27th March 1946.
Dawn is casting a milky-green luminosity on the vault of heaven, high above the cool silent valley. And its glimmer, which is and is not yet light, reaches the top of the two slopes. It seems to be caressing lightly the highest parts of the Judaean mountains, saying to the old trees which crown them: « Here I am, I am descending from heaven, I am coming from the east, preceding daybreak, and I drive away darkness and bring light, activity and the blessing of a new day granted to you by God.» And the mountain tops are roused by the rustling leaves and the chirping of the first birds awakened by the trembling branches and the first faint light. And dawn descends lower, down to the undergrowth, to the grass, to declivities, lower and lower, greeted by the increasing chirping among branches and the rustling noise of green lizards among the grass. And it finally reaches the little stream, down at the bottom, and changes its dark waters into a dull silvery sparkling that becomes steadily clearer and clearer and more and more brilliant. And in the meantime, up there, in the sky, where the indigo of the night has faded into a greenish pale blue, the first announcement of sunrise appears, making it azure tinged with pink... And a cirrus appears, small, fluffy, already rosy foam...
Jesus comes out of the grotto and looks... He then washes in the stream, He tidies Himself, puts on His clothes, looks into the grotto... But He does not call... Instead He climbs the mountain, and goes to pray on a protruding peak, which is so high that it is possible to see a wide view to the east, now completely rosy at dawn, and to the west still tinged with indigo. He prays... ardently, on His knees, with His elbows on the ground, almost prostrate... And He prays thus, until He hears the voices of the awakened disciples calling Him.
He stands up and replies: « I am coming!» And the echo of the narrow valley repeats several times the echo of the perfect voice. And the valley seems to be spreading over the plain, dimly visible to the west, the promise of the Lord: « I am coming» so that the plain may rejoice in advance.
Jesus sets out with a sigh and a sentence that summarises His long prayer and clarifies it: « Father, comfort Me...»
He descends quickly and when He arrives at the bottom, He greets His apostles with a most kind smile and the usual words: « Peace be with you on this new day.»
« And with You, Master» they all reply.
Judas also is not so grim and solitary, I do not know whether because he is reassured by Jesus' silence, Who has not reproached him and treats him exactly as the others, or because during the night he has worked out a plan to his own advantage. In fact he asks on behalf of everybody: « Are we going to Jerusalem? If we are, we will have to go back a little and cross that bridge. On the other side there is a road that takes one straight to Jerusalem.»
« No. We are going to Emmaus on the plain.»
« Why? And what about Pentecost?»
« There is time. I want to go to see Nicodemus and Joseph, along the plains, towards the sea...»
« But why?»
« Because I have not been there yet and those people are waiting for Me... And because the good disciples wish so. We shall have time for everything.»
« Is that what Johanna told You? Is that why she called You?»
« There was no need for that. They told Me personally at Passover. And I keep My promises.»
« I would not go there... Perhaps they are already in Jerusalem... The festivity is close at hand... And in any case... You might meet some enemies, and...»
« I meet enemies everywhere, they are always close to Me...» and Jesus darts a glance at the apostle, who is His grief...
Judas speaks no more. It is too dangerous to go into details! He realises it and becomes silent.
John and Andrew come back with some little fruits, which seem to belong to the raspberry or strawberry families, but are a little darker, almost like unripe blackberries, and they offer them to Jesus: « You like them. We saw them yesterday evening and we went up now to pick them for You. Eat them, Master. They are good.»
Jesus caresses the two good young apostles who are offering Him the fruit on a large leaf washed in the stream, and who, more than their fruit, offer Him their love. Jesus picks the nicest ones and gives some to each of the apostles who eat them with some bread.
« We tried to get some milk for You. But there are no shepherds about as yet...» says Andrew apologising.
« It does not matter. Let us walk fast so that we may be at Emmaus before it gets very warm.»
And they set out and those who are more hungry continue to eat, while walking along the cool valley, which becomes wider and wider, ending in a very fertile plain, where reapers are already working hard.
« I did not know that Nicodemus had houses at Emmaus» remarks Bartholomew.
« Not at Emmaus. Farther on. Relatives' fields which he inherited...» explains Jesus.
« How beautiful the country is!» exclaims Thaddeus.
It is in fact a sea of golden ears interlaced with orchards, which are a real dream, and with vineyards already promising glorious grapes. Well-watered as it is, because the nearby mountains pour numberless little torrents into it in the months when irrigation is required most, and because it is provided with underground streams, it is a real agricultural Eden.
« H'm! It is more beautiful than last year's» grumbles Peter.
« At least there is water and fruit...»
« The plain of Sharron is even more beautiful» replies the Zealot.
« But is this not it?»
