29th March 1945.
Mary, assisted by the weeping women, comes to Herself and She weeps without having any other strength but that of shedding tears. It really seems that Her life must flow and be consumed completely in Her tears.
They want to give Her some refreshment. Martha offers Her some wine; the mistress of the house would like Her to take at least some honey; Mary of Alphaeus, kneeling in front of Her, offers Her a cup of lukewarm milk, saying: « I milked it myself from little Rachel's goat » (Rachel must be a daughter of the people who live in this house, I do not know whether as tenants or as keepers). But Mary does not want anything. She weeps. She can only weep. And She asks and hears them promise that they will look for the apostles and disciples, for the lance and Jesus' garments, and that at the break of the day, since they do not want to let Her go now, they will let Her go into the Supper room.
« Yes. If You calm down a little, if You rest a little, I will take You there » says Her sister-in-law. « We shall both go in, and on my knees I will look for every trace of Jesus on Your behalf... » and Mary of Alphaeus sobs. « But look! Here You have the chalice and the bread broken by Him and used by Him for the Eucharist. Is there a holier souvenir? See? John brought them for You this morning, so that You might see them this evening... Poor John, he is over there and is weeping and is afraid... »
« Afraid? Why? Come here, John. » John comes out from the shade, because in the room there is only a little lamp placed on the table near the objects of the Passion, and he kneels at the feet of Mary, Who caresses him and asks: « Why are you afraid? »
And John, kissing Her hands and weeping replies: « Because You are not well. You are feverish and worried... And You are not tranquil. And if You continue so, You will die as He did... »
« Oh! I wish it were true! »
« No! Mother! Mama! Oh! It is more pleasant to say: “Mama”. As I say to my mother! Let me say so... But, as I find no difference between You and my mother, and I even love You more than I love her, because you are the Mother Whom He gave me and You are His Mother, so do not make too great a difference between the Son born of You, and the son who has been given to You... And love me a little as You love Him... If it were He Who said to You: “I am afraid that You may die”, would You reply: “Oh! I wish it were true”? No. You would not say that. On the contrary, You would be sorry to go away and leave Him, Your Lamb, in a world of wolves... And do You not grieve for me?... I am so much more a lamb than He was. Not through goodness and purity, but through stupidity and fear. If I am left without You, poor John will be torn to pieces by wolves without uttering a bleat that speaks of his Master... Do You want me to die so, without serving Him? As stupid in death as in life? No, You do not, do You? So, Mother, try to calm down... For His sake... Oh! do You not say that He will rise from the dead? Yes, You do, and it is true. Then, when He rises, do You want Him to find the house devoid of You? Because He will certainly come here... Oh! poor, poor Jesus, if instead of hearing Your cry of love He should hear our cries of grief, if instead of finding Your breast to rest His tortured glorious head on, He should find Your closed sepulchre... You must live. To greet Him when He comes back... I do not say “to our love”. We deserve all kinds of reproach because of our behaviour. But to Your love.
Oh! what meeting will it be? And what will He be like? Mother of Wisdom, Mama of the most ignorant John, since You know everything, tell us what He will be like, when He appears after rising from the dead. »
« The sores of Lazarus' legs were healed, but one could see their marks. And He appeared wrapped in bandages full of rottenness » says Martha.
« We had to wash him and wash him over again... » adds Mary.
« And he was weak, and we had to feed him by His order » ends Martha.
« The son of the widow of Nain looked bewildered and he was like a child unable to walk and speak without difficulty, so much so that He gave him back to his mother so that she might teach him to use the gift of life once again. And He Himself guided the first steps of Jairus' little daughter... » says John.
« I think that my Lord will send an angel to us to say: “Come with a clean garment”. And my love has already prepared it. It is in the mansion. I could not spin it. But I had it spun by my wet-nurse, who is no longer worried about my future, and does not weep any more. I got the most precious linen and I received the purple from Plautina, and Naomi wove the border; and I made the belt, the bag and the taleth, embroidering them by night not to be seen. I learned from You, Mother. It is not perfect. But rather than by the pearls forming His name on the belt and on the bag, it is made beautiful by the diamonds of my tears of love and by my kisses. Every stitch is a throb of devoutness for Him. And I will take it to Him. You will allow me, will You not? »
« Oh!... I did not think that they would deprive Him of His garment... I am not familiar with the practises of the world and with its ferocity... I thought that I was aware of it... (and tears once again stream down Her pale cheeks) but I see that I did not know anything yet... And I was thinking: “He will have the garment made by His Mother also afterwards.” He liked it so much! He wanted it like that. And He had told Me such a long time ago: “You will make a tunic in such a manner. And You will bring it to Me for Passover... Because Jerusalem must see Me in the purple garment of a king...” Oh! that wool, whiter than snow, while I spun it was becoming red in the eyes of God and Mine, because My heart was wounded once again by that word... The other wounds, after years and months, if they had not healed, had dried up by dripping blood. But this one! Every day, every hour, turned the sword round in My heart: “One day less! One hour less! Then He will be dead!” Oh! Oh!... And the yarn on the spindle and on the loom became red... Then it was steeped in the dye for the world... But it was already red... »
Mary weeps again. They try to comfort Her speaking to Her of the Resurrection.
