14th January 1945.
I am under the impression that the steepest part, that is the closest tangle of Judaean mountains, is between Hebron and Juttah. But I may be mistaken, and this valley may be wider, opening on to wider horizons, with isolated mountains emerging here and there, not forming any real chain. It may be a valley between two chains of mountains. I do not know. It is the first time I see it, and I am puzzled. The fields are not very large, but they are well cultivated with various cereals: mainly barley and rye. There are also some nice vineyards in the sunny parts. Higher up, I can see some lovely forests of Pinetrees and fir-trees and other trees typical of woody places. A reasonably good road leads into a small village.
« This is the suburb of Kerioth. Please come to my country house. My mother is waiting for You there. We will go to Kerioth afterwards » says Judas who is beside himself with excitement.
I omitted to mention that only Judas, Simon and John are now with Jesus. The shepherds are not here. Perhaps they remained in the pastures of Hebron or they have gone back towards Bethlehem.
« As you wish, Judas, but we could have stopped even here to meet your mother. »
« Oh! No! It is only a farm house. My mother comes here at harvest time. But she lives in Kerioth. And do You not want my town people to see You? Do You not want to take Your light to them? »
« I certainly do, Judas. But you already are aware that I do not mind the humility of the place that gives Me hospitality. »
« But today You are my guest… and Judas knows how to be hospitable. »
They walk for a few more yards among houses spread about the country, while men and women look out, called by children. It is obvious that their curiosity has been awakened. Judas must have sent word warning them.
« Here is my poor house. Forgive its poverty. »
But, after all, the house is not a hovel: it consists of a large and well kept ground floor only, in the middle of a thick flowering orchard. A small private clean road leads from the main road to the house.
« May I go ahead of You, Master? »
« Yes, go. »
« Master, Judas has done things in great style » says Simon, « I rather suspected he would. But now I am certain. Master, You keep saying, and quite rightly, spirit… But he… he does not see things that way. He will never understand You… or perhaps only very late » he adds not to grieve Jesus. Jesus sighs and is silent.
Judas comes out with a woman who is about fifty years old. She is rather tall, but not so tall as her son, who has her same dark eyes and curly hair. But her eyes are kind and rather sad, whereas those of Judas are imperious and shrewd.
« I greet You, King of Israel » she says prostrating herself in a real salutation of a subject. « Allow Your servant to give You hospitality. »
« Peace to you, woman. And may God be with you and your creature. »
« Oh! yes! With my creature. » It sounds more like a sigh than a reply.
« Stand up, mother. I have a Mother, too, and I cannot allow you to kiss My feet. I kiss you, woman, in My Mother's name. She is a sister of yours… in love and in the painful destiny of the mother of those who are marked. »
« What do You mean, Messiah? » asks Judas somewhat worried.
But Jesus does not reply. He is embracing the woman, whom He has kindly raised up from the ground and is now kissing her cheeks. And, holding her hand, He walks toward the house.
They go into a cool room, which is shaded by light striped curtains. Cold drinks and fresh fruit are already laid out. But first of all Judas' mother calls a maidservant who brings in water and the landlady would like to take off Jesus' sandals and wash His dusty feet. But Jesus objects. « No, mother. A mother is too holy a person, particularly when she is honest and good, as you are, to be allowed to take the attitude of a slave… »
The mother looks at Judas… an unusual look. She then goes away. Jesus has refreshed Himself. When He is about to put on His sandals, the woman comes back with a new pair. « Here, Messiah. I think I have done the right thing… as Judas wanted… He said to me: “A little longer than mine, but the same width.”»
« But why, Judas? »
« Will You not let me offer You a gift? Are You not my King and my God? »
« Yes, Judas. But you must not give so much trouble to your mother. You know what I am like… »
« I know. You are holy. But You must appear as a holy King. That is how one imposes oneself. In the world, where nine tenths of the folk are foolish people, we must impose ourselves with our appearance. Trust me. »
Jesus has fastened the red leather open-work straps of the new sandals, which reach up to His ankles. They are much nicer than His plain sandals of a workman, and they resemble Judas' sandals, which are like shoes with open-work showing parts of his feet.
