5th November 1946.
The croft that feeds the heterogeneous group of Zacchaeus' friends is a very poor one indeed, particularly now that the winter season does not certainly cheer up hearts. Yet they are fond of it and they are proud of showing it to Jesus. Three corn fields, ploughed and brown, the orchard with few fruitful trees and others too young for any hope of fruit, a few stunted rows of vines, a vegetable garden... a small stable with a little cow and a donkey for the water-wheel, an enclosure with a few hens and five pairs of doves, six sheep, a hovel with a kitchen and three rooms, a shed used as wood-store, lumber-room and hay-loft, a well with a chipped rim and a cistern with muddy water. Nothing else...
« If the season is favourable... »
« If the animals will litter... »
« If the trees take root... » Everything is conditional... Very poor hopes...
But one of them remembers what he heard years before - of the wonderful crop Doras had because of a blessing given by the Master, so that Doras might be humane to his peasants - and he says:
« And if You blessed this place... Doras also was a sinner... »
« You are right. What I did, although I knew that it would not change his heart, I will do also for you, whose hearts have changed. » And He stretches out His arms to bless saying: « I will do that at once to convince you that I love you. »
Then they proceed on the road towards the river, along ploughed fields with dark fertile land, and orchards stripped by the season.
At a bend some scribes come forward. « Peace to You, Master. We have been waiting for You here to venerate You... »
« No. To be sure that I work no fraud. You have done the right thing. You must be convinced that I have had no opportunity to see the woman or any of the people who are with her. You were on watch at Zacchaeus' house and you saw that none of us came out. You preceded Me on the way and you saw that none of us went ahead of you. You are thinking of imposing terms on Me with regard to the meeting with that woman, and I tell you that I will accept them even before you mention them. »
« But... if You do not know them... »
« Is it not true that you do want to impose them? »
« It is true. »
« As I am aware of your intention, which is known only to you, I am also aware of what you will say to Me. And I tell you that I will accept what you intend to propose, because it will serve to give glory to the Truth. Speak up. »
« Do You know what the situation is? »
« I know that you consider her to be possessed, and that no exorciser has been able to expel the demon. And I know that she does not speak words worthy of a demon. That is what those who have heard her speak say. »
« Can You swear that You have never seen her? »
« A just man never swears, because he is entitled to have his word accepted. I tell you that I have never seen her and that I have never been to her village, and the whole village can confirm that. »
« And yet she maintains that she knows Your face and Your voice. »
« Her soul in fact knows Me by the will of God. »
« You say by the will of God. But how can You state that? »
« I have been told that she speaks inspired words. »
« The demon also speaks of God. »
« But mixing errors on purpose, to lead men astray with wrong thoughts. »
« Well... we would like You to allow us to put the woman to a test. »
« In what way? »
« Do You really not know her? »
« I have told you that I do not. »
« Well then. We will send somebody ahead shouting: “Here is the Lord” and we shall see whether she greets him as if it were You. »
« A poor test! But I agree. Pick those to be sent ahead, from My followers. I will follow you with the others. But if the woman speaks, you must let her speak, that I may judge her words. »
« That is fair. The agreement is made and we will keep it loyally. »
« Let it be so and may your hearts be touched. »
« Master, we are not all enemies. Some of us are in a position of expectation... sincerely anxious to see the truth and follow You » says a scribe.
« That is true. And they will still be loved by God. »
The scribes examine the apostles and are surprised at the absence of many, of the Iscariot in particular. They then choose Judas Thaddeus and John. They also take the young converted thief who is pale and thin and with hair verging to a reddish hue. In short, they take those who, because of their age and features, look like the Master.
« We will go on with them. You will remain here with Our companions and Yours, and will follow us after some time. »
They do that.
The woods along the river are already in sight. The winter sunshine at sunset gilds the tree-tops and spreads a bright yellow light on the people gathered near the trees.
« Here He is! Here is the Master! Get up! Come and meet Him! » shout the scribes who had gone ahead, deviating towards a path that ends against a huge oak, with mighty roots half uncovered, forming seats for those who take shelter near its trunk.
The people gathered there, turn round, stand up, open out and part to come and meet those who are arriving. Only three scribes remain near the trunk, with John of Ephesus, and an elderly man and woman, and another woman who is sitting on one of the protruding roots, her back to the trunk, her head bent on her knees which are embraced by her arms with clasped hands, all covered with such a deep violet veil, that it seems to be black. She seems indifferent to everything. She does not stir despite all the shouting.
