19th October 1945.
The loom is idle because Mary and Syntyche are busy sewing the cloth brought by the Zealot. The material has been cut into pieces which have been folded and laid in an orderly pile on the table, shade by shade, and now and again the women take one piece and baste it on the table, so that the men have been pushed back towards the corner of the idle loom; they are close to the women but are not interested in their work.
The apostles James and Judas of Alphaeus are also there and are watching the busy women, without asking any questions, but not without curiosity, I think. The cousins speak of their brothers, and particularly of Simon, who has come with them as far as Jesus' door and then gone away « because his son is not well», says James, to mitigate the sad news and excuse his brother. But Judas is more severe and says: « That is why he should have come. But he also seems to have become dull-witted. Like all the Nazarenes, after all, if we except Alphaeus and the two disciples, about whose present whereabouts I wonder. It is clear that nothing else is good in Nazareth, and what was good has all been spat out, as if it tasted unpleasant to our town...»
« Do not say that» begs Jesus. « Do not poison your soul. It is no fault of theirs...»
« Whose fault is it, then?»
« Of many things... Do not be inquisitive. Not everybody in Nazareth is hostile. Children...»
« Because they are children.»
« Because they are women. But neither children nor women will assert Your Kingdom.»
« Why not, Judas? You are wrong. Today's children will be tomorrow's disciples and will propagate the Kingdom all over the world. And women... Why can they not do it?»
« You certainly cannot make apostles of women. At most they may be women disciples, who will assist disciples, as You said.»
« You will change your mind about many things in future, My dear brother. But I will not even attempt to make you change it. I would clash with a mentality which comes to you as the result of centuries of wrong conceptions and preconceptions concerning women. I only ask you to observe and make a note of the differences which you see between disciples and women disciples and to watch how they respond to My teaching. You will see, beginning with your mother, who we can say was the first disciple in order of time and of heroism, and still is, as she bravely makes headway against the whole town which sneers at her because she is faithful to Me, and she resists the voice of her own blood which spares her no reproach because she is faithful to Me, and you will see that women disciples are better than you disciples.»
« I admit that, it is true. But which women disciples are there in Nazareth? Alphaeus' daughters, the mothers of Ishmael and Aser and their sisters. And that is all. Too few. I would rather not come back to Nazareth not to see all that.»
« Poor mother! You would give her deep sorrow» says Mary intervening in the conversation.
« That's true» says James. « She hopes so much to reconcile our brothers to Jesus and to us. I don't think that she wishes anything else. But we shall certainly not do it by staying away. So far I have listened to you by remaining alone. But as from tomorrow I want to go out and approach people... Because if we are to evangelize even Gentiles, shall we not evangelize our own town? I refuse to believe that it is so wicked and cannot be changed.»
Judas Thaddeus does not reply but he is obviously annoyed.
Simon Zealot who has been silent all the time, intervenes: « I do not wish to insinuate a suspicion. But let me ask you a question to relieve your minds. My question is: are you sure that in the stiffness of Nazareth no alien powers are involved, which have come from outside and which work satisfactorily here on a factor which, if men reasoned according to justice, should be the best guarantee that the Master is the Holy Man of God? The knowledge of the perfect life of Jesus, a citizen of Nazareth, should make it very easy for the Nazarenes to accept Him as the promised Messiah. I, and with me many of my age here in Nazareth, have known, more than you have, several alleged Messiahs, at least by repute. And I can assure you that their private lives discredited the most stubborn assertion of their Messianism. Rome persecuted them fiercely as rebels. But apart from their political ideas, which Rome could not allow where she rules, those false Messiahs deserved being punished for many private reasons. We stirred their blood and supported them because they helped to satisfy our spirit of rebellion against Rome. We countenanced them because, dull as we are, we thought - until the Master did not clarify the truth, and unfortunately, even so, we still do not believe as we ought to, that is completely - we thought that they were the promised “king”. They lulled our dejected souls with hopes of national independence and reconstruction of the kingdom of Israel. But, oh! how miserable! What a fleeting and corrupt kingdom it would have been?! No, in actual fact to call those false Messiahs kings of Israel and founders of the promised Kingdom, was to deeply humiliate the Messianic idea. In the Master a holy life is joined to profound doctrine. And Nazareth is aware of that, as no other town is. Neither do I think of accusing Nazareth of misbelief in His supernatural birth, with which the Nazarenes are not acquainted. But His life!... Now, so much hatred, so much impenetrable resistance, nay, so much increased resistance... could it not originate from hostile manoeuvres? We know Jesus' enemies. We know what they are worth. Do you think that they have been inactive or absent only here, when they have preceded us, or marched side by side with us, or followed us everywhere to destroy the work of the Christ? Do not accuse Nazareth of being the only culprit. But weep for it, for it has been misled by Jesus' enemies.»
