Martyrdom Of Saint Stephen – First Christian Martyr

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Saint Stephen

Excerpt from the POEM OF THE MAN-GOD
As revealed by JESUS to Maria Valtorta

641. The Martyrdom of Stephen. Saul and Gamaliel.
7th August 1944.

The hall of the Sanhedrin, identical, both with regard to disposition and to people, to what it was in the night between Thursday and Friday, during Jesus’ trial. The High Priest and the others are sitting on their seats. In the middle, in front of the High Priest, in the empty space where, during the trial Jesus was, there is now Stephen.

He must have already spoken professing his faith and bearing witness to the true Nature of the Christ and to His Church, because the tumult is at its climax and in its violence it is similar to the one that raged against the Christ in the fatal night of the betrayal and deicide. Blows, curses, horrible oaths are hurled against the deacon Stephen who, under the brutal blows, staggers and totters while they savagely tug him here and there.

But he keeps his calm and dignity, and even more. He is not only calm and dignified, but he is even blissful and almost ecstatic. Disregarding the spittles streaming down his face and the blood running from his nose, that has been violently struck, at a certain moment he raises his inspired face and his bright smiling eyes to stare at a vision known to him alone.

He stretches his arms out crosswise, he raises them up as if he wished to embrace what he sees, then he falls on his knees exclaiming: « Here, I can see the Heavens thrown open, and the Son of Man, Jesus, the Christ of God, Whom you have killed, standing at the right hand of God. »

Then the tumult loses even that least part that it still retained of humanity and legality and, with the fury of a pack of wolves, of jackals, of rabid wild beasts, they all hurl themselves on the deacon, they bite him, they trample on him, they grasp him, they raise him lifting him by his hair, they drag him, letting him drop again, while fury opposes fury, because in the rush those who try to drag the martyr outside are hindered by those who pull him in another direction to strike him and tread on him again.

Among the most furious ones there is a young short ugly looking man, named Saul. The fierceness of his face is indescribable. In a corner of the hall there is Gamaliel. He has never taken part in the brawl, neither has he ever addressed Stephen or any mighty person. His disgust for the unfair wild scene is manifest. In another corner there is Nicodemus, who is also disgusted and does not take part in the trial or in the brawl, and is looking at Gamaliel, whose countenance is clearer than any word. But suddenly, and precisely when he sees Stephen being lifted by his hair for the third time, Gamaliel envelops himself in his very wide mantle and he goes towards an exit in the opposite direction to that towards which the deacon is being dragged.

His action does not pass unnoticed to Saul who shouts: « Rabbi, are you going away? » Gamaliel does not reply. Saul, fearing that Gamaliel has not understood that the question was made to him, repeats and specifies it: « Rabbi Gamaliel, are you evading this judgement? » Gamaliel turns round all of one piece and, looking furious, disgusted as he is, dignified and frigid, he replies only: « Yes. »

But his « yes » is worth more than a long speech. Saul understands everything that that « yes » implies, and leaving the wild pack, he rushes towards Gamaliel. He reaches him, stops him, says to him: « You are not going to tell me, o rabbi, that you disapprove of our condemnation. » Gamaliel does not look at him, neither does he reply to him.

Saul insists: « That man is doubly guilty, as he denied the Law, following a Samaritan possessed by Beelzebub, and for doing so after being your disciple. » Gamaliel continues to look away from him and to be silent.

Saul then asks him: « But are you perhaps, you as well, a follower of that criminal named Jesus? »

Gamaliel now speaks and says: « I am not yet. But if He was what He said, and truly many things prove that He was, I pray God that I may become one. » Horrible shouts Saul.

« There is nothing horrible. Every man has an intelligence to make use of it, and a freedom to apply it. So let everybody make use of it according to that freedom that God has given to every man and to that light that He has put in everybody’s heart. The just, sooner or later, will use these two gifts of God, for Good purposes, and the wicked, for Evil purposes. »

And he goes away, directing his steps towards the court where the Treasury is, and he goes and leans against the same column against which Jesus spoke of the poor widow who gave the Treasury of the Temple everything she had: two farthings.

He has not been there long when Saul joins him again and places himself in front of him. The contrast between the two is very strong.

Gamaliel is tall, of a noble bearing, handsome in his strong Semitic features, with a high forehead, with eyes which are very dark, intelligent, piercing, long and deeply sunken under his thick straight eyebrows, on the sides of his nose which is also straight, long and thin, and reminds one a little of Jesus’ nose. Also his complexion, his thin-lipped mouth remind one of Jesus’. But Gamaliel’s beard and moustache, once very dark, are now grizzled and longer.

