The Gathering of the Eternal Five – Chapter 15

 

Onofrio and now his son Horacio, knew no other time of day more favored than early dawn. Night slowly surrendered to the glow on the eastern horizon. Immature clouds flirted with the last shimmer of fading stars. Amber, gold with blushes of pink and receding purple comprised a festive collage announcing the birth of a new day. Birds already scavenged and pecked at the grasses for an early breakfast. Onofrio read a volume of instructions left by Serou as his assignment for the day. In between bites and sips of breakfast, he mentally plotted a route through his work.

He was not surprised to find a separate note from Serou instructing the young man to strengthen his invitation to Pilate by visiting the procurator. Serou had gotten word originating from within Pilate’s household staff that he planned a celebration to honor his marriage to Claudia. What better way to celebrate the occasion than with a secret rendezvous as their second honeymoon, in total isolation.

It was rumored that they argued and slept in separate quarters. Separate meals were prepared and delivered to different locations. In spite of it Pilate proceeded with his plans and it was clear he wanted to reverse their plight. Caesarea, the official home of Pilate would not provide the privacy required to mend their marital discord. Now a week at the villa by the lake was an even better escape from the taxing demands of his office. Serou’s invitation could not come at a better time and both agreed it was a place to reinvent their love.

To always be correct and precisely on time was Serou’s badge of honor. He basked in the light that shone on his dependability. Friend and business associate alike all knew Serou would always be right on cue. That he should know of Pilate’s marital strife was simply one of the news items that daily came his way. It brought joy to Serou’s sated heart that his foster son was growing keener to his plans and often embellished the older man’s efforts as is expected between father and son. They became a pair of minds directed to the same objective.

The villa was given a thorough examination and all things put in top order for imminent guests of secret identity. A rumor was allowed among the slaves of Serou stating that the guest was a foreign dignitary on business with the Jewish council. (It had a shade of truth, if questioned.) Extra precautions were taken to prevent curiosity seekers from invading the privacy of the honored guests.

It was late Friday afternoon when the expected carriage arrived at the villa, escorted by a small party of essential personnel. Onofrio and Senobia were there to greet their guests. They had grown to accept the villa as their home away from home and to be gracious hosts.

Onofrio had a trusted person escort arriving hired help to the kitchens and their accommodations for the duration. Horses and carriage were sent to barn and pasture. Onofrio now experienced to a degree portrayed an amiable guide showing the illustrious Pontius Pilate around the villa and surroundings. While Claudia and Senobia quickly found easy refuge and amiable conversation in so much scenic beauty and extensive gardens. Senobia having heard passing stories of Claudia’s clairvoyant ability invited her guest to the little temple by the lake and there Senobia explained, “I love this location. It is a place to let your prayers float free. I adore the solitude and yet the nearness of home and safety. I hope you find as much joy here as I have. You must know that you and your husband are welcome to stay as long as you wish. A week of this splendor may not be enough. My husband said Pilate was overloaded with Hebrew concerns and looked very tired. I truly hope you find a way to come back so we can talk more. There is so much I wish to know about life from your position. Within the protected circle of my life, I have nothing to wish for, but I would like to know more about the world beyond my home. I would love to hear stories about your childhood with your grandfather, the emperor Tiberius. And what life is like living in Rome. Is it true that all the women have a personal hair dresser and they all have their own clothes designer?”

Claudia considered the questions and politely answered her young admirer, “That only applies to women living in the upper circles of society. Rome like Judea has its share of the poor and needy. I will think of it and put together a good view of what you ask.”

A platter of fruits and edible tidbits was carefully covered and waited for the arriving company. Soon followed by jugs of wine in cut down barrels packed with snow from the distant mountain. After an abbreviated visit Onofrio and Senobia left the guests to find their comfort.

Senobia loved to ride the chariot with her husband. But it blew her hair apart and she would hide behind him with her arms firmly around his waist, her face tightly pressed into his back and cheered wildly from every bump. At heart, she was still a little girl and loved to be thrilled. More so, the time alone with the man in her life. And there were so many hideaway places along the way. Isolated garden places carefully pruned and suspected of having been designed for lovers, perhaps by a young Serou.

