1st April 1945.
The women resume working at the ointments, which, during the night, in the cool of the court-yard, have become a thick pomade.
John and Peter think that they ought to tidy up the Supper-room, cleaning the tableware, but putting everything back, as if the Supper were just over.
« He told us » says John.
« He had also said: “Do not fall asleep”! He had said: “Do not be proud, Peter. Do you not know that the hour of the trial is about to come?” And... and He said: “You will deny Me...” » Peter weeps again, while with deep grief he says: « And I did deny Him! »
« Enough, Peter! Now you have collected yourself. Enough of this torture! »
« No, never enough. If I should become as old as the ancient patriarchs, if I should live the seven hundred or the nine hundred years of Adam and of his first grandchildren, I would never cease having this torture. »
« Do you not hope in His Mercy? »
« Yes, I do. If I did not believe in that, I should be like the Iscariot: a desperate man. But even if He forgives me from the bosom of His Father, where He has gone back, I will not forgive myself. I! I! I who said: “I do not know Him”, because at that moment it was dangerous to know Him, because I was ashamed of being His disciple, because I was afraid of being tortured... He was going towards His death... and I thought of saving my life. And to save it, I rejected Him, like a woman in sin, who, after giving birth to a child, rejects the fruit of her womb, which is dangerous to keep, before her unaware husband comes back. I am worse than an adulteress... worse than... »
Mary Magdalene, attracted by their shouts, comes in. « Do not shout like that. Mary can hear you. She is so exhausted! She has no strength left, and everything hurts Her. Your useless unseemly shouts renew Her torture of what you have been... »
« See? See, John? A woman can order me to be quiet. And she is right. Because we, the males sacred to the Lord, have only been able to lie or to run away. The women have been brave. You, a little more than a woman, so young and pure you are, were able to remain. We, the strong ones, the males, have fled. Oh! how the world must despise me! Tell me, tell me, woman! You are right! Put your foot on my lips that lied. On the sole of your sandal there is perhaps a little of His Blood. And only that Blood, mixed with the mud of the road, can give the denier a little forgiveness, a little peace. I must get accustomed to the scorn of the world! What am I? Tell me: what am I? »
« You are full of pride » replies calmly the Magdalene. « Sorrow? Also. But you must believe that out of ten parts of your sorrow, five, I do not want to offend you by saying six, five are of your sorrow of being one who can be despised. And I will really scorn you if you continue only to moan and get into a frenzy, just like a foolish woman! What is done is done. And no unseemly shouting can repair it or cancel it. It only serves to draw attention and beg for undeserved pity. Be manly in your repentance. Do not shout. Act.
I... you know who I was... But, when I realised that I was more despicable than vomit, I did not fall into fits of convulsions. I acted. In public. Without being indulgent towards myself and without asking for indulgence. Did the world despise me? It was right. I had deserved it. The world said: “A new whim of the prostitute”? And it called blasphemy my recourse to Jesus? It was right. The world remembered my previous behaviour that justified such remarks. So? The world had to convince itself that the sinner Mary no longer existed. By means of facts, I convinced the world. Do the same and be quiet. »
« You are severe, Mary » objects John.
« More with myself than with other people. But I admit it. I do not have the light hand of the Mother. She is Love. I... oh! I! I lashed my feelings with the whip of my will. And I will do so even more. Do you think that I have forgiven myself for being lustful? No, I have not. But I only say so to myself. And I will always repeat it to myself. I shall die consumed with this secret regret of having been my own corrupter, with this inconsolable sorrow of having profaned myself and not having been able to give Him but a trampled on heart... See... I have worked more than all the others at the balms... And with greater courage than the others I will uncover Him... Oh! God! what will He be like now! (Mary of Magdala grows pale at the very thought of it). And I will cover Him with fresh balms, removing those which are certainly all tainted on His countless wounds... I will do so, because the other women will look like convolvuli after a downpour... But it grieves me to have to do it with these hands of mine accustomed to caressing lustfully, and to have to approach His Holiness with this stained body of mine... I should like... I should like to have the hand of the Virgin Mother to accomplish this last unction... »
Mary is now weeping silently, without sobbing. How different she is from the theatrical Mary always shown to us! She is weeping noiselessly, as she did on the day of her forgiveness in the house of the Pharisee.
