THE HEART OF MARY
LIFE AND TIMES OF THE HOLY FAMILY
Cristo Raúl de Yavé y Sión
When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Behold, your father and I were sorrowing and looking for you. And he said to them, "Why did you seek me? did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business? They did not understand what he said to them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, and his mother kept all these things in her heart....
CHAPTER I: "I AM THE FIRST AND THE LAST"
Genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham...son of David...son of Zerubbabel, son of Abiud, of Eliakim, of Azor, of Zadok, of Achim, of Eliud, of Eleazar, of Matthan, of Jacob....
MARY OF NAZARETH
The Virgin was born in Nazareth, in the heart of Galilee. As, thanks to the canonical Gospels, everybody knows very well, the father of the Virgin was called Jacob, and her mother was called Anne. Jacob of Nazareth, Mary's father, died when Mary was very young. One of those days the father’s soul of the Virgin went to Heaven, and did not return. This took place during the years of Herod's reign.
The deceased left behind orphans, and a widow. From the point of view of the things of human beings, Jacob, son of Matthan, son of Solomon king, son of David, king and prophet, went to die at a bad time. Death, of course, never comes at a good time. But anyway, Jacob of Nazareth went to die at the best possible moment. Those great droughts that for so many years devastated the provinces of the Middle East had finally left; the famous fat cows that for a moment seemed that they were never going to return, were coming back, each one more plump they had returned and were walking their abundance through the fields of all the provinces of the Ancient Levant, when the Greeks and the Romans.
The luminous horizon longed for, begged for, desired, requested in multitudinous processions Temple below Temple above, had also approached, of course, the hills of Nazareth. Its radiance was already beginning to shine in the eyes of its inhabitants with the gleam of the star of the prayers heard, of the wish granted. Shepherds from the Galilee, fishermen from the Sea of Miracles, farmers from the valleys of the Jordan, artisans from the country who lived in the darkness of despair, all together took to the streets to celebrate the years of the fat cows. At last they had arrived!
The House of the Virgin enjoyed the general joy with the intensity of those who have had a bad time, as bad as others, not as bad as others, not much better than most of the people who had a really bad time during those long years. There were so many of them!
It was not only that drought. It was also those earthquakes that ravaged the Middle East, spreading famine from the mountains of Lebanon to the shores of the Red Sea. And more. As terrible as those years of tremendous despair were, the fiscal policy of the tyrant Herod played the role of an axe, cutting off every head that managed to stay afloat. Under the reign of Herod the Great, to keep breathing became a crime. The right to speak was forbidden. The sacred quality that makes the difference between man and beast was sanctioned, and its exercise condemned at best to banishment, at worst to capital punishment in others. So many strongholds were built by Herod, so many gallows were counted in Israel. Of all the trades prostitution is the oldest, but the only one that during the days of Herod the Great never went out of fashion was that of the executioner. How funny, while the Day of Judgment arrived or not, the family of the Tyrant built palaces with blocks of marble! And fortresses worthy of an emperor, and barracks and military garrisons against a possible insurrection of those that are able to tear down even the very walls of Hell.
The Pharaoh of Moses was bad, the Herods were worse. And, in the meantime, while the tyrant devoured a son or a brother, the people continued to suffer physical and spiritual calamities of which, when they happen, one does not even want to remember. Who would remember those lean years when two thousand years passed? However, the schizophrenia of the Tyrant, the schizophrenia of the tyrant would be remembered by History: Herod the Great! That murderer lacked only that, Caesar's own permission to violate all the laws of Roman law, license to kill at will. His children, his brothers, his wife, his friends, his enemies, whether they were innocent or not.
Under Herod's reign there came a time when it was enough to move the lips asking for justice to fall under the wheels of his murderous paranoia. The Romans - it must be said - made many mistakes; of all those that Octavian Caesar Augustus allowed himself, to give the Crown of the Jews to a Palestinian was a failure that even the Judge of the Universe himself must find it hard to forgive him.
But let us return to the subject of the Life of the Virgin and her Family. Jacob of Nazareth, Mary's father, had just died.
Precisely because Anne, the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth, and her older daughters Mary and Jane, had already managed to almost forget the kind of battle that that man, so dear to them, had to fight against the elements of that endless summer, it is understandable that his loss, now that the light of hope began to beget in the udders of the cows of the stable the gold of abundance, the loss of that man was infinitely more unbearable and hard for the mother of the Virgin.
Anne and Jacob of Nazareth overcame all the bad times past with courage, and responded to the hard days gone with the good face of those who walks under the peace of God. Like everyone else, also, Jacob of Nazareth and Anne, during all the days of the last years, dreamed of the days of fat cows, and they laughed at the bad times by giving birth to six children.