« Also the tunic, my King. I prepared it for Judas… But he makes a present of it to You. It's a linen one: cool and new. Allow a mother to put it on You… as if You were her son. »
Jesus looks at Judas once again… but does not speak. He unties the lace of His tunic, round His neck, and lets His wide tunic fall on to the floor and thus is left with only His short under-tunic. The woman puts on Him the lovely new garment. She offers Him a belt, which is richly embroidered braid, from which a cord hangs down, decorated with very thick tassels. Jesus must feel comfortable in the cool clean clothes, but He does not seem very happy. In the meantime the others have cleaned themselves.
« Come, Master. They come from my poor orchard. And this is honeyed water, prepared by my mother. Perhaps, Simon, you would prefer this white wine. Have some. It is the wine of my vineyard. And what about you, John? Will you have the same as the Master? » Judas is overjoyed at pouring the drinks into beautiful silver cups, thus showing his wealth.
His mother is not very talkative. She looks… looks… at Judas, and even more at Jesus, and when Jesus, before eating, offers her the nicest fruit (possibly very big apricots, they are yellow red fruits, certainly not apples) and He says to her: « First of all to mother, always », her eyes well with tears.
« Mother, is the rest ready? » asks Judas.
« Yes, son. I think I have done everything well. But I was brought up here and I have always lived here and I do not know… I do not know the habits of kings. »
« Which habits, woman? Which kings? What have You done, Judas? »
« Are You not the promised King of Israel? It is time that the world should salute You as such, and that must happen for the first time here, in my town, in my house. I revere You as such. For my sake, and for the respect due to Your names of Messiah, Christ, King, which the Prophets gave You by Yahweh's command, do not give me the lie. »
« Woman, friends, please. I must speak to Judas. I have precise instructions to give him. »
The mother and the disciples withdraw.
« Judas: what have you done? Have you understood so little of Me so far? Why lower Me to the extent of making Me only a mighty man of the world, nay: a man intriguing to become mighty? And do you not understand that that is an offence, nay an obstacle to My mission? Yes. Do not deny it. It is an obstacle. Israel is subjected to Rome. You know what happened when they raised against Rome someone who seemed a mob-leader and aroused the suspicion of creating an insurrection. Only a few days ago you heard how pitiless they were against a Child because they were afraid He might be a king according to the world. And yet you!…
Oh! Judas! What do you expect from the sovereignty of the flesh? What do you expect? I gave you time to think and decide. I spoke to you very clearly from the very first time. I also sent you away because I knew… because I know, I read and see what is in you. Why do you want to follow Me, if you do not want to be as I want you? Go away, Judas. Do not harm yourself and do not harm Me… Go away. It is better for you. You are not a suitable worker for this task. It is by far too much above you. In you there is pride, there is greed and all its three branches, there is arrogance… even your mother must be afraid of you… you are inclined to falsehood… No, My follower must not be like that. Judas, I do not hate you, I do not curse you. I only say to you, and I am saying it with the grief of one who knows he cannot change the person he loves, I only say to you: go your way, make your way in the world, since that is what you want, but do not stay with Me.
My life!… My royal palace! How small and mean they are! Do you know where I will be a King? When I will be proclaimed King? When I will be raised up, upon an ill-famed piece of wood and My own blood will be My purple, and My crown will be a wreath of thorns and My insignia a mocking poster and the curses of all the people, of My people, will be the trumpets, the tambourines, the organs, the citherns saluting the proclamation of the King. And do you know by whose deed all this will happen? By the deed of one who did not understand Me. One who will have understood nothing. One, whose heart was a hollow piece of bronze, which pride, sensuality and avarice had filled with their humours, which will generate coils of snakes that will be used to chain Me and… and to curse him. The others are not so well aware of My destiny. Please do not tell them. Let us keep this to ourselves. In any case it, is a reproach… and you will keep quiet to avoid saying: “I was reproached”… Is that clear, Judas? »
Judas has blushed so much, that he looks purple. He is standing before Jesus, mortified, his head lowered… He kneels down and he cries with his head on Jesus' knees: « I love you, Master, Don't reject me. Yes, I am proud and foolish, but don't send me away. No. Master. I will never do it again. You are right. It was thoughtless of me. But there is some love in my mistake. I wanted to honor You… and I wanted the others to honor You as well… because I love You. You said so three days ago: “When you make a mistake without malice, out of ignorance, it is not an error, but an imperfect judgement: like the error of children, and I am here to make adults of you.” Here I am, here against Your knees… You said You would be a father to me… and I am here against Your knees as if they were my father's, and I ask You to forgive me, and to make an “adult” of me, a holy adult… Don't send me away, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus… Not everything is wicked in me. You know: I left everything for you and I have come. You are much more than the honors and victories I got serving other people. You are indeed the love of poor unhappy Judas who would like to give You nothing but joy, and is instead the cause of pain for You… »
