26th January 1946.
« Peace to this house and all the people in it» is the salutation from Jesus as He enters the magnificent wide entrance-hall, all lit up, notwithstanding it is daytime. And the lamps are not unnecessary. Because while it is true that it is daytime and that the sun is dazzling outside, in the streets, and on the whitewashed facades, it is also true that in here the light must be normally dim. In fact the entrance-hall is like a corridor, the length of the house, running from the massive front door to the garden, the greenery of which can be seen at the other end of the corridor, in the bright sunshine. And the garden looks remote, because of the play of perspective. Thus the dim light in the hall must be like a real shadow, particularly for people coming from outside, whose eyes are dazzled by the bright sunshine. Chuza has therefore arranged for the many wide embossed copper pans, fixed on the two walls of the hall at regular intervals, to be fully lit, as well as the central light, a large vessel of pink alabaster with embedded jaspers and other many-coloured precious scales, which, because of the light, coming from inside the transparent alabaster, shine like stars, casting rainbows on the deep-blue walls, on people's faces and on the cipolin floor. And tiny mobile many-coloured stars seem to alight on walls and faces, because the lamp sways gently in the draught of the long hall and thus the facets of the precious scales change position continuously.
« Peace to this house» repeats Jesus, while He proceeds, blessing incessantly servants prostrated to the floor and the guests who are astonished at being gathered in a princely palace, so close to the Master...
The guests! Jesus' idea appears now clearly. The banquet of love, which He wanted to have in the house of the good woman disciple, is a page of the Gospel put into action. There are beggars, lame, blind, old people, orphans, young widows with their little ones hanging on to their skirts or sucking the scanty milk of their undernourished mothers. Johanna's wealth has already taken care of the replacement of their ragged clothes with simple ones, which are, however, new and clean. But if their hair, which has been tidied as a providential step for cleanliness, and their clean clothes make these poor wretches, whom the servants are lining up or helping to reach their seats, look less miserable than they did, when Johanna had them brought to her house from lanes, crossroads, and cart-roads leading to Jerusalem, where their misery was either concealed shamefully or displayed in order to receive alms, there are still visible signs of hardships on their faces, as well as diseases on their bodies, and misfortune and solitude in their eyes...
Jesus passes and blesses them. Each unhappy person receives a blessing, and if Jesus' right hand is raised to bless, His left one is lowered to caress the trembling white heads of old people or the innocent heads of children. He thus goes up and down the hall, blessing everybody, also those who come in while He is already blessing and who, being dressed in rags, hide timorously and shyly in a corner, until the servants kindly take them elsewhere, to be washed and clad with clean clothes, like those who have preceded them.
A young widow passes by with her little group of children... What a pitiful sight! The youngest is completely naked, covered by the worn veil of his mother... the bigger ones have on only what is necessary to be decent. Only the oldest son, a lean tall boy, is wearing a suit worthy of that name, but he is bare-footed.
Jesus watches the woman, then He calls her saying: « Where have you come from?»
« From the plain of Sharron, Lord. Levi has become of age... And I had to take him to the Temple... because his father is dead» and the woman weeps silently, the silent weeping of a woman who has shed too many tears.
« When did your husband die?»
« A year last Shebat. I had been pregnant for two months...» and she swallows her sobs, not to annoy Jesus, bending over her little one.
« So the baby is eight months old?»
« Yes, Lord.»
« What was your husband?»
The woman whispers something in such a low voice, that Jesus does not understand. He bends to hear her and says: « Tell Me, and do not be afraid.»
« He was a farrier in a forge... But he was very ill... he suffered from sores that festered.» And she ends in a very low voice: « He was a Roman soldier.»
« But you are an Israelite?»
« Yes, Lord. But do not reject me as unclean. That is what my brothers did when I went and implored them to have mercy on us when Cornelius died...»
« Be not afraid of that! What do you do now?»
« I work as a servant, if anyone wants me, as a gleaner, a fuller, a hemp-beater... I do anything... to feed the children. Levi will now work as a peasant... if they will take him on... because he is of mixed race.»
« Trust in the Lord!»
« If I had not trusted, I would have killed myself with all my children, Lord!»
