433. The Sabbaths in the Peace of Nazareth.
13th May 1946.
The Sabbath is a day of rest. That is already known. And men rest as well as having tools covered up or neatly arranged in their places.
Now that the red sunset of a summer Friday is almost over, Mary, Who is sat at Her smaller loom in the shade of the huge apple-tree, stands up, covers it and with the help of Thomas She carries it back to its place in the house. And She asks Aurea, who is sitting on a little stool at Her feet sewing with still unskilful hand the dresses given to her by the Roman ladies and fitted on her by Mary, to fold her work tidily and put it on the shelf in her little room. And while Aurea is doing so, the Mother with Thomas goes into the workshop where Jesus and the Zealot are busy putting straight saws, planes, screwdrivers, hammers, tins of paint and glue and sweeping away sawdust and shavings from benches and the floor. Of all the work done so far only two small planks of wood remain, gripped in a vice, at an angle, so that the glue may dry up at the joints (it may be a future drawer), and a stool, half painted, besides the strong smell of fresh paint.
Aurea also goes in and she bends over Thomas's burin work, which she admires and asks, somewhat curious and instinctively coquettish, what it is for and whether it would suit her.
"It would suit you fine, but it suits you better to be good. These ornaments embellish the body only, but are of no use to the spirit. Nay, by cherishing coquetry, they are harmful to the spirit."
"Why do you make them, then?" asks the logical girl. "Do you want to harm a spirit?"
Thomas, who is always kind-hearted, smiles at the remark and says: "What is superfluous is harmful to a weak spirit. But in the case of a strong spirit, an ornament remains exactly what it is: a brooch to hold a garment in place."
"For whom are you making it? For your bride?"
"I have no bride and will never have one."
"For your sister, then."
"She has more than she needs."
"For your mother, then."
"Poor old soul! What would she do with it?"
"But it is for a woman..."
"Yes, but it is not you."
"Oh! I would not even think of it... And, now that you have said that those things there are harmful to the spirit, I would not like to have it. And I will take the fringes off my dresses. I do not want to do any harm to what belongs to my Saviour!"
"Clever girl! See, with your good will you have done a nicer work than mine."
"Oh! You are saying so because you are kind!..."
"I am saying it because it is true. See: I took this piece of silver, I reduced it to thin plates as I needed them, then with a tool, or rather with many tools, I folded it thus. But I still have to do the most important work: join the parts together in a natural manner. At present, only these two tiny leaves joined to their little flower are complete" and Thomas with his big fingers lifts a graceful stem of a lily of the valley joined to a leaf which is a perfect imitation of a natural one. It is impressive to see the trinket shining with the brilliancy of pure silver held by the strong dark fingers of the goldsmith.
"Oh! lovely! There were many on the island and we were allowed to pick them before sunrise. Because we blond girls had never to take the sun, so that we might be more valuable. They compelled brunettes instead to stay out in the sun, until they felt sick, to become darker. They... What do you say when one sells something saying that it is one thing, whereas it is another?..."
"Who knows!... Deceit... swindle... I don't know."
"See, they deceived them saying that they were Arabs or that they came from the Upper Nile, where it rises. They sold one girl saying that she was a descendant of the Queen of Sheba."
"Fancy that! They did not deceive the girls, but the purchasers. So you say: they cheated. What a race! A wonderful surprise for the purchaser when he saw... the false Ethiopian grow lighter! Did You hear that, Master? How many things we do not know!..."
"Yes, I heard. But the sad side is not the cheating of the purchasers... it is the destiny of the girls..."
"That is true. Souls desecrated for ever. Lost..."
"No. God can always intervene…"
"He did on my behalf. You saved me!..." says Aurea turning her clear serene eyes towards the Lord. And she concludes: "And I am so happy!" and as she cannot go and embrace Jesus, she clasps Mary with one arm bending her fair haired head on the Virgin's shoulder in a gesture of confident love. The two fairhaired heads stand out, in their different shades, against the dark wall. A most gentle group.
But Mary has to see to the supper. They part and go away.
"May I come in?" says the rather hoarse voice of Peter at the workshop door which opens onto the road.
"Simon! Open the door!"
"Simon! He could not stay away!" exclaims Thomas laughing while he runs to open.
"Simon! This was to be expected..." says the Zealot smiling.
But it is not only Peter's face which appears at the door. All the apostles from the lake are there, with the exception of Bartholomew and the Iscariot. And Judas and James of Alphaeus have already joined them.
"Peace to you! But why did you come in this heat?"
"Because... we could not stay away any longer. It's two and a half weeks, You know? Do You understand? We have not seen You for two and a half weeks!" and Peter seems to be saying: "Two hundred years! An enormity!"
"But I told you to wait for Judas on every Sabbath."
"Yes, but he did not come on the last two Sabbaths... and we have come here on the third one. Nathanael remained there because he is not too well. And he will receive Judas, if he goes there... But he will not go... Passing through Tiberias to come to us, before going to the Great Hermon, Benjamin and Daniel told us that they had seen him at Tiberias and... Of course. I will tell You later..." says Peter who has stopped speaking because of a tug at his tunic by his brother.