« What you have said, Simon, is very true. Weep for it...» says Jesus. And He is very sad.
John of Endor remarks: « You are quite right also in stating that a favourable factor changes into an unfavourable one, because the thoughts of man are seldom according to justice. The first obstacle here is the humble birth, the humble childhood, the humble boyhood, the humble youth of our Jesus. Man forgets that real values are concealed under modest appearances whereas nonentities are disguised as great people in order to impose themselves on the crowds.»
« It may be... But nothing will change my opinion of my fellow citizens. Whatever they have been told, they should have judged the Master by His real deeds and not by the words of unknown people.»
There is a long silence, broken only by the noise of cloth being divided into strips by the Blessed Virgin to make borders. Syntyche has never spoken, but has been most attentive. Her attitude is always one of deep respect and reservedness, and it is not quite so rigid only with Mary and the boy. But the boy has fallen asleep sitting on a little stool at Syntyche's feet, with his head on his folded arm resting on her knees. She does not move and waits for Mary to hand her the strips.
« What an innocent sleep... He is smiling» remarks Mary bending over the sleeping child.
« I wonder what he is dreaming» says Simon smiling.
« He is a very intelligent boy. He learns quickly and he wants lucid explanations. He asks very shrewd questions and wants clear answers on everything. I admit that at times I am embarrassed in giving him an answer. Certain topics are above his age and sometimes they are above my capability to explain them» says John.
« Sure! Like that day... Do you remember, John? You had two vexing pupils that day! And very ignorant» says Syntyche smiling quietly and looking at the disciple with deep eyes.
John smiles too and says: « Yes. And you had a very poor teacher, who had to call the true Teacher to help him... because in none of the books which he had read, had that silly teacher found the answer to give to a child. Which proves that I am still an ignorant teacher.»
« Human science is still ignorance, John. The teacher was not inadequate, but what they had given him in order to be a teacher was not sufficient. Poor human science! How mutilated it looks to me! It makes me think of a deity which was honoured in Greece. Only pagan materialism could believe that the Greeks would possess the goddess of Victory forever, because she was wingless! Not only they stripped Victory of her wings, but they deprived us of our freedom... It would have been better if she had had her wings, in our belief. We could have believed that she was capable of flying and stealing celestial thunderbolts to strike our enemies. But in the state she was she gave us no hope, but only dejection and sadness. I could not look at her without suffering... And she seemed to be suffering and looked humiliated by her mutilation. She looked a symbol of sorrow, not of joy... And she was. And man does to Science what he did to Victory. He cuts off its wings, which could achieve supernatural knowledge and thus give him the key to discover many secrets of knowledge and of creation. They believed and believe that they can keep it a prisoner by cutting off its wings... And have thus made it dull and deficient... Winged Science would be Wisdom. As it is, it is only partial understanding.»
« And did My Mother reply to you that day?»
« Yes, She did, with perfect lucidity and chaste words, suitable to be heard by a boy and two adults of different sex, so that none of us had to blush.»
« What was it about?»
« The original sin, Master. I wrote Your Mother's explanation, so that I would remember it» says Syntyche, and John of Endor also says: « So did I. I think it will be one of the points we will be asked to clarify, if we go among the Gentiles one day. But I do not think I will be going because...»
« Why, John?»
« Because I will not live long.»
« But would you go willingly?»
« More than many people in Israel, because I am not biased. And also... Yes, also because I have set a bad example among the Gentiles at Cintium and in Anatolia. I would have liked to do some good where I did wrong. The good to be done: take Your word there and make You known... But it would have been too great an honour... I do not deserve it.»