Susanna asks: « What do You say? What will He be like when He rises? And how will He rise? »
And Mary, bewildered and blinded in this hour of redeeming martyrdom, replies: « I do not know... I do not know anything any more… Except that He is dead!... »
She bursts into tears again and kisses the linen cloth that Jesus had round His hips, and She presses it to Her heart and lulls it as if it were a baby... And She touches the nails, the thorns, the sponge and shouts: « These are the things that Your Fatherland gave You! Iron, thorns, vinegar, gall! And insults, insults, insults! And among all the sons of Israel a man from Cyrene had to be chosen to carry the cross for You. That man is as sacred to Me as a spouse. And if I knew another one who has helped My Son, I would kiss his feet. So no one took pity on Him? Go out! Go away! It grieves Me even to see you! Because among all of you, you were not able to obtain even a less cruel torture. Useless and idle servants of your King, go out! » She is dreadful in Her outburst. Standing stiff, She looks even taller, with Her imperious eyes, Her arm stretched out painting at the door. She commands like a queen on her throne.
They all leave without reacting to avoid exciting Her more, and they sit outside the closed door, listening to Her moaning and to any noise She may make. But after the noise of a chair pushed aside and of Her knees falling on the floor, because She kneels down with Her head against the table on which are the objects of the Passion, they can only hear Her weep unceasingly and disconsolately.
She whispers, but in such a low voice that those outside cannot hear Her: « Father, Father, forgive Me! I am becoming proud and bad. But You can see that what I say is true. There were crowds around Him. And all Palestine, during these festivals, is inside the holy walls... Holy? No. No longer holy... They would have remained such, if He had breathed His last within them. But Jerusalem rejected Him like a nauseating regurgitation. So only the Crime is in Jerusalem... Well, of all the people that followed Him, they were not able to gather a handful of men who could impose themselves, I do not mean to save Him, because He had to die to redeem, but to let Him die without so much torture. They remained in the shade, or they ran away... My heart revolts at so much cowardice. I am the Mother. So forgive My sin of proud harshness... » and She weeps...
...Outside the others are on tenter-hooks for many reasons.
The master of the house, who had gone out to stroll about curiously, comes back in and brings dreadful news. They say that many people died in the earthquake, many were wounded in scuffles between followers of the Nazarene and the Jews, that many have been arrested and that there will be more executions because of rebellions and threats to Rome; that Pilate has given orders to arrest all the followers of the Nazarene and the leaders of the Sanhedrin who are present in town or had already ran away through Palestine; that Johanna is dying in her mansion; that Manaen has been arrested by Herod, whom he insulted in the presence of all the Court as an accomplice of the Deicide. In brief, a pile of catastrophic news...
The women moan. Not so much out of fear for themselves, but for their sons and husbands. Susanna thinks of her husband, who is known as one of Jesus' followers in Galilee. Mary of Zebedee thinks of her husband, who is the guest of a friend, and of her son James, of whom she has had no news since the previous evening. And Martha says sobbing: « Perhaps they have already gone to Bethany! Who did not know what Lazarus was for the Master? »
« But he is protected by Rome » retorts Mary Salome.
« Oh! protected! Considering how much the chiefs of Israel hate us, who knows what charges they will make to Pilate against him... Oh! God! » Martha, not knowing which way to turn, shouts: « The arms! The arms! The house is full of them... and also the mansion! I know! This morning, at dawn, Levi, the guardian came, and he told me... But you know as well! And you told the Jews on Calvary... Fool! You have put in the hands of the cruel people the weapon to kill Lazarus!... »
« I said so. I did. I spoke the truth without knowing. But be quiet, you chicken-hearted woman! What I said is the safest guarantee for Lazarus. They will be wary of venturing on searching where they know there are armed people! They are cowards! »
« Yes, the Jews are. But the Romans are not. »
« I am not afraid of Rome. She is just and peaceful in her provisions. »
« Mary is right » says John. « Longinus said to me: “I hope you will be left alone. But if you are not, come or send someone to the Praetorium. Pilate is benign towards the followers of the Nazarene. He was generous also towards Him. We will defend you.” »
« But if the Jews act by themselves? It was they who captured Jesus yesterday evening! And if they say that we are desecrators, they are entitled to capture us. Oh! My sons! I have four of them! Where will Joseph and Simon be? They were on Calvary and later they came down when Johanna was unable to resist. They came down to help and defend the women, they, the shepherds and Alphaeus... all of them! Oh! They will certainly have already killed them. Did you hear that Johanna is dying? It is certainly because she has been wounded. And before the mob could strike a woman, they must have defended her and were killed!... And Judas and James? My little Judas! My darling! And James as kind as a girl! Oh! I have no children left! I am like the mother of the Maccabean children!... »
All the women weep desperately, except the mistress of the house, who has gone to look for a hiding place for her husband, and Mary Magdalene, who is not weeping. But her eyes are full of fire and she has become the authoritative woman of days gone by. She does not speak. But she darts angry looks at her dejected companions and in her eyes one can read an epithet very clearly: « Cowards! »
Some time goes by so... Now and again one stands up, opens the door slowly, casts a glance and closes the door again.
« What is She doing? » ask the others.
