3rd April 1945.
The sun of a clear April morning fills the thickets of roses and jasmine in Lazarus' garden with bright scintillation. And the hedges of box and laurel, the tuft of a tall palm-tree swaying gently at the end of an avenue, the very thick bay near the fish-pond, seem to have been washed by a mysterious hand, so neatly the abundant night dew has deterged and sprayed their leaves, which now seem covered with fresh enamel, so glossy and spotless are they.
But the house is silent, as if it were full of dead people. The windows are open, but not even one voice, not even a noise comes from the rooms, which are in a dim light because all the curtains have been lowered.
Inside, beyond the hall, in which there are many doors, now all open – and it is strange to see the halls without any preparation, while they are generally used for more or less numerous banquets – there is a large court-yard, which is paved and surrounded by a porch filled with seats. Many disciples are sitting on them, and some are sitting also on the floor, on mats, or on the marble itself. Among them I see the apostles Matthew, Andrew, Bartholomew, the brothers James and Judas of Alphaeus, James of Zebedee, the shepherd disciples with Manaen, besides some whom I do not know. I do not see the Zealot, Lazarus or Maximinus.
Finally Maximinus comes in with some servants and he gives bread to everybody with various foodstuffs, that is, olives or cheese, or honey, and also new milk to those who want it. But they are not anxious to eat, although Maximinus exhorts everybody to do so. They are all deeply dejected. In a few days their faces have become sunken and ashen under the redness of tears. The apostles in particular, and those who ran away at the very first hours, look downcast, whilst the shepherds and Manaen are less dejected, nay, less ashamed, and Maximinus is only sorrowful in a manly manner.
The Zealot enters almost running and asks: « Is Lazarus here? »
« No, he is in his room. What do you want? »
« At the end of the path, near the fountain of the sun, there is Philip. He has come from the Jericho plain. He is exhausted. And he does not want to come here, because... like everybody, he feels he is a sinner. But Lazarus will convince him. »
Bartholomew stands up and says: « I will come, too... »
They go to Lazarus, who, upon being called, comes out from the half-dark room, where he certainly has wept and prayed, with a downcast face.
They all go out and go across the garden first, then the village, where it descends towards the slopes of the Mount of Olives, they then reach the end of the village, where also the tableland, on which it is built, ends, and they proceed along the only mountain road that rises and descends along natural flights of steps across the mountains, which slope down towards the plain to the east and rise towards the town of Jerusalem to the west.
There is a fountain here with a large basin, where cattle and men quench their thirst. The place just now is solitary and cool, because there is plenty shade of thick trees around the cistern full of pure water, which is renewed continuously by the spring-water of some mountain, and overflows keeping the ground damp.
Philip is sitting on the upper edge of the fountain, with his head lowered, his hair unkempt, dusty, his broken sandals hanging from his grazed feet.
Lazarus calls him in a pitiful voice: « Philip, come to me! Let us love one another for His sake. Let us be united in His Name. We shall still love Him by doing so! »
« Oh! Lazarus! Lazarus! I ran away... and yesterday, beyond Jericho, I heard that He is dead!... I... I cannot forgive myself for running away... »
« We all ran away. With the exception of John, who remained faithfully with Him, and Simon who gathered us together by His order, after we had cowardly run away. So... of us apostles, no one was faithful » says Bartholomew.
« And can you forgive yourself? »
« No. But I am thinking of making amends, as I can, by not giving myself up to sterile dejection. We must join together. We must join John and learn about His last hours. John followed Him all the time » Bartholomew replies to his companion Philip.
« And not let His Doctrine die. We must preach it to the world. We must keep at least that alive, since we did not take action in time to save Him from His enemies, as we were too slow and late » says the Zealot.
« You could not have saved Him. Nothing could have saved Him. He told me. I repeat it again » says Lazarus resolutely.
« Did you know, Lazarus? » asks Philip.