A scribe touches her shoulder: « The Master is here, Sabea. Stand up and greet Him. »
The woman does not reply and does not move.
The three scribes look at one another and smile ironically, nodding meaningfully to the others who are coming forward. And as those who were waiting had become quiet, because they did not see Jesus, they begin to shout louder than ever with their accomplices, so that the woman may not become aware of the deceit.
« Woman » says a scribe to the old mother who is with her daughter « you, at least, ought to greet the Master, and tell your daughter to greet Him. »
The woman prostrates herself with her husband before Thaddeus and John and the repentant thief, then standing up, she says to her daughter: « Sabea, your Lord is here. Worship Him. »
The young woman does not stir.
The scribes smile more ironically, and one of them, a thin bignosed man, says in a nasal drawling voice: « You were not expecting this test, were you? And your heart is trembling. You realise that your fame of a prophetess is in danger and you are not prepared to tempt fate... I think that that is enough to say that you are a liar... »
The woman raises her head all of a sudden. She throws her veil behind her head and looking with wide-open eyes she says: « I do not lie, scribe. And I am not afraid because I am in the truth. Where is the Lord? »
« What? You say that you know Him and you do not see Him? He is in front of you. »
« None of these is the Lord. That's why I did not move. None of them. »
« None of them? What? Is that fair-haired Galilean not the Lord? I do not know Him, but I know that He is fair-haired and His eyes are sky-blue. »
« He is not the Lord. »
« Well, it is that other one, who is tall and severe looking. Look at His royal features. It's certainly Him. »
« He is not the Lord. The Lord is not amongst them » and she lowers her head on her knees as before.
Some time passes. Then there is Jesus coming forward. The scribes have ordered the few people present to be silent. So His arrival is not given away by any hosanna. Jesus is coming forward between Peter and His cousin James. He is walking slowly... Silently... The thick grass deadens all shuffling of feet. While the old woman wipes her tears with her veil and a scribe offends her saying:
« Your daughter is mad and a liar », and her father sighs and reproaches his daughter, Jesus arrives at the end of the path and He stops.
The young woman, who could not hear or see anything, jumps to her feet, throws away her veil, uncovering thus her head, stretches out her arms with a mighty cry: « Here is my Lord coming to me! This is the Messiah, o men, who want to deceive and humiliate me. I can see upon Him the light of God Who points Him out to me and I honour Him! » and she throws herself on the ground, remaining where she was, at about two metres from Jesus. With her face on the ground, on the grass, she shouts: « I greet You, o King of peoples, o Wonder, o Prince of Peace, Father of the century that has no end, Leader of the new people of God! » and she remains prostrated under her wide dark mantle, of a violet almost black shade like her veil.
But the moment she stood up against the black trunk - and after throwing away her veil, she remained with her arms stretched forward like a statue - I noticed that under her mantle she wore a heavy woollen dress of a white-ivory shade, fastened at her neck and waist only by a cord. And above all I was able to admire her beauty of a middle-aged woman. She must be about thirty years old. And generally speaking, thirty years in Palestine are equivalent to at least forty of our years; if Our Lady is an exception to this rule, other women reach maturity early, particularly those of dark complexion and hair and buxom like this one. She is the classical type of a Jewish woman. I think that Rachel, Ruth and Judith, who were famous for their beauty, must have been like her. Tall, buxom yet slender, with smooth skin of a pale brown hue, a small mouth and lips lightly tumid and deeply red, a straight long thin nose, deep dark velvet-like eyes under an arch of long thick eyebrows, a high smooth regal forehead, a rather long oval-shaped face and ebony hair as wonderful as an onyx wreath. Not a jewel, but a statuesque body and the majesty of a queen.
She is now getting up pushing her hands, which are long, brown, beautiful, joined to her arms by thin wrists. She is now on her feet, standing against the dark trunk. She now looks at the Master in silence, and shakes her head because the scribes say to her: « You are wrong, Sabea. He is not the Messiah, but it is the one you saw previously without recognising him. » She shakes her head decidedly and severely, without taking her eyes off the Lord. Then her face becomes transfigured into an expression that I cannot say whether it is of intense joy or ecstatic drowsiness. It looks like both, because she grows pale like one about to faint, while all her life seems to concentrate on her eyes which become bright with a light of joy, of triumph, of love... I do not know. Are those eyes smiling? No, they are not, as her severe lips are not smiling. And yet a light of joy shines in them and they acquire a greater and greater power of intensity, that is striking.