Saul instead is short, thickset, almost rickety, his legs are short and thick, a little apart at the knees, which are clearly visible because he has taken his mantle off and he has on only a short greyish tunic. His arms are short and brawny like his legs, his neck is short and thickset, supporting a big brown head with short rough hair, with rather protruding ears, snub nose, thick lips, with high big cheek-bones, bulging forehead, dark rather bulging eyes, neither mild nor kind, but very intelligent under his very arched, thick, ruffled eyelashes. His cheeks are covered with a very thick beard, as bristly as his hair, but cut short. Perhaps because of his very short neck he seems to be slightly hunchbacked or to have very round shoulders.

He is silent for a moment, staring at Gamaliel. Then he says something to him in a low voice. Gamaliel replies to him in a clear loud voice: « I do not approve of violence, for any reason whatsoever. You will never obtain my approval for any violent plan. I have told also all the Sanhedrin, in public, when Peter and the other apostles were arrested for the second time and brought before the Sanhedrin to be judged. And I repeat the same things: “If it is the plan and work of men, it will perish by itself; if it comes from God, it cannot be destroyed by men, on the contrary they may be struck by God”. Bear that in mind. »

« Are you the protector of these blasphemous followers of the Nazarene, you, the greatest rabbi in Israel? »

« I am the protector of justice. And justice teaches us to be prudent and just in judging. I repeat it to you. If the thing comes from God, it will last, if not, it will fall by itself. But I do not want to stain my hands with blood that I do not know whether it deserves death. »

« Is that how you, a Pharisee and doctor, speak? Are you not afraid of the Most High? »

« More than you are. But I ponder. And I remember… You were only a little child, not yet a son of the Law, and I was already teaching in this Temple with the wisest rabbi of our days… and with others, wise, but not just. Within these walls our wisdom received a lesson that made us ponder for the rest of our lives. The eyes of the most wise and just man of our times closed on the recollection of that hour, and his mind on the study of those truths, heard from the lips of a child, who was revealing himself to men, particularly if just. My eyes have continued to watch and my mind to think, coordinating events and things… I have had the privilege of hearing the Most High speak through the mouth of a child, who later was a man just, wise, mighty, holy, and who was put to death, just because of these qualities of his. His words of that time have afterwards been confirmed by events that happened many years later, at the time mentioned by Daniel… Poor me, as I did not understand sooner! As I awaited the last terrible sign to believe, to understand! Poor people of Israel, who did not understand then and does not understand even now! The prophecy of Daniel and those of other prophets and of the Word of God continue, and will be fulfilled for Israel stubborn, blind, deaf, unjust, as it continues to persecute the Messiah in His servants! »

« Damn! You are blaspheming! There will really be no salvation for the people of God, if the rabbis of Israel blaspheme and deny Jehovah, the true God, to exalt and believe in a false Messiah! »

« I am not blaspheming, but all those are, who insulted the Nazarene and continue to despise Him, by scorning His followers. You, yes, you are blaspheming, because you hate Him, in Himself, and in His followers. But you were right when you said that there is no more salvation for Israel. Not because there are Israelites who have passed into His flock, but because Israel has struck Him to death. »

« You fill me with horror! You are betraying the Law, the Temple! »

« Denounce me, then, to the Sanhedrin, that I may share the lot of him who is about to be stoned. It will be the beginning and the happy conclusion of your mission. And I shall be forgiven, through this sacrifice of mine, for not having recognized and understood the God Who was passing, as Saviour and Master, among us, His children and His people. »

Saul, with an angry gesture, goes away, rudely, to the court facing the hall of the Sanhedrin, the court in which the crowd is still shouting in exasperation against Stephen. In this court Saul joins the torturers who were waiting for him, and with the others he comes out of the Temple and then out of the town walls. Abuse, jeers continue to be shouted at, and blows to be dealt to the deacon, who already tired out and wounded, proceeds staggering towards the place of the execution.

Outside the walls there is a stretch of waste land covered with stones, completely desert. When the executioners arrive there, they spread out forming a circle, leaving the condemned man all alone in the centre with his torn garments and his body bleeding in many parts as a result of the wounds already inflicted on it. They tear his garments off him before moving away from him. Stephen is left with a very short tunic. They all take their long garments off and remain with their tunics only, as short as the one worn by Saul, to whom they entrust their garments, as he does not take part in the lapidation, either because he has been upset by Gamaliel’s words, or because he knows that he is not good at hitting the mark.