It happened that instead of allowing the bad times to drive a wedge between the two, Jacob and Anne were drawn together even more tightly, if at all possible, in the embrace of love that had them marveling to be together. Mary was called the firstborn of the deceased; then came Jane. They were followed by twins, then another girl, and the river of life was closed by the child of the house, named Cleophas, a baby in his milk days when his father died.
"Now that the sun is shining again, my daughter, the Lord leaves me alone with my six children. Who will teach me to live without your father, Mary?", the mother of the Virgin poured out her bleeding soul upon her daughter. The girl gathered in her lap the tears of that mother whom she loved so much. Like any little girl who had lost her way in a forest of strangers, the Widow wept her heart out. In Mary's heart, however, her father's presence had simply gone to sleep.
Mary could still see, feel, smell, hear her father all smiles as he answered her and her sister Jeanne's questions about the Lord. Mary could still see him dealing with the harvesters, the peasants and the cattle ranchers of the villages around Nazareth with the joy and strength of a man respected, esteemed, considered honest from one end of the county to the other. His father was a man of those who looked face to face, straight in the eyes, without folds. You could read in Jacob of Nazareth's eyes the sincerity that transpired in his words.
When the hard years came, Mary's father was the right man for the job. Since the fields no longer produced enough to pay extra wages, Jacob of Nazareth took upon himself the burden of extracting from his fields even a few sacks of almonds, a few arrobas of oil, a few measures of wheat, a few quintals of the famous wines of the House; whatever it took, to keep his daughters' bones strong and healthy. His two eldest daughters Mary and Jane knew as well as his Widow what kind of barren suns that man had to fight against! Thank God, even though they were small, Mary and Jane were there to help with the olives in winter, with the almonds, figs and wheat in summer, with the beasts in autumn, summer, winter and spring. What the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth would give now to get up at dawn in the morning, and prepare milk, bread and water for the father of her daughters!
Mary knew very well, to see her father standing again at dawn, saying goodbye to his daughters with that smile in his eyes, her mother would give her own life. But there was nothing that could be done to turn back the grindstone of time. Now it was time to live, to choose between the dead husband and the living children.
Of the two girls, Mary and Jane, Jane was the younger, a year younger than Mary. Mary was the older one, the big one in the house. Mysteries of life, it was her, Jane, the younger of the two, who was more interested in farming; perhaps because Jane had inherited from her father the taste for the smell of trees in bloom, and the pleasure of contemplating the colors of the horizon at dawn.
Looking at both sisters, anyone would have said that Mary was the one who should have liked the wind in her hair at dusk; however, it was in Jane, the youngest, whose body was almost or just as small as her mother's, the soul where her father poured his love for the red of the living earth. In Mary the strength of life came from her mother. Her mother bequeathed to her all her art for sewing and dressmaking. What was dear to Mary was the family, the house.
So when the bad times came, and the cows became lean and the money became scarce, and the needs to be covered began to multiply up to six times in just two years, Maria revealed herself a born seamstress. At the age when it is said to be in the springtime of life, the eldest daughter of Jacob of Nazareth could mend a dress and make it as good as new in a jiffy, or weave her sisters a wool coat in a matter of days, without ever ceasing to be her mother's right-hand. And a model daughter for her sister Jeanne. In this one -I have said- she had revealed an innate capacity to learn from her father the sense of the impacts of the lunar cycles in agriculture, why rabbits eat lettuce, how a real tomato really grows, why olive trees branches are cut down so that they do not become shady and spoil the flavor of the oil. In short, thousands of things.
The fact is that Jane, besides being the right eye of her father, was the other arm of her sister Mary, and one for the father and the other for the mother and the two together in joy, when the sunny winds and the cold drops and the droughts and the winter storms in summer and the summer heat in winter and the rains in a seen and unseen, when the storm tested the men looking to take to Paradise those who put a happy face, at that time the two sisters were more united than ever. Those bad years forced the two sisters to work hard. It was a duty they adopted from silence, written in blood, beating to the same rhythm of their parents' heart. Each one let her soul open to her particular gifts and acted following the course of the mystery of life in each person.
The eyes of the eldest, Mary's sight was made to discover the needle in the haystack; they never failed to insert the thread into the eye of the needle, without even looking. The eyes of her sister Jane needed horizon, field, open sky. Instead of fighting, the sisters thanked the God of their parents for his eternal wisdom and infinite goodness. In the eyes of both their father was a wonderful man.
"Why do we say that the wisdom of the Lord is eternal and his goodness infinite? -Jacob of Nazareth said to his two eldest daughters. Because with his answers he amazes us and with his goodness he lights up our faces", with a smile in his eyes that father answered those two girls, the eyes of his face.
