The pious women at the foot of the Sepulchre -Maria Valtorta

Meanwhile the women, having left the house, walk, shadows in the shade, very close to the wall. For a while they are silent, well dressed and fearful of so much silence and solitude. Then, recovering their spirits at the sight of the absolute calm in the city, they gather as a group and find the courage to speak.

-Are the doors open yet? - Susana asks.

-Of course they are. Look at the first market gardener who enters with the vegetables.

-He goes to the market," Salome answers.

-Will they tell us anything? - It is also Susana who asks this question.

-Who? - asks the Magdalene.

-The soldiers, at the Judicial Gate. Through that door... few enter and, even fewer, leave... We'll create suspicion...

-So what? They will look at us. They will see five women going to the field. We could also be people who, after the Passover, return to their villages.

-But... So as not to attract the attention of some malicious person, why don't we go out through another gate and then come back, following the wall closely to it? -We lengthen the way.

-But we will be safer. We go through the Water Gate...

-If I were you, Salome, I'd go through the eastern gate. That way you'd have a longer way back! We must hurry and get back soon.

The one who speaks so resolutely is the Magdalene.

-Then another one, but not the Judicial door. Yes, woman... - they all beg her.

-All right. But then we passed by Juana's house. She insisted that we warn her. If we had gone directly, we could have avoided passing by her house, but, since you want to go around more, we'll go to her....

-Yes! Yes! Even for the soldiers who are on guard there.... She is known and feared...

-I would also suggest going to Joseph of Arimathea's house. He is the owner of the place.

-Of course, and now we form a procession so as not to attract attention! But what a fearful sister I have! Look, Martha, we do rather this: I go ahead and watch; you come behind with Joan; if there is danger, I stand in the middle of the road, so that you can see me; in that case, we go back. But, I assure you, the soldiers, seeing this - I have already foreseen it (and she shows a bag full of coins) - will let us do everything.

-We tell this to Juana as well. You are right.

-Then leave. And me too.

-Are you going alone, Mary? I'm going with you," said Martha, fearful for her sister.

-No. You go to Joanna's with Mary of Alphaeus. Salome and Susanna are waiting for you near the gate outside the walls. And then come along the main road all together. Farewell.

And Mary Magdalene cuts off other possible comments, leaving quickly with her bag of balsams and her coins in her bosom.

She goes so fast that she seems to fly along the road, which becomes more cheerful with the first rosicler of dawn. She passes the Judicial gate to save time. And no one stops her...

The others watch her walk away. Then they turn their backs to the fork in the street where they were and take another, narrow and dark, which then opens, near the Sixtus, to form a wider and more open street, where there are beautiful houses. They separate: Salome and Susanna continue along the same street; Martha and Mary of Alpheus knock at the iron gate, and stand in front of the small window - a small window - half-opened by the doorman.

They enter and go to Joan, who, already up and dressed all in a very dark purple that highlights even more her pallor, is also working with some balsams, together with the nurse and a maid.

-Have you come? God bless you. But if you hadn't come, I would have gone.... In search of comfort... Because, after that tremendous day, many things have been altered. And so as not to feel alone, I must go and lean on that stone and call out and say: "Master, I am poor Joan.... Don't leave me alone too...

Joan weeps quietly, but with much desolation, while Esther, the wet nurse, makes showy indecipherable gestures behind Joan as she places the mantle on her.

-I am leaving, Esther.

-God give you comfort!

They leave the palace to join their companions. It is at this moment when the brief and strong earthquake occurs, which causes panic again among the Jerusalemites, still terrified by the events of Friday. The three women hastily retrace their steps and remain in the large hall, in the midst of the maids and servants who shout and invoke the Lord, fearful of new earthquakes....

...The Magdalene, however, is already at the entrance of the little road that leads to the garden of Joseph of Arimathea when she is surprised by the powerful, powerful but harmonious sound of this celestial sign. At the same time, in the slightly pinkish light of the dawn that is advancing in the sky - where still in the West a tenacious star resists - and that is turning golden the air until now slightly greenish, a great light lights up, that descends as if it were an incandescent globe, very brilliant, cutting in zigzag the serene air. It passes very close to Mary of Magdala (it almost makes her fall to the ground). She folds a little, whispering: "My Lord!", and then, like a little stalk after the passing of the wind, she straightens up again and, faster, runs towards the garden.

