Mary’s Entrance into the Temple and her Offering
Zachary and the other men had already gone to the Temple, and now Mary was led thither by the women and the virgins. Anne and her elder daughter Mary Heli, with the little daughter of the latter, Mary Cleophas, walked first; then came Mary in her second suit, the sky-blue dress and mantle, her neck and arms adorned with garlands, and the flower wreathed candlestick in her hand. On either side walked three little maidens with similarly trimmed candlesticks. They were dressed in white embroidered with gold, and wore bluish mantles. They were quite covered with garlands, even their arms were twined with flowers. Then followed the other virgins and little girls, about twenty in number, all dressed beautifully, but somewhat differently though all wore mantles. Then came the elderly females. They could not proceed straight to the Temple from this point; they had to take a circuitous route of nearly half an hour. They passed through some streets and before Veronica’s house. From many of the dwellings the procession was saluted, the spectators gazing in wonder at the child and her beautiful train of attendants. There was something very extraordinary in Mary’s appearance. At the Temple, men were busy opening a large and wonderfully beautiful gate upon which were carved grapevines, ears of wheat, and heads of various kinds. It was the Golden Gate. The priests led the Holy Virgin up numerous steps to this gate. Joachim and Zachary met them at the gate, which opened into a long archway, and led them through several passages into a hall. Here Mary was again questioned by the priests, after which she was clothed in the third holiday suit, the violet-blue, embroidered one.
And now Joachim went with the priests to offer sacrifice. He took fire from a certain place and stood between two priests at the altar. The approach to the altar from three sides was free, but not so on the fourth. At the four corners of the altar, stood small copper pillars and a pipe of the same metal, shaped like a large inverted funnel, which ended in a spiral tube. By this arrangement the smoke from the burning sacrifice rose and escaped over the head of the priest. On three sides of the altar a shelf could be drawn out to receive what was to be laid on the middle of it, since to reach that far would be impossible.
When the sacrifice was kindled, Mary went with the women and children to her place of prayer in the women’s porch, where she and her young companions stood in the front row. The porch was separated from the court of the altar of burnt offerings by a wall, in which was a gate with a grating above. Through this gate Joachim entered the subterranean passage when, upon the day of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, he met Anne under the Golden Gate. The women back in the court could see the altar better, when mounted on steps raised in tiers. In another court was standing a crowd of white-robed boys belonging to the Temple, playing upon flutes and harps.
After the sacrifice, a portable altar was set up under the arched gateway, and before it were placed a couple of steps. Zachary and Joachim, with some priests and two Levites, entered from the court of the altar of burnt offerings, carrying rolls and writing materials, while Anne led Mary to the steps before the altar. Mary knelt upon the steps, while Joachim and Anne, laying their hands on her head, uttered some words bearing reference to the offering of their child, which words were written down by the two Levites. Then one of the priests cut a lock of hair from the child’s head, and cast it upon a pan of live coals, after which he threw around her a brown veil. During this ceremony, the girls sang 44, the priests, 49, and the boys played on their musical instruments.
And now the priests led the Holy Virgin up a long flight of steps in the wall that separated the sanctuary from the rest of the Temple. They stood her in something like a niche, from which she could see into the Temple where were ranged numbers of men who seemed to be consecrated to its service. Two priests stood at Mary’s side, and several others on the steps praying and reading aloud from rolls. Behind Mary and on the other side of the wall, a priest was standing at the altar of incense, only half of his person visible from the point at which Mary and her attendants were placed. Through an opening contrived for the purpose, one could cast incense upon the altar without entering the court. The priest now at the incense altar was a holy old man. While he offered sacrifice and the cloud of incense arose around Mary, I saw a vision, which grew in magnitude until at last it filled the whole Temple and obscured it.
I saw above the heart of Mary the glory and the Mystery of the Ark of the Covenant. At first it looked exactly like the Ark of the Covenant; and lastly like the Temple itself. Out of the Mystery and before Mary’s breast, arose a chalice similar to that of the Last Supper; above it and just in front of her mouth appeared bread marked with a cross. Beams of light radiated around her, and in them shone her various types and symbols. The mysterious pictures of the Litany of Loretto and the other names and titles of Mary, I saw ranged up the whole flight of steps and around her.
