23rd June 1945.
Jesus is walking fast with His disciples towards Lazarus' town, along a shady road which links the Mount of Olives to Bethany. One could say that the green ramifications of the mountain stretch as far as the countryside of Bethany. Jesus is recognised even before entering the town and voluntary messengers run in all directions to inform people of His arrival. Thus Lazarus and Maximinus arrive running from one side, Isaac with Timoneus and Joseph from another, and the third group to arrive is Martha with Marcella, who lifts her veil to bend down and kiss Jesus' tunic. Immediately after Mary of Alphaeus and Mary Salome reach the spot, they greet the Master and then embrace their sons. Little Jabez, still held by the hand by Jesus, is tossed about by so much rushing and watches everything dumbfounded. John of Endor, feeling like a stranger, withdraws to the end of the group and stands aside. Suddenly, in the lane leading to Simon's house, Jesus' Mother comes forward.
Jesus drops Jabez' hand and gently pushes His friends to one side, to hasten towards Her. The well known words resound in the air, like a solo of love above the whispering of the crowd: « Son! »; « Mother! » They kiss each other and in Mary's kiss there is the anguish of a mother who has been afraid for a long time and now that the terror, which had seized her, is dissolving, she feels the tiredness of the effort she made, and evaluates the risks He has run.
Jesus, Who understands, caresses Her saying: « Beside My angel I had Yours, Mother, watching over Me. No harm could have befallen Me. »
« May the Lord be praised for that. But I suffered so much! »
« I wanted to come sooner, but in order to obey You, I had to come a different way. But it was a good thing, because Your order, Mother, bore good fruit, as usual. »
« It was Your obedience, Son! »
« It was Your wise order, Mother...» They smile at each other like two lovers.
Is it possible that this Woman is the Mother of this Man? Where are the sixteen years of difference in age? The freshness and grace of Mary's face and of Her virginal body make Her a sister of Her Son Who is in the fullness of a handsome manliness.
« Are You not asking Me why it bore good fruit? » asks Jesus smiling all the time.
« I know that My Jesus conceals nothing from Me. »
« My dear Mother! » He kisses Her again...
People have kept away a few yards pretending not to be watching the scene. But I wager that there is not one of all the eyes that seem to be looking elsewhere that does not cast sidelong glances at the loving scene.
The one who is most keen in watching is Jabez, whom Jesus left when He ran to embrace His Mother, and who has been left all alone, because owing to the quick succession of questions and answers, everybody's attention was diverted from the poor boy... He looks, then bends his head, endeavours to restrain his tears... but he cannot and bursts out weeping, moaning: « Mummy! Mummy! »
Everybody turns round, Jesus and Mary are the first, and everybody endeavours to help or find out who the boy is. Mary of Alphaeus rushes towards him with Peter – they were together – and they both ask: « Why are you crying? »
But before Jabez can catch his breath and speak while shedding so many tears, Mary has run towards him and taken him in Her arms saying: « Yes, my little child, your Mother! Do not cry any more... and excuse Me if I did not see you before. My friends, here is My little son...» It is obvious that Jesus, in the few seconds while approaching the boy, must have said to Her: « He is a little orphan I brought with Me. » Mary realised the rest.
The boy is still weeping, but not so disconsolately, and as Mary is holding him in Her arms and kissing him, he ends up by smiling while his face is still wet with tears.
« Let me dry those tears of yours. You must not cry any more! Give Me a kiss...»
Jabez was expecting nothing but that and after being caressed by bearded men, he is overjoyed in kissing Mary's smooth cheek.
Jesus has been looking for John of Endor and when He sees him, He goes to get him in his remote corner. And while all the apostles are greeting Mary, Jesus comes towards Her, holding John of Endor by the hand and He says: « This is the other disciple, Mother. Your command gained these two sons for You. »
It was Your obedience, Son » repeats Mary and She greets the man saying: « Peace to you. »
The man, the coarse restless man of Endor, who has changed so much since that morning when Judas' whim took Jesus to Endor, completely divests himself of his past while bowing to Mary. I think it is so, because his face, after bowing, looks really serene and truly « at peace ».