How much they loved the man God had given them for a father! Their father continued: "When we say that the Wisdom of the Lord is eternal, we declare with all our heart and with all our mind our joy in knowing that He does not lie. Daughters, when we adore Him for His infinite goodness our joy is that of the one who found himself in the pit into which the wicked cast the good and when he lifted up his face he saw the Lord laughing at the science of the jinn."
"Daughters, to be good, it costs," Jacob of Nazareth confessed to his daughters as they milked the olive trees. "To the one who is better, don't you give a little present? Are you envious, Jane, of your older sister because she is better than you at sewing? When has my Jane ever made her Mary feel guilty for not having her qualities for the field? When has mother scolded her Jane for not knowing how to sew a dress as well as her Mary? What would I do without my Jane if she did not bring me at noon the food, if she did not force me I would eat it?"
Oh, how they remembered him! Was it true that he had gone away? They still could not believe it. With their father's lifeless body before their eyes Mary and Jane looked at each other in silence. My God, had they really lost him?
Both sisters now embraced their mother.
Shattered, the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth continued to mourn her misfortune:
"Now Mary, now that the fat cows are coming, now that your father could sit in his vineyard to eat clusters as big as those of Polyphemus and sweet as those of Bacchus, God forgive me, just now. Why, Lord, why? Tell me wherein thy servant offended thee."
God, is it possible to explain the connection between the rooks and the unfortunate laborers on whom the Fates drop their mantle of black omen? Is it possible to understand that God is God while the Devil reigns? Who would be able to write the script of his own life and shine like a star at least in the eyes of the paper partners invented for this purpose! The man dreams that his is the destiny, the child dreams of the man who beats in his chest, to discover around the corner that a gust of wind is enough to reduce his dreams to bits condemned to the trash. In the end, human life is that of the reed, if the wind blows it breaks and its remains fall into the well of oblivion. Who has not fallen into the temptation to let himself die and end it all once and for all? Or will we be the strongest until proven otherwise?
For everyone, the moment of truth arrives. Every creature has its own. And in that hour is when the being walks or bursts. This was the hour of truth for the mother of the Virgin.
"What are we, Mary?" cried the mother of the Virgin mourning the loss of her husband. "We fight against the elements with the forces of a creature of clay. We lift up our idols in honor of him who gives us victory. To the Most High we dedicate our glory. But the Almighty does not tire of seeing us reduced to the condition of beasts. The champion advances to collect his crown when Death crosses his path. Does the Almighty rise to save the solitary runner from leaving his soul in the race? Why does he remain seated on his Almighty and Omniscient Throne while the wreckage is swept from the track by the wind? Is that what we are, my daughter, dust that dreams to be rock, rock that dreams to be mountain, mountain that dreams to be eagles' nest? What will become of your eaglets now, my husband? Who will rise up and protect them when the serpent scours the cliff and their mother does not know how to defend your children alone?"
What answer could be given to that woman? What madman would have dared to say to her what those ignorant visitors said to the Job of the Bible?
"Shut up, you old fart," those friends said to her. "If you rot, it will be because you are meaner than all the devils put together. You fooled us all with your alms and your nonsense. Thank God, the Lord has revealed to us your falsehood and hypocrisy. For them punishes you the God whom you tried to deceive as you did with us. Shut up and suffer, you rotten old man".
What friends! They wanted to force poor Job to recognize that misery is born of misery, that he who has retains because he had, that no one is strong on a whim but that the happiness or misfortune of the person accounts for his worth. According to such sages the poor are all perverted sinners, corrupt vicious people who deserve what they suffer; the good are all happy, happy eat partridges, have the gold, have the power, they are the best, the chosen of providence, the race born to be happy, and they are happy because they are good, and when they are better they will be like the gods.
"Eve," said Satan to Adam's wife, "eat of this fruit and learn. There are good and there are bad, there are foolish and there are clever, there are rich and poor, there are slaves and free, strong and weak, angels and demons. There is life and death, truth and falsehood, peace and war; what is all this but the salt of the earth?"
Good God, when did the fate of the prophets not hang on a cloud of more or less on the horizon!
"But with bad weather fair face," swiftly counterattacked holy Job.
"Where is the fool who laughs lost in the storm?" the visitors laughed back.
"Of the Indestructible, of the Invincible is the last laugh," Job answered them again. "What do you laugh at and why do you laugh? What light have you come to bring to my eyes? Do you want to condemn me for what I have done? Ignorant ones, I am being punished for what I have not done."
"Just is what you say, to the good the reward is pleasing, to the wicked it is terrible. So, you have your wages. Now, acknowledge that you are a sinner, a betrayer of providence as you yourself have said in confessing that everyone receives for his work his due. Tell us, sinner, what did you cover up with your alms and your sanctimonious posturing? Is it not for these that God has punished you? This is God's punishment, don't cry, burst", with a false smile 'the friends' answered him.