The following afternoon a chariot casually rolled up to a guarded entrance. It came by a secluded route from the lake. On board was an extremely attractive woman dressed in a shimmering turquoise flowing gown. An elaborate head cover protected her from the sun, wind and constant swirling dust. She wore gloves to help hold the reins firmly and protect her hands. For reasons only the Gods must know, Claudia seemed not to age. Instead a mellow grace surrounded her personality like a glowing veil. Her beauty did not suffer the wear of time. Her delicate features became more defined as though magnified by magic. She was Claudia Procula come to visit young Senobia, wife of Onofrio de Iberia. By courteous ritual she was lead to Tremiyo’s home and was not surprised to find the residence of the Stewart of the house of Serou to be a near palatial domicile.  Her companion was a stout man in his middle years, a living portrait of imperial power. He wore a faultless white robe with Purple and gold bands on his sleeves like a Roman senator. His graying hair was tied with a fashionable leather thong at the back of his head. He had dark brown eyes that seemed to penetrate the objects of his attention. Although near portly, he still conveyed an impressive figure of virile manhood. They were cheerfully laughing childishly as if sharing a good joke. It was her ability to find every pot hole on the way that caused his mild critique and their joint amusement. “You almost bounced us out of the chariot more than once”. You seemed to be in a rush to find the next pothole. When I saw you missed one, I came close to having you go back and dash across it just to keep a perfect score.” He was cheerfully saying between guffaws. He had finally taken the reins, installed her between his arms and found as many potholes and road bumps as Claudia, only to laugh more. It was a contagious and joyful laughter stemming from happy hearts.

Scurrying like busy ants servant and slave alike were called to double clean the receiving room for such illustrious guests. In haste Tremiyo double checked everything in one passing glance and hurried to dress appropriately for the occasion.  He briefly urged his wife, Camia and Senobia to do same.

In due course Tremiyo stood ready to receive royal company. Proper introductions were made all around and Claudia immediately called out to Senobia, “You were right. The little temple by the lake is perfect for private prayers. And I came to see you, so we could talk some more.”

The Gods have always been good at uniting compatible hearts. With proper ado the ladies separated from the men, now deep in conversation. ”I wish I had known you were coming, I would have prepared a feast for you to enjoy,” Tremiyo stated by way of apology. Pilate’s hands went up in waving motion pleading to cease. “No, Please. No! I am tired of official dinners, State receptions, Ambassadorial celebrations and all that. I came because my wife wanted to see the young lady Senobia. Call your staff off. There is no need for special preparations. I would be happy with a cool place, some simple bread and wine. Some amiable conversation free of Hebrew troubles. You’re not Jewish, are you?” He asked Tremiyo as if fearing to offend his host.

Pleasant conversation found comfort in Tremiyo’s large patio. Fresh cloths materialized over outdoor tables, torches to repel insects and candles converted the patio into a pleasant receiving room.

Cheerfully Senobia and Claudia materialized like a pair of teen age girls filled with happy moments. They had been to wishers paradise, a wondrous place of manicured gardens, flowing fountains, flowering bushes and a temple like structure for peaceful meditation. Scented by  so many blooming plants it was a place to release one’s troubles into the winds or onto the lap of a favorite God. In this place even the night singing birds found reason to croon and chirp until sunrise. Therein the ladies took a few moments for personal meditation. Each had ample reason to thank their Gods for the blessings in their lives.

From their day at work Serou and Onofrio came to join the unexpected gathering. Shortly Serou found himself without a mate and left the group to bring Clavenia to the unexpected visit of Pontius Pilate and his wife Claudia. Such an unprecedented visit could not be ignored. From afar yet near servant and slave alike found places to observe the gathering of such illustrious people as Pilate and Claudia.

Respectfully yet in childlike manner they all stole peeks at the gathering. It was fresh gossip to fill their days for weeks to come. Clavenia wife of the Master of public works Serou was properly introduced to Pilate and the beautiful Claudia. Clavenia in unexpected reverence did a royal curtsy to the honored guests that brought raised eyebrows from the receiving couple. No greater sign of respect existed. And Claudia was indeed royalty. That very fact was an event Senobia and Clavenia would hold dear to their hearts for life.