« Go, woman. We shall meet again» and He dismisses her. Johanna in the meantime has come and she is on her knees, waiting for the Master to see her. He in fact turns round and sees her. « Peace to you, Johanna. You have obeyed Me to perfection.»
« It is my joy to obey You. But I have not been the only one to assemble the “court” that You wanted. Chuza helped me in every way and so did Martha and Mary. And Eliza, too. Some sent their servants to get what was necessary and to help my servants to gather the guests, some helped the maidservants and servants at the baths to wash “the beloved ones”, as You call them. Now, if You will allow me, I will give everybody a snack, so that they may not starve waiting for their meal.»
« Of course, do. Where are the women disciples?»
« On the upper terrace where I have prepared the tables. Have I done the right thing?»
« Yes, Johanna, you have. We shall all have peace up there.»
« Yes, that is what I thought. In any case, in none of the halls I could have laid tables for so many people... And I did not want to separate them, to avoid jealousy and suffering. Unhappy people are so sensitive and so easily upset... They are one big sore and a glance is enough to make them suffer...»
« Yes, Johanna. You have a heart full of pity and you understand. May God bless you for your sympathy. Are there many women disciples.»
« Oh! All those who are in Jerusalem!... But, Lord... perhaps I have done something wrong... I would like to speak to You privately.»
« Take Me where we can be alone.»
They go into a room, which one understands is Mary and Matthias' play-room, as there are toys scattered everywhere.
« Well, Johanna?»
« O my Lord, I have certainly been thoughtless... But I acted so spontaneously, so impetuously! Chuza has reproached me. But now... One of Plautina's slaves came to the Temple with a tablet. Plautina and her companions were asking whether they could see You. I replied: “Yes, this afternoon in my house.” And they will come... Did I do the wrong thing? Oh! Not with regard to You!... But because of the others, because of those who are all Israel... and they are not love as You are. If I made a mistake, I will see that the situation is rectified... But I am so anxious that the world, the whole world, should love You, that... that I did not consider that You alone are Perfect in the world and that too few people try to imitate You.»
« You did the right thing. Today I will preach to you through deeds. And the presence of Gentiles among the believers in Jesus Saviour will be one of the things to be done in future by those who believe in Me. Where are the children?»
« They are everywhere, Lord» replies Johanna smiling, as she is now reassured, and she concludes: « They are excited by the entertainment and are running everywhere like little happy birds.»
Jesus leaves her, He goes back into the hall, beckons to the men who were with Him, and He sets out towards the garden to go up to the wide terrace.
A joyful activity has filled the house from the underground cellars to the roof. Some people go to and fro with foodstuffs and household goods, with bundles of clothes, with chairs, accompanying guests, replying to those who ask questions, and they are all full of love and joy. Jonathan supervises, watches and advises and he is indefatigable and solemn in his office of superintendent.
Old Esther, who is happy to see Johanna so lively and healthy, is laughing in the middle of a circle of poor children, to whom she gives cakes, while telling them wonderful stories. Jesus stops a moment to listen to the magnificent conclusion of one of them, which says « that God granted much help to good Dawn of May, who never rebelled against the Lord because of the trouble that had come to her house, so that Dawn of May was the salvation and wealth also of her little brothers. Angels used to fill her little bread-bin, and finish the work on the loom to help the good girl, saying: “She is our sister because she loves the Lord and her neighbour. She is to be helped by us.”»
« May God bless you, Esther! I would almost like to stop Myself and listen to your parables! Will you let Me?» says Jesus smiling.
« Oh! My Lord! I must listen to You! But for these little ones I am good enough, although I am a poor old foolish woman!»
« Your just soul is useful also to adults. Go on, Esther, go on...» and He smiles at her while going away.
The guests are by now scattered through the large garden and are having their snack, looking around and at one another with astonishment. They speak exchanging comments on their unexpected good fortune. When they see Jesus pass by, they stand up, if they can do so, or they bow respectfully.
« Eat up, in full freedom and bless the Lord» says Jesus passing by on His way to the gardeners' rooms, where the outside staircase begins, leading to the large terrace.