With four more of "those friends" how long would it have taken for Job's patience to boil over? Instead of weeping over his bad luck, holy Job burst out laughing, got up and threw them out of his house.
His tragedy, Job's tragedy was not in the fall of the walls of his faith at the sound of the trumpets of Hell. This was not Job's problem. His fortress had been built on rock. Bombproof his faith remained intact. The problem that was stabbing Job's soul was not knowing what was going on, what was the reason for this change in the mood of his God. Why had his God abandoned him naked and to his fate before an enemy armed to the teeth?
Does the warrior follow his Hero and King to the battlefield and, at a corner of the crossroads, turn his back on him as if he were sacrificing a pawn on the altar of victory?
Well, just this dilemma, just this mystery was the one that the soul of the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth had gripped by the neck. Fighting against the darkness with the only divine weapon available to humans, the word, the mother of the Virgin was looking for the answer to why Death had taken her husband. And she could not find it.
"Why does our God do nothing, Mary? Why does He let the serpent scour the cliff and why does He make it easier for himself by eliminating the father of his cubs? Does He not see her approaching, daughter? Why did not the God of your father reach for the bow and arrow and with the lightning of his gaze strike down the Beast? Did the arrow miss its target, was it deflected by the wind and, seeking the dragon, did it kill the hero? Tell me, daughter, my soul is bitter and its eyes cannot see the hidden planes of the Omniscient, but what are we, Mary? Why is the understanding of a god demanded of a creature of clay condemned to dust for having eaten an apple? Do not look at me with those eyes, do not reproach me that my heart bleeds words. What will flow from the wound of the Hind of the Dawn when the hunter chases her in the morning at the hour of the first joys? Will not the arrow be cursed that enters the chest of the dove that climbs on the horse of the wind, trots through the skies and returns happily home to her master? Already it arrives, daughter, already it reaches the arm of its master, already the murderous dart also crosses the air, its master has the power to catch it in flight, but he observes, he does nothing, he remains still as if that were the reward for having fulfilled his sacred mission, and already the daughter of Mercury falls in the dust at the feet of the one who turns his face to her. Don't tell me to shut up, Mary don't you see that if I don't, I'll die.
I only know that I know nothing, although they say that God created man and woman to love each other and never separate, they also say that the Devil swore to make that love impossible. But in this world there are people who are deaf and do not understand, they do not know anything, they laugh at the Devil's horns and challenge death to break what God united with bonds stronger than the words of the Serpent.
Anna, Jacob's widow, and Jacob of Nazareth, father of Mary, future mother of Jesus Christ, lived that challenge. Once they met, if they did not marry they would die, and when they married they could no longer entertain the idea of living without each other. Every year they spent together they worshipped the God who transformed a rib, a simple rib, into something as beautiful as that love.
THE DEATH OF JACOB OF NAZARETH
Genealogy of the Savior: Genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham: Abraham begat... David; David to ... Zerubbabel; Zerubbabel to Abiud, Abiud to Eliakim, Eliakim to Azor, Azor to Zadok, Zadok to to Achim, Achim to Eliud, Eliud to Eleazar, Eleazar to Matthan, Matthan to Jacob, and Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, called Christ.
Jacob, son of Matthan of Nazareth, died a few months after the birth of the son of whom he and his wife Anne dreamed so much, and after whom they did not stop running until they had him. We already know that having a couple, giving birth to a male is a cliché. But in those days of fiscal terror and long droughts like the Sahara desert, a man had to dream of having a male child. To pass on to him all his knowledge of farm work, to lean on his young arms when his own could not pull the load because of old age. Man, one always has sons-in-law; but it is not the same. It is not the same to be seen as a burden than to be carried by the son of your entrails. Nor is it the same to leave all that your parents left you to your own son as it is to the son of a stranger. To anyone who thinks that those men were ancient, ignorant of life, who did not know that a female can do what a man can do, or better yet, to these modern people the best that can be offered is silence.
Turning a deaf ear to the intelligence of so many modern people, always facing the sun of the centuries, Jacob of Nazareth and his mistress ran after the male, delighted to enjoy being ancient. And they caught up with him, and they did catch up with him. They called him Cleophas because when they saw him for the first time in his mother's arms, Jacob of Nazareth was reminded of his father-in-law. What can be said about the physique of their little boy, the most handsome boy in the world, of course.
