25th November 1946.
The horizon clears at dawn. The olive-grove covering the mountain brightens very slowly emerging from the shadow, and the trunks, still in the shade, seem to be absent whilst their silvery foliage is visible. Fog seems to be spread over the mountain, but it is only the greyness of the leafy branches in the uncertain morning light.
Jesus is alone under the olive-trees. But it is not Gethsemane. Because Gethsemane is parallel, so to say, to the Moriah, whereas the Moriah here is in front of the olive-grove. So we are north of Jerusalem, beyond the graves of the kings. Jesus is still praying and He does not stop even when the first chirping of birds tells Him that it is daytime. Only when the first rays of the risen sun light up a golden spot on the so far dimmed gold of the domes of the Temple, He stands up, He takes off and shakes His mantle with traces of earth and a few dry leaves sticking to the heavy cloth, with one hand He smoothes His beard and hair, He tidies his tunic and belt, He checks the straps of His sandals, He puts on His mantle and He sets off down the mountain along a tiny path hardly traced out among the trunks. He is perhaps directing His steps towards that little house, half way down the slope, from the chimney of which smoke is rising. No. He makes a detour towards another wider path that descends towards the main road that takes one to town.
Judas of Kerioth rushes down the mountain behind Him. I say he rushes because he is running like a madman to join the Master. And when he is within hearing distance, he calls Him. Jesus stops. Judas reaches Him panting: « Master... fortunately I thought I should come looking for You! Were You going away like that, without me? Yesterday evening You told me to wait for You in the house, because You would certainly come. Instead... »
« Did I not tell everybody that I would wait for you at Herod's Gate at dawn? It is dawn. And I am going to Herod's Gate. »
« Yes, but... that was for the others. You and I were together. »
« Together? » Jesus is very serious.
« Of course, Master. We came away together. You wanted that. Then You preferred to go and pray by Yourself. But I was willing to come with You. »
« At Nob you made it clear that it was not agreeable to you to spend the night praying with your Master. And I spared you a forced act of virtue. It would have been of no avail. Good deeds are to be performed spontaneously so that they may be scented and fertile. Otherwise they are only a pantomime... and at times worse than a pantomime. »
« But I... Why have You been so severe with me recently? Do You no longer love me? »
« Even more so I could ask you: do you not love Me? But I will not ask you. Because also that question would be a useless one and I never do useless things. »
« Of course! Because You know very well that I love You! »
« I wish I knew, Judas of Kerioth. And I wish I could say to you: I know that you love Me. But as I never do useless things, so I never speak false words. So I will not say to you that I know that you love Me. »
« But why, Master! Do I not love You? Do I not work for You? Can You doubt it? That grieves me. Because as soon as I realise that something grieves You, I avoid doing it and I watch that it is not done! Look: I understood that You did not like... my going out at night. And I did not go out any more. I realised that the disputes of Your enemies fatigued You excessively. So I went - and I was not spared insults - and told them to stop it, and You know that You have not been troubled any more. And I hope that You will not be troubled in the Temple either. You are not fair, Master, with poor Judas! »
« You are the first among all My followers to reproach Me of unfairness... »
« Oh! forgive me! But Your words, Your severity grieves me so much that I can no longer ponder on things. They drive me crazy, believe me. Well, my peace, let us make it up between us. I want to be with You as if I were one thing with You. Always together... »
« Once we were so. But now tell Me, Judas: when are we so now? »
« Still because of that night? Or because I did not come with You to Bethabara? But You know why I did not come. For Your own good... And with regard to that night... I am a young man, Lord! But apart from those moments, when, I admit it, I may have made a mistake, nay I certainly did do wrong, I am always close to You. »
« I am not talking of physical closeness, but of the spiritual one, of the closeness of thoughts and hearts. You are far, Judas, from your Saviour, and you are going farther and farther away. »
« There You are! All reproaches are for me! And yet You can see how humbly I accept them. I said to You: “Send me away.” But You kept me... so what do You want of me? »
« What do I want!! I would like not to have become Incarnate in vain for you. That is what I would like! But by now you belong to another father, to another country, you speak a different language... Oh! What shall I do, Father, to cleanse the profaned temple of this son of Yours and My brother? » Jesus, Who is very pale, weeps speaking to His Father.
Judas becomes wan, too, and he moves aside a little, in silence. Jesus overtakes him in a few steps, descending the hill, His head lowered, closed in His grief. Judas then makes a gesture of mockery, of threat, I would say like a cruel oath behind the back of the Innocent One. His face, so far masked by a hypocritical gloss of kindness and humility, becomes bony, hard, ugly, cruel: really demoniac. All the hatred, but not a human hatred, is in the fire of his dark eyes, and that fiery hatred is concentrated on Jesus' tall person. Then shrugging his shoulders and striking his foot angrily, Judas ends his internal reasoning. And he sets out, composedly, like one who has made a decision past recall.
The town walls are now close at hand. People are crowding at the gates: strangers, market-gardeners, people from nearby villages. Among them, near the walls, are the eleven apostles who go to meet the Master as soon as they see Him.
« Master, while we were waiting here, a man came looking for You. He said that Valeria begs You to go to the synagogue of the Roman freedmen; to make sure that You go because she will be there. »
« All right. We shall go. Let us go to Joseph of Sephoris first, because My mantle is not clean. »
« Where did You sleep, Lord? » asks Peter.
« Nowhere, Peter. I prayed on the mountain. The ground was damp and muddy, as you can see. »
« Why pray out in the open air, Lord? It may injure Your health... »
« The elements do not injure the Son of man. The things of God are good... It is men that hate the Man. »
Peter sighs... They go away towards the house of the Galilean, followed by the others.