« Oh! My Rabboni!» shouts the Magdalene running out of a room with her arms full of swaddling clothes and little vests for babies. Her voice is as soft as a golden organ and fills the shady avenue full of festoons of roses.
« Mary, God be with you. Where are you going in such a hurry?»
« Oh! I have ten babies to dress! I have washed them and I am now going to dress them. I will then bring them to You, as fresh as flowers. I must run, Master, because... Can You hear them? They are like ten little bleating lambs...» and she runs away laughing. She looks splendid and serene in her simple refined dress of white linen, tightened at her waist by a thin silver belt and her hair fastened in a simple knot on the nape of her neck, supported by a white ribbon, which is tied in a knot on her forehead.
« How different she is from what she was on the Mountain of Beatitudes!» exclaims Simon Zealot.
In the first flight of steps they meet Jairus' daughter and Annaleah, who are coming down so fast that they seem to be flying.
« Master!», « Lord!» they exclaim.
« God be with you. Where are you going?»
« To get some tablecloths. Johanna's handmaid sent us. Will You be speaking, Master?»
« Oh! run, then, Mirjiam! Let us be quick!» says Annaleah.
« You have all the time you need to do what you have to do. I am waiting for other people. But when did you change your name to Mirjiam?» He says looking at Jairus' daughter.
« Today. Just now. Your Mother gave me it. Because... is that right, Annaleah? This is a great day for four virgins...»
« Yes, it is! Shall we tell the Lord, or shall we let Mary tell Him?»
« Let Mary tell Him. Go, my Lord. Your Mother will tell You» and they run away nimbly, in the prime of youth; they are human in their beautiful figures, but look like angels because of their bright eyes...
On the third flight they meet Eliza of Bethzur, who is coming down, looking very serious, with Philip's wife.
« Ah! Lord!» exclaims the latter. « You give to some people, but You take away from others!... But may You be blessed just the same!»
« What are you talking about, woman?»
« You will soon know... How grievous and how glorious, Lord! You are crippling me and crowning me.»
Philip, who is close to Jesus, says: « What are you saying? What are you talking about? You are my wife and I am entitled to know what is happening...»
« Oh! You will be told, Philip. Go with the Master now.»
Jesus in the meantime asks Eliza whether she has recovered completely. And the woman, whom deep past sorrows have given the stateliness of a sorrowful queen, replies: « Yes, my Lord. But to suffer with peace in one's heart is no pang. And I now have peace in my heart.»
« And you will soon have more.»
« What, Lord?»
« Go, and when you come back you will be told.»
« Jesus is here! Jesus is here!» shout the two children, whose faces are leaning against the railings ornamented with arabesques bordering the terrace on the two sides overlooking the garden, and from which branches of roses and jasmine in bloom are hanging. It is, in fact, a large hanging garden over which a many-coloured velarium has been spread as a protection against the sunshine.
All the people on the terrace who are busy preparing the tables turn round at the shouts of Mary and Matthias, and leaving their work unfinished, they come towards Jesus, to Whose knees the two children are clinging.
Jesus greets the many women who crowd round Him. Among the true and proper disciples or wives, sisters, daughters of the apostles and disciples, there are some less known and familiar, such as the wife of His cousin Simon, the mothers of the donkey drivers of Nazareth, the mother of Abel from Bethlehem in Galilee, Anne of Judas (from the house near lake Merom), Mary of Simon the mother of Judas of Kerioth, Naomi from Ephesus, Sarah and Marcella from Bethany (Sarah is the woman whom Jesus cured on the Mountain of Beatitudes and sent to Lazarus with old Ishmael; I think she is now the handmaid of Mary of Lazarus), then there is the mother of Jaia, the mother of Philip of Arbela, Dorcas, the young mother from Caesarea Philippi and her mother-in-law, Annaleah's mother, Mary of Bozrah, the woman cured of leprosy who has come to Jerusalem with her husband, and many more whose faces are not new to me, but whose names I cannot remember.
Jesus proceeds along the large rectangular terrace, one side of which overlooks the Sixtus and He stops near the low cube-shaped room on the northern side of the terrace, where I think the internal staircase ends. The whole of Jerusalem and its surroundings are visible. It is a magnificent view. All the women disciples and the other women stop laying the tables and have gathered round Him. The servants go on with their work.