« Are you saying that... the women will be afraid? » Peter asks her.
« Not afraid... But they will be upset seeing His Body, which is certainly already rotten... swollen... black. And then, and this is certain, they will be afraid of the guards. »
« Do you want me to come? With John? »
« Ha! Certainly not! We women are all going. Because, as we were all up there, so it is fair that we should all be round His death bed. You and John will remain here. She cannot remain alone!... »
« Is She not coming? »
« We are not letting Her come! »
« She is convinced that He will rise from the dead... What do you think? »
« I, after Mary, am the one who believes more. I have always believed that that could be. He said so. And He never lies... Never!... Oh! before I used to call Him Jesus, Master, Saviour, Lord... Now, now I feel that He is so great that I do not know, I dare not give Him a name any more... What shall I say to Him when I see Him?... »
« But do you really think that He will rise?... »
« Another one! Oh! By dint of telling you that I do believe and of hearing you say that you do not believe, I will end up by not believing any more myself! I have believed and I do believe. I have believed and a long time ago I prepared a garment for Him. And tomorrow, as tomorrow is the third day, I will bring it here, to have it ready... »
« But if you say that He will be black, swollen, filthy? »
« Filthy, never. Sin is filthy. But... of course! He will be black. So? Was Lazarus not already putrid? And yet he rose. And his body was healed. But, if I say so!... Be quiet, you misbelievers! My human reason says also to me: “He is dead and will not rise.” But my spirit, “His” spirit, because I have received a new spirit from Him, shouts resounding like blares of silver trumpets: “He will rise! He will rise! He will rise!” Why do you hurl me like a little boat against the cliffs of your doubts? I believe! I believe, my Lord! Although torn by grief, Lazarus has obeyed the Master and has remained in Bethany... I, who know who Lazarus of Theophilus is, a strong man, not a fearful leveret, can appreciate the sacrifice he made by remaining in the shade and not near the Master. But he obeyed. And by such obedience he has been more heroical than if with weapons he had snatched Him from armed men. I have believed and I believe. And I am staying here. Waiting like Her. But let me go. It is daybreak. As soon as there is enough light, we will go to the Sepulchre... »
And the Magdalene goes away, her face flushed with weeping, but always brave.
She goes back into Mary's room.
« What was the matter with Peter? »
« A nervous fit. But he has got over it. »
« Do not be severe, Mary. He suffers. »
« So do I. But You know that not even once have I asked a pitying caress of You. He has already been cured by You... On the contrary, I think that You alone, Mother, are in need of a balsam. My holy, beloved Mother! But take heart... Tomorrow is the third day. We shall lock ourselves in here, the two of us: His lovers. You, the holy Lover; I, the poor lover... But I love Him as much as I can, with my whole self. And we will wait for Him... The rest, those who do not believe, we will lock them in over there, with their doubts. And I will put many roses here... I will have the chest brought here today... I will go to the mansion house and I will instruct Levi. All these horrible things must disappear! Our Resurrected Lord must not see them... So many roses... And You will put on a new dress... He must not see You so. I will comb Your hair, I will wash Your poor face disfigured by tears. Eternal maid, I will act as Your mother... I shall have, at last, the joy of taking motherly care of a child more innocent than a new-born baby! Dear! » and with her emotional exuberance, the Magdalene presses to her breast the head of Mary Who is sitting, she kisses and caresses Her, she tidies the light locks of Her hair ruffled behind Her ears, with her linen dress she wipes the fresh tears that stream down Her cheeks again, again, always...
The women come in with lights and amphorae and large-mouthed vases.
