17th January 1945.
A most beautiful dawn in the wilderness, seen from the height of a mountain side. It is daybreak. A few stars are still visible and a very thin arc of a waning moon looks like a silver comma on the dark blue velvet of the sky.
The mountain is completely isolated, that is, it is not linked to any other chain of mountains. But it is a real mountain, not a hill. The top is much higher up, but even from the middle of its slope one commands a very wide horizon, because one is well above ground level. In the fresh morning air, as the faint white-greenish dawn light becomes clearer and clearer, profiles and details slowly become visible, whereas before they were hidden in the fog that precedes daybreak, a fog that is darker than night, because the light of the stars seems to diminish and fade away in the transition from night to day. I thus see that the mountain is rocky and barren, split by gorges forming grottoes, caves and inlets in its side. It is a real wilderness: only where there is some earth capable of receiving and retaining the moisture of the rain, are there a few green tufts, mainly stiff thorny plants, with very few leaves, and low hard bushes of grass similar to thin green sticks, the name of which I do not know.
Below there is an even more barren plain, a flat stony ground that becomes more arid as it stretches out towards a dark spot, much longer than wider, at least five times longer than wider, which I think must be a dense oasis, which has sprung up in so much bleakness, because of underground waters. But when the light becomes brighter, I see that it is nothing but water. Stagnant, dark, dead water. A lake of infinite sadness. In the still feeble light it reminds me of the vision of the dead world. It seems to be drawing to itself all the darkness of the sky and all the gloominess of the surrounding area, dissolving in its still water the deep green of the thorny shrubs and stiff grass that for miles and miles around it and above it, are the only decoration of the earth. And after filtering so much gloom it seems to spread it around once again. How different it is from the sunny, smiling lake of Gennesaret!
High above, looking at the clear blue sky, which is becoming clearer and clearer, looking at the light progressing from the east in deeper and deeper brightness, one's soul rejoices. But looking at the huge, dead lake, gives one a stab in the heart. Not one bird flies over the water. Not one animal is on its shore. Nothing.
While I am watching so much desolation, I am roused by the voice of my Jesus: « Here we are at the place I wanted. » I turn round. I see Him behind me, with John, Simon and Judas, near the rocky slope of the mountain, where there is a little path, or rather, where the long erosion of waters, in the rainy months, has formed throughout centuries, a very shallow channel, a drain for the water flowing from the mountain top and which is a path for wild goats rather than for men.
Jesus looks around and repeats: « Yes, this is the place to which I wanted to bring you. Here Christ prepared for His mission. »
« But there is nothing here! »
« You are quite right, there is nothing. »
« With whom were You? »
« With My soul and with the Father. »
« Ah! You stayed only for a few hours! »
« No, Judas. Not a few hours. Many days… »
« But who served You? Where did You sleep? »
« My servants were the wild asses that came to sleep in their caves, where I also had taken shelter. My maidservants were the eagles that said to Me with their harsh cries: “It's daylight” and they flew away to attack their prey. My friends were the little hares that came up almost to My feet, gnawing at the wild herbs. My food and My drink were the same food and drink of the wild flower: the night dew and the sunshine. Nothing else. »
« But why? »
« To prepare well, as you say, for My mission. Things well prepared for are successful. You said so yourself. And My thing was not a trifle, a useless thing which would glorify Me, the Servant of the Lord, but it was to make men understand what the Lord is, and by means of such understanding, make Him loved in the spirit of truth. The servant that is concerned with his own triumph, and not with the Lord's, is a miserable man! The servant who is anxious to make a profit, who dreams he will sit on a high throne built on the interests of God, which have been lowered down to the earth, whereas they are celestial interests, is also a miserable servant. He is no longer a servant, except in outer appearance. He is a merchant, a trafficker, a deceitful person, who deceives himself and men and would like to deceive also God… a wretched man who believes he is a prince, whilst he is a slave. He belongs to the Evil One, his king of falsehood. Here, in this cave, Christ for many days lived fasting and praying to get ready for His mission. And where would you have suggested I should have gone to prepare, Judas? »
Judas is puzzled and bewildered. Eventually he replies: « I would not know… I was thinking… to a rabbi… or with the Essenes… I do not know. »
« And was it possible for Me to find a rabbi who would tell Me more than the power and wisdom of God were telling Me? And could I – I the Eternal Word of the Father, Who was present when the Father created man and am aware of the immortal soul by which he is animated and of the power of free capable judgement with which he was endowed by the Creator – would I have gone to derive science and skill from those who deny the immortality of souls, final resurrection and also the freedom of man to act, attributing virtues and vices, holy and wicked deeds to a destiny, which they say is fated and uncontrollable? Certainly not!