The executioners pick up some large pebbles and some sharp stones, in which the place abounds, and they begin the lapidation.

Stephen receives the first blows standing, and with a smile of forgiveness on his wounded lips which, a moment before the beginning of the lapidation, have shouted to Saul, intent on gathering the clothes of the lapidators: « My friend, I will wait for you on the way of the Christ. »

To which Saul replied: « Pig! Possessed! » adding to the insults a mighty kick on the shin-bone of the deacon, who almost falls because of the blow and of the pain. After some blows with stones, that strike him from all directions, Stephen falls on his knees, supporting himself with his wounded hands, and certainly recollecting a remote episode, he whispers, touching his temple and his wounded forehead:

« As He foretold me! The crown… The rubies… O my Lord, Master, Jesus, receive my spirit »

Another hail of blows on his already wounded head makes him collapse on the ground that becomes impregnated with his blood. While he lies on the stones, always under hails of more of them, on the point of breathing his last, he whispers: « Lord… Father… forgive them… bear them no grudge for this sin of theirs… They do not know what… »

Death breaks the sentence on his lips, a last start makes him curl himself up, and he remains so. Dead.

The executioners approach him, they throw another volley of stones on him, and almost bury him under them. They then put their clothes on, and they go away back to the Temple, intoxicated with satanic zeal, to report what they have done.

While they are speaking to the High Priest and other mighty people, Saul goes in search of Gamaliel. He does not find him at once. Inflamed with hatred against the Christians, he goes back to the Priests, he speaks to them, he convinces them to give him a parchment with the seal of the Temple, authorising him to persecute the Christians. The blood of Stephen must have made him as furious as a bull that sees red, or a generous wine given to an alcoholic.

He is about to come out of the Temple when he sees Gamaliel under the Porch of the Gentiles. He goes to him. Perhaps he wants to begin a dispute or a justification. But Gamaliel goes across the court, he enters a hall and closes the door in the face of Saul, who, offended and furious, runs out of the Temple to persecute the Christians.

[Jesus says:]

« I have shown Myself many times and to many people, also in extraordinary manifestations. But My manifestation did not produce the same effect in everybody. We can see how to each manifestation of Mine corresponds a sanctification of those who possessed the good will required of men to have Peace, Life, Justice.

So, Grace worked in the shepherds for the thirty years of My concealed life, then it flowered yielding a holy ear of corn when it was the time in which the good parted from the wicked to follow the Son of God, Who was passing along the ways of the world, uttering His cry of love to assemble the sheep of the eternal Flock, scattered and dispersed by Satan.

Present among the crowds that followed Me, they were My messengers, because with their simple and convincing reports, they proclaimed the Christ saying: “It is He. We recognise Him. The lullabies of the angels descended upon His first wailing.

And we were told by the angels that men of good-will will have peace. Good will is the desire of Good and Truth. Let us follow Him! Follow Him! We shall all have the Peace promised by the Lord”.

Humble, ignorant, poor, My first messengers among men, rushed like sentries along the road of the King of Israel, of the King of the world. Faithful eyes, honest mouths, loving hearts, thuribles exhaling the perfume of their virtues to make less corrupt the air of the Earth around My Divine Person, that had become incarnate for them and for all men, and I found them even at the foot of the Cross, after blessing them with My eyes along the sanguinary road of Golgotha, the only ones, with very few more, who did not curse Me among the unrestrained crowd, but who loved, believed, still hoped, and looked at Me with compassionate eyes, thinking of the remote night of My Birth and weeping on the Innocent, Who slept His first sleep on an uncomfortable piece of wood, and His last one on an even more painful one. That because My manifestation to them, who were righteous souls, had sanctified them.

And the same happened to the three Wise Men from the East, to Simeon and Anne in the Temple, to Andrew and John at the Jordan, and to Peter, James and John at Tabor, to Mary of Magdala at dawn on Easter Sunday, to the eleven when on the Mount of Olives, and even before that, at Bethany, they were forgiven their bewilderment… No, John, the pure apostle, did not need to be forgiven. He was the faithful ever loving hero. His most pure love, his purity of mind, of heart, of body, preserved him from all weakness.

Gamaliel, and with him Hillel, were not as simple as the shepherds, as holy as Simeon, as wise as the three Wise men. In him, and in his master and relative, there was the tangle of Pharisaic lianas to suffocate the light and the free expansion of the tree of faith. But in their being Pharisaic there was purity of intentions. They thought they were in the right and they wished to be so. They wished it by instinct, because they were just, and by intellect, because their spirits shouted out of discontent: “There are too many ashes mixed with this bread. Give us the bread of the real Truth”.

