366. The Thursday before Passover. Morning Preliminaries.
23rd January 1946.
Dawn is breaking. Men are emulating birds, when they become active flying, working and singing in the early morning. The house at Gethsemane is awaking slowly, but it is forestalled by the Master, Who is coming back from the prayers He went out to say at daybreak, but He may have been out all night praying. The nearby camp of the Galileans on the tableland of the Mount of Olives is slowly awaking, and shouts and calls can be heard in the clear air, and although they are dulled by distance, they are sufficiently distinct to make one understand that the pious pilgrims gathered there are about to resume the Passover ceremonies interrupted the previous evening.
The town awakes, and the clamour begins with which it is filled during these overcrowded days, with the braying of market gardeners' donkeys, and the pressure of lamb vendors at the entrance gates, and with the touching bleating of hundreds of little lambs, which are carried on carts, pack-saddles or on shoulders to their tragic destiny, calling their mothers bleating plaintively, not knowing that they should weep because their lives have come so prematurely to an end. And the clamour increases more and more with the shuffling of feet in the streets and people calling one another from one terrace to another, or from terraces to streets and vice-versa. And the noise, deadened by distance, reaches the calm valley of Gethsemane, like the roar of sea waves.
An early sunbeam strikes one of the precious domes of the Temple and makes it shine as if it were a sun descended upon the earth, a little sun resting on a snow white pedestal, so beautiful although so small. The men and women disciples look at the golden Spot admiringly. It is the House of the Lord! It is the Temple! To understand what that place meant to Israelites it is enough to watch them staring at it. They seem to be seeing the Most Holy Face of God flashing in the glowing gold lit by the sun. Adoration and love for their country, holy pride of being Hebrews are more clearly expressed by their looks than they could possibly be revealed by their words.
Porphirea, who has not been to Jerusalem for many years, is moved to tears and unawares presses the arm of her husband, who is showing I do not know what to her, and she leans a little against him and like a bride, in love with her bridegroom, admires him and is happy to be instructed by him.
In the meantime the other women are talking in very low voices, in monosyllables, asking one another what is to be done during the day, and Anastasica, who feels like a lost stranger, is a little aside, engrossed in her thoughts. Mary, Who was speaking to Marjiam, sees her and approaches her embracing her waist with Her arm. "Are you feeling rather lonely, My dear daughter? You will feel better today. See? My Son is telling the apostles to go to the houses of the women disciples to inform them that they are to gather and wait for Him at Johanna's house in the afternoon. He wants to speak to us women and before doing so He will certainly give you a mother. She is very good. I have known her since I was in the Temple. Even then she acted as a mother to the younger virgins. And she will understand your heart because she has suffered very much, too. My Son cured her last year of a deadly melancholy, with which she was affected after the death of her two sons. I am telling you this so that you may know who will be loving you from now on and whom you will love. But as last year I said to Simon Peter, who was receiving Marjiam as his son, I now say to you: “Do not let this affection weaken your heart in its will to serve Jesus.” If that should happen, the gift of God would be more harmful than leprosy, because it would extinguish in you the good will that one day will give you the possession of the Kingdom."
"Do not be afraid, Mother. As for me, I will turn this affection into a flame to excite myself more and more in the service of the Saviour. I will not grow heavier in it, neither will I make Eliza dull, on the contrary we will support each other and in a holy competition, with the help of the Lord, we will fly along His way."
While they are speaking some old and new disciples arrive from the camp of the Galileans, from the town, from houses spread along the slopes of the Mount, from the hamlet or suburb, whichever it may be, just outside the town, on one of the two roads that from Jerusalem go to Bethany, and precisely on the longer one, which Jesus seldom takes. The last to arrive are Philip with his family, Thomas all alone and Bartholomew with his wife.
"Where are the sons of Alphaeus, Simon and Matthew?" asks Thomas not seeing them.
"They have gone ahead. The last two to Bethany, to tell the sisters to be at Johanna's house in the afternoon. The first two have gone to Johanna and Annaleah, to tell Johanna that I will be at her house this afternoon. We will meet at the third hour at the Golden Gate. In the meantime let us go and give alms to beggars and lepers. Let Bartholomew and Andrew go ahead and buy foodstuffs for them. We will follow them slowly and will stop at the suburb of Ophel, near the Gate, and later we will go to the poor lepers."
"All of us?" ask some, who are not very enthusiastic.
"All the disciples and all the women disciples. Passover has got us all together, as it was never possible before. Let us do together what will be future duties of men and women operating in My Name. Here is Judas of Simon coming in a hurry. I am glad because want him to be with us as well."
In fact Judas arrives panting. "Am I late, Master? It's my mother's fault. Contrary to her habit and to what I told her, she came. I found her yesterday evening in the house of a friend of ours. And this morning she kept me conversing... She wanted to come with me. But I did not let her come."
"Why not? Does Mary of Simon perhaps not deserve to be where you are? She deserves so much more than you do. So run and get her and join us at the Temple, at the Golden Gate."
Judas goes away without objecting. Jesus sets out, He is ahead with His apostles and disciples. The women, with Mary in the middle, are behind the men.