« That is all right, Judas. I forgive you once again… » Jesus looks tired… « I forgive you, hoping… hoping that in future you will understand Me. »
« Yes, Master. But, now, do not give me the lie, otherwise I will be laughed at. Everybody in Kerioth knows that I was coming with David's Descendant, the King of Israel… and the town has made preparations to welcome You… I thought I was doing a good thing… showing You what one must do to be respected and obeyed… and I also wanted to show John and Simon, and through them, all the others who love You but treat You as their equal… Also my mother would be mocked at, as the mother of a mad liar. For her sake, my Lord… And I swear that I… »
« Do not swear to Me. Swear to yourself, if you can, that You will not commit such a sin again. For the sake of your mother and your fellow citizens I will not shame you by going away without stopping here. Stand up. »
« What will You tell the others? »
« The truth… »
« No, don't. »
« The truth: that I gave you instructions for today. It is always possible to tell the truth in a charitable way. Let us go. Call Your mother and the others. »
Jesus is rather severe. He smiles again only when Judas comes back with his mother and the disciples. The woman gazes at Jesus, but she gains confidence when she sees His kind disposition. I get the impression she is in great distress.
« Shall we go to Kerioth? I have rested and I wish to thank you, mother, for all your kindness. May Heaven reward you and grant rest and peace to your late husband, for all your charity to Me. »
The woman tries to kiss His hand, but Jesus caresses her head and thus prevents her from doing so.
« The wagon is ready, Master. Come. »
Outside, in fact, an ox cart is just arriving. It is a comfortable cart, on which they have placed cushions as seats and a red tent as a cover.
« Get on, Master. »
« Your mother, first. »
The woman gets on and then Jesus and the others.
« Sit here, Master. » (Judas no longer calls Him king).
Jesus sits in front, and Judas sits beside Him. The woman and the disciples are behind. The man driving the cart goads the oxen walking beside them.
It is a short journey: about four hundred meters, probably a little more. The first houses of Kerioth are now visible and it looks like a decent little town. A little boy on the sunny road is watching and he immediately dashes away. When the cart reaches the first houses, the notables and the people welcome Him; the houses are decorated with draperies and branches. The people shout with joy and bow down deeply. Jesus, from the height of His shaking throne, can but greet them and bless them.
The cart moves on and after crossing a square it turns into a street, where it stops before a house the door of which is already wide open. Two or three women are standing at the door. They stop and get off. « My house is Yours, Master. »
« Peace to it, Judas. Peace and holiness. »
They go in. Beyond the hall there is a large room, with low divans and inlaid furniture. The notables of the place and other people go in with Jesus. There is a lot of bowing and curiosity: a showy joyfulness. An impressive elderly man delivers a speech: « It is a great honor for the land of Kerioth to receive You, my Lord. A great fortune! A happy day! It is a great fortune to have You and to see that a son of Kerioth is Your friend and assistant. May he be blessed because he met You before everyone else! And may You be blessed ten times ten because you have revealed Yourself: You are the one Who has been expected for generations and generations. Speak, my Lord and King. Our hearts are anxious to hear Your word, just as the land parched by a fiery summer awaits the first soft showers in September. »
« Thank you, whoever you are. Thank you. And thanks to these citizens whose hearts have honored the Word of the Father, and the Father Whose Word I am. Because You must understand that thanks and honor are due not to the Son of man, Who is speaking to you, but to the Most High Lord, for this time of peace during which He re-establishes the broken paternity with the sons of man. Let us praise the true Lord, the God of Abraham Who had mercy on and loved His people and granted them the promised Redeemer. Glory and praise not to Jesus, the servant of the Eternal Will, but to the loving Will. »
« Your words are the words of a holy man: I am the chief of the synagogue. Today it is not a Sabbath. But come to my house, to explain the Law, since You are anointed with Wisdom, rather than with royal oil. »
« I will come. »
« Perhaps my Lord is tired… »
« No, Judas, I am never tired of speaking of God and I am never anxious to disappoint the hearts of men. »
« Come, then » the synagogue chief insists. « The whole of Kerioth is out there waiting for You. »
« Let us go. »
They go out. Jesus is between Judas and the arch synagogue, around them there are the notables and the crowds. Jesus passes through them blessing.
