22nd March 1945.
Lazarus' splendid house is most brilliant this evening. It seems to be catching fire owing to the number of lights which are lit within. And the light spreads outside, in this early night, overflowing from the halls into the entrance and then into the porch, stretching out to gild the gravel on the paths, the grasses and bushes of the flower beds, struggling with the yellow sensual brilliance of the moonlight, and outshining it in the first few yards, whereas farther out everything becomes angelical due to the pure silver mantle which the moon casts over everything. In addition the silence that envelops the magnificent garden, where only the arpeggio of the water jet of the fishpond can be heard, seems to intensify the tranquil heavenly peace of the lunar night, whilst near the house, many merry voices and the lively tumult made by furniture moving and the carrying of dishes to the tables, remind man that he is still a man and not a spirit.
Martha moves about swiftly in her wide modest beautiful violet-red dress, and she seems a flower, a bell-flower or a butterfly fluttering against the purple walls of the entrance hall or against the dining hall walls, which are decorated with small designs and look like a carpet.
Jesus, on the other hand, is walking alone and thoughtful near the fishpool and He seems to be absorbed by alternatively the dark shadow thrown from a tall laurel, a real gigantic tree, and by the phosphoric moonlight which is becoming clearer and clearer. It is indeed so bright that the fountain jet looks like a silver plumule which breaks into diamond chips, which fall and get lost in the silvery water of the fountain. Jesus watches and listens to the words whispered by the water in the night. Their sound is so sweet that they awake a nightingale in the thick laurel and the bird replies to the slow arpeggio of the water drops with the high note of a flute, and then it stops, as if it were waiting, to be given the note and thus tune in with the water, and at last, as the king of song, it starts its perfect melodious soft hymn of joy.
Jesus stops walking lest the rustling noise of His steps should upset the calm joy of the nightingale, and I think, also His own, because He smiles with His head bent, a smile of pure joy. When the nightingale stops singing after a very clear note which is held and modulated by ascending tones, and I do not understand how such a small throat can do so, Jesus exclaims: « May You be blessed, holy Father, for such perfection and for the joy You have given Me! » and He resumes His slow walk, full of, I wonder what, deep meditation.
Simon goes towards Him and says: « Master, Lazarus asks You to come. Everything is ready. »
« Let us go. And thus may their last doubt, that I love them less because of Mary, be removed. »
« How many tears, Master! Only Your secret miracle has relieved their pain. Don't You know that Lazarus was about to run away, when, upon their return, she went out of the house, saying that she was leaving their sepulchre to go and live in joy… and other rude remarks? Martha and I implored him not to do it, also because… one never knows the reaction of a heart. If he had found her, I think he would have punished her once for all. They would have liked her to be at least silent about You… »
« And they would have liked Me to work a miracle immediately for her. And I could have done it. But I do not want a forced resurrection in hearts. I will force death and it will give Me back its victims. Because I am the Master of death and of life. But I will not force a resurrection on spirits, because they are not made of matter, which is lifeless without a soul, whereas spirits are immortal beings capable of rising of their own will. I give the first call and the first help, like one who opens a sepulchre in which a man still alive has been closed and where he would die if he were to remain for a long time in that stifling darkness, and I let in air and light… then I wait. If the spirit is anxious to come out, it comes out. But if it does not want to come out, it grows darker and it goes to the bottom. But if it comes out!… Oh! If it comes out, I solemnly tell you that no one will be greater than a risen spirit. Only absolute innocence is greater than a dead person that becomes alive by force of love and for the joy of God… My greatest triumphs!