« No, it is after this one. But this one is already affected by it...» The two apostles move away from the group speaking to each other.
« It belongs to Pharisees, does it not?» asks James of Zebedee, pointing at the beautiful country.
« It certainly belongs to Judaeans. They usurped the best estates, taking them off the previous owners in many ways» replies Thaddeus, who perhaps remembers his ancestors' property in Judaea, from which they were driven away suffering a severe loss.
The Iscariot takes offence at the remark and says: « If they were taken off you it is because you, Galileans, are less holy, you are inferior...»
« May I remind you that Alphaeus and Joseph were of the house of David. So much so that the Edict compelled them to go and register at Bethlehem in Judah. And that is why He was born there» calmly replies James of Alphaeus, anticipating a biting reply from his impetuous brother, and pointing at the Lord Who is speaking to Matthew and Philip.
« Oh! Well! I would say that there is good and bad everywhere. In our trade we approached people of all races and I assure you that I have found honest and dishonest people in every race. In any case... why boast of being Judaeans? Did we perhaps want that? H'm! When I was in my mother's womb I knew nothing about being Judaean or Galilean! I was there... and that was all. And when I was born, I was enveloped comfortably in swaddling clothes, without worrying whether I was breathing Judaean or Galilean air... I was aware only of my mother's teat... And you were all like me. So why be upset now, because one was born in the north and another in the south? Do we not all belong to Israel?» says Thomas kindly and rightly.
« You are right, Thomas» replies John. And he concludes: « And now we belong to one stock only: to Jesus'.»
« And He is of Judaean extraction, but was conceived and resides in Galilee, after He was born in Bethlehem, as if He wanted to tell us, through the evidence of events, that He is the Redeemer of all Israel, from the north to the south. And I think that the Most High wanted that to teach us that divisions are against the love for our neighbour and that He has been sent to gather everybody like the brooding-hen mentioned in the Holy Books. Just because He is called “the Galilean”, one ought not to disregard Galileans» says James of Alphaeus kindly but firmly.
Jesus, Who seemed inattentive while speaking to Matthew and Philip, a few steps ahead of the others, turns round and says: « You are right, James of Alphaeus. You understand the Truth and the truths, and the justice of every act of God. Because God, and this should be always borne in mind by everyone, never does anything aimlessly, as He never leaves without a reward what upright people do. Blessed are those who can see the reasons of God even in the least events and the answers of God to the sacrifices of men.»
Peter turns round and is about to speak. But he remains silent and he only smiles at his Master, Who is back in the group of His apostles, as they are now walking on a wide main road between golden fields.
They proceed towards Emmaus, which is already close at hand, a group of white dazzling houses among the golden hue of ripe corn and the green of fertile orchards.
« Master! Master! Stop! Here are Your disciples!» shout voices from afar, and a handful of men, departing from some peasants resting in the shade of an apple-orchard, run towards Jesus along a sunny path. They are Matthias and John, formerly shepherds and later disciples of the Baptist, and with them there are Nicolaus, Abel once a leper, Samuel, Ermasteus and others.
« Peace to you. You are here?»
« Yes, Master. We have been along all the shores of the sea. We are now going towards Jerusalem. Farther north there is Stephen with other disciples. And farther up there is Hermas with others. And Isaac, our little master, is even farther north. At least he was. As Timoneus was in the region beyond the Jordan. But by now they are all about to come to the feast of Pentecost. We thus formed many groups, small ones, but active. And if they should persecute us, they may capture some, but not all of us» explains Matthias.
« You have done the right thing. I was surprised at not finding you anywhere in southern Judaea...»
« Master... You were going there... Who could do better than You? In any case... Oh! Judaea has had more than is needed to become holy!... And yet!... They throw stones at those who take the word of Heaven to them. Elias and Joseph were beaten in the gorges of the Kidron and they went beyond the Jordan to Solomon's house. Joseph was almost killed by a stone that struck his head. They lived for eight days in a deep grotto, with the man You sent and who knew all the secrets of the mountains. Then at night, they slowly passed to the other side...»
The disciples and apostles are excited in recalling and hearing of such persecutions. But Jesus calms them saying: « The Innocents tinged with the purple of their innocent blood the way of the Christ. But that way is to be purpled over and over again, to erase the traces of Evil from the way of God. It is a regal road. Martyrs purple it for My sake. Blessed among the blessed are those who suffer persecutions for My sake.»
« Master, we were speaking to those peasants. Will You speak to them now?» asks John, the ex-shepherd.
« Go and tell them that I will speak at sunset near the gate of Emmaus. The sun prevents Me now. Go. And may God be with you. I will be at the end of this road.»
He blesses them and sets out again seeking shade, because the sun is very warm on the white road, on the sides of which two rows of plane-trees give very little shade.