From her shoulders, right and left, stretched an olive and a cedar branch crosswise above an elegant palm tree with a small tuft of leaves that stood directly behind her. In the intervening spaces of this verdant cross, appeared all the instruments of Christ’s Passion. Over the vision hovered the Holy Spirit, a figure winged with glory, in appearance more human than dovelike. The heavens opened above Mary and the central point of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the City of God, floated over her with all the gardens, the palaces, and the dwellings of the future saints. Angels in myriads hovered around, and the glory that encircled her was full of angelic faces.
Ah, who can express it! Infinite variety, unceasing change, all these pictures following quickly upon and, as it were, growing out of one another. Innumerable points of this vision, I have forgotten. All the splendor and magnificence of the Temple, the richly ornamented wall before which Mary was standing—all grew dark and somber. The whole Temple disappeared, for Mary and her glory alone was visible.
In this vision, symbolical of Mary’s spiritual signification, I saw her not as a child, but full-grown. She hovered in the air. And through and through the vision, I still saw the priests, the incense offering, and everything else. Then the priest at the altar appeared to prophesy, and to call upon the people to thank God and to pray, for that great things were to come upon the child. The crowd in the Temple, greatly awed—although they had not seen the vision that I saw—maintained a solemn stillness. The vision faded away just as gradually as it had unfolded. At last, the Mystery of the Ark of the Covenant shone again in its glory over her heart, and the child once more stood there alone in her rich attire.
Then the priests, among whom Zachary was one of those standing on the lower steps, led Mary down by the hand. One of them took the light from her and the little garlands off her arms, and handed them to the other girls. Mary was then led through a door into another hall where six other Temple virgins, their mistress Noemi, (who was the sister of Lazarus’s mother) Anna, and another female met them and scattered flowers before her. To them the priest delivered the child.
When the singing was ended, Mary look leave of her parents. Joachim was especially affected. He took the little child up in his arms, pressed her to his heart, and said weeping: “Remember my soul before God.”
Mary now accompanied the women and children belonging to the Temple to their dwelling on the north side, from which passages and winding stairs led up to little chambers adjoining the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies, where they went to pray. The others (that is, Mary’s relatives and friends) returned to the apartments near the entrance, and took a repast with the priests, the women apart. There were still in the Temple some devout adorers. Many had followed the procession to the entrance. There were numbers among those present who knew that Mary was a child of promise in her family. I remember, though not distinctly, that Anne had dropped some such expressions to her friends as: “Now does the vessel of the Promise enter the Temple. Now is the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple.” It was by a special manifestation of the Divine Will that this feast was so solemnly and magnificently celebrated.
Joachim and Anne were indeed wealthy, but they lived very frugally. They gave all to the Temple and to the poor. I do not now remember how long it was that Anne took for herself nothing but cold victuals, but she treated her domestics generously and provided them with dowries. I think she and Joachim returned that same day with their whole company to Bethoron.
I saw also a feast among the Temple children. They had a meal at which Mary had to question first the mistresses and then the maidens separately as to whether they were willing to have her among them. This was the custom. Then the girls had a dance among themselves. They stood two and two opposite one another and danced, changed places across, and formed figures in and out. There was no leaping, but certain swaying movements of the whole person, which seemed somewhat expressive of the Jewish character. Some of the girls accompanied the dance with the music of flutes, triangles, chimes, and an instrument that gave forth sounds at once strange and agreeable. It consisted of a little box with oblique sides, over which were stretched strings which the players touched with their fingers. The center of the box contained bellows out of which projected several pipes, some crooked, others straight. The performer pressed sometimes here, sometimes there on the center of the bellows which mingled its sounds with those of the strings. The instrument was rested either upon the knee of the performer, or upon a stool under which the knee was placed. In the evening, Noemi took Mary to her cell, from which she could see down into the Temple. Here Mary mentioned to Noemi her desire to get up more frequently in the night to pray, but Noemi refused her request for the present. The women belonging to the Temple wore white robes, long and wide, girdled at the waist. Their flowing sleeves were turned up when at work.