Gamaliel, however, was not so strong as to have the courage to break these Pharisaic lianas. His humanity enslaved him still too much, and with it, the considerations of human esteem, of personal danger, of family welfare. Because of all these things Gamaliel had not been able to understand “the God that was passing among His people”, or to use “that intelligence and that freedom” that God has given every man so that he may use them for his own good. Only the sign awaited for so many years, the sign that had demolished and tortured him with never ending remorse, would provoke in him the recognition of the Christ and the change of his ancient thought, whereby, from the rabbi of error – as the scribes, Pharisees and the doctors had corrupted the essence and the spirit of the Law, suffocating the simple bright truth that had come from God under a large quantity of human precepts, which were often wrong, but always to their advantage – he would become a disciple of the divine Truth, after a long struggle between his ancient ego and his present ego.

In any case he had not been the only one to be uncertain in deciding and strong in acting. Also Joseph of Arimathea, and even more Nicodemus, did not trample on the Judaic customs and lianas at once and embrace the new Doctrine openly, so much so that they used to come to the Christ “secretly”, out of fear of the Judaeans, or they used to meet with him by chance, and mainly in their country houses, or in Lazarus’ house at Bethany, as they knew that it was safer and more feared by Christ’s enemies, who were well aware of the protection of Rome for Theophilus’ son. However, they were certainly always much more advanced in Good and braver, when compared to Gamaliel, to the extent that they dared to take the compassionate action on Good Friday.

Rabbi Gamaliel was less advanced. But you, who are reading, pay attention to the power of his upright intention. Through it, his very human justice, becomes tinged with a superhuman hue. Saul’s instead, gets soiled with something demoniac, when the unchecked fury of evil compels him and his master Gamaliel to face the alternative choice between Good and Evil, justice and injustice. The tree of Good and Evil stands straight in front of every man to present its fruits of Evil to him, in the most alluring and attractive appearance, while among the foliage in a deceitful voice of a nightingale, the tempting Serpent hisses. It is up to man, a creature gifted with reason and with a soul given to him by God, to be able to distinguish and want the good fruit among the many, which are not good and cause damage and death to the spirit; and to pick that one, even if it is prickly and difficult to pick, bitter to taste and miserable looking. Its metamorphosis, by which it becomes so much smoother and softer to the touch, sweeter to the taste, more beautiful to the sight, takes place only when, through justice of spirit and reason, one chooses the good fruit and feeds on its juice, which is bitter but holy.

Saul stretches out his greedy hands to the fruit of Evil, of hatred, of injustice, of crime, and he will stretch them out until he is struck with lightning, crushed, deprived of human sight, so that he may achieve the superhuman sight and may become not only just, but an apostle and confessor of Him, Whom he previously hated and persecuted in His servants.

Gamaliel breaking the persistent lianas of his humanity and of Hebraism, to let spring up and bloom the remote seed of light and justice, not only human but also superhuman, that My fourth epiphany, or manifestation, which is perhaps a word clearer and more comprehensible to you, had put in his heart, in his heart with upright intentions, the seed that he had preserved and defended with honest fondness and noble eagerness to see it spring up and bloom, stretches out his hands to the fruit of Good. His will and My Blood broke the hard husk of that remote seed, that he had preserved in his heart for dozens of years, in that heart of rock that split with the veil of the Temple and the earth of Jerusalem, and shouted its supreme desire to Me, Who could no longer hear him with human hearing, but I could hear him well with My divine spirit, when he was there, prostrated on the ground, at the foot of the cross. And under the sunny fire of the apostolic words and of the best disciples, and the shower of the blood of Stephen, the first martyr, that seed takes root, becomes a tree, blossoms and yields fruit. The new tree of his Christian Faith, which had come up where the tragedy of Good Friday had overthrown, uprooted and destroyed all the ancient trees and herbs.

The plant of his new Christian faith and of his new holiness has come up and grown before My eyes. Forgiven by Me, although guilty of not understanding Me previously, because of his justice that refused to take part in My condemnation or in Stephen’s, his desire to become My follower, the son of the Truth, of the Light, is blessed also by the Father and by the Sanctifying Spirit, and from desire it becomes reality, without the need of powerful violent lightning, as was necessary for Saul on the Damascus road, for the arrogant man, who with no other means could have been subdued and led to Justice, to Charity, to Light, to Truth, and to the eternal glorious Life in Heaven. »

642. Deposition of Stephen’s Body.
8th August 1951.

It is the dead of night, and a very dark night, because the moon has already set, when Mary comes out of the little house at Gethsemane with Peter, James of Alphaeus, John, Nicodemus and the Zealot.

