יום רביעי, 8 באפריל 2015

LETTER OF PILATES WIFE, CLAUDIA PROCULA, TO HER FRIEND, FULVIA ROMELIA

LETTER OF PILATES WIFE, CLAUDIA PROCULA, TO HER FRIEND, FULVIA ROMELIA



On the last events in Jesus Christ’s life


The original of this letter it to be found among old manuscripts in one of the vast libraries in Italy. From the original a copy was prepared and sent, about the year 1643, to Bishop Dionysius of Constantinople. The following are its contents:

“From Claudia Procula, greetings to Fulvia Rornelia. “You, my faithful friend, are asking and begging me to describe the events which have happened since the day of our separation. The news of some of them may have reached you, but the secret way in which they were wrapped may arouse in you a feeling of anxiety and the desire to know how I am. I shall pay attention to your tender request and try to remember the links of the long chain of my 1ifes scattered memories. And should you see in my letter such circumstances as might startle your mind, remember that the forces of creation constitute an impenetrable and all-covering veil for our helpless and mortal understanding, and that, overwhelming the mortal being, these forces change the fate of his life. “I shall not describe the first days of my life, which so quickly passed by in the stillness of Nabron under the roof of my parents and under their protection. “You know that, in the sixteenth year of my maiden life, I was united in marriage with the Roman Pilate, a descendant of a renowned family, and who at that time held a position as a governor in Italy. Immediately after our departure from the temple I had to go with Pontius to the province to which he had been appointed. Without happiness, but also without apprehension I went away with my husband who on the score of age could have been my father. I was very homesick for you—for the quiet residence of my parents, the happy haven of Nabron, the beautiful statues the soft groves of my birth- place. I remember-you with tears in my eyes. “The first years of my family life went by calmly and peacefully, Heaven blessed me with a son, and he was dearer to me than the light of day. I shared with him my leisure hours, my sorrows and my joys. My son was five years old when Pilate, by the Emperors grace, was appointed procurator of Judea. By such roads as are not easily described, we journeyed with our personnel, engaged as servants. After some time I came to love this fertile and rich province which my husband had to rule in the name of Rome, the master of the nations. “In Jerusalem I was surrounded with tokens of respect and hand clasping : however, I lived in greater loneliness because of the pride and contempt with which the Hebrews met us. Foreigners and aliens, as they called us. They said that we profaned their holy land which God had promised them as their own. I passed the time with my son in silent forests where deer fed on olive branches; where palms with their delicate fronds, more beautiful than in Delos, rose |over blossoming orange-trees, and under fruit-bearing nards. Here in the cool shade I used to sew covers for the altars of the gods, or to read verses of Virgil which are so agreeable to hear and so appeasing to the heart. My husband spent his few spare moments with me. He was in a dark mood and grieved, for he wanted to rule with a strong hand, although in his task of keeping these people in submission, he was weak. These people had been for so long independent and by nature were inclined to rebellion. They were divided into a thousand boisterous sects, but in one point they were all united: namely, in their furious hatred against the Romans. “So far one family of the better society in Jerusalem showed some benevolence towards me. This family belonged to the director of the Synagogue, Jairus. I found great pleasure in visiting his wife, Salome, who proved to be a model of kindness, and she also showed it in relation to her daughter, Semida, of 12 years of age. The latter was lovely and beautiful, like the dawn over Sharon, and had fair curls. “Sometimes they spoke to me of the God of their ancestors, and read parts of their holy books. “What shall I tell you, Fulvia? I remember certain hymns, works of Solomon, praising the God of Jacob, this only God, who is eternal and impenetrable. whose words and sentences we notice on our altars, calling them divine. I perceived that He was omnipotent and merciful, and combines in Himself kindness, purity and greatness. I remember Semida’s voice sounding like the strings of the harp when she sang the holy hymn to the wise and great king of Israel, and often in my loneliness and beside the cradle of my son I tried to play to Him on my instrument. Upon my knees I called Him many times; against my will I pleaded with this God in the humility and tranquillity of my soul and heart, and Him to Whom I committed my destiny and my welfare as a slave submits to his master, and oh, wonder! I immediately arose consoled and heartened. “After some time Semida fell ill. One morning, when I awoke, I was told that she had died, without great suffering, in the arms of her mother. “Deeply upset by this news, I took my child to hurry to them to bewail her together with the mourners and her mother Salome. When I came to their house, my servants could only with great difficulty force a way for me through the throng, for many mourners and a large crowd had gathered before my friends