5th April 1945.
Along a mountain road two middle-aged men are walking fast turning their backs on Jerusalem, whose mountains are disappearing more and more behind those that follow with uninterrupted undulations of summits and valleys. They are speaking to each other. The elder one says to the other, who must be about thirty-five years old at most: « Believe me: it was better to do so, I have a family, and you have one, too. The Temple is not joking. They want to have really done with this matter.
Are they right? Are they wrong? I don't know. I know that they clearly intend to put an end to this matter once for all. »
« To this crime, Simon. Give it its right name. Because it is at least a crime. »
« It depends. Love instigates us against the Sanhedrin. But perhaps... who knows! »
« Not at all. Love enlightens. It does not lead to error. »
« Also the Sanhedrin, also the Priests and the Chiefs love. They love Jehovah, Whom all Israel has loved since the agreement was made between God and the Patriarchs. So, love is light also for them and does not lead to error! »
« Their love is not for the Lord. Yes. Israel has been in that Faith for ages. But tell me. Can you say that it is still Faith what the Chiefs of the Temple, the Pharisees, the scribes, the Priests give us? You can see it. With the gold sacred to the Lord – people already knew or at least suspected that it happened – with the gold sacred to the Lord they have paid the Traitor and now they are paying the guards. The former, to make him betray the Christ, the latter to make them lie. Oh! I don't know how the eternal Power has limited Itself to overthrowing the walls and tearing the Veil! I tell you that I would have liked the new Philistines to have been buried under the ruins. All of them! »
« Cleopas! You would be complete vengeance. »
« I would. Because, let us admit that He was only a prophet, is it legal to kill an innocent? Because He was innocent! Have you ever seen Him commit one of the crimes with which they charged Him to kill Him? »
« No. Not even one. But He made one mistake. »
« Which, Simon? »
« He did not show His power from the height of His Cross, to confirm our faith and to punish the incredulous sacrilegious people. He should have accepted the challenge and descended from the Cross. »
« He has done more than that. He has risen from the dead. »
« Is it really true. Risen how? Only with His Spirit or with His Spirit and His Body? »
« But the spirit is eternal! It need not rise! » exclaims Cleopas.
« I know that, too. What I mean is whether He has risen only with His Nature of God, superior to all the snares of man. Because they laid snares to His Spirit through the terror of man. You did hear, didn't you? Mark said that at Gethsemane, where He went to pray against a rock, there is blood everywhere. And John, who has spoken to Mark, said to him: “Do not let that place be trampled on, because it is Blood sweated by the Man-God.” If He sweated blood before being tortured, He must have been terrified of the torture. »
« Our poor Master!... » they become silent feeling dejected.
Jesus joins them and asks: « What were you speaking of? In the silence I could hear your words at intervals. Who has been killed? It is a Jesus veiled under the humble appearance of a poor wayfarer who is in a hurry.
