Coals from the fire of the Lord
One early spring morning with a jug on her shoulder, in wicker sandals on her bare feet, a girl of about 15-16 made her way to the source along a narrow winding road, which to this day connects the complex maze of Levantine villages. In the provincial Nazareth, this source was the only one, so even for those 250, and maybe 300 families that were found here, there was hardly enough drinking water. Probably, she was in a hurry to get ahead of other housewives in order to scoop up not yet cloudy moisture. There was no one at the source. Miriam leaned over a wide stone, behind which a clear stream gurgled, and extended a jug to it, but then the unimaginable happened: it seemed that thunder had struck out of the blue. From a cloud of light a voice was heard – not male, not female, but one that you cannot describe with the words: “Rejoice, gracious! The Lord is with Thee, blessed are You between the wives … ”Probably, the girl dropped the vessel. Perhaps she even threw herself face down on the ground, thinking that her death had come … When she woke up, she rushed along the street now called by her name Maria Street, back home, and, presumably, she sat down to catch her breath. But they failed to gather their thoughts: the superhuman voice, the voice of the archangel Gabriel himself announced that she should give birth to the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Since this all started. One way or something like this could develop events on the day of the Annunciation, if we proceed from the apocryphal gospel of James. Rather, if we translate this Gospel into the language of living pictures, in which each person could and can “participate” two thousand years ago, today and always. Indeed, human nature, according to philosophers and psychologists, does not change. And all the characters of the Sacred History, except the Nazarene himself, were just people. These people were characterized by weaknesses and virtues, they were engaged in everyday affairs, about them, as about us today, neighbors gossiped. They lived in cities, many of which exist to this day. They walked the roads, only in the twentieth century chained in asphalt. In any Israeli restaurant you will now be served with a claw, or amnon (one of the types of tilapia), “St. Peter’s fish”, which is found only in the Sea of Galilee. You can easily catch a slow locust in the Judean desert, and if you overcome natural disgust, you can eat it just like John the Baptist did it day after day. Relax after a tiring climb uphill under the olive tree of Gethsemane. Look from the mountain of Temptation “all the kingdoms of the earth”, which the devil offered to Christ for refusing to save mankind … The opportunity to brightly “revive” the gospel events is partly due to those who in one way or another tried to undermine religious dogma in the 19th century: positivist historians. The “apostles” of the new school with its comparative analysis of sources, dating of archaeological finds, decoding of forgotten alphabets and other methods could not resist the temptation to compile a secular biography of the “prophet from Galilee” … And it turned out that many details of the Holy History are at least questionable. What, perhaps, everything was wrong … But how? It turned out to be as difficult to investigate as fascinating, since Christian teaching is extremely material (in the parables of Jesus, olive always means olive, and the prodigal son means the prodigal son), and at the same time it is often not concrete (the Lord then “ascends the mountain” , then “sends the disciples to the gate”, but which and to which is not clear). Hence, in particular, the discrepancies in the identification of holy places. Hence the inexhaustible interest in the reconstruction of New Testament events. And a lot of questions that are not, and there can be no final answer. For example: Where was Christ born? Contrary to the passionate assurances of professional Israeli guides, who themselves don’t show a nose in the Palestinian territories, there is nothing to fear from peaceful travelers there. In any case, on Christmas night in the middle of the city of Bet-Lehem, otherwise – Bethlehem. Moreover, this time for the first time after five years of intifada, the Palestinian Authority authorities made some compromises. And even they themselves invited the pilgrims to Bethlehem, guaranteeing them safety … I must say, they kept their word. Even, perhaps, they overdid it: by the number of metal detectors, young people in green uniforms and with shepherd dogs, the local temple surpassed even Ben Gurion Airport that night. The Church of the Nativity of Christ, near which the people crowded, is the only genuine Byzantine church in the entire Holy Land. Apparently, out of respect for one of the most sacred events of Christian history, both Arabs and Persians spared her (one of the magi on the facade, fortunately, “appeared” in Persian clothing), and even the crusaders, who used to rebuild all the Greek churches they met on their own okay. Of course, Catholics could not help but “celebrate” on the promised land – the Franciscan abbey adjoins the Orthodox sanctuary wall to wall. Indoors, it is reported that, alas, everywhere in Palestine, it generates endless litigation and controversy.