They all set out towards Simon's house: Mary with Jabez in Her arms, Jesus holding John of Endor by the hand, and then, around them and behind them, Lazarus and Martha, the apostles with Maximinus, Isaac, Joseph, and Timoneus.
They enter the house on the threshold of which Simon's old servant greets Jesus and his master with deep respect.
« Peace to you, Joseph, and to this house » says Jesus, lifting His hand to bless after laying it on the old servant's white head.
Lazarus and Martha, after their first expression of joy, are somewhat sad and Jesus asks them: « Why, My friends? »
« Because You are not staying with us and because everybody comes to You except the soul that we would like to be Yours. »
« Fortify your patience, your hope and your prayers. After all, I am with you. This house!... This house is but the nest from which the Son of man will fly every day to His dear friends, so close in space, but if we consider the situation in a supernatural way, infinitely closer in love. You are in My heart and I am in yours. Can we be closer than that? But we will be together this evening. Please sit at My table. »
« Oh! Poor me! And I am idling about! Come, Salome, there is a lot to be done! » The exclamation of Mary of Alphaeus makes everybody laugh while Jesus' good relative gets up immediately to her work.
Martha joins her: « Don't worry about the food, Mary. I will go and give the necessary instructions. Just lay the table. I will send you enough chairs and what is necessary. Come, Marcella. I will be back at once, Master. »
« I saw Joseph of Arimathea, Lazarus. He is coming here on Monday with some friends. »
« Oh! Well, You are my guest on that day! »
« Yes. He is coming to spend the day with us, but also to arrange a ceremony concerning Jabez. John: take the boy up to the terrace. He will enjoy himself there. »
John of Zebedee, who is always obedient, gets up at once and shortly afterwards the boy can be heard chattering and running about on the terrace that surrounds the house.
« The child » Jesus explains to His Mother, His friends, the women among whom there is also Martha, who has rushed back so that she would not miss one moment of joy near the Master, « is the grandson of one of Doras' peasants. I passed through Esdraelon...»
« Is it true that the fields are a complete ruin and that he wants to sell them? »
« They are a ruin. Whether he wants to sell them, I do not know. One of Johanan's men mentioned it to me. But I do not know whether it is certain. »
« If he should sell them... I would willingly buy them to have a refuge for You also in the middle of that nest of snakes. »
« I do not think that you will be successful. Johanan is ready to buy them. »
« We shall see... But go on. Who are the peasants? He scattered all the former servants. »
« Yes, he did. The present ones come from his land in Judaea, at least the old man, the boy's relative, does. The boy was kept in a wood, like a wild animal, so that Doras could not see him... and he had been there since last winter...»
« Oh! poor boy! But why? » The women are all moved.
« Because his father and mother were buried under the landslide near Emmaus. The whole family: father, mother and his little brothers. He survived because he was not at home. They took him to the old father. But what could a peasant of Doras do? Isaac, also in this case, you spoke of Me as a saviour. »
« Was that wrong? » asks Isaac humbly.
« You did the right thing. God wanted it. The old man gave me the boy, who is to become of age in the next few days. »
« Oh! poor little thing! So tiny at twelve years of age?! My Judas was twice his size at that age... And Jesus? What a beautiful flower! » says Mary of Alphaeus.
And Salome: « Also my children were much stronger! »
Martha whispers: « He is really tiny! I thought he was not ten yet. »
« Eh! Hunger is a nasty thing. And he must have suffered from starvation since he was born. And now... What could the old man give him, if they are all dying of starvation there? » says Peter.
« Yes, he suffered a great deal. But he is good and intelligent. I took him to comfort both the old man and the boy. »
« Are you going to adopt him? » asks Lazarus.
