14th April 1947.
Jerusalem is already burning hot in the midday sun. A shady archivolt is a relief for one's eyes dazzled by the sun, that blazes down on the white walls of houses and makes the surface of streets exceedingly hot. And the incandescent white of the walls and the dark of the archivolts make Jerusalem a whimsical picture in black and white, a succession of bright lights and dim lights, and the contrast with the bright lights makes the latter look dark, a succession as tormenting as an obsession, because it deprives one of the faculty of sight, because the light is either too strong or too dim. People proceed with half-closed eyes, striving to walk fast in the areas of light and heat, slowing down under the archivolts, where one must go slow, because the contrast between light and darkness prevents one from seeing anything, even if one's eyes are open.
That is how the apostles proceed in a town that the midday heat makes deserted. And they perspire and wipe their faces and necks with their head-coverings and they pant...
But when they have to leave the town, they no longer have the relief of the archivolts. The road that runs along the walls and disappears towards the north and the south like a dazzling ribbon of incandescent dust, gives the impression of a furnace ground. The heat rising from it is like that of an oven, a heat that dries one's lungs. The little torrent that flows beyond the walls has a thin trickle of water in the centre of its bed of stones, that the sun makes as white as desiccated skulls. The apostles rush towards that stream of water and drink it. They immerse their head-coverings into it, and after washing their faces, they put them on their heads still dripping. They wallow in it, in that thin trickle of water, with their bare feet. Of course, it is a very poor relief. The water is as warm as if it had been poured out of a pot hanging over a fire. And they say so: « It is warm and scanty. It tastes of mud and lye. When it is so little, it tastes of the washing done at dawn. »
They begin to climb Golgotha. The scorched Golgotha, where the blazing sun has dried the sparse grass that looked like thin down on the yellowish mountain fifteen days previously. Now only stiff and very rare tufts of thorny plants, all aculei and no leaves, here and there prick up their skeleton-like stems, of a yellowish green because of the dust of the mountain, exactly like bones just taken out of the earth. Yes. They do look like bunches of desiccated bones stuck into the ground. There is one of them, which after a straight stem about two spans long, has a sudden bend that ends in five twigs after a kind of palette. It really looks like the hand of a skeleton, stretched out to catch whoever passes by and hold him in that place of nightmares.
« Do you want to take the long road or the short one? » asks John, who is the only one who has already been up that mountain.
« The shorter one! The shorter one! Let us be quick! One suffocates to death here! » they all say, except the Zealot and James of Alphaeus.
« Let us go! »
The stones of the paved street are as hot as plates taken out of a fire.
« But it is not possible to go on here! It is impossible! » they say after a few metres.
« And yet the Lord climbed up as far as that spot, where that thorn-bush is, and He was already wounded and was carrying the cross » remarks John, who has been weeping since he has been on Calvary.
They proceed. But they soon throw themselves on the ground, utterly exhausted and gasping for air. Their head-coverings which they had dipped into the stream, have already been dried by the sun, on the other hand their garments are wet with perspiration.
« Too steep and too hot! » says Bartholomew, puffing and blowing.
« Yes. Far too much! » confirms Matthew, who is congested.
« The sun is the same everywhere. But to go uphill, let us take that road. It is longer, but not so toilsome. Longinus also took it to make it possible for the Lord to climb it. See there, where that rather dark stone is? The Lord fell there and we thought He was dead, as we were looking from there, from the north, over there, see? where that cavity is, before the slope rises steeply. He did not move any more. Oh! the cry of His Mother! It resounds in me here! I will never forget that cry! I will not forget any of Her moaning... Ah! there are things that make one an old man in one hour and they give the measure of the sorrow of the world... Come on, let us go! Our Martyr, the Lord, did not stop here as long as you have done! » says John urging them.