Far back in the Temple were numerous chambers built in the wall and connected with the dwellings of the women. Mary’s cell was one of the most distant, one nearest the Holy of Holies. From the passage that led to it, one raised a curtain and stepped into an apartment, a sort of antechamber separated from the cell by a light, semicircular, movable screen. Here in the corners right and left, were shelves for clothing and other things. Opposite the door in the screen that led into the cell was an opening hung with gauze and tapestry, and looking down into the Temple. It was rather high in the wall; one had to mount upon steps to reach it. On the left of the cell, lay a cover rolled into a bundle, which Mary unrolled at night for a couch. A branched lamp stood in a niche of the wall. I saw the holy child standing on a stool near it and praying out of a roll with red knobs on the rod. It was indeed a touching sight. The child wore a little coarsely woven, striped dress, blue and white, with yellow flowers. A small round table like a stool stood in the room, and on it I saw Anna setting a dish of fruit the size of beans, and a little jug. The child was skillful far beyond her years. She could already work on little white cloths for the service of the Temple. The wall of her cell was inlaid with colored, triangular stones.
I often saw the child Mary seized with holy longing for the Messiah and saying to Anna: “Oh, will the promised Child be born soon? Oh, if I could only see that Child! Oh, if only I am living when He is born!” Then Anna would give this reply: “Think how old I am and how long I have waited for that Child! And you—you are still so young!” And Mary would shed tears of longing for the promised Saviour.
The maidens reared in the Temple under the care of the matrons occupied themselves with embroidery, with all kinds of ornamental work, and with cleansing the priestly garments and the vessels belonging to the Temple. From their cells, they could see into the Temple, pray and meditate. They were, by the fact of their parents’ having placed them there, entirely dedicated to the Lord. Upon reaching a certain age, they were given in marriage, for there was among the more enlightened Israelites the pious, though secret hope that from such a virgin dedicated to God, the Messiah would be born.
I never saw that Herod built the Temple anew. Under him there were indeed many changes made in it; but at the time of Mary’s entrance, eleven years before the Birth of Christ, the Temple itself had not been touched. The additions and changes had been made as heretofore on the outbuildings alone.
A Glance at the Obduracy of the Pharisees
How obdurate and obstinate the priests and the Pharisees of the Temple were, may be discovered from the small esteem in which they held the distinctions bestowed upon the Holy Family.
First Joachim’s offering was rejected; but after some months both his own and his wife’s were, by God’s command, received. Joachim was admitted even into the presence of the Holy of Holies and he, as well as Anne, was—though unknown to each other—led into the passage under the Temple. There they met, Mary was conceived, and priests awaited them at the entrance of this cave under the Temple—all that took place by God’s command. I have seen that sometimes, though not often, the sterile were commanded to be led in there.
Mary entered the Temple in her fourth year, and in all things was she distinguished and remarkable. The sister of Lazarus’s mother was her teacher and nurse. Her whole manner of acting was so remarkable, so marvelous, that I have seen great rolls written by aged priests about her. I think they still lie hidden with other writings.
Then came the wonderful manifestations at Joseph’s espousals and the blossoming of his rod, the accounts of the Three Kings and of the shepherds, the Presentation of Jesus, Anna’s and Simeon’s testimony, and the teaching of Jesus at the age of twelve in the Temple.
But all this, the priests and Pharisees noticed not. Their mind was preoccupied by business and court affairs. Because the Holy Family lived in voluntary retirement and poverty, they were forgotten in the crowd. The more enlightened, however, such as Simeon, Anna, and others, knew of them.
But when Jesus appeared and John bore witness to Him, the teaching of the Pharisees was so directly contradictory that, even if the signs of His coming had not been forgotten by them, they would certainly not have made them known. Herod’s reign and the Roman yoke had so involved them in quarrels and intrigues that their taste for spiritual things was weakened. They did not esteem John’s testimony, and they soon forgot him after he was beheaded. They cared little for the teaching and miracles of Jesus, and their ideas of the Prophets and the Messiah were altogether erroneous. It is not surprising, therefore, that they so shamefully treated Jesus, and put Him to death, that they disavowed His Resurrection, the wonderful signs that followed it, and even the fulfillment of His prophecy respecting the destruction of Jerusalem. Nor is it to be wondered at that they neglected the signs that heralded His advent, since He had not at that time either taught or wrought miracles. Were the blindness, the obduracy of these men not so incomprehensibly great, could it have lasted even to this day?