The two do not recognise Him. « Have you come from far away, man? Have you not stopped in Jerusalem? Your dusty tunic and your sandals in that state look like those of an indefatigable pilgrim. »
« I am. I have come from very far... »
« So you must be tired. Are you going far? »
« Yes, very far, even farther than the place from which I come. »
« Are you in business? Markets? »
« I have to purchase an enormous number of herds for the greatest Lord. I have to go round the whole world to choose sheep and lambs, and I have to go also among wild herds, which, however, once they have been tamed, will be better than the ones which at present are not wild. »
« Hard work. And have you gone on your way without stopping in Jerusalem? »
« Why do you ask Me? »
« Because you seem to be the only one who is unaware of what happened there these past days. »
« What happened? »
« You have come from afar and therefore perhaps you do not know. And yet your way of speaking is Galilean. So, even if you are the servant of a foreign king or the son of emigrated Galileans, you must know, if you are circumcised, that for three years in our Fatherland a great Prophet had risen, named Jesus of Nazareth, powerful in deeds and in words before God and before men, and He went preaching all over the Country. And He said that He was the Messiah. His words and His deeds were really those of the Son of God, as He said He was. But only of the Son of God. All Heaven... Now you know why... But are you circumcised? »
« I am the first-born and sacred to the Lord. »
« Then do you know our Religion? »
« I know every syllable of it. I know the precepts and the customs. The Halacha, the midrash and the Haggadah are known to Me like the elements of the air, of the water, of the fire and of the light, that are the first to which tend the intelligence, the instinct and the needs of man, shortly after he is born. »
« Well, in that case you know that Israel was promised the Messiah, but as a powerful king who would re-unite Israel. This one instead was not so... »
« How, then? »
« God of an eternal spiritual kingdom. He did not re-unite, on the contrary He divided Israel, because the country is now divided between those who believe in Him and those who say that He is a criminal. Really, He was not the stuff kings are made of, because He only wanted meekness and forgiveness. And can one subdue and defeat with such weapons?... »
« So? »
« So the Chiefs of the Priests and the Elders of Israel captured Him and sentenced Him to death... charging Him, really, with crimes of which He was not guilty. His only fault was to be too good and too severe... »
« If He was one, how could He be the other? »
« It was possible, because He was too severe in speaking the truth to the Chiefs in Israel and too good in not working miracles of death on them, striking His unjust enemies dead. »
« Was He as severe as the Baptist? »
« Well... I would not know. He used to reproach scribes and Pharisees very severely, particularly recently, and He threatened those of the Temple, as if they were marked by the wrath of God. But if one was a sinner and repented, and He saw true repentance in that heart, because the Nazarene read hearts better than a scribe can read the text, then He was kinder than a mother. »
« And did Rome allow an innocent to be killed? »
« Pilate condemned Him... But he did not want to, and said that He was “just”. But they threatened to report him to Caesar, and he was frightened, In short He was condemned to be crucified and He died on the Cross. And that, together with the fear of the members of the Sanhedrin, has greatly disheartened us. Because I am Cleopas, the son of Cleopas, and he is Simon, both from Emmaus, and relatives, because I am the husband of his oldest daughter, and we were disciples of the Prophet. »
« And are you no longer so? »
« We hoped that He would free Israel and also that, by means of a miracle, He would confirm His words. Instead!... »
« What words had He spoken? »
« We have told you: “I have come to the Kingdom of David. I am the peaceful King” and so forth. And He used to say: “Come to the Kingdom”, but, then, He did not give us the kingdom. And He would say: “On the third day I will rise from the dead”. Now this is the third day since He died. And it is even finished, because it is later than the ninth hour, and He has not risen. Some women and guards say that He has risen. But we have not seen Him. The guards now state that they said so to justify the theft of the corpse made by the disciples of the Nazarene. But the disciples!... We all abandoned Him out of fear when He was alive... and we certainly did not steal Him now that He is dead. And the women... who believes them? That is what we were talking about. And we wanted to know whether He intended to say that He would rise only with the Spirit that had become divine again, or also with His body. The women say that the angels – because they say that they saw also angels after the earthquake, and it may be, because on Friday some just people had already appeared out of their sepulchres – they say that the angels said that He is like one who has never died. And in fact that is how the women seemed to see Him. But two of us, two chiefs, went to the Sepulchre. And while they saw it empty, as the women had said, they did not see Him there or anywhere else. And it is a great desolation, because we no longer know what to think! »
« Oh! how foolish you are and hard to understand! And how slow you are in believing the words of the prophets! And had all that not already been said? The error of Israel is this: they have misinterpreted the regality of the Christ. That is why He was not believed. That is why He was feared. That is why you are now in doubt. In high places, in low ones, in the Temple, in villages, everywhere people thought of a king according to human nature. The reconstruction of the Kingdom of Israel was not limited, in the mind of God, in time, in space and in means, as it was in you.
Not in time: no royalty, even the most powerful one, is eternal. Remember the mighty Pharaohs who oppressed the Jews in the days of Moses. How many dynasties have come to an end, and only soulless mummies remain of them at the bottom of secret hypogea! And a remembrance remains, if even that still remains, of their power of one hour, and even less, if we measure their centuries by the eternal Time. This Kingdom is eternal.
