285. Arrival at Ramoth with the Merchant from the Other Side of the Euphrates.
25th September 1945.
After walking a long way across a fertile plain on the other side of the Jordan − and it is pleasant to walk in the serene mild season as it is now at the end of October − and after resting in a little village lying at the foot of the lower slopes of a rather bulky chain of mountains, some summits of which can really be called mountains, Jesus sets out once again, following a long caravan of many quadrupeds and well armed men, to whom He had previously spoken while they were watering their animals at the fountains in the square. They are mostly tall swarthy men, with typical Asian features. The head of the caravan is riding a very strong mule and is armed to the teeth and weapons are hanging from his saddle. And yet he had great respect for Jesus.
The apostles ask Jesus: "Who is he?"
"A rich merchant from the other side of the Euphrates. I asked him where he was going and he replied politely. He will be passing through the towns where I intend to go. Which is providential in these mountains, when we have the women with us."
"Are You afraid of something?"
"I am not afraid of being robbed, as we possess nothing. But it would be enough to frighten the women. A handful of robbers will never attack so strong a caravan, which will be most useful to us because we shall also find out the best passes and shall be able to cross over the difficult ones. He asked Me: “Are You the Messiah?” and when he heard that I was, he said: “I was in the Courtyard of the Heathens some days ago and I heard You more than I could see You, because I am a small man. Well, I will protect You and You will protect me. I have a very valuable load.”"
"Is he a proselyte?"
"I do not think so. But perhaps he is of our extraction."
The caravan proceeds slowly, as if they did not want to exhaust the strength of the quadrupeds by going too far. It is therefore easy to follow them and sometimes it is necessary to stop as the drivers let the laden animals pass one by one holding them by their halters in the most difficult spots. Although a true and proper mountainous area, it is fertile and well cultivated. Perhaps the high mountains to the north act as a protection against the cold northern winds or the harmful eastern ones and that helps cultivation. The caravan marches along a stream which flows into the Jordan and is rich in water which comes down from I wonder which top. The view is beautiful and becomes more and more beautiful as one climbs up, stretching westwards across the plain of the Jordan and reaching, beyond it, the graceful hills and mountains of northern Judaea, while to the east and north the view changes continuously, stretching far out and wide, or showing overlapping rounded hills and green or rocky mountain tops, which seem to obstruct the road like the sudden wall of a labyrinth.
The sun is about to set behind the mountains of Judaea, colouring sky and slopes with a deep red, when the rich merchant, who has stopped to let the caravan pass, says to Jesus: "We must reach the village before night. But many of Your people look tired. This is a long hard leg. Let them mount the spare mules. They are quiet animals. In any case they will be resting all night and the weight of a woman is no burden to them."
Jesus agrees and the man orders the caravan to stop to let the women mount the mules. Jesus makes John of Endor get on horseback as well. And those on foot, including Jesus, hold the reins to make the women feel safer. Marjiam wants to be... a man, and although he is exhausted, he refuses to go on horseback with anyone and he takes one of the reins of the Blessed Virgin's mule, Who is thus between Jesus and the boy, and he walks bravely.
The merchant has remained near Jesus and he says to Mary: "See that village, Donna? That is Ramoth. We will stop there. I am well known at the hotel because I come this way twice a year, and I go along the coast, also twice a year to purchase and sell. My life is a hard one. But I have twelve children and they are all young. I got married late. The last one was nine days old when I left him. And he will have cut his first teeth when I see him."
"A lovely family..." comments Mary, and She adds: "May Heaven preserve it for you."
"As a matter of fact I cannot complain of its help although I do not really deserve it."
Jesus asks him: "Are you at least a proselyte?"
"I should be... My ancestors were true Israelites. Then... we became acclimatised there..."
"A soul becomes acclimatised in one atmosphere only: in Heaven's."
"You are right. But You know... My great grandfather married a woman who was not an Israelite. His children became less faithful... The sons of his children once again married women who were not from Israel and their children were respectful only of their Jewish names; because we are of Jewish extraction. Now I, a grandson of grandsons... I am nothing. Being in touch with everybody I have taken after everyone, with the result that I belong to no one."
"That is not a good reason and I can prove it to you. If going along this road, which you know to be a good one, you should meet five or six people who said to you: “No, don't go this way!”, “Go back”, “Stop”, “Go eastwards”, “Turn westwards”, what would you do?"
"I would say: “I know that this is the right road and the shortest, and i am not going to leave it.”"
"Likewise: if you are negotiating some business and you know the best way to do it, would you listen to those who either through boasts or interested cunning advised you to act differently?"
"No. I would follow the method which my experience tells me is the best."
"Very well. Millennia of faith are behind you, a descendant of Israel. You are neither stupid nor uneducated. So why are you influenced by contacts with everybody in matters of faith, whereas you reject them when money or road safety is concerned? Do you not think it is dishonourable also from a human point of view? To place God after money and the road..."
"I do not postpone God. But I have lost sight of Him..."
"Because business, money, your life are your gods. But it is still God Who allows you to have such things... Then, why did you go to the Temple?"
"Out of curiosity. Coming out of a house where I had negotiated some goods, I saw a group of men pay their respects to You and I remembered the words I had heard at Ashkelon from a woman who made carpets. I asked who You were, as I suspected You might be the One of Whom the woman had spoken to me. And when I found out that it was You, I followed You. I had done my business for that day... Then I lost sight of You. I saw You once again at Jericho. But only for a moment. Now I have found You again... That's it..."
"So God has joined and interlaced our ways. I have no gifts to offer you to thank you for your kindness. But before leaving you I hope to be able to give you a present, unless you leave Me beforehand..."