They stand up looking astonished and they follow him as far as the intersection of the paved road with the spiral path, and they go along the latter. Yes. It is not so steep. But as far as the sun is concerned! Its heat is even stronger, as the slope, which the path skirts, reverberates its heat on the wayfarers already scorched by the sun.
« But why make us come up here at this time?! Could He not have made us come up at dawn, as soon as there was enough light to see where we were putting our feet? All the more that we were outside the walls and we could have come without awaiting the gates to be opened. » They complain and grumble among themselves.
Men, still and always men, now, after the tragedy of Good Friday, which is more the tragedy of their proud and cowardly humanity, than a tragedy of the Christ, Who is always the triumphant hero even when dying; men as they were previously, when they were inebriated with the shouts of hosannas of the crowds, and the were overjoyed thinking of the feasts and sumptuous banquets in Lazarus' house... Deaf, blind, dull-minded to all the signs and warning of the impending storm.
James of Alphaeus and the Zealot are weeping silently. Also Andrew no longer complains after John's last words. John speaks also now, remembering, and his recollections are a brotherly admonition, an exhortation not to complain... He says: « This is the hour in which He came up here. And He had already walked for a long time. Oh! I could say that, since He left the Supper room, He did not have a moment's rest! And it was a very warm day! There was the sultriness of the oncoming storm... And He was burning with a high temperature. Nike says that she had the impression of touching fire when she laid the linen cloth on His face. The place where He met the women must be somewhere here... As we were on the opposite side, we did not see the meeting. But, as Nike and the other women told me... Come on. Let us go! Just consider that the Roman ladies, who are accustomed to moving about in litters, walked up this road exposed to the sun from the morning, from the third hour, when He was sentenced to death. Oh! they, the heathen women, preceded everybody, and they sent slaves to warn the others who were absent for some reason... »
They proceed... That road is a burning torture! They even stagger.
Peter says: « If He does not work a miracle, we shall fall struck by the sun. »
« Yes. My heart is burning in my throat » says Matthew in agreement.
Bartholomew no longer speaks. He seems to be inebriated. John holds him by the elbow and supports him, as he did with the Mother on the cruel Good Friday. And to comfort them he says: « Not far from here there is some shade. Where I took the Mother. We will rest there. »
They proceed, more and more slowly...
They are now at the rock where Mary was. And John tells them. There is in fact a little shade. But the air is still and hot.
« If there were at least a stalk of anise, a mint leaf, a blade of grass! My mouth is like parchment placed near a fire. But nothing! Nothing! » moans Thomas, whose veins are swollen at his neck and forehead.
« I would give the rest of my life for a drop of water » says James of Zebedee.
Judas Thaddeus bursts into tears and shouts: « My poor brother, how much You suffered! He said... He said, do you remember? that He was dying of thirst! Oh! now I understand! I had not understood the full meaning of those words! He was dying of thirst! And there was not one who gave Him a drop of water, while He was still able to drink! And He was feverish, in addition to the sun! »
« Johanna had taken Him a refreshment... » says Andrew.
« He was no longer able to drink, by that time! He could not speak any more... When He met His Mother over there, ten steps from here, all He could say was: “Mother!”, and He could not even kiss Her, not even from afar, although Simon from Cyrene had relieved Him of the cross. His lips were dry, hardened by the wounds... Oh! I could see Him clearly, from behind the line of legionaries! Because I did not pass here. I would have taken His cross, if they had allowed me to pass! But they were afraid for me... because of the crowd that wanted to stone us... He could not speak... or drink... or kiss... It was almost impossible for Him to look with His painful eyes through the crusts of blood that ran down from His forehead!... His garment was torn near His knee, that one could see wounded, bleeding... His hands were swollen and wounded... He had a wound on His chin and cheek... The cross had made a wound on His shoulder, already cut by the scourging... The ropes had cut into His waist... His hair was dripping with the blood of the wounds made by the thorns... He had... »
« Be quiet! Be quiet! It is not possible to listen. Be quiet! I beg and I order you! » shouts Peter, who seems to be tortured.