Discreetly Tremiyo found ways to instruct personnel to maintain refreshments and edibles available in unpretentious manner. Fulfilling conversation rambled through all the customary subjects to finally settle on current events surrounding Judea. An unavoidable subject since it maintained headline status for so long affecting the entire population.

In sheer innocence and hesitant of brotherly correction Senobia asked a leading question. “Has anymore been heard about Mary of Magdala?” Pilate answered the questions with a spicy tidbit in hand and spoke while chewing, “She came to me not long ago. She fears justly that the council is plotting to exile her and confiscate her family’s properties. She has been to Tiberius pleading that he command me to intervene. Since I have not received official word from the emperor, I am not allowed to intercede in local affairs. I commiserate with her plight but there is nothing I can do for now.”

Claudia intervened and looking directly at Senobia and her brother  sitting nearby she quietly stated, “My grandfather is a very busy man.

It is an enormous task to rule over such a vast territory and so many people of different views. If he promised to look into Mary of Magdala’s plight, he will do so. I sent word to my grandfather asking he honor Mary of Magdala’s request. One must realize that these things take time and Rome is a world far away. That all of you may know I consider Mary of Magdala my friend. I requested my grandfather pay special heed to her plight.”

Samuel joined the impromptu gathering and after some thought aimed a question at Claudia, but not before he bowed respectfully and asked to speak. Receiving a nod of approval he looked at his sister and asked,

“Why is Magdalene talked about so much as being a sinful woman? The accusations seem directed at her being a prostitute?” Samuel had avoided speaking of his passing acquaintance with the woman of such ill repute. Claudia gave thought to the question and in due course gave a view of her friend Mary of Magdala, now known as Magdalene. “Magdalene had ample reason to reject unwanted suitors. It was said that some men seriously plotted to marry her for the wealth her properties provide. She suffered from seven purely human faults and was supposedly cured of them by Jesus of Nazareth. With wealth in abundance, she pursued a time to dance, drink and enjoy the benefits of her social position. It was men that found her conduct unbecoming a lady and to a degree rightly so. If it’s a sin to drink too much? She sinned. If it’s a sin to harbor anger at those that cause injury to your pride or body? She sinned. If it’s a sin to covet the wonders of the world? She sinned by being jealous of other pretty faces. In anger she may have raised her fist and called her critics an ugly name or two.  Then rest assured she has sinned. But through all I have known of her, she would never sell her body for a pittance. She never needed money earned in such a degrading manner.” Claudia looked at her husband who had been attentive to her every word and clearly stated, “that you may know it from me, I wanted answers to my ability to dream of things before they happen, I attended the temple of Isis with Mary of Magdala. Some things I foresaw brought me much discomfort and grief.  I often postpone sleep not knowing what my dreams will reveal.  I suppress my fears to speak of what I see in my dreams. I spent time with Mary of Magdala and we shared our problems and together sought answers to our troubles. We studied ways to bring comfort to the less  fortunate and to be kind to those in need. And yes, we drank wine together and shared secrets of our inner lives.

She wanted to find a righteous man to share her life and good fortune with. She feared being forced into an unwelcome marriage and be used as a mere stepping stone to wealth. Prostitute is a curse word thrown at her by greedy men when she did not comply with their self serving plans. She had a right to youthful love. Just like I fell in love with you as a young girl, my dear Lucius.“ She patted his hand and gave him a loving look then continued. “Magdalene suffered through youthful deceptions from ambitious suitors. When her expectations were denied, she turned sour on the world for a time until she found a greater calling for her life. She is practicing what she learned from ancient scriptures welded to the works of Jesus. She’s working with dedicated men to bring a change to this sinful world. If she ever calls on me for anything, I will do what I can to comply because I know in my heart that she is a good person. No matter what anybody says? I know from a dream that historians will not forget her name.” She cocked her chin at her husband indicating, I am going to do it whether you agree or not. Claudia never forgot she was the Granddaughter of Emperor Tiberius of almighty Rome. Claudia had won her audience including Pilate who clapped at her softly in obvious esteem. Rekindled admiration glowed in his eyes. Serou looked at Onofrio and raised his eyebrows as if to say “they’ve made up.” Senobia. Beautiful, wonderful and impressionable Senobia looked at Samuel and said to him by way of apology, “I will never forget that the first casualty of truth is always gossip. Hearing what lady Claudia just said paints a more favorable image of Mary Magdalene. I like her better this way. It matches what you describe from you meeting her at Bethany the other night.” Again Samuel made a bid to address Claudia. She accepted his youthful respect and nodded at him with a sincere smile. “Do you know if it’s true that when Mary of Magdala went to see your grandfather, she made an egg turn red in her hand?” Before the blink of an eye Claudia answered the young man emphatically, “Yes! I had a letter from my grandfather who recited the incident in great detail. Magdalene went in quest of help to fend off the governing body’s plots against her property. In the process she brought up the subject of the Nazarene’s resurrection. My grandfather refused to accept that a dead man can walk away from his grave and be elevated to heaven by an escort of angels. My grandfather said that such a thing was as close to happening as the egg in her hand was to turning red. No sooner had he said it, that the egg blushed into an undeniable shade of red. Scholars all made an effort to prove how the trick was done to no avail. Magdalene was near faint since the miracle was as new to her as it was to my grandfather. However, she refused to be called a trickster as my grandfather accused her. Instead she stood firm