And the person who has looked answers: « She is always on Her knees. She is praying »; or: « She seems to be speaking to someone. » And also: « She has got up and She is gesticulating walking up and down the room. »
Lament of the Blessed Virgin.
« Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Where are You? Can You still hear Me? Can You hear Your poor Mother, Who is now shouting Your Name, after keeping it in Her heart for so many hours? Your holy blessed Name that has been My love, the love of My lips, which tasted the flavour of honey repeating Your Name, of My lips, which now, instead, when they mention it, seem to be drinking the bitterness left on Your Lips, the bitterness of the terrible mixture. Your Name, the love of My heart that swelled with joy, when repeating it, as it had swelled to pour off its blood and receive You and clothe You with it, when You descended into Me from Heaven, so small, so tiny, that You could have rested in the calyx of wild mint, You, so great, the Mighty One, humiliated in the embryo of man for the salvation of the world. Your Name, grief of My heart, now that they have torn You away from the caresses of Your Mother, to throw You into the arms of the executioners, who have tortured You to death!
My heart has been crushed by Your Name, that I had to keep within Me for so many hours and whose cry increased more and more as Your sorrow increased, until it crushed it, as if it had been trodden on by the foot of a giant. Oh! My sorrow is a giant and it crushes Me, it shatters Me, and there is nothing that can alleviate it. To whom shall I mention Your Name? Nothing replies to My cry. Even if I shouted so loud that I split the stone closing Your sepulchre, You would not hear Me, because You are dead. You cannot hear Your Mother any more.
How many times have I called You, Son, during these thirty-four years! Since I learned that I was to be a Mother and that My Little one was to be named “Jesus!” You were not yet born and I, caressing My womb, in which You were growing, used to call in a low voice: “Jesus!”, and You seemed to move to say: “Mummy!” to me. I had already given You a voice and I dreamed of Your voice. I could hear it before it existed. And when I did hear it, as faint as that of a new-born lamb, tremble in the cold night in which You were born, I became acquainted with the abyss of joy... and I thought that I had become acquainted with the abyss of sorrow, because it was the weeping of My Baby Who was cold, Who was uncomfortable, Who was shedding His first tears of Redeemer, and I had neither fire nor cradle, and I could not suffer in Your stead, Jesus. I had but My lap as fire and cushion, and My love to worship You, My holy Son.
I thought that I had become acquainted with the abyss of sorrow... It was the dawn of that sorrow, it was the edge of that sorrow. Now it is the broad noon, now it is the bottom. This is the abyss, this which I am touching now, after descending into it during these thirty-four years, driven by so many things and prostrated today in the horrible bottom of Your Cross.
When You were a little baby, I used to lull You singing: “Jesus! Jesus!” Which harmony is there more beautiful and holy than this Name, which makes the angels smile in Heaven? To Me it was more beautiful than the song, so sweet, of the angels the night of Your Birth. I could see Heaven in it, the whole of Heaven I could see through that Name. And now, saying it to You Who are dead and cannot hear Me, and You do not reply to Me, as if You had never existed, I see Hell, the whole of Hell. See, now I understand what it means to be damned. It is to be no longer able to say: “Jesus!” Horrible! Horrible! Horrible!...
How long will this hell last for Your Mother? You said: “Within three days I will rebuild this Temple.” I have been repeating these words to Myself all day today, in order not to drop dead, to be ready to greet You when You come back and go on serving You... But how shall I be able to put up for three days with the knowledge that You are dead? You, My Life, for three days dead?
How come, You, Who know everything, because You are the infinite Wisdom, are not aware of the torture of Your Mother? Can You not imagine it, remembering the day I lost You in Jerusalem, and You saw Me squeeze through the crowd around You, looking like a shipwrecked person that touches the shore, after struggling so much with waves and death, with the countenance of a woman who comes out of a torture exhausted, almost bled to death, aged, heart-broken? And then it was possible for me to think that You were just lost. I could delude Myself that it was only that. But not today. Not today. I know that You are dead. No illusion is possible. I saw You being killed. And even if grief should make Me lose My memory, here is Your Blood on My veil and it says to Me: “He is dead! He is bloodless! These are the last drops that gushed out of His Heart!” Out of His Heart! Out of the Heart of My Child! Of My Son! Of My Jesus! Oh! God, merciful God, do not let Me remember that they split His Heart!...
Jesus! I cannot stay here, alone, while You are there, all alone. I, Who have never loved the roads of the world and crowds, and You know, after You left Nazareth, have more and more frequently followed You, in order not to live far from You. I could not live away from You. I faced oddities and derision, I do not take into account fatigue, because it was obliterated by the joy of seeing You, just to live where You were. And now I am here all alone. And You are there, all alone! Why did they not leave Me in Your sepulchre? I would have sat beside Your chilly bed, holding one hand of Yours in Mine, to make You feel that I was near You... No, to feel that You were close to Me. You do not feel anything any more. You are dead!
How often have I spent the night near Your cradle, praying, loving, taking delight in You! Shall I tell You how You slept, with Your little fists closed like two flower buds near Your holy little face? Shall I tell You how you used to smile in Your sleep and, certainly remembering Your Mummy's milk, You made the gesture of sucking, while sleeping? Shall I tell You how You woke up and opened Your eyes and laughed, seeing Me bent over Your face, and You stretched Your little hands joyfully, as You were anxious to be taken by Me, and how with a little cry as sweet as the trill of a blackcap You claimed Your food? Oh! I was happy when You clung to My breast and I felt the smooth tepidity of Your cheeks, the caresses of Your little hands on My mamma!