He enters it quickly: he goes towards the rocky sepulcher like a bird pursued in search of its nest. But, in spite of all her haste, she cannot be there when the celestial meteor acts as a lever and a flame on the mortar with which the heavy stone is sealed and reinforced; nor when, with a final clamor, the stone door falls, producing a vibration that joins that of the earthquake, which, although brief, is of such violence that it throws the soldiers to the ground as if dead.

Mary, on arriving, sees these useless jailers of the Triumphant thrown to the ground like a bundle of cut ears of corn. Mary Magdalene does not connect the earthquake with the Resurrection, but, seeing this spectacle, believes that it is the punishment of God against the profaners of the Sepulcher of Jesus, and falls to her knees saying:

-Ah, they have taken him away!

She is truly desolate. She weeps like a child who had come to look for her father, with the certainty of finding him, only to find the house empty.

Then she gets up and runs off in search of Peter and John. And, since she is now thinking only of warning the two, she does not remember to go to meet her companions, nor does she remember to stop on the way, but, swift as a gazelle, she goes back the way she went before, goes through the Judicial door and runs hastily through the streets, which are now a little more crowded, to run into the gate of her friend's house and to hit it and push it furiously.

The owner opens it for her.

-Where are Juan and Pedro? - asks Mary Magdalene, panting and anguished.

-There - and the woman points towards the Cenacle.

Mary of Magdala enters and, as soon as she enters, in front of the two astonished apostles, she says (and in her voice, kept low out of pity for the Mother, there is more anguish than if she had shouted):

-They have taken away the Lord from the Sepulcher! Who knows where they have put Him? - And for the first time she staggers and hesitates and, in order not to fall, she grabs wherever she can.

-What are you saying? - they both ask.

And she, panting:

-I went ahead... to buy the soldiers who were on guard... so that they would allow us to embalm. They are there as if dead... The sepulcher is open, the stone on the ground... Who? Who could have done it? Come! Let's run...

Peter and John are on their way. Mary follows them a few steps behind. Then she comes back, grabs the mistress of the house, shakes her violently, moved by her foresighted love, and says to her face in a sibilant voice: "Don't you dare leave the house!

-Let it not occur to you to let anyone pass where She is (and points to the door of Mary's room). Remember that I am in charge of you. Obey and be quiet.

And, leaving her truly overwhelmed, he overtook the apostles, who with rapid pace were going to the Sepulcher....

...Meanwhile, Susanna and Salome, arriving at the walls, having left their companions, are surprised by the earthquake. Frightened, they take refuge under a tree, and stay there, with the dilemma of whether to go to the Sepulchre or to flee to Joan's house: but love conquers fear and they go to the Sepulchre.

They enter the garden, still troubled, and see the soldiers, as if dead.... They see a great light coming out of the open Sepulcher. Their confusion increases and becomes complete when, holding hands to encourage each other, they lean out of the entrance and, in the darkness of the sepulchral grotto, they see a luminous and most beautiful creature, sweetly smiling, greeting them from the place where she is: leaning on the right side of the stone of the anointing, whose gray volume, behind so much incandescent splendor, fades away. They fall to their knees, stunned by the stupor.

But the angel speaks to them sweetly:

-Do not be afraid of me. I am the angel of the divine Sorrow. I have come to experience the joy of his end: there is no longer the pain of the Christ nor his annihilation in death. Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One whom you seek, is risen. He is no longer here! Empty is the place where he was placed. Exult with me. Go, tell Peter and tell the disciples that he is risen and that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will still see him, but only for a short time, as he said.

The women fall face down to the ground and, when they raise their faces, they flee as if they were being chased by a punishment. They are terrified and whisper:

-Now we will die! We have seen the angel of the Lord!

In the middle of the field, they calm down a little, and consult with each other. What to do? If they say what they have seen, they will not be believed; if they say that they have come from there, they may be accused by the Jews of having killed the soldiers who were on guard. No, they can say nothing; neither to their friends nor to their enemies....

Frightened, dumbfounded, they return another way home. They enter and take refuge in the Cenacle. They don't even ask to see Mary.... And there they thought that what they had seen was a deception of the Devil. Being, as they are, humble, they judge that "it cannot be that it has been granted to them to see the one sent by God. It is Satan who wanted to frighten them away from there.

They cry and pray like two little girls frightened by a nightmare....

...The third group, that of Joanna, Mary of Alphaeus and Martha, seeing that nothing new is happening, decides to go to the place where, no doubt, the companions are waiting. They go out into the streets, where there are already people, frightened people who talk about the new earthquake and relate it to the events of Friday and even see what does not exist.