« It is not possible to listen to me! You cannot listen to me! But I had to see and hear Him in His torture! And His Mother? What about His Mother, then? »
They bend their heads, sobbing and they resume going. on... They no longer complain. But now they all weep over Christ's sorrows.
They are now at the top. On the first esplanade: a slab of fire. The reflection of the heat is such that the earth seems to be trembling, because of that phenomenon caused by the sun on the burning sands of deserts.
« Come. Let us go up here. The centurion made us pass here. Me as well. He thought I was Mary's son. The women were over there. And the shepherds there. And over there the Judaeans... » John points out the various places and concludes: « But the crowd was below, below, they covered the slope down to the valley, down to the road. They were on the walls, on the terraces near the walls. As far as one could see. I saw that when the sun began to be veiled. Previously it was as it is now, and I could not see... »
In fact Jerusalem looks like a mirage trembling down at the bottom. The excess of light acts as a veil for those who want to see it. And John says: « In other hours – Mary of Lazarus said so, but I did not know when and why she had come here – one can see the black remains of the houses set on fire by lightning. The houses of the most guilty ones... of many, at least, among them... Look! Here (John counts his steps, he reconstructs the scene) Longinus was here and Mary and I here. And here was the cross of the repentant robber and over there the other one. And this is where they cast lots for His garments. And over there the Mother fell when He died... and from here I saw His Heart being pierced (John becomes as white as death) because His Cross was here » and he kneels down on the ground, worshipping with his face on the earth that had been dug along the whole length of earth covered with blood under the transverse bar of the cross and around the vertical stake of it. The Magdalene must have worked hard to dig so much earth, about a good span deep, in a soil so hard, mixed with stones and rubble, that make it a compact crust!
They have all thrown themselves on the ground to kiss the dust, which they now wet with their tears...
John is the first to stand up, and lovingly pitiless, he recalls every episode... He no longer feels the heat of the sun... Nobody feels it... He tells them how Jesus refused the wine with myrrh, how He took His clothes off and put on His Mother's veil, how He appeared so badly scourged and wounded, how He lay down on the cross and shouted at the first nail, and then He no longer shouted, so that His Mother should not suffer so much, and how they lacerated His wrist and dislocated His arm to pull it to the right point and how, when He had been completely nailed, they turned the cross over to hammer in the nails, and it lay heavy on the Martyr, Whose panting could be heard, and the cross was turned over again and raised while they were dragging it, and it was dropped into the hole and earthed up, and how His Body fell down tearing His hands, and the crown moving tore His head, and the words He spoke to His Father in Heaven, His words asking forgiveness for those who crucified Him and forgave the repentant robber, and His words to His Mother and to John, and the arrival of Joseph and Nicodemus, so openly heroic in defying the whole world, and the courage of Mary of Magdala, and His cry full of anguish to His Father Who had abandoned Him, and His thirst, and the vinegar with gall, and His last agony, and His feeble entreaty to His Mother, and Her words, with His soul already at the point of death because of the torture, the torture... and His resignation and abandonment to God, and His last horrible convulsion and the cry that made the world tremble, and Mary's cry when She saw Him dead...
« Be quiet! Be quiet! Be quiet! » shouts Peter, and he seems to be pierced by the lance. Also the others implore him saying: « Be silent! Be silent!... »
« I have nothing further to say. The sacrifice was over. The burial... our torture, not His. There is no value in it other than the Mother's grief. Our torture! Does it perhaps deserve compassion? Let us give Him it, instead of asking compassion for ourselves. We have always avoided sorrow, fatigue and abandonment too much, leaving all that to Him, to Him alone. We have really been worthless disciples, as we loved Him for the joy of being loved, out of pride of being great in His kingdom, but we did not love Him in His sorrow... Now no longer so. Here. We must swear here, this is an altar, and it is high up, facing Heaven and Earth, that it will no longer be so. Now joy for Him, the cross for us. Let us swear it. It is the only way to give peace to our souls. Here Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Lord died, to be the Saviour and Redeemer. Let the man, that is, what we are, die here, and the true disciple rise. Rise! Let us swear in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ that we want to embrace His doctrine to the extent of being able to die for the redemption of the world. »
John seems a seraph. While he is gesticulating his, head-covering has fallen off, and his fair hair shines in the sun. He has climbed on some rubble thrown on one side, probably the supports of the crosses of the robbers, and he unintentionally takes the stretched-out arms attitude, that Jesus often took when teaching, and in particular the attitude He had on the cross.
