1st November 1945.
It is along the same road, which in any case is the only one in this village that looks like an eagle's nest on a solitary mountain top, that they set out again the following day, tormented by cold wet weather hindering their march. John of Endor also is compelled to get off the cart, because a downhill road is more dangerous than an uphill one, and if the donkey by itself would be in no danger, the weight of the cart, thrust forward by the slope, makes the situation very awkward for the poor animal. The apostles also are in trouble today, as they perspire not pushing but holding back the vehicle, which might crash down causing a disaster or, at least, the loss of the load.
The road is dreadful for about one third of its total length, the last stretch towards the valley. It then forks, and the branch running westwards becomes more comfortable and level. They stop to rest wiping their perspiration and Peter rewards the donkey, which is shaking its ears trembling and panting, obviously engrossed in deep meditation on the painful situation of donkeys and the whims of men who choose certain roads. Apparently Simon of Jonah ascribes to such considerations the thoughtful expression of the animal and to raise its spirits he hangs from its neck a bag of small beans, and while the donkey crushes the hard food with greedy relish, the men also eat bread and cheese and drink milk of which their little flasks are full.
The meal is over. But Peter wants to water « his Antonius that deserves more honour than Caesar» he says, and taking a bucket from the cart he fetches some water from a torrent flowing towards the sea.
« We can go now... And we would like to trot the donkey because I think that the country is flat beyond that hill... But we cannot. However, we shall proceed fast. Come on, John, and you, woman. Get on and let us go.»
« I am getting on as well, Simon, and I will drive. You will all follow us...» says Jesus as soon as the two are in the cart.
« Why? Are You not well? You look so pale!...»
« No, Simon. I want to speak to them alone...» and He points at the two, who have also turned pale, as they realise that the moment of farewell has come.
« Ah! All right. Get on and we will follow You.»
Jesus sits on the plank used as a seat by the driver and says: « Come here beside Me, John. And you, Syntyche, come near Me...»
John sits on the Lord's left and Syntyche at His feet, almost on the edge of the cart, with her back to the road, and her face raised towards Jesus. In her present position, sitting on her heels, relaxed as if she were burdened by a weight exhausting her, her hands abandoned on her lap and clasped to hold them still, as they were trembling, with her tired face and most beautiful dark violet eyes dimmed by the many tears shed, in the shade of her veil and mantle lowered over her forehead, she seems a desolate Pieta.
Not to mention John!... I think that if his scaffold were at the bottom of the road, he would not be so upset.
The donkey is now ambling and is so obedient and sensible that Jesus is not compelled to keep a close watch on it. And Jesus takes advantage of the situation to drop the reins and take John's hand and lay the other one on Syntyche's head.
« My children, I thank you for all the joy you have given Me. This has been for Me a year strewn with flowers of joy, because I was able to take your souls and hold them in front of Me, to hide the ugly things of the world, to scent the air corrupted by the sins of the world, to instill kindness into Myself and confirm My hope that My mission is not useless. Marjiam, you, My John, Ermasteus, you, Syntyche, Mary of Lazarus, Alexander Misace and others... The triumphal flowers of the Saviour, Whom only people with upright hearts can perceive as such... Why are you shaking your head, John?»
« Because You are good and You are putting me amongst people with right hearts. But my sin is always present to me...»
« Your sin is the fruit of the flesh stirred by two wicked people. Your heart's righteousness is the substratum of your honest ego, desirous of honest things, but unfortunate because they were taken away from you by death or by wickedness, but even so your ego was not less alive under the burden of so much grief. It was sufficient for the voice of the Saviour to penetrate into the depth of your heart, where your ego was languishing, and you sprang to your feet, shaking every burden off you, to come to Me. Is it not so? So you are righteous of heart. More, much more than others who do not have your sin, but have many worse ones, because they were premeditated and stubbornly preserved alive...
May you, therefore, you the flowers of My triumph as Saviour, be blessed. In this dull hostile world, which sates the Saviour with bitterness and disgust, you have represented love. Thank you! In the most grievous hours of this year I bore you in mind to be comforted and supported. In the more grievous ones, which I am to suffer, I will bear you even more in mind. Until My death. And you will be with Me forever. I promise you.
I entrust you with My dearest interests, that is, the preparation of My Church in Asia Minor, where I cannot go, because the place of My mission is here, in Palestine, and also because the backward mentality of the mighty ones in Israel would injure Me in every possible way, if I went elsewhere. I wish I had more Johns and more Syntyches for other countries, so that My apostles would find the soil already ploughed to spread the seed in the hour to come!
Be kind and patient, and strong at the same time, in order to penetrate and tolerate. You will come across dullness and mockery. Do not let that discourage you. Say: “We are eating the same bread and drinking the same chalice as our Jesus is.” You are not worth more than your Master and you cannot expect to have a better lot. This is the greatest fortune: to share the lot of the Master. I give you one order only: do not be disheartened, do not endeavour to give yourselves an answer to why you have been sent away; you are not being sent into exile, as John is inclined to think, nay you are being placed on the threshold of your Fatherland before everybody else, because you are perfected servants, as no one else is. Heaven has come down upon you like a maternal veil and the King of Heaven is already welcoming you to His bosom, and will protect you under His bright wings of love, as the first-born of the numberless swarm of the servants of God, of the Word of God, Who in the name of the Father and of the Eternal Spirit blesses you now and forever.
And pray for Me, the Son of Man, Who is going towards all the tortures of the Redeemer. Oh! My Humanity is about to be crushed by the most bitter experience!... Pray for Me. I will need your prayers... They will be caresses... They will be professions of love... They will help Me, that I may not go to the extent of saying: “The whole of Mankind is made of demons”...
Goodbye, John! Kiss Me goodbye... Do not weep... I would have kept you with Me, at the cost of tearing bits of flesh off My body, had I not seen all the good that this separation will bring about both for you and for Me. Eternal good... Goodbye, Syntyche. Yes, you may kiss My hands, but bear in mind that, if the difference of sex prevents Me from kissing you as a sister, I give My brotherly kiss to your soul... And let your souls wait for Me. I will come. I will be close to your work and to your souls. I certainly will, because if My love for man has closed My divine Nature in mortal flesh, it did not limit its freedom. And as God I am free to go to those who deserve to have God with them. Goodbye, My children, The Lord is with you...»
And He tears Himself away from the convulsive grip of John, who had grasped His shoulders, and of Syntyche, who was clinging to His knees, and He jumps from the cart, waving goodbye to His apostles, running away along the road He came, as fast as a chased deer... The donkey has stopped, feeling that the reins, which were previously on Jesus' knees, had dropped completely. The eight astonished apostles have a so stopped and are looking at the Master Who is moving farther and farther away.
« He was weeping...» whispers John.
« And He was as pale as a dead body...» whispers James of Alphaeus.
« He has not even taken His sack... There it is on the cart...» remarks the other James.
« And what will He do now?» asks Matthew.
Judas of Alphaeus shouts at the top of his powerful voice: « Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!...»The echo of the hills replies far away: « Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!...» But the green trees at a bend of the road conceal the Master, Who does not even look back to see who is calling Him...
« He has gone... All we can do is to go as well...» says Peter desolately, getting on the cart and taking the reins to spur the donkey.
And the cart starts off and its squeaking is mingled with the rhythmical sound of the iron shoes of the donkey and the anguished weeping of the two disciples, who forlorn on the bottom of the cart are moaning: « We will never see Him again, never, never again...»