When I go over the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem of the present day, I frequently see under a certain ruined building a large vault, or many adjoining vaults, which are partly fallen in and filled with water. Standing in the midst of the water, which rises almost to a level with it, is a table. From the center of the table to the roof of the vault, rises a pillar around which are hung little coffers filled with rolls of writings. Under the table also I saw rolls lying in the water. Perhaps these vaults were once burial places. They lie under Mount Calvary. I think the ruined building is the house wherein Pilate once dwelt, and the treasure will after some time be discovered.
John Promised to Zachary
I saw Zachary conversing with Elizabeth. He was telling her how sad he was because his turn to offer sacrifice in the Temple was drawing near, and how he dreaded the contempt that would there await him on account of his being childless. Zachary went twice a year to the Temple. He did not live at Hebron itself, but at a place called Juta about fifteen minutes’ walk from Hebron. The ruins of former buildings still lay between the two places, leading one to fancy that they had once been connected. Many such ruins were to be found on the other side of Hebron, for the place was once as large as Jerusalem. At Hebron dwelt priests of a lower degree; in Juta, those of a higher rank. Zachary seemed to be the Superior of them all. He and Elizabeth were regarded with extraordinary veneration from the fact of both having descended in a direct line from the race of Aaron.
I saw Zachary with many people of this locality, going to a little property that he owned in the neighborhood of Juttah. It consisted of a house, an orchard, and a spring. I saw him there also with the Holy Family at the time of Mary’s Visitation. At the period of which I am speaking, Zachary was teaching the people and praying with them. It seemed to be a preparation for a feast. He told them of his great dejection, and of his presentiment that something remarkable was going to happen to him.
Again I saw Zachary with the same people going to Jerusalem, where he had to wait four days before his turn to sacrifice came round. Until that time, he prayed in the forepart of the Temple. At last when his turn came, he went into the sanctuary outside the entrance to the Holy of Holies. The roof over the altar of incense was opened so that the sky could be seen. The priest offering sacrifice was not visible to those outside. A partition concealed him, but the smoke of the incense could be seen rising. I think Zachary told the other priests that he must be left alone, for I saw them leaving the sanctuary. Zachary went into the Holy of Holies where it was dark. It appeared to me that he took the Tables of the Law out of the Ark of the Covenant, and laid them upon the golden altar of incense.
When he kindled the incense, I saw to the right of the altar a light coming down on him and in it a luminous figure. Zachary, frightened, stepped back and sank, as if in ecstasy, at the right side of the altar. The angel raised him up and spoke some words to him. Zachary replied. Then I saw something like a ladder let down from Heaven, and two angels ascending and descending to him. One took something from him; but the other—after Zachary had opened his garment—inserted a shining little body in his side. Zachary had become dumb. I saw him before leaving the Holy of Holies, writing on a little tablet that lay there. This tablet he sent at once to Elizabeth, who likewise had had a vision at that same hour.
I saw that the people outside were troubled and anxious on account of Zachary’s remaining so long in the sanctuary. They were even moving toward the door to open it, when Zachary replaced the Tables in the Ark and came forth. The crowd questioned him about his long stay in the sanctuary. He tried to answer, but could not. He signified to them by signs that he had become dumb, and went away. Zachary was a tall and exceedingly majestic old man.
THE MOST HOLY INCARNATION
Mary Espoused to St. Joseph
Joseph was the third of six brothers. His parents dwelt in a large mansion outside of Bethlehem. It was the ancient birthplace of David, but in Joseph’s time only the principal walls were in existence. His father’s name was Jacob. In front of the house was a large courtyard, or garden. In it was a stone spring house built over a spring whose waters gushed forth out of faucets, each of which represented some animal’s head. The garden was enclosed by walls and surrounded by covered walks of trees and shrubbery.
The lower story of the dwelling had a door, but no windows. In the upper story there were circular openings, over which ran around the whole top of the house a broad gallery with four little pavilions capped by cupolas. From these cupolas, a view far into the surrounding country was afforded. David’s palace in Jerusalem was provided with similar towers and cupolas. It was out of one of them that he saw Bethsabee. Above the center of the flat roof arose another smaller story, likewise crowned by a tower and cupola.