Mary is near Her Son. In the golden light filtering through the large velarium spread over most of the terrace and which becomes a delicate emerald light where it reaches faces, after filtering through entangled rose bushes and jasmines forming a pergola, She looks even younger and slimmer; a sister of the younger women disciples, just a little older and as beautiful as the most beautiful of the roses blooming in the hanging garden or in the large flower pots placed around it and containing roses, jasmines, lilies of the valley and other delicate plants.
« Mother, my wife has spoken in a queer way!... What happened, why did she say that she is crippled and crowned at the same time?» asks Philip, who is anxious to know.
Mary smiles kindly looking at him, and although She is averse to familiarities, She takes his hand saying: « Would you be able to give My Jesus what is dearest to you? You really ought to... because He gives you Heaven and the Way to get there.»
« Of course I would, Mother... particularly if what I gave Him would make Him happy.»
« It would. Philip, your daughter also is consecrating herself to the Lord. She told Me and her mother a little while ago, in the presence of many women disciples...»
« What? You!» exclaims Philip dumbfounded pointing his finger at the gentle girl, who clings to Mary as if she wished to be protected. The apostle swallows with difficulty this second blow that deprives him for good of the hope of having grandchildren, He wipes the sudden flow of perspiration caused by the news... and looks at the people around him. He is struggling and suffering.
His daughter moans: « Father... forgive me... and bless me» and she throws herself at his feet.
Philip caresses her brown hair mechanically and clears his throat. At last he speaks: « One forgives children who commit sins... By consecrating yourself to the Master you are not committing a sin... and your poor father can but say to you: “May you be blessed”... Ah! my daughter!... How sweet and terrible is the will of God!» and he bends, lifts his daughter, embraces her, kissing her forehead and hair. He then moves towards Jesus and says to Him: « Here. I am her father. But You are her God! Your right is stronger than mine... Thank You, Lord, for... for the joy that...» and he cannot go on... He kneels at Jesus' feet and bends to kiss them moaning: « No grandchildren... never... My dream!... The smile of my old age!... Forgive my tears, my Lord... I am a poor man...»
« Stand up, My dear friend. And be happy because you are giving the early flowers to the angelical flowerbeds. Come. Come here, between Me and My Mother. Let us hear from Her how this happened, because I can assure you that I am neither to be blamed or praised for it.»
Mary explains: « I know very little Myself. We women were speaking to one another, and as often is the case, they were asking Me about My virginal vow. They were also asking Me what future virgins will be like, which work and which glory I foresaw for them. And I was replying as best I could... And I foresaw for them a life of prayer and of relief to the suffering caused to My Jesus by the world. I said: “It will be the virgins who will support the apostles and will purify the foul world, clothing and scenting it with their purity; they will be the angels singing praises to cover up the blasphemy of the world. And Jesus will be happy, and will grant graces to the world and will have mercy on it, thanks to these lambs spread among wolves...” and I was saying other things.
Jairus' daughter then said to Me: “Give me a name, Mother, for my future as a virgin, because I cannot allow any man to have pleasure out of my body, which was revived by Jesus. This body of mine belongs to Him only until its flesh will be in the grave and its soul in Heaven”, and Annaleah said: “That is what I also felt I should do. And now I feel happier than a swallow, because all ties are broken.” It was then that your daughter, Philip, said: “I will be like you, too: a virgin forever!” Her mother - there she is coming - pointed out to her that one cannot take such a decision just like that. But she would not change her mind. And when she was asked whether it was an old idea she had, she replied “no” and to those who asked how she got it, she said: “I do not know. It was as if a beam of light had pierced my heart and I understood of what love I love Jesus.”»
Philip's wife asks him: « Have you heard that?»
« Yes, woman. Our flesh moans... whereas it should rejoice because this is its glorification. Our heavy flesh has procreated two angels. Do not weep, woman. You said yourself that He has crowned you... A queen does not weep when she receives her crown...»
But Philip is weeping as well, and many more, both men and women, are weeping, now that they are all gathered on the terrace. Mary of Simon has burst into unrestrained weeping in a corner. Mary of Magdala is weeping in another corner, pulling and twisting her linen dress, from which she mechanically tears off the threads trimming the hem. Anastasica is weeping and she tries to conceal her sorrowful face with her hand.
