14th May 1946.
And the Sabbath wears on. It is the true Sabbath. In the wonderful morning, when the air is still fresh and cool, it is beautiful to sit in a brotherly peaceful gathering under the shady pergola, or where the apple-tree, close to the fig and almond-trees, forms with them patches of shade extending that of the pergola on which grapes are ripening. And it is nice to walk up and down the paths between the flower-beds going from the beehives to the dove-cot and then to the little grotto, and, passing behind the women Mary, Mary of Clopas, the daughter-in-law of the latter: Salome of Simon, Aurea - going towards the few olive-trees which from the cliff hang over the peaceful kitchen garden. And that is what Jesus and His disciples, Mary and the other women are doing. And Jesus teaches unintentionally, and so does Mary. And the apostles of the Former and the women disciples of the Latter are carefully listening to the words of the two Teachers.
Aurea, sat on her usual little stool at Mary's feet, almost in a squatting posture, is embracing her knees with joined hands, her face is raised and her wide-open eyes are staring at Mary's face. She looks like a little girl who is listening to a wonderful tale. But it is not a tale. It is a beautiful truth. Mary is telling the little heathen of yesterday the ancient stories of Israel and the other women, although they already know them, are listening attentively. Because it is pleasant to hear the story of Rachel, that of the daughter of Jephthah, that of Hannah of Elkanah, flowing from Her lips!
Judas of Alphaeus comes near slowly and listens smiling. He is behind Mary Who therefore cannot see him. But the smiling look of Mary of Clopas at her Judas tells Mary that someone is behind Her and She turns round: « Oh! Judas? Have you left Jesus to hear Me, a poor woman? »
« Yes. I left You to go to Jesus, because You were my first teacher. But at times it is pleasant for me to leave Him and come to You, and become again a boy as when I was Your disciple. Go on, please... »
« Aurea wants her reward each Sabbath. And the reward consists in telling her what impressed her most in our History, a little of which I explain to her every day while working. »
The others also have come near... Thaddeus asks: « And what do you like, child? »
« So much, I could say everything... But Rachel very much, and Hannah of Elkanah, then Ruth... then... ah! beautiful! Tobit and Tobias with the Angel, and then the bride who prays to be freed... »
« And Moses, no? »
« He frightens me... Too great... And of the prophets I like Daniel who defends Susanna. » She looks around and then whispers: « I also was defended by my Daniel » and she looks at Jesus.
« But also Moses' books are beautiful! »
« Yes. Where they teach not to do what is bad. And where they speak of that star which will be born of Jacob. I know its name now. I knew nothing before. And I am more fortunate than that prophet because I can see it and close by. She told me everything and I know as well » she concludes with an air of triumph.
« And do you not like Passover? »
« Yes... but... also the children of other people are the sons of mothers. Why kill them? I prefer the God Who saves to the God Who kills... »
« You are right... Mary, have You not told her anything yet of His Birth? » asks James pointing at the Lord Who is listening in silence.
« Not yet. I want her to know the past well before the present. She will thus understand the present which has in the past its reason for being. When she knows it, she will see that the God Who frightens her, the God of Sinai, is but a God of severe love, but still a God of love. »
« Oh! Mother! Tell me now! It will be less difficult for me to understand the past when I know the present, which, as far as I know, is so beautiful and makes one love God without fear. I need not to be afraid! »
« The girl is right. You must remember that truth when you will be evangelizing. Souls need not to be afraid in order to go to God with full confidence. It is what I am striving to do, all the more when people, either through ignorance or because of their faults, are likely to be much afraid of God. But God, also the God Who struck the Egyptians and Who frightens you, Aurea, is always good. See: when He killed the sons of the cruel Egyptians, He had mercy on the sons, who did not grow up and did not become sinners like their fathers and He gave their parents time to repent of their evil doings. So it was severe goodness. One must be able to tell true goodness from loose upbringing. Also when I was a little baby, many little children were killed on the very laps of their mothers. And the world cried with horror. But when Time exists no more for individuals or for all Mankind, for a first time and for a second time you will realise that those were fortunate, blessed in Israel, in the Israel of the times of Christ, who slaughtered in their infancy, were preserved from the biggest sin, that of being accomplices in the death of the Saviour. »
« Jesus! » shouts Mary of Alphaeus springing to her feet, frightened, looking around as if she were afraid to see deicides appear from behind hedges and trunks of trees. « Jesus! » she repeats looking at him painfully.
« What? Do you perhaps not know the Scriptures, since you are so surprised at what I say? » asks Jesus.
