6th May 1945.
Jesus with Peter, Andrew and John, knocks at the door of His house in Nazareth. The door is opened at once by His Mother, Whose face brightens with a beautiful smile on seeing Jesus.
« Welcome home, My Son! Since yesterday I have had with Me a pure dove waiting for You. She came from far away. The person who brought her here could not stay longer. As she asked for My advice, I told her what I could. But only You, My Son, are the Wisdom. You are welcome, too » She says to the disciples. « Come in and refresh yourselves. »
« Yes, stay here. I am going at once to see the girl who is waiting for Me. »
The three disciples are very curious, but show their curiosity in different ways. Peter stares intently in all directions, almost hoping to see through the walls. John looks as if he wanted to read on Mary's face the name of the unknown girl. Andrew, who on the other hand has blushed, stares intently at Jesus and both his eyes and his lips seem to be trembling with a silent entreaty.
Jesus pays no attention to any of them. While the three make up their minds and go into the kitchen, where Mary offers them some food in the warmth of the fireplace, Jesus draws the curtain that conceals the door opening on to the kitchen garden and goes out into it.
The mild sunshine makes more airy and dream-like all the blooming branches of the tall almond-tree. The only tree in blossom, the tallest in the kitchen garden, looks splendid in its silk white-pink dress, compared with the poverty of all the others: the pear-tree, the apple-tree, the fig-tree, the pomegranate, the vines which are still all barren, stately in its soft bright veil, which contrasts with the drab humility of the olive trees: it seems to have caught with its long branches a wispy cloud, lost in the blue field of the sky, and to have adorned itself with it to say to everybody: « The wedding of springtime is coming. Rejoice, plants and animals. It is the time for kisses with the winds, the bees, the flowers. It is the time for kisses under the tiles, or in the thick of woods, o little birds of God and snow-white sheep. Kisses today, offspring tomorrow, to perpetuate the work of our Creator God. »
Jesus with His arms folded on His chest, standing in the sun, smiles at the serene gracefulness of His Mother's kitchen garden, with its bed of lilies recognizable from their first leaves, its still bare rose-bushes and silvery olive leaves, and many other families of flowers spread among the humble beds of legumes and vegetables, which are just becoming green. Clean, tidy and unassuming, it also seems to exhale the purity of perfect virginity.
« Son, come to My room. I will bring her to You, because she ran there when she heard so many voices. »
Jesus enters His Mother's room, the chaste, the most chaste little room, which heard the words of the angelical conversation and which exhales, even more than the kitchen garden, the virginal, angelical, holy essence of Her Who has lived in it for years and of the Archangel who venerated his Queen in it. Have thirty years gone by or did the meeting take place only yesterday? Also today a distaff holds its soft and almost silvery tuft of wool and the thread is on the spindle, folded embroidery is on the shelf near the door, between a parchment roll and a copper amphora in which there is a thick almond branch in bloom; also today the striped curtain, lowered on the mystery of the virginal dwelling, is moved by a gentle breeze, and the bed, neat in its comer, still has the genteel look of the bed of a girl who has just reached the threshold of youth. What will one dream or has dreamt of on the low pillow?...
The curtain is softly raised by Mary's hand; Jesus, Who was contemplating that abode of purity, standing with His back to the door, turns round.
« Here, My Son. I have brought her to You. She is a little lamb. You are her Shepherd » and Mary, Who has come in holding by the hand a slender brunette young girl, who blushes vehemently when she appears in Jesus' presence, quietly withdraws letting the curtain down.
« Peace to you, child. »
« Peace... Lord...» The girl, deeply moved, is speechless, but she kneels down and bows her head.
« Stand up. What do you want from Me? Do not be afraid...»
« I am not afraid... but... now that I am in front of You... after longing so much... what seemed easy and necessary to tell You... I cannot remember... it does not seem what it was... I am silly... forgive me, my Lord...»
« Do you want a grace for this world? Do you need a miracle? Have you souls to convert? No? What, then? Speak up! You had so much courage and now are losing heart? Do you not know that I am the One Who increases strength? Yes? You do? Well, then, speak as if I were a father for you. You are young. How old are you? »
« Sixteen years, my Lord. »
« Where have you come from? »
« From Jerusalem. »
« What is your name? »
« The dear name of My grandmother and of many more holy women of Israel, and joined to it, to make one only, the name of the good, faithful, loving, meek wife of Jacob. It will be a good omen to you. You will be a model wife and mother. No? You are shaking your head? You are weeping? Have you been rejected? No? Your fiancé perhaps died? Has no one proposed to you yet? »
The girl always shakes her head. Jesus takes a step forward, caresses her and forces her to raise her head and look at Him... Jesus' smile overcomes the girl's excitement. She takes heart: « My Lord, I could be a wife and a happy one, thanks to You. Do You not recognise me, my Lord? I am the girl who suffered from tuberculosis, the dying fiancée, whom You cured at Your John's request... After Your grace I... I have had another body: this healthy one in the place of the dying one I had before; and I have had another soul... I do not know. I did not feel the same... The joy of being cured, and consequently the certainty I could get married – my regret in dying was that I could not get married – they only lasted for a few hours. And then...» The girl becomes franker and franker, she finds the words and the ideas that she had lost in the excitement of being alone with the Master... « ...And then I felt that I should not be only selfish, and say only: “Now I will be happy”, but that I should think of something else, something that came to You and to God, Your Father and mine. Something that, although small, should express my gratitude. I gave the matter a lot of thought and when the following Sabbath I saw my fiancé I said to him: “Listen, Samuel. Without the miracle I would have died in a few months' time and you would have lost me forever. Now I would like to offer a sacrifice to God, with you, to say to God that I praise Him and thank Him.” And Samuel, because he loves me, said at once: “Let us go to the Temple together and offer a sacrifice.” But that was not what I wanted. I am a poor and common girl, my Lord. I know very little and I can do much less. But through Your hand, which You laid on my diseased breast, something had come not only into my corroded lungs, but also into my heart. It was health to my lungs, and wisdom to my heart. And I realised that the sacrifice of a lamb was not the sacrifice wanted by my soul that... that loved You. » The girl becomes silent, blushing after her profession of love.
