Christ's Journal Part 8
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"They haven't changed... Joseph, you've taken good care of them! Oh, they're so beautiful!"
And she knelt in the sawdust, the gold cup in her hands, its jewels redder than I had remembered. I had forgotten the gifts were so beautiful.
"Where have you kept them...in the synagogue? The geniza?" I asked.
Father nodded, frowning.
"We have decided to present them to the elders...tomorrow...at the meeting. They'll become the temple possessions. It's different with you going away... Mother and I have decided..."
But I wasn't listening; I was absorbed in Mother's appreciation as she handled the gifts, kneeling or half-kneeling, smiling; her shoulders lost some of their age. The myrrh box interested me, its aroma still evident, its chased lid yet untarnished. Mother lifted the clasp. The clasp was set with green stones. She called my attention to the ornamented hinges. She held out the gold cup to my father...
"I wish you hadn't worried about the gifts," she said with a sigh.
"We ought to have enjoyed them...now we can see them at the temple...
Look, Jesus, at this handle...ah, those were strange days in Bethlehem... G.o.d was with us..."
I loved her for her dreams and sacrifices.
I loved the hints of youth and beauty in her face.
Tomorrow is my last day here.
As I lay on my pallet I heard rain lash our roof; I heard the wind in the trees. Then my mind dropped back and I remembered Mother singing, crooning to me, as I lay sick as a boy. I remembered songs in the evening. I heard her laughter as we played jacks. I smelled her barley bread... I smelled roasting lamb... Father was in his workshop, his plane sliding; he was singing. As a child I loved his singing.
Now, silent, worried, he works in a preoccupied state, bothered by frequent visitors, concerned about my future. "It is wrong of you to go to Jerusalem, wrong to throw yourself into the hands of your enemies."
There will be no more Festivals of Light.
At Nazareth I used to have a pet goat.
Memories... I can not tolerate juvenile memories any longer. I am not an old man. Memories must not impede my ministry.
There must be beauty. Life must have beauty.
Thy rod and Thy staff will comfort me...yeah, though I walk through the valley of death yet will I be with Thee.
As I walked into Jerusalem I heard those words. It was dusk. An immense caravan choked the air, camels, drivers, gapers. Again I thought of Herod and the innocents: city life brings Herod to mind.
The Kittim are evident on the main streets: helmets, standards, s.h.i.+elds.
A camel sank to the ground beside me, eying me, begging for kindness.
Crowds circled the temple, some chanting, some bearing fruit, some waving palm fronds. Flares burned. On two giant candelabra, perhaps eighty feet high, torches smoked, guttered.
Shall I be able to help the people of Jerusalem? Shall I remain? My loneliness here was so unlike the loneliness of the desert.
I was to meet Judas who was to take me to friends. When he did not come I bedded down in a booth of branches, with cattle nearby.
I slept and woke to their animal sounds, without dread. Someone roused the oxen, then the sheep; the beasts wanted to be fed and watered. n.o.body disturbed me. Probably I was considered a herdsman. I dreamed until a child brought me a cup of water: holding it out prettily she asked: "Are you thirsty?"
"Yes," I said.
"My papa is taking care of the oxen."
Opening my pouch I offered sugared dates to the girl.
I found Judas at the home of a mutual friend. I had never seen him so well dressed. He drew me aside and gave me money from our treasury.
He seemed forlorn. I am told he is having a love affair with the daughter of Pilate. Marcus, the son of a senator, has described Pilate's daughter as a beautiful, talented, ruthless woman. Marcus and I sat on a garden bench and he enthused about Jerusalem: "So unlike Rome, so much more oriental-can it be we are free of our penates here?"
That evening I stayed in the house of Leonidas Clibus. My windows were olive tree windows. Garden paths circled a tiny fountain where someone had tossed fresh oleander blossoms, red blossoms.
A copy of Horace lay on a circular table by my bed; lamps and rugs, hangings and x-shaped Roman chairs, cus.h.i.+ons and inlaid boxes brightened the room. Propped on a cus.h.i.+on I read Horace for hours; when my candles dimmed a slave brought me fresh candles and volumes by Lucretius-recent translations.
...What's this wanton l.u.s.t for life
To make us tremble in dangers and in doubt?
All men must die and no man can escape.
We turn and turn in the same atmosphere...
I went to sleep preferring the thoughts of Horace: his love of nature, his fondness for rustic surroundings, his boating on the river Aufidus, his fis.h.i.+ng. He liked to play ball. I could visualize him, as a boy, when wood pigeons covered him with leaves as he slept on a hillside.
Christ's Journal Part 8
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Christ's Journal Part 8 summary
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