The synagogue is on the square. They go in. Jesus goes to the lectern. He begins to speak, bright in His beautiful robes, His face inspired, His arms stretched out in His usual attitude.
« People of Kerioth, the Word of God is speaking to you. Listen. He Who is speaking to you is but the Word of God. His sovereignty comes from the Father and will return to the Father after Israel has been evangelized. May your hearts and minds be opened to the truth, so that you may be freed from errors and confusion.
Isaiah said: “For all the footgear of battle, every cloak rolled in blood, is burnt and consumed by fire. For there is a Child born to us, a Son given to us, and dominion is laid on His shoulders; and this is the name they give Him: Wonder-Counselor, Mighty-God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” That is My Name. We leave to Caesar and the Tetrarchs their preys. I will commit a robbery. But not a robbery deserving to be punished by fire. On the contrary I will snatch from Satan's fire many of his preys and I will take them to the Kingdom of peace, of which I am the Prince, and to the future century: the eternal time of which I am the Father.
“God”, says David, from whose stock I descend, as was prophesied by those who saw the future because of their holiness which was so pleasing to God, that He chose them as His messengers, “God elected one only… my son… but the work is great: this palace is not for man but for God.” It is so. God, the King of kings, elected one person only: His Son, to build His house in the hearts of men. And He has already prepared the materials. Oh! How much gold of charity! and copper, silver, iron, rare wood and precious stones! They are all gathered in his Word Who makes use of them to build God's abode in you. But if man does not help the Lord, the Lord will build His dwelling place in vain. One must reply to gold with gold, to silver with silver, to copper with copper, to iron with iron. That is, love is to be given for love, continence to serve Purity, perseverance to be loyal, strength to be steadfast. And one must carry stones today, wood tomorrow: a sacrifice today, a deed tomorrow and thus build. You must always build the Temple of God in your hearts.
The Master, the Messiah, the King of everlasting Israel and of God's eternal people, calls you. But He wants you to be pure for the work. Relinquish pride: praise is due to God. Relinquish human thoughts: the Kingdom belongs to God. Be humble and say with Me: “All things are Yours, Father. Everything that is good is Yours. Teach us how to know You and serve You in truth.” Say: “Who am I?” And acknowledge that you will be something only when you become purified dwellings into which God may descend and rest.
You are all pilgrims and strangers in this world, learn how to gather together and proceed towards the promised Kingdom. The road: the commandments fulfilled not because of fear of a punishment, but out of love for You, holy Father. The Ark: a perfect heart in which the nourishing manna of wisdom is treasured and the branch of a pure will is certain to bloom. And come to the Light of the world, that your houses may be bright with light. I bring you the Light. Nothing else. I have no riches and I do not promise worldly honors. But I possess all the supernatural wealth of My Father and I promise the eternal honor of Heaven to those who will follow God with love and charity. Peace be with you. »
The people who have listened attentively, begin to murmur somewhat agitated. Jesus speaks to the head of the synagogue. Other people, perhaps the notables, join the group.