You have a destiny. In the mind of God Who creates you, there is a destiny for you. It is the wish of the Father. And it is a destiny of love, of peace, of glory: “the holiness of being His children.” That is the destiny that was present in the divine mind when Adam was fashioned with dust and will be present until the creation of the last soul of man.
But the Father does not denigrate you in your position of kings. If a king is a prisoner, he is no longer a king: he is an outcast. You are kings because you are free in your small individual kingdoms. In your “ego”. You can do what you like and how you like. Before you and on the boundaries of your small kingdom you have a friendly King and two enemy powers. The Friend shows you the rules that He gives to make His followers happy. He shows them and says: “Here they are. With them, your eternal victory is certain.” He, The Wise and Holy One, shows them to you so that you may put them into practice, if you want to, and thus receive eternal glory.
The two enemy powers are Satan and the flesh. By flesh I mean your flesh and the world: they are, the pomps and enticements of the world, that is, the riches, feasts, honors and powers which are obtained from the world and in the world, but are not always obtained honestly and they are used even less honestly when eventually a man reaches them. Satan, the master of the flesh and of the world, speaks also on behalf of the world and of the flesh. He, too, has his rules… Oh! He certainly has! And as your “ego” is enveloped in the flesh, and the flesh is attracted by the flesh, as metal chips are attracted by a magnet, and the singing of the Seducer is sweeter than the warble of a nightingale in love in the moonlight and among perfumed rose bushes, it is easier to follow those rules, and incline towards those powers and say to them: “I consider you my friends. Come in.” Come in… Have you ever seen an ally who remains honest forever, without asking a hundredfold return for the help he has given? That is what those powers do. They go in… And they become the masters. Masters? No: galley sergeants. They tie you, men, to the galley bench, they fasten you with chains, they do not allow you to raise your head from their yoke, and their lash leaves bleeding marks on your backs if you attempt to escape. You either must bear to be torn to pieces and become a heap of shattered flesh, so useless, as flesh, as to be rejected and kicked aside by their cruel feet, or you must die under their blows.
If you can bear that martyrdom, then Mercy will come, the Only One who can still have mercy on that revolting misery, which the world, one of the masters, now loathes and at which the other master, Satan, throws the arrows of his revenge. And Mercy, the Only One, passes by, bends down, picks it up, doctors it, cures it and says: “Come. Do not be afraid. Do not look at yourself. Your wounds are but scars, but they are so numerous that you would be horrified, as they disfigure you. But I do not look at them. I look at your good will. Because of your good will, you are marked. Therefore I say to you: I love you. Come with Me.” And He takes it to His Country. You then understand that Mercy and the friendly King are the same person. You find the rules He had shown to you and you did not want to follow. Now you want them… and first you reach the peace of your conscience, then the peace of God. Tell Me, now. Was that destiny imposed by the Only One on everybody, or did each choose it for himself? »
« It was chosen by each person. »
« You are right, Simon. Was it possible for Me to go to those who deny the blessed resurrection and the gift of God, to be taught? I came here. I took My soul of the Son of man and I gave it its finishing touches and I thus finished the work of thirty years of humility and preparation in order to be perfect when starting My mission. Now I ask you to stay with Me for a few days in this cave. Our stay will be less depressing because we shall be four friends joining in our efforts against sadness, fears, temptation and the desires of the flesh. I was by Myself. It will be less painful, because it is now summer and up here, the mountain winds lessen the heat. I came here at the end of the Tebeth moon and the wind blowing down from the snowy tops was harsh. It will be less trying because it will be shorter and also because we have the necessary food to satisfy our hunger and in small leather flasks that I asked the shepherds to give you, there is enough water to last us for the days of our stay. I… I must snatch two souls from Satan. It can only be done by penance. I ask you to help Me. It will be a training for you. You will learn how to snatch victims from Mammon: not so much with words as with sacrifice… Words!… The satanic uproar prevents one from hearing them… Every soul which is a prey of the Enemy is enveloped in an eddy of infernal voices… Do you want to stay with Me? If you do not want to, you may go and we will meet at Tekoah, near the market. »
« No, Master, I will not leave You » says John, while Simon at the same time exclaims: « You extol us by wanting us to be with You in this redemption. » Judas… does not appear to be terribly enthusiastic. But he puts a good face on… destiny and says: « I will stay. »
« Well, take the flasks and the bags and put them inside, and before the sun gets hot, break some wood and gather it near the crevice. The nights are severe, even in summer, and not all the animals are gentle. Light a branch at once. Over there, a branch of that gummy acacia. It burns very well. We will search in the crevices and with the fire we will drive out asps and scorpions. Go. »…
… The same spot on the mountain. But it is night now. A starry night. I think that the beauty of such a nocturnal sky can be enjoyed only in such almost-tropical countries. The stars are wonderfully large and bright. The bigger constellations seem clusters of diamond chips, of clear topazes, of pale sapphires, of mild opals and soft rubies. They tremble, they light up, they go out like glances hidden for an instant by eyelashes, and light up again more beautiful than before. Now and again a star swoops across the sky and I wonder to where it disappears. A streak of light that seems a jubilant cry of a star capable of flying over wide landscapes.