Look at the sky, Simon. You see there, stars, little stars and planets of various sizes. They all live and shine for God Who made them and for the sun that illuminates them. But they are not all equally bright and of the same size. It will be the same in My Heaven. All the redeemed will have life through Me and will receive brightness from My light. But they will not be all equally bright and great. Some will be plain star-dust, like the dust that makes Galathea milky, and will be those countless ones, who received from Christ, or rather, have taken from Him the minimum indispensable not to be damned, and only through the infinite mercy of God, after a long Purgatory, will come to Heaven. Others will be brighter and better formed, the just who have united their own will, please note that I am saying will, not good will, to the will of Christ and have obeyed My words not to be damned. Then there will be the planets, those of good will, and they will be brightest! Their light will be like a pure diamond or a bright gem of different hues: the red of a ruby, the violet of an amethyst, the gold of a topaz, the white of a pearl: the lovers faithful unto death for love, the repentants for love, the people active for love, the people immaculate for love.
And there will be some of those planets, and they will be the glory of the Redeemer, that will glare like amethysts, rubies, topazes and pearls, because they will be everything for the sake of love. They will be heroic to the extent of forgiving themselves for not having loved before, repentant to become saturated with expiations as Esther was saturated with perfumes before presenting herself to Ahasuerus, untiring in doing in a short time, the short time left to them, what they did not do in the years they spent in sin, pure to the extent of heroism in forgetting, also in their bodies, besides in their souls and thoughts, that they had senses. They will be the ones who through their multiform brightness will attract the eyes of the believers, of the pure, of the repentant, of the martyrs, of the heroes, of the ascetics, of the sinners and for each of those categories their brightness will be a word, a reply, an invitation, an assurance…
But let us go. We are talking and they are waiting for us. »
« The point is that when You speak, we forget that we are alive. Can I tell Lazarus all that? I think it contains a promise… »
« You must tell him. The word of a friend may soothe their wound and they will not blush for blushing before Me… We have kept you waiting, Martha. But I was talking to Simon about the stars and we forgot about these lights. Your house, this evening, is really a vault of heaven… »
« We have lit the lights not only for ourselves and our servants, but also for You and for Your friends, who are our guests. Thanks for coming this final evening. Now it is really the feast of the Purification… » Martha would like to say more, but feels she is about to burst into tears and keeps quiet.
« Peace to you all » says Jesus entering the hall aglitter with dozens of silver lamps, all lit and placed all around.
Lazarus comes forward smiling: « Peace and blessing to You, Master, and many years of holy happiness. » They kiss each other. « Some friends of ours have told me that You were born when Bethlehem was ablaze for the Purification Feast years ago. Both they and we are happy to have You here this evening. Do You not want to know who they are? »
« I have no friends but My disciples, the dear ones in Bethany and the shepherds. So it is the shepherds. Did they come? What for? »
« To adore You, our Messiah. We were informed by Jonathan and we came. With our herds which are now in Lazarus' stables, and with our hearts we are now and always at Your holy feet. » Isaac has spoken on behalf of Elias, Levi, Joseph and Jonathan, who are all prostrated at His feet; Jonathan in the soft tunic of the steward loved by his master; Isaac in his garment of a tireless pilgrim, a tunic made of coarse dark brown wool proof to water; Levi, Joseph and Elias are wearing fresh clean clothes given to them by Lazarus, so that they may sit at the table without their poor torn clothes smelling of sheep.
« Is that why you sent Me into the garden? May God bless you all! Only My Mother is missing to make Me completely happy. Stand up. This is My first birthday away from My Mother. But your presence relieves Me from the nostalgia of Her kisses. » They all go into the dining room. Most of the lamps in it are in gold and the metal is brightened up by the light of the flames which seem more lively from the reflection of so much gold. The table has been laid in the shape of a U to make room for so many people and to facilitate service from servants and carvers. Besides Lazarus, there are the apostles, the shepherds, Maximinus and Simon's old servant.
