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Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Crucifixion of Jesus

Witness: Anya, a peasant Jewish woman of the time of Jesus

Story N.19 (see previous posts)




It is in that awful state of mind where bewilderment dominates the senses and emotions escape any power of rational thought that Anya follows Mary Magdalene on her pilgrimage on Jesus’ traces. His mother has joined them, and she has to bear the sight of her beloved son covered in blood after the scourging, his head adorned with a crown of thorns. The Roman guards order him to carry his cross and for a while he drags it on his bruised shoulders, centimeter by centimeter, adding vicious scratches on his tortured flesh. Then he falls under its weight. The guards take hold of a man and make him carry the cross for him all the way to Mount Golgotha.

The crowd is silent. Hushed people stand on the sides of the road, absorbed in contemplation of the gruesome spectacle. Once arrived at the place called the Skull, Jesus is nailed on the cross. Two criminals are crucified with him, one on his left and the other one on his right. In the deathly silence the cries of the two men ring loud. Anya watches the scene from a distance. The outlines of the crucified men stand out dark against the metallic sky. Their silhouettes show their pain and fatigue. Heads bent, arms wide spread, their bodies hung loosely on the rigid wood.

Soon black heavy clouds start gathering across the sky, loaded with menace. For many hours they remain motionless in the heavens, up to the moment when Jesus cries out in a loud voice:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Then the mountain is whipped by a storm and thunders roll one after another with a terrifying roar. Lightning build up in power, flashing all over the horizon, until they tear the sky apart. And as the rain beats upon the people, Jesus gives up his spirit unto death. And the veil of the temple is torn from top to bottom, and the rocks tremble to their foundation, and the wind breaks the trees hissing like an invisible gigantic serpent.

But when Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross the frightful tempest dies away. 
The only sound to be heard is the sobbing of his mother. She is holding his lifeless body on her lap, crushed with sorrow for his untimely death. Anya feels her pain as a mother, much greater than her own. A sort of stupor has taken over her soul and the tears have dried up into her eyes.
Suddenly a hand presses on her shoulder and someone calls her name. She recognizes that voice immediately: Neri is kneeling next to her, and he’s weeping.
“What have I done!” he sobs. “Will the Lord ever forgive me? I’ve incited the people to ask for Jesus’ death, but now I know that I was wrong. This horror should have never happened! Can you forgive me, wife?”
Slowly, slowly, she feels her heart expanding and her mind grasping the mystery. Jesus’ sacrifice has saved Neri and will save many more. In his complete humbleness Jesus is power. In his humanity he is divine love. Taking Neri’s hands, she replies calmly:
“God forgives you, and so do I.”
“Then let’s forget all this,” he pleads. “Let’s go home.”
Anya looks up to the crosses still standing in the gloomy dusk light. Jesus’ corpse has been taken away. She must find out where he’s going to be buried and help the other women to anoint his body.
“Not yet,” she tells Neri. “Give me a few days to mourn him.”
He bows his head in assent.
“I’ll wait for you in that same house where you have spoken to my friend,” he answers. “But remember that it’s dangerous for me to spend more time with the rebels. I’ll pretend that I’m still one of them, and I’ll tell them that I have to escort you for a while during your journey back home. We’ll move closer to our son. They won’t find me if we are careful.”
Anya smiles with sadness.
“I’ll meet you in three days “ she says. “Go in peace. I’ll pray for the love of God to be with you."                                     
I must follow Jesus one more time, she thinks. Then I’ll go home and I’ll take him with me in my heart. He will be with me, always.