344. At the Castle in Caesarea Paneas.
29th November 1945
The meal in the hospitable house is over. And Jesus goes out with the Twelve, His disciples and the old landlord. They go back to the Great Spring. But they do not stop there. They continue along the same road, which is uphill all the way, northwards.
The road, although very steep, is comfortable, because it is manageable also to carts and horses. At the end of it, on the top of the mountain, there is a massive castle or fortress, whichever it may be, and it is amazing because of its peculiar shape. It seems to consist of two buildings, placed at different levels, so that the rear one, which is also more warlike looking, is a few metres higher than the front one, which it dominates and defends. Between the two buildings there is a high broad wall fortified with square squat towers; but it must be one building only because it is surrounded by an ashlar wall, with slanting ashlars at the base to support the weight of the rampart. I cannot see the western side. But the northern and southern sides fall sheer down to the mountain, which is isolated and drops vertically on both sides. I think that the western side is similar.
Old Benjamin, who, like all of us, is proud of his town, explains the importance of the Tetrarch's castle, which besides being a castle, is also a fortress for the town, and he points out its beauty, its Powerful solidity, its attributes such as cisterns, vats, space, wide view all around, position etc. "Also the Romans say that it is beautiful. And they are good judges!..." concludes the old man. He then adds: "I am familiar with the superintendent. That's why I can go in. I will show you the widest and most beautiful view of Palestine."
Jesus listens to him kindly. The others smile faintly: they have seen so many views... but the old man is so kind that they have not the heart to mortify him and they countenance him in his desire to show beautiful things to Jesus. They reach the summit. The view is really magnificent even from the emplacement before the main iron gate. But the old man says: "Come... come!... It is more beautiful inside. We will go to the top of the highest tower in the citadel... You will see..."
And they enter a dark corridor dug in the wall, which is several metres wide, until they reach a yard where the superintendent is waiting for them with his family.
The two friends greet each other and the old man explains the reason for the visit.
"The Rabbi of Israel?! What a pity that Philip is not here. He was so anxious to see Him, because we heard of His fame. He is very fond of true rabbis, because they are the only ones who defended his rights, and also to spite Antipas who does not like them. Come, come!..." The man eyed Jesus very carefully first and then decided to honour Him by giving Him a bow worthy of a king.
They go through another corridor into a second yard where there is another iron postern admitting to a third yard, beyond which there is a deep moat and the turreted wall of the citadel. Faces of curious warriors and batmen appear from everywhere. They enter the citadel and then, climbing a narrow staircase, they reach the bastion and then a tower. Only Jesus, the superintendent, Benjamin and the Twelve enter the tower, and they are packed like sardines, so the others cannot go in and they remain on the bastion.
Jesus and those who are with Him enjoy a superb view when they go out on the little terrace at the top of the tower and look over the high stone parapet! Leaning out over the abyss on this western side, the highest part of the castle, they can see the whole of Caesarea stretched out at the foot of the mountain, and they can see it very well, because it is not on level ground, but on gentle slopes. Beyond Caesarea there is a fertile plain that extends as far as lake Merom. And it looks like a little green sea, the water of which sparkles like light turquoises, strewn over the green expanse like particles of clear sky. And then there are beautiful hills, spread here and there at the borders of the plain, like necklaces of dark emerald streaked with the silver of olive-trees. And airy plumes of trees in blossom, or trees in blossom as compact as huge balls... And looking to the north and the east there is the powerful Lebanon and the Hermon shining in the sun with its pearly snow and the mountains of Ituraea; and one can catch a glimpse of the imposing Jordan valley, enclosed between the hills of the sea of Tiberias and the mountains of Gaulanitis, fading away in the distance like a dream.
"How beautiful! It is very beautiful!" exclaims Jesus admiring the view and He seems to be blessing or to be wishing to embrace these beautiful places by opening His arms wide and smiling joyfully. And He replies to the apostles asking for this or that elucidation, pointing out the places where they have already been, that is to the various regions and the directions in which they lie.
"But I cannot see the Jordan" says Bartholomew.