against the mightiest voice of Rome and challenged my grandfather to give her a better answer than the resurrection of Jesus being a true and undeniable fact. She urged him to consider the egg transformed into his personal wish before his very eyes as proof of the Nazarene’s miracles. Pawpaw was not happy but, his scholars were baffled and it mystified the crowd into murmuring silence. It took an enormous amount of courage for Magdalene to stand alone and defend what she had seen and knew to be true. She was last at the cross and first at his grave, as the first herald of His resurrection.  She is now an apostle to the apostles of the Nazarene. She explains in great detail the words of Jesus. The real sinners are those that raise falsehoods against her.”

 

WERE NOT THE SINFUL MARY’S TEARS

Were not the sinful Mary’s tears
An offering worthy of heaven,
When o’er the faults of former years
She wept —- and was forgiven?

When bringing every balmy sweet
Her day of luxury stored,
She o’er her Saviour’s hallowed feet
The precious perfume pour’d;
And wiped them with that golden hair
Where once the diamonds shone:
Though now those gems of grief were there
which shone for God alone.

Were not those sweets, now humbly shed—
That hair– those weeping eyes—
And the sunk heart that inly bled—
Heaven’s noblest sacrifice?

Thou that has slept in error’s sleep,
Oh, wouldst thou wake in Heaven,
Like Mary kneel, like Mary weep.
“Love much” and be forgiven.

Thomas Moore, 1779-1852

 

Serenely the early evening dropped a gentle veil on the private gathering. Stars began to make their presence known and on the far horizon a pale moon announced its ritual journey through the heavens. In amiable comfort not commonly found, all present were drawn to ask questions and contribute what they knew. Within this gathering were people that had near to firsthand knowledge of history makers living their place in time. The lady Clavenia, a grateful attendant and privatgely instructed scholar bowed to Claudia and commented how pretty she was.

Claudia had attained a notable refinement often the result of delicate care. She blushed by the unexpected compliment and brought a smile to her husband. “I agree, Claudia has grown more beautiful with time. She has conquered time and made time grow old instead of her.” With infinite care Clavenia continued her version of the current story. “Your grandfather has been recipient to more than one demonstration of the  Nazarene’s miracles. Tiberius was invited to look at the head scarf of a humble local woman named, Bernice. wherein was the image of the Nazarene at the peak of his suffering. Within days of viewing the woman’s head scarf, your grandfather’s suffering came to an end. He woke up one morning feeling better than ever and his physicians could not explain why. They were counting the days to his demise. Bernice is reputed to have wiped the face of Jesus of his sweat and blood on his way to Golgotha. Afterwards in the privacy of her home, she discovered the image of his face on her headscarf. It shocked the poor woman half to death. How could that be?  She immediately brought attention to the miracle for all to see. Viewers soon discovered that the image would show clear in lighted conditions and fade into darkness away from the light,” Clavenia said in obvious wonder. Tremiyo took this time to speak, “ Someone that had been to her home claimed that the image became visible only in the light. She explained it as another of Jesus’ miracles. “Come unto me and know the light. For I am the way. Away from me, know the darkness of your life.” That was the woman’s interpretation and I put faith in it since the scarf has cured other people as well. Including Emperor Tiberius, who is surrounded daily by physicians of the highest calibre. Some of those physicians would kill to get their hands on that sweat cloth. It’s called a sudarium in Latin, meaning sweat cloth. People are calling it a veil but it remains a sweat cloth, a kitchen towel, no matter what it’s called. When the Greeks have their way in translating all Hebrew works, the name Bernice will most likely change to Veronica of the Veil. And history will know her as such.”