You could not stay away from Your Mother. And now You are alone! Forgive Me, Son, for leaving You alone, for not rebelling for the first time in My life and for not insisting on remaining there. It was My place. I would have felt less desolate, if I had remained near Your funereal bed, to arrange Your clothes, as in days gone by, and change them... Even if You could not have smiled at and spoken to Me, I would have felt as if I had You again as when You were a baby. I would have held You to My heart, in order not to make You feel the chillness of the stone, the hardness of the marble. Did I not hold You also today? The lap of a mother is always capable of holding a son, even if he is grown-up man. A son is always a baby for his mother, even if he is one who has been taken down from a cross, covered with sores and wounds.
How many! How many wounds! How much sorrow! Oh! My Jesus, My Jesus so wounded! So wounded! So wounded! No. No. Lord, no! It cannot be true! I am mad! Jesus dead? I am raving. Jesus cannot die! Yes, He can suffer. But He cannot die. He is the Life! He is the Son of God. He is God. God does not die.
Does He not die? Then, why has He been named Jesus? What does “Jesus” mean? It means... oh! it means: “Saviour”! He is dead! He is dead because He is the Saviour! He had to save everybody losing Himself... I am not raving. No. I am not mad. No. I wish I were! I should suffer less! He is dead. Here is His Blood. Here is His crown. Here are the three nails. They have pierced Him with them!
Men, look with what you have pierced God, My Son! And I must forgive you. And I must love you. Because He has forgiven you. Because He told Me to love you. He made Me your Mother, the Mother of the killers of My Child! One of His last words, struggling against the death-rattle at His agony... “Mother, here is Your son... your sons!” Even if I were not She Who obeys, today I would have had to obey, because it was the order of a dying man.
So, Jesus. I forgive. I love them. Ah! My hearts breaks in this forgiveness and in this love! Do You hear that I am forgiving them and loving them? I am praying for them. Yes, I am praying for them... I am closing My eyes not to see these objects of Your torture, to be able to forgive them, love them and pray for them. Each nail serves to crucify a will of Mine not to forgive, not to love, not to pray for Your executioners.
I must, I want to think that I am near Your cradle. Also then I prayed for men. But it was easy then. You were alive and I, although I thought that men were cruel, I never went so far as to think that they could be so cruel to You, Who had assisted them excessively. I prayed and I was convinced that Your Word would make them better men. In My heart I said to them, looking at them: “You are bad, diseased, now, brothers. But before long He will speak, before long He will defeat Satan in you. He will give you the Life lost!” The life lost! It is You, You, You, Who have lost Your life for them, My Jesus! If, when You were in Your swaddling-clothes, I had seen all today's horror, My sweet milk would have turned into poison through grief!
Simeon said so: “And a sword will pierce Your heart.” A sword? A mass of swords! How many wounds did they inflict on You, Son? How many groans did You utter? From how many spasms did You suffer? How many drops of blood did You shed? Well, each of them is a sword in Me. I am a mass of swords. There is not a strip of skin on You without sores. In Me there is not one that has not been pierced. They pierce My flesh and penetrate My heart.
When I was expecting You, I prepared Your swaddling-clothes and napkins, spinning the softest linen on the Earth. I did not mind the price, providing I had the softest cloth. How beautiful You looked in the swaddling-clothes made by Your Mother! Everybody said to Me: “Your Child is beautiful, Donna!” You were lovely! From the white linen there appeared Your rosy little face, Your eyes were bluer than the sky, and Your little head seemed enveloped in a golden mist, so fair and soft was Your hair. It smelt of blossoms of almond-trees. People thought that I put scent on You. No. My Darling had but the scent of the swaddling-clothes washed by His Mother, warmed and kissed by Her heart and lips. I was never tired of working for You...
And now? Now I have nothing more to do for You. For three years You have been away from home. But You were still the aim of My days. I thought of You. Of Your clothes. Of Your food: I kneaded flour and baked bread, I looked after the bees to give You honey, I took care of the trees, so that they might yield fruit for You. How much You loved the things that Your Mother brought You! No food of a rich table, no garment of precious cloth was for You like those woven, sewn, taken care of, picked by the hands of Your Mother. When I came to You, You looked at once at My hands, as You used to do when You were a little boy, and Joseph and I gave You our poor gifts, to make You feel that You were “our” King. You have never been greedy, My Child; it was love that You were seeking, that was Your food, and You found it in our attentions. Even now You found it and were looking for it, poor Son of Mine, so little loved by the world!
Now, nothing more. Everything has been accomplished. Your Mother will not do anything any more for You. You no longer need anything. Now You are alone... And I am alone... Oh! happy Joseph, who has not seen this day! I wish I had never seen it either! But in that case You would not have had even this comfort of seeing Your poor Mother. You would have been all alone on the cross, as You are alone in the sepulchre. All alone with Your wounds.
Oh! God! God! How many wounds has Your Son, My Son! How was I able to see them without dying, whereas I almost fainted every time You hurt Yourself when You were a child?
