21st June 1945.
The group has spent most of the Sabbath morning resting their tired bodies and cleaning their clothes which had become dusty and creased during the journey. There is so much inviting water in the spacious cisterns of Gethsemane, full of rain water, and in the foamy Kidron, now in flood, because of the recent downpours, where the water resounds against the stones like a symphony. And the apostles, one after the other, defying the low temperature of the water, plunge into it and then, clad from head to foot in fresh clothes, their hair rather sleeked by the spray of the torrent, they draw water from the cisterns pouring it into large vats in which they have sorted out their clothes according to the colours.
« Well! Once they are soaked in there, it will be less troublesome for Mary to wash them. » (I suppose that Mary is the woman who stays at Gethsemane). « Only you, my dear little friend, cannot change. But tomorrow...» In fact the boy is wearing a clean robe, which has been taken from his little sack: so small that it would be quite sufficient for the garments of a doll! But the boy's little tunic is even more discoloured and torn than the other one and Peter looks at it with apprehension, whispering: « How can I possibly take him to town? I think I will cut one of my mantles in two, because a mantle... would cover him completely. »
Jesus, Who has heard this paternal soliloquy says: « It is better to let him rest now. This evening we are going to Bethany...»
« But I want to buy him a robe. I promised it. »
« You certainly will. But it is better to seek My Mother's advice. You know... women... have more experience in such purchases... and She will be happy to take care of the child... You will go together. »
Peter is enraptured to the seventh heaven of delight at the idea of going shopping with Mary. I do not know whether Jesus has expressed all His thoughts or whether He has held back some, those implying that His Mother's taste is more refined than Peter's and would thus avoid the clashing of atrocious hues. The fact is that He achieves His aim without mortifying Peter.
They scatter in the olive-grove, which is so beautiful on this serene April day. The rain of the past days seems to have silvered the olive-trees and sown flowers, so bright are the leaves in the sun and so numerous the little flowers at the foot of each tree. Birds are singing and flying everywhere. The town is lying over there, west of an onlooker.
It is not possible to see the crowds thronging inside, but one can see the caravans going towards the Gate of the Fish and to others, with names unknown to me, on this eastern side, and the travellers are swallowed by the town as it if were a hungry mouth.
Jesus is walking up and down watching Jabez who is playing with John and the younger ones. Also the Iscariot, who has got out of yesterday's huff is cheerful and plays. The elder ones watch and smile.
« What will Your Mother say of this child? » asks Bartholomew.
« I think She will say: “He is very thin” » says Thomas.
« Oh! no! She will say: “Poor child!” » replies Peter.
« Instead She will say to You: “I am glad that You love him” » objects Philip.
« His Mother would never have doubted it. But I don't think She will say anything. She will press him to Her heart » says the Zealot.
« And You, Master, what do You think She will say? »
« She will do what you said. She will think many things, nay, all of them, and will say them in Her heart, and when kissing him She will only say: “May you be blessed” and She will take care of him as if he were a little bird fallen from its nest. One day, listen, She told Me of when She was a little girl. She was not yet three years old because She was not yet in the Temple, and Her heart was full of love, emanating, like flowers and olives pressed and crushed in a mill, all Her oils and perfumes. And in a rapture of love She said to Her mother that She wanted to be a virgin to please the Saviour more, but that She would have liked to be a sinner in order to be saved, and She almost wept, because Her mother could not understand Her and could not tell Her how it is possible to be “pure” and a “sinner” at the same time. Her father satisfied Her by bringing her a little sparrow, which he had saved when it was about to be drowned on the edge of a fountain. He explained the parable of the little bird, saying that God had saved her in advance and therefore She was to bless Him twice. And the little Virgin of God, the Most Great Virgin Mary, practised Her first spiritual maternity on behalf of the little bird, which She let free when it was strong enough. But the bird never left the kitchen garden in Nazareth, where flying and twittering, it comforted the sad house and the broken hearts of Anne and Joachim, when Mary was in the Temple. It died shortly before Anne breathed her last... It had fulfilled its duty... My Mother had dedicated Herself to virginity for love. But, since She was a perfect creature, maternity was in Her blood and spirit. Because woman is created to be a mother and it is an aberration, if she is deaf to such sentiment, which is love of second power...»
Also the others have come near slowly.
