14th August 1945.
It is still night, a beautiful night with waning moon, when Jesus, the apostles and the women, John of Endor and Ermasteus, silently take leave of Isaac, the only one to be awake, and set out along the shore. The noise of their steps is only a slight creaking of gravel pressed by their sandals, and no one speaks until they have gone a few metres beyond the last house. The people sleeping in it, or in the ones before it, were certainly not aware of the silent departure of the Lord and His friends. There is dead silence. Only the sea speaks to the moon about to set in the west and it tells the sand the stories of its depths with the long wave at high tide, which begins leaving a narrower and narrower dry margin on the beach.
This time the women are in front, together with John, the Zealot, Judas Thaddeus and James of Alphaeus, who help them to get over small rocks spread here and there, which are damp and also slippery with the humidity of the night. The Zealot is with the Magdalene, John with Martha, while James of Alphaeus takes care of his mother and of Susanna, and Thaddeus does not surrender to anybody the honour of taking in his long strong hand – which is like Jesus' – the little hand of Mary to help Her in difficult spots. Each speaks in a low voice to his companion. They all seem to be wishing to respect the sleep of the Earth.
The Zealot is conversing intensely with Mary of Magdala and I can see that Simon stretches out his arms more than once, meaning: « it is so and there is nothing we can do about it » but I cannot hear what they are saying as they are ahead of everybody.
John speaks to his companion only now and again, pointing at the sea and Mount Carmel, the western side of which looks white in the moonlight. Perhaps he is talking of the road they took the last time, skirting Mount Carmel on the other side.
Also James, who is between Mary of Alphaeus and Susanna, is speaking of Mount Carmel. He says to his mother: « Jesus has promised me to climb up there with me alone and to tell me alone something. »
« What does He want to tell you, son? Will you tell me, afterwards? »
« Mother, if it is a secret, I cannot tell you » replies James smiling with his smile which is so tender; his likeness to Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin, is remarkable both with regard to his features and even more to his serene kindness.
« There are no secrets for a mother. »
« In fact I have none. But if Jesus wants me up there, all alone to speak to me, it means that He does not want anyone to know what He is going to tell me. And you, mother, are my dear mother, whom I love so much, but Jesus is above you, as His will is. But, when the time comes, I will ask Him whether I may repeat His words to you. Are you happy? »
« You will forget to ask Him...»
« No, mother. I never forget you, not even when you are far from me. Every time I see or hear something beautiful, I always say: “I wish my mother were here!” »
« My dear! Give me a kiss, son. » Mary of Alphaeus is moved. But emotion does not kill curiosity. After being quiet for a few moments, she makes a fresh assault: « You said: His will. So you know that He wants to tell what His Will is. Come on, you can tell me at least that. He told you that in the presence of everybody. »
« In actual fact I was alone with Him, ahead of the others » says James smiling.
« But the others could hear you. »
« He did not tell me very much, mother. He reminded me of the words and the prayer of Elijah on Mount Carmel: “Of all the prophets of the Lord, I alone am left.” “Hear me, that this people may acknowledge that You are the Lord God.” »
« And what did He mean? »
« How many things you want to know, mother! Go to Jesus, then, and He will tell you » replies James, to parry her embarrassing questions.
« He probably meant that, since the Baptist has been captured, He is the only prophet left in Israel and that God must preserve Him for a long time, so that the people may be taught » says Susanna.
« H'm! I don't believe that Jesus asks to be preserved for a long time. He asks nothing for Himself... Come on, dear James! Tell your mother. »
« Curiosity is a fault, mother; it is useless, dangerous, at times it is sorrowful. Make a nice act of mortification...»
« Alas! Did He mean that your brother will be put in prison, and killed perhaps?! » asks Mary of Alphaeus, who is thoroughly upset.
« Judas is not “all the prophets”, mother, even if, as far as your love is concerned, each son of yours is the whole world...»