« Why are you weeping?» asks Jesus. No one replies.
Jesus calls Anastasica and asks her once again. She replies: « Because, Lord, for the nauseating pleasure of one night only, I lost the possibility of being one of Your virgins.»
« Every condition is good, if one serves the Lord in it. In the future Church both virgins and matrons will be required. They are both useful for the triumph of the Kingdom of God in the world and for the work of their brother priests. Eliza of Bethzur, come here. Comfort this very young woman...» And with His own hands He places Anastasica between Eliza's arms. He watches them while Eliza caresses Anastasica, who relaxes in her motherly arms and He then asks: « Eliza, do you know her story?»
« Yes, Lord. I do. And I feel sorry for her, for she is like a dove without nest.»
« Eliza, do you love this sister?»
« Do I love her? Yes, I do, very much. But not as a sister. She could be my daughter. And now that I am holding her in my arms, I feel as if I were becoming the happy mother of days gone by. To whom are You going to entrust this gentle gazelle?»
« To you, Eliza.»
« To me?» The woman unfastens her arms to look at the Lord incredulously.
« To you. Do you not want her?»
« Oh! Lord! My Lord!»... Eliza crawls on her knees towards Jesus and she does not know what to say or how to express her joy.
« Stand up and be a holy mother to her and let her be a holy daughter to you, and may you both proceed in the way of the Lord. Mary of Lazarus, you were so cheerful a little while ago, why are you weeping now? Where are the ten flowers you were going to bring Me?...»
« They are replete with food and are sleeping in their purity, Master... And I am weeping because I shall never have the purity of virgins and my soul will weep forever, without ever being sated... because I have sinned...»
« My forgiveness and your tears make you purer than they are. Come here and weep no more. Leave tears to those who have something of which they are ashamed. Come on. Go and get your flowers; and you may go as well, you mothers and virgins. Go and tell the guests of God to come up here. We will have to dismiss them before the Gates close, because many of them live out in the country.»
They all obey and depart, so that on the terrace there are left only Jesus, Who is caressing Mary and Matthias, Eliza and Anastasica, who a little farther off are holding each other's hands, looking at each other, smiling and weeping for joy, Mary of Simon over whom Mary bends in pity, and Johanna, who is standing at the door of the room, looking towards Jesus in an uncertain attitude. The apostles and disciples have gone downstairs with the women to help the servants bring up the long staircase the crippled, blind, lame and old people bent with age.
Jesus raises His head, which was bent over the two children, and sees Mary stooped over Judas' mother. He gets up and goes towards them. He lays His hand on the grey head of Mary of Simon and asks: « Why are you weeping, woman?»
« Oh! Lord! I gave birth to a demon! No mother in Israel will be as grieved as I am!»
« Mary, another mother and for the same reason as yours, said to Me and still says those words. Poor mothers!...»
« Oh! My Lord, is there therefore another man, who, like my Judas, is wicked and cruel to You? Oh! It cannot be! He has You, and yet he is addicted to foul practices. Although he lives in Your atmosphere, he is lustful and a thief and he will perhaps become a homicide. He... oh! His mind is deceitful! He lives in agitation. Make him die, Lord, out of pity! Make him die!»
« Mary, your heart makes him worse than he is. Fear is driving you insane. But you must be calm and reasonable. What proof have you of his behaviour?»
« I have no proof of anything against You. But it is an avalanche which is about to fall. I caught him and he could not deny the evidence that... Here he is... For pity's sake, be quiet! He is looking at me. He suspects. He is my grief. There is no mother in Israel more unhappy than I am!...»
Mary whispers: « I am... because I add the sorrows of all unhappy mothers to My own... Because My sorrow is caused by the hatred of the whole world, not of one man only.»
Johanna calls Jesus and He goes towards her; in the meantime Judas approaches his mother, who is still being comforted by Mary, and he lashes her: « Have you been able to show your frenzy and calumniate me? Are you happy now?»
« Judas! Is that how you speak to your mother?» asks Mary severely. It is the first time I see Her thus...