Mary of Alphaeus is carrying a heavy mortar. « It is not possible to stay outside. There is a weak wind that blows out the lamps » she explains.
They place themselves on one side. They lay all their things on a long narrow table, then they give the final touch to their balms by mixing the already heavy pomade of essences in the mortar with a white powder, handfuls of which they take from a little sack. They mix working with all their energy and then they fill a large-mouthed vase. They place it on the floor. They repeat the same operation with another vase. Perfumes and tears fall on the resins.
Mary Magdalene says: « This is not the unction that I hoped I should be able to prepare for You. » Because it is the Magdalene who, being more skilled than the other women, has controlled and directed the composition of the perfume, which is so strong that they decide to open the door and leave the window ajar over the garden, which is just beginning to appear in the early light of dawn.
They all weep more loudly after the remark made by the Magdalene in a subdued voice.
They have finished. All the vases are full.
They go out with the empty amphorae, the mortar no longer useful, and many lamps. Two only are left in the little room and they tremble, they seem to be sobbing as well, with the flickering of their light...
The women come back again and they close the window, because it is a rather cold dawn. They put on their mantles and they take large sacks into which they put the vases of the balm.
Mary stands up and looks for Her mantle. But they all crowd round Her convincing Her not to come.
« You are not fit to stand, Mary. You have not had any food for two days. Only a little water. »
« Yes, Mother, We will do it quickly and well. And we shall soon be back. »
« Be not afraid. We will embalm Him like a king. Look what precious balm we have prepared! And how much of it!... »
« We will not neglect any part of the body or any wound and we will arrange Him properly with our hands. We are strong and we are mothers. We will place Him like a child in a cradle. And the others will only have to close the place. »
But Mary insists: « It is My duty » She says. « I have always taken care of Him. Only these last three years that He was in the world, I surrendered the care of Him to other people, when He was far away from Me. Now that the world has rejected and disowned Him, He is Mine again. And I am once again His servant. »
Peter, who had approached the door with John, without being seen by the women, runs away upon hearing these words. He runs to some secluded corner to bewail his sin. John remains near the door. But he does not say anything. He would like to go as well. But he makes the sacrifice of remaining with the Mother.
Mary Magdalene takes Mary back to Her seat. She kneels in front of Her, she embraces Her knees raising her sorrowful loving face towards Her, and she promises: « With His Spirit, He knows and sees everything. But with my kisses I will tell His Body Your love and Your wish. I know what is love. I know what spur, what hunger it is to love, what nostalgia of being with whoever is our love. And that applies also to any base love that looks like gold, but is filth. And when she who has sinned can understand what is the holy love for the living Mercy, Whom men did not know how to love, then she can understand better what is Your love, Mother.
You know that I know how to love. And You know that He said so, that evening of my true birth, on the shores of our serene lake, that Mary knows how to love much. Now this exuberant love of mine, like water that overflows from a tilted basin, like a flowery rosery that streams down a wall, like a flame that finding timber spreads and grows, has poured onto Him, and from Him-Love has drawn fresh power...
Oh! my power of loving was not able to take His place on the Cross!... But what I was not able to do for Him – to suffer, and bleed, and die in His place, amid the mockery of all the world, happy, happy, happy to suffer in His place, and I am certain that the thread of my poor life would have been burnt more by the triumphant love than by the infamous scaffold, and from the ashes there would have sprung up the fresh snow-white flower of the new virgin life, unaware of everything that is not God – all that I was not able to do for Him, I can still do for You.... Mother, Whom I love with all my heart.
Rely on me. I, who in the house of Simon, the Pharisee, knew how to gently caress His holy feet, now, with my soul that opens more and more to Grace, with greater gentleness will be able to caress His holy limbs, to dress His wounds embalming them more with my love, with the balm taken from my heart wrung by love and sorrow, than with the ointment. And death will not spoil that body that has loved so much and is so much loved. Death will flee, because Love is stronger. Love is invincible. And I, Mother, with Your perfect love, with my total love, will embalm my King of Love. »
Mary kisses this impassioned woman who, at last, has been able to find so much passion, and She yields to her entreaties.