Because of the dark night, Lazarus, who is waiting for them in front of the house, at the beginning of the path that leads to the lower gate, lights an oil lamp, which he has fitted with a protection of thin sheets of alabaster or other transparent material. The light is faint, but when the lamp is held low towards the ground, as it is now, it always helps to see stones and obstacles that may be found on the way.

Lazarus goes beside Mary, so that She, above all, may see clearly. John is on the other side and supports the Mother by the arm. The others are behind them, in a group. They go as far as the Kidron and proceed along it, so that they are half-hidden by the wild bushes that grow near its banks.

Also the murmur of the water serves to conceal and confuse the noise of the sandals of the wayfarers. Going along the outer side of the walls all the time as far as the Gate closest to the Temple, and then proceeding into the barren desert area, they arrive at the place where Stephen was stoned. They direct their steps towards the pile of stones under which he is half buried, and they remove the stones until his poor body appears. It is by now deathly pale, both because of death and because of the blows it received during the lapidation, it is hard, stiff, all curled up as it was when he breathed his last.

Mary, Who has been mercifully kept away a few steps by John, frees Herself and runs towards that poor body, which is lacerated and covered with blood. Without worrying about the stains that the clotted blood leaves on Her dress, Mary, helped by James of Alphaeus and John, lays the body on a cloth stretched on the ground, in a spot devoid of stones, and with a linen cloth, that She dips in a small amphora handed to Her by the Zealot, She cleans, as best She can, the face of Stephen, She tidies his hair, trying to bring it round to his temples and wounded cheeks, in order to cover the horrible marks left by the stones. She cleans also the other parts of the body and She would also like to arrange them in a less tragical posture. But the chill of death, which had taken place many hours previously, allows that only partially. Also the men try, stronger as they are both physically and morally than Mary, Who looks once again like the Sorrowful Mother of Golgotha and of the Sepulchre. But they also have to resign themselves to leave him in the position they have succeeded in placing him after so many efforts. They dress him again with a clean long tunic, because his has been lost or stolen, in contempt, by the lapidators, and the short tunic they have left on him is all torn and stained with blood.

Having done that, always in the faint light of the lamp that Lazarus holds very close to the poor body, they lift him and lay him on another clean cloth. Nicodemus picks up the first cloth, wet with the water used to wash the martyr and with the clotted blood, and places it under his mantle. John and James at the head, Peter and the Zealot at the feet, lift the cloth containing the body, and they set out on the way back, preceded by Lazarus and Mary.

But they do not go back along the same way they came, on the contrary, going into the country and going round at the foot of the Mount of Olives, they reach the road that goes to Jericho and Bethany.

They stop there to rest and to speak. And Nicodemus, who having been present at Stephen’s condemnation, although in a passive manner, and being one of the elders of the Judaeans, was more acquainted than the others with the decisions of the Sanhedrin, warns those present that the persecution against the Christians has been ordered and has broken out, and that Stephen is only the first of a long list of names indicated as followers of the Christ.

The first cry of all the apostles is: « Let them do what they like! We will not change, either because of threats or out of prudence! »

But the more judicious ones among the people present, that is Lazarus and Nicodemus, point out to Peter and to James of Alphaeus that the Church has only few priests of the Christ, and that if the more important ones of them were killed, that is Peter the Pontiff and James the Bishop of Jerusalem, the Church would survive with difficulty. They remind also Peter that their Founder and Master had left Judaea for Samaria, in order not to be killed before He had formed them properly, and how He had advised His servants to follow His example until the shepherds are so many that one will not have to fear the dispersion of the believers because of the death of the shepherds. And they conclude saying: « You ought to scatter as well through Judaea and Samaria. Get proselytes there, many more shepherds, and from there scatter through the Earth, so that, as He ordered you to do, all the peoples may become acquainted with the Gospel. »

The apostles are perplexed. They look at Mary, as if they wanted to know Her opinion on the matter. And Mary, Who understands their looks, says: « It is a good piece of advice. Take it. It is not cowardice, but prudence. He taught you: “Be as simple as doves and as prudent as snakes. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Beware of men… »