Jesus looks at him smiling but does not say anything in that connection. He asks: « And have you no other questions to ask?»
« I have one. It occurred to me the other evening when You were talking to the boy about idleness. I endeavoured to find an answer, but I was not successful. I intended to wait until the Sabbath and ask You, when our hands are not active and our souls, in Your hands, are elevated to God» says Syntyche.
« You may ask Me now, while we are awaiting bedtime.»
« This is it, Master. You said that those who become slack in their spiritual work grow feeble and are predisposed to spiritual diseases. Is that right?»
« Yes, woman.»
« Now that appears to me to be in contrast with what I have heard from You and from Your Mother on original sin, its effects in us and the fact that we will be freed from it through You. You taught me that Redemption will cancel the original sin. I do not think that I am wrong if I say that it will not be cancelled in everybody, but only in those who believe in You.»
« Which is true.»
« So I will not take into account the others, but only one of those who have been saved. I will consider him after the effects of Redemption. His soul is no longer stained with original sin. He is therefore once again in the possession of Grace as our First Parents were. Does that, then, not give his soul a strength unassailable by any weakness? You will say: “Man commits personal sins also.” I agree. But they will vanish as well through Your Redemption. I will not ask You how. But I suppose that You will leave some means, some symbols... as evidence that Your Redemption has actually taken place; and I do not know how it will happen, although what is referred to You in the Holy Book makes one shudder, and I hope that it will be a symbolical suffering, confined to the morale, although moral grief is not a false impression and is perhaps more dreadful than physical pain. You will leave some means, some symbols. Every religion has them, and at times they are called mysteries... The baptism, at present in force in Israel, is one, is it not?»
« It is. Also in My Religion there will be signs of My Redemption to be applied to souls to purify, strengthen, enlighten, support, nourish and absolve them, but with a different name from the one mentioned by you.»
« So? If they are absolved also of personal sins, they will always be in grace... So how can they be weak and predisposed to spiritual diseases?»
« I will make a comparison for you. Let us take a new born baby, who is healthy and strong and was born of very healthy parents. He has no physical hereditary taint. His body is perfect both with regard to its skeleton and its organs and his blood is wholesome. He has therefore all the necessary requisites to grow strong and sound, also because his mother has plenty nourishing milk. But in the early days of his life he suffered from a very serious disease, of unknown origin. It was a real deadly disease. He recovers with difficulty by the mercy of God, Who keeps him alive when life was on the point of departing from his little body. Well, do you think that later that boy will be as strong as if he never had had that disease? No, he will suffer from an everlasting state of debility. Even if it is not evident, it will still be there and he will be predisposed to diseases with greater ease than if he had never been ill. Some organ of his will not be as wholesome as previously. And his blood will not be quite so strong and pure as previously. And thus he will catch illnesses more easily. And such illnesses, every time he contracts them, will make him more exposed to be taken ill. The same applies in the spiritual field. The Original sin will be cancelled in those who believe in Me. But their souls will still have an inclination to sin, which they would not have had, had there been no Original sin. It is therefore necessary to continuously watch and take care of one's soul, as a solicitous mother does with her little son, who has been left weak by an infantile disease. So you must not be idle, but always active to grow stronger in virtue. If one falls into sluggishness or tepidity, one will be more easily seduced by Satan. And each grave sin, which is like a serious relapse, will always predispose one to diseases and spiritual death. But if Grace, restored by Redemption, is assisted by an active indefatigable will, it will remain. Nay, it will increase, because it will be associated with the virtue achieved by man. Holiness and Grace! Which safe wings to fly to God! Have you understood?»
« Yes, my Lord. You, that is the Most Holy Trinity, give the basic Means to man. Man with his work and care must not destroy it. I understand. Every grave sin destroys Grace, that is, the health of the spirit. The signs which You will leave us, will give health back, that is true. But an obstinate sinner, who does not struggle to avoid sin, will become weaker each time, even if he is forgiven each time. One must therefore be vigilant in order not to perish. Thank You, Master... Marjiam is waking up. It's late...».
« Yes. Let us pray all together and then we will go to rest.»
Jesus stands up, imitated by everybody, also by the boy still half asleep. And the « Our Father» resounds loud and harmonious in the little room.