10th April 1946.
Jesus enters the house of His host, not far from the Temple, towards the district at the foot of the Tophet. It is the decorous, rather austere house of a strict observant, nay, of an exaggerated observant. I believe that even nails have been placed in number and position as prescribed by one of the six hundred and thirteen precepts. There is no design on the cloths, not one ornament on the walls, not a knick-knack... not one of the little things, which in the houses of Joseph and Nicodemus and of the very Pharisees in Capernaum, are present to decorate them. Here... the spirit of the owner breathes in every part. It is icy, so bare it is of ornament. The dark heavy furniture, shaped like sarcophagi, makes it dull. It is repellent. A house which does not welcome, but is hostile to those entering it.
And Helkai points it out boasting. « See, Master, how observant I am? Everything says so. Look: curtains without any design, unadorned furniture, no sculptured vases or chandeliers imitating flowers. There is everything, but everything complies with the precept: “You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on the earth or in the waters under the earth.” And it is so in the house and also with regard to my garments and those of the household. For instance, I do not approve of the needlework on the tunic and mantle of this disciple of Yours (the Iscariot). You will object: “Many wear them.” Or: “It is only a Greek fret.” All right. But with those angles and curves, it is too strong a reminiscense of the signs of Egypt. Horrible! Diabolic cyphers! Necromantic signs! Beelzebub's monogram! It is not an honour to you, Judas of Simon, to wear them, or to You, Master, to allow him.»
Judas replies with a sly sarcastic laugh. Jesus replies humbly: « Rather than the signs of their clothes, I watch that there are no signs of horror in their hearts. But I will ask, nay I ask My disciple now, to wear less ornate garments in order not to scandalise anybody.»
Judas has a good gesture: « In actual fact my Master has told me several times that He would prefer my clothes to be more simple. But I... I did what I liked, because I like to be dressed thus.»
« Which is bad, very bad. It's very bad that a Galilean should teach a Judaean, particularly with regard to you, as you were one of the Temple... Oh!» Helkai appears to be utterly scandalised and his friends join in with him.
Judas is already tired of being kind. He retorts: « Oh! in that case there are many pompous things that you members of the Sanhedrin should forgo! If you had to remove all the drawings with which you have covered the faces of your souls, you would really look ugly.»
« How can you say that?»
« As one who knows you.»
« Master! Do You hear him?»
« I do, and I say that humility is necessary on both sides, as well as truth. And you ought to be indulgent to one another. God only is perfect.»
« Well said, Rabbi!» says one of the friends... A feeble solitary voice in the group of Pharisees and doctors.
« It's wrong, instead» replies Helkai. « Deuteronomy is clear in its curses. It says: “A curse on the man who carves or casts an idol, a detestable thing, the work of a craftsman's hands and...”»
« But these are clothes, they are not sculptures» replies Judas.
« Be silent. Your Master will speak. Helkai, be fair and make the necessary distinction. Cursed be he who makes idols, not he who makes patterns copying the beautiful things which the Creator put in creation. We pick flowers to adorn...»
« I don't pick any and I do not want to see any room adorned with them. Woe to my women if they commit such a sin in their rooms. God only is to be admired.»
« Quite right. God only. But we can admire God also in a flower, confessing that He is the Craftsman of the flower.»
« No, no! Heathenism! Heathenism!»
« Judith adorned herself, so did Esther for a holy purpose...»
« Females! And a female is always a despicable thing. But I beg You, Master, go into the dining-room, while I withdraw for a moment as I have to speak to my friends.»
Jesus agrees without discussion.
« Master... I am breathing with difficulty!...» exclaims Peter.
« Why? Are you not feeling well?» ask some apostles.
« No, but I feel uncomfortable... like one who has fallen into a trap.»
« Do not get excited. And be very prudent, all of you» advises Jesus.
They remain standing in a group, until the Pharisees come in followed by the servants.
« Let us sit down at once. We have a meeting and we cannot be late» orders Helkai. And he assigns the seats while the servants serve the food.