In space. It was called: Kingdom of Israel. Because the stock of the human race came from Israel; because in Israel there is, so to say, the seed of God; and therefore, by saying Israel, it was meant: the kingdom of those created by God. But the regality of the King Messiah is not limited to the small space of Palestine, but it stretches from north to south, from east to west, wherever there is a being with a spirit in its body, that is, wherever there is a man. How could one person alone gather under him all the peoples, hostile to one another, and form only one kingdom, without shedding rivers of blood and subjecting them all by means of cruel oppressions of armed men? So, how could He have been the peaceful king mentioned by the prophets?
In means: the human means, I said, is oppression. The superhuman means is love. The former is always limited, because peoples rebel against the oppressor. The latter is unlimited, because love is loved or, if it is not loved, it is derided. But as it is spiritual, it cannot be attacked directly. And God, the Infinite, wants means be like Himself. He wants what is not finite, because He is eternal: the spirit; what belongs to the spirit; what leads to the Spirit;
That has been the error: that men conceived in their minds a Messianic idea that is wrong in means and form. Which is the highest regality? God's. Is it not so? Therefore, this Admirable, this Immanuel, this Holy, this sublime Germ, this Strong, this Father of the future century, this Prince of peace, this God like Him from Whom He comes, because so is He named and so is the Messiah, will He not have a regality like that of Him Who generated Him? Of course, He will! A regality which is completely spiritual and eternal, immune from violence and blood, unaware of betrayals and abuse of power. His Regality! That which the Eternal Goodness bestows also on poor men, to give honour and joy to His Word.
But did David not say that this powerful King had all things placed under His feet as a footstool? Did Isaiah not narrate all His Passion, and did David not count, one might say, also His tortures? And is it not said that He is the Saviour and Redeemer, Who with His holocaust will save sinful mankind? And is it not stated, and Jonah is the sign, that for three days He would be swallowed by the insatiable stomach of the Earth, and then He would be ejected as the prophet was by the whale? And was it not said by Him: “My Temple, that is My Body, the third day after being destroyed, will be rebuilt by Me (that is. by God)?” And what did you think? That by magic He would raise the walls of the Temple again? No. Not the walls. But Himself. And God only could make Himself rise from the dead. He has raised the true Temple: His Body of the Lamb. Sacrificed, as Moses received the order and the prophecy, to prepare the “passage” from death to Life, from slavery to freedom, of men, the children of God and slaves of Satan.
How did He rise? you ask each other. I reply: He has risen with His true Body and with His Divine Spirit that dwells in it, as in every mortal body there dwells the soul as queen of the heart. That is how He has risen after suffering everything to expiate everything, and make amends for the primitive Offence and for the countless ones that every day are committed by Mankind. He has risen as it had been said under the veil of the prophecies. He had come at His time, I remind you of Daniel, at His time He was sacrificed. And listen and remember, at the time predicted after His death the deicide town will be destroyed.
I advice you to do this: read the prophets with your souls, not with proud minds, from the beginning of the Book to the words of the Sacrificed Word; remember the Precursor who indicated Him as the Lamb; recall which was the destiny of the symbolic Mosaic lamb. The first-born of Israel were saved through that blood. Through this Blood the first-born of God will be saved, that is, those who with good will have made themselves sacred to the Lord. Remember and understand the Messianic psalm of David and the Messianic prophet Isaiah. Remember Daniel, recall to your minds, but raising these from the filth of the earth to the celestial blue, recall every word on the regality of the Saint of God, and you will understand that no other more just or more strong sign could be given to you than this victory over Death, than this Resurrection accomplished by Himself. Remember that it would have been contrary to His mercy and to His mission to punish from the height of His Cross those who had put Him on it. He was still the Saviour, even if He was the Crucified scoffed at and nailed to a scaffold! His limbs were crucified, but His spirit and will were free. And with the latter He wanted to wait, to give the sinners time to believe and to invoke His Blood on themselves, not with blasphemous cries, but with groans of contrition.