Martha attends to the assignment of places at the table and she would like to remain standing. But Jesus objects: « Today you are not the hotel-keeper; you are the sister and you will sit down as if you were of the same blood as Myself. We are one family. Let us put rules aside to make room for love. I want you here, beside Me, and John near you. And Lazarus with Me. But, give Me a lamp. A light is to keep watch between Martha and Me… a flame: for the women who are absent and yet are present, for the women loved, waited for, dear to us and far away. For them all. The flame utters words of light. Love utters words of warmth and those words travel far, on the incorporeal wave of the spirits which are always to be found beyond mountains and seas, and they take kisses and blessings… They take everything. Is it not so? »
Martha puts the lamp where Jesus wants it, at an empty place… and, as Martha understands, she bends and kisses the hand of Jesus, Who then lays it on her dark hair blessing and comforting.
The meal starts. The three shepherds are at first somewhat embarrassed, whereas Isaac is more confident and Jonathan shows no uneasiness. The three shepherds take heart as the meal goes on and after being quiet for some time they begin to speak. And what should they speak of, if not of their recollections?
« We had not been long back in the pen » says Levi « and I felt so cold that I sought comfort among the sheep, weeping because I wanted my mother… »
« I, instead, was thinking of the young Mother I had met not long before and I was saying to myself: “Will She have found a place?” I wish I had known that She was in a stable! I would have taken Her to the pen!… But She was so kind, a lily of our valleys, that I thought it would be an insult to say to Her: “Come and stay with us.” But I was thinking of Her… and I felt even colder, thinking how much She must be suffering. Do you remember the light that night? And your fear? »
« Yes… but then… the angel… Oh!… » Levi, somewhat lost in reverie, smiles at his recollection.
« Oh! listen a moment, friends. We know very little and we are badly informed. We have heard about angels, mangers, herds, Bethlehem… And we know that He is a Galilean and a carpenter… It is not fair that we should not be informed! I asked the Master at the Clear Water… but then we spoke about something else. This young man who knows has not told me anything… Yes, I am speaking to you, John of Zebedee. Is that how you respect an elder? You keep everything to yourself and you allow me to remain a stupid disciple. Am I not already a dunce on my own? » They all laugh at Peter's benign indignation. But he addresses his Master: « They are laughing. But I am right » and he then says to Bartholomew, Philip, Matthew, Thomas, James and Andrew: « Come on, you tell them, too, protest with me! Why do we know nothing? »
« Really… Where were you when Jonah was dying? and when we were on Lebanon? »
« You are right. But in the case of Jonah, I thought it was the delirium of a dying man, at least I did, and on Lebanon… I was tired and sleepy. Forgive me, Master, but it is the truth. »
« And it will be the truth for many! The world of those who have been evangelised will often reply to the eternal Judge, to justify their ignorance despite the teaching of My apostles, what you have said: “I thought it was delirium… I was tired and sleepy.” And they will often not acknowledge the truth because they will mistake it for delirium, and they will not remember the truth because they are tired and sleepy as a result of indulging in too many useless, fleeting and even sinful things. One thing only is necessary: to know God. »
« Well, now that You have told us what we deserve, tell us what happened… Tell Your Peter. Then I will tell the people. If not, I have already told You, what can I tell them? I know nothing of the past, I am no good at explaining the prophecies and the Book, the future… oh! poor me! So what shall I evangelise? »
« Yes, Master. Let us know, too… We know that You are the Messiah and we believe it. But, at least as far as I am concerned, I found it difficult to admit that anything good could come from Nazareth… Why did You not make me acquainted at once with Your past? » says Bartholomew.
« To test your faith and the brightness of your spirit. But now I will speak to you, or rather, we will speak to you of My past. I will tell you what even the shepherds do not know, and they will tell you what they saw. And you will be acquainted with the dawn of Christ. Listen:
When the time of Grace had come, God prepared His Virgin. You will readily understand that God could not dwell where Satan had put an undelible mark. The Power therefore took action to prepare Its future spotless tabernacle. And She, on Whom there is no stain, was conceived of two just people, in their old age, against the common rules of procreation. Who brought that soul into the embryonal flesh that rekindled the old womb of My grandmother, Anna of Aaron? Levi, you saw the Archangel of all the announcements. You can say: it is he. Because the Strength of God (1) has always been the victorious archangel who brought joyful tidings to saints and prophets, he has been the unconquerable warrior who smashed even Satan's great power as if it were the stem of withered moss, he is the intelligent spirit who with clever and bright intelligence warded off the snares of the other intelligent but wicked spirit, and thus had God's command promptly accomplished.