Men respected and refused to speak openly of feminine illnesses. So it rested on Camia, wife of Tremiyo and known medic of all maladies to add volume to the story of Bernice. “She suffered from a bleeding disorder without resolve for about twelve years. When she finally gathered the courage to speak to a man about it, there was only Jesus she could confide in. She struggled painfully within the brutish crowd to reach him and could not. She prayed to only touch the hem of his garment and knew it would heal her problem. Instead, before she said a word to Jesus, he turned and assured her that her malady was resolved and so it was. From that miraculous relief of her illness, she installed full faith in the Nazarene. The day of the crucifixion was unfathomed torment for her among others.” And she looked at Onofrio before continuing. “Bernice braved shield and lance to bring comfort to her savior, Jesus. She sneaked past the guards to finally reach him. She came unprepared and only had a head scarf to wipe the blood and sweat from His face before a guard caught her and rudely shoved her aside. Bernice deserved the title of hero but nobody gave it to her. Only history will grant her recognition for her devotion and courage. She will be known as Veronica of the veil when Greek translations go into effect,” Camia concluded with a tone of authority before so many better informed guests.

“It’s an extraordinary selection of women that have chosen to champion the cause of the Nazarene,” was Pilate’s reflection. “One of my social observers (Nice word for spy.) brought me a story that could alter the pattern of a person’s faith. A woman named Mary Salome was the aunt of the Virgin Mary by marriage.  She was no one special, just an ordinary woman doing what all women of her social class do. However, she harbored strong convictions regarding her faith. When she heard that the wife of Joseph had given birth to this Jesus individual and remained a virgin after the delivery she was irate that such an obvious falsehood should be passing around.  It was a disgrace to her family. She did not wish to be folded into the laughing stock of the community. Two people would be responsible for broadcasting such a obvious lie. The mid-wife that delivered the child and the mother that consented to spreading such a clear falsehood. Deeply incensed she decided to confront the so called virgin with the story. Boldly she forced herself into the home of Mary of Nazareth. Equally bold she demanded that the young girl show herself. How embarrassing it must have been for a teen aged girl to go through such a degrading examination. Most especially by a near family member with stone hearted intentions. Mary Salome was there to discredit the young girl and selfishly preserve her family name. No concern for personal emotions or future results. Mary of Nazareth was a virgin student at the temple and a scandalous story regarding her and a centurion named “Panterra” made the gossip rounds. Should such a rumor be true, Mary of Nazareth was hardly a virgin before or after the birth of her child. History would record the incident as nothing more than a young man’s wishes pointed in the wrong direction.

With unwarranted authority Mary Salome stood waiting for the young girl to position herself for this rude invasion of her most private. She was no doubt still in pain from the delivery ordeal. Equally so, she had a right to be frightened and intimidated by the forceful Mary Salome. Young Mary feared she was on the verge of being stoned to death. It was the fearful penalty suffered by those that told lies.

Mary the virgin had angelic apparitions come to her before, namely the angel of the Lord, Gabriel. It could be safely said that perhaps during this crisis, Gabriel found a way to fortify the strength of the young girl cowering fearfully in her own home. Mary Salome coldly proceeded to the task at hand. She used her finger to verify the obvious expectation. But her digit was denied entry. The birth canal was sealed as expected of a virgin girl. At the instant she made that discovery and before she announced it, her intruding hand withered into a horrifying disfigurement. Her fingers were gnarled and only force could return them to normal where they would not remain. It was said, she screamed in agony as pain claimed a place in her torment. She feared her hand would fall off at any moment.