Jesus looks at her with His meek somewhat sad eyes. « Don't You see that she is mad? » a scribe whispers to Him. Jesus does not reply. With His left hand hanging down His side, His right one holding His mantle on His chest, He looks and is silent.
And the woman opens her mouth and stretches her arms as she did previously. She looks like a huge butterfly with violet wings and a body of ancient ivory. And a new cry is uttered by her lips:
« O Adonai, You are great! You alone are great, o Adonai! You are great in Heaven and on the Earth, in time and in ages, and beyond Time, from time immemorial and forever, o Lord, Son of the Lord. Your enemies are under Your feet and Your throne is supported by the love of those who love You. »
Her voice becomes steadier and steadier and louder and louder while her eyes are taken off Jesus' face and they look at a point in the distance, a little above the heads of those who are paying attention around her and whom she dominates without difficulty, standing straight against the trunk of the oak, which is on a rising of the ground like a low bank.
After a pause she resumes speaking: « The throne of my Lord is adorned with the twelve stones of the twelve tribes of the just. In the great pearl that is the throne, the white precious bright throne of the Most Holy Lamb, there are mounted topazes with amethysts, emeralds with sapphires, rubies with sardonyxes, and agates and chrysolites and beryls, onyxes, jaspers, opals. Those who believe, those who hope, those who love, those who repent, those who live and die in justice, those who suffer, those who leave error for the Truth, those who were hard-hearted and have become meek in His Name, the innocent, the repentant, those who divest themselves of everything to be agile in following the Lord, the virgins whose spirits shine with a light like the dawn of the Heaven of God... Glory to the Lord! Glory to Adonai! Glory to the King sitting on His throne! »
Her voice is a sharp sound. The people quiver with emotion. The woman seems to be really seeing what she says, as if the golden cloud sailing in the clear sky and which she seems to be following with her enraptured eyes, were a lens with which she saw the heavenly glories.
She rests as if she were tired but without changing attitude. Only her face becomes more transfigured as it grows paler and her eyes shine more brightly. She resumes speaking lowering her eyes on Jesus Who is listening to her attentively among a group of scribes who shake their heads sceptically and scornfully, and among His apostles and followers who are pale with holy emotion.
She resumes speaking in a clear but lower voice: « I see! I see in the Man what is concealed in the Man. Holy is the Man, but my knee bends before the Holy of Holies enclosed in the Man. »
Her voice becomes loud again and imperious like a command: « Look at your King, o people of God! Become acquainted with His Face! The Beauty of God is before you! The Wisdom of God has taken a mouth to teach you. It is no longer the prophets, o people of Israel, who speak to you of the Unnamable One. It is He Himself. He, Who knows the mystery that is God, speaks to you of God. He Who knows the thought of God Who presses you to His bosom, o people who are still a baby after so many centuries, and nourishes you with the milk of God's Wisdom to make you an adult in God. To do that He has become incarnate in a womb. In the womb of an Israelite woman, greater in the eyes of God and of men than any other woman. She stole the heart of God with one only of Her throbs of a dove. The beauty of Her spirit fascinated the Most High and of Her He made His throne. Miriam of Aaron sinned because sin was in her. Deborah decided what was to be done, but she did not act with her own hands. Jael was strong, but she soiled her hands with blood. Judith was just and she feared the Lord, and God was in her words and allowed her the deed that Israel might be saved, but for the love of her country she made use of murderous cunning. But the Woman Who generated Him exceeds those women because She is the perfect Maid of God and serves Him without sinning. Entirely pure, innocent and beautiful, She is the beautiful Star of God, from its rising to its setting. Entirely beautiful, shining and pure to be Star and Moon, Light to men to find God. She does not precede and does not follow the holy Ark as Miriam of Aaron did, because She is the Ark Herself. On the muddy water of the Earth covered with the flood of sins, She sails and saves, because those who enter in Her find the Lord. Spotless dove She goes out and brings the olive-branch, the branch of peace to men, because She is the beautiful Olive-tree. She is silent and in Her silence She speaks and acts more than Deborah, Jael and Judith and She does not advise to fight, She does not urge to slaughter, She sheds no blood but Her own most chosen blood, with which She made Her Son. Unhappy Mother! Sublime Mother!... Judith feared the Lord, but her flower had belonged to a man. This Woman gave Her inviolate flower to the Most High, and the Fire of God descended into the calyx of the sweet lily and the womb of woman contained and carried the Power, the Wisdom and the Love of God. Glory to the Woman! Sing, o women of Israel, Her praises! »
The woman becomes silent as if her voice were exhausted. In fact I do not know how she can hold such a strong timbre.