The others look at him, so handsome, so fervent, so young, the youngest of them all, and so mature spiritually. Calvary has made him reach a perfect age... They look at him and shout: « We swear it! »
« Let us pray then, so that the Father may ratify our oath: “Our Father Who art in Heaven...” »
The chorus of the eleven voices becomes confident, more and more confident as it proceeds. And Peter beats his breast while he says: « forgive us our trespasses », and they all kneel down when they say the last supplication: « deliver us from evil. »
They remain so, bent to the ground, meditating...
Jesus is among them. I have not seen when and whence He appeared. One would say from that part of the mountain that is inaccessible. He shines with love in the bright midday light and He says: « He who remains in Me will have no harm from the Evil One. I solemnly tell you that those who are united to Me in serving the Most High Creator, Whose desire is the salvation of every man, will be able to expel demons, to make reptiles and poisons harmless, to pass among wild beasts and through flames without being hurt, for all the time that God wants them to remain on the Earth to serve Him. »
« When did You come, Lord? » they say raising their heads, but remaining on their knees.
« Your oath called Me. And now, now that the feet of My apostles have trodden on these clods, go down quickly to town, to the Supper room. The women from Galilee will leave in the evening with My Mother. You and John will go with them. We will all meet in Galilee, on the Tabor » He says to the Zealot and John.
« When, Lord? »
« John will know and he will tell you. »
« Are You leaving us, Lord? Will You not bless us? We need Your blessing so much. »
« I will give you it here and in the Supper room. Prostrate yourselves! »
He blesses them, and the brightness of the sun envelops Him as in His Transfiguration, but here it conceals Him. Jesus is no longer there.
They look up. There is nothing but the sun and the parched earth... « Let us get up and go! He has gone! » they say sadly.
« His staying with us is becoming shorter and shorter! »
« But today He looked happier than yesterday evening. Don't you think so, brother? » Thaddeus asks James of Alphaeus.
« Our oath has made Him happy. May you be blessed, John, for making us take it! » says Peter, embracing John.
« I was hoping that He would speak of His Passion! Why did He make us come here and then say nothing? » asks Thomas.
« We will ask Him this evening » says Andrew.
« Yes. But let us go now. It is a long way and we want to spend some time with Mary, before She goes away » says James of Alphaeus.
« Another pleasantness that comes to an end! » says Thaddeus with a sigh.
« We are remaining orphans! What shall we do? »
They turn towards John and the Zealot and, with a touch of envy in their voices, they say: « You, at least, are going with the Mother! And you remain with Her, all the time. »
John makes a gesture, as if to say: « It is so. » But they, whose envy is not malicious but gentle, say at once: « However, it is right. Because you were here with Her and you had to forgo being here out of obedience. We... »
They begin to descend. But as soon as they set foot on the second esplanade, the lower one, they see a woman who arrives there, in the sun, from the steep road, and who looks them up and down without speaking, directing her steps resolutely to the upper esplanade.
« People are already coming here! It is not only Mary who comes. But what is she doing? She is weeping, looking at the ground. Did she perhaps lose something on that day? » they ask one another. In fact it may be so, because one cannot see who she is. The face of the woman is completely covered with her veil.