The women go out taking a lamp. One only is left in the room. The Magdalene is the last to go out, after a last kiss to the Mother Who remains.
The house is all dark and silent. The road is still dark and solitary.
John asks: « Do you really not want me? »
« No. You may be useful here. Goodbye. »
John goes back to Mary. « They did not want me... » he says in a low voice.
« Do not feel mortified. They are with Jesus. You with Me. John, let us pray a little together. Where is Peter? »
« I don't know. Somewhere in the house. But I have not seen him. He is... I thought that he was stronger... I am suffering, too, but he... »
« He has two sorrows. You have only one. Come. Let us pray also for him. » And Mary slowly says the « Our Father ».
Then She caresses John saying: « Go to Peter. Do not leave him all alone. He has been so much in darkness during these hours, that he cannot stand even the feeble light of the world. Be the apostle of your lost brother. Begin your preaching with him. On your road, and it will be a long one, you will always find people like him. Begin your work with your companion... »
« But what shall I say?... I don't know... Everything makes him weep... »
« Mention His precept of love to him. Tell him that he who fears only, does not yet know God sufficiently, because God is Love. And if he says to you: “I have sinned”, reply to him that God has loved sinners so much that He sent His Only-Begotten Son for them. Tell him that we must reply with love to so much love. And love makes one trust in the very good Lord. That trust does not make us be afraid of His judgement, because through it we have recognised the divine Wisdom and Goodness, and we say: “I am a poor creature. But He knows. And He gives me the Christ as guarantee of forgiveness and as a supporting pillar. My misery is overcome by my union with the Christ.” It is in Jesus' name that everything is forgiven... Go, John. Tell him that. I am staying here, with My Jesus... » and She caresses the veronica.
John goes out, closing the door behind him.
Mary kneels down, as She did the previous evening, face to face with the veil of the veronica. And She prays and speaks to Her Son. While She is strong enough to give strength to other people, when She is alone She bends under Her overwhelming cross. And yet, now and again, like a flame no longer oppressed by the bushel, Her soul rises towards a hope that cannot die in Her. On the contrary it grows as hours pass. And She expresses Her hope also to the Father. Her hope and Her request.
(You can put here the prayer of last year, the lament of this Passover dawn, dated 21st February 1944, leaving it exactly as it is, because no change is to be made to it).
[21st February 1944].
« Jesus, Jesus! Are You not coming back yet? Your poor Mother can no longer put up with the idea that You are lying dead over there. You said it, but no one understood You. But I understood You! “Destroy the Temple of God and I will rebuild it in three days.” This is the beginning of the third day. Oh! My Jesus! Do not wait till it ends to come back to life, to Your Mother, Who needs to see You alive in order not to die remembering that You are dead, Who needs to see You handsome, healthy, triumphant, in order not to die remembering You in that state in which I left You!
Oh! Father! Father! Give My Son back to Me! That I may see Him come back as a Man and not as a corpse, a King, not a condemned man. Later, I know, He will come back to You, in Heaven. But I shall have seen Him cured of so much evil, I shall have seen Him strong after so much weakness, I shall have seen Him triumphant after struggling so much, I shall have seen Him God after so much humanity suffered on behalf of men. And I shall feel happy even if I lose the possibility of being near Him. I shall know that He is with You, Holy Father, I shall know that He is forever free from Sorrow. Now, instead, I cannot forget that He is in a sepulchre, that He is there, killed because of all the sorrow they have given Him, that He, My Son-God, is sharing the destiny of men in the dark of a sepulchre, He, Your Living Son.
Father, Father, listen to Your servant. Because of that “yes”... I have never asked anything of You for My obedience to Your will; it was Your Will, and Your Will was Mine; I did not have to exact anything for the sacrifice of My will to Yours, Holy Father. But now, but now, for the sake of that “yes” that I said to the messenger Angel, o Father, listen to Me!