« No. I cannot. »
« Well, I will take him. »
Peter sees his hopes vanish and he utters a really deep groan: « Lord! Everything to him? »
Jesus smiles: « Lazarus, you have already done so much and I am grateful to you. But I cannot entrust this child to you. He is “our” boy. He belongs to all of us. He is the joy of the apostles and of the Master. Besides, he would be brought up in luxury here. I want to make him a present of My royal mantle: “honest poverty.” The poverty that the Son of man wanted for Himself, to be able to go near the greatest miseries without mortifying anybody. You have had a gift from Me also recently...»
« Ah! Yes! The old patriarch and his daughter. The woman is very active, the old man very good. »
« Where are they now? I mean: in which place? »
« They are here, in Bethany. Do You think I was going to send away the blessing You had sent me? The woman weaves linen. Light skillful hands are required for that job. Since the old man insists in working, I put him at the beehives. Yesterday he had a long golden beard, didn't he, sister? The bees swarmed and clung to his long beard and he was speaking to them as if they were his daughters. He is happy. »
« I am sure he is! May you be blessed! » says Jesus.
« Thank You, Master. But that boy will cost You a lot. You will allow me at least to...»
« I will see to his clothes for the ceremony » shouts Peter. They all laugh at his impulsive reaction.
« All right. But he will need other clothes. Simon, be good. I have no children either. Allow Martha and me to find some solace seeing to some little garments to be made for him. »
Peter, who has been thus besought, is moved at once and he says: « His clothes... yes... But his dress for Wednesday... I am going to get it. The Master promised me and He told me that I would be going with His Mother to buy it tomorrow. » Peter explains everything in detail lest there should be some unexpected change to his disadvantage.
Jesus smiles and says: « Yes, Mother. Please go with Simon tomorrow. Otherwise he will die of heart-failure. You will give him some advice as to what he should choose. »
« I said: a red dress and a green sash. He will look lovely. Much better than the shade he has on now. »
« Red will be all right. Also Jesus was dressed in red. But I would say that a red sash would be better on a red dress, or at least it should be embroidered in red. » says Mary gently.
« I was saying green because I see that Judas, who is swarthy, looks very smart with those green stripes on his red tunic. »
« But these are not green, my friend! » laughs Judas.
« No? What shade are they then? »
« This hue is called “agate vein.” »
« How do you expect me to know that?! They look green to me. I saw that hue also on leaves...»
The Most Holy Virgin interrupts benignly: « Simon is right. It is the exact shade of leaves at the first rain in the month of Tisri...»
« That's it! And since leaves are green I was saying that it was green » concludes Peter happily. The Sweet Mother has settled also this small matter peacefully.
« Will you call the boy, please? » begs Mary. And the child arrives at once with John.
« What is your name? » asks Mary caressing him.
« It is... it was Jabez. But I am expecting a new one...»
« Are you? »
« Yes, Jabez wants a name meaning that I have saved him. You will find one for him, Mother. A name of love and of salvation. »
Mary is pensive... She then says: « Marjiam (Maarhgziam). You are the little star in the sea of those saved by Jesus. Do you like it? Thus it will remind you also of Me besides of Salvation. »
« It is beautiful » says the boy joyfully.
« But isn't it a woman's name? » asks Bartholomew.
« With “l” at the end instead of “m”, when this tiny drop of Mankind is grown up, you can change his name into the name of a man. For the time being he has the name which his Mother has given him. Is that right? »
The boy says « yes » and Mary caresses him.
Her sister-in-law says to Her: « This wool is good » and she feels Jabez' mantle. « But its shade! What do You think? I would dye it very dark red. It will come out lovely. »
« We will do it tomorrow evening. Because he will have his new mantle. We cannot take it off him now. »
Martha says: « Would you come with me, my little boy? I will take you to a place near here, to see many things, then we will come back here...»
Jabez does not object. He never refuses... but he seems somewhat afraid to go with the woman who is almost unknown to him. He says shyly and gently: « Could John come with me? »
« Of course...»