Thomas shouts in his strong deep voice: « Woman! What have you lost? »
« Nothing. I am looking for the place of the Lord's Cross. I have a brother who is dying and the good Master is no longer on the Earth... » she says weeping under her veil. « Men have driven Him away! »
« He has risen, woman. He exists forever. »
« I know that He exists forever. Because He is God, and God does not perish. But He is not among us any more. A world did not want Him and He has gone away. A world has denied Him, even His disciples abandoned Him as if He were a highwayman, and He has abandoned the world. And I have come looking for a little of His Blood. I have faith that it will cure my brother, more than the imposition of the hands of His disciples, because I do not believe that they can work miracles after being unfaithful. »
« The Lord was here not long ago. He has risen in soul and body and is still among us. The perfume of His blessing is still on us. Look, He rested His feet here only a short while ago » says John.
« No. I am looking for a drop of His Blood. I was not here and I do not know the place... » she says, while she is bent, searching the ground.
John says to her: « This is the place of His cross. I was here. »
« Were you? As a friend or as one of those who crucified Him? People say that only one of His favourite disciples was under His cross, and a few more disciples faithful to Him, near here. But I should not like to speak to one of His executioners. »
« I am not, woman. Look, here where the cross was, there is still earth red with His blood, although they have dug it. He lost so much blood that it penetrated deeply. Take this. And may your faith be rewarded. » John with his fingers has dug in the hole where the cross was, and has taken out some reddish earth, that the woman places in a little linen cloth, and thanking him, she goes away quick with her treasure.
« You did the right thing in not revealing who we are. »
« Why did you not say who you are? » say the apostles. As usual, human thoughts are contrasting.
John looks at them but does not speak. He is the first to set out down the steep paved road.
If it is easier to descend than to ascend, the sun is still very hot, and when they are down at the foot of Golgotha, they are really very thirsty. But there are some sheep in the stream and some shepherds who have certainly come out of some pen nearby to pasture them before evening. The water is muddy and it is not possible to drink it.
Their thirst is such that Bartholomew addresses a shepherd saying: « Have you a drop of water in your flask? »
The man looks at them severely and is silent.
« A little milk, then. The udders of your sheep are swollen. We will pay for it. We should have liked something cold to drink, but it is enough to have a drink. »
« I have neither water nor milk for those who abandoned their Master. I recognise you, you know? I saw you one day at Bethzur and I listened to you. You, exactly you, who are asking... But I did not see you when I met those who were carrying the killed Master down. Only that one was there. There was no water for Him, I was told by those who were on the mountain. And there is no water for you either. » He whistles to his dog, he gathers the sheep, and goes away northwards, where the ground begins to rise and is covered with olive-trees and strewn with grass.
The depressed apostles cross the bridge and go into town.
They walk close to the walls, their head-coverings lowered over their eyes, stooping a little. Because the roads are becoming busy again with pedestrians, as the great heat of the early afternoon hours is over.
But they must cross the whole town, before arriving at the house of the Supper room, and there are too many people who know the apostles and consequently it is practically impossible for them to pass through without any incident. And they are soon met with a lashing burst of laughter, while a scribe (I really thought I was not going to see any more, which made me happy) shouts to the people, who are numerous in that narrow cross road where a fountain gurgles: « There they are! Look! Here are the remains of the army of the great king! The valiant faint-hearted disciples of the seducer. Contempt and mockery on them. And the pity one has for madmen! »
It is the beginning of a turmoil of sneers. Some shout: « Where were you when He has suffering? »; some: « Are you convinced now that He was a false prophet? »; and some: « In vain you have stolen and concealed Him. The idea is dead. The Nazarene is dead. Jehovah has struck the Galilean by lightning. And you with Him »; and some with false compassion: « Leave them alone. They have become aware of it and have repented, too late, but still in time to run away at the right moment! »; and some harangue the common people, consisting mainly of women, who seem inclined to side with the apostles, saying: « As you still doubt our justice, let the attitude of the most faithful followers of the Nazarene enlighten you. If He had been God, He would have fortified them. If they had recognised Him as the true Messiah, they would not have run away, considering that no human power could triumph over the Christ. Instead He died in the presence of the people. And in vain His corpse has been stolen, after they attacked the guards who had fallen asleep. Ask the guards whether that is the truth. He is dead, and His people have been scattered, and great in the eyes of God is he who frees the holy soil of Jerusalem from the last traces of Him. Anathema on the followers of the Nazarene! Get stones, o holy people, and let us stone them outside the walls. »
It is too much for the still shaky courage of the apostles! They have already withdrawn a little towards the walls, in order not to instigate the rising with an imprudent challenge to the accusers. But now, rather than prudence, fear is the winner. And they turn round and save themselves by running away towards the gate. James of Alphaeus and James of Zebedee, with John, Peter and the Zealot, are those who, being more calm and having more self-control, follow their companions without running. And an odd stone reaches them before they go out of the gate, and above all they are struck with a lot of dirt.