Well, everyone in Mary's house was already in the glory when suddenly his father suddenly fell asleep under that fig tree, so happy were his father and mother! Five girls like five suns, all healthy, all joyful, all playing with the doll their parents had bought them. Flesh and blood. She cried, she peed for real, she asked for butter, she pooped. A joy. And suddenly, when they were all at home as if in paradise, his father died. A tragedy. What a pity! The devil himself attacking the house from all sides could not have hurt the mother of those six children so much. The Widow's pain was all the deeper because, having no one of her family by her side, in her desperation she was already besieged by an invincible enemy who demanded her immediate surrender or the total destruction of her house. If only she had had her parents or her aunt Isabel by her side, but no one. And who was she in Nazareth? In spite of the years Jacob's wife was still a stranger, the outsider who had taken the golden bachelor of the town from them.
"With how beautiful they were, they would have married an outsider; on top of that, a little girl, who looks like a fool," the Nazarene girls consoled themselves. "Very fine. Very polite. We'll see when she starts to give birth and has to run her father-in-law's house alone what her manners and her little face of princess of the Holy City will be like". Things of the people, they don’t want you bad but they don't wish you any good either. Everyone who comes from outside has to be accountable to the neighbors for their intentions. Everything has to conform to community guidelines; tradition rules.
Didn't the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth know them all? Hadn't they been watching her during the lean years as one who waits for the hero to go down, to take the pleasure of seeing those two towers bite the dust like any village steeple? What comfort could the Widow find in those who were already doing the math and calculating how they could divide up the estate of the deceased? How much would they offer her for the vineyards? How much for the olive groves? How much for the dry land?
"Why do we kill the miracle of our daily existence in judgments against our neighbor, my daughter? Who knows how long our days will be in this world? Only the Lord knows; but out of his mouth never comes the number. Can you imagine if he caught you counting by criticizing your neighbor to death, or throwing the stone the first? Wouldn't it be more beautiful if he caught you sharing your bread with the poor?" the mother was saying to her daughter Mary, while they were sewing, alone. And yet now it was the mother who was asking the daughter to be good to her and not to refuse to speak to the pain in her soul.
"Let me die, Mary. Don't worry about my soul going out of me in broken words. The Lord has taken away my husband, leaving me alone with his six children. Why should my eyes be restrained and my heart envy the rock that the Almighty has for his heart? My daughter, it is easy from the snows to look at the valley that burns in the summer. When did the Almighty put himself in the skin of the soldier who falls naked on the battlefield defending his life for the honor of his soul of tender and wet clay? How easy it is to sit on the throne of judgment to sign sentences! The Lord is far from human weakness, our passions do not affect Him. If it is cold He does not tremble; if it is hot He does not sweat; if an arrow is shot it does not reach Him; if He sleeps nothing troubles Him. What does the Indestructible know of the fragility of our existence? Do you not see, daughter, that the valley is fattened with our tears? Why do I repress my pain and bind my tongue to fear? Does not the warrior run to meet death? May God kill me, may He give me back the life of my man, why does he do nothing, why does he stand vigilant on the other side of the precipice? On what grounds, daughter, does the Eternal One base his silence and his impassive behavior? If only he would rise like a sun and speak with the voice of the storm and from his soul the rays of his wisdom would weave in the firmament clouds pregnant with intelligence. But no, daughter, whether the storm rages, the lands tremble, the mountains fall and bury towns and villages, or the sea gets out of control and sinks islands with their people, the Lord, unreachable, indestructible, does not move an eyebrow. Does He see the disaster and all He offers is a handkerchief of mourning asking forgiveness for not having anticipated the movement of the Serpent? Tell me, daughter, that it was not He who shot the arrow that killed the eagle and left at the mercy of the devil the nest of his eaglets. But do not deny me the right to complain about the fate of my daughters over the corpse of my deceased".
Pierced by her mother's grief Mary consoled her in this way:
"We are all equal in your eyes, mother. Unique we are only in the eyes of our parents. His creatures we look as far as our eyes can see, but He carries the weight of all of us on His people. In due time He will arise, mother. And His feet will shine with the radiance of the hero dressed for war against the one who took His man from our mother Eve. I know I am young, mother, but believe me for all the love I have for Him, the God of my father will not allow my mother's house to sink. That's it, mother, calm your tears. Death takes away the best, thinking that by leaving the bad ones, it leaves the little ones without protection against the tyrants. It ignores that when the good ones leave, they go to Heaven to collect the angels' weapons. Father defended us as a man and took us forward. My father will now defend his daughters and his child with the sword of the cherubim. My mother, enough is enough, look no more at his corpse."
The Widow listened to the words of her eldest daughter as one who receives kisses from afar.
It was Mary and her sister Joan who found their father sitting against the trunk of that fig tree. In truth, it was not exactly harvest time; but Jacob of Nazareth liked to pick the first figs of the season; he said they were the best for making fig bread.