Once You fell in the kitchen garden in Nazareth and You hurt Your forehead. Only a few drops of blood. But I, Who felt I was dying when I saw the drops of Your Blood at the Circumcision, and Joseph had to support Me as I was shaking like one who is dying, I thought that that tiny cut would kill You and I cured it more with My tears than with water and oil, and I was not at peace until I saw that it no longer bled. Another time, You were learning to work and You hurt Yourself with a saw. A slight wound. But I felt as if the saw had cut Me in two. I had no rest until six days later, when I saw Your hand healed.
And now? And now? Now You have Your hands, feet, side ripped, now Your flesh is falling in pieces, Your face is bruised, that Face which I did not dare to touch lightly with a kiss, and Your forehead and the nape of Your neck are ulcerated. And no one gave You medicament or comfort.
Look at My heart, God, Who have struck Me in My Child! Look at it! Is it not as covered with sores as the Body of Your Son and Mine? The scourges have come down on Me like hailstones, while He was being lashed. What is distance for love? I suffered the torture of My Son! I wish I alone had suffered it, and that I alone were on the sepulchral stone! Look at Me, God! Is My heart not bleeding?
Here is the circle of thorns, I can feel it. It is a band that squeezes and pierces it. Here is the hole of the nails: three stylets driven into My heart. Oh! those blows! Those blows! How did Heaven not collapse because of those sacrilegious blows on the flesh of God? And not being able to shout! Not being able to rush forward and snatch the weapon from the killers and use it to defend My Child, Who was already dying. But having to hear and hear... and not do anything! A stroke on the nail, and the nail penetrates the living flesh. Another stroke, and it penetrates even more. And another, another one, and bones and nerves break, and the flesh of My Child is pierced, and the heart of His Mother! And when they raised You on Your Cross? How much You must have suffered, Holy Son! I can still see Your hand torn by the shock of the drop. And My heart is torn likewise.
I am bruised, scourged, stung, struck, pierced like You. I was not with You on the cross. But look at Your Mother. Is She different from You? No, there is no difference of martyrdom. On the contrary, Yours is over. Mine is still on. You no longer hear the false charges; I do. You no longer hear the horrible curses. I still hear them. You no longer feel the bites of thorns and nails, You are no longer parched or feverish. I am full of points of fire and I am like one who is dying of thirst and delirious fever.
If they had even allowed Me to give You a drop of water. My tears, if the ferocity of men denied the Creator the water created by Him. I gave You suck for a long time, because we were poor, My Son, and in our flight into Egypt we had lost so much, and we had to get a new house, furniture, clothes and food, and we did not know how long the exile would last, or what we would have found going back to our country. I gave You suck longer than the usual period of time, so that You might not feel the lack of food. Until we got the little goat, I was Your little goat, Child of Your Mummy. You already had so many little teeth, and You used to bite... Oh! what a joy to see You laugh in Your childish games!...
You wanted to walk. You were so healthy and strong. I held You up for hours and hours, and I did not feel My back break being bent over You, Who were taking Your first steps and at each step You would say: “Mummy, Mummy!” Oh! what a beatitude to hear You sing that name! Also today You were saying: “Mother, Mother!” But Your Mother could only see You die! I could not even caress Your feet! Your feet? Ah! even if they had been within reach, I would not have been able to touch them, to avoid increasing Your torture. How much Your poor feet must have suffered, o My Jesus!
If only I could have come up to You and placed Myself between the wood and Your body, and prevented You from rubbing against the wood in the convulsions of the agony! I can still hear Your head knock against the wood in the last gasps. And that sound, that sound drives Me mad. It is in My head... like a hammer.
Come back, come back, My dear holy Son! I am dying. I cannot bear this desolation of Mine. Show Me Your face once again. Call Me again. I cannot think that You have no voice, no eyes, that You are a cold lifeless corpse. Oh! Father, assist Me! Jesus does not hear Me! Is His Passion not over? Is it not all accomplished? Are these nails, these thorns, this blood, these tears of Mine not sufficient? Is still more required to heal man?
Father, I am mentioning the instruments of His sorrow and My tears. But that is the least important. What made Him die tortured in a superhuman manner was Your abandonment. What makes Me shout is Your abandonment. I cannot hear You any more! Where are You, holy Father? I was the “Full of Grace”. The Angel said: “Hail, Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with You and You are blessed amongst all women.” No. It is not true! It is not true! I am like a woman cursed by You for her sin. You are no longer with Me. Grace has withdrawn, as if I were a second Eve sinner.
But I have always been faithful to You. In what have I displeased You? You have dealt with Me as You liked, and I have always said to You: “Yes, Father. I am ready.” So, can angels lie? And Anne, who assured Me that You would give Me Your angel in the hour of sorrow? I am alone. I no longer have grace in Your eyes, I no longer have You, Grace, in Me. I no longer have an angel. So, do saints lie? In what have I displeased You, if they do not lie and I have deserved this hour?
And Jesus? What wrong has Your pure meek Lamb done? In what have we offended You to deserve the incalculable torture of Your abandonment, in addition to the martyrdom given by men? He, above all, He was Your Son and He called You with that voice that made the Earth shudder and shake in a sob of pity. How could You abandon Him all alone in such a torture?