He is now free from tortures, because He accomplished everything with the agony of three hours after the tortures of the morning. But I have been for three days in this agony. You can see My heart and You hear its throbs. Our Jesus said that no feather falls off a bird without You seeing it, that no wild flower dies without its agony being consoled by You with Your sunshine and Your dew. Oh, Father, I am dying of this grief! Deal with Me as You do with the sparrow that You reclothe with a new feather, and with the flower that You warm and quench its thirst in Your pity. I am dying frozen by sorrow. I have no more blood in My veins. Once it became all milk to nourish Your Son and Mine; now it has all turned into tears because I have no Son any more. They have killed Him, they have killed Him, Father, and You know how!
I have no more blood! I have shed it all with Him on Thursday night, on the sorrowful Friday. I am as cold as one whose veins have been severed. The sun no longer shines for Me, because He is dead, My holy Sun, My blessed Sun, the Sun born of My womb for the joy of His Mother, for the salvation of the world. I have no more refreshment, because I no longer have Him, the sweetest fountain for His Mother, Who drank His Word, Who quenched Her thirst with His presence. I am like a flower in dry sand. I am dying, I am dying, holy Father.
And I am not afraid to die, because He also is dead. But what will these little ones do, the little herd of My Son, so weak, so frightened, so fickle, if there is no one to support it? I am nothing, Father. But, by the desires of My Son, I am like a formation of armed men. I defend, I will defend His Doctrine and His heritage as a she-wolf defends her wolf-cubs. I, a ewe-lamb, will become a she-wolf to defend what belongs to My Son, and consequently, what is Yours.
You have seen it, Father. Eight days ago this town stripped its olive-trees, stripped its houses, stripped its gardens, stripped its inhabitants and became hoarse shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed He Who comes in the name of the Lord.” And while He was passing walking on carpets of branches, of garments, of clothes, of flowers, the citizens pointed Him out to one another saying: “He is Jesus, the Prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. He is the King of Israel.” And while those branches had not yet withered and their voices were still hoarse through so much singing hosannas, they changed their cries into accusations and curses and requests for death, and of the branches cut off for the triumph they made cudgels to strike Your Lamb, Whom they were taking to His death. If they have done so much while He was among them and spoke to them, and smiled at them, and looked at them with His eyes that melt hearts, and even stones tremble when looked at by them, and He helped them and taught them, what will they do when He comes back to You?
His disciples, You have seen them. One betrayed Him, the others ran away. He was no sooner struck than they ran away like cowardly sheep, and they did not even stay around Him while He was dying. One only, the youngest, remained. Now comes the elder. But he already denied Him once. When Jesus is no longer here to watch him, will he persist in his Faith?
I am a nonentity, but a little of My Son is in Me, and My love supplies what I lack and annuls it. So I become something useful for the cause of Your Son, for His Church, that will never find peace and needs to strike deep roots in order not to be uprooted by winds. I am the one who will take care of it. Like a diligent gardener I will watch that it grows up strong and straight in its dawn. Then I shall not be worried about dying. But I cannot live if I remain any longer without Jesus.
Oh! Father, Who have abandoned Your Son for the welfare of men, and then You have comforted Him, because You have certainly received Him on Your bosom after His death, do not leave Me any longer in abandonment. I suffer it and offer it for the welfare of men. But console Me, now, Father. Father, mercy! Mercy, Son! Mercy, divine Spirit! Remember Your Virgin! »
[1st April 1945].
Later, prostrated on the floor, Mary seems to be praying with Her attitude as well as with Her heart. She is really a poor crushed thing. She looks like that flower parched to death of which She has spoken.
She does not even notice the shaking of a short but strong earthquake that makes the master and mistress of the house shout and run away, while Peter and John, as white as death, drag themselves as far as the threshold of the room. But as they see Her absorbed in Her prayer, inattentive, unaware of what is not God, they withdraw closing the door, and frightened as they are, they go back into the Supper room.