The scribes say: « She is mad! She is mad! Make her keep quiet. She is either mad or possessed. Order the spirit possessing her to go away. »
« I cannot. There no spirit in her but God's, and God does not eject Himself. »
« You are not doing it because she praises You and Your Mother and that tickles Your pride. »
« Scribe, meditate on what you know about Me and you will see that I know no pride. »
« And yet only a demon can speak in her to sing the praises of a woman thus!... A woman! And what is woman in Israel and for Israel? What, but sin in the eyes of God? The seduced and seducer! If it were not part of our faith, one could hardly believe that woman has a soul. She is forbidden to go close to the Holy because of her uncleanliness. And this woman says that God descended into Her!... » says another scandalised scribe and his accomplices aid and abet him.
Jesus says, without looking at anybody in the face, He seems to be speaking to Himself: « “The Woman will crush the head of the Serpent... The Virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son Who will be called Immanuel... A shoot will spring from the stock of Jesse, a flower will come up from this root and the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him.” That Woman. My Mother. Scribe, out of respect for your knowledge, remember and understand the words of the Book. »
The scribes do not know what to reply. They have read those words thousands of times and said that they were true. Can they now deny it? They keep quiet.
One gives instructions to light some fires as it is getting cold near the banks of the river where the evening wind is blowing. The order is obeyed and bonfires of sticks blaze in circle around the people who have grouped together.
The dancing light of the fire seems to rouse the woman who had become silent with her eyes closed deeply absorbed in herself. She opens her eyes and stirs herself. She looks at Jesus again and shouts once more: « Adonai! Adonai! You are great! Let us sing a new hymn to the Divine One! Shalom! Shalom! Malchich!!... (I am spelling it thus, but the “h” is aspirated almost like a “c” as pronounced by people in Tuscany). Peace! Peace! O King Whom nothing can resist!... »
Then she becomes silent all of a sudden. She looks round, for the first time since she began to speak, at those surrounding Jesus, and she stares at the scribes as if it were the first time she saw them, and without any apparent reason tears well up in her large eyes and her face becomes sad and dull. She speaks slowly now and in a deep voice like one relating sorrowful things: « No. There is who resists You! O people, listen! After my grief, o people of Bethlechi, you have heard me speak. After years of silence and grief I heard and I said what I had heard. Now I am no longer in the green woods of Bethlechi, a virgin widow who finds her only peace in the Lord. I have not around me only my fellow-citizens to say to them: “Let us fear the Lord because the hour has come when we must be ready for His call. Let us clothe our hearts with beautiful garments in order not to be unworthy of being in His presence. Let us gird ourselves with strength because the hour of the Christ is an hour of trial. Let us purify ourselves like victims for the altar, so that we may be received by Him who sends the Christ. Let those who are good become better. Let those who are proud become humble. Let thus who suffer from lust divest themselves of their flesh to be able to follow the Lamb. Let the miser become a benefactor because God assists us through His Messiah, and let everybody practise justice in order to belong to the people of the Blessed One Who is coming.”