(1) Such is, basically, the etymological meaning of the name « Gabriel ».
The Announcer, who was already familiar with the ways of the earth, as he had descended to speak to the Prophets, with a cry of joy took from the divine Fire the spark which was the soul of the eternal Maid and clasping it in the circle of the angelical flames of his spiritual love, brought it down on to the earth, into a house, into a womb. And the world, from that moment, had the Adoring Maid; and God, from that moment, could look at a spot on the earth, without feeling disgusted. And a little creature was born: the Child Beloved by God and the angels, the Child Consecrated to God, the Daughter piously loved by Her parents. “And Abel gave the first-born of his flock to God.” Oh! Truly the grandparents of the eternal Abel gave God the early fruit of their property, they gave Him all their goods, and they died because they had given everything back to Him, Who had given it to them!
My Mother was the Maid of the Temple from Her third to Her fifteenth year of age and She hastened the coming of Christ with the power of Her love. A virgin before being conceived, a virgin in the obscurity of a womb, a virgin in Her whimpers, a virgin in Her first steps, the Virgin was of God and of God only, and She proclaimed Her right, which was above the decree of the Law of Israel, and obtained from the husband given to Her by God, to remain inviolate after the wedding.
Joseph of Nazareth was a just man. The Lily of God could be given only to him, and he was the only one to have it. And, being an angel both in his body and his soul, he loved as the angels of God love. The depth of that strong love, which enjoyed all the fondness of married life, without going beyond the barrier of celestial fire beyond which was the Ark of the Lord, will be understood only by few people on the earth. It is the evidence of what a just man can do, if he only wants to, because also the soul, even if it is injured by the original sin, has a powerful strength of elevation, to remember and to go back to its dignity of a Child of God, and it works in a divine way for the sake of the Father.
Mary was still in Her house, waiting to be married to Her spouse, when Gabriel, the angel of divine announcements came back to the earth and asked the Virgin to become a Mother. He had already promised the Precursor to Zacharias, who had not believed him. But the Virgin believed that it could happen by the will of God, and sublime as She was in Her ignorance, She only asked: “How can that happen?” And the Angel replied to Her: “You are Full of Grace, Mary. Do not be afraid, for You have won God's favour also with regard to Your virginity. You will conceive and bear a Son and You will name Him Jesus, because He is the Saviour promised to Jacob and to all the Patriarchs and Prophets of Israel. He will be great and the true Son of the Most High because He will be conceived by deed of the Holy Spirit. His Father will give Him the throne of David, as it is predicted, and He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and His true Reign will have no end. Now the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are awaiting Your obedience to fulfill the promise. The Precursor of Christ is already in the womb of Elizabeth, Your cousin, and if You agree, the Holy Spirit will descend upon You, and so the Child born of You will be holy and will bear His true name of Son of God.”
Mary then replied: “I am the Handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to Me according to His word.” And the Spirit of God descended upon His Bride and in the first embrace He bestowed upon Her His light, which super-perfected Her virtues of silence, humility, prudence and charity, of which She was full, and She was one thing with the Wisdom and could no longer be separated from Charity, and the Obedient and Chaste One was lost in the ocean of Obedience, which I am, and She knew the joy of being a Mother, without the perturbation of being touched. She was the snow that became a flower and offered Herself to God… »
« And Her husband? » asks Peter dumbfounded.
« The seal of God closed Mary's lips. And Joseph became aware of the prodigy only when Mary came back from the house of Her relative Zacharias and appeared a mother to the eyes of Her spouse. »
« And what did he do? »
« He suffered… and Mary suffered. »
« If it had been I… »
« Joseph was a saint, Simon of Jonas. God knows where to lay His gifts… He suffered bitterly and he decided to desert Her, taking upon himself the reputation of an unfair man. But the Angel descended and said to him: “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what is forming in Her is the Son of God and She is a Mother by the deed of God. And when the Son is born, you will name Him Jesus, because He is the Saviour.” »
« Was Joseph a learned man? » asks Bartholomew.