home. At that moment I saw the crowd break, offering passage to a group of men who came nearer to the house, and at whom the people looked, with great interest and reverence. In the foremost row I recognized Semidas father; but instead of the depression I expected him to wear on his face, he showed a definite expression of hope, which I could not understand. With him walked three more men dressed in coarse clothes showing the trace of poverty and giving them the appearance of simple and uneducated people, but behind them walked a man, similarly clad, and in the prime of His youth. “I raised my eyes to contemplate Him, but, as before the radiance of the sun, I had to turn them away immediately and to lower my eyes to the ground. It seemed His forehead was radiant, and His hair fell in locks on His shoulders in the manner of the Nazarenes. “I find it impossible to explain to you how I felt when I viewed Him. It was the highest agitation which I have ever experienced, for every feature in His face presented an unequaled beauty, but in this moment He inspired a certain secret fear by the glance of His eyes which, it seemed, might turn us into dust. I followed Him, without His knowing. “The door opened and I could see Semida, lying on a bed adorned with candlesticks and perfumes. She was still more beautiful in the heavenly restfulness which lay upon her but her forehead was of a pale pinkish color like the rose which had been placed on her. The finger of death had left its traces round her eyes and her concealed lips. Salome stood by her side, benumbed and almost without any feeling. It seemed that she had not even seen me. . “Semidas father threw himself at the feet of the unknown man I have just described, who went nearer to the bed of the dead and showed Him his daughter, exclaiming: O my Lord, my daughter is in the arms of death, but if it is your will, she will arise. “When I heard these words I shiver-ed. My heart ceased to beat for an unknown reason. He took Semidas hand, and turning His powerful look on her, He said, Maid, arise! “Semida rose from her bed, as if supported by an invisible hand. Her eyes opened, a tender expression of life returned again to her lips and, stretching out her hands, she called, ‘Mother!’ At this call Salome awoke. Mother and daughter embraced each other, almost broken with emotion. Jairus fell at the feet of Him whom he had called Lord. Kissing the seam of His garment, he asked, What shall I do to receive eternal life? “Love God, and men. “After these words He disappeared like a mere shadow from the world of light. I was on my knees without knowing what I did. Then I rose as from a dream, and went home, leaving a happy family in their joy ; in such a joy as it is impossible to describe. “At dinner I told Pontius what I had seen and heard. He lowered his head and said: You saw Jesus of Nazareth, the object of the hatred and contempt of the Pharisees and Sadducees, of the Herodian party, and of the dangerous and proud Levites from the temple. This hatred is increasing every day, and their only thought is how to bring Him to death. But the Nazarenes words are the words of a wise man and His miracles are really of God. “But why do they hate Him so strongly? I asked. “Because He shows up their morals and hypocrisy. I once heard Him saying to the Pharisees: “Whited sepulchers, breed of vipers, you impose heavy burdens upon your brethren, but you do not lift a finger for them. You pay the tithe with mint and cinnamon, but you are not interested in abiding by the laws, in faithful righteousness and mercy.” The meaning of these words is deep and true. He offended these proud and pompous people, and the outlook for the Nazarenes future is very dark. “But you will protect Him, isn’t that so? I exclaimed, highly indignant. “My power is too weak to oppose these rebellious and wretched people, On the other hand I would be deeply concerned should I become forced to spill the blood of this wise man. “After these words Pontius rose and went into another room, deep in thoughts. I, however, remained in indescribable sorrow and sadness. “The day of the Passover approached. On this great and, for the Hebrews, so very important a Holy Day, a great many people from all parts of Judea gathered in Jerusalem to solemnly carry the victims of the feast to the temple. The procession generally took place on Thursday. Before this Holy Day Pontius told me that the Nazarenes future was extremely insecure. A conspiracy was brewing over His head, and it might be that on this evening He would be delivered into the hands of the High Priest. I trembled when I heard these words, and I asked my husband : You will protect Him, won’t you? “Can I? replied Pontius, with a mournful expression in his face. The late, of which Plato spoke, and which he predicted would befall righteous men, will, it seems, reach also to Jesus; He will be persecuted, contemptuously treated and delivered to a cruel death.’ “The time came to retire; but when I laid my head on the pillow to find sleep, a mysterious force suddenly took possession of my mind. I saw Jesus, appearing as she had described their God. His face shone in majesty like the sun. He flew on cherub wings and a fiery flame executed His orders, and He stopped on a cloud. It appeared that He was ready to judge the people assembled before Him. With one gesture He separated the righteous from the wicked. The first. the righteous, were raised by Him to the great eternity of divine salvation, but the second the wicked were thrown in a fiery sea; in comparison with which the fires of Erebus and Phlegethon are nothing. When this heavenly judgment took place and attracted the attention of the people, He showed them His wounds with which His body was covered, and said with a terrible voice: Give me back my blood which I spilt for you! Then those unhappy men asked the rocks and the mountains of the earth to swallow and to cover them. In vain had they formerly felt secure from suffering, and in vain they protected themselves with the eternal and insurmountable illusion. They perished. What a dream, or better, what a revelation! “When the dawn came and lighted the roofs of the Temple, I arose with a heart full of fear from what I had seen, and to calm myself, sat near the window. But it seemed to me that in the center of the town sounds of shouting became audible, imprecations grew louder and louder, and this noise reached my ear like the roar of the waves of the sea. I was listening to this unintermitted uproar and my heart began to beat terribly and cold sweat streamed down my forehead. Soon the noise came nearer and nearer, and the stairs which led up to the law courts were beset with an innumerable crowd. “In deep apprehension of what might unexpectedly happen, I took my son by the hand, put a thin coat on him, and ran to my husband. When we reached the inner door leading to the court hall, I heard a noise of louder voices; I had no courage to step in, but peeped through the purple curtains. “What a spectacle, Fulvia! Pontius sat on his ivory throne, in all the majesty with which Rome adorns her representatives; and apparently showed no fear, as if it was his intention to appear thus, and to bear an intrepid expression on his face; but I could quickly understand and catch his concern. “With bound hands, and clothes torn by blows He had suffered, and with a blood-covered forehead, Jesus of Nazareth, calm and undisturbed, stood before him. No signs of bitterness or fear were noticeable on His face. He was quiet like an innocent, and peaceful like a lamb. His peacefulness struck me with terror, for in my ears still sounded the words I had heard in my dream: Give me back My blood which I have spilt for you. Around Him stood the enraged and excited crowd which had brought Him before the tribunal. The crowds of people were joined by guards and servants, Levites and Pharisees. whose eyes flamed with anger. The latter were distinguished by parchment rolls containing various texts of the laws, which they had bound to their heads. All these people burned from anger and envy, and it appeared to me that in their faces an infernal fire was shining. and that by the spirit Nina these voices had been mixed with the howling of hunted animals. “At last, after a sign given by my husband, silence was restored. What is your request? he asked. “We demand the death of this man, Jesus of Nazareth, one of the priests answered in the name of all the people. Herod sends Him to you that you may pass judgment. “Of what do you accuse Him? Of what does the gravity of His offense consist? Thereafter the echo of their fury was again to be heard. “He predicted the destruction of the Temple; He exalts Himself to the rank of the King of the Jews, to Christ, to The Son of God; He offended the Priests of Abraham’s seed, shouted the Levites. “He shall be crucified, cried the angry crowd. The echo of these vociferations is still in my ears, and the figure of the innocent victim will always stay before my eyes. “Then Pilate turned to Jesus and with altered voice asked Him, Are you King of the Jews? “You say so, answered Jesus. “Are you Christ, The Son of God? Pilate asked again. But Jesus did not answer. “The shouting began again, even louder, and their voices were like the howling of wild, hungry animals. Deliver Him to us, so that He may die on the cross! : Pontius again ordered them to be silent, and said to them : I find no guilt in this man and I acquit Him. “Deliver Him to us I Crucify Him l sounded the furious voices of the people. I could stand this ;houting no longer, so beckoned one of my servants and sent him to my husband to ask him to come to me for a few moments. “Pontius at once left the court hall and came to me. I threw myself at his feet and said: “For the sake of all that is dear to you, and for this chi1ds sake, the token of our holy matrimonial bond, do not make yourself guilty by spilling the blood of this righteous man who is so like the immortal God. I saw Him in my dream last night. He was surrounded with divine majesty. He judged mankind, who trembled before Him, and among those unhappy ones who had been thrown into the fire of hell I noticed the faces of these who exacted His death. Take care and do not raise your profane hand against Him. Oh, believe me, that a single drop of this blood may be your damnation for all eternity. “All that is happening now frightens me also, answered Pontius, but what can I do ? The number of the Roman guards is extremely small and their protecting force very weak for these demoniac people. Mishap is after us; for they do not seek right, but revenge from the courts. Be quiet, Claudia! Go with the child in the garden! Your eyes are not made to watch such a frightful spectacle. “After these words he went out and left me alone, and I shed bitter tears in my hopelessness and pity. Jesus was still the object of all the banter and beating in the courts on the part of the crowd and of rough soldiers; their passions were even more inflamed in view of His unlimited patience. “In horror Pontius returned to his throne. When the throng saw him again, they immediately started to shout their brutal demand: Put Him to death, to death!’ “Following an old custom, the governor used to set free on Easter-day a criminal sentenced to death, thus showing an example of mercy and grace. To decide this divine procedure he always referred to the people. Pontius saw in this custom a way to liberate Jesus and, in a loud voice, asked the crowd; Whom do you want me to release on this holiday, Barabbas or Jesus, called Christ ? “Set Barabbas free! shouted the crowd. “In fact, Barabbas was a robber and murderer, notorious in all the surrounding districts for the crimes he had committed. “Pontius asked again: And what shall I do with Jesus of Nazareth ? “Crucify Him! they cried. “And what evil did he do? “With ever-increasing fury they howled: He shall be crucified. “In a desperate mood Pilate bowed his head. The insolence of the crowd grew with every moment. Pilate was afraid that his authority and the Roman power, which he so strongly defended, might, be compromised by this menace. In Jerusalem he had no defense force other than his bodyguard and in addition a small number of local troops who had taken the oath of allegiance to the Roman eagle. The uproar increased every minute. I have never heard such a noise in the Circus, nor have the rows in the Forum ever given me such an impression. Nowhere was a single trace of calmness to be seen save in the face of one man only—that of the victim. “Beating, jeering, the general scorn, and the imminent death as martyr——nothing could darken His divine and radiant face. These eyes, which gave Jairus’s daughter life again, looked at His tormentors with an indescribable expression of peace and love. Oh, beyond any doubt, He suffered, but He suffered gladly, and His soul seemed to me to be carried to invisible heights as a consuming pure flame. “The hall in -the courts was crowded, and looked like a foaming stream whose waters increased by an influx, beginning at the mount Zion, where the Temple stood, and flowing down to the Praetorium; and every minute new voices joined in this hellish choir. My husband, weary and under compulsion, was forced at last to yield. Oh, the fateful hour had come. “Pontius rose. Doubt and deadly fear were written in his face. He washed his hands in water from a basin and, per- forming this symbolic gesture, he said: “I am not guilty of the blood of this righteous man. “His blood be on us and on our children! roared the unhappy and mad people who swarmed round Jesus. “The hangmen, like butchers, caught Him. My eyes followed the victim, who was led to be slaughtered. “Suddenly my eyes grew dim as a sequence to my heavy heart-beats, and I felt as if my life had come to an end. “My maid-servants caught me by the hand and led me to the window which opened on to the court of the tribunal. I leaned out of the opening and saw the traces of spilt blood. Here they have beaten Jesus with a scourge, one of my servants said. “The other continued : “There they have crowned him with a wreath of thorns. “The soldiers jeered at Him, called Him king of the Jews. and slapped his face. Now, He breathes His last, remarked the third servant. Each of these words pierced my heart like a knife. The details of this terribly unjust act increased the suffering and tortures which filled my heart. I felt that on this unhappy day a supernatural event would occur. It seemed to me that even the heavens shared my sorrow, and that they suite-red as my own heart did. Heavy dark and threatening clouds in various shapes scudded over the sky, and lightning came from the colliding clouds, followed by the unreal echo of deep thunder. “After so much uproar the town became suddenly calm, as if in thought, and a deadly silence pervaded it, as if death had covered it with its dark wings. An anxiety I had never before felt forced my eyes in one direction. At the ninth hour of the day it began to darken in the court, and the fog became thicker and thicker. I lifted my child to my breast, and suddenly a heavy earthquake started, shaking the whole earth. One would have thought that the end of the world was near or that the universe returned to its original chaos. I fell on the floor. At this time one of my maid-servants, a Jewess by birth, came to my room; pale, desperate and with frightened eyes she cried: “Doomsday has arrived. God tells us this by these miracles. The curtain which hides the Holy of Holies in the holy Temple has been torn from top to bottom in two parts. Woe to the holy abode!” “Rumors went that many graves opened and many people saw righteous men, who long before had passed away, come to life again: prophets and priests from the time of Zachariah who was killed in the temple. down to Jeremiah, who predicted Zions fall, arose from the graves. “These dead foretold the wrath of God. The punishment of the Almighty came down like a flame. When I heard these words I seemed to lose my reason. I rose and m feet would hardly drag me along. I went to the stairs, and here I met the centurion who was present at the crucifixion of Jesus. He had participated in seven wars, was brave and hardened by many fights with German and other peoples. Never