James interrupts Her: « Yes, Mother. But He also said: “But when they hand you over and you will be dragged before governors, do not worry about what you have to answer. It is not you who will be speaking, but the Spirit of the Father will be speaking for you and in you”. And I am staying here. A disciple is to be like his Master. He died to give life to the Church. Every death of ours will be a stone added to the great new Temple, an increase in life for the great immortal body of the universal Church. Let them kill me, if they wish so. Living in Heaven I shall be happier, because I shall be beside my Brother, and even more powerful. I am not afraid of death. But of sin. By abandoning my place I seem to be imitating the gesture of Judas, the perfect betrayer. James of Alphaeus will never commit that sin. If I have to fall, I will fall like a hero, at my place of action, where He wanted me to be. »

Mary replies to him: « I will not pierce into your secrets with the Man-God. If that is what He inspires you with, do so. He alone, Who is God, is entitled to give orders. We are all only entitled to obey Him always, in everything, to do His Will. »

Peter, less heroic, is chatting with the Zealot to hear his opinion on the matter. Lazarus, who is close to the two and hears them, suggests: « Come to Bethany. It is close to Jerusalem and to the road to Samaria. The Christ left from there many a time to avoid His enemies… »

Nicodemus in turn suggests: « Come to my country house. It is safe and close both to Bethany and to Jerusalem, and it is on the road that takes one to Ephraim, via Jericho. »

« No, mine is better, as it is protected by Rome » insists Lazarus.

« You are already hated too much, since Jesus raised you from the dead, asserting so, powerfully, His divine Nature. Consider that His destiny was decided just because of that. Watch that you do not decide yours » Nicodemus replies to him.

« And what about my house? It is really Lazarus’. But they still call it mine » says Simon Zealot.

Mary intervenes saying: « Let Me ponder, think, decide which is the best thing to do. God will not leave Me without His light. When I know, I will tell you. For the time being, come to Gethsemane with Me. »

« Seat of all Wisdom, Mother of the Word and of the Light, You are always the Star that guides us safely. We obey You » they all say together, as if the Holy Spirit had really spoken in their hearts and on their lips.

They stand up from the grass on which they had sat at the edge of the road, and while Peter, James, Simon and John go with Mary towards Gethsemane, Lazarus and Nicodemus lift the cloth in which the body of Stephen is enveloped, and at the first light of dawn, they set out towards the Bethany and Jericho road.

Where are they taking the martyr? A mystery.

643. Gamaliel Becomes a Christian.
1st November 1951.

Some years must have gone by, because John seems to be in full manhood, more sturdily built, with a more mature appearance, while his fair hair, beard and moustache are of a much darker colour.

Mary, Who is spinning, while John is tidying up the kitchen of the little house at Gethsemane, the walls of which have been recently whitewashed, while wooden items have been painted – stools, door, a cabinet that serves also as a shelf for the lamp – does not appear at all changed. Her aspect is fresh and serene. All traces left on Her face by the sorrow for the death of Her Son, for His return to Heaven, for the first persecutions against the Christians, have disappeared. Time has not engraved its traces on that kind face. And age has not had the power to alter its fresh pure beauty.

The lamp, lit on the shelf, casts its flickering light on the small industrious hands of Mary, on the snow-white wool wound round the distaff, on the thin thread, on the twirling spindle, on Her golden hair gathered in a thick knot on the nape of Her neck.

Through the open door a very limpid moon-beam penetrates into the kitchen, laying a kind of silver strip from the threshold to the feet of the stool on which Mary is sitting, so that Her feet are illuminated by the moon-beam, and Her hands and head by the reddish light of the lamp. Outside, on the olive-trees surrounding the house of Gethsemane, some nightingales are singing their songs of love.

They suddenly become silent, as if they were frightened, and after a few moments, the shuffling of steps can be heard, and it becomes closer and closer, until it stops on the threshold of the kitchen, at the same time making the white lunar strip disappear, that previously silvered the coarse dark bricks of the floor.

Mary raises Her head and looks towards the door. John, in turn, looks towards the door and an « oh! » full of wonder is uttered by their lips, while, with one movement only they both rush towards the door, on the threshold of which Gamaliel has appeared and stopped. A very old Gamaliel by now, ghastly, so thin is he in his white garments, which the moon, shining on him from behind, makes almost phosphorescent. A Gamaliel crushed, overwhelmed by events, by his remorse, by so many things, even more than by age.

« You here, rabbi? Come in! Come! And peace be with you » John says to him, as he is in front of him and very close to him, while Mary is a few steps behind.

« If you will guide me… I am blind… » replies the old rabbi, in a voice that is trembling more because of secret tears, than because of his age.