« Yes, I did. It was my torture to be informed, since the Sabbath evening, of His death by Him, and in detail, to be told how we would act... »
« No. Not you. You have obeyed and suffered. We acted like cowards. You and Simon are the ones who were sacrificed to obedience » exclaims Bartholomew.
« Yes. To obedience. Oh! How hard it is to resist love in order to obey the Beloved! Come, Philip. Almost all the disciples are in my house. You must come, too. »
« I am ashamed of appearing to the world, to my companions... »
« We are all alike! » says Bartholomew moaning.
« Yes. But my heart does not forgive itself. »
« That is pride, Philip. Come. On the Sabbath evening He said to me: “They will not forgive themselves. Tell them that I forgive them, because I know that they are not acting freely, but it is Satan who is leading them astray.” Come. »
Philip weeps more loudly, but he surrenders. And, stooping as if he had aged in a few days, he walks beside Lazarus as far as the court-yard where they are all waiting for him. And the glance he casts at his companions, and the ones his companions cast at him, are the most evident confession of their total dejection.
Lazarus is aware of it and says:
« A new sheep of the herd of Christ, that was frightened by the coming of wolves and had run away after the arrest of the Shepherd, has been received by His friend. To this lost sheep, that has experienced the bittemess of being alone, without even the comfort of weeping over the same error with his brothers, I repeat His testament of love.
In the presence of the heavenly choruses I swear that He said to me, among many other things that your present human weakness cannot bear, because they are so distressing that they have torn my heart during these last ten days – and if I did not know that my life is of some use to the Lord, although it is so poor and faulty, I should give myself up to the wound of this grief of a friend and disciple who has lost everything by losing Him – He said to me: “The miasmata of corrupt Jerusalem will drive also My disciples mad. They will run away and they will come to you.” In fact, you can see that you are all here. I could say all of you. Because, with the exception of Simon Peter and of the Iscariot, you have all come towards my house and to my heart of a friend. He said: “You will gather them. You will encourage My scattered sheep. You will tell them that I forgive them. I entrust you with My forgiveness for them. They will not set their minds at rest for having run away. Tell them not to fall into the greater sin of despairing of my forgiveness.”
That is what He said. And I have forgiven you on His behalf. And I blushed in giving you in His Name this thing which is so holy, so peculiar of Him, which is Forgiveness, that is, the perfect Love, because he who forgives a guilty person, loves perfectly. This ministry has been a solace to my hard obedience... Because I should have liked to be there, like Mary and Martha, my sweet sisters. And if He was crucified on Golgotha by men, I swear it to you, I am crucified here by obedience, and it is really a heart-rending martyrdom. But if it serves to give solace to His Spirit, if it serves to save His disciples for Him, until He gathers them to bring them to perfection in faith, well, once again I sacrifice my wish to go to at least venerate His corpse before the third day ends.
I know that you doubt. You must not. Of His words at the Passover banquet I know only what you have told me. But the more I think of them, the more I raise, one by one, these diamonds of His truthful words, and the more I feel that they have a sure reference to the immediate morrow. He cannot have said: “I am going to the Father and then I will come back”, if He were not really to come back. He cannot have said: “When you see Me again you will be full of joy” if He had disappeared for good. He has always said: “I will rise from the dead.” You told me that He said: “Dew is about to fall on the seeds sown in you and will make them all sprout, then the Paraclete will come and will make them become mighty trees.” Did He not say so? Oh! do not allow that to happen only for the last of His disciples, for poor Lazarus, who was with Him only rarely! When He comes back, ensure that all His seed has sprouted under the dew of His Blood.
Since the dreadful hour when He was lifted up on the Cross, there is in me a great glow of light, a mighty outburst of strength. Everything is bright, everything revives and springs up. There is not one word left in me in its poor human meaning. But everything I heard from Him or of Him, now becomes full of life, and my barren land really changes into a fertile flower-bed, where every flower has His Name and every sap draws life from His blessed Heart.
