs between two hedges of hawthorn in bloom.
The hedges are so white that they look like a snowfall. The scenary is broken by the monstrous conglomerations of cacti, with thick leaves like palettes, spiked with stings and decorated with the huge granades of their peculiar fruits, grown without stem on the top of the leaves. Because of their colour and shape, the cactus leaves always give me the impression of sea depths and coral reefs, of jellyfish and other deep sea animals.
Beyond the hedgerows, there is the country. The purpose of the hedges is to fence in the grounds of the various owners, and thus they stretch in every direction forming a strange geometrical design of curves and angles, lozenges, squares, semicircles and the most unbelievable acute and obtuse angled triangles, a design all sprayed with white, like a strange ribbon thrown over the country just for fun and over which hundreds and hundreds of birds fly, chirp, sing, in the joy of love, while working to build their nests. In the fields the corn is taller than in Judaea. The meadows are full of flowers and there are hundreds of fruit-trees all in full bloom, that look like clouds of vegetables white, red, pink, with all gradations of these colours: they seem to be an answer to the light clouds in the sky which the setting sun paints pink, light lilac, periwinkle violet, opal blue and coral orange.
With the light evening breeze the first petals fall from the trees in blossom and they seem a swarm of little butterflies searching for pollen on wild flowers. And from tree to tree there are festoons of vines still barren, except at the top of the festoons, where there is more sunshine, and the first little innocent, surprised, trembling leaves are beginning to open.
The sun is setting peacefully in the sky, which is so benign in its deep blue. The light makes it even more limpid and causes the snow on Mount Hermon and other far away mountain tops to shine.
A waggon is moving along the road. It is the waggon that is carrying Joseph, Mary and Her cousins. Their journey is at an end.
Mary is looking with the eagerness of those who want to know, nay want to recognise what they have already seen, but can no longer remember and they smile when a faint memory comes back to them and rests, like a light, on this or that thing, on this or that point. Elizabeth, Zacharias and Joseph help Her to remember, pointing to various places and houses. Nazareth is already showing its houses, spread out on the undulations of its hills. Lit up from the left by the setting sun, it shows the white of its low wide little houses bordered in pink and surmounted by terraces. Some of them, fully illuminated by the sun, seem to be near a fire, so red are the fronts of the houses because of the sun, that also lights up the water of the ponds and of the low wells, with practically no parapets, and from which squeaky pails of water are being pulled up for the houses as well as water-bags for the orchards.
Children and women rush to the side of the road and look into the waggon and greet Joseph who is well known to them. But they are somewhat embarrassed and shy with regard to the other three travellers.
But when the waggon enters the little town, there is no longer any embarrassment or shyness. Many people of all ages are gathered at the entrance of the village under a rustic arch of flowers and branches, and there is an outburst of shrill voices and a tossing of branches and flowers as soon as the waggon appears from behind the corner of the last house lying before it in the country. It is the women, girls and children of Nazareth greeting the bride. The men, more grave, are standing behind the excited and shouting crowd and they are greeting solemnly.
The waggon is not covered now by the tent, which was removed before reaching the village, both because the sun was no longer annoying them and to enable Mary to see Her native land. Mary thus appears in all the beauty of a lovely flower. White and blonde like an angel, She smiles lovingly at everybody: at the children who throw Her flowers and kisses; at the girls of Her own age who call Her by name; at the elderly women who bless Her with their cheerful voices. She bows to the men and particularly to one who is perhaps the rabbi or the elder of the town.
The waggon proceeds slowly along the main road, followed for a considerable distance by the crowd, for whom the arrival is an event.
« There is Your house, Mary » says Joseph, pointing with his whip to a little house which is just under the edge of an undulation of the hill. Behind the house there is a lovely large kitchen garden all in bloom, at the end of which there is a small olive-grove. Behind the olive-grove there is the usual boundary hedge of hawthorn and cactus. The fields that once belonged to Joachim, are farther beyond...
« As You can see, very little is left for You» says Zacharias. « Your father's illness was a long and expensive one. Also the expenses to repair the damage done by the Romans were heavy. See? The road took away the three main rooms and the house was cut down in size. In order to enlarge it, without excessive expenses, a part of the mountain was adapted, where the grotto is. Joachim kept his supplies there and Anne her looms. You will do as You think best.»
« Oh! It does not matter if only little is left. It will be sufficient for Me. I will work... »
« No, Mary. » It is Joseph who is speaking. « I will work. You will do nothing but weave and sew things for the house. I am young and strong and I am Your husband. Please do not humiliate me with Your work. »
« I shall do as you wish. »
« Yes, in this case I do want it. In everything else Your wishes are the law. But not in regard to this.»
They have arrived. The waggon stops.
Two women and two men, about forty and fifty years of age respectively, are at the entrance and many children and young boys are with them. « May God give You peace, Mary » says the elder man and one of the women approaches Mary embracing and kissing Her.
« He is my brother Alphaeus and she is Mary, his wife, and these are their children. They have come to greet You and to tell You that their house is Yours if You wish so » says Joseph.