"You cannot see it, but it is over there, in that expanse, between the two chains of mountains. The river is immediately beyond the western one. We will be going down there, because Perea and the Decapolis are still awaiting the Evangelizer."
But He turns round, as if He were listening to the air, because of a long choked wailing that He has heard more than once. He looks at the superintendent, as if to ask him what is happening.
"It is one of the women of the castle. A young wife. She is about to have a baby. It will be her first and last one because her husband died at the beginning of the month of Chislev. I do not know whether she will live, because since her husband died, she has been doing nothing but melt into tears. She has worn herself to a shadow. Can You hear her? She has not even got the strength to cry... Of course... A widow at seventeen years... And they were very fond of each other. My wife and my mother-in-law keep saying to her: “You will find your Toby in your son.” But they are just words..."
They come down from the tower and go round the bastions admiring the place and the view. The superintendent then insists in offering the guests some fruit and drinks and they enter a large room in the front of the castle, to which the servants bring what has been ordered.
The moaning becomes more heart-rending and is closer, and the superintendent apologises also because the incident keeps his wife away from the Master. But a cry, which is even more painful than the previous moaning, is now heard and hands carrying fruit or cups to mouths are left mid air.
"I am going to see what happened" says the superintendent. And he goes out while the painful noise of cries and weeping is heard more distinctly through the half-open door.
The superintendent comes back: "The baby died as soon as it was born... What a torture! She is trying to revive it with her failing strength... But it does not breathe any more. It is purple!..." and shaking his head he says: "Poor Dorca!"
"Bring Me the baby."
"But it is dead, Lord."
"Bring Me the baby, I said. As it is. And tell the mother to have faith."
The superintendent runs away. He comes back: "She does not want to give it. She says that she will not give it to anybody. She seems to be mad. She says that we are trying to take it away from her."
"Take Me to the door of her room, so that she may see Me."
"Never mind! I will be purified later, if necessary..."
They go quickly along a dark corridor as far as a closed room. Jesus Himself opens the door and remains on the threshold facing the bed on which a very pale woman is pressing to her heart a little baby giving no sign of life.
"Peace to you, Dorca. Look at Me. Do not weep. I am the Saviour. Give Me your baby..."
I do not know what there is in Jesus' voice. I know that the poor wretch, as soon as she sees Him, clasps the new-born baby to her heart in a wild attitude, then she looks at Him and her distressed countenance changes and becomes sorrowful but hopeful at the same time. She hands the baby enveloped in linen swaddling bands to the superintendent's wife... and remains motionless, with her hands stretched out, with her wide eyes full of faith and life, deaf to the entreaties of her mother-in-law, who would like her to lie down on the bed pillows.
Jesus takes the bundle of swaddling clothes containing the half cold child, holds it straight by its armpits, lays His lips on the little half-closed lips of the baby, bending a little because the little head is leaning back. He blows hard down the inert throat... and remains for a moment with His lips pressed against the little mouth... then moves away... and a chirping trembles in the still air... then a louder one... a third one... and finally a real cry from a little quivering head... The baby moves its hands and feet and in the meantime during its long triumphant cry, its bald head and tiny face begin to colour. And its mother asserts: "My son! My love! The offspring of my Toby! On my heart! Come to my heart!... that I may die a happy death..." she murmurs, dropping her voice to a whisper, which ends in a kiss and in an understandable reaction of relaxation. "She is dying!" shout the women.
"No. She is beginning to rest, as she deserves. When she wakes up tell her to call the baby: Jesai Tobias. I will see her at the Temple on the day of her purification. Goodbye. Peace be with you." He slowly closes the door and turns round to go back to His disciples. But they are all there, deeply moved at what they have seen and looking at Him full of admiration.
They go back together to the yard. They say goodbye to the dumbfounded superintendent, who keeps repeating: "How sorry the Tetrarch will be that he was not here!" and they begin to descend towards the town.
Jesus lays His hand on the shoulder of old Benjamin saying: "Thank you for what you have shown to us and for being the occasion for a miracle."...