« What do You mean, Master, by love of second power? » asks Judas Thaddeus.
« My brother, there are many loves and various powers. There is the love of first power: the one given to God. Then there is the love of second power: the love of a mother or of a father, because if the previous one is entirely spiritual, this one is spiritual by two parts and carnal by one. It is true that human affection is mixed in it, but the superior sentiment prevails, because a father and mother, who are such in a wholesome and holy way, do not only feed and caress the body of their child, but they give also nourishment and love to the mind and the spirit of their creature. And what I am saying is so true, that those who devote themselves to children, even if only to educate them, end up by loving their pupils, as if they were of their own flesh. »
« In fact I was very fond of my pupils » says John of Endor.
« I understood that you must have been a good teacher by the way you deal with Jabez. »
The man of Endor bows and kisses Jesus' hand without speaking.
« Please go on with Your classification of loves » begs the Zealot.
« There is the love for one's wife: love of third power because it is made – I am always talking of wholesome and holy loves – half of spirit and half of flesh. A man, besides being the husband of his wife, is a teacher and a father to her; and a woman is an angel and a mother to her husband, besides being his wife. These are the three highest loves. »
« And the love for our neighbour? Are You not wrong? Or have You forgotten it? » asks the Iscariot. The others look at him dumbfounded and... furious because of his remarks.
But Jesus replies placidly: « No, Judas. Watch. God is to be loved because He is God, so no explanation is required to convince one to have such love. He is He Who is, that is Everything; and man: Nothing, who participates of Everything, because of the soul infused in him by Eternal God – without which soul man would be one of the many animals that live on the earth, or in water or in the air – he must adore Him from a sense of duty and to deserve to survive in Everything, that is to deserve to be part of the holy People of God in Heaven, a citizen of the Jerusalem which will know neither profanation nor destruction forever.
The love of man, and particularly of woman, for their offspring, is indicated as an order in the words of God to Adam and Eve, after He had blessed them, seeing that He had made a “good thing”, on a remote sixth day, the first sixth day of creation. God said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth...” I can see your tacit objection, and this is My reply to you: Since before sin everything in creation was regulated by and based on love, that multiplication of children would have been a holy, pure, powerful, perfect love. And God gave it as His first commandment to man: “Be fruitful and multiply.” Therefore, love your children after Me. Love, as it is now, the present procreator of children, did not exist then. There was no malice nor the detestable thirst for sensuality. Man loved woman and woman loved man, naturally, not naturally according to nature as we understand it, or rather, as you men understand it, but according to the nature of children of God: supernaturally. Sweet were the days of love of the Two who were brothers, because born of one Father, and yet were husband and wife, who loved and looked at each other with the innocent eyes of twins in a cradle; and man felt the love of a father for his wife “bone from his bones and flesh from his flesh”, what a son is for his father; and the woman experienced the joy of being a daughter, protected by a very high love, because she felt that she had in herself something of the wonderful man who loved her, with innocence and angelical ardour, in the beautiful meadows in Eden!
Later, in the sequence of commands that God, smiling, gave to His beloved children, there comes what Adam himself, gifted by Grace with an intelligence inferior only to God's, decreed speaking of his wife and of every woman through Eve, a decree of the thought of God, which was clearly reflected by the spotless mirror of Adam's spirit, a flower in thought and in word: “Man will leave his father and his mother and will join himself to his wife and they will become one body.”
If there had not been the three pillars of the three above mentioned loves, could there have been love for one's neighbour? No. It could not have existed. The love of God makes God a friend and teaches love. Who does not love God, Who is good, cannot certainly love his neighbour who in most cases is faulty. If there had been no conjugal love and paternity in the world, there could have been no neighbours, because a neighbour is the son of man. Are you convinced? »
« Yes, Master. I had not thought of that. »
« It is difficult indeed to go back to the sources. Man has been stuck in mud for thousands of years, and those sources are so high up on the summits! The first one, above all, is a source that comes from an immense height: God... But I will take you by the hand and lead you to the sources. I know where they are...»
« And the other loves? » ask together Simon Zealot and the man from Endor.
« The first one of the second series is the love for our neighbour. In actual fact it is the fourth in power. Then comes the love for science. Finally the love for work. »
« Is that all? »
« That is all. »
« But there are many more loves! » exclaims Judas of Kerioth.