« I am thinking also of the others... because you will certainly be among the future prophets. So... so if you are the only one to be left... If you are the only one left, it means that the others, that my Judas... oh!...» Mary of Alphaeus leaves James and Susanna, and she runs back fast, as if she were a young girl, paying no attention to the question Thaddeus asks her.
She arrives in Jesus' group like one who has been chased. « My Jesus... I was speaking to my son... about what You told him... of Mount Carmel... of Elijah... of the prophets... You said... that James will be the only one left... And what will happen to Judas? He is my son, You know? » she says panting because of her anguish and her racing.
« I know, Mary. And I also know that you are happy that he is My disciple. You see that you have all the rights of a mother, and I have them as Master and Lord. »
« That is true... it is true... but Judas is my boy!...» and Mary, foreseeing the future, burst into tears.
« Oh! how badly shed your tears are! But the heart of a mother is forgiven everything. Come here, Mary. Do not weep. I comforted you once before. Also on that occasion I promised you that your grief would obtain great graces from God, for you, for your Alphaeus, for your sons...» Jesus has laid His arm on the shoulder of His aunt drawing her close to Himself... He tells those who were with Him: « Move forward...» When He is alone with Mary Clopas, He resumes speaking: « And I did not tell a lie. Alphaeus died invoking Me. Thus every debt he had with God was cancelled. It was your grief, Mary, that obtained that conversion to his misunderstood relative, to the Messiah Whom he did not recognise before. Your present grief will get your hesitant Simon and your stubborn Joseph to imitate your Alphaeus. »
« Yes, but... What will You do to Judas, to my Judas? »
« I will love him even more than I love him now. »
« No, no. There is a threat in those words. Oh! Jesus! Oh! Jesus!...»
The Blessed Virgin Mary comes back to comfort Her sister-in-law, although She does not know yet the nature of her grief, and when She knows, because when Mary sees Her beside her, she weeps more and informs Her, Our Lady becomes paler than the moon.
Mary of Alphaeus moans: « Will You tell Him, no, no, not death for my Judas...»
Our Lady, Who is deadly pale, says to her: « And can I ask that on your behalf, when I do not ask salvation from death for My own Son? Mary, say with Me: “Your will be done, Father, in Heaven, on the Earth and in the hearts of mothers.” To do the will of God through the destiny of our sons is the redeeming martyrdom of us mothers... In any case... No one said that Judas is to be killed, or killed before you die. How burdensome your present prayer, that he may live to the most longeval age, would be for you, when in the Kingdom of Truth and Love, you will see everything in the light of God and in your spiritualised maternity. I am sure that you then, both as a blessed soul and a mother, would like your Judas to be like My Jesus in His destiny of Redeemer, and you would long to have him soon with you again, forever. Because it is a mother's torture to be separated from her children. So great a torture, that I think it will last, as anxious love, also in Heaven, where we shall be received. »
Mary's crying, so loud in the silence of early dawn, has caused everybody to come back, to learn what has happened, and they thus hear the words of the Blessed Virgin and everybody is moved. Mary of Magdala whispers weeping: « And I gave my mother that torture even here on the Earth. »
Martha weeps saying: « To be separated is sorrowful for both mothers and children. »
Peter's eyes are shining with tears and the Zealot says to Bartholomew: « Wonderful words of wisdom to explain what the maternity of a blessed soul will be! »
« And how things will be considered by a blessed mother: in the light of God and her spiritualised maternity... It takes your breath away as if you were facing a bright mystery » replies Nathanael.
The Iscariot says to Andrew: « Maternity is divested of all sensible weight and takes wings... when described thus. We seem to be seeing our mothers already transformed into inconceivable beauty. »
« That is true. Our mother, James, will love us thus. Can you imagine how perfect her love will be? » says John to his brother and he is the only one to smile brightly, so deeply moved he is at the thought that his mother will be able to love perfectly.
« I am sorry I caused so much sorrow » apologises James of Alphaeus. « But she apprehended more than I said... Believe me, Jesus. »
« I know, I know. But Mary is working on herself by herself, and that was a particularly hard stroke of the chisel. But it will relieve her of so much dead weight » says Jesus.
