21st December 1944.
The Temple on a feast day. People going in and coming out of the enclosure gates, crossing yards, halls and porches, disappearing in this or that building on the various floors, which form the bulk of the Temple.
Also the group of Jesus' family go in singing psalms in low voices. All the men are in front, the women come behind. Other people have joined them, perhaps from Nazareth, perhaps their friends in Jerusalem. I do not know. Joseph, after worshipping the Most High with all the others at the point, obviously, where men were allowed to do so, (the women stopped on a lower landing), parts from the rest and with his Son goes back through some yards, he then moves to one side and enters a vast room which looks like a synagogue. I do not know why. Were there synagogues also in the Temple? He speaks to a Levite and the latter disappears behind a striped curtain, then comes back with some elder priests, I think they are priests, they are certainly masters in the knowledge of the Law, and they are therefore appointed to examine the believers.
Joseph introduces Jesus. First of all, they both bow down deeply to the ten doctors, who have sat down with dignity on low wooden stools. « Here » he says, « this in my Son. Three months and twelve days ago He reached the age which the Law prescribes to become of age. And I want Him to comply with the prescriptions of Israel. I would ask you to note that His constitution proves that He is no longer in His childhood or minority. And I ask you to examine Him kindly and fairly, to judge that what I here, His father, have stated, is the truth. I have prepared Him for this hour and for this dignity of son of the Law. He knows the precepts, the traditions, the decisions, the customs of the fringes and the phylacteries, He knows how to say the daily prayers and blessings. Therefore, since He knows the Law in Itself and in its three branches of Halascia, Midrasc and Aggada, He can behave as a man. Therefore I wish to be free from the responsibilities of His actions and of His sins. From now on, He must be subject to the precepts and He must pay Himself the penalty for His failures towards them. Examine Him. »
« We Will. Come forward, Child. What is Your name? »
« Jesus of Joseph, from Nazareth. »
« A Nazarene… can You therefore read? »
« Yes, rabbi, I can read the words which are written and those which are construed in the words themselves. »
« What do you mean? »
« I mean that I understand also the meaning of the allegory or of the symbol which is hidden under the appearance, as a pearl does not appear but it is inside an ugly closed shell. »
« A clever answer and a very wise one. We seldom hear that on the lips of adults; in a child, and a Nazarene in addition!… »
The attention of the ten has been awakened. Their eyes do not lose for an instant the beautiful blond Child, Who is looking at them sure of Himself, without boldness, but also without fear.
« You honour Your master, who, certainly, was deeply read. »
« The Wisdom of God was gathered in his just heart. »
« But listen to that! You are a happy man, father of such a Son! »
Joseph, who is at the end of the room, smiles and bows down.
They give Jesus three different rolls saying: « Read the one closed with the golden ribbon. »
Jesus opens the roll and reads. It is the Decalogue. But after the first few words, one of the judges takes the roll from Him saying: « Go on by heart. » Jesus continues so sure of Himself, that He seems to be reading. Every time He mentions the Lord, He bows down deeply.
