26th April 1947.
It is a placid evening. The light is fading gently and the sky so far purple, is becoming a delicate amethystine velarium. It will soon be dark, but at present there is still light, and this faint evening light is pleasant after so much burning sunshine.
The court-yard of the house of the Supper room, a large yard among the white walls of the house, is crowded with people as in the evenings after Resurrection. And a harmonious whispering of prayers, interrupted now and again by pauses of meditation, rises from these people engrossed in thought.
As the light becomes fainter and fainter in the court-yard, surrounded as it is by the high walls of the house, some people bring lamps and place them on the table, close to which the apostles are gathered: Peter in the centre, James of Alphaeus and John beside him, and then the others. The flickering light of the small flames shines upwards on the faces of the apostles, making their features stand out and showing their expressions: concentrated the expression of Peter, as if he were overstrung in the effort to perform these first functions of his ministry in a worthy way; ascetically mild that of James of Alphaeus; serene and dreaming that of John, and beside him the pensive face of Bartholomew, followed by the countenance full of life of Thomas, and then Andrew's, veiled by his humility that makes him stay with his eyes almost closed, his head slightly bent: he seems to be saying: “I am not worthy”; close to him Matthew, one elbow resting on the hand of the other arm, his cheek leaning on the hand of his raised arm; and then James of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, with his authoritative face and his eyes that remind one so much of the eyes of Jesus, with their colour and expression: a real ruler of crowds.
Even now he is keeping the meeting quiet, under the fire of his eyes, more than all the rest together; and yet, from his involuntary regal magnificence, the feeling of his heart filled with compunction can be seen to emerge, particularly when it is his turn to intone a prayer. When he says the psalm: « Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give glory for Your mercy and loyalty, so that the nations may not say: “Where is their God? » he really prays with his soul prone before Him Who chose him, and the strongest feeling within him vibrates in his voice; with all his praying he also says: « I am not worthy of serving You, Who are so perfect. »
Philip, beside him, his face already marked by age, although he is still in full manhood, looks like a man who is contemplating a sight known to him alone, and is standing with his hands pressed against his cheeks, a little bent and somewhat sad... whereas the Zealot is looking up, far away, with an intimate smile that embellishes his face, which is not beautiful, but is charming because of its austere distinction. James of Zebedee, impulsive and quivering, says his prayers as if he were still speaking to his beloved Master, and the twelfth psalm is uttered impetuously by his inflamed spirit.
They end with the long and beautiful psalm one hundred and eighteen, of which they say a strophe each, in two turns to complete the number of the strophes. Then they all become absorbed in silence until Peter, who had sat down, stands up, as if he were urged by an inspiration, praying in a loud voice with his arms stretched out as the Lord used to do: « Send Your Spirit to us, o Lord, so that we may see in His Light. »
« Maran atha » they all say.
Peter collects his thoughts in an intense silent prayer, but perhaps he listens more than he prays, or at least he waits for words of light... Then he raises his head again and once again he stretches out his arms, which he had folded across his chest, and as he is small as compared to the majority of his companions, he climbs on his seat to dominate the little crowd thronging the court-yard, and to be seen by everybody. And everybody, realising that he is going to speak, becomes silent and looks at him paying attention.
« My brothers, it was necessary that the Scripture predicted by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David and concerning Judas should be accomplished, Judas in fact was the guide who led those who captured the Lord and our Blessed Master: Jesus.
He, Judas, was one of ours, and was entrusted with this ministry. But his election changed into ruin for him, because Satan entered into him through many ways and from apostle of Jesus made him the traitor of his Lord. He thought he would triumph and rejoice and thus revenge himself on the Holy Master, Who had disappointed the unclean hopes of his heart full of every concupiscence. But when he thought he was going to triumph and rejoice, he realised that the man who makes himself slave of Satan, of the flesh, of the world, does not triumph, on the contrary he bites the dust like one who is defeated. And he learned that the taste of food given by man and by Satan is very bitter and completely different from the sweet simple bread that God gives His children. He then became acquainted with despair and he hated the whole world after hating God, and he cursed everything the world had given him and he killed himself by hanging himself from an olive-tree in the olive-grove that he had bought with his iniquities, and on the day that the Christ rose gloriously from the dead, his putrid and already verminous body burst and his bowels were scattered on the ground at the foot of the olive-tree, making that place unclean.