I believe, Christ! But so that these may believe in You, in every promise of Yours, in Your forgiveness, in everything that is You, I offer You my life. Consume it, but do not let Your Doctrine die! Crush poor Lazarus to smithereens, but gather together the scattered members of the apostolic group. Everything You may wish, but in return let Your Word be vivid and eternal, and now and forever, let those come to it who only through You can possess eternal life. »
Lazarus is really inspired. Love elevates him to a very high sphere and his transport is so strong that it relieves also his companions. Some call him on his right, some on his left, as if he were a confessor, a doctor, a father. The court-yard of Lazarus' rich house, I do not know why, reminds me of the abodes of Christian patricians in the days of persecutions and of heroic faith...
He is bent over Judas of Alphaeus, who can find no reason to appease his anguish for leaving His Master and cousin, when something makes him stand up straight all of a sudden. He turns round and then he says clearly: « I am coming, Lord. » His usual word of prompt assent. And he goes out, as if he were running behind someone who was calling and preceding him.
They all look at one another, seized with astonishment. They consult with one another.
« What has he seen? »
« But there is nothing! »
« Have you heard a voice? »
« I have not. »
« Neither have I. »
« So? Is Lazarus perhaps not well again? »
« May be... He has suffered more than we have, and he has encouraged us so much, we... the cowards! Perhaps he is raving. »
« In fact he looks worn out. »
« And his eyes were inflamed while he was speaking. »
« Perhaps Jesus has called him to Heaven. »
« In fact Lazarus offered Him his life not long ago... He has picked him at once like a flower... Oh! how wretched we are! What shall we do now? »
Comments are desparate and sorrowful.
Lazarus crosses the hall, he goes out into the garden, running all the time, smiling, whispering, and there is his soul in his voice: « I am coming, Lord. » He arrives at a box thicket that forms a green shelter, we would say a green bower, and he falls on his knees, with his face on the ground, shouting: « Oh! my Lord! »
Because Jesus, in His beauty of the Resurrection, is on the threshold of this green bower and smiles at him... and says: « Everything has been accomplished, Lazarus. I have come to thank you, My faithful friend. I have come to ask you to tell our brothers to come at once to the house of the Supper. You – another sacrifice, My dear friend, out of love for Me – will remain here, for the time being... I am aware that you suffer because of that. But I know that you are generous. Mary, your sister, has already been comforted, because I have seen her and she has seen Me. »
« You no longer suffer, my Lord. And that repays me for every sacrifice. I suffered... knowing that You were suffering... and that I was not there... »
« Oh! you were! Your spirit was at the foot of My Cross, and it was in the darkness of My sepulchre. From the depth where I was, you have evoked Me earlier, like all those who have loved Me with their whole selves. Just now I said to you: “Come, Lazarus”. As on the day of your resurrection. But for several hours you have been saying to Me: “Come”. I have come. And I called you, to draw you out, in My turn, from the depth of your grief. Go. Peace and blessings to you, Lazarus! Grow greater in your love for Me. I will come again. »
Lazarus has remained on his knees all the time without daring to make a gesture. The majesty of the Lord, although mitigated by love, is such that it paralyses Lazarus' usual behaviour.
But before disappearing in a flood of light that absorbs Him, Jesus takes a step and with His hand He touches the faithful forehead lightly.
It is at that moment that Lazarus recovers from his blissful astonishment, he stands up and running headlong towards his companions and with brightness of joy in his eyes and on his forehead barely touched by the Christ, he shouts: « He has risen, brothers! He called me. I went. I have seen Him. He spoke to me. He told me to tell you to go at once to the house of the Supper. Go! Go! I am staying here, because He wants that. But my joy is complete... » And Lazarus weeps in his joy, while he urges the apostles to be the first to go where He orders. « Go! Go! He wants you! He loves you! Be not afraid of Him... Oh! He is more than ever the Lord, the Goodness, the Love! »
Also the disciples stand up... Bethany becomes empty. Lazarus remains with his great heart comforted...