Jacob rigged the beast. He pulled alone for the field with the fresh one. The fig orchard was on the other side of the hills, as seen from the hill of Nazareth, in front. Delighted with life, the good man said goodbye to his mistress. His two eldest daughters would bring him lunch and help him pick up the baskets. Until then, well, that's it, a kiss, goodbye.
Seeing him leave in such a beautiful way, who could have said that the man would return home dead?
At lunchtime, Mary and her sister Jane came to the camp. Mary was a year older than Jane and they were both girls in bloom. Mary and Jane looked for their father and found him sitting in the shade of that fig tree.
“Shall we let him sleep a little longer, Jane? Let's pick up the baskets while we go,” said Mary
The two sisters set to work. They finished gathering the baskets, and their father did not wake up. But he did not wake up.
“How much does father sleep today, doesn't he, Mary?” said Jane.
They worked harder and harder. After a while they began to look at each other worriedly.
“Will something happen to dad, Jane?”. And there went the older of the two to see what was wrong with her father.
I’m not going to get tender here as the one who wants to win over the reader by bringing a sea of tears to his eyes. Everyone has already gone through the formalities of a funeral and knows how much it hurts to lose what Death should never have taken away. But it was she, Mary, who knelt down to wake him up and discovered the truth in the pallor of her father’s face.
The girl did not scream, she was not frightened. She took the head of her dead man in her arms, rocked his body, kissed his forehead, looked at her sister Juana who was approaching in tears. Jane embraced her sister Mary and Mary let herself be embraced until Juana unburdened herself and together they were able to recompose their souls.
“Go home, Jane, and tell Mama what's going on”, Mary asked her sister. Jane got on the donkey and, crying with a shrinking heart, ran through the hills. Meanwhile Mary was left alone with her father's body, under that fig tree, caressing the face of the man who for her was the most wonderful man in the world, who had gone without giving his wife and daughters a chance to tell him one last time how much they loved him.
“What will become of your child now, father? In what eyes will he find the divine image of the man your daughters have discovered in you?”, speaking to Heaven, whispered young Mary.
That said, a cruel and sadistic enemy razing the house to the ground would not have done the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth as much harm as Death's way of taking her husband from her. If her man had died defending his own in some war, or selling his daughters' lives at the price of his own, what do I know, but to die in that way, without warning, when they had found happiness, after having overcome a decade of years as bad as Herod's heart.
What am I going to tell you about the rivers of tears that the Widow shed all that day and all the night of that afternoon? Hasn't a daughter in bloom, or a sister in the fullness of her beauty ever died? Hasn't Death ever torn the star from your eyes, leaving you in the darkest darkness? You should have been laughing loudly, clapping your hands, your heart open to all hope, and suddenly, overnight, an hour before dawn breaks, the dawn turns to moonless night, the plain becomes a bottomless pit, and as you look down you discover the face of the Serpent welcoming you.
And Jacob and Anne had loved each other from the very day they laid eyes on each other. It was love at first sight. It was to lay eyes on each other and know that the search was over. Jacob and Anna had been born for each other; they were made for each other; they were the two halves of the same fruit. It was natural that he should die as much in love with his wife as on the first day, and that the Widow should lose him more in love with her husband than ever. And if we add to this pain the fact that the house was left without a man to take care of the fields and the beasts: the magic recipe for the origin of the bitter stew that the Widow poured into the heart of her daughter Maria during the two days following her father's burial, you have already read it.
Like Catholics all their lives, those Hebrew women were too tragic to mourn the death of a loved one. I am not saying that it is neither good nor bad, it was just the way it was. The Romans on the contrary used the funeral as an excuse for a banquet, the last banquet, the last supper of the Caesars. Cicero’s farewell banquet in the frescoes of the deceased's mansion in Pompeii shows his family and friends drinking to the dead man’s health. The orator's wreath on their heads recalls that of laurels but braided with arms of vines. Good God, the Romans were so hard-hearted that not even Death could wring a tear from them. They needed to be touched by the rod of Bacchus to remember that they were men, as flesh and blood as the other barbarians of the orb. Not until they were drunk as a skunk did they shed a tear.
The Hebrews, contrary to the majority of the peoples, preferred to watch over the dead bareback, sticking out their chests. The distance, the distance, the absence needs a time to take off. I suppose that the custom imposes its culture and each culture lives it in its own way. The Hebrews of all possible ways chose the most painful, they did not bury the deceased until the third day after his death.
Tears were served! And if on top of that there was the case at hand, a young man, in the prime of his life, married and as much in love with his widow as the first day, father of six children, a man who was never sick, a man who never seemed to tire, who died with no one to take care of his fields, who left just when the storm was subsiding, well, put all these elements in the same shaker, shake it, and the result will be explosive. You will soon discover the explosion that triggered the death of Jacob of Nazareth; its consequences still linger on.