Jesus is beside Helkai and Peter is at His side. Helkai offers the food and the meal begins in deathlike silence... They then begin to speak and the first words, of course, are addressed to Jesus, because the Twelve are neglected, as if they were not there.
The first question is asked by a doctor of the Law. « Master, are You sure of what You say?»
« I do not say so by Myself. The prophets said so before I was among you.»
« The prophets!... Since You deny that we are the holy ones, You may accept as true my assertion that our prophets may be braggarts.»
« The prophets are saints.»
« But we are not, are we? But remember that Zephaniah joins prophets and priests together when condemning Jerusalem: “Her prophets are braggarts, they are impostors, and her priests profane the holy things, they do violence to the Law.” You continuously reproach us with that. But if You accept the latter words of the prophet, you must accept also the former and thus admit that one cannot rely on the words of braggarts.»
« Rabbi of Israel, reply to My question. When a few lines later Zephaniah says: “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion... the Lord has repealed your sentence... the King of Israel is in your midst”, does your heart accept those words?»
« It is my glory to repeat them to myself dreaming of that day.»
« But they are the words of a prophet, of a braggart, so...»
The doctor of the Law remains dumbfounded for a moment. One of his friends assists him. « No one can doubt that Israel will reign. Not one, but all the prophets, and the patriarchs before the prophets, have mentioned that promise of God.»
« And not one of the patriarchs and prophets has failed to point out Who I am.»
« Oh! Well! But we have no proof! You may be a braggart as well. What proof can You give us that You are the Messiah, the Son of God? Give me a time-limit, that I may judge.»
« I do not refer you to My Death described by David and Isaiah, but to My Resurrection.»
« You? Rise again? And who will make You rise again?»
« Not certainly you. Neither the Pontiff, nor the monarch, nor the castes, nor the people. I will rise again by Myself.»
« Do not blaspheme, Galilean, and do not lie!»
« I am doing nothing but pay honour to God and speak the truth. And with Zephaniah I say to you: “Wait for Me at My resurrection.” Up to that time you may doubt, you all may doubt and work to make the people dubious. But it will no longer be possible for you to feel dubious when the Eternal Living One, after redeeming mankind, will rise by Himself from the dead to die no longer. Intangible Judge, perfect King, with His sceptre and Justice He will rule and judge until the end of the world and will continue to reign forever in Heaven.»
« Do You not realize that You are speaking to doctors and members of the Sanhedrin?» asks Helkai.
« And so what? You ask Me questions, and I reply to them. You show desire to learn, and I explain the truth to you. After calling to My mind the curse of Deuteronomy, because of a drawing on a garment, you are not going to remind Me of another curse of the same Book: “A curse on him who strikes down his neighbour in secret.”»
« I am not striking You down. I am giving You food.»
« No. But your insidious questions are blows in the back. Be careful, Helkai. Because God's maledictions follow one another, and the one I just quoted, is followed by another one: “A curse on him who accepts a bribe to take an innocent life.”»
« In this case You are accepting the gift, since You are my guest.»
« I do not even condemn culprits, if they are repentant.»
« Then, You are not just.»
« Yes, it is just. Because He considers that repentance deserves forgiveness, and therefore He does not condemn» says the man who already consented to Jesus in the hall of the house.
« Will you be quiet, Daniel! Do you think you know better than we do? Or are you seduced by One upon Whom much is still to be decided and Who does nothing to help us decide in His favour?» says one of the doctors.
« I know that you are the wise ones and I am a simple Judaean and I do not even know why you often want me to be with you...»
« Because you are a relative! That is easily understood! And I want those who become my relatives to be holy and wise! I cannot allow ignorance in the Scriptures, in the Law, in Halacha, Midrash and Haggada. And I cannot suffer that. Everything is to be known and complied with...»