Now He is risen. He has accomplished everything. Glorious He was before His incarnation. Three times glorious He is now that, having humbled Himself in a body for so many years, He sacrificed Himself, elevating Obedience to the perfection of being able to die on the Cross to do God's Will. Most glorious, with His glorified Body, now that He ascends to Heaven, and enters into the eternal Glory, beginning the Kingdom that Israel has not understood. To this Kingdom, in a more and more pressing manner, through the love and the authority of which He is full, He calls the tribes of the world. As foreseen and predicted by the just of Israel and by the prophets, all peoples will come to the Saviour. And there will no longer be Judaeans or Romans, Scythians or Africans, Iberians or Celts, Egyptians or Phrygians. The land beyond the Euphrates will join the springs of the perennial River. The Hyperborians beside the Numidians will come to His Kingdom, and races and languages will fall away. There will no longer be different customs and different colours of skins and hair, but there will be an immense bright pure people, one language only and one love. It will be the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of Heaven. And eternal Monarch: the Sacrificed Lord Who has risen again from the dead. The eternal subjects: the believers in His Faith. Do believe, in order to belong to it.
Here is Emmaus, My friends. I am going farther. No stop is granted to the Wayfarer Who has to travel so far. »
« Sir, you are more learned than a rabbi. If He were not dead, we should say that He has spoken to us. We should like to hear some more and wider truths from you. Because now, we are like sheep without a shepherd, upset by the storm of Israel's hatred, and we are no longer able to understand the words of the Book. Do you want us to come with you? See, you would go on teaching us, completing the work of the Master Who was taken away from us. »
« You have had Him for such a long time and was He not able to complete your instruction? Is this not a synagogue? »
« Yes, it is. I am Cleopas, the son of Cleopas the synagogue Leader who died in the joy of having become acquainted with the Messiah. »
« And have you not succeeded yet in believing with clear firm faith? But it is not your fault. After the Blood, the Fire is still missing. And then you will believe, because you will understand. Goodbye. »
« O sir, it is nearly evening and the sun is beginning to set. You are tired and thirsty. Come in. Stay with us. You will speak to us of God, while we share bread and salt. »
Jesus goes in and they serve Him with the customary Jewish hospitality, offering Him drinks and water for His tired feet.
Then they sit at the table and the two beg Him to offer the food for them.
Jesus stands up holding the bread in the palms of His hands, and raising His eyes to the red sky of the evening, He recites the thanksgiving for the food and sits down. He breaks the bread and gives some to His two guests. And, in doing so, He reveals Himself for what He is: the Risen Lord. He is not the bright Risen Lord Who appeared to the others who are dearer to Him. But He is a Jesus full of majesty, with the wounds very clear in His long Hands: red roses against the ivory of His skin. A Jesus fully alive in His recomposed Body. But He is also clearly God in the majesty of His eyes and of all His aspect.
The two recognise Him and fall on their knees... But when they dare to lift their faces, there is nothing left of Him except the broken bread. They take it and kiss it. Each takes his own piece and after enveloping it in a linen cloth, he puts it, like a relic, on his chest.
They weep saying: « It was He! And we did not recognise Him. And yet did you not feel your heart burn within you while He spoke and explained the Scriptures to us? »
« Yes, I did. And now I seem to see Him again. And in the light coming from Heaven. The light of God. And I see that He is the Saviour. »
« Let us go. I am no longer hungry or tired. Let us go and tell Jesus' disciples in Jerusalem. »
« Let us go. Oh! I wish my old father had enjoyed this hour! »
« Don't say that! He has enjoyed it more than we have. Without the veils used out of pity for the weakness of our flesh, he, the just Cleopas, with his spirit has seen the Son of God enter heaven again. Let us go! Let us go! We shall arrive at dead of night. But if He so wishes, He will find a way to let us pass. If He has opened the gates of death, He will certainly be able to open those of the walls! Let us go. »
And in the fully purple sunset, they go speedily towards Jerusalem.