« Come on, mother, stop weeping. I am sorry that you should suffer like a poor little woman who is unaware of the certainties of the Kingdom of God. You are in no way like the mother of the Maccabean brothers » says Thaddeus reproaching her severely, but he embraces her at the same time and kisses her grey-haired head. « You are like a little girl who is afraid of shadows and of the tales they tell her to frighten her. And yet you know where to find me in Jesus. What a mother! You ought to weep if you had been told that, in future, I was to become a traitor to Jesus, or one who would abandon Him, or would be a damned soul. In that case I agree. You ought to weep tears of blood. But, with the help of God I will never give you such deep sorrow, mother. I want to be with you forever and ever...»
The reproach first, and the subsequent caresses stop the tears of Mary of Alphaeus, who is now rather ashamed of her weakness.
Light, in the transition from night to day, has faded, because the moon has set, but it is not yet daylight. It is twilight. But immediately afterwards light begins to assert itself: at first it is leaden, then greyish, then greenish, afterwards whitish with bluish traces, and finally clear, like an incorporeal silver, and it makes it easy to walk on the damp shingly shore, from which the sea has receded, while it is delightful to contemplate the sea becoming pale blue and on the point of brightening up with facets of gems. And then the air blends its silver with a darker and darker pink, until the golden pink of dawn becomes a reddish pink shower on the sea, on faces, on the country, with brighter and brighter contrasting hues, which reach the perfect climax, which I consider the most beautiful of the day, when the sun bouncing out from the eastern horizon, darts its first rays on mountains and hills, forests, meadows and the large expanses of sea and sky, emphasising each shade, whether it is the whiteness of snow, or remote mountains of indigo changing into jasper green, or cobalt sky attenuating to mix with pink, or sapphire veined with jade and lined with sea pearls. And today the sea is a real prodigy of beauty. It is not dead in dull calm, it is not ruffled by the fury of winds, but it is majestically alive in smiling little thin waves, just marked with ripplings crowned with a tiny crest of foam.
« We shall arrive at Dora before the heat of the day. And we shall depart at sunset. Sisters, your toilsome journey will end tomorrow at Caesarea. And we shall have a rest, too. Your wagon will be certainly waiting for you. We will part... Why are you weeping, Mary? Am I supposed to see all the Maries weep today? » says Jesus to the Magdalene.
« She is sorry to leave You » says her sister excusing her.
« That does not mean that we shall not be meeting again and soon. »
Mary shakes her head. That is not the reason why she is weeping.
The Zealot explains: « She is afraid she will not be able to be good without being near You. She is afraid of... of being tempted too strongly, when You are not near her to keep the demon away. She was telling me a little while ago. »
« Do not be afraid for that. I never withdraw the grace I have granted. Do you want to sin? No? Then do not worry. Be watchful, of course, but be not afraid. »
« Lord... I am weeping because at Caesarea... Caesarea is full of my sins. I can see them all now... My human nature will have much to suffer...»
« I am glad of that. The more you suffer, the better. Because afterwards you will no longer suffer such useless pains. Mary of Theophilus, I remind you that you are the daughter of a strong man, that you are a strong soul and I want to make you most strong. I can bear with the weakness of the other women disciples, because they have always been meek and shy, including your sister. But I will not put up with it in your case. I will work you with fire and on the anvil. Because your character is to be dealt with thus, in order not to spoil the miracle of your will and Mine. Let that be known to you and to all those who among the people present or absent may think that, as I have loved you so much, I may become weak with you. I allow you to weep for repentance and for love. But nothing else. Is that clear? » Jesus is imposing and severe.
Mary of Magdala endeavours to swallow tears and sobs and she goes down on her knees, kisses Jesus' feet and endeavouring to steady her voice she says: « Yes, my Lord. I will do what You want. »
« Get up then and be calm. »