« And I am grateful to you for so much attention. But I, a simple tiller, once I undeservedly became your relative, I have been anxious about nothing but to know the Scriptures and the Prophets, to have comfort in my life. And with the simplicity of an unlearned person, I confess that in the Rabbi I recognize the Messiah, preceded by His Precursor, who pointed Him out to us... And you cannot deny that John was possessed by the Spirit of God.»
There is silence. They do not want to deny that the Baptist was infallible. Neither do they wish to admit that he was.
Then another one says: « Well... Let us say that the Precursor is the precursor of that angel that God sends to prepare the way to Christ. And... let us admit that in the Galilean there is enough holiness to consider Him such an angel. After Him there will come the times of the Messiah. Do you not think that this idea of mine is conciliative for everybody? Will you agree to it, Helkai? And what about you, my friends? And You, Nazarene?»
« No.», « No.», « No.» Three definite noes.
« Why? Why do you not approve of it?»
Helkai is silent. His friends also say nothing. Jesus only replies frankly: « Because I cannot approve of an error. I am more than an angel. The Baptist was the angel, the Precursor of the Christ, and I am the Christ.»
There is a long deathlike silence. Helkai, his elbow resting on his couch and his cheek leaning on his hand, is pensive, severe, as uncommunicative as his whole house.
Jesus turns round, looks at him, then says: « Helkai, do not confuse the Law and the Prophets with trifles!»
« I see that You have read my thought. But You cannot deny that You have sinned infringing the precept.»
« As you, and by craft, and thus with a bigger sin, have infringed the duty of a host, and you did so deliberately, you distracted My attention and you sent Me here, while you were purifying yourself with your friends, and when you came back you begged us to make haste, because you had a meeting, and you did all that in order to be able to say to Me: “You have sinned.”»
« You could have reminded me of my duty to let You have what was necessary for Your purification.»
« I could remind you of many things, but it would only serve to make you more intolerant and hostile.»
« No. Tell me. We want to listen to You and...»
« And inform the Chief Priests accusing Me. That is why I reminded you of the last two curses. I am aware of it and I know you. I am here defenceless among you. I am here, isolated from the people who love Me and before whom you dare not assail Me. But I am not afraid. I do not resort to compromises, neither do I act in a cowardly way. And I tell you your sin, yours and of your entire caste, O Pharisees, the false pure ones of the Law, O doctors, the false wise ones, who intentionally confuse and mix the true and the false good, who impose on other people and exact from them perfection even in exterior things, while you exact nothing from yourselves. You blame Me, together with your host and Mine, for not washing Myself before dining. You know that I have just come from the Temple, which one enters after being purified of dust and the dirt of the road. Do you want perhaps to confess that the Holy Place is contamination?»
« We purified ourselves before the meal.»
« And we were ordered: “Go there and wait.” And later: “Let us sit down without any delay.” So on your walls free from designs, there was a design: your plan to deceive Me. Which hand wrote on your walls the reason for a possible accusation? Your spirit or another power, which controls your spirit and to which you listen? Now listen, all of you.»
Jesus stands up and with His hands resting on the edge of the table He begins His speech:
« You Pharisees wash the outside of the cup and of the plate, and you wash your hands and feet, as if plate and cup, hands and feet were to enter your spirits that you love to proclaim pure and perfect. But it is not for you, but for God to proclaim that. Well, listen to what God thinks of your spirits. He thinks that they are full of falsehood, of filth and robbery, they are full of iniquity and nothing from the outside can corrupt what is already corrupted.»
He lifts His right hand from the table and begins unintentionally to gesticulate with it, while He continues:
« Who made your spirits, as He made your bodies, can He not exact at least the same respect for your inside as you have for your outside? O stupid people, who confuse the two values and invert their importance, will the Most High not want a greater care for the spirit, which was made in His likeness and loses eternal Life through corruption, than He exacts for a hand or a foot, the dirt of which can be cleansed easily and which, even if they remained dirty, would not affect your interior cleanliness? And can God worry about the neatness of a cup or a tray, which are things without a soul and cannot influence your souls?