« Go on without any fear. What did your soul want? »
« To sacrifice something worthy of You, the Son of God! And so... so I thought it should be something spiritual like what comes from God, that is, the sacrifice of postponing my wedding, for Your sake, my Saviour. A wedding, You know, is a great joy. When one is in love it is a great thing! One longs to... is anxious to celebrate it!... But I was no longer the same person as a few days previously. I no longer wanted my wedding as the dearest thing... I told Samuel... and he understood me. He also wanted to be a nazirite for one year, starting on the day which was to be the day of our wedding, that is the day after the calends of Adar. In the meantime he has been looking for You, because he wanted to love and know Him Who had given him back his fiancée: You. And he found You, after many months, at the Clear Water. I came too... and Your word completed the change of my heart. Now my previous vow is no longer sufficient for me... Like that almond-tree out there, which in the warmer and warmer sunshine has revived after being dead for months and has blossomed and will leaf and then bear fruit, so I have continuously grown in the knowledge of what is better. The last time, when I was already sure of myself and of what I wanted – I have pondered on the matter all these past months – the last time I went to the Clear Water, You were no longer there... They had driven You away. I wept and prayed so much that the Most High heard me and persuaded my mother to send me here with a relative who was going to Tiberias to speak to the courtiers of the Tetrarch. The steward told me that I would find You here. I found Your Mother... and Her words, only listening to Her and being beside Her these two days, have completely matured the fruit of Your grace. » The girl has knelt down as if she were in front of an altar, her arms folded on her breast.
« All right. But what do you want exactly? What can I do for you? »
« Lord, I would like... I would like a great thing. And only You, the Donor of life and health, can give it to me, because I think that what You can give, You can also take away... I would like You to take the life You gave me, during the year of my vow, before it ends...»
« Why? Are you not grateful to God for the life you received? »
« So grateful! Infinitely! But for one thing only: because by living by His grace and by Your miracle I have understood what is best. »
« Which is? »
« Which is to live like angels. As Your Mother, my Lord... as You live... as Your John lives... The three lilies, the three white flames, the three beatitudes of the earth, my Lord. Yes. Because I think that it is a beatitude to possess God and God is possessed by the pure. I believe that who is pure is at Heaven with God in its centre and the angels around... Oh! My Lord! That is what I would like... Little have I heard of what You, Your Mother, the disciple and Isaac have said. Neither have I approached anyone else who could tell me Your words. But I feel as if my soul heard You all the time and You were its Master... I have told You everything, my Lord...»
« Annaleah, you are asking for very much and are giving very much... Daughter: you have understood God and the perfection to which a creature may rise to be like the Most Pure and to please the Most Pure. »
Jesus has laid His hands on the sides of the head of the dark-haired girl, who is kneeling in front of Him and speaks bending over her: « He Who was born of a Virgin – because He could but build His nest on a pile of lilies – is nauseated, My dear daughter, by the triple lechery of the world and He would be crushed by so much nausea if His Father, Who knows on what His Son lives, did not intervene with loving help to support My soul in anguish. The pure are My joy. You are giving Me what the world takes from Me through its unexhausted baseness. May the Father and you, dear girl, be blessed for that. Go happily. Something will intervene to make your vow an eternal one. Be one of the lilies scattered on the blood-stained ways of Christ. »
« Oh! my Lord... there is still one thing I would like...»
« Which? »
« Not to be present at Your death... I could not see Him die, Who is my Life. »
Jesus smiles kindly and with His hand He wipes the tears streaming down her little dark face. « Do not weep. Lilies are never in mourning. You shall smile with all the pearls of your angelical crown when you see the crowned King enter His Kingdom. Go. May the Spirit of the Lord teach you while I am away. I bless you with the fire of Eternal Love. »
Jesus looks out on to the kitchen garden and calls: « Mother! Here is a little daughter, she is all Yours. She is now happy. But immerse her in Your purity every time we go to the Holy City, that she may become snow of celestial petals spread on the throne of the Lamb. » And Jesus goes back to His disciples, while Mary caresses the girl and stays with her.
Peter, Andrew and John look at Him inquisitively. And Jesus' bright face tells them that He is happy. Peter cannot help asking: « To whom did You speak so long, my Master? And what have You heard to be so beaming with joy? »
« To a woman at the dawn of life, to her who will be the dawn of many more that will come. »
« Who? »
« The virgins. »
Andrew mumbles, in a low voice, to himself: « It is not her...»
« No. It is not she. But do not tire of praying, be good and patient. Every word of your prayer is like a call, a light in the dark and it supports and guides her. »
« But who is my brother waiting for? »
« For a soul, Peter. A great poverty that he wants to change into a great wealth. »
« And where did Andrew find it, since he never goes about, he never speaks, and he is a helpless sort of chap? »
« On My way. Come with Me, Andrew. Let us go and see Alphaeus and bless Him amongst his many grandchildren. You wait for Me at James and Judas'. My Mother wants to be left alone all day. »
And while they go away, some here, some there, secrecy envelops the joy of the first girl consecrated to virginity for Christ's sake.