«I am lost…»
«I am the One seeking who is lost.»
«I am dead.»
«I am the One who gives Life.»
«I am filth and falsehood.»
«I am Purity and Truth.»
– In the ruins of John the Baptist’s house, the initial exchange between Aglae and Jesus her savior.
77. « There are some houses over there » says John, who is walking a few steps in front of the others.
« It’s Hebron. Between two rivers with its crest. See, Master? That house there, amidst all the green, a little higher up than the others? That’s Zacharias’ house. »
« Let us quicken our paces. »
They cover the last stretch of the road very rapidly and go into the village. The sheep’s little hooves sound like castanets on the uneven stones of the road, which is paved very roughly. They reach the house. People look at the group of men, who are so different by look, age and garments amongst the white sheep.
« Oh! It’s different! There was a gate here! » says Elias. Now in place of the gate there is a metal door which prevents one from seeing, and also the enclosure wall is higher than a man and thus nothing can be seen inside.
« Perhaps it will be open at the back. » They go round a large quadrilateral wall, it is rather a long rectangular one, but the wall is the same height all round.
« The wall was built not long ago » remarks John, examining it. « There is not a scratch on it and there is still lime rubble on the ground. »
« I cannot even see the sepulcher… It was near the wood. Now the wood is outside the wall and… and it seems to belong to everybody. They are gathering firewood in it. » Elias is puzzled.
A man, an old woodcutter, small but strong, who is watching the group, stops sawing a trunk which he has cut down, and goes towards the group. « Whom are you looking for? »
« We wanted to go in, to pray on Zacharias’ tomb ».
« There is no tomb any longer. Don’t you know? Who are you? »
« I am a friend of Samuel, the shepherd. This… »
« It is not necessary, Elias » says Jesus and Elias keeps quiet.
« Ah! Samuel!… I see! But since John, Zacharias’ son, was put into prison, the house is no longer his. And it is a misfortune, because he had all the profit of his property given to the poor people in Hebron. One morning a man came from Herod’s court, he threw Jowehel out, he affixed seals, then he came back with bricklayers and they started raising the wall… The sepulcher was over there, in the corner. He did not want it… and one morning we found it all spoiled and half destroyed… the poor bones were all scattered… We put them together again, as well as we could… They are now in a sarcophagus… And in the house of the priest Zacharias, that filthy man keeps his lovers. Now there is a mime from Rome. That is why he raised the wall. He does not want people to see… The house of the priest a brothel! The house of the miracle and of the Precursor! »
« Have you a synagogue? »
« Yes, about two hundred steps straight ahead. You cannot go wrong. Near it there is the sarcophagus with the violated remains. »
« Goodbye, may God enlighten you. »
They go away. They turn round on to the front of the house. At the door there is a young woman impudently dressed. She is beautiful. « My Lord, do you wish to come into the house? Come in. »
Jesus stares at her as severe as a judge, but does not speak.
But Judas does, supported by all the others. « Go back in, shameless woman! Do not desecrate us with your breath, ravenous bitch. »
The woman blushes and lowers her head. She is about to disappear abashed and scoffed at by urchins and passersby.
« Who is so pure as to say: “I have never desired the apple offered by Eve?” » asks Jesus severely and He adds: « Show Me him and I will call him a holy man. Nobody? Well, then, if not out of disgust, but out of weakness, you feel unable to go near this woman, you may withdraw. I will not force weaklings into unequal struggles. Woman, I would like to come in. This house belonged to a relative of Mine and is dear to Me. »
« Come in, my Lord, if You do not loathe me. »
« Leave the door open, that the world may see and may not tattle… »
Jesus enters serious and solemn. The woman, subdued, bows down before Him and dares not move. But the quips of the people cut her to the quick. She runs away to the end of the garden, while Jesus goes as far as the foot of the staircase. He looks in through the half open doors but does not go in. He then goes to the place of the sepulcher, where there is now a kind of small pagan temple.
« The bones of the just, also when dry and scattered, ooze a purifying balm and spread seed of eternal life. Peace to the dead who lived doing good! Peace to the pure who are sleeping in the Lord! Peace to those who suffered, but knew no vice! Peace to the real great ones of the world and of Heaven! Peace! »
The woman has reached Jesus, walking along the hedge that protects her.
« My Lord! »
« Woman. »
« Your Name, my Lord. »
« Jesus. »
« I never heard it. I am Roman: a mime and dancer. I am an expert only in lust. What is the meaning of Your name? My name is Aglae and… and it means: vice. »
« Mine means: Savior. »
« How do You save? And whom? »
« Those who are anxious to be saved. I save by teaching to be pure, to prefer sorrows to honors, to desire good at all costs, » Jesus speaks without bitterness, without even turning towards the woman.
« I am lost… »
« I am the One seeking who is lost. »
« I am dead. »
« I am the One who gives Life. »
« I am filth and falsehood. »
« I am Purity and Truth. »
« You are also Bounty, You do not look at me. You do not touch me, You do not tread on me. Have mercy on me… »
« First, you must have mercy on yourself. On your soul. »
« What is the soul? »
« It is what makes a god of man and not an animal. Vice and sin kill it, and once it is killed, man becomes a repulsive animal. »
« Will it be possible for me to see You again? »
« Who looks for Me, finds Me. »
« Where do You live? »
« Where hearts need doctors and medicines to become honest again. »
« In that case… I will not see You again… I live where no doctor, medicine or honesty is wanted. »
« Nothing prevents you from coming to where I am. My name will be shouted in the streets and will reach you. Goodbye. »
« Goodbye, my Lord. Allow me to call You “Jesus”. Oh! Not out of familiarity! … But that a little of salvation may come to me. I am Aglae, remember me. »
« I will. Goodbye. »
The woman stays at the end of the garden, Jesus comes out of it severe. He looks at everybody. He sees perplexity in His disciples and hears jeers from the Hebronites. A servant closes the door.
Jesus goes straight along the road. He knocks at the synagogue. A resentful old man looks out. He does not even give Jesus time to speak. « The synagogue is forbidden, in this holy place, to those who deal with prostitutes. Go away. »
Jesus turns away without replying and continues walking along the road. His disciples follow Him. They begin to speak when they are outside Hebron.
« You asked for trouble, Master » says Judas. « A prostitute, of all people! »
« Judas, I solemnly tell you that she will surpass you. And now, since you are reproaching Me, what do you say of the Judaeans? In the most holy places in Judaea we have been scoffed at and driven away… That is the truth. The day will come when Samaria and the Gentiles will worship the true God, and the people of the Lord will be soiled with blood and a crime… a crime in comparison with which the sins of prostitutes who sell their bodies and their souls, will be a very small thing. I was not able to pray on the tomb of My cousins and of the just Samuel. It does not matter. Rest, holy bones, rejoice, souls, that dwelt in them. The first resurrection is near. Then the day will come when you will be shown to the angels as the souls of the servants of the Lord. »