Now I am speaking before Him and before those who believe in Him, and also before those who do not believe and scoff at the Holy One and at those who speak and believe in His Name and in Him. But I am not afraid. You say that I am mad, you say that a demon speaks in me. I am aware that you could have me stoned as a blasphemer. I know that what I am going to tell you will sound like an insult and blasphemy, and that you will hate me. But I am not afraid. Being perhaps the last of the voices that speak of Him before His Manifestation, I may follow the lot of many more voices, and I am not afraid. The exile in the cold and solitude of the Earth is too long for those who think of the bosom of Abraham, of the Kingdom of God that the Christ opens to us and is holier than the holy bosom of Abraham. Sabea of Carmel of the stock of Aaron is not afraid of death. But she fears the Lord. And she speaks when He makes her speak in order not to disobey His will. And she speaks the truth because she speaks of God with the words given to her by God. I do not fear death, even if you call me a demon and you have me stoned as a blasphemer, even if my father, mother and brothers should die because of such disgrace, I shall not tremble with fear or pain. I know that the demon is not in me, because all wicked incentives are inert in me, and the whole of Bethlechi knows that. I know that the interruption that stones may cause to my song will be shorter than a sigh, and afterwards more breath will be given to my song in the freedom beyond the Earth. I know that the grief of my kinsfolk will be comforted by God, and it will be short, whereas their joy of martyr relatives of a martyr will be eternal. I am not afraid of your death, but of that which would come to me from God, if I did not obey. And I speak. And I say what I have been told. O people, listen, and you too, o scribes of Israel, listen. »
She raises her sorrowful voice again and says: « A voice, a voice comes from high above and shouts in my heart. It says: “The ancient People of God cannot sing the new hymn, because it does not love its Saviour. The new hymn will be sung by those saved in every country, those of the new People of the Christ Lord, not those who hate My Word”... Horror! (she really utters a cry that makes one shudder). The voice gives light, the light gives sight! Horror! I see! » Her shout is almost a howl. She writhes as if she were held firm before a dreadful sight torturing her heart, and she were trying to put an end to it by running away. Her mantle slips off her shoulders, and she is left in her white dress against the huge dark trunk. In the light fading slowly in the reflected green of the wood and in the reddish dancing reflection of the flames, her face becomes tremendously tragic. Shadows appear under her eyes, around her nostrils, under her lip. It seems a face disfigured by grief. She wrings her hands repeating in a lower voice: « I see! I see! » and she drinks her tears while she continues: « I see the crimes of this people of mine. And I am powerless to stop them. I see the hearts of my fellow-citizens and I am unable to change them. Horror! Horror! Satan has left his place and has come to dwell in these hearts. »
« Make her keep quiet » the scribes order Jesus.
« You promised to let her speak... » replies Jesus.
The woman continues: « Your face on the ground, in the mud, o Israel, who still know how to love the Lord. Cover yourself with ashes, wrap yourself in sackcloth. For yourself! For them! Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Save yourself! I can see a town rioting and requesting a crime. I hear, I can hear the shouts of those who with hatred invoke blood upon themselves. I can see the Victim being raised in the Passover of Blood and I can see that Blood flowing, and I can hear that Blood cry louder than the blood of Abel, while heaven opens and the earth quakes and the sun grows dark. And that Blood does not cry out for vengeance, but it implores mercy on its murderous People and on us!
Jerusalem!!! Be converted! That Blood! That Blood! A stream! A stream that washes the world curing all evils, cancelling all sins... But for us, for us of Israel, that Blood is fire, for us it is a chisel that engraves the name of deicides and the curse of God on the sons of Jacob. Jerusalem! Have mercy on yourself and on us!... »
« Tell her to be quiet, it's an order! » shout the scribes while the woman sobs covering her face.
« I cannot order the Truth to be quiet. »
« Truth! Truth! She is mad and she is raving! What kind of a Master are You, if You accept as true the words of a raving woman? »
« And what Messiah are You if You cannot make a woman be quiet? »
« And what Prophet are You if You cannot drive out a demon? And yet You have done it on other occasions! »
« Yes, He did. But it does not suit Him now. It is nothing but a well planned trick to frighten the crowd! »
« And I would have chosen this moment, this place and this handful of men to do it, when I could have done it in Jericho when I had over five thousand people who followed and surrounded Me several times, when the enclosure of the Temple was too small to contain all those who wanted to hear Me? And can the demon speak words of wisdom? Which of you can honestly say that one error has come out of her lips? Are the dreadful words of the prophets not resounding on her lips, in her womanly voice? Do you not hear the howl of Jeremiah and the weeping of Isaiah and of the other prophets? Do you not hear the voice of God spoken through a creature, the voice that strives to be accepted by you for your own good? You do not listen to Me. You may think that I speak in My own interest. But what profit does this woman, who is unknown to Me, hope to have from these words? What will she gain, except your contempt, your threats and perhaps your revenge? No, I will not order her to be silent! On the contrary, that these few people may hear her, and you also may hear her and mend your ways I say to her: “Speak! Speak up, I tell you, in the name of the Lord!” »
Jesus is now majestic, He is the powerful Christ of the moments of miracles, with His large magnetic eyes shining like blue stars, made even brighter by the flames of a bonfire which is burning between Him and the woman. The woman instead, overwhelmed by grief, is less regal looking, with her head lowered, her face covered with her hands, and with her dark hair, which has become loose, falling over her shoulders and in front of her, like a mourning veil over her white dress.