« Like a descendant of David. »
« Then he will have received light at once remembering the Prophet: “Here, a virgin will conceive… »
« Yes, he did receive it. And joy followed the trial… »
« Had it been I » resumes Peter « it would not have happened, because before I would have… Oh! Lord, what a good job it was not I! I would have broken Her like the stem of a flower without giving Her time to speak. And after, if I had not been a murderer, I would have been afraid of Her… The fear for the Tabernacle, which the whole of Israel has had for centuries… »
« Also Moses was afraid of God, and yet he was helped and stayed with Him on the mountain… So Joseph went to the holy house of his Spouse and saw to the needs of the Virgin and of the Unborn Child. And when the time of the edict came for all the people, he went with Mary to the land of his fathers, and Bethlehem rejected them because the hearts of men are closed to charity. Now you go on. »
« Towards evening I met a young smiling woman riding a little donkey. There was a man with Her. He asked for some milk and information. I told him what I knew… Then night fell… and a great light… and we went out… and Levi saw an angel near the pen. And the Angel said: “The Saviour is born.” It was the dead of night. And the sky was full of stars. But their light faded in the light of the Angel and of thousands and thousands of angels… (Elias still weeps remembering). And the Angel said to us: “Go and worship Him. He is in a little stable, in a manger, between two animals… You will find a little Baby wrapped in poor swaddling clothes…” Oh! How bright the Angel was when saying these words!… Do you remember, Levi, how his wings emitted flames when, after bowing to mention the Saviour, he said: “… Who is Christ the Lord”? »
« Oh! If I remember! And the voices of the thousands of angels? Oh!… “Glory to God in the Highest Heaven and peace on earth to men of good will!” That music is still here, in me, and it carries me to Heaven every time I hear it » and Levi raises an ecstatic face shining with tears.
« And we went » says Isaac. « Laden like pack-animals, as happy as if we were going to a wedding, and then… we were not capable of doing anything when we heard Your thin voice and Your Mother's, and we pushed Levi, the boy, forward that he might look. We felt like lepers near so much purity… And Levi listened and he smiled weeping and he repeated to us what he heard, with a voice so like that of a lamb, that Isaac's sheep bleated. And Joseph came to the entrance and let us in… Oh! How tiny and beautiful You were! A flesh-coloured rosebud on coarse hay… and You were crying… Then You smiled because of the warmth of the sheepskin we offered You and of the milk we milked for You… Your first meal… Oh!… and then… and then we kissed You… You smelt of almonds and jasmine… and we could not bring ourselves to leave You… »
« In fact, you have never left Me. »
« It is true » says Jonathan. « Your face, Your voice and Your smiles remained within us… And You were growing… more and more beautiful… the world of good people came to delight in You… and the world of the wicked did not see You… Anna… Your first steps… the three Wise Men… the star. »
« Oh! What a light, that night! The world seemed to be ablaze with thousands of lights. Instead, the night of Your birth, the light was pearly and steady. Now they were dancing stars, then they were adoring stars. And from the top of a hill we saw the caravan passing and we followed it to see whether it was going to stop… And the following day the whole of Bethlehem saw the adoration of the Wise Men. And then… Oh! Don't let us mention the horror! Don't let us talk about it!… » Elias turns pale remembering.
