12th July 1945.
The sun is blazing down on the countryside and is scorching the ripe corn drawing a scent from it, which reminds one of the smell of bread. There is a vague smell in the air, the smell of sunshine, of laundry, of crops, of summer.
Because every season, I could say every month, and even every hour of the day has its smell, as each place has its own, if one has sharp senses and a keen spirit of observation. The smell of a winter day with a biting cold wind is quite different from the mellow smell of a foggy winter day, or of a snowy one. And how different is the smell of springtime that comes and announces itself by means of a scent, which is not a scent, and is very different from the smell of winter. One gets up in the morning and the air has a different smell: the first breath of springtime. And so forth for the smell of orchards in blossom, of gardens, of corn, down to the warm smell of vintage and then, as an intermezzo, the smell of earth after a storm...
And what about the hours? It would be foolish to say that the smell of dawn is like that of noon, or that the latter is like that of the evening or night. The first is fresh and virginal, the second is pleasant and jolly, the third is tired and saturated with all the smells exhaled by everything during the day; the last one, the night one, is calm and cosy, as if the Earth were a huge cradle taking in its little ones to rest.
And what about places? Oh! the smell of a seashore is so different at dawn and in the evening, at noon and at night, when the sea is stormy or calm, if the beach is pebbly or sandy! And the smell of seaweed, which appears after tides, and the sea seems to have opened its bowels to let us breathe the stench of its depths. That smell is so different from that of inland plains, which differs from that of hilly places, which is different from the smell of high mountains.
Such is the infinity of the Creator Who impressed a sign of light, or colour, or scent, or sound, or shape, or height on each of the infinite things that He created. O infinite beauty of the Universe, I now only see you through the visions and the remembrance of what I saw, loving God and praying Him through His works and the joy I felt watching them, how vast, mighty, inexhaustible and ever fresh you are. You are never tired and never tire anyone. Nay, man is renewed watching you, o Universe of my Lord, he becomes better and purer, he is elevated and he forgets... Oh! I wish I could always contemplate you and forget the inferior part of men, loving them in and for their souls and leading them to God! And so, following Jesus, Who is going with His apostles across this plain full of crops, I digress once again allowing myself to be carried away by the joy of speaking of my God through His magnificent works. That is love, too, because one praises what one loves in a person or simply praises the person one loves. The same applies to creature and Creator. Who loves Him, praises Him, and the more one loves Him the more one praises Him for Himself and for His works. But I will now order my heart to be silent and I will follow Jesus, not as a worshipper, but as a faithful chronicler.
Jesus is walking through the fields. It is a hot day. The place is desert. There is not a soul in the fields. There are only ripe ears of corn and a few trees here and there. Sunshine, corn, birds, lizards, green tufts of grass, which is still in the calm of the air, are the only things to be seen around Jesus. On one side of the main road along which Jesus is walking – a dusty dazzling ribbon between the fields undulating with corn – there is a little village, on the other side a farm. Nothing else.
Everybody is hot and proceeds in silence. They have taken off their mantles but as they are wearing woollen tunics, however light they may be, they suffer the heat just the same. Only Jesus, His two cousins and the Iscariot are wearing linen or hempen clothes. Jesus' and the Iscariot's garments are of white linen, whereas those of Alphaeus' sons look thicker and heavier than linen and they are also dyed in a darker ivory shade, exactly the shade of unbleached hemp. The others are wearing their usual robes and are drying their perspiration with the linen cloth which covers their heads.
They reach a thicket of trees at a crossroads. They stop in the healthy shade and drink avidly out of their flasks.
« It is as warm as if it had been on the fire » grumbles Peter.
« I wish there was a little stream here! But there is absolutely nothing! » sighs Bartholomew. « I will have none left before long. »
« I think I would say that it is better to walk on the mountains » moans James of Zebedee, who is flushed with heat.
« A boat is the best of all. It is cool, restful, clean, ah! » Peter's heart flies back to his lake and his boat.
« You are right. But there are sinners on the mountains as well as on the plains. If they had not driven us away from the Clear Water and had not persecuted us so closely, I would have come here between Tebeth and Shebat. But we shall soon be on the seaside. The air is cooled there by the open sea wind » says Jesus comforting them.
« Eh! We need it! We are like dying pikes here. But how can the corn be so beautiful when there is no water? » asks Peter.
« There is underground moisture which keeps the soil damp » explains Jesus.
« It would be better if it was above ground instead of under. What am I going to do with it, if it is down there? I have no roots! » says Peter impulsively and they all laugh.
Judas Thaddeus becomes serious and says: « The soil is as selfish as some souls, and it is equally arid. If they had allowed us to stop in that village and spend the Sabbath there, we would have enjoyed shade, water and rest. But they drove us away...»
« And we would have had food as well. Now we have not even that. And I am hungry. I wish there was some fruit! The fruit trees are all close to the houses. And who is going to pick it? If the people here are in the same mood as those over there...» says Thomas, pointing at the village they left behind, to the east.
« Take my portion of food. I am not very hungry » says the Zealot.