« There are other hungers. But they are not loves. They are the negation of love. They deny God, they deny man. They cannot be love because they are negations and Negation is Hatred. »
« If I deny consent to evil, is that Hatred? » asks Judas Iscariot once again.
« Poor me! You are more captious than a scribe! Can you tell me what is the matter with you? Is the rarified air of Judaea affecting your nerves like a cramp? » exclaims Peter.
« No. I like to learn and to have many clear ideas. It is quite possible we may have to speak to scribes and I do not want to be short of arguments...»
« And do you think that in the moment of need you will be able to pull out the colour required from the sack where you stock all the rags? » asks Peter.
« Rags: the words of the Master? You are swearing? »
« Don't pretend you are scandalized. They are not rags in His mouth; but once they have been mishandled by us they become rags. Try and give a piece of precious byssus to a boy... It will soon become a dirty torn rag. And that is what happens to us. Now if you expect to fish at the right moment the little rag you need, what with the rag, and what with its dirt... uhm! I do not know what you will be up to. »
« Don't worry. That is my business. »
« Oh! You may be sure that I will not worry! I have enough problems of my own. And then...! I am happy providing you cause no harm to the Master. Because, in that case, I would mind also your business...»
« You can do that when I do anything wrong. But that will never happen, because I know how to behave... I am not ignorant...»
« Instead I am, I know. And because I am I do not stock any ballast, to flaunt it later, at the right moment. But I implore God and God will help me for the sake of His Messiah, of Whom I am the least and most faithful servant. »
« We are all faithful » replies Judas haughtily.
« Oh! You are bad! Why do you offend my father? He is old and he is good. You must not do that. You are bad and you frighten me » says Jabez with stern countenance, after being silent and listening carefully.
« And that makes two! » whispers James of Zebedee in a low voice, touching Andrew with his elbow.
Although he has spoken in a low voice, the Iscariot hears him.
« You can see, Master, whether the words of the silly boy of Magdala have left a trace » says Judas raging with anger.
« Would it not be more pleasant to continue listening to the lesson of the Master, instead of behaving like angry kids? » asks peaceful Thomas.
« Of course, Master. Tell us more about Your Mother. Her childhood is so bright! The very reflection of that brilliance makes our souls pure, and I, a poor sinner, need that light so badly! » exclaims Matthew.
« What shall I tell you? There are so many episodes, one more touching than the other...»
« Did She tell You about them? »
« Yes, some. But Joseph told Me many more, as the most beautiful stories he could tell a child, and also Alphaeus of Sarah, who was a few years older than My Mother, and was Her friend during the short period She was at Nazareth...»
« Oh! Please, tell us...» begs John.
They are all sitting in a circle in the shade of the olive-trees, with Jabez in the centre staring at Jesus as if he were listening to a heavenly tale.
« I will tell you about the lesson on chastity that My Mother gave Her little friend and many more people a few days before entering the Temple. A girl in Nazareth, a relative of Sarah's, got married on that day and also Joachim and Anne had been invited to the wedding. Little Mary went with them, and with other children She was to spread loose flower petals on the bride's way. They say that She was most beautiful, as a child, and everybody contented for Her after the joyful arrival of the bride. It was not easy to see Mary every day, as She lived mostly at home, where She loved a little grotto more than any other place, and even nowadays She calls it “the grotto of Her nuptials.” So when She appeared outside, fair-haired, rosy and kind, She was overwhelmed by caresses. They used to call Her “the Flower of Nazareth” or “the Pearl of Galilee” or also “the Peace of God” in remembrance of a huge rainbow, which suddenly appeared as soon as She was born. She was in fact all that, and much more. She is the Flower of Heaven and of creation, the Pearl of Paradise and the Peace of God... Yes, the Peace of God. I am the Peaceful One because I am the Son of the Father and the Son of Mary: the Infinite Peace and the Sweet Peace. On that day everybody wanted to kiss Her and take Her on their laps. And as She was averse to being kissed and touched, She said with kind gravity: “Please, do not rumple Me.” They thought She was talking of Her linen dress, held tight to Her waist, to Her wrists and neck by a blue band, or of Her little wreath of blue flowers, with which Anne had adorned Her head to keep Her light curls in place, and they assured Her that they would not crease Her dress or the wreath. But, sure of Herself, a little three year old woman standing in the middle of a circle of adults, She said seriously: “I am not thinking of what can be mended. I am speaking of My soul. It belongs to God. And it does not wish to be touched but by God.” They objected: “But we are kissing You, not Your soul.” She replied: “My body is the temple of My soul and the Spirit is its priest. People are not allowed to enter the enclosure of priests. Please, do not enter the enclosure of God.” Alphaeus, who was then about eight years old and was very fond of Her, was greatly impressed by that reply and the following day, seeing Her near Her little grotto, he asked Her: “Mary, when You are grown up, would You marry me?” He was still under the excitement of the nuptial feast at which he had been present. And She answered: “I am very fond of you. But I do not see you as a man. I will tell you a secret. I see only the soul of a living being. And I love it so much, with all My heart. But I see only God as the 'True Living Being' to Whom I will be able to give Myself.” That is one of the episodes. »
« “The True Living Being”!!! That is a very deep word! » exclaims Bartholomew.