Jesus is sitting at the entrance of the cave and is speaking to the three disciples who are sat in a circle round Him. They must have lit a fire, because in the middle of them, some brands are still as bright as embers and they cast their ruddy glow on the four faces.
« Yes. Our stay is over. The last time it lasted forty days… And I would repeat that it was still winter up here… and I had no food. A little more difficult than this time, was it not? I know that you have suffered even now. The little food we had and I gave you was nothing, particularly for hungry young people. It was barely sufficient to prevent you from collapsing. And the water even less so. The heat is intense during the day. And you will say that it was not so in winter. But then there was a dry wind blowing from that mountain top and it parched My lungs, and it rose from the plain loaded with desert dust and it dried more than this summer heat which can be assuaged by sucking the juice of those acidulous fruits that are almost ripe. The mountain in winter gave only wind and frost-bitten herbs near bare acacias. I did not give you everything because I kept the last bread and cheese and the last flask of water for our way back… I know what My return journey was like, exhausted as I was in the desert solitude… Let us pick up our things and go. Tonight is even clearer than the night we came here. There is no moon. But light is pouring from the sky. Let us go. Remember this place. Remember how Christ prepared and how the apostles prepare. Let the apostles prepare as I teach them. »
They get up. Simon stirs the embers with a stick, and before scattering them with his foot, he rekindles the fire throwing some dry herbs on it, and from the flame he lights a branch of acacia and holds it up at the entrance of the cave, while Judas and John pick up mantles, bags and small leather flasks of which only one is still full. He then puts the branch out, rubbing it against the rock, he takes his satchel, puts on his mantle like all the rest, and ties it at his waist so that it may not hinder him in walking.
Without speaking, one behind the other, they go down a very steep path, putting to flight small animals grazing on the scanty grass not yet parched by the sun. It is a long and uncomfortable journey. At last they reach the plain. It is not easy to walk even there, where stones and stone splinters undermine their feet, sliding under them and hurting them also, because the thick dust of the path conceals them and it is therefore impossible to avoid them. Further, naked thorny bushes scratch them and catch the lower part of their garments. But they can walk faster. High above, the stars are lovelier and lovelier.
They walk and walk for hours. The plain is more and more barren and depressing. Little scales sparkle in small crevices and holes of the ground. They look like dirty scales of diamond chips. John bends down to look at them.
« It is the salt of the subsoil which is saturated with them. It comes to the surface with the spring waters and then dries up. That is why life is impossible here. The Eastern Sea spreads its death for many miles around, through deep veins in the ground. Only where fresh spring waters counteract its effects, is it possible to find plants and ease » explains Jesus.
They go on walking. Jesus stops at the hollow rock where I saw Him tempted by Satan. « Let us stop here. Sit down. It will soon be daybreak. We have walked for six hours and you must be hungry, thirsty and tired. Take this. Eat and drink, sitting here, near Me, while I tell you something that you will repeat to your friends and to the world. » Jesus has opened His satchel and has pulled out bread and cheese, which He cuts and hands out, and from His flask He pours out some water into a small jug which He hands round, too.