« You may take also Mine » says Jesus. « Those who feel more hungry, should eat. »
But when the food portions of Jesus, of the Zealot and of Nathanael are put together, they look very scanty, as one can tell from the dismayed looks of Thomas and the younger ones. But they nibble silently at their tiny portions.
The patient Zealot goes towards a spot where a row of green plants on the parched soil suggests the presence of moisture. There is in fact a trickle of water in the bottom of a ditch, just a trickle, which is bound to disappear before long. He shouts to his distant companions to come and refresh themselves, and they all rush there, and following the intermittent shade of a row of plants on the bank of the half dry brook, they are able to refresh their dusty feet, and wash their perspired faces. But first of all they fill their empty flasks and leave them in the water, in the shade, to keep them cool. They sit down at the foot of a tree and being tired they doze off.
Jesus looks at them lovingly and sympathetically and shakes His head. The Zealot, who has gone to drink once again, notices His gesture and asks Him: « What is the matter, Master? »
Jesus stands up, He goes towards the Zealot and clasping him with one arm He takes him towards another tree saying: « What is the matter? I grieve at your fatigue. If I were not sure of what I am doing to you, I could never set My mind at peace while causing you so much trouble. »
« Trouble? No, Master! It is a joy to us. Everything vanishes following You. We are all happy, believe me. There is no regret, there is no...»
« Be quiet, Simon. Humanity remonstrates also in good people. And from a human point of view, you are not wrong in remonstrating. I have taken you away from your homes, from your families, from your business and you came thinking that it was going to be quite different to follow Me... But your present remonstration, your internal protest will calm down one day, and you will then realise that it was good to go through fog and mud, through dust and dog-days, persecuted, thirsty, without food, following a persecuted, hated, slandered Master... and worse still. Everything will seem beautiful to you then. Because your minds will be different, and you will see everything in a different light. And you will bless Me for leading you along My difficult way...»
« You are sad, Master. And the world justifies Your sadness, but we are no part of it. We are all happy...»
« All? Are you sure? »
« Are You of a different opinion? »
« Yes, Simon, I am. You are always happy. You have understood. Many others have not. See those who are sleeping? Do you know how many thoughts they are turning over in their minds also while sleeping? And all those among the disciples? Do you think they will be faithful until everything is accomplished? Look: let us play this old game that you certainly played when a boy (and Jesus picks a round fully ripe dandelion growing among the stones. He raises it gently to His mouth, blows and the dandelion dissolves into tiny umbrellas, which wander in the air with their little tufts on top of the tiny handles). See? Look... How many have fallen on My lap as if they were in love with Me? Count them... They are twenty-three. They were at least three times as many. And the others? Look. Some are still wandering, some have fallen because of their weight, some, which are proud of their silvery plume, are haughtily rising higher, some are falling into the mud that we made with our flasks. Only... Look, look... Of the twenty-three that were on My lap, seven more have gone. That hornet flying by was enough to blow them away!... What were they afraid of? Or by what were they allured? Were they afraid of its sting? Or were they allured by its beautiful black and gold hues, or by its graceful appearance, its iridescent wings?... They have gone... Following a deceitful beauty. Simon, the same will happen to My disciples. Some will go because of their restlessness, some because of their inconstancy, their pride, their dullness, their frivolity, their lust for filth, some for fear, some because of their foolishness. Do you think that in the crucial hour of My mission I shall have beside Me all those who now say to Me: “I will come with You”? The tiny tufts of the dandelion, which My Father created, were more than seventy... and now there are only seven left on My lap, because some more have been blown away by this puff of wind that has caused the thinner stems to flutter away... It will be like that. And I am thinking of how much you have to struggle to be loyal to Me... Come, Simon. Let us go and look at those dragonflies dancing over the water. Unless you prefer to have a rest. »
« No, Master. Your words have grieved me. But I hope that the cured leper, the persecuted man whom You have rehabilitated, the solitary whom You have gifted with company, the nostalgic man longing for love to whom You have opened Heaven and the world, may find and give love, I hope that that man will not abandon You... Master... what do You think of Judas? Last year You wept with me because of him. Then... I do not know... Master, never mind those two dragonflies, look at me, listen to me. I would not say this to anybody. I would not tell my companions, my friends. But I will tell You. I am not successful in loving Judas. I must admit it. He rejects my desire to love him. He does not hold me in contempt, on the contrary he is even too courtly with the old Zealot who he realises is more skillful than the others in knowing men. But it is the way he behaves. Do you think he is sincere? Tell me. »
Jesus is silent for a few moments as if He were enchanted by the two dragonflies that resting on the surface of the water form a tiny rainbow with their iridescent elytra, a precious rainbow as it attracts a curious midge, which is swallowed by one of the voracious insects, which, in turn, is immediately snatched and devoured together with the midge, by a toad or frog, lying in wait. Jesus stands up, as He had almost lain down to see the little tragedies of nature and says: « It is just like that. A dragonfly has strong jaws to feed on herbs and strong wings to catch gnats, and a frog has a large mouth to swallow dragonflies. Each has his own and makes use of it. Let us go, Simon. The others are waking up. »
« But You have not replied to me, Master. You did not want to. »
« I did! My old wise man, meditate and you will find...» And Jesus goes from the ditch towards His disciples who are waking up and looking for Him.