-Better, if they are all scared! Maybe the soldiers of the guard will be too, and they won't object," says Maria d'Alfeo. And they hurry to the walls.

But while they are going there, Peter and John have already arrived in the garden, followed by Magdalene. And John, faster, is the first to arrive at the Sepulcher. The soldiers are no longer there. Neither is the angel.

John kneels, fearful and afflicted, at the wide-open entrance; he kneels to make an act of veneration and to catch a glimpse of the things he sees. But he sees only, on the floor, the linen cloths, laid in a heap on top of the Shroud.

-Well, it's really not there, Simon! It is as Mary had seen it. Come, come in and look.

Peter, panting from his long run, enters the sepulcher. On the way he had said, "I dare not go near that place. But now he thinks only of discovering where the Master might be. And he even calls out to Him, as if He might be hidden in some dark corner.

The darkness, at this morning hour, is still strong in the deep Sepulcher whose only source of light is the small opening in the door, on which John and the Magdalene are now casting a shadow.... And Peter has difficulty in seeing, so that he has to help himself with his hands.... He touches, trembling, the table of anointing and feels it empty....

-It's not there, John! It's not there!... You come too! I have cried so much that I can hardly see in this dim light.

Juan stands up and enters. While John does this, Peter discovers the shroud, placed in a corner, neatly folded; and, inside the shroud, carefully rolled up, the sheet.

-They have indeed taken him away. The soldiers were there not for us but to do this.... And we have let them act. By leaving, we allowed it...

-Oh! Where did they put him!

-Pedro... Peter... now there is nothing more to be done.

The two disciples go out completely dejected.

-Come on, woman. You tell his Mother....

-I'm not leaving. I'm staying here... Someone will come... No, I'm not leaving... There is still something here that belongs to Him. His mother was right...

Mother was right... To breathe the air where He has been is the only consolation we have left.

-The only consolation... Now you, too, realize that waiting was a chimera... - says Peter.

Maria doesn't even answer. She drops to the floor, right next to the entrance, and cries as the others slowly leave.

Then she lifts her head and looks in, and, through her tears, sees two angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the anointing stone. Poor Mary is so stunned, in her fiercest battle between the hope that is dying and the faith that does not want to die, that she looks at them in awe, without even astonishment. The strong woman, who has heroically resisted everything, has nothing but tears.

-Why are you crying, woman? - asks one of the two luminous boys (because they look like two beautiful teenagers).

-Because they have taken my Lord away and I don't know where they have put him.

Mary speaks to them without fear. She does not ask: "Who are you? Nothing. Nothing amazes her anymore. Everything that can astonish a creature she has already suffered. Now she is only a broken being who weeps without strength and without reserve.

The young angelic boy looks at his companion and smiles. And so does the other. And, glowing with angelic joy, they both look outside, towards the orchard fully bloomed by the millions of corollas that have opened with the first sun in the dense apple trees of the orchard.

Mary turns to see who they are looking at. And she sees a Man, very beautiful, whom I do not know how she could not immediately recognize. A Man who looks at her with pity and asks her:

-Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?

It is true that it is a Jesus veiled by his own pity for the creature, whom too many emotions have exhausted and could die because of the sudden joy; but I really wonder how he can not recognize it.

And Mary, between sobs:

-They have taken away the Lord Jesus! I had come to embalm Him waiting for Him to rise again.... I had gathered all my courage and my hope, and my faith, around my love... and now I can no longer find him.... No, I have rather put my love around my faith, my hope and my courage, to defend them from men.... But everything is useless! Men have robbed me of my Love, and with Him they have taken everything from me.... Oh, my Lord, if it is you who have taken Him away, tell me where you have put Him! And I will go for Him... I will tell no one... It will be a secret between you and me. Look: I am the daughter of Theophilus, the sister of Lazarus, but I am on my knees before you begging you, like a slave. Do you want me to buy his Body? I will. How much do you want? I am rich. I can give you as much gold and gems as his Body weighs. But give it back to me. I won't denounce you. You want to beat me? Go ahead. Make me shed blood, if you want. If you feel hatred for Him, take it out on me. But give it back to me. Oh, my lord, don't make me poor in this way, with this destitution! Destitution of a poor woman!... For me you won't? For your Mother, then. Tell me! Tell me where my Lord Jesus is. I am strong. I will take him in my arms and carry him like a child to safety. Lord... sir... you see... it is three days since the wrath of God has been unloaded upon us for what was done to the Son of God... Do not add Profanation to the Crime....


Jesus appears radiant as He calls her. He reveals Himself in His triumphant splendor.