has there been a heart so daring and fearless as that of this warrior. But in this time he was overwhelmed, wearied by witnessing sufferings, and repentant. I wanted to ask him for more details of the happenings. but he passed by, saying, He whom we killed was really the Son of God. “I went into the great hall. There sat Pontius, his face covered with his hands. When I entered he raised his Head and exclaimed in desperation: O Claudia, why did I not follow your advice? My gloomy heart shall never feel any joy. Why could I not save with my own life that of the wise man. “I did not dare answer him. I could find no words to appease him and to relieve him from the distress which would be imposed on our house for ever. Our deadly silence was disturbed by a thunderstroke resounding through the corridors of the palace. Paying no heed to the fury of the thunderstorm, an old man came to our residence. He was led to us, and throwing himself at the feet of my husband, he said with tears in his eyes: I am Joseph of Arimathea, and I come to ask your permission to take Jesus body from the cross and to bury Him in my burial ground. “Go and take Him! answered Pilate, speaking to the petitioner without even so much as raising his head. The old man went away. and I noticed that some women, clothed in long garments, rose when he came to the gate, and joined him. “Thus ended this fateful day. Jesus was buried in a cavern, hewn out of rock, at the entrance of which a guard was posted. “But, O Fulvia, on the third day He showed Himself in this town, victorious and surrounded with majesty and radiance. “He had risen again. He fulfilled His prophecy and victoriously overcame death; first He showed Himself to His disciples and friends, and then to the people. To this His disciples testified, and confirmed their testimony with their own blood, and carried the words of the Lord Jesus before the thrones of the great and the judges. For the faithful testimony to His teaching some fishermen from Tiberias were arrested. This Gospel spread over the whole empire. Owing to their sweet and powerful words, these simple men suddenly became famous and renowned. This new faith grew like the plant out of a mustard seed, as the true root of a fruit-bearing tree which should supersede all other roots, that is to say the false religions and the Roman grandeur. “From this day on, all went ill for my husband. He was accused by the Senate and even by the Emperor Tiberius for the actions which he took, for the Emperor hated the Jews. Suspicious even of those to whose demand he had yielded, his life became poisoned with torment. Salome and Semida looked at me with fear, for they saw in me always the wife of the persecutor and hunter of their Lord. They had become followers of Him who had returned the daughter to the mother, and the mother to the daughter. I found with them—instead oi kindness and welcome—distrust, which kept them trembling, and I immediately ceased my visits. In this time of my loneliness I took up continuous studies of some of Jesus moral teachings, which had been given me by Salome, and which she carefully followed. “O my dear friend, how empty and insignificant is the wisdom of our great teachers, compared with the doctrine which God Himself promised to send to us! Oh, how profound are these wise words and how much peace and mercy are to be found in them! My only consolation consists in reading them again and again. “After a few months Pontius was dismissed from his authoritative post. We were forced to return to Europe wandering from town to town. Together with his humiliation and sorrow he bore his spiritual desperation wherever he went in the Empire. I went with him, but what was my life with him? The cheerful bonds of family life had long ceased to exist between us—in my person he always saw a live witness who reminded him of his crime. And I saw through him the image and the cross, stained with the blood of Him whom he, as an unhappy and lawless judge, had sentenced to death. I had not the courage to raise my eyes to him and to look in his.- The sound of his words, his voice, with which he had pronounced his judgment, pierced and wounded my heart. And when he washed his hands after the meal, it seemed to me as if he washed them not in clear water, but in warm blood, the traces of which could not effaced. “Once I tried to speak to him of repentance and remorse for sins committed, but I shall never forget his wild glance and the bitter words of desperation with which he answered. “Some time later my child died in my arms. but I could not cry for him. – He was lucky: he had the good luck to escape the curse with followed us everywhere, and to have the terrible burden of his parents name released from his shoulders. Mishap followed us continuously, for in all places were Christians. Even in this wild country surrounded by the shores of the sea, and full of stoop rocks-where we sought protection, even here we can hear the indignation with which people mention the name of my husband. “The emissaries who preach Jesus doctrines have inserted in the comments on their faith also the words: He was crucified by order of Pontius Pilate a terrible curse which will continue through all ages. “Forgive me, Fulvia! Bewail me and pray for me! The righteous God may help you, and may He give you all the happiness which we wish each other. Excuse me!”

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