Such a show of Godly intervention would take time to penetrate the deeply seated beliefs of Mary Salome. When she finally accepted the miracle birth and the results there after, she asked the heavenly father of Jesus to forgive her lack of faith.  With her faith rechanneled her hand returned to normal. She became a follower of the apostles at a later time and spread the words of Jesus to all that would hear her. She pleaded with a developing Jesus to allow her two sons to join him in heaven. To which Jesus responded, “that will be decided by my heavenly father”. At an old age she continues to glorify the virgin birth and the savior that walked among men.  Jesus, the son of God.” Pilate was not fond of declaring Jesus, the son of a God. With so many unexplained miracles floating around Judea, he had begun to slowly accept the possibility. It’s difficult to straighten the twisted limb of an oak tree. Pilate’s faith was oak tree strong and instilled from childhood. He was committed to the power of all mighty Jupiter, A God for all people.

Cooling breezes prevailed and the gathering refused to separate from such serenity and enlightening conversation. There were many rumors floating around loose and it was nice to hear some fact based versions of current events. Discreetly Tremiyo had personnel provide edibles closer to being dinner. Wine was replenished without the slightest disturbance. Soiled dishes were quietly gathered and fresh linen towels and dinnerware provided for the guests now confronted with dinner. The gardens beyond the patio provided a delightful fragrance adding a finishing touch to dinner, candle light and good company.

Without being asked a group of resident musicians made their presence known. From a secluded corner they played love songs familiar to everyone present. It added charm to the undeclared celebration. No doubt this musical group would net a handsome dinner tonight.

Claudia had a thin gold band partly hidden under her hair from which hung a series of little gold ornaments around her head. As she spoke or moved the feminine knick knacks shook sparkling highlights on her charming face. Undeniably the scent she wore was from the orient as was the white feather fan she used to casually discharge a pesky insect or two. She took a deep breath and held her husband’s hand then looked at him before she spoke directly to Onofrio.

“I have no wish to torment you by revisiting your ordeal with the cross. But, I would like to share a story that happened at the site of the crucifixion on that horrifying day. As the tempest broadcast its arrival from the distance, I was caught up with a trio apparently coming to witness the inevitable. It was a girl crying in deep hearted throes. I went to help her, if I could. I then recognized who she was. It was Salome the step daughter of Herod Antipas. I met her at a dinner Ponti and I attended. The second person was her mother and the third was tall and appeared strong so I guessed it was a guard or chaperone.  All three were robed and hooded in disguise. I approached her and she recognized me. In deep lament she came to me. She extended her forearms from under the heavy sleeves and asked me to see the blood stains of John the Baptist on her forearms and chest. The skin on her forearms was flawless as a teen ager so deserves.  There were no blood stains there. I could not see into her blouse.

“I was instrumental in the beheading of John the Baptist. I have nightmares of him calling me from his grave. His blood stains on my body will not wash off.  I came to ask his cousin to forgive me for my part in John’s murder. I hoped he would heal me of the bloodstains. But, I’m too late. Jesus is dead.” And she went to weeping in loud painful echoes coming from within her “God, please forgive me, Please.” I was unable to help her and felt her grief effect me. Since I was unable to help, I simply stood by and kept my eyes on the unfolding scene at the top of that rocky knoll. I saw Mary of Magdala with other women torn in sorrow and joined in grief. I did not know Mary’s companions and decided it was not the proper time for introductions. Then I heard a joyful scream coming from my afflicted young Salome. It was hysterical joy such as I have never seen or heard. The sky was turning into a furious shade of black and it was beginning to rain. Lightning and thunder broke the day into a frightful show of heavenly power. I was scared but felt obliged to stay. “Look! Look! Jesus has healed me. The blood of John the Baptist is gone. Look! My arms are spotless.” Salome pulled open her heavy robe to look at her chest. And almost cried with joy. She jerked her blouse down to examine her breasts and cried out in jubilation. “They’re gone! The blood stains of John are gone.” She was on the verge of dancing with glee. Her mother came and made a quick examination then covered her breasts from a few gawking men nearby.

Enfolded in her mother’s arms she was led away by the tall chaperone in their company. I clearly heard her last exclamation, “They’re gone, mama. The blood stains are gone.” And they dissolved into the receding crowd. It gave me tremors that at this place where pain was king and all dignity dissolved, Salome the teen age dancer found so much joy in being forgiven.”