"All right. You will tell Me... But you were all so anxious to have a rest, and now that you had a chance you have been running about like this! When did you leave?"
"Yesterday evening. The lake was like a mirror. We landed at Tarichea to avoid Tiberias... so that we would not meet Judas..."
"Because, Master, we wanted to enjoy Your company in peace."
"You are selfish!"
"No. He already has his joys... Well! I don't know who gives him so much money to enjoy it with... Yes, I have understood, Andrew. But don't pull my tunic so violently. You know that it is the only one I have. Do you want me to go back in rags?"
Andrew blushes. The others laugh. Jesus smiles.
"Well. We landed at Tarichea also because, well, don't reproach me... It may be the heat, it may be that I become wicked when I am far away from You, it may be the thought that he left you to join... Listen, stop tearing at my sleeve! You see that I can stop in time!... So, Master, it may be for many reasons... I did not want to commit a sin and if I had seen him I would have committed one. So I went straight to Tarichea. And at dawn we set off."
"Did you pass through Cana?"
"No. We did not want to come the long way round... But it was a long way all the same. And the fish was beginning to go bad... We gave it to the people in a house, to have shelter for a few hours... the warm hours. And we left after the ninth hour, about the middle of the following hour... It was like an oven!…"
"You could have saved yourselves the trouble. I was coming soon..."
"When the sun comes out of Leo."
"And do You think we could stay so long without You? We will defy a thousand of such hot days and we will come to see You. Our Master! Our adored Master!" and Peter embraces his lost Treasure.
"And yet, when we are together you do nothing but complain of the weather, of the length of journeys..."
"Because we are foolish. Because, while we are together we do not really understand what You are for us... But here we are. We are all already settled. Some will stay with Mary of Alphaeus, some with Simon of Alphaeus, some with Ishmael, some with Aser and some here, nearby, with Alphaeus. We will rest now and tomorrow evening we will leave, and we will be more happy."
"On last Sabbath we had Myrtha and Naomi here, they came to see the girl again" says Thomas.
"You can see that whoever can manage to do so, comes here!"
"Yes, Peter. And what have you done during these days?"
"We have fished... painted the boats... mended the nets... Marjiam often goes fishing with the servants, which reduces the insults of my mother-in-law against “the sluggard who lets his wife die of starvation after bringing an illegitimate son to her”. And yet Porphirea has never been so well as now that she has Marjiam for her heart... and for everything else. The sheep from three have become five and will soon be more... It is a great help for a little family like ours! And Marjiam by fishing makes up for what I do not do, except very rarely. But that woman has the tongue of a viper, whereas her daughter has the tongue of a dove... But I see that You have been working as well..."
"Yes, Simon. We have worked. All of us. My brothers in their house, these apostles and I in Mine. To make our mothers happy and let them rest."
"Well, we have been working, too" say the sons of Zebedee.
"My wife and I have worked at the beehives and in the vineyard" says Philip. "And what about you, Matthew?"
"I have no one to make happy... so I made myself happy by writing down the things that I like to remember..."
"Oh! in that case we will tell you the parable of the paint. I, a very inexperienced painter, was the cause of it..." says the Zealot.
"But you soon learned the trade. Look how smooth he made this seat!" says Thaddeus...
They are in perfect harmony. And Jesus, Who looks more rested since He has been at home, is bright with joy at having His dear apostles with Him. Aurea comes and remains on the threshold surprised.
"Oh! here she is! Look how well she is! She looks like a true little Hebrew, dressed like that!"
Aurea blushes and does not know what to say. But Peter is so good natured and fatherly, that she soon recovers and says: "I am striving to become one... and with the help of my Teacher I hope to be one soon... Master, I am going to tell Your Mother that these people are here..." and she goes away quickly.
"She is a good girl" states the Zealot.
"Yes. I would like her to remain with us in Israel. Bartholomew lost a good chance and much joy by refusing her..." says Thomas.
"Bartholomew is very respectful of... formulae" says Philip excusing him.
"His only fault" remarks Jesus.
Mary comes in...
"Peace to You, Mary" say those who came from Capernaum.
"Peace to you... I did not know that you were here. I will provide at once... Come in the meantime..."
"Our mother is coming from our house with some provisions, and Salome is coming as well. Do not worry, Mary" says James of Alphaeus.
"Let us go into the kitchen garden... The evening breeze is rising and it is pleasant in there..." says Jesus.
And they go into the kitchen garden and sit here and there, conversing fraternally, while the doves coo competing for the last meal which Aurea is spreading on the ground... It is then time to water the flower-beds and the beautiful vegetables so useful to man. And the apostles want to do it cheerfully, while Mary of Alphaeus, who has just arrived, and Aurea and the Virgin prepare a meal for the guests. And the smell of sizzling food mingles with that of the moist earth, as the chirping of birds competing cheekily for a good spot among the thick leaves above the garden, mingles with the deep or shrill voices of the apostles...