Mary's cry is truly "the great cry" that closes the cycle of death. With the first, the darkness of hatred bound the Victim with funeral bandages; with the second, the lights of love increased their splendor. And Mary, when she emits this cry that fills the garden, rises and, in haste, goes to the feet of Jesus, to those feet that she would like to kiss.

Jesus, barely touching her forehead with the tips of his fingers, separates her:

-Don't touch me! I have not yet gone up with this figure to my Father. Go to my brothers and friends and tell them that I am going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God, and then I will go to them.

And Jesus, absorbed by an irresistible light, disappears.

Mary kisses the ground where He was and runs towards the house. He enters like lightning - the door is ajar to make way for the master of the house, who is going to the fountain -, opens the door of Mary's room and lets himself fall into her heart, crying out: "He is risen! -He is risen! He is risen! - and she weeps with joy.

And, while Peter and John come and from the Cenacle come the frightened Salome and Susanna and listen to what the Magdalene says, Mary of Alphaeus and Martha and Joanna also return from the street, who, with bated breath, say that they too have been there, and that they have seen two angels who said they were the Keeper of the Man God and the Angel of His Pain, and that they have given them the order to tell the disciples that He had risen. And, seeing Peter shaking his head, they insist, saying:

-Yes. They have said, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen, as he said while he was still in Galilee. Do you not remember? He said, "The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinners and be crucified. But on the third day he will rise again."

Peter shakes his head, saying:

-"Too many things in these days! They have confused you.

The Magdalene lifts her head from Mary's breast and says:

-I have seen him! I have spoken to him. He told me that He ascends to the Father and then He comes. How beautiful He was! - And she weeps as she has never wept before, now that she no longer has to torture herself to fight against doubt from all sides.

But Peter, and also John, remain very doubtful. They look at each other and their eyes say: "Women's imagination!".

Then also Susanna and Salome dare to speak. But the same, inevitable difference in the details of the soldiers, who first are as if dead and then are no more; and of the angels, who at one moment are one and at another two, and who have not shown themselves to the apostles; and of the two versions about the fact that Jesus goes there or that he precedes his own toward Galilee... this makes the doubt, indeed, the persuasion of the apostles grow more and more.

Mary, the blessed Mother, is silent, holding the Magdalene.... I do not understand the mystery of this maternal silence.

Mary of Alphaeus says to Salome:

-Let us two go back there: let's see if we are all drunk? - and they leave quickly. The other women remain - courteously not taken into consideration by the two apostles - next to Mary, who remains silent, absorbed in a thought that each one interprets in his own way and that no one understands that it is an ecstasy.

The two elderly women return:

-It's true! It's true! We have seen it. He said to us in the garden of Barnabas: "Peace be with you. Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers that I am risen and tell them to go to Galilee in a few days. There we will be together for a while yet. This he said. Mary is right. We must tell those of Bethany, Joseph, Nicodemus, the most loyal disciples, the shepherds. We must go, we must do, we must do.... Oh! He is risen!.... - they all cry, happy.

-You are not in your right mind, women. The pain has blinded you. The light has seemed to you like an angel; the wind, a voice; the sun, Christ. I do not criticize you. I understand you, but I can only believe in what I have seen: the Sepulcher open and empty, and the soldiers who had taken the corpse and fled.

-But if the soldiers themselves say it, that he has risen! But the city is all revolted, and the princes of the priests are mad with rage, because the soldiers, fleeing in terror, have spoken! Now they want them to say the opposite, and they pay them to do so. But it is known. And, if the Jews do not believe in the Resurrection, they do not want to believe, many others believe?

-The women!....

Peter shrugs his shoulders and makes a gesture to leave.

Then the Mother, who is still holding the Magdalene (who is weeping like a willow tree under a downpour for her inordinate joy), kissing her blond hair, raises her transfigured face and says a brief phrase:

-He is truly risen. I have held him in my arms and kissed his Wounds - and then he lays his head again on the hair of the passionate one and says: - Yes, the joy is even greater than the pain. And it is but a grain of sand compared to what will be your ocean of eternal bliss. Oh, blessed one who has made the spirit speak above reason!

Peter no longer dares to deny... and, with one of those turns of the old Peter, which now comes to the surface again, he says, and cries out, as if the delay depended on the others and not on him: "Well then, if it is so, we must communicate it to the others; to those who are scattered in the fields.... look for... do... Come on, move! If he really went there... at least let him find us - and he does not realize that he is still confessing that he does not blindly believe in the Resurrection.