« Yes, come Mary, if it is painful for You to live by Yourself. The country is beautiful in springtime and our house is in the middle of fields full of flowers. And You will be the loveliest flower there » says Mary of Alphaeus.
« Thank you, Mary. I would come so willingly. But I am so anxious to see and recognise My own home. I left it when I was a little girl, and I have forgotten what it is like... Now I have found it again... and I feel I have found also My lost mother, My beloved father, and that I can hear the echo of their words... and I smell the perfume of their last breathing. I feel I am no longer an orphan, because once again I have around Me the embrace of these walls... Please understand Me, Mary.» Mary's voice trembles and Her eyes begin to shine with tears.
Mary of Alphaeus replies to Her: « As You wish, my dear. I want You to feel that I am Your sister and friend, and also a mother to You, since I am so much older than You are. »
The other woman has come forward: « Hello, Mary. I am Sarah, Your mother's friend. I saw You being born. And this is Alphaeus, Alphaeus' nephew, and a great friend of Your mother. What I did for Your mother, I am willing to do for You, if You wish so. See? My house is the nearest to Yours and Your fields are now ours. But if You want to come, come whenever You wish. We will open a passage through the hedge and we shall be together, yet each of us will be at home. This is my husband.»
« Thank you all and for everything. Thank you for all the good you did to My parents and for your love for Me. May God the Almighty bless you for it.»
The heavy trunks are unloaded and carried into the house. They go in. I now recognise the little house of Nazareth, as it was during the life of Jesus.
Joseph takes Mary by Her hand and they go in. On the threshold he says to Her: « And now, on this threshold, I want a promise from You. That whatever may happen to You, whatever You may need, there is no other friend whom to apply to but Joseph and that, for no reason whatsoever, may You worry all by Yourself. Remember that I am everything for You and it will be a joy for me to make Your life happy and, since happiness is not always in our power, I will at least make it peaceful and safe.»
« I do promise, Joseph.»
The door and windows are opened. The last searching rays of the sun enter.
Mary has now taken off Her mantle and veil, because, with the exception of the myrtle flowers, She has still Her bridal dress on. She then goes into the kitchen garden in bloom. She looks and smiles. Still held by the hand by Joseph, She goes round the garden. She looks as if She were taking possession of a lost place.
And Joseph shows Her his work: « See? I dug a hole here to gather the rain water, because these vines are always thirsty. I cut off the oldest branches of this olive tree to strengthen it and I transplanted these apple trees because two of them had withered. Over there I planted some fig trees. When they grow up they will shelter the house both from the excessive heat of the sun and from inquisitive people. The pergola is the old one. I only changed the rotten poles and I did some trimming. It will give You a lot of, grapes, I hope. And here, look» and he leads Her proudly towards the side of the hill at the back of the house, which limits the northern side of the garden, « here I dug a grotto and I have reinforced it and when these little plants take roots, it will be almost identical to the one You had. There is no spring... but I hope to convey a little stream there. I will work in the long summer evenings, when I come to see You...»
« What do you mean? » asks Alphaeus. « Are you not getting married this summer? »
« No. Mary wants to weave Her woollen clothes, the only things missing from Her trousseau. And I agree with Her. Mary is so young that it does not matter if we wait for a year or more. In the meantime She will get used to the house...»
« Well! You have always been somewhat different from other people and you still are. I do not know who would not be in a hurry to get married to a beautiful flower like Mary, and you are delaying things by months!...»
« A joy awaited for a long time is a joy to be taken delight in more intensely» replies Joseph with a gentle smile.
His brother shrugs his shoulders and asks: « Well, then, when are you thinking of getting married? »
« When Mary is sixteen. After the feast of the Tabernacles. The winter evenings will be sweet for the newly weds!...» and he smiles again looking at Mary. A smile of a gentle secret understanding. A smile of a brotherly chastity giving comfort. He then resumes his tour of the garden. « This is the big room under the mountain. If You agree, I will use it as a workshop when I come here. It is joined to the house, but not in the house. So I will not annoy You with noises and disorder. However, if You wish otherwise...»
« No, Joseph. That is perfectly all right.»
They go back into the house and light the lamps.
« Mary is tired » says Joseph. « Let us leave Her in peace with Her cousins.»
They all say goodbye and go out. Joseph stays for a few moments and speaks to Zacharias in a low voice.
« Your cousin is leaving Elizabeth with You for a little while. Are You happy? I am. Because she will help You... to become a perfect housewife. With her You will be able to arrange Your things and Your furniture, and I will come every evening to help You. With Elizabeth You can purchase the wool and whatever You may need. And I will see to the expenses. Remember, You have promised to come to me for everything. Goodbye, Mary. Sleep the first night as the landlady of this house and may the angel of God make Your sleep peaceful. May the Lord be always with You.»
« Goodbye, Joseph. May you also be under the wings of God's angel. Thank you, Joseph. For everything. As far as I can, I will requite your love with Mine. »
Joseph says goodbye to Her cousins and goes out. And the vision ends with him.