« Yes, do not tell. Silence on hatred… »
« Our greatest pain was that we no longer had You and we knew nothing about You. Not even Zacharias knew. Our last hope… And nothing more. »
« Why, Lord, did You not comfort Your servants? »
« Are you asking why, Philip? Because it was wise to do so. You can see that also Zacharias, whose spiritual formation was completed after that hour, did not want to lift the veil. Zacharias… »
« But You told us that he took care of the shepherds. So, why did he not tell them first, and then You, that you were looking for one another? »
« Zacharias was a just man, completely man. He became less man and more just during the nine months of dumbness, he improved himself in the months following the birth of John, but he became a just spirit when the refutation of God fell on his human pride. He had said: “I, a priest of God, say that the Saviour must live in Bethlehem” and God had shown to him that human judgement, even that of a priest, is a poor one, if it is not enlightened by God. Horrified by the thought: “I could have had Jesus killed because of my word” Zacharias became the just man, who is now resting awaiting Paradise. And justice taught him prudence and charity. Charity with regard to the shepherds, prudence with regard to the world, to which Christ was to be unknown. When, on our way back to our fatherland, we directed our steps towards Nazareth, with the same prudence that now guided Zacharias, we avoided Hebron and Bethlehem, and coasting the sea we went back to Galilee. Not even on the day that I became of age, was it possible to see Zacharias, who had left the day before with his son for the same ceremony.
God watched, God tested, God provided, God perfected. To have God implies restraints, not only joy. And My father by love and My Mother by My soul and flesh suffered from restraints. They were forbidden also what is lawful, so that mystery might envelop the Child Messiah with a shadow. And that should clarify to many people, who do not understand it, the twofold reason for the worry when I was lost for three days. The love of a Mother, the love of a father for the lost Child; fear of the guardians for the Messiah Who might be revealed before the time; terror of having badly protected the Health of the world and the great gift of God. That is the reason for the unusual cry: “Son, why have You done this to us? See how Your father and I have been worried looking for You!” Your father, Your Mother… A veil was cast on the splendour of the Divine Incarnate. And the reassuring reply: “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be busy with My Father's affairs?” A reply which the Full of Grace accepted and understood for what it means. That is: “Do not be afraid. I am small, a child. But if I grow, according to My human nature, in height, wisdom and grace in the eyes of men, I am the Perfect One because I am the Son of the Father and thus I know how to behave perfectly, serving the Father by making His light shine, serving God by preserving the Saviour.” And that is what I have done up to a year ago.
The time has now come. The veils are being lifted. And the Son of Joseph is showing Himself in His true nature: the Messiah of the Good News, the Saviour, the Redeemer, and the King of the future century. »
« And have You never seen John again? »
« Only at the Jordan, My dear John, when I wanted to be baptised. »
« So You did not know that Zacharias had helped the shepherds? »
« I told you: after the shedding of the innocent blood, the just became saints, and men became just. Only the demons remained what they were. Zacharias learned to sanctify himself through humility, charity, prudence, silence. »
« I want to remember all this. But will I be able? » says Peter.
« Don't worry, Peter. Tomorrow I will ask the shepherds to repeat it to me all over again, calmly, in the orchard. Once, twice, three times, if necessary. My memory is good, I exercised it at my excise-desk and I will remember for everybody. When you wish, I will be able to repeat everything to you. I did not even keep notes at Capernaum, and yet… »
« Oh! You never made the mistake of a didrachma!… I remember… Good! I will forgive you your past, wholeheartedly, if you remember this story… and if you repeat it to me very often. I want it to enter my heart, as they have it, as Jonah had it… Oh! to die saying His Name!… »
Jesus looks at Peter and smiles. He then gets up and kisses his greying hair.
« Why that kiss, Master? »
« Because you made a prophesy. You will die mentioning My Name. I kissed the Spirit that spoke in you. »
Then Jesus intones a hymn in a loud voice and everybody, standing up, joins in: « “Stand up and bless the Lord your God, from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be His sublime glorious Name with every praise and benediction. You are the only Lord. You made the Heavens, and the Heaven of Heavens with all their array, the earth and all it bears etc. (it is the hymn sung by the Levites at the Feast of the Consecration of the people, II Book of Ezra, Ch. IX)” » and it all ends with that long hymn. I do not know whether it is part of the ancient rite or whether Jesus says it on His own.