Poor Heart of Jesus, Who loved You so much! Where is the sign of the wound of His Heart? Here it is. Look, Father, at this sign. This is the impression of My hand that entered the gash of the lance-thrust. Here... Here... It cannot be erased either by the tears or by the kisses of His Mother, Whose eyes are dry through weeping and Whose lips are consumed through kissing. This sign shouts and reproaches. This sign cries to You from the Earth more than Abel's blood. And You, Who cursed Cain and revenged Yourself on him, did not intervene on behalf of My Abel already bled by His Cains, and You allowed this last outrage! You crushed His Heart with Your abandonment and You allowed a man to strip Him, so that I might see Him and be crushed. With regard to Me, it does not matter. It is for Him, for Him that I ask and call You to answer. You should not have done that...
Oh! forgive Me! Forgive Me, Holy Father! Forgive a Mother Who is mourning Her Child... He is dead! My Son is dead! Dead with His Heart rent! Oh! Father! Father, have mercy! I love You! We have loved You and You have loved us so much. How did You allow the Heart of Our Son to be rent? Oh! Father!... Father, have mercy on a poor woman! I am blaspheming, Father! I, Your servant, Your nonentity, dare reproach You! Have mercy! You have been good. You have been good. The wound, the only wound that did not hurt Him, is this one. Your abandonment served to make Him die before sunset avoiding other tortures.
You have been good. You do everything for a purpose of good. It is we creatures who do not understand. You have been good. You have been good! O My soul, repeat that word, to remove the sting of Your suffering from Your suffering. God is good and has always loved You, My soul. From Your cradle to the present moment, He has always loved You. He has given You all the joy of the time. All of it. He has given You Himself. He has been good. Good. Good. Thank You, Lord. May You be Blessed for Your infinite goodness!
Thank You. Jesus, I say “thank You” also on Your behalf. This wound at least was not felt by You, Son! I only felt it in My Heart, when I saw Yours opened. Your lance is now in My heart and it rummages and tortures. But it is better so! You do not feel it. But, have mercy, Jesus! A sign from
You! A caress, a word for Your poor Mother, Whose heart is torn to pieces! A sign, a sign, Jesus, if You want to find Me alive when You come back! »
[29th March 1945].
A loud knock at the door makes everyone start. The master of the house bravely runs away. Mary of Zebedee would like her John to follow him and pushes him towards the yard. The other women, with the exception of the Magdalene, press against one another moaning.
It is Mary of Magdala who goes straight and resolutely to the door and asks: « Who is it? »
The voice of a woman replies: « I am Nike. I have something to be given to the Mother. Open! Quick. The patrol is around. »
John, who has freed himself from his mother and has rushed towards the Magdalene, busies himself with the many locks, which are well fastened this evening. He opens the door. Nike comes in with a servant and a brawny man who is escorting them. They close the door.
« I have a thing... » says Nike weeping and she is unable to speak..
« What? What? » They are all around her, full of curiosity.
« On Calvary... I saw the Saviour in that state... I had prepared a loincloth, so that He would not have to use the rags of the executioners... But He was so wet with perspiration, with blood in His eyes, that I thought I should give it to Him to wipe Himself. He did so... And He gave the cloth back to me. I have not used it again... I wanted to keep it as a relic with His perspiration and blood. And seeing the fury of the Jews, shortly afterwards, with Plautina and the other Roman ladies Lydia and Valeria, we decided to come back, for fear they might take this linen cloth from us. The Romans are brave women. They put the servant and me in the middle and they protected us. It is true that they are contamination for Israel... and that it is dangerous to touch Plautina. But one thinks of that in peaceful times. Today they were all drunk... At home I wept... for hours... Then there was the earthquake and I fainted... When I came to myself, I wanted to kiss that linen cloth and I saw... oh!... The face of the Redeemer is on it!... »
« Let us see! Let us see! »
« No. The Mother first. It is Her right. »
« She is so exhausted! She will not be able to resist... »
« Oh! don't say that! On the contrary, it will comfort Her. Tell Her! »
John knocks at the door lightly.
« Who is it? »
« It is I, Mother. Nike is here... She came during the night... She brought a souvenir to You... a gift... She hopes to comfort You with it. »
« Oh! one gift only can comfort Me! The smile of His Face... »
« Mother! » John embraces Her lest She should fall, and as if he were confiding the true Name of God, he says: « It is that. The smile of His Face, impressed on a linen cloth with which Nike wiped Him on Calvary. »
« Oh! Father! Most High God! Holy Son! Eternal Love! May You be blessed! The sign! The sign I asked of You. Let her, let her come in! »
Mary sits down, because She cannot stand any longer, and while John beckons to the women, who are peeping into the room, to let Nike pass, She recovers Herself.
Nike goes in and kneels at Her feet with the servant beside her. John, standing near Mary, holds his arm round Her shoulders, as if he wanted to support Her. Nike does not utter one word. But she opens the casket, takes the linen cloth out and unfolds it. And the Face of Jesus, the living Face of Jesus, the sorrowful and yet smiling Face of Jesus looks at His Mother and smiles at Her.