John, dumbfounded, asks, with emotion and compassion in his voice: « Blind?! Since when? »

« Oh!… Since long ago! My sight began to grow weaker immediately after… after… Yes. After I did not recognise the true Light that had come to enlighten men, until the earthquake tore the veil of the Temple and shook the mighty walls, as He had said. Really a double veil, that covered the Holy of the Holies of the Temple and the even truer Holy of Holies, the Word of the Father, His eternal Only-Begotten, concealed by the veil of a most pure human flesh, that only His Passion and His glorious Resurrection revealed to the most dull-minded people, and to me first of all, for what He really was: the Christ, the Messiah, the Immanuel.

Since that moment darkness began to descend upon my eyes, becoming thicker and thicker. A just punishment for me. For some time I have been completely blind. And I have come… »

John interrupts him asking him: « Perhaps to ask a miracle? »

« Yes. A great miracle. I am asking it of the Mother of the true God. »

« Gamaliel, I do not have the power that My Son had. He was able to give life and sight to blind eyes, word to dumb people, movement to those who were paralysed. But not I » Mary replies to him. And She continues: « But come here, near the table, and sit down. You are tired and old, rabbi. Do not tire yourself any more » and pitifully, with John, She leads him towards the table and makes him sit on a stool.

Gamaliel, before leaving Her hand free, kisses it with veneration, then he says to Her: « I am not asking of You, Mary, the miracle to see once again. No. I am not asking this material thing. What I ask of You, o Blessed amongst all women, is the sight of an eagle for my spirit, so that I may see all the Truth. I do not ask of You the light for my blind eyes, but the supernatural divine true light that is wisdom, truth, life, for my soul and my heart torn by and exhausted with the remorse that gives me no rest. I have no desire to see with my eyes this Hebrew world, so… Yes. So stubbornly rebellious to God, Who has been and is so compassionate towards it, as we really did not deserve that He should be. On the contrary I am glad that I do not have to see it anymore, and that my blindness has exempted me from all engagements with the Temple and with the Sanhedrin, who have been so unfair to Your Son and to His followers. What I wish to see, with my mind, my heart, my spirit, is He, Jesus. To see Him in me, in my spirit, to see Him spiritually, as You certainly, o Holy Mother of God, and John, so pure, and James, as long as he lived, and the others, for support in their grave and hampered ministry, see Him. To see Him in order to love Him with my whole self, and through this love, be able to make amends for my sins, and be forgiven by Him, to have the eternal Life, that I failed to deserve… » He bends his head on his arms that are folded on the table and he weeps.

Mary lays Her hand on his head shaken by sobs and replies to him: « No, you have not failed to deserve to have eternal Life! Those who repent their past errors are forgiven everything by the Saviour. He would have forgiven even His betrayer, if he had repented his horrible sin. And the sin of Judas of Kerioth is immense as compared with yours. Consider. Judas was the apostle received by the Christ, instructed by the Christ, loved by the Christ more than anyone else, if one considers that, although He knew everything about him, Christ did not reject him from the group of His Apostles, on’ the contrary, up to the very last moment, He resorted to every expedient, so that they might not understand who he was and what he was planning. My Son was the Truth itself, and for no reason whatsoever did He ever lie. But when He saw the other eleven be suspicious and they asked Him questions about the Iscariot, without lying, He was able to divert their suspicious and not reply to their questions, ordering them not to be inquisitive, out of prudence and out of charity for a brother. Your fault is by far smaller. And what is more, it cannot even be called a fault. Yours is not incredulity, on the contrary it is excess of faith. You believed so much in the twelve year old Boy Who spoke to you in the Temple that, obstinately, but with upright intention, based on your absolute faith in that Boy, on Whose lips you had heard words of infinite wisdom, you awaited the sign to believe in Him and see the Messiah in Him. God forgives those who have such a strong loyal faith. Even more He forgives whoever, although still in doubt about the true Nature of a man, unjustly accused, does not want to take part in his condemnation, which he feels is unjust. Your spiritual seeing the Truth has been growing and growing since you left the Sanhedrin in order not to agree to that sacrilegious deed. And it increased even more when, being in the Temple, you saw the fulfilment of the sign, so longed for, that marked the beginning of the Christian era. It increased further when at the foot of the cross of My Son, already cold and dead, you prayed with those mighty anguished words. It has become almost perfect every time that, either with your words, or by withdrawing aside, you defended the servants of My Son or you refused to take part in the condemnation of the first martyrs. Believe Me, Gamaliel, every act of sorrow, of justice, of love of yours, has increased your spiritual sight in you. »