« Are You not eating, Master? »
« No, I will speak to you. Listen. Once a man asked Me whether I had ever been tempted. He asked Me whether I had ever committed sin, and whether, when tempted, I had ever given in. And he was surprised because, in order to resist temptation, I, the Messiah, had asked the Father for help, saying: “Father, lead Me not into temptation.”»
Jesus speaks slowly, calmly as if He were relating an event with which none of them was acquainted… Judas lowers his head as if he were embarrassed. But the others are so intent on looking at Jesus, that they do not notice him.
Jesus goes on: « Now, My friends, you will learn something of which that man had only a faint idea. After My Baptism I came here: I was clean, but one is never clean enough with regard to God, and the humility in saying: “I am a man and a sinner” is already a baptism which makes the heart clean. I had been called “the Lamb of God” by the holy prophet who saw the Truth and saw the Spirit descend upon the Word and anoint Him with its chrism of love, while the voice of the Father filled the Heavens saying: “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” You, John, were present when the Baptist repeated those words… After being baptized, although I was clean both by My nature and by appearance, I wanted to “prepare”. Yes, Judas. Look at Me. May My eyes tell you what My mouth does not yet speak. Look at Me, Judas. Look at your Master, Who although was the Messiah, did not consider Himself superior to man, on the contrary, knowing He was the Man, He wanted to be so in everything, except in yielding to evil. Exactly so. »
Judas has now raised his head and looks at Jesus in front of him. The light of the stars causes Jesus' eyes to sparkle as if they were two stars fixed in a pale face.
« If one wants to prepare to be a teacher one must have been a pupil. I, as God, knew everything. My intelligence enabled Me to understand also the struggles of man, both by intellectual power and in an intellectual way, that is without any practical experience. But then some poor friend of Mine, some poor son of Mine, could have said to Me: “You do not know what it is to be a man and have senses and passions.” And it would have been a fair reproach. I came here, or rather on that mountain, to prepare… not only for My mission… but also for temptation. See? I was tempted where you are now sitting. By whom? By a mortal being? No. His power would have been too limited. I was tempted by Satan himself.
I was exhausted. I had not eaten for forty days… But while I was engrossed in prayer, everything had been forgotten in the joy of speaking to God, rather than forgotten, it had been made endurable. I felt it as a discomfort of a material nature, confined to matter only… I then came back to the world… I was back in the ways of the world… And I felt the needs of those who are in the world. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I felt the biting cold of the desert night. My body was worn out with lack of rest, of a bed and with a long journey made in such a state of weariness that I could go no farther…
Because I am made of flesh too, My dear friends. Real flesh. And my flesh is subject to the weakness common to all the flesh. And, with My flesh, I have a heart. Yes, I took the first and second of the three parts that form man. I took the physical part with all its needs and the morals with their passions. And whilst, with My will, I subdued all the bad passions at birth, I let the holy passions grow like mighty age-old cedars, that is filial love, love for the fatherland, friendship, work, everything that is best and holy. And here I felt nostalgia for My far away Mother, here I felt the need of Her care for My human frailty, here I felt once again the pain of parting from the Only One Who loved Me with perfect love, here I realized what sorrow is laid aside for Me and I was grieved at Her sorrows, poor Mother, Who will have to shed so many tears for Her Son and because of the wickedness of men, that She will be left tearless. And here I experienced the weariness of the hero and of the ascetic who in an hour of forewarning realize the uselessness of their efforts… I cried… Sadness… a lure for Satan. It is not a sin to be sad in painful circumstances. It is a sin to go beyond sadness and fall into inertness and despair.
But Satan comes at once when he sees anyone in spiritual languor.
He came. Dressed as a kind traveller. He always takes a kind appearance… I was hungry… and thirty years old. He offered to help Me. First he said to Me: “Tell these stones to become bread.” But before… yes… even before, he spoke to Me about woman. Oh! He knows how to speak of her. He knows her very well. He corrupted her first, to make her his ally in corruption. I am not only the Son of God. I am Jesus, the workman of Nazareth. I said to that man, who was speaking to Me then, the one who asked Me whether I had experienced temptations and almost accused Me for being unjustly blessed, because I had not sinned: “The act subsides when satisfied. A rejected temptation does not fade away, but becomes stronger also because Satan instigates it.” I resisted the temptation both of lust of woman and hunger for bread. And you must know that Satan proposed woman to Me as the best ally to succeed in the world, and he was quite right, from a human point of view.