Mary utters a cry of sorrowful love and stretches out Her arms. The women echo Her cry from the door-space where they have crowded. And they imitate Her kneeling before the Face of the Saviour.
Nike cannot find words. She hands the linen cloth over to the motherly hands and she stoops to kiss its edge. She then goes out backwards without waiting for Mary to come out of Her ecstasy.
She goes away... She is already out, in the night, when they think of her... There is nothing to be done except to close the door, as it was before.
Mary is once again alone. In a conversation of Her soul with the image of Her Son, because they all withdraw again.
Some more time goes by. Then Martha says: « What shall we do for the ointments? Tomorrow is the Sabbath... »
« And we shall not be able to get anything... » says Salome.
« And we should do that... Many pounds of aloe and myrrh... but He was so badly washed... »
« We ought to have everything ready by dawn on the first day after the Sabbath » remarks Mary of Alphaeus.
« And what about the guards? What shall we do? » asks Susanna.
« We shall tell Joseph, if they do not let us go in » replies Martha.
« We shall not be able to shift the stone by ourselves. »
The Magdalene replies: « Oh! do you think that five of us will not be able? We are all strong... and love will do the rest. »
« In any case I will come with you » says John.
« Certainly not you. I do not want to lose you as well, son. »
« Don't worry about it. We shall be enough. »
« But in the meantime... Who will give us the spices? »
They are all depressed... Then Martha says: « We could have asked Nike whether it was true about Johanna... about the rebellions... »
« That is true! But we are dull-witted. We could have taken also the spices then. Isaac was at the doorstep when we came back... »
« In the mansion there are many small vases of essences, and there is some fine incense. I will go and get them. » And Mary Magdalene stands up from her seat and puts on her mantle.
Martha shouts: « You shall not go. »
« I will go. »
« You are mad! They will get you! »
« Your sister is right. Don't go! »
« Oh! what useless howling females you are! Jesus really had a fine group of followers! Have you already used up your reserve of courage? With regard to me, the more I use the more I get. »
« I will go with her. I am a man. »
« And I am your mother and I forbid you. »
« Be good, Mary Salome, and you, too, John. I will go by myself. I am not afraid. I know what it is like going round the streets at night. I have done that thousands of times for sinful reasons... and should I be afraid now that I am going to serve the Son of God? »
« But there is a revolt in town today. You heard what the man said. »
« He is faint-hearted. And you are like him. I am going. »
« And if the soldiers find you? »
« I will say: “I am the daughter of Theophilus, the Syrian, a faithful servant of Caesar.” And they will let me go. In any case... A man before a beautiful young woman is a more harmless plaything than a stalk of straw. I know, much to my shame... »
« But how do you expect to find perfumes in the mansion if no one has lived in it for years? »
« Do you think so? Oh! Martha! Do you not remember that Israel forced you to leave it, because it was one of my meeting-places with my lovers? I kept everything there that served to make them even more crazy about me. When I was saved by my Saviour, in a place known only to me, I concealed the alabasters and incenses that I used for my orgies of love. And I swore that only the tears shed on my sins and the adoration of the Most Holy Jesus would be the scented waters and the burning incenses of repentant Mary. And that I would use those signs of a profane cult of senses and of the flesh only to sanctify them on Him and to anoint Him. This is the hour. I am going. Remain here. And be calm. The angel of God will come with me and no harm will befall me. Goodbye. I will bring you news. And do not say anything to Her... You would increase Her worries... » And Mary of Magdala goes out sure of herself and imposing.
« Mother, let that be a lesson for you... And may it say to you: do not let the world say that your son is a coward. Tomorrow, no, today, because this is already the second watch, I will go looking for my companions, as She wants... »
« It is the Sabbath... you cannot... » objects Salome to detain him.
« “The Sabbath is dead.” I also say with Joseph. The new era has begun. Other laws, other sacrifices and ceremonies for it. »
Mary of Salome bends her head on her knees and weeps without protesting any more.
« Oh! I wish we could have news of Lazarus » says Mary of Clopas with a moan.
« If you let me go, you will have news, because Simon the Cananean had instructions to take my companions to Lazarus. Jesus told Simon when I was present. »
« Alas! Are they all there? So they are all lost! » Mary of Clopas and Salome weep desolately.
More time passes while they weep and wait. Then Mary Magdalene comes back triumphantly, laden with bags full of small precious vases.