"No, I will not. Alexander Misace does not take back what he offers! Here we are. The village begins after that turn. I will go ahead. We will meet at the hotel" and he spurs his mule leaving almost at a gallop on the edge of the road.
"He is an honest unhappy man, Son" says Mary.
"And You would like him to be happy according to Wisdom, would You not?"
And they smile kindly at each other in the first shadows of the evening.
...The pilgrims are all gathered in a large hall of the hotel, waiting to go to bed, in the long October evening. The merchant is in a corner, all by himself, intent on his accounts. Jesus, with His group, is in the opposite comer. There are no other guests. Braying, neighing and bleating can be heard coming from the stables, which makes one assume that there are other people in the hotel. Perhaps they are already in bed.
Marjiam has fallen asleep in Our Lady's arms, forgetting all of a sudden that he was "a man". Peter is dozing and is not the only one. Also the whispering elderly women are half asleep and are silent. Jesus, Mary, Lazarus' sisters, Syntyche, Simon Zealot, John and Judas are well awake.
Syntyche is searching John of Endor's bag looking for something. But she prefers to come close to the others and listen to Judas of Alphaeus who is speaking of the consequences of the exile in Babylon and concludes: "...and perhaps that man is still a consequence of that. Every exile is a ruin...".
Syntyche nods unintentionally but does not say anything and Judas of Alphaeus concludes: "However, it is strange that one can so easily divest oneself of what has been a treasure for centuries to become entirely new, particularly in matters of religion, and a religion like ours..."
Jesus replies: "You must not be surprised if you see Samaria in the lap of Israel."
There is silence... Syntyche's dark eyes are staring at Jesus' serene profile. She looks at Him intensely, but does not speak. Jesus perceives her glance and turns round to look at her.
"Have you not found anything to your liking?"
"No, my Lord. I have got to the point that I am no longer able to reconcile the past with the present, former ideas with present ones. And I feel as if it were a defection because my former ideas have helped me to have the present ones. Your apostle spoke the truth... But my ruin is a happy one."
"What is your ruin?"
"All my faith in heathen Olympus, my Lord. But I am somewhat upset because on reading Your Scriptures − John gave me them and I read them because there is no possession without knowledge − I found out that also in your history... of the beginning, shall I say, there are events which do not differ much from ours. Now, I would like to know..."
"I have already told you: ask Me and I will answer your questions."
"Is everything wrong in the religion of the gods?"
"Yes, woman. There is but one God, Who does not originate from anybody else and is not subject to human passions and needs: one Only, Eternal, Perfect God, the Creator of everything."
"I believe that. But I want to be able to reply to the questions which other heathens may ask me not in a way which does not admit any discussion, but by discussing in order to be convinced. I, by myself and by virtue of beneficent paternal God, have given myself informal answers, but sufficient to give peace to my spirit. But I was willing to reach the Truth. Others may be less anxious than I am in that respect. But everybody ought to be keen in such research. I do not want to be inactive with souls. I would like to give what I have received. But I must know in order to be able to give. Grant me knowledge and I will serve You in the name of love. Today, on the way, while I was watching the mountains and certain views reminded me of the chains of Hellas and of the history of my Country, by association of ideas the myths of Prometheus and Deucalion crossed my mind... You have something similar in the fulmination of Lucifer, in the infusion of life into clay, in the Flood of Noah. Light concomitances, yet they are a remembrance... Now tell me: how could we be aware of them if there was no contact between you and us, if you certainly had them before we did, and although we had them, we do not know how we got them? We still ignore one another, in many things. So how could we, thousands of years ago, have legends which are remembrances of Your Truth?"
"Woman, you ought to be the last one to ask Me. Because you have read works which could answer your questions by themselves. Today, by association of ideas, from the remembrance of your native mountains you have gone on to the remembrance of native myths and comparisons. Is that right. Why?"
"Because my awakened thought remembered."
"Very well. Also the souls of the very ancient people who gave a religion to your land remembered. Vaguely, as someone who is imperfect can do, someone separated from the revealed religion. But they have always remembered. There are many religions in the world. Now, if we had here in a clear picture all their details, we would see that there is something like a golden thread, lost in much mud, a thread with many knots in which fragments of the real Truth are enclosed."
"But do we not all come of the same stock? You say so. So why were the very ancient ones, who came of the original stock, why were they not able to bring the Truth with them? Was it not unjust to deprive them of it?"
"You have read Genesis, have you not? What have you found? A complex sin at the beginning, a sin embracing the three states of man: matter, thought, spirit. Then a fratricide. Then a double homicide to counterbalance the work of Enoch to keep light in hearts, then corruption, when the sons of God, out of lust, married the daughters of man. And notwithstanding the purification by the Deluge and the remaking of the race from good seed, not from stones as your myths state, likewise the first clay modelled by God to His image and in the shape of man was endowed with life through the work of God by the infusion of vital Fire, and not through the theft of vital fire by man, there was a fresh outburst of pride, an insult to God: “Let us touch the sky” and the divine curse: “Let them be scattered and let them no longer understand one another.”... And the only stock became divided, like water clashing against a rock is divided into little streams and does not come together again, and the race was divided into races. Mankind driven away by its sin and by divine punishment was scattered and never came together again, carrying with itself the confusion created by pride. But souls remember. There is always something left within them. And the most virtuous and wise see a light indistinctly, a feeble light in the dark of myths: the light of Truth. It is the remembrance of the Light seen before life, which inspires them with some truth, in which are fragments of the revealed Truth. Is that clear to you?"
"Only partly. But I will think about it. Night is the friend of those who meditate and collect their thoughts."
"Well, let us go and collect our thoughts. Let us go, My friends. Peace to you, women. Peace to you, My disciples. Peace to you, Alexander Misace."
"Goodbye, my Lord. God be with You" replies the merchant bowing...