When the centurion and those who were
with him, keeping watch over Jesus,
saw the earthquake and what took place,
they were filled with awe, and said,
“Truly this was the Son Of God!”

Matthew 27:54

Claudia had not released her husband’s hand. And spoke to him directly with a visible gleam in her eyes. “In all that pain and sorrow, I feared wholeheartedly that since Jesus was dead or close to dying, I would suffer again your cold indifference towards me if our son Pilo’s affliction returned. And that you may know it from me. I prayed with all my strength to the suffering Jesus that it not happen. I could not stand it to have you discharge me from your life again. This may not be the proper place to say it but, I love you so deeply that I would forfeit my life if I lost you.” Such a public declaration could not be ignored by almighty Pontius Pilate, supreme judge and governor of all Judea. “That will never happen again. I promise!” Pontius Pilate said in a soothing voice as he took his loving wife closer to his heart and simply held her there after a long breath. Onofrio and Serou nodded at each other as plotting accomplices would do to indicate “mission accomplished”. Claudia and Pilate were at peace and there was no doubt a second honeymoon on tonight’s agenda. Relieved and seemingly happy Claudia continued.

“I saw you, Onofrio. You had fallen and your clothes were a muddy mess. Your face had bled and you appeared disoriented or confused is a better word. I did not know you well enough and it would be improper for me to come help you.” Claudia seemed relieved to have told her experience at Golgotha.

“Before you go on, Claudia. Where was I, while you were at Golgotha?”My dear Ponti, you were up to your elbows in “petty gripes and baseless quarrels”, as I’ve heard you often say. Jesus was lashed, crowned with thorns and crucified. Barabbas was celebrating at a local brothel.  You were bogged down with the duties of your office, my love. I had to know what would be the end result of my dream. I dreamt that a tragedy would occur if you prosecuted the Nazarene. Every effort I made to reach you and warn you not to prosecute him went in vain. The guard was doubled and they refused to give me ground, even knowing I was your wife.”  Claudia and Pontius had a captured audience; each wide eyed and fully focused. “You very well know that women are not allowed in the presence of a presiding judge. Since I was almost physically forced from your attention, I wrote you a note. I urged you not to have anything to do with this innocent man, Jesus. He was an innocent man that did not deserve a heavy penalty. I had suffered a great deal in a dream about him. I feared harsh retaliation upon you if you penalized him. Later, I learned how heavy a burden you

were carrying with the Hebrew council dead set on crucifying the Nazarene and putting the burden of guilt on you. My dear Pontius Pilate, I castigated you severely for falling victim to their insidious plot. I’m sorry my love, I gave no thought to the awful  burden Rome puts on you. My dream may have to do with Rome castigating you for setting a known criminal like Barabbas free and crucifying a street healer on a Godly mission.”

The audience barely touched the dinner before them. What passed between Claudia and the mighty hand of Rome captured their attention. The listeners anxiously waited for the next scene to unfold as they would an act in a theatre.

“There was no intention to deceive you by attending the crucifixion. I was torn by the decision to crucify him and was compelled to see his sentence to the end. I felt an obligation to him for healing our son Pilo of his affliction. Had I been able to do it, I would have gone to him and done what I could to relieve his pains. As it happens, there were four women drawn to his presence and lamented heavily at his last  breath. Each bewailed in torturous grief when the light of life left his body. It was raining heavily and frightful thunder boomed from various locations. I felt anger coming down from the skies and then I saw Mary of Magdala, she was at his feet and she kissed them with rivers of tears and rain running down her face. Her clothes were already soaked and her hair in total disarray. I had to be close to my friend and went to her side. I held her close to me and I felt pain from her grief. She loved the man that resurrected her brother and gave her freedom from her human faults. Only then did I realize that the mother of Jesus was at the center of this assembly of grief. Her relative Mary Salome held her gently passing on what comfort she could. I remembered her from a previous encounter on the streets of Jerusalem. The pious woman Bernice was the fourth bearer of grief. In that circle of unfathomed sorrow I became the fifth victim. I was on the outer circle but I was accepted as an equal member. Never had I felt my very soul cry as it did while I was there with them. Their sorrow had no boundaries. It was enormously deep and unmeasured. Logic lost its grip on me, as I realized I should go to my chariot and make my way home in the middle of that horrible storm. But I did not want to leave my friend and only she had the presence of mind to tell me that I should be with my husband. He needed me close by and she left me to be with the mother of Jesus. I did not like being discharged like a child sent to bed, but she was right. I left that ugly place  of boundless sorrow to find you in an unreachable foul mood. I made an effort to console you, but you would not receive my efforts.”