I read your thought, Simon Boetos. No, it does not stand. You do not carry out those purifications thinking of your health, as a protection for your bodies, your lives. Carnal sins, nay the sins of gluttony, of intemperance, of lust are certainly more harmful to the body than a little dust on your hands or on a plate. And yet you commit them without worrying about protecting your lives or the safety of your relatives. And you commit sins of various kinds, because besides polluting your souls and bodies, squandering your wealth, lacking respect to your relatives, you offend the Lord by desecrating your bodies, the temple of your souls, and in that temple there ought to be the throne of the Holy Spirit; and you offend the Lord also because you think that you have to protect by yourselves your bodies from diseases caused by a little dust, as if God could not intervene to protect you from physical trouble, if you had recourse to Him with pure spirit.
But He Who created the inside did not perhaps create the outside also, and vice versa? And is the inside not nobler and more marked by divine likeness? Do then good works worthy of God, not mean actions that do not rise from the dust for which and of which they are made,... of the poor dust, which is man considered as an animal creature, mud formed into shape and which will become dust again, dust which the wind of time disperses. Do lasting works, that is holy regal works, crowned with divine blessing. Be charitable, give alms, be honest and pure in your deeds and in your intentions, and without resorting to ablutionary waters, everything will be pure in you.
What do you think? That you are in order because you pay tithes on spices? Woe to you, Pharisees, who pay the tithes of mint and rue, of mustard and cumin, of fennel and every other kind of herbs, and then you neglect the justice and love of God. It is your duty to pay tithes and it is to be done. But there are higher duties and they are to be done as well. Woe to those who respect exterior things and neglect the interior ones based on the love of God and of our neighbour. Woe to you, Pharisees, who love the first seats in synagogues and meetings, and like to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares and you do not worry about doing deeds that can give you a seat in Heaven and make you deserve to be revered by the angels. You are like hidden sepulchres, which do not disgust him who passes near them without noticing them, but would give him a shiver of horror if he saw what is closed in them. But God sees the most secret things also and cannot be deceived when He judges.»
Jesus is interrupted by a doctor of the Law who also stands up to contradict Him. « Master, You are offending us as well, by speaking so; and that is not advantageous to You, because we have to judge You.»
« No. Not you. You cannot judge Me. You will be judged, you are not the judges, and it is God Who will judge you. You can speak and utter sounds with your lips. But even the most powerful voice cannot reach up to Heaven or resound all over the world. After a short space it is silence... And after a short time it is oblivion. But the judgement of God is a lasting voice that is not subject to oblivion. Ages have gone by since God judged Lucifer and Adam. But the voice of the judgement has not gone out. And its consequences still last. And if I have come to bring back Grace to men, through the perfect Sacrifice, the sentence on Adam's action remains what it is, and it will always be called “Original sin.” Men will be redeemed, they will be washed with a purification exceeding every other one, but they will be born with that stain, because God has decided that that stain is to be in every man born of woman, with the exception of Him, Who was made not by deed of man, but by the Holy Spirit, and with the exception of the Preserved Woman and the Presanctified Man, virgins forever. The Former, that She might be the Virgin Mother of God, the latter that he might be the precursor of the Innocent, being born already pure, through a pre-fruition of the infinite merits of the Saviour Redeemer.
And I tell you that God judges you. And He judges you saying: “Woe to you, doctors of the Law, because you load people with unbearable weights, turning into a punishment the fatherly Decalogue of the Most High to His People.” He had given it out of love and for love, so that man might be supported by a fair guide, man, the eternal imprudent ignorant child. And the loving leading-strings, by which God supported His creatures, so that they might proceed along His way and arrive at His heart, have been replaced by you with mountains of heavy, sharp harassing stones, a labyrinth of prescriptions, a nightmare of scruples, whereby man loses heart, becomes confused, stops, fears God as an enemy. You prevent hearts from going to God. You separate the Father from His children. Through your impositions, you deny such sweet, blessed true Paternity. You, however, do not even touch with your fingers those weights, which you load on other people. You consider yourselves justified, simply because you gave them. But, O fools, do you not know that you will be judged for what you considered necessary for salvation? Do you not know that God will say to you: “You said that your word was sacred and just. Well, I judge it such as well. And since you imposed it on everybody and you judged your brothers according to how it was accepted and practised, now I judge you by your own word. And since you did not do what you said was to be done, be damned.”?