« Speak up, I tell you. Your sorrowful words are not fruitless. Sabea, of the stock of Aaron, speak up! »
The woman obeys. But she speaks in a low voice, in fact they all press closer to hear her better. She seems to be speaking to herself, looking towards the river that flows babbling on her right hand side, with the last gleams of the water in the fading light of the day. And she seems to be addressing the river: “O Jordan, sacred river of our fathers, your water is sky-blue and wavy like precious byssus, and you reflect the pure stars and the pale moon in it, and you caress the willows on your banks, and you are the river of peace and yet you know so much sorrow; o Jordan, in stormy times with your swollen agitated waves you carry the sand of a thousand torrents and at times you tear away a tender shrub on which there is a nest and you carry it away vortically towards the deadly abyss of the Salt Sea, and you have no mercy on the pair of birds, which screeching with pain fly following their nest, destroyed by your robbery; thus, o sacred Jordan, you will see the people, that did not want the Messiah, go towards its ruin, struck by divine wrath, torn away from their homes and from the altar, and perish on the greatest death. My people, save yourselves! Believe in your Lord! Follow your Messiah! Recognise Him for what He is. Not the king of peoples and armies. He is the King of souls, of your souls, of all souls. He descended to gather the just souls, He will ascend again to lead them to the eternal Kingdom. O you, who are still able to love, press round the Holy One! O you, who have the destiny of our Fatherland at heart, join the Saviour! Let not all the offspring of Abraham die! Shun the false prophets who with lying mouths and rapacious hearts want to tear you away from Salvation. Come out of the darkness rising around you. Listen to the voice of God!
In the decree of God, the mighty ones of whom you are now afraid, are already dust. One only is the Living Being. The places in which they reign and from which they oppress people, are already in ruin. One only is lasting. Jerusalem! Where are the proud sons of Zion of whom you boast? Where the rabbis and the priests with whom you adorn yourself and whom you regard with respect? Look at them! Oppressed, in chains, they are going towards their places of exile, among the ruins of your buildings, among and the dead bodies of those who were slaughtered or died of starvation. The fury of God is upon you, Jerusalem, who reject your Messiah and strike His face and heart. All your beauty has been destroyed. Every hope of yours is dead. The Temple and the altar are desecrated... »
« Make her be silent! She is blaspheming! Make her be quiet, we say. »
« ...the ephod is torn. It is no longer of any use... »
« You are guilty if You do not command her to be silent! »
« ...because he no longer reigns. There is another, an eternal Pontiff, and He is holy, and has been sent by God: King and Priest forever, sent by Him Who considers as given to Himself the offences given to the Christ and avenges them. Another Pontiff. The True Holy Pontiff, Anointed by God and by His Sacrifice, in the place of those on whose heads the tiara is a dishonour as it covers horrible thoughts!... »
« Be quiet, you cursed one! Be quiet or we will strike you! » and the scribes maltreat her rudely. But she does not appear to hear them.
The people set up a protest shouting: « Let her speak, since you speak so much. She is telling the truth. It is so. There is no more holiness among you. One only is Holy and you are vexing Him. »
The scribes deem it wise to be quiet, and the woman continues in her tired sorrowful voice: « He had come to bring you light. And you waged war against Him... Health. And you sneered at Him... Love. And you hated Him... Miracles. And you said He was a demon... His hands cured your sick people. And you pierced them. He brought you the Light. And you spat on His face and covered it with filth. He brought you Life. And you killed Him. Israel, grieve over your fault and do not curse the Lord, while you are going into the exile, that will not come to an end as the exiles of the past. You will roam all over the Earth, Israel, as a defeated cursed people, pursued by the voice of God with the same words spoken to Cain. And you will not be able to come back here and build a solid home, unless you acknowledge with the other peoples that this is Jesus, the Christ, the Lord Son of the Lord... » The woman's voice is thin with pain and fatigue, as tired as the voice of one who is dying.
But she does not refrain from speaking, on the contrary, she takes courage again for a last command: « Lie down, people who do not yet know how to love. Roll in ashes, wrap yourself in sackcloth. The fury of God is hanging over us like a cloud laden with hailstones and lightning over a cursed field. »
The woman collapses on her knees, her arms stretched out towards Jesus, and she shouts: « Peace, peace, o King of justice and of peace! Peace, o great and mighty Adonai, Whom not even the Father resists! Implore peace for us, in Your Name, o Jesus, Saviour and Messiah, Redeemer and King, and God, three times holy! » and shaken by sobs, she falls to the ground with her face on the grass.