Claudia said all that with her attention riveted on Pilate like a confession. He nodded up and down in pensive acceptance. “It was a terrible day for me also. I washed my hands of their sinister plot and foul demands more than once. It is not a Roman custom to do so. It is a Hebrew tradition. I was angry at their sordid disregard for real justice. I was also aware that they had roused the crowd to near riot if Jesus went free. Barabbas was guilty without question and they demanded he be liberated. I made a puny effort at vengeance, when I ordered the plaque to go over the Nazarene’s head. It was retaliation for the council’s effort to prove my weakness before their multitudes. They openly said, “We’re going to have things our way, no matter what.” And they challenged the rule of Rome through me. The letter’s I N R I would forever remind them that far greater powers than they, proclaimed the Nazarene to be “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” They were extremely incensed that I should make such a statement and demanded I remove the plaque. I was tired of being their mouse, while they played cat. I summoned the commander of my honor guard to stand close to me. They saw I was revving up my anger and that anger put fear in them. And so I told them, “I have written what I have written with absolute finality.” They knew then that they had pushed me to the brink of calling out the troops and wipe them off the map. It was tormenting for me to remain calm in the midst of so much hatred. “I saw the sordid weakness of man, nailed to the cross by human blindness. Those that demanded his crucifixion knew not what they did”. (Martin Luther King 1929-1968.) I was revolted by their sense of justice. The Nazarene was only guilty of upsetting their religious routines and healing the sick with such power as no one can identify. Be it magic tricks or the will of some little known God, trying to prove himself. The magic was done and history will long remember the miracles performed by this saintly man.”

EASTER HYMN

Christ the Lord is risen to-day,
Sons of men and angels say:
Raise your joys and triumphs high,
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply.

Love’s redeeming work is done,
Fought the fight, the battle won;
Lo! Our sun’s eclipse is e’er;
Lo! He sets in blood no more.

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal;
Christ hath burst the gates of hell!
Death in vain forbids His rise;
Christ hath opened Paradise!

Lives again our glorious King:
Where, O death is now your sting?
Once He died, our souls to save:
Where thy victory, O Grave?

Charles Wesley. 1707-1788

Claudia still had Pilate’s hand in hers and she raised it to her lips and kissed it. She knew from years of experience by his side that he was slowly accepting Jesus for what he was, the savior of mankind.

“Only you, silently know the torments Rome has put you through. Our time in Judea has been painful to us both. Now, look at what we’ve done. We have bored our hosts with tales of our own.”

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

YERUSHALAYIM  BY ANOTHER NAME

 

“That is not true. You had us all at the edge of our seats,” exclaimed Clavenia with her eyes full of sparkling anticipation. Looking at Onofrio she silently pleaded to add her voice to the evening.

“As I told you in a recent conversation. Judea is truly the cradle of miracles. That an unexpected tempest of such magnitude arrive at the precise moment of his passing is not a mere coincidence. That the earth shook and split open to swallow human victims is the work of an unhappy God. It is a mighty power that can discharge the sun from duty in the middle of the day. Then drop the blackest cloak ever seen over a vast region. The crack of thunder resonated from the bowels of earth like repeated echoes of heavenly fury. Bolts of terrifying lightning attacked the earth like vengeful strikes from heaven. What Godly power can demand that nature release such a horrifying storm and unleash a reservoir of hard driven rain upon the land? The time is near at hand when the world will wake up and acknowledge the power of Yahweh, the heavenly father of Jesus.”

And through all those fearsome things Onofrio you, walked through the wrath of God. You suffered a self induced penalty because of your sense of righteousness. Five ladies were swept to His presence by a greater power. They were silently commanded to be there and absorb some of his agony. The pains they all shared and yours as well, gave the Nazarene a degree of relief to fulfill his mission. All these things and others I do not know about were choreographed by the heavenly father of Jesus.” There can be no other logical explanation.

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