Joseph and his brothers occupied that last story with an aged Jew, their preceptor. The latter occu-pied the highest room in the story, while the brothers slept in one chamber, their sleeping places separated from one another by mats, which in the daytime were rolled up against the walls. I have seen them playing up there, each in his own separate space. They had toys shaped like animals, like little pugs. Their preceptor gave them all sorts of strange instructions that I could not understand. He laid sticks on the ground in various figures and stood the boys in them. The latter stepped into other figures which they had formed by rearranging the sticks. They laid sticks also in various positions, as if for measurement. I saw too the father and mother of the boys. They did not appear to trouble themselves much about their children, for they paid very little attention to them. They, the parents, appeared to me to be neither good nor bad.
Joseph was perhaps eight years old. He was very different from his brothers, very talented, and he learned quickly; but he was simple in his tastes, gentle, pious, and unambitious. The other boys used to play him all kinds of tricks and knock him around at will. They had little enclosed gardens, at whose entrance there stood on pillars covered images like swaddled infants. I often saw similar figures on the curtains of oratories, those of Anne and the Blessed Virgin, for instance. The only difference was that Mary’s picture held in its arms a chalice above which something arose. In Joseph’s parental home these images were like swathed infants with round faces environed by rays of light. There were many such pictures in Jerusalem, especially in the olden times, and also among the decorations of the Temple. I have seen them in Egypt also; and among the idols that Rachel purloined from her father, were similar figures though smaller. Many of the Jews had swathed puppets like them lying in little chests and baskets. They were intended to represent the child Moses in his little basket, and the swathing signified the binding power of the Law. When gazing at these figures, I used to think: The Jews honored the little image of the child Moses, but we have the images of the Child Jesus.
In the boys’ little gardens grew bushes, small trees, and plants. I saw that his brothers often slyly trod down and tore up the plants in Joseph’s little garden. They always treated him roughly, but he bore all patiently. Sometimes, when kneeling in prayer in the colonnade that ran around the courtyard, his face turned to the wall, his brothers would push him over. Once I saw one of them, when Joseph was thus praying, kick him in the back; but Joseph appeared not to notice it. The other repeated his blows, until at last Joseph fell to the ground. Then I saw that he had been absorbed in God. But he did not revenge himself; he merely turned away quietly and sought another secluded spot.
Outside and adjoining the garden wall, were some small, low dwellings. In them dwelt two elderly, veiled females, as is often the case near the schools. They were servants. I saw them carrying water into the house. The domestic arrangements were similar to those of Joachim and Anne’s house, the beds rolled up and wicker partitions before them. I often saw Joseph’s brothers talking with the servant maids and helping them in their work; but Joseph never interchanged words with them; he was always very reserved. I think there were also some daughters in the family.
Joseph’s parents were not well-satisfied with him. They would have wished him, on account of his talents, to fit himself for a position in the world. But he was too unworldly for such aims, he had no desire whatever to shine. He may have been about twelve years old when I often saw him beyond Bethlehem opposite the Crib Cave, praying with some very pious, old, Jewish women. They had an oratory hidden in a vault. I do not know whether these women were relatives of Joseph or not; I think that they were connected with Anne. Joseph often went to them in his troubles and shared their devotions. Sometimes he dwelt in their neighborhood with a master car-penter, to whom he lent a helping hand. The carpenter taught him his trade, and Joseph found his geometry of use. The hostility of his brothers at last went so far that, when eighteen, Joseph fled from his father’s house by night. A friend, who lived outside of Bethlehem, had brought him clothes in which to make his escape. I saw him in Lebona carrying on carpentry. He worked for his living in a very poor family. The man supported himself by making such rough wicker partitions as those Joseph knew how to put together. The latter humbly assisted the family as far as he could. I saw him gathering wood and carrying it to the house. His parents, in the meantime, believed that he had been kidnapped; but his brothers discovered him, and then he was again persecuted. Joseph, however, would not leave the poor people nor desist from the humble occupation of which his family was ashamed. I saw him afterward in another place (Thanach). There he did better work for a well-to-do family. Though a small place, it had a synagogue. Joseph lived very piously and humbly, loved and esteemed by all. At last he worked for a man in Tiberias, at which place he lived alone near the water.
Joseph’s parents were long since dead, and his brothers scattered; only two of them still dwelt in Bethlehem. The paternal mansion had passed into other hands, and the whole family had rapidly declined. Joseph was deeply pious; he prayed much for the coming of the Messiah. I noticed, too, his great reserve in the presence of females. Shortly before his call to Jerusalem for his espousals with Mary, he entertained the idea of fitting up a more secluded oratory in his dwelling. But an angel appeared to him in prayer, and told him not to do it; that, as in ancient times, the Patriarch Joseph became by God’s appointment the administrator of the Egyptian granaries, so now to him was the granary of Redemption to be wedded. In his humility Joseph could not comprehend the meaning of this and so he betook himself to prayer. At last he was summoned to Jerusalem to be espoused to the Blessed Virgin.