« Who taught You that? Why do You do that? »
« Because that Name is holy and it is to be pronounced with a sign of internal and external respect. Subjects bow down to their king, who is king only for a short time and he is dust. To the King of kings, the Most High Lord of Israel, Who is present even if He is only visible to the spirit, shall not every creature bow down since every creature depends on Him with eternal subjection? »
« Very clever! Man: we advise you to have your Son educated either by Hillel or Gamaliel. He is a Nazarene… but His answers give us hope that He will become a new great doctor. »
« My Son is of age. He will decide according to His own will. If His decision is an honest one, I will not oppose it. »
« Listen, Child. You said: “Remember to sanctify feast days. Not only for yourself, but also for your son and your daughter, your servant and your maidservant, even for your horse it is said that they must not work on Sabbaths.” Now tell me: if a hen lays an egg on a Sabbath or a sheep lambs on a Sabbath, will it be legal to use the fruit of its womb, or will it be considered as an opprobrium? »
« I know that many rabbis, Shammai is the last of them and is still alive, say that an egg laid on a Sabbath is against the precept. But I think that there is a difference between man and animals or whoever fulfills a natural act, such as giving birth. If I compel a horse to work I am responsible for its sin, because I force it to work with a whip. But if a hen lays an egg which has matured in its ovary or a sheep lambs a little one on a Sabbath, because it is ready to be born, no, such a deed is not a sin, neither is the egg laid or the lamb born on a Sabbath a sin in the eyes of God. »
« But why, if every kind of work is a sin on Sabbaths? »
« Because to conceive and give birth correspond to the will of the Creator and comply with the laws which He gave to every creature. Now, the hen does nothing but obey the law according to which after so many hours of growth an egg is complete and ready to be laid, and the sheep also obeys the laws laid by Him Who created everything, according to which laws twice a year when springtime is on the meadows in bloom, and when the trees in the forest lose their leaves and men muffle themselves up because of the intense cold, sheep should mate so that later they may give milk, meat and nourishing cheese, in the opposite seasons of the year, that is in the months when the toil for the crops is harder or the bleakness is more painful because of frostbite. If therefore a sheep, when its time is up, gives birth to a little lamb, oh! little lamb can certainly be sacred also on an altar, because it is the fruit of the obedience to the Creator. »
« I would not examine Him any further. His wisdom is greater than the wisdom of grown up people and is really surprising. »
« No. He said that He is capable of understanding also the symbols. Let us hear Him ».
« First, let Him say a psalm, the blessings and the prayers. »
« Also the precepts. »
« Yes. Repeat the Midrasciot. »
Jesus repeats a long litany of « Don't do this… don't do that… » without any hesitation. If we were still obliged to keep all those limitations, rebels as we are, I am sure that no one would be saved…
« That is enough. Open the roll with the green ribbon. »
Jesus opens it, and He is about to read.
« Further on, yes, further on. »
« That is enough. Now read and explain it, if You think there is a symbol. »
« In the Holy Word, it is seldom missing. It is we who cannot see and apply it. I read: Fourth Book of the Kings, Chapter twenty-two, Verse ten: “Then Shaphan, the secretary, informed the king saying: 'Hilkiah, the High Priest, has given me a book'; and Shaphan read it aloud in the king's presence. On hearing the contents of the Law of God, the king tore his garments, and gave the following…” »
« Read after all the names. »
« “… the following order: 'Go and consult Yahweh, on behalf of me and the people, on behalf of the whole of Judah, about the contents of this book that has been found. Great indeed must be the anger of Yahweh blazing out against us because our ancestors did not obey what this book says, by practising everything written in it…” »
« That is enough. This happened many centuries ago. Which symbol do You find in an event of ancient history? »
« I find that time cannot be related to what is eternal. And God is eternal and our soul is eternal, and the relation between God and our soul is also eternal. Therefore the thing that gave rise to a punishment then, is the same thing that gives rise to punishment now, and the effects of the fault are the same. »
« That is? »
« Israel is no longer acquainted with the Wisdom, which comes from God. It is to Him, and not to poor men, that we must apply for light, and it is not possible to have light if there is no justice and loyalty to God. That is why men sin, and God, in His anger, punishes them. »
« We are no longer acquainted? But what are You saying, Child? And the six hundred and thirteen precepts? »
« The precepts exist, but they are mere words. We know them but we do not practise them. That is why we are not acquainted with them. This is the symbol: every man, in every period of time, must consult the Lord to know His will and comply with it to avoid drawing His anger on himself. »
« The Child is perfect. Not even the trap of the tricky question has upset Him in His reply. Let us take Him to the real synagogue »
They go into a larger and more splendid room. The first thing they do there is to shorten His hair. His big curls are picked up by Joseph. They then tighten His red tunic with a long band turned several times round His waist, they tie some little fringes to His forehead, arm and mantle. They fix them on with a kind of studs. They then sing psalms, and Joseph praises the Lord with a long prayer invoking all blessings on his Son.
The ceremony is over. Jesus goes out with Joseph. They go back to where they came from, they join their male relatives, they buy and offer a lamb; then, with the slaughtered victim, they reach the women.
Mary kisses Her Jesus. It seems She has not seen Him for years. She looks at Him, now that He is more manly in His clothes and in the style of His hair, She pats Him…
They go out and it all ends here.