There was the Widow herself. From a young age the mother of the Virgin was very sweet. The day her father, Cleophas of Jerusalem, forbade her to even think of marrying the man who would be the father of her children, the young bride ran off in search of her aunt Elizabeth, through the streets of Jerusalem leaving a trail of broken tears.
Aunt Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah, future father of the Baptist, already knew her. It was not for nothing that Anne was her niece. Aunt Elizabeth laughed looking into her while she wiped her niece’s cheeks.
"But well, little girl, are you going to tell me what's wrong with you? When you tear yourself away like this you forget that I know nothing. Shall we cry together or shall I laugh at you until you laugh with me?". Aunt Elizabeth loved her niece Anne with a divine tenderness.
That woman, Aunt Elizabeth, loved her niece more than the walls of Jerusalem, more than the clouds of the spring sky, more than the morning and evening stars together, she loved her more than her dresses and more than her silver pots, but every time her Annie fell on her like that she did not know whether to join her in pouting or to laugh at her tears. Nor was it that at every change of guard his niece Annie was watering the desert with a salt water rain. The truth was that when she started to cry so much that she couldn't even articulate a word and she had to be given time to calm down, it meant that something very serious had happened to her niece.
The death of the father of your girls, only two of them half-grown-up, the other still little, and a baby boy just born, truth to tell, yes it is a good reason to cry until your bones are dry.
That happened, the Widow, the mother of the Virgin, sank to the depths of an understandable despair. For a while she remained mute. She said nothing, she only wept embracing that infant in her arms who would never know his father. With Cleophas in her arms, the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth wept all day and all night.
Desperate, she saw herself surrounded by dense and fatal darkness; sunken, she already imagined the house of her deceased swallowed up by taxes; broken, undone, she already saw herself selling her children to save them from ruin.
Daughters of David they all were, at a time when being Jewish was not enough, but had to prove it, having a daughter of David as a wife was a passport to the benefits that Caesar had granted the Jews in gratitude for having saved his life against the last of the Pharaohs.
I tell you.
Pursuing Pompey, Julius Caesar got into trouble. Caesar was seen running like a madman after Pompey. And behold, he landed in Egypt. At that time the Pharaoh's brother had just killed Pompey. This same Pharaoh who had just executed Pompey came and got bravado on Caesar. Cleopatra's brother even dared to declare war on the Conqueror of Gaul.
As we know, against all hope, that little Pharaoh was almost on the verge of sending Caesar to the Elysium of the famous Roman generals. It was then that Herod's father managed to gather thousands of horsemen, galloping across the Sinai desert he charged Cleopatra's brother, breaking the siege, and rescuing Caesar from danger. In return Julius Caesar granted the Jews a number of imperial privileges, such as not being subject to military service, freedom of movement for the Temple Tithe, and so on.
The sine qua non condition to benefit from such privileges was to be a citizen of Judea.
Smart as foxes, slippery as eels, the Jews found many ways to forge papers. Of all the imaginable ways to outwit the Empire, the easiest was to buy false documents, which any of the bureaucrats working at the Temple Registry in Jerusalem would serve you for a handful of drachmas.
But there was another, a cheaper way: what better way to belong to the list of the privileged than to declare oneself a descendant of King David? And to better close the circuit “born in Bethlehem of Judah, please”. And there was another way even better, a more pleasant formula: to buy a daughter for a wife from King David, of course.
The descendant females of King David for this reason on the rise, if it paid well for a daughter of David, how much would be paid for a genuine daughter of King Solomon? And not just any daughter, a daughter of words, no; we are talking about a genuine and authentic descendant of the mythical wise king.
Something so common then, selling daughters to the highest bidder, to the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth it sounded like comparing women to cattle. By Joshua and the seven hundred trumpets that demolished the walls of Jericho, to sell her daughters for money? She who had married for love and knew how sweet is marriage for love and only for love? The thought tore her soul.
Yet she did not see how she could save her daughters from being treated like the beasts to be bought and sold in the marketplace of human passions. The more she thought about it, and the corpse of her deceased kept reminding her of it, the more bitter her tears became for the future that awaited her girls. There was also the child.
“And what will become of our Cleophas without your father, Mary? What will become of your father's house, my daughter?”, the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth poured her fate into the heart of her elder daughter.
Between mother and daughter, what can I say, the daughter seemed like the mother. Mary embraced her mother and consoled her with words full of tenderness and judgment. And the girl was in bloom. Mary was a creature who had known nothing but joy in this world. She had loved her father with madness and watching her console her sisters and her own mother, anyone would say that she still did not believe what was happening.
“Papa sleeps, Jane”, is the first thing that came from Mary's soul when they found him dead.
“Papa is in Paradise, there he is waiting for us all, Esther, he is already there, come here Ruth, calm down Naomi”, she would say to her little sisters while she drank her tears.