There were seven other virgins who were with Mary to be dismissed from the Temple and given in marriage. On this account St. Anne went to Jerusalem to be with Mary, who grieved at the thought of leaving the Temple. But she was told that she must be married. I saw one of the distinguished old priests, who was no longer able to walk, borne into the Holy of Holies. An incense offering was enkindled. The priest prayed sitting before a roll of writings, and in vision his hand was placed upon that verse in the Prophet Isaias ( 11:1) in which it is written that there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse and a flower shall rise up out of his root. Thereupon I saw that all the unmarried men in the country of the House of David were summoned to the Temple. Many of them made their appearance in holiday attire, and Mary was conducted to their presence. I saw one among them, a very pious youth from the region of Bethlehem, who had always ardently prayed to be allowed to minister to the advent of the Messiah. Great was his desire to wed Mary. But Mary wept; she wished not to take a husband. Then the high priest gave to each of the suitors a branch which was to be held in the hand during the offering of prayer and sacrifice. After that, all the branches were laid in the Holy of Holies with the understanding that he whose branch should blossom, was to be Mary’s husband. Now when that youth who so ardently desired to wed Mary found that this branch, along with all the others, had failed to blossom, he retired to a hall outside the Temple and, with arms raised to God, wept bitterly. The other suitors left the Temple, and that youth hurried to Mount Carmel where, since the days of Elias, hermits had dwelt. He took up his abode on the mount, and there spent his days in prayer for the coming of the Messiah.
I saw the priests, after this, hunting through different rolls of writing in their search for another descendant of the House of David, one that had not presented himself among the suitors for Mary’s hand. And there they found that, among the six brothers of Bethlehem, one was unknown and ignored. They sought him out and so discovered Joseph’s retreat, six miles from Jerusalem, near Samaria. It was a small place on a little river. There Joseph dwelt alone in a humble house near the water, and carried on the trade of a carpenter under another master. He was told to go up to the Temple. He went, accordingly, arrayed in his best. A branch was given him. As he was about to lay it upon the altar, it blossomed on top into a white flower like a lily. At the same time I saw a light like the Holy Spirit hovering over him. He was then led to Mary, who was in her cham-ber, and she accepted him as her spouse.
The espousals took place, I think, upon our 23rd of January. They were celebrated in Jerusalem, on Mount Zion in a house often used for such feasts. The seven virgins that were to leave the Temple with Mary, had already departed. They were recalled to accompany Mary on her festal journey to Nazareth, where Anne had already prepared her little home. The marriage feast lasted seven or eight days. The women and the virgins, companions of Mary in the Temple, were present, also many relatives of Joachim and Anne, and two daughters from Gophna. Many lambs were slaughtered and offered in sacrifice.
I have had a clear vision of Mary in her bridal dress. She wore a colored, woolen under dress with-out sleeves, her arms encircled by white, woolen fillets. On the breast and as high as the neck, lay a white collar ornamented with jewels, pearls, etc. Then came a kind of gown open in front, wide like a mantle from top to bottom, and with flowing sleeves. This gown was blue, embroidered with large red, white, and yellow roses and green leaves, something like the ancient vestments worn at Mass. It fastened around the neck on the white collar, and the lower border was edged with fringes and tassels. Over this was a kind of scapular of white-and gold-flowered silk, set over the breast with pearls and shining stones. It lay upon the front opening of the dress, and reached to the edge of the same; it was about one-half an ell wide and was fringed with tassels and balls. A corresponding strip hung down the back, while shorter and narrower ones fell over the shoulders and arms. These lappets were caught under the arms from front to back with the gold cords, or delicate chains, with which the broad upper piece of the bodice was fastened, as also the breast piece that was placed over the upper body. By this arrangement, the flowered stuff of the dress was puffed out between the cords. The wide sleeves were tightly fastened in the middle of the upper and the lower arm by buckles, puffing out around the shoulders, the elbows, and the wrists.