The redeeming Blood rained on Golgotha and purified the Earth, because it was the Blood of the Son of God, Who had become incarnate for us. On the hill near the place of the ill-famed Council, not blood, not tears of good remorse, but the filth of rotten bowels rained on the dust. Because no other blood could be mixed with the Most Holy Blood in those days of purification, in which the Lamb was washing us in His Blood, and less than ever was it possible for the Earth, that was drinking the Blood of the Son of God, to drink also the blood of the son of Satan.
The fact is well known. And it is also known that Judas, in his fury of a damned soul, took the money of the infamous transaction back to the Temple, striking with it, unclean as it was, the face of the High Priest. And it is known that with that money, which had been taken from the Treasury of the Temple, but could no longer be put back into it, because it was the price of blood, the princes of the Priests and the Elders, after consulting with one another, have bought the field of the potter, as the prophecies had said, specifying even its price. And the place will be handed down to posterity under the name of Hakeldama. So everything about Judas has been said, and let even the memory of his face vanish from us, but let us bear in mind the ways through which, from being called by the Lord to the Heavenly Kingdom, he descended to being prince in the Kingdom of eternal darkness, so that we ourselves may not tread on them imprudently, becoming other Judases for the Word that God has entrusted to us and which is still the Christ, the Master among us.
But it is written in the book of Psalms: “Let their house become desert, let no one live in it and let his office be taken by somebody else.” So it is necessary that one of these men, who have been with us all the time that the Lord Jesus was with us, coming and going, beginning from the Baptism by John until the day in which from the middle of us He ascended to Heaven, is appointed to be witness with us of His Resurrection. And it is necessary to do so quickly, so that he may be present with us at the Baptism of Fire, of which the Lord has spoken to us, so that he, who did not receive the Holy Spirit from the Master, may receive it directly from God and be enlightened and sanctified by it, and he may have the virtues that we shall receive, and he may judge and remit and do what we shall do, and his actions may be valid and holy.
I would suggest to choose him among the most faithful of the faithful disciples, those who have suffered for Him remaining faithful also when He was the One Unknown to the world. Many of them come to us from John, the Precursor of the Messiah, spirits modelled throughout years for the service of God. The Lord was very fond of them, and the most fond among them was Isaac, who had suffered so much because of the child Jesus. But you know that his heart broke during the night that followed the Ascension of the Lord. Let us not mourn him. He has joined his Lord. It was the only desire of his heart... And also ours... But we have to suffer our passion. Isaac had already suffered it. So you are to suggest some names among these, so that the twelfth apostle may be elected according to the usages of our people, leaving the power of indicating, in the gravest circumstances, to the Lord, to Him Who knows. »
They consult with one another. After a short time the most important disciples (among the non-shepherds), by mutual consent with the ten apostles, inform Peter that they propose Joseph, the son of Joseph of Saba, to honour his father, a martyr for Christ, by means of his son, a faithful disciple, and Matthias, for the same reasons as for Joseph, and, further, to honour also his first master: John.
And as Peter agrees to their advice, they make the two come forward to the table and in the meantime they pray with their arms stretched forward in the usual attitude of the Hebrews: « Most High Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Only and Trine God, Who know the hearts of all men, show us which of these two You have chosen to take in this ministry and apostolate the place of Judas, who prevaricated, and go in his stead. »
« Maran atha » they all reply in chorus.
As they have no dice or anything else with which to cast lots, and as they do not wish to use coins for this purpose, they take some small stones spread about the yard, some poor little stones, as many white as dark, and they decide that the white ones are for Matthias, the others for Joseph. They put them in a bag, after emptying it of its contents, they shake it and they offer it to Peter who, after making a blessing gesture on it, puts his hand in it, praying with his eyes at the sky, strewn with stars, and pulls out a little stone: as white as snow. The Lord has indicated Matthias as Judas' successor.
Peter goes to the front of the table and embraces him « to make him like himself » he says. Also the other ten make the same gesture amid the applause of the little crowd.
At the end Peter, after going back to his place holding by the hand the chosen apostle who is beside him – so Peter is now between Matthias and James of Alphaeus – says: « Come to the place that God has reserved for you and with your justice cancel the memory of Judas, helping us, your brothers, to accomplish the deeds that Jesus told us to do. May the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be always with you. »
He addresses all the others, dismissing them...
While the disciples disperse slowly through a secondary exit, the apostles go back into the house taking Matthias to Mary, Who is engrossed in prayer in Her room, so that the new apostle may receive the word of greeting and election also from the Mother of God.