Woe to you who build sepulchres to the prophets killed by your fathers. What? Do you think that you will thus reduce the gravity of your fathers' sin or that you will cancel it in the eyes of posterity? No. On the contrary you give evidence of such deeds of your fathers. Not only, but you approve of them, and you are ready to imitate them and build later a sepulchre to the persecuted prophet, so that you say to yourselves: “We have honoured him.” Hypocrites! That is why the Wisdom of God said: “I will send them prophets and apostles. And they will kill some and persecute some, so that it may be possible to call this generation to account for the blood of all the prophets, shed from the creation of the world onwards, from the blood of Abel down to the blood of Zacharias, slain between the Altar and the Sanctuary.” Yes, I solemnly tell you that of all that blood of saints an account will be asked of this generation, which cannot tell where God is, and it persecutes and distresses the just who are a living comparison for their injustice. Woe to you, doctors of the Law, who have usurped the key of science and have closed its temple, in order not to enter it and be judged by it, neither have you allowed others to enter it. Because you know that if the people were taught the true Science, that is, Holy Wisdom, they could judge you. You, therefore, prefer them to be ignorant that they may not judge you. And you hate Me because I am the Word of Wisdom and before the time you would like to close Me in prison, in a sepulchre, so that I may no longer speak.
But I will speak as long as My Father likes Me to speak. And afterwards My deeds will speak more than My words. And My merits will speak even more than My deeds, and the world will be taught and will know, and it will judge you. The first judgement is upon you. Then the second will come: an individual judgement at the death of each of you. And then the last one: The Universal one. And you will remember this day and these days, and you, you alone will know the terrible God, Whom you have striven to show as a nightmarish vision to the spirits of simple people, whilst you, inside your sepulchres, derided Him and you neither respected nor obeyed His commandments, from the first and main one: the commandment of love, to the last one given on Sinai.
It is of no avail to you, Helkai, that you have no images in your house. Neither is it of any avail to you all, that you have no sculptures in your houses. Inside your hearts you have an idol, several idols. The idol whereby you believe that you are gods, the idols of your concupiscence. Come, My disciples, let us go.»
And preceded by the Twelve He goes out last.
Those remaining clamour shouting all together: « We must persecute Him, catch Him at fault and find counts of indictment! We must kill Him!»
Then silence again.
Then, while two of them go away disgusted with the hatred and intentions of the Pharisees – one is Helkai's relative and the other the man who defended the Master twice – those left ask one another: « But how?»
There is silence once again.
Then with a hoarse laughter Helkai says: « We will have to talk Judas of Simon round...»
« Of course! It's a good idea! But you offended him!...»
« I'll see to that» says the one whom Jesus called Simon Boetos. « Eleazar of Annas and I... We will entrap him...»
« Some promises...»
« A little fear...»
« Much money...»
« No. Not much... Promises of much money...»
« And then?»
« What do you mean: and then?»
« Eh!'Then. When it is all done, what shall we give him?»
« Nothing! Death. So... he will not speak any more» slowly and cruelly says Helkai.
« Oh! death...»
« Are you horrified? Go away! If we kill the Nazarene Who... is a just man... we can kill the Iscariot as well, as he is a sinner...»
There is hesitation...
But Helkai, standing up, says: « We will hear also what Annas says... And you will see that... he will say that it is a good idea. And you will come, too... Oh! you will certainly come...»
They all go out after their host who goes away saying: « You will come... You will come!»