The guards, who have come out of the guardroom, ensure that they are not followed beyond the walls. But they run and run and take shelter in the apple-orchard of Joseph, where the Sepulchre was.
The place is calm and silent, and pleasant is the light under the trees that in those days have come into leaf, still thin, but so emerald green as to form a veil of a gentle hue under the strong trunks. They throw themselves on the ground, to overcome their palpitation.
At the end of the vegetable garden a man is hoeing and earthing up vegetables, helped by a young man, and he is not aware of them, who are hiding behind a hedge. After scanning the sky and saying in a loud voice: « Come, Joseph, and bring the donkey to tie it to the water-wheel », he directs his steps towards them, where there is a rustic well, hidden in a group of bushes that shade it. « What, are you doing? Who are you? What do want in the kitchen garden of Joseph of Arimathea? And you, fool, why do you leave the gate open, that Joseph wants closed, now that he has put it there? Do you not know that he does not want anybody here, where the Lord was laid? »
I tell the truth when I say that, in the pain of assisting at Jesus' deposition, and in the amazement of His Resurrection, I had never noticed whether the kitchen garden, in addition to the enclosure of a green hedge of boxes and bushes, had a gate or not, but I think it was put there recently, because it is completely new and it is supported by two square pillars, the plaster of which does not look old. Also Joseph, like Lazarus, has enclosed the places sanctified by Jesus.
John stands up, with the Zealot and James of Alphaeus, and without any fear he says: « We are the apostles of the Lord. I am John, this is Simon, a friend of Joseph, and this is James, a brother of the Lord. The Lord had called us to Golgotha and we went. He ordered us to go to the house where His Mother is, and the crowds have chased us. We have come in here, awaiting evening... »
« But are you wounded? And you! and you! Come, that I may help you. Are you thirsty? You are panting. You... quick, draw some water. The first water is pure, afterwards the buckets make it muddy. And give them some to drink, then wash some of that fresh lettuce, and oil them with the oil we use to tie grafts. I have nothing else to give you. My house is not here. But, if you wait, I will take you with me... »
« No. No. We must go to the Lord. May God reward you. »
They have a drink and they let them dress their wounds. They all have wounds on their heads. The Jews are good shots!
« Go out on the road, and look, without drawing people's attention, whether there is any spy » the gardener orders the boy.
« There is no one, father. The road is deserted » says the boy coming back.
« Have a look towards the door and come back quickly. »
He picks some anise stalks and offers them, apologising that he has nothing but legumes and those anises, as the fruit trees have just lost their blossoms.
The boy comes back. « Nobody, father. The road on the other side of the door is deserted. »
« Let us go, then. Harness the donkey to the cart and throw the refuse of the herbs on it. We shall look like men who are coming back from the country. Come with me. You will go the long way round... But it is better than being pelted with stones. »
« We shall always have to enter the town... »
« Yes. But we will go in by a different part, along dark lanes. Come without fear. »
He locks the strong gate with a big key, he makes the older ones get on the cart, he gives hoes and rakes to the others, he puts a bundle of trimmings on Thomas' back and a bale of hay on John's, and he goes away resolutely, along the walls southwards.