« All that is still not enough! See, I had the rare grace of becoming acquainted with Your Son as from His first public manifestation, when He came of age. I should have seen since then! I should have understood! I was blind and foolish… I did not see and I did not understand. Neither then, nor in other occasions, when I had the grace of approaching Him, by that time a Man and Master, and I heard His ever more just and powerful words. I was stubbornly awaiting the human sign, the shaken stones… And I did not see that everything in Him was a sure sign! And I did not see that He was the corner Stone predicted by the Prophets, the Stone that was already shaking the world, all the Hebrew and Gentile world; the Stone that shook the stones of hearts with His Word, with His prodigies! I did not see on Him the clear sign of His Father in everything He did or said! How can He forgive so much stubbornness? »

« Gamaliel, can you believe that I, Who am the Seat of Wisdom, the Full of Grace, Who, both because of the Wisdom Who took Flesh in Me, and of the Grace He gave Me, have the fullness of knowledge of supernatural matters, can give you good advice? »

« Oh! of course I believe it! Just because I believe that that is what You are, I have come to You to receive light. You, Daughter, Mother, Spouse of God, Who certainly since Your conception filled You with His sapiential lights, can but show me the way that I must take to have peace, to find the truth, to conquer the true Life. I am so aware of my errors, so crushed by my spiritual misery, that I am in need of help to dare to go to God. »

« What you consider a hindrance is instead a wing to elevate you to God. You have demolished yourself, you have humiliated yourself, you were a mighty mountain, you have made yourself a deep valley. Bear in mind that humility is like a fertilizer of the most arid soil, to prepare it to give plants and rich crops. It is a step to climb. Even more, it is a ladder to ascend to God, Who, upon seeing a humble man, calls him to Himself to exalt him, to inflame him with His Love, and enlighten him with his lights, so that he may see. That is why I say to you that you already are in the Light, on the right Way, towards the true Life of the children of God. »

« But in order to receive the Grace I must enter the Church, receive Baptism that cleanses us from sin and makes us once again the adoptive sons of God. I am not against that. On the contrary! I have destroyed the son of the Law in myself, I can no longer esteem and love the Temple. But I do not want to be nothing. So I must rebuild the new man and the new faith on the ruins of my past. But I think that apostles and disciples are mistrustful and prejudiced against me, the great stubborn rabbi… »

John interrupts him saying: « You are wrong, Gamaliel. I am the first who loves you and I should mark the day, on which I could call you a lamb of the flock of Christ, as a day of an extremely great grace. I should not be His disciple if I did not put into practice the teachings of the Christ. And He ordered us to have love and understanding for everybody, and especially for the weaker people, the sick, those who have been misled. He ordered us to follow His examples. And we saw that He was always full of love for repentant sinners, for prodigal sons returning to the Father, or for lost sheep. From the Magdalene to the Samaritan woman, from Aglae to the highwayman, how many He redeemed through mercy! He would have forgiven even Judas his supreme crime, if he had, repented. He had forgiven him so many times! I alone know how much He loved him, although He was aware of every action of his. Come with me. I will make you a son of God and a brother of the Christ Saviour. »

« You are not the Pontiff. Peter is the Pontiff. And will Peter be good to me? He is, I know, quite different from you. »

« He was. But since he has realised how weak he was, to the point of being a coward and a denier of his Master, he no longer is what he was, and he has mercy on everybody. »

« Then take me to him at once. I am old and I have delayed too long. I felt that I was too unworthy, and I was afraid that all the servants of Jesus judged me in the same manner. Now that Mary’s words and yours have comforted me, I want to enter the Flock of the Master at once, before my old heart, crushed by so many things, stops. Lead me there, because I dismissed the servant who brought me here, so that he might not hear anything. He will come back at the first hour. But I shall be already far away then. And in two ways. From this house and from the Temple. For ever. First I, a rebel son, will go to the house of the Father, I, a lost sheep, to the true Fold of the eternal Shepherd. Then I will go back to my far away house, to die there in peace and in the grace of God. »

With a spontaneous impulse Mary embraces him saying: « May God give you peace. Peace and eternal glory, because you have deserved them by showing your real thoughts to the mighty leaders of Israel, without fearing their reactions. May God be always with you. May God give you His blessing. »

Gamaliel searches for Her hands again. He takes them in his own and kisses them, he kneels down begging Her to lay those blessed hands on his old tired head.

Mary satisfies him. She does even more. She traces the sign of the cross on his bent head. Then, with John, She helps him to stand up, She takes him to the door and remains looking at him go away, led by John, towards the true Life: a man, humanly finished, but supernaturally re-created.


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Also see:
Returning to the Fervor of the Early Church and Releasing the Power of the Holy Spirit