« Yes. Because I am tired of her persecution.»
« Oh! My son, it is not persecution! It is love! You say that I am ill. But it is you who are ill! You say that I calumniate you and I listen to your enemies. But you are wronging yourself, because you follow and are friendly with wicked people who will ruin you. Because you are weak, son, and they are aware of your weakness... Listen to your mother. Listen to Ananias, who is old and wise. Judas! Have mercy on me! Judas!!! Where are you going, Judas?!»
Judas, who is almost running across the terrace, turns round and shouts: « Where I am useful and respected» and he rushes down the staircase, while the unhappy mother, leaning over the parapet, shouts to him: « Don't go! Don't go! They want to ruin you! Son! My son!...»
Judas has arrived downstairs where the trees prevent his mother from seeing him. He reappears for a moment in an empty space before entering the hall.
« He has gone!... Pride devours him!» moans his mother.
« Let us pray for him, Mary. Let us pray together, the two of us...» says the Blessed Virgin holding the hand of the sad mother of the future deicide.
Meanwhile the guests begin to come up... and Jesus is speaking to Johanna. « All right. Let them come. It is much better if they have put on Jewish clothes, to avoid rousing the prejudices of many people. I will wait for them here. Go and call them» and leaning against the doorpost He watches the arrival of the guests, whom apostles and disciples of both sexes kindly lead to the tables according to a pre-arranged order. In the centre there is a low table for children, parallel to which on both sides are all the other tables.
And while the blind, lame, crippled and old people bent with age, and the widows take seats, with the stories of their sorrows impressed on their faces, large baskets and small chests, which have been turned into cradles and look as pretty as flower baskets, are brought in, with the babies of poor mothers sleeping in them. And Mary of Magdala, who is now in better spirits, approaches Jesus saying: « The flowers have arrived. Come and bless them, my Lord.»
At the same time Johanna appears at the top of the inside staircase saying: « Master, here are the heathen women disciples.» They are seven women, wearing plain dark clothes like those of Jewish women. Each has a veil over her face and a mantle reaching down to her feet. Two of them are tall and stately, the others are of middle height. But when they take their mantles off, after greeting the Master reverently, Plautina, Lydia and Valeria are easily recognised, as well as Flavia, the freedwoman who wrote Jesus' words in Lazarus' garden; then there are three strangers. One of them, who looks as if she were accustomed to giving orders, kneels down saying to the Lord: « And may Rome prostrate itself at Your feet with me.» One is a buxom matron about fifty years old. The last one is a girl who is as slim and beautiful as a wild flower.
Although the Roman ladies are dressed like Jewesses, Mary of Magdala recognises them and she whispers: « Claudia!!!» and looks at her with wide-open eyes.
« It is I. I am tired of hearing His words from other people. Truth and Wisdom are to be drawn straight from their source.»
« Do you think that they will recognise us?» Valeria asks Mary of Magdala.
« I do not think so, unless you betray your identities by calling one another by name. In any case I will put you in a safe place.»
« No, Mary. Let them be at the tables, serving the beggars. No one will think that patrician ladies are serving the poor and lowest people in the Jewish world» says Jesus.
« Your sentence is a wise one, Master. Because pride is inborn in us.»
« And humility is the clearest sign of My doctrine. Those who want to follow Me must love Truth, Purity and Humility, they must be charitable to everybody and heroic in defying the opinion of men and the violence of Tyrants. Let us go.»
« Forgive me, Rabbi. This girl is a slave and the daughter of slaves. I ransomed her because she is of Jewish extraction and Plautina is keeping her in her own house. But I wish to offer her to you, because I think that it is the right thing to do. Her name is Eglah. She belongs to You.»
« Take her, Mary. Later we will decide what to do... Thank you, woman.»
Jesus goes on the terrace to bless the children. The ladies arouse much curiosity. But dressed in almost poor garments and combed in Jewish style, they do not awaken suspicion. Jesus goes to the centre of the terrace, to the children's table and He prays, offering the food to the Lord on behalf of everybody, He blesses it and tells them to begin eating.