The girl left her sisters with Joanna and went to the Widow:
“That’s it, mother; father is in Heaven. His God will not allow his daughters to be sold as slaves”, she whispered in her mother's ear, kissing away her tears.
“My daughter”, the Widow would try to articulate. But she never finished the sentence, pouting and returning to her darkness, which enveloped her house and painted her family's horizon with the suffering colors of a macabre vision.
The result of the natural despair of the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth was the following.
The gloomy vision that the Widow had made for herself about the future of her daughters corresponded to the reality of every day. The death of the head of the family obliged the widows to give their daughters to the suitor who put the most money on the table, regardless of the age of the buyer. It was the truth, and there was no need to give the matter any more thought. From the rich male's point of view, the more widows there were the better, so there would be more fresh, young cattle to choose from.
The world was made in the image and likeness of the passions of the powerful and anything said to the contrary would get us nowhere. To make matters worse, with the divorce laws that had been given lately, female flesh was bought to use and throw away; it was digested to the consumer's taste and then the remains were thrown away for whoever came after to suck the bones. And woe betide anyone who did not follow suit! In the upper classes having only one wife was an unmistakable sign of conspiracy against Herod.
“Has he married only once, and is he not known to have at least a second or a third wife? Surely that one conspires against your majesty, your highness”. For such absurd reasons as this the heads of the Jews rolled in the streets of Jerusalem in those days.
It was not something the Widow was making up. She was from Jerusalem, from the upper class, she knew this reality as well as that her husband was lying dead in front of her daughters.
That that was it, to cry no more, that it was no big deal, that everything would work out, that the Lord would not allow it to happen. Very beautiful words, for which the widow was grateful. She only knew that just a day ago she woke up with the joy of the happiest woman in the world and it hadn't been two, she was “the Widow”.
“Let me cry, daughter. Don't you see, if I don't I die”, inconsolably the Widow begged her daughter Mary.
Taking advantage of a lull, Joanna and Mary being alone with their mother, Mary, daughter of Jacob of Nazareth, opened her mouth.
Heaven is my witness to what I say hereafter, and may it send me to the dreadful Hell if I invent a single word. On the night of that day, during the wake for the death of her father, the eldest daughter of the Widow of Jacob of Nazareth tied her life to a tree that had the power to hang her if she did not fulfill the Vow she wrote in the heart of her mother and her sister Joanna.
Mary could have kept silent; it was in her power to put her finger to her lips and not submit to the test. But it was not in the character of Jacob's daughter to resist the promptings of her personality. She preferred to accept the consequences with all the consequences of the law.
No one was listening to them, the three of them were alone before God. For this reason I have told you that whoever wants to be sure of what I write, there is the same God who took the word of Jacob's daughter of Nazareth to affirm or deny me. That God presents Himself as Judge is natural, that He comes as Witness is something extraordinary. Of the brave, however, is the glory. And I continue.
There, in front of her sister Joanna, Mary swore to her mother that this - to be her daughters sold as slaves to the highest bidder - would never happen to her sisters, the Devil had to dethrone the Most High to come to happen that, Hell conquer Paradise, or Herod's heart be raised to the altars.
The faith of the daughter of Jacob of Nazareth was so great, her trust in the God of her father was so innocent that it did not fit in her Heart that her Lord would abandon her family to the mercy of the times.
Then, very calmly, with the seriousness of an adult, she, Mary of Solomon, daughter of Jacob of Nazareth, put the God of her father as her witness and before her mother and her sister Joanna swore, invoking the Law of Moses against her head if she broke her vow, that she, Mary of Solomon, would not remove the veil of mourning for the death of her father until she saw all her sisters married, that she would not sign her own marriage contract until she saw her little brother Cleophas married and with children.
Even more: she would not marry until she saw the children of her little brother Cleophas bouncing around, all happy and content in that same room where pain was now triumphant. Until that day she would not remove the veil of mourning for her father.
The Widow raised her head to infinity. Jane looked at her sister with tears of eternity in her eyes. Mary continued saying:
“By the memory of my father I swear to you, mother, that my sisters shall know no master. When they leave my father's house they will go out rejoicing in the arms of that love which their fathers lived and from which their daughters drank their fill. No one will buy the daughters of Jacob. Comfort your soul, my mother. That child you hold in your arms will choose from among the daughters of Eve the most beautiful. So let the Lord do to me if I break my word: for a husband give me the meanest man in the world. Do not break your heart any more, mother; do not offend Heaven by blaming our Lord for our misfortune, lest my father have to bow his head before Abraham because of the offense borne by tears that never end. My father walks among the angels and at the feet of his God asks clemency for his house. You tell him, Jane”.