They go away. And during their absence the various groups continue their conversations. They narrate, comment and sigh on human harshness. Isaac tells what he has been able to find out about the Baptist. Some say he is at Machaerus, some at Tiberias. His disciples have not yet come back...
« But did they not follow him? »
« Yes. But near Doco those who had captured him crossed the river with their prisoner and no one knows whether they went up to the lake or down to Machaerus. John, Matthias and Simeon are moving around to find out and they will certainly not abandon him. »
« And you, Isaac, will certainly not abandon this new disciple. He will stay with Me for the time being. I want him to celebrate Passover with Me. »
« I will celebrate it in Jerusalem, in Johanna's house. She saw me and offered a room for me and my companions. They are all coming this year. And we shall be there with Jonathan. »
« Also those from Lebanon? »
« Yes. Perhaps John's disciples will not be able to come. »
« Johanan's men are coming, did you know? »
« Are they? I will be at the door, near the priests offering sacrifices. I will see them and take them with me. »
« They will be arriving at the last moment. Their time is very limited. But they have a lamb. »
« I have one, too. A marvellous one. Lazarus gave me it. We will sacrifice this one and they can keep theirs for their journey back home. »
Martha comes back with John and the boy who is wearing a little white linen dress and a red overall. On his arm he is carrying a mantle which is also red.
« Do you remember them, Lazarus? See, things are always useful. »
They smile at each other.
Jesus says: « Thank you, Martha. »
« Oh! My Lord! I have a mania for keeping things. I inherited it from my mother. I still have many of my brother's robes. They are dear to me because they were handled by my mother. Now and again I take one to give it to a child. I will now give them to Marjiam. They are a little long for him, but they can be shortened. When Lazarus became of age, he did not want them any more... The typical passing fancy of a child... and he got his own way because my mother adored her Lazarus. »
She caresses her brother fondly and Lazarus takes her beautiful hand, kisses it and says: « And do you not? » They smile at each other.
« That is a gift of Providence » remark many.
« Yes, my whim has done a good turn. Perhaps I shall be forgiven because of that. »
Dinner is ready and everyone sits at his place...
… It is late in the night when Jesus can speak to His Mother in peace. They have gone up to the terrace, and sitting one beside the other, hand in hand, they speak and listen to each other. Jesus is the first to give an account of the things that happened. Then Mary says: « Son, after Your departure, immediately after, a woman came to Me... She was looking for You. A great misery. And a great redemption. But the poor creature needs to be forgiven by You so that she may persevere in her decision. I entrusted her to Susanna saying that she had been cured by You. That is true. I could have kept her with Me if our house were not like a sea-port, where all the boats come in... and many with evil intentions. And the woman is disgusted with the world by now. Do You want to know who she is? »
« She is a soul. But tell Me her name that I may receive her without any mistake. »
« She is Aglae. The Roman mime and sinner whom You began to save at Hebron, who looked for You and found You at the Clear Water and she has already suffered because of her revived honesty. How much she has suffered!... She told Me everything... How horrible!...»
« Her sin? »
« That... and I would say how much more: how horrible the world is. Oh! My Son! Do not trust the Pharisees in Capernaum! They wanted to use the unhappy creature to harm You. They would have used even her...»
« I know, Mother... Where is Aglae? »
« She will be coming with Susanna before Passover. »
« Very well. I will speak to her. I will be here every evening and with the exception of Passover evening, which I am reserving for the family, I will wait for her. All You need do is tell her to wait, if she comes. It is a great redemption, as You said. And such a spontaneous one! I solemnly tell You that in few hearts My seed took root with the same strength as it did in this unhappy soil. And later Andrew helped it to grow until it was fully formed. »
« She told Me. »
« Mother, what did You feel when that ruin approached You? »
« Disgust and joy. I seemed to be on the brink of a hellish abyss, and at the same time I felt as if I were being carried into the blue sky. You are God indeed, My Son, when You work such miracles! »
They remain silent, under the very bright stars and the pale light of the first quarter of the moon, which is tending to become full. Silent, loving each other and resting in each other's love.