The scribes surround Jesus taking Him aside and turning away everybody else with threatening looks and words, and one of them says: « The least You can do is to cure her. Because if You insist on saying that she is free from a demon, You must admit that she is ill. Women!... And women sacrificed by fate... Their vitality must find relief somehow... and they digress... and they see unreal things... and above all they see You, Who are young and handsome... and... »
« Be quiet, you mouth of a snake! You do not believe yourself what you are saying » bursts out Jesus so authoritatively that He cuts short the words on the lips of the lean big-nosed scribe, who at the beginning of the incident had scoffed at the woman as a false prophetess.
« Let us not offend the Master. We appointed Him judge of a case on which we are unable to pass judgement... » says another scribe, the one who went with the others to meet Jesus on the road and told Him that not all the scribes are against Him, as some watch Him to form an opinion and to follow Him with a sincere will, if they consider Him to be God.
« Be quiet, Joel named Alamoth, son of Abijah! Only an ill-bred man like you can say such words » say the others angrily.
The scribe blushes at the insult. But he controls himself and he replies in a dignified manner: « If nature has been hostile to my person, that has not impaired my intellect. Nay, by precluding many pleasures from me, it made a man of wisdom of me. And if you were holy people you would not humiliate the man, but you would respect the sage. »
« Well! Let us talk of what matters to us. You must cure her, Master, because in her frenzy she frightens people and offends the priesthood, the Pharisees and us. »
« If she had praised you, would you ask Me to cure her? » Jesus asks kindly.
« No. Because it would serve to make people respectful to us, these capricious people who hate us in their hearts and sneer at us whenever they get a chance » replies one of the scribes without realising that he is falling into a trap.
« But would she still not be a sick person? Would I not have to cure her? » Jesus asks kindly again. He sounds like a schoolboy who is asking his teacher what he has to do. And the scribes, blinded by pride, do not realise that they are giving themselves away...
« In that case, no. On the contrary! She ought to be left in her frenzy! And we should do everything in our power to make people believe that she is a prophetess. Honour her! Point her out... »
« But if it were not true?!... »
« Oh! Master! Once we do away with what she says against us, the rest would be of great assistance to raise the pride of Israel against the Romans again, and to humble the pride of the people against us! »
« But we could not say to her: “Speak thus, but do not say that” » says Jesus resolutely.
« Why? »
« Because those who rave do not know what they say. »
« Oh! with money and some threats... we would achieve anything. Even the prophets were under control... »
« Truly, I do not know about that... »
« Eh! because You do not know how to read between the lines and because not everything has been written. »
« But the prophetic spirit is not subject to orders, o scribe. It comes from God, and God cannot be bought over or frightened » says Jesus changing tone. It is the beginning of His counter-attack.
« But this woman is not a prophetess. It is no longer the time for prophets. »
« It is no longer the time for prophets? Why not? »
« Because we do not deserve them. We are too corrupt. »
« Really? And you say so? A short while ago you judged her to be worthy of punishment because she said the same thing? »
The scribe is disconcerted. Another scribe comes to his rescue saying: « The time of prophets ended with John. They are of no use any more. »
« Why? »
« Because You are here to tell us the Law and to speak to us of God. »
« Also in the days of the prophets there was the Law and Wisdom spoke of God. And yet they were there, too. »
« But what did they prophesy? Your coming. Since You have come, they do not serve any more. »
« Hundreds of times I have heard you, the priests and the Pharisees ask Me whether I was the Christ or not, and because I affirmed it, I was said to be a blasphemer and a madman, and you picked up stones to throw them at Me. Are you not Sadoc, the so-called golden scribe? » says Jesus pointing at the big-nosed scribe who had maltreated the woman after trying to deceive her.
« I am. So? »
« Well, you, exactly you, have always been the first, at Giscala and in the Temple, to stir up violence against Me. But I forgive you. I remind you only that you did so saying that I could not be the Christ, whereas now you maintain it. And I remind you also of the challenge I issued to you at Kedesh. You will shortly see part of it being fulfilled. When the moon will come back to the phase in which she is now shining in the sky, I will give you the proof. The first one. You will have the second when the corn, which is now sleeping in the earth, will shake its still green ears in the breeze of Nisan. But to those who say that the prophets are useless, I reply: “And who will put limits to the Most High Lord?” I solemnly tell you that there will always be prophets as long as there are men. They are torches in the darkness of the world. They are the fireplaces among the ice of the world. They are the blares of trumpets that will awake drowsy people. They are the voices that remind men of God and of His truth, forgotten and neglected through time, and they bring the voice of God directly to man, arousing thrills of emotion in the forgetful listless children of man. They will have other names, but the same mission and the same destiny of human sorrow and superhuman enjoyment!