« See, nothing has happened to me. Here are oils of all kinds, and nard, and olibanum, and benzoin. There is no myrrh and no aloe... I did not want any bittemess... I am drinking it all now... In the meantime we will mix these and tomorrow we will get... oh! if we pay, Isaac will give them also on a Sabbath... We will get myrrh and aloe. »
« Did anyone see you? »
« No one. There is not even a bat around. »
« And the soldiers? »
« The soldiers? I think they must be snoring in their pallets. »
« What about the seditions... the arrests... »
« The fear of that man saw them... »
« Who is in the mansion? »
« Levi and his wife. As peaceful as children. The armed men have fled... ha! ha! fine brave men we have, honestly!... They ran away as soon as they heard of the death sentence. I tell you the truth: Rome is hard and uses the scourge... But by it she makes people fear her and serve her. And she has men, not cowards... Oh! yes! He used to say: “My followers will experience the same destiny as Mine.” H'm! If many Romans become followers of Jesus, that may be true. But if there are to be martyrs among the Israelites! He will remain alone... Here. This is my sack. And this one is Johanna's, who... yes. We are not only cowards, but also liars. Johanna is only depressed. She and Eliza felt ill on Golgotha. One is a mother whose son died, and, as she heard the death-rattles of Jesus, she was badly upset. The other is delicate and not used to so much walking and exposure to the sun. But there are no wounds and no agonies. She certainly weeps, as we do. Nothing else. She regrets that she was taken away. She will come tomorrow. And she sends these spices. The ones she had. As ordered by Plautina, Valeria had remained with her, and now she has gone with the slaves to Claudia's house, because they have much incense. When she comes, because she, too, by the grace of Heaven, is not an ever trembling coward, don't start shouting as if you felt the dagger at your throats. Come on. Get up. Let us take the mortars and work. Weeping is of no avail. Or at least weep and work. Our balm will be mixed with our tears. And He will feel them upon Himself... He will feel our love. » And she bites her lips, not to weep and to give strength to the others, who are really depressed.
They work eagerly. Mary calls John.
« Mother, what is the matter? »
« Those blows... »
« They are pounding incenses... »
« Ah!... But forgive Me... Don't make that noise... they sound like the hammers... » In fact the bronze pestles striking the marble of the mortars make the exact noise of hammers.
John tells the women, who go out into the yard, in order not to be heard so much. John goes back to the Mother.
« How did they get them? »
« Mary of Lazarus went to her house and to Johanna's... Also some more will be brought... »
« Did anybody come? »
« Nobody after Nike. »
« But look at Him, John, how handsome He is also in His sorrow! » Mary is absorbed in contemplation, with Her hands joined, before the cloth, which She has spread out on a chest holding it with some weights.
« Handsome, yes, Mother. And He is smiling at You... Do not weep any more... Some hours have already gone by. There is less to wait for His return... » and in the meantime John weeps...
Mary caresses his cheek. But She looks only at the image of Her Son.
John goes out, blinded by his tears.
Also the Magdalene, who has come back to get some amphorae, is in the same state. But she says to the Apostle: « We must not let them see that we are weeping. Because, otherwise, the women over there will not be able to do anything. And we have to do... »
« ...and we have to believe » concludes John.
« Yes. We must believe. If one were not able to believe, it would be despair. I believe. And you? »
« I, too... »
« You say so badly. You do not love enough yet. If you loved with your whole self, it would not be possible for you not to believe. Love is light and voice. Also against the darkness of denial and the silence of death it says: “I believe”. » Wonderful is the Magdalene, so great and imposing, authoritative in her confession of faith! Her heart must be torn to pieces. And her eyes inflamed by tears confirm that. But her spirit is undefeated.
John looks at her full of admiration and whispers: « You are strong! »
« Always. I was so much, that I dared to defy the world. And I was, then, without God. Now that I have Him, I feel I know how to defy also hell. You, who are good, should be stronger than I am. Because sin disheartens, you know? More than consumption. But you are innocent... That is why He loved you so much... »
« He loved you as well... »
« And I was not innocent. But I was His conquest and... »
There is a loud knock at the door.
« It may be Valeria. Open the door. »
John does so without any fear, dominated by Mary's calm.
It is in fact Valeria with her slaves, who are carrying the litter, from which she comes out. She goes in uttering the Latin greeting: « Salve. »
« Peace be with you, sister. Come in » says John.
« May I offer the Mother the homage of Plautina? Claudia also has contributed. But if it is not grievous for Her to see me. »
John goes in to Mary.
« Who is knocking? Peter? Judas? Joseph? »
« No. It is Valeria. She has brought some precious resins. She would like to offer them to You... if that does not grieve You. »
« I must overcome grief. He called the children of Israel and the heathens to His Kingdom. He called everybody. Now... He is dead... But I am here for Him. And I receive everybody. Let her come in. »
Valeria enters. She has taken off her dark mantle and she is all white in her stole. She stoops to the ground. She greets and speaks. « Domina. You know who we are. The first women redeemed from heathen obscurantism. We were dirt and darkness. Your Son has given us wings and light. Now He is... sleeping in peace. We know your customs. And we want also the balms of Rome to be spread on the Triumpher. »
« May God bless you, daughters of My Lord. And... forgive Me if I am not able to say more... »
« Do not make any effort, Domina. Rome is strong. But she can also understand grief and love. She understands You, Sorrowful Mother. Goodbye. »
« Peace be with you, Valeria! My blessing to Plautina, to all of you. »
Valeria withdraws leaving her incenses and other essences.
« See, Mother? The whole world is making offerings to the King of Heaven and Earth. »
« Yes » says Mary. « The whole world. And His Mother will have been able to give Him nothing but tears. »
A cock crows joyfully somewhere nearby. John starts.
« What is the matter, John? » asks the Blessed Virgin.
« I was thinking of Simon Peter... »
« But was he not with you? » asks the Magdalene who has gone back into the room.
« Yes. In Annas' house. Then I understood that I had to come here. And I have not seen him again. »
« It will soon be dawn. »
« Yes. Open the windows. »
They open the window coverings, and their faces look even wanner in the greenish dawn light.
The night of Good Friday is over.