293. Farewell to the Women Disciples.
3rd October 1945.
The reverential respect of Misace is shown the following morning, when he makes the pilgrims go the first miles on the camels after adjusting their loads, turning them into comfortable cradles for the inexperienced riders. And it is quite funny to see dark or fair-haired heads emerging from bundles and cases, with long hair reaching down to the men's ears, or tresses showing through the women's veils. As the camels are moving very fast, the wind now and again blows back the veils and the bright golden hair of Mary Magdalene or the milder fair hair of the Blessed Virgin shines in the sunshine, while the dark or brown haired heads of Johanna, Syntyche, Martha, Marcella, Susanna and Sarah show indigo or dark bronze reflections, and the grey-haired heads of Eliza, Salome and Mary Clopas seem to be sprayed with silver dust in the clear warm sun. The men are proceeding bravely on the new means of transport and Marjiam is laughing happily.
They realise that the merchant's statement is true, when, turning round, they see Bozrah down in the valley, with its towers and high houses in the labyrinth of the narrow streets. Low hills appear to the north-west. The road to Aera runs at their feet; the caravan stops to let the pilgrims dismount and part. The camels kneel down with remarkable pitching which makes more than one woman scream. I now see that wisely the women had been fastened to the saddles with belts. The women are somewhat stunned with so much rolling, but they are well rested.
Misace dismounts as well; he had taken Marjiam up on his saddle, and while the cameleers resettle the loads in the usual way, he approaches Jesus to bid Him goodbye once again.
"Thank you, Misace. You have saved us a lot of fatigue and time."
"Yes. We have covered twenty miles in a short time. The camels have long legs, even if they do not amble smoothly. I do hope that the women have not suffered too much because of that." All the women reassure him that they are well rested and have not suffered.
"You are now six miles from Arbela. May Heaven accompany you and make your journey smooth. Goodbye, my Lord. Allow me to kiss Your holy feet. I am happy to have met You, Lord. Remember me." Misace kisses Jesus' feet, he mounts again and his cry makes the camels rise... And the caravan leaves at a gallop on the flat road, in a cloud of dust.
"A good man! I am all bruised, but in compensation, my feet have had a rest. But how much knocking! A north wind storm on the lake is nothing in comparison! Are you laughing? But I did not have the cushions the women had. Long live my boat! It is still the cleanest and safest thing. And now let us pick up our bags and move on."
They compete with one another in loading themselves. The winners are those who will be staying with Jesus, that is, Matthew, the Zealot, James and John, Ermasteus and Timoneus, who take everything to spare the three who will be going with the women, or rather the four, because there is also John of Endor, whose help must be very relative, owing to the poorly state he is in. They walk fast for a few miles. When they reach the top of a low hill which acted as a screen to the west, a fertile plain appears, surrounded by a ring of hills, which are higher than the one they met previously, and in the middle of the plain there is a long isolated hill. There is a town in the plain: Arbela. They descend and are soon in the plain.
They proceed for a little while, then Jesus stops saying: "This is where we part. Let us take our food together and then we shall part. This is the cross-road to Gadara. You will take that road. It is the shortest one and before evening you will be in the territory watched over by Chuza."
There is not much enthusiasm... But they obey.
While taking their food Marjiam says: "Well, it is also the moment to give You this pouch. The merchant gave it to me when I was in the saddle with him. He said to me: “You will give it to Jesus before parting from Him and you will tell Him to love me as He loves you.” Here it is. It was heavy here, in my tunic. It seems to be full of stones."
"Let us see! Money is heavy!" They are all curious.
Jesus undoes the thin twisted leather strips which fasten the pouch made with gazelle leather, I think, because it looks like chamois leather, and empties its contents on His lap. Some coins roll out. But they are the least. Many small bags of very fine byssus roll out as well: little bundles tied with a thread. Beautiful hues shine through the very light linen tissue and the sun seems to light a tiny fire in each little bundle, as if they were embers under a thin veil of ash. "What is it? Undo them, Master."
They are all bending over Jesus Who calmly unties the knot of a little bundle shining with golden reflections: topazes of various sizes, still unrefined, sparkle freely in the sun. Another little bundle: rubies, drops of coagulated blood. Another one: a precious delightful display of green emerald chips. Another one: bits of sky in pure sapphires. Another one: languid amethysts. Another: violet indigo of beryls. Another: wonderful black onyxes... And so on for twelve little bundles. In the last one, the heaviest, a golden sparkling of chrysolites, there is a small parchment: "For Your Rational (1) of true Pontiff and King".
Jesus' lap is a little meadow strewn with bright stripped petals... The apostles plunge their hands into that light which has become many-coloured matter. They are bewildered...
Peter whispers: "If Judas of Kerioth were here!..."
"Be quiet! It is better that he is not" says Thaddeus resolutely.
Jesus asks for a piece of cloth to make one parcel only of the stones and He is pensive while the others continue commenting.
The apostles say: "That man was rich indeed!" and Peter makes everybody laugh exclaiming: "We have been trotting on a throne of gems. I did not think I was sitting an such splendour. I wish it had been softer! What will You do with it now?"
"I will sell it for the poor." He looks up at the women smiling.
"And where will You find a jeweller here, who can buy those things?"
"Where? Here. Johanna, Martha, Mary, will you buy My treasure?"
The three women, without even consulting with one another, say: "Yes" impulsively. But Martha adds: "We have little money here."
"You will let Me have it at Magdala at the new moon."
"How much do You want, Lord?"
"For Myself, nothing. For My poor, very much."
"Give me it. You will have very much" says the Magdalene, and she takes the purse and conceals it in her breast.
Jesus keeps only the money. He stands up. He kisses His Mother, His aunt His cousins and then he kisses Peter, John of Endor and Marjiam. He blesses the women and dismisses them. And they go away, looking back now and again, until they disappear round a bend.
Jesus goes with the rest towards Arbela. It is only a small group now, only eight people in all. They walk fast without speaking towards the town which is becoming closer and closer.
(The following passage can be found in the English version of the "Notebook 1945-1950", however it is in included at the end of this chapter in Volume 4 of the French 1986 version.)
And for today, too, with a great deal of patience on both sides, we have finished! Twenty- three interruptions yesterday, fourteen today. If Jesus’ infinite patience failed to flow forth and be transfused from Him into me, I assure you that I would go mad. But He is so patient! He pauses and resumes, calm and smiling. I can no longer get impatient over the bothersome interruptions forcing me to put down my notebook and pen, perhaps for a few minutes, to conceal the mystery which is being fulfilled so sweetly and so secretly and hide it from useless curiosity. And it is a great miracle to have made me into a patient person…. I certainly am, for I know He is there to dictate, and He does not lose the thread. For when, as happened this morning, I am the one to write a letter or something else, I at once lose the thread and patience, even if I merely hear someone speaking near me. And Marta knows how often I wail, “Silence! Close the door!” when I am writing on my own….
(1) The Rational was the precious pectoral of judgement worn by the High Priest when he went into the presence of Yahweh (See Exodus 28, 15-30).