Woe to men if there were no such spirits whom the world will hate and God will love dearly! Woe to men if they did not exist to suffer and forgive, to love and work obeying the Lord! The world would perish in darkness, frozen in deadly drowsiness, in idiocy, in wild brutal ignorance. God will therefore give rise to them, and there will always be some of them. And who can order God not to do so? You, Sadoc? or you? or you? I solemnly tell you that not even the spirits of Abraham, Jacob and Moses, of Elijah and Elisha could impose such a limitation on God, and God only knows how holy they were and what eternal lights they are. »
« So You will neither cure the woman nor condemn her? »
« No, I will not. »
« And do You judge her to be a prophetess? »
« Yes, an inspired prophetess. »
« You are a demon like her. Let us go. It is not right to lose more time with demons » says Sadoc, pushing Jesus rudely to move Him aside.
Many follow him. Some stay. Among the latter, the one whom they called Joel Alamoth.
« And are you not following them? » asks Jesus pointing at those going away.
« No, Master. We shall go away because night has fallen. But we want to tell You that we believe in Your judgement. God can do everything, that is true. And as we fall into many sins, He can give rise to spirits who will call us back to justice » says a very elderly one.
« You are right. And your humility is greater than your knowledge in the eyes of God. »
« Then, remember me when You are in Your Kingdom. »
« Yes, Jacob, I will. »
« How do You know my name? »
Jesus smiles without replying.
« Master, remember us as well » say the other three. And Joel Alamoth, the last one to speak, says:
« And let us bless the Lord Who has given us this hour. »
« Let us bless the Lord! » replies Jesus.
They greet one another and part.
Jesus joins His apostles and goes with them towards the woman, who has resumed the position she had at the beginning, sitting all curled up on the protruding root.
Her mother and father ask the Master anxiously: « So is our daughter a demon? They said so before going away. »
« She is not. Set your minds at rest. And love her because her destiny is a very sorrowful one. Exactly as all destinies like hers. »
« But they said that that is Your judgement... »
« They have lied. I do not lie. Be at peace. »
John of Ephesus comes forward with Solomon and the other disciples and says: « Master, Sadoc has threatened them. I tell You. »
« Them or her? »
« Them and her. Isn't that right? »
« Yes. They said to us, to my wife and me, that if we cannot convince our daughter to be silent, there will be trouble for us. And they said to Sabea: “If you speak we will denounce you to the Sanhedrin.” We foresee sad days for us!... But our hearts are at peace because of what You told us... and we will put up with the rest. But with regard to her... What shall we do? Tell us, Lord. »
Jesus is pensive, then He replies: « Have you no relatives far from Bethlechi? »
« No, Master. »
Jesus is pensive and then He raises His head and looks at Joseph, John of Ephesus and Philip of Arbela. He says to them: « You will set out with these people and then from Bethlechi you will go with her and her trousseau to Aera. You will tell Timoneus' mother to keep her in My name. She knows what it means to have a persecuted son. »
« We will do that, Lord. It's a wise decision. Aera is far and out of the way » say the three men.
Sabea's father and mother kiss the Master's hands and they thank Him and bless Him.
Jesus bends over the woman, He touches her veiled head and calls her gently: « Sabea, listen to Me! » The woman raises her head, she looks at Him and then falls on her knees.
Holding His hand to her head Jesus says: « Listen, Sabea. You will go where I send you: to a mother. I would have liked to send you to My Mother. But it is not possible. And continue to serve the Lord with justice and obedience. I bless you, woman. Go in peace. »
« Yes, my Lord and my God. But shall I be able to speak when I have to?... »
« The Spirit Who loves you will guide you according to the moment. Be sure of His love. Be humble, chaste, simple and sincere, and He will not abandon you. Go in peace! »
He joins again the apostles and Zacchaeus with his friends, who had stopped a few paces away holding back other curious people.
« Let us go. Night has fallen. I do not know how you who have to go to Jericho will get there. »
« Particularly for the woman and her relatives, I would say. But if You think that it is a good idea, we will stay outside and You and they will be able to sleep in the house until morning » suggests one of Zacchaeus' friends.
« A good idea. Go and tell Sabea to come here with her relatives and the disciples. They will sleep in the house. I will stay with you. It is not a windy night. We will light some fires and we will wait for dawn thus, while I teach you and you listen to Me. »
And He slowly sets off in the early moonlight...