« But your house... It is desert here. »
« The house is over there, on the other side, and will not run away. My wife will wait. First I serve the servants of the Lord. » He looks at them... « Eh! We all make mistakes! I was frightened as well! And we are all hated because of His Name. Even Joseph. But what does it matter? God is with us. People!... They hate and love. They love and hate. And then! What they do today, they forget tomorrow. Of course... If there were no hyenas! But they are the ones who instigate the people. They are furious because He has risen. Oh! if He only showed Himself on the top of a pinnacle of the Temple, so that the people would be certain that He has risen. Why does He not do that? I believe. But not everybody is capable of believing. And they give large sums of money to those who tell the people that He has been stolen by you, when He was already decomposed, and that He has been buried or cremated in a grotto of Josaphat. »
They are now in the southern side of the town, in the Hinnom valley.
« There you are. There is the Zion Gate. Do you know how to get to the house from there? It is not far. »
« We know. May God be with you because of your kindness. »
« As far as I am concerned, you are always the saints of the Master. You are men and I am a man. He alone is more than Man and was able not to tremble. I can understand and pity. And I say that you, who are weak today, will be strong tomorrow. Peace to you. »
He relieves them of the herbs and of the agricultural tools and goes back, while they enter the town as fast as hares and steal away along suburban lanes towards the house of the Supper room.
But the misfortunes of that day are not yet over. A group of legionaries, on their way to a nearby inn, meets them, and one watches them and points them out to the others. And they all laugh. And when the poor ill-treated disciples are compelled to pass before them, one of the soldiers leaning against the door addresses them: « Hey! Calvary did not stone you and men have struck you? By Jove! I thought you were more courageous! And that you were not afraid of anything, since you had the courage to climb up there. Have the stones of the mountain not reproached you for being cowardly? And were you so daring as to go up there? I have always seen guilty people run away from the places that reminded them of their sin. Nemesis pursues them. Perhaps she dragged you up there to make you tremble with horror today, since you did not tremble with pity, then. »
A woman, probably the mistress of the tavern, comes to the door and laughs. She has the frightening face of a rascal and she shouts in a shrill voice: « Hebrew women, look at what your wombs produce! Vile perjurers, who come out of their dens when the danger is over! Roman wombs conceive nothing but heroes. Come and drink to the greatness of Rome. Choice wines and beautiful girls... » and she goes away, followed by the soldiers, into her dark cave.
A Hebrew woman looks at them – there are some women in the street with amphorae, where one can hear the fountain gurgle near the house of the Supper room – and she takes pity on them. She is an elderly woman. She says to her companions: « They made a mistake... but a whole people did wrong. » She approaches the apostles and greets them: « Peace to you. We do not forget... Tell us only this. Has the Master really risen from the dead? »
« He has risen. We swear to it. »
« Then, be not afraid. He is God, and God will triumph. Peace to you, brothers. And tell the Lord to forgive this people. »
« And we ask you to pray that the people may forgive us and forget the scandal we have given. Women, I, Simon Peter, ask you to forgive me. » And Peter weeps...
« We are mothers and sisters and wives, man. And your sin is that of our sons, brothers and husbands. May the Lord have mercy on everybody. »
These pious women have accompanied them to the house and they knock at the closed door. And Jesus opens the door, filling the dark room with His glorified person, and He says: « Peace to you for your compassion. »
The women are petrified with astonishment. They remain so, until the door is closed on the apostles and on the Lord. They then come to themselves.