« Master, but are You not the King of Israel? We were told… »
« I am. »
« But You said… »
« That I neither possess nor promise worldly wealth. I can speak but the truth. Yes, it is so. I know what you think. But the error is due to a misinterpretation and your great respect for the Most High. You were told: “The Messiah is coming” and you thought, like many in Israel, that Messiah and king were the same thing. Raise your minds higher up. Look at this beautiful summer sky. Do you think it ends there, where the air seems a sapphire vault? No, the most pure, the most azure spheres are beyond it, up as far as Paradise, which no one can imagine, where the Messiah will lead all the just who die in the Lord. The same difference exists between the Messiah's royalty, as understood by men, and His true Royalty: which is entirely divine. »
« But will we, poor men, be able to raise our minds so far up? »
« Yes, if you only want to. And if you want to, I will help you. »
« How shall we call You, if You are not a king? »
« Call Me Master, or Jesus, as you wish. I am a Master and I am Jesus, the Savior. »
An old man says: « Listen, my Lord. Some time ago, a long time ago, at the time of the edict, we heard here that the Savior was born in Bethlehem… and I went there with other people… I saw a little Baby, exactly like all other new-born babies. But I adored Him with faith. Later I heard that there was a holy man, whose name is John. Which is the true Messiah? »
« The One you adored. The other is His Precursor: a great saint in the eyes of the Most High. But he is not the Messiah. »
« Was it You? »
« It was I. And what did you see around the new-born Child? »
« Poverty and cleanliness, honesty and purity… A kind grave carpenter, whose name was Joseph, a carpenter but of the House of David, a young mother, fair and kind, whose name was Mary, before whose grace the most beautiful roses of Engedi turn pale and the lilies of the royal flower beds seem misshapen, and a Child with large blue eyes and pale gold hair… I saw nothing else… And I can still hear the voice of the Mother say to me: “On behalf of My Creature I say to You: may the Lord be with you until the eternal meeting and may His Grace come towards you on your way.” I am eighty-four years old… my way is near its end. I was no longer expecting to meet the Grace of God. Instead I have found You… and now I do not wish to see any other light than Yours… Yes. I see You as You are in this merciful attire, which is the flesh You have taken. I see You! Listen to the voice of a man who sees the Light of God while dying! »
The people press round the old inspired man, who is in Jesus' group. No longer leaning on his walking stick, he lifts his trembling arms and raises his white head, which, with its byparted beard, seems the head of a patriarch or a prophet.
« I see Him: The Chosen, Supreme, Perfect One, Who descended here out of love, I see Him rise again to the right hand side of the Father and become One with Him. But… Oh! He is not just a Voice' or an incorporeal Essence, as Moses saw the Most High, or as Genesis tells the First Parents heard Him and spoke to Him in the evening breeze. I see Him as real Flesh rising to the Eternal Father. Blazing Flesh! Glorious Flesh! Oh! Pomp of Divine Flesh! Oh! Beauty of the Man-God! He is the King! Yes. The King. Not of Israel: of the world. All the royalties of the earth bow to Him and all the scepters and crowns fade away in the splendour of His scepter and jewels. He has a crown on His head and a scepter in His hand. He wears a rational on His chest: it is adorned with pearls and rubies, the brightness of which was never seen before. Flames issue from it as if it were a blazing furnace. There are two rubies on His wrists and buckles with rubies are on His holy feet. There is so much light from the rubies! Admire, peoples, the Eternal King! I see You! I see You! I am rising with You… Ah! Lord! Our Redeemer!… The light increases within my soul… The King is decorated with His own Blood! The crown is a wreath of bleeding thorns. The scepter is a cross… Here is the Man! He is here! It is You!… Lord, for the sake of Your sacrifice have mercy on Your servant, Jesus, I commend my soul to Your mercy. » The old man, who so far had stood up, rejuvenated by the fire of prophecy, suddenly collapses and would fall if Jesus were not quick in holding him up against His chest.
« Saul. »
« Saul is dying! »
« Help! »
« Be quick. »
« Peace to the just man who is dying » says Jesus, Who has slowly knelt down to support the old man, who has become heavier and heavier.
There is silence.
Then Jesus lays him down on the ground. And He stands up. « Peace to his soul. He died seeing the Light. In his expectation which will be a short one, he will already see the face of God and will be happy. There is no death, that is parting from life, for those who died in the Lord. »
The people, after a little while, go away commenting. The elders, Jesus, His disciples and the archsynagogue remain.
« Did he prophesy, Lord? »
« His eyes saw the Truth. Let us go. »
They go out.
« Master, Saul died enraptured by the Spirit of God. We touched him, are we clean or unclean? »
« Unclean. »
« And what about You? »
« I am just like the others. I do not change the Law. The Law is law and an Israelite fulfills it. We are unclean. Within the third and the seventh day we shall get purified. Till then, we are unclean. Judas, I am not going back to your mother's. I do not want to take uncleanliness to her home. Send her word by someone who can go there. Peace to this town. Let us go. »
I do not see anything else.