And Jesus, humbly and smiling replies: « She was the Mother of Wisdom. »
« Was She?... But was She not three years old? »
« She was. I already lived in Her, as God was in Her, in His most perfect Unity and Trinity, since She was conceived. »
« Excuse me if I, a sinner, dare speak, but did Joachim and Anne know that She was the chosen Virgin? » asks Judas Iscariot.
« No, they did not know. »
In that case, how could Joachim say that God had saved Her in advance? Does that not refer to Her privilege over sin? »
« Yes, it does. But Joachim spoke inspired by God, like all the prophets. He himself did not understand the sublime supernatural truth that the Spirit spoke through his lips. Because Joachim was just. So just as to deserve that paternity. And he was humble. There is no justice where there is pride. He was just and humble. He comforted his Daughter out of fatherly love. He taught Her through his wisdom of a priest, as he was such as a guardian of the Ark of God. As a Pontiff he consecrated Her with the sweetest title: “The Immaculate One.” And the day will come when another grey haired Pontiff will say to the world: “She is the Immaculate Conception” and will give this truth to the world of believers, as a dogma which cannot be refuted, so that the Most Beautiful Virgin of God, crowned with stars, clad with the rays of the moon, which are not so pure as She is, brighter than all stars, the Queen of Creation and of God, may shine, fully revealed, in the world which in those days will be sinking deeper and deeper in the grey fog of heresies and vices. Because God-King has as His Queen, in His Kingdom, Mary. »
« So Joachim was a prophet? »
« He was a just man. His soul repeated like an echo what God said to his soul which was loved by God. »
« When are we going to this Mother, my Lord? » asks Jabez with eager eyes.
« This evening. What will you say to Her when you see Her? »
« “I greet You, Mother of the Saviour.” Is that all right? »
« Very good » confirms Jesus caressing him.
« But are we going to the Temple today? » asks Philip.
« We shall go there before leaving for Bethany. And you will stay here and be a good boy. Will you not? »
« Yes, my Lord. »
The wife of Jonah, the caretaker of the olive-grove, who has come near very quietly says: « Why don't you take him. The boy is anxious to come...»
Jesus stares at her without saying anything.
The woman understands and says: « I see! I should still have a little mantle of Mark. I will look for it » and she runs away.
Jabez pulls John's sleeve: « Will the teachers be severe? »
« Oh! no. Don't be afraid. In any case it is not today. In a few days' time, with His Mother, you will be more learned than a doctor » John comforts him.
The others hear and smile at Jabez' concern.
« But who will present him as if he were his father? » asks Matthew.
« Of course I will! Unless... the Master wishes to present him » says Peter.
« No, Simon. I will not present him. I leave that honour to you. »
« Thank You, Master. But... You will be there, too? »
« Certainly. We shall all be there. He is “our” boy...»
Mary of Jonah comes back with a dark violet mantle, which is still good. But what a shade! She says so herself: « Mark never wanted to wear it because he did not like the shade. »
No wonder! It is vile! And poor Jabez with his olive complexion looks ghastly in the violent violet shade. But he cannot see himself... and he is therefore happy to have the mantle in which he can drape himself like an adult.
« The meal is ready, Master. The woman has taken the lamb off the spit just now. »
« Let us go, then. »
And going down from the place where they were, they go into the large kitchen for their meal.