« Have you seen Him? It was He. Handsome! More than previously. And alive! Not a phantom! A real man. His voice! His smile! He moved His hands. Did you notice how red were His Wounds? No, I was watching His chest breathe like that of a living person. Oh! let no one come and say it is not true! Let us go! Let us go and tell everybody! Let us knock at the door to see Him again. What are you saying? He is the Son of God, He has risen. It is already a great thing that He has shown Himself to us, poor women! He is with His Mother, the women disciples and the apostles. No. Yes... »
The wise ones win. The group goes away.
In the meantime Jesus has gone into the Supper room with His apostles. He watches them and smiles. They have taken their head-coverings off, which before entering the house they were wearing like bandages, and they put them on again as is customary. So their bruises can no longer be seen. They sit down tired and silent, more grieved than tired.
« You are late » says Jesus kindly.
« Are you not going to say anything to Me? Speak up! I am always Jesus. Has your boldness of today already vanished? »
« Oh! Master! Lord! » shouts Peter, falling on his knees at Jesus' feet. « Our boldness has not vanished. But we are destroyed as we realise the harm we have done to Your Faith. We are crushed! »
« Pride dies, humility is born. Knowledge rises, love increases. Be not afraid. You are becoming apostles, now. That is what I wanted. »
« But we shall not be able to do anything any more! The people, and they are right, deride us! We have destroyed Your work. We have destroyed Your Church! » They are all distressed. They shout and gesticulate...
Jesus is solemnly calm. Sustaining His words with a gesture, He says: « Peace! Peace! Not even Hell will destroy My Church. It will not be the unsteadiness of a stone, not fixed properly yet, that will cause the building to perish. Peace! Peace! You will work. And you will do much good, because now you humbly acknowledge what you are, because now you are wise with a great wisdom: the knowledge that every act has very wide repercussions, at times, indelible, and that who is high up – remember what I told you about the lamp that is to be placed high up so that it may be seen, and just because it is seen by everybody its flame must be pure – and that who is high up has the obligation, more than those who are not high up, to be perfect. See, My children? What passes unnoticed or excusable when it is done by a believer, does not pass unnoticed if it is done by a priest, and the judgement of the people is severe. But your future will cancel your past. I did not speak to you on Golgotha, but I let the world speak. I comfort you. Come on, do not weep. Take some refreshment now, and let Me cure you. So. » He touches their wounded heads lightly. Then He says: « But you had better go away from here. That is why I said: “Go to Mount Tabor to pray.” You will be able to stay in the nearby villages and go up every morning at dawn awaiting Me. »
« Lord, the world does not believe that You have risen » says Thaddeus in a low voice.
« I will convince the world. I will help you to defeat the world. Be faithful to Me. I do not ask for anything else. And bless those who humiliate you, because they sanctify you. »
He breaks the bread, He divides it into parts, He offers it, hands it out, saying: « This is My viaticum for you who are going away. I have already prepared the food there for My pilgrims. Do the same yourselves, in future, with those among you who will be leaving. Be paternal to all the believers. Everything I do, or I make you do, do it yourselves as well. In future, make also the journey to Calvary, meditating and making people meditate on the stations of the Cross. Contemplate! Do contemplate My sorrows. Because it is through them, not through the present glory, that I have saved you. In the other room there is Lazarus with his sisters. They have come to say goodbye to the Mother. You may go in, too, because My Mother will be leaving shortly in Lazarus' wagon. Peace be with you. » He stands up and goes out quickly.
« Lord! Lord! » shouts Andrew.
« What do you want, brother? » asks Peter.
« I wanted to ask Him so many things. I wanted to inform Him of those who ask to be cured... I don't know! When He is among us, we are not able to say anything! » and he runs away looking for the Lord.
« It is true! We are like absent-minded people! » they all agree. « And yet He is so good to us. He called us: “children” with so much kindness that it opened my heart! » exclaims James of Alphaeus. « But He is so much God, now! I tremble when He is near me, as if I were near the Holy of Holies » says Thaddeus.
Andrew comes back: « He is no longer here. Space, time and walls are subjected to Him. »
« He is God! He is God! » they also say, full of veneration...