Temptation did not give up because of My remark: “Man does not live on his senses only” and he spoke to Me of My mission. He wanted to seduce the Messiah after failing with the young Man. And he incited Me to crush the unworthy ministers of the Temple with a miracle… A miracle, the fire of Heaven, is not to be bent to form a wicker wreath to crown ourselves… And we must not put God to the test, asking for miracles for human purposes. That is what Satan wanted. The reason mentioned by him was an excuse; the truth was: “Boast of being the Messiah”, as he wanted to lead Me to another lust: the lust for pride. He was not daunted by My reply: “You must not put the Lord your God to the test” and he circumvented Me with the third power of his nature: gold. Oh! gold. Bread is a great thing, and woman an even greater one for those longing for food or pleasure. To be acclaimed by the crowds is a very great thing for man. How many crimes are committed for these three things! But gold… gold! It is a key that opens, a circle that joins, it is the beginning and end of ninety-nine of human actions. For bread and a woman man becomes a thief. For power he becomes also a murderer. But for gold he becomes an idolator. The king of gold, Satan, offered Me his gold if I adored him. I pierced him with the eternal words: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” It happened here. » Jesus is now standing. He seems taller than usual in the flat nature surrounding Him, in the slightly phosphorescent light of the stars. Also the disciples get up. Jesus goes on speaking, staring intently at Judas.
« Then the angels of the Lord came… The Man had won the treble battle. The Man knew what it meant to be a man and had won. He was exhausted. The struggle had been more exhausting than the long fast… But the spirit was triumphant… I think that Heaven was startled at My becoming a perfect creature endowed with knowledge. I think that from that moment I got the power of working miracles. I was God. I had become the Man. Now, by defeating the animal nature connected with man's nature, I was the Man-God. And I am. And as God I am omnipotent. And as Man I am omniscient. Do as I did, if you want to do what I do. And do it in memory of Me.
That man was amazed at My asking the Father's help, and at My praying not to be led into temptation. That is, not to be left at the mercy of temptation beyond My strength. I think that that man will no longer be amazed, now that he knows. I ask you to do the same in My memory and to win as I did. And never doubt My nature of true Man and true God, seeing how strong I was in all the temptations of life, and how I won the battles of the five senses, of sensuality and of sentiments. Remember all that. I promised to take you where it would be possible for you to know the Master… from the dawn of His day, a dawn which is as pure as the one which is now rising, to the noontide of His life. The noon which I left to go and meet My human evening… I said to one of you: “I also prepared”; you now see it is true. I thank you for your company in the return to the place of My birth and the place of My penance. My first contacts with the world had sickened and depressed Me. It is too ugly. My soul has now been nourished with the lion's marrow: the union with the Father in prayer and solitude. And I can go back to the world and take My cross upon Me once again, the first cross of the Redeemer: the cross of the contact with the world. With the world, in which there are too few souls called Mary, called John… Now listen, and you in particular, John. We are going back towards My Mother and our friends. I beg you not to mention to My Mother the harshness which has been opposed to the love of Her Son. She would suffer too much. She will suffer so much because of man's cruelty… but do not let us give Her the chalice now. It will be so bitter when it is given to Her! So bitter that it will creep like poison into Her holy viscera and veins and will gnash them and freeze Her heart. Oh! Do not tell My Mother that Bethlehem and Hebron rejected Me like a dog! Have mercy on Her! You, Simon, are old and good, and thoughtful as you are, you will not speak, I know. You, Judas, are a Judaean, and will not speak out of patriotic pride. But you, John, are a Galilean, and young, do not commit a sin of pride, criticism and cruelty. Be silent. Later… later you will tell the rest what I now ask you be silent about. There is already so much to be said about Christ. Why add to it what is Satan's work against Christ? My dear friends, do you promise Me that? »
« Oh! Master! We do promise. Be certain of it. »
« Thank you. Let us go to that small oasis. There is a spring, a well full of cold water and there is shade and greenery. The road towards the river passes near it. We will find food and refreshment till evening. By starlight, we will reach the river, the ford. And we will wait for Joseph or join him if he is already back. Let us go. » And they set out while the first pinkish hue in the sky, in the east, announces the rising of a new day.