« But... But... It is not possible... You must not allow that... Your Mother... »
« She is Saviour like Me, and She knows. Look at Her. And imitate Her. »
Mary is in fact austere, regal in Her deep pallor. She is motionless, with Her hands in Her lap clasped as if in prayer, Her head straight, looking into space...
Mary of Alphaeus looks at Her. She then addresses Jesus again: « All the same, You must not mention that horrible future! You are piercing Her heart with a sword. »
« That sword has been in Her heart for thirty-two years. »
« No! It's not possible! Mary... always so serene... Mary... »
« Ask Her, if you do not believe what I say. »
« I will ask Her! Is it true, Mary? You know?... »
And Mary in a gentle but firm voice says: « It is true. He was forty days old and I was told by a holy man... But also previously... Oh! When the Angel told Me that while remaining the Virgin I would conceive a Son, Who would be called the Son of God and is such because of His divine conception, when I was told that, and that in the barren womb of Elizabeth a fruit had been formed by a miracle of the Eternal Father, I had no difficulty in remembering the words of Isaiah: “The Virgin will give birth to a son and they will call Him the Immanuel”.... All, all Isaiah! And where he speaks of the Precursor... And where he speaks of the Man of sorrows, stained with blood, unrecognizable... a leper... for our sins... The sword has been in My heart since then and everything has served to drive it in more deeply: the song of the angels and the words of Simeon and the visit of the Kings from the East, and everything... »
« But which other everything, Mary? Jesus is triumphing, Jesus works miracles, Jesus is followed by larger and larger crowds... Is that not the truth? » says Mary of Alphaeus.
And Mary, always in the same posture replies to each question: « Yes... » without anguish, without joy, only a quiet assent, because it is so...
« Well then? Which other everything is piercing Your heart with a sword? »
« Oh!... Everything... »
« And You are so calm? So serene? Always the same as when You arrived here, a young bride, thirty-three years ago, and I remember it so well that it seems yesterday to me... But how can You? I would be mad... I would do... I don't know what I would do... I No! It is not possible for a mother to know that and to be calm! »
« Before being a Mother, I am a daughter and servant of God... Where do I find My tranquillity? In doing the will of God. From where does My serenity come? From doing that will. If I had to do the will of a man, I might be upset, because a man, even the wisest, can always impose a wrong will. But the will of God! If He wanted Me to be the Mother of His Christ, have I perhaps to think that that is cruel, and in that thought lose My serenity? Am I to be upset by the thought of what Redemption will be to Him and to Me, also to Me, and how I will be able to overcome that hour? Oh! it will be dreadful... » Mary gives an involuntary start, She suddenly shudders and clenches Her hands to prevent them from trembling, as if She wanted to pray more fervently, while Her face grows even paler and Her delicate eyelids close on Her kind sky-blue eyes with an expression full of anguish. But She steadies Her voice after a deep sigh of anxiety and She concludes: « But He, Who imposed His will on Me and Whom I serve with confident love, will grant Me His assistance for that hour. He will grant it to Me, to Him... Because the Father cannot impose a will that exceeds the strength of man... and He succours... always... And He will succour us, My Son... He will succour us... and there is no one but He, with His infinite means, who can succour us... »
« Yes, Mother. Love will succour us, and in love we will succour each other. And in love we will redeem... » Jesus has gone beside His Mother and lays His hand on Her shoulder and She raises Her face to look at Him, at Her handsome healthy Jesus destined to be disfigured by torture, killed with a thousand wounds, and She says: « In love and in sorrow Yes. And together... »
No one speaks any more Standing around the two chief Protagonists of the future tragedy of Golgotha, the apostles and women disciples look like pensive statues...
Aurea, on her little stool, is petrified... But she is the first to collect herself and without standing up she slides on her knees and thus finds herself facing Mary. She embraces Her knees and bends her head on Her lap saying: « All that also for me!... How much I cost You and how much I love You for what I cost! Oh! Mother of my God, bless me, that my cost may not be fruitless... »
« Yes, My daughter. Be not afraid. God will help you as well, if you always accept His will. » She caresses her hair and cheeks and feels them wet with tears. « Do not weep! The first thing of the Christ with which you have become acquainted is His sorrowful destiny, the end of His mission as Man. It is not fair, having learned that, that you should be unacquainted with the first hour of His life in the world. Listen... Everybody will be pleased to come out of the dark bitter contemplation by recalling the sweet hour, full of light, of songs, of hosannas, of His Birth... Listen... » and Mary, explaining the reason for Her journey to Bethlehem in Judah, the town predicted to be the birthplace of the Saviour, in a soft gentle voice tells the story of the night of Christ's Nativity.