The apostles, disciples, women disciples and ladies are the servants of the poor, and Jesus sets the example turning up the wide sleeves of His red tunic and looking after the children with the help of Mirjiam of Jairus and John. The mouths of so many undernourished people are very busy but their eyes are all turned towards the Lord. When it begins to get dark, the large velarium is removed and servants bring lamps, although they are not yet necessary.
Jesus moves about the tables. He encourages everybody with words and with His own help. He passes several times near the two stately ladies, Claudia and Plautina, who humbly break bread for guests who are blind, paralytic or maimed or they help them to drink wine; He smiles at His virgins who are looking after the women, and at the mother-disciples who kindly assist the unhappy people; He smiles at Mary of Magdala who is doing her very best at the table of some old men, the most sad of all the tables, as it is full of coughing and trembling people, whose toothless mouths chew food with their gums and slaver. He assists Matthew who is shaking a child, as a crumb of a cake, which he was sucking and biting with his new teeth, has gone down the wrong way. And He congratulates Chuza, who arrived at the beginning of the meal and is now carving meat and serving it like an expert waiter.
The meal is over. The more colourful faces and the brighter eyes of the poor people clearly show their satisfaction.
Jesus bends over an old trembling man and asks him: « What thought is making you smile, father?»
« I was just thinking that it is not a dream. Up to a little while ago I thought I was sleeping and dreaming. But now I feel that it is really true. But who makes You so good, that You make Your disciples so kind? Long live Jesus!» he shouts finally.
And all the voices of the poor wretches, and they are hundreds, shout: « Long live Jesus!»
Jesus goes once again towards the centre of the terrace and He opens His arms wide, beckoning to them to be quiet and still and He begins to speak, sitting down with a child on His knees.
« Yes, long live Jesus, not because I am Jesus. But because Jesus means the love of God, Who became flesh and descended among men to be known and to make known the love that will be the sign of the new era. Long live Jesus, because Jesus means Saviour And I will save you. I will save everybody, rich and poor, children and old people, Israelites and heathens, everybody, provided that you give Me your will to be saved. Jesus is for everybody, not just for this one or that one. Jesus belongs to everybody. He belongs to all men and is for all men. I am merciful Love and sure Salvation. What must one do to belong to Jesus and thus be saved? Few things. But great things. Not great in the sense that they are difficult, like things accomplished by kings. They are great because they want man to put new vigour and faith into his life to do them and to belong to Jesus. Thus love, humility, faith, resignation, pity are required. Now, you disciples, what great thing have You done today? You may say: “Nothing. We served a meal.” No. You have served love. You have humbled yourselves. You have treated as brothers unknown people of all races, without asking them who they are, whether they are healthy or good. And you have done that in the name of the Lord. Perhaps you were expecting great words from Me, for your education. I made you do great things. We began the day with prayer, we have helped lepers and beggars, we have worshipped the Most High in His House, we have begun brotherly agapes and we have taken care of pilgrims and poor people, we have served because to serve for love is to be like Me, Who am the Servant of the servants of God, a Servant to the extent of being destroyed by death in order to serve you with salvation...»” Jesus is interrupted by shouting and shuffling of feet. A group of excited Israelites runs up the staircase. The Roman ladies who are best known, that is, Plautina, Claudia, Valeria and Lydia, withdraw cautiously covering their faces with their veils. The disturbers rush onto the terrace and seem to be looking for I wonder what.
Chuza, who feels offended, faces them and asks: « What do you want?»
« Nothing concerning you. We are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, not for you.»
« Here I am. Can you not see Me?» asks Jesus putting down the child and standing up imposingly.
« What are You doing here?»
« You can see yourselves. I am doing what I teach, and I teach what is to be done: to love the poor. What have you been told?»
« We heard shouts of sedition. And as there is sedition wherever You are, we came to see.»
« There is peace where I am. The shout was: “Long live Jesus”.»
« Exactly. And both at the Temple and at Herod's palace they thought that people were conspiring here against...»
« Against whom? Who is the king of Israel? Neither the Temple, nor Herod. Rome rules here and whoever thinks of becoming king where Rome rules, must be mad.»
« You say that You are a king.»