Over this costume fell a long sky-blue mantle. It was fastened at the neck by an ornament, and over it was a white ruffle seemingly of feathers or silk dots. The mantle fell back from the shoulders, forming a large fold on the sides, and hung behind in a pointed train. It was embroidered around the edge in flowers of gold.
Mary’s hair was arranged with such skill as is difficult to describe. It was parted on top of the head and divided into numerous fine strands, which were caught together with pearls and white silk. It formed a large net that fell over the shoulders and down the back to the middle of the mantle. It looked like a web. The ends of the hair were rolled in, and the whole net edged with fringe and pearls.
On her head was placed, first a wreath of white raw silk or wool, closing on top with three bands of the same meeting in a tuft. On this rested a crown about the breadth of one’s hand, set with many colored jewels. Three pieces arose from the circlet and met together in the center, where they were surmounted by a ball.
In her left hand Mary carried a little garland of red and white roses made of silk, and in the right a beautiful candlestick covered with gold. It had no foot, but was furnished like a scepter with knobs above and below the point at which it was to be grasped by the hand. The stem began to swell out in the middle and ended in a little dish upon which burned a white flame.
On her feet she wore heavy sandals about two fingers in thickness under which, before and behind, was a support like a heel. They were green, and gave the foot the appearance of standing upon sods. Two straps, white and gold, went over the foot and held them in their place.
The virgins at the Temple arranged Mary’s skillfully woven hairnet. I saw them thus engaged. There were many busied with it, and the work went more swiftly than one could imagine.
Anne brought all the beautiful clothes, but Mary was so modest that it was only with reluctance that she allowed herself to be arrayed in them.
After the nuptial ceremony, her braided hair was wound around her head, a milk-white veil reaching up to the elbows thrown over her, and the crown placed upon it.
The Blessed Virgin had auburn hair, dark eyebrows, fine and arched, a very high forehead, large downcast eyes with long, dark lashes, a straight nose, delicate and rather long, a lovely mouth around which played a most noble expression, and a pointed chin. She was of medium height, and she moved very gently and gravely, looking very bashful in her rich attire. After the marriage feast, she wore another dress. It was striped and less magnificent than the one described. I have a scrap of it among my relics. This striped dress she wore at Cana and on other holy occasions. She wore her wedding suit once again in the Temple.
The very wealthy among the Jews changed their dress three or four times during a marriage feast. Mary in her magnificent apparel presented an appearance somewhat similar to the richly adorned women of a much later period, the Empress Helena, for instance, and even Cunegundis herself. The usual clothing of the Jewish women enveloped them closely, giving them an appearance of being wrapped up; but Mary’s wedding dress was very different; it was something on the Roman style.
Joseph wore a long, wide blue coat fastened from the breast down with loops and buttons. The wide sleeves were laced at the sides, a broad cuff turned up at the wrist, the inside provided, as it were, with pockets. Around the neck was something like a brown collar, over which lay a kind of stole, and upon the breast hung two white bands.
After the marriage, Joseph went to Bethlehem on some business, and Mary with twelve or fifteen women and maidens went to Anne’s house near Nazareth. They made the journey on foot. When Joseph returned, I saw at Anne’s house a feast at which, besides the usual household, there were about six guests and several children present. Cups were on the table. The Blessed Virgin wore a mantle embroidered with red, white, and blue flowers. Her face was covered with a transparent veil over which was a black one.
I afterward saw Joseph and Mary in the house of Nazareth. Joseph had a separate apartment in the front of the house, a three-cornered chamber this side of the kitchen. Both Mary and Joseph were timid and reserved in each other’s presence. They were very quiet and prayerful.
Once I saw Anne making preparations to go to Nazareth. Under her arm she carried a bundle that contained some things for Mary. To reach Nazareth, which lay in front of a hill, she had to go over a plain and through a grove. Mary wept very much when Anne was leaving and accompanied her a part of the way. Joseph was alone in his apartment in the front of the house.
Mary and Joseph had, properly speaking, no regular housekeeping affairs; they received from Anne all that they needed. I saw Mary spinning and sewing too, but yet with wide stitches. The clothes then worn had not many seams and were entirely in strips. I saw her embroidering also, and with little white sticks knitting or working. The cooking she did was very simple and, while it was going on, the bread was baking in the ashes. They used sheep’s milk, and of meat generally pigeons only.