« Yes, I am a king. But not of this kingdom. It is too trivial for Me! Also the Empire is too trivial. I am the King of the Kingdom of Heaven, of the Kingdom of Love and of the Spirit. Go in peace. Or you may stay, if you so wish, and learn how one reaches My Kingdom. Here are My subjects: the poor, the unhappy, the oppressed; and the good, the humble, the charitable. Stay here and join them.»
« But You always feast in splendid houses, among beautiful women and...»
« That's enough! You cannot throw out innuendos against the Rabbi and insult Him in my house. Go out!» thunders Chuza.
But the slender figure of a veiled girl jumps onto the terrace from the inside staircase. She runs as lightly as a butterfly as far as Jesus, where she drops her veil and mantle, throwing herself at His feet and trying to kiss them.
« Salome!» shouts Chuza and other people do likewise.
Jesus has withdrawn so vigorously to avoid her contact, that His seat turns over and He takes advantage of the situation to put it between Himself and Salome as a partition. His eyes are so phosphorescent and dreadful that they rouse fear in everybody.
Salome smirking impudently says: « Yes, it is I. The acclamation was heard in the Palace. Herod has sent word to tell You that he wants to see You. But I have forestalled his messenger. Come with me, Lord. I love You so much and I am so anxious to have You! I am flesh of Israel, too.»
« Go back to your house.»
« The Court is waiting for You to honour You.»
« This is My Court. I do not know any other Court or other honours» and with His hand He points at the poor people sitting at he tables.
« I have brought You gifts for it. Here are my jewels.»
« I do not want them.»
« Why are You refusing them?»
« Because they are filthy and offered for a filthy purpose. Go away!»
Salome stands up, she is dumbfounded. She casts a quick glance at the Terrible Most Pure One, Who fulminates her with His arm stretched out and eyes flashing fire. She looks furtively at everybody and sees derision or disgust on everybody's face. The Pharisees are petrified watching the potent scene. The Roman ladies dare come forward to have a better view.
Salome makes a last attempt: « You approach even lepers...» she says submissively and imploringly.
« They are diseased. You are a wanton girl. Go away!»
This last « go away!» is so powerful that Salome picks up her veil and mantle and stooping and crawling she goes towards the staircase.
« Be careful, Lord!... She is powerful... She might be harmful to You» whispers Chuza in a low voice.
But Jesus replies in a very loud voice, so that everybody, and the expelled girl first of all, may hear: « It does not matter. I would rather be killed than be allied with vice. The perspiration of a lewd woman and the gold of a prostitute are poisons of hell. A cowardly alliance with the mighty ones is sinful. I am Truth, Purity and Redemption. And I will not change. Go. Show her out.»
« I will punish the servants who let her in.»
« Do not punish anybody. One only is to be punished: the girl. And she is punished. And she should know, and you all should know that I am aware of her intentions, which make Me sick. Let the snake go back to her hole. The Lamb is going back to His gardens.»
He sits down. He is perspiring. He then says: « Johanna, give an offering to each of them, so that their life may not be so sad for a few days... What else can I do for you, o children of sorrow? What do you want Me to give you? I can read your hearts. Peace and health to the sick ones who can believe!»
There is a short pause, then a cry... and many stand up completely cured. The Jews who had come to catch Him are amazed and in the general enthusiasm for the miracle and for Jesus' purity no one pays any attention to them, when they go away.
Jesus smiles kissing the children. He then dismisses the guests, but He holds back the widows and speaks to Johanna on their behalf. Johanna takes note and invites them for the following day. They go away, too. The last to go are the old people...
The apostles, the disciples of both sexes and the Roman ladies remain with Jesus, Who says: « That is how future meetings must be. Words are not needed. Let the evidence of facts speak to spirits and minds. Peace be with you.»
He goes towards the inside staircase and disappears followed by Johanna and the others.
At the foot of the staircase He meets Judas, who says: « Master, do not go to Gethsemane! Your enemies are looking for You there. Well, mother, what do you say now? You accuse me, but if I had not gone, I would not have found out about the snare that has been laid for the Master. Let us go to another house!»
« Come to ours, then. Only the friends of God enter Lazarus' house» says Mary of Magdala.
« Yes. Let those who were at Gethsemane yesterday come to Lazarus' house with his sisters. Tomorrow we will take the necessary measures.»