Herod’s Soldiers. Deputies From the Sanhedrin. Crowds of Neophytes Come to John
In Dothain, where Jesus had calmed the raving possessed, Jews and pagans had, since the Baby-lonian Captivity, dwelt together indiscriminately. On I do not now clearly remember John’s words when baptizing Jesus, but they were something like the following: “May Jehovah through the ministry of His cherubim and seraphim, pour out His blessing over Thee with wisdom, understanding, and strength!” I cannot say for certain whether these last three words were really those that I heard; but I know that they were expressive of three gifts, for the mind, the soul, and the body respectively. In them was contained all that was needed to convert every creature, renewed in mind, in soul, and in body, to the Lord.
While Jesus ascended from the depths of the baptismal well, Andrew and Saturnin, who were standing to the right of the Baptist around the triangular stone, threw about Him a large linen cloth with which He dried His Person. They then put on Him a long, white baptismal robe.1 After this Jesus stepped on the red triangular stone which lay to the right of the descent into the well, Andrew and Saturnin each laid one hand upon His shoulder, while John rested his upon His head.
This part of the ceremony over, they were just about mounting the steps when the Voice of God came over Jesus, who was still standing alone and in prayer upon the stone. There came from Heaven a great, rushing wind like thunder. All trembled and looked up. A cloud of white light descended, and I saw over Jesus a winged figure of light as if flowing over Him like a stream. The heavens opened, I beheld an apparition of the Heavenly Father in the figure in which He is usually depicted and, in a voice of thunder, I heard the words: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
Jesus was perfectly transparent, entirely penetrated by light; one could scarcely look at Him. I saw angels around Him.
But off at some distance on the waters of the Jordan,
Before the baptism of Jesus, only a small white scarf was put upon the newly baptized; but after Jesus’ baptism, a larger garment was used. I saw Satan, a dark, black figure, as if in a cloud, and myriads of horrible black reptiles and vermin swarming around him. It was as if all the wickedness, all the sins, all the poison of the whole region took a visible form at the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, and fled into that dark figure as into their original source. The sight was abominable, but it served to heighten the effect of the indescribable splendor and joy and brilliancy spread over the Lord and the whole island. The sacred baptismal well sparkled and glanced, foundations and margin and waters—a pool of living light. One could see the four stones that had once supported the Ark of the Covenant shining beneath the waters as if in exultation; and on the twelve around the well, those upon which the Levites had stood, appeared angels bending in adoration, for the Spirit of God had before all mankind rendered testimony to the living Foundation, to the precious, chosen Cornerstone of the Church around whom we as so many living stones, must build up a spiritual edifice, a holy priesthood, that thereby we may offer an acceptable, spiritual sacrifice to God through His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased.
Jesus then ascended the steps and entered the tent near the baptismal well. Saturnin brought the garments which Lazarus had been holding all this time, and Jesus put them on. When clothed, He left the tent and, surrounded by His disciples, took His stand on the open space near the central tree. John in joyous tones addressed the crowd and bore witness to Jesus that He was the Son of God and the promised Messiah. He cited the Prophecies of the Patriarchs and prophets now fulfilled, recounted what he had seen, reminded them of the voice of God which they had heard, and informed them that when Jesus returned he himself would retire. John referred also to the sacred memories that embalmed the spot upon which they were standing on account of the Ark of the Covenant’s having rested here when Israel was journeying to the Land of Promise. Now, he continued, had they seen the Realization of the Covenant witnessed to by His Father, the Almighty God Himself. John referred all to Jesus, and called this day that had beheld the ful-fillment of the desire of Israel blessed.
Meanwhile many newcomers had arrived on the spot, and among them some friends of Jesus. I saw in the crowd Nicodemus, Obed, Joseph of Arimathea, John Marc, and others. John bade Andrew announce the baptism of the Messiah throughout Galilee. Then Jesus spoke, confirming in plain and simple words the truth John had proclaimed. He told them that He would withdraw from them for a short time, after which all the sick and afflicted should come to Him and He would heal and console them. They should in the meantime prepare themselves by penance and good works. He would withdraw for awhile, and then return to lay the foundations of that Kingdom which His Father had given to Him. Jesus made use of a parable when thus addressing the crowd: that of a king’s son who, before taking possession of his throne, withdrew into solitude, there to prepare himself and implore the assistance of his father.
Among His numerous listeners were some Pharisees, who received His words with ridicule. “Per-haps, after all,” they said, “He is not the carpenter’s son, but the supposititious child of some king. Is He now about to return to His kingdom? Will He assemble His subjects and march upon Jerusalem?” The idea appeared to them foolish and absurd.
John recommenced his work, and continued throughout the whole day baptizing at the sacred well of Jesus all that were on the island. They were for the most part people who later on joined the Community of Jesus. They stepped into the water that covered the rim of the pool, the Baptist standing outside on the edge itself baptizing.
Jesus Travels Over Luz and Ensemes to Visit the Two Inns at Which the Holy Family Rested on Their Journey to Bethlehem and Their Flight into Egypt
Jesus journeyed that same day with His followers the distance of a couple hours toward Jerusalem to a little, obscure place whose name sounded like Bethel. There was a kind of hospital in the place and in it many sick. Jesus entered, and with His followers partook of some food. Several aged persons approached and saluted Him reverently as a Prophet, for they had heard from the lately baptized what John had proclaimed of Him. Accompanied by His disciples, Jesus visited the sick in their chambers consoling them and telling them that, if they would believe in Him, He would come again and cure them. But on this occasion He healed only one sick man, him of the third chamber. The poor man was greatly emaciated, his head covered with ulcers and white titer. Jesus blessed him and bade him arise. The man obeyed and fell on his knees at Jesus’ feet.
Andrew and Saturnin baptized many of this place. Jesus ordered a tub of water, large enough for a child perhaps, to be set on a stool in one of the rooms. I saw Him blessing the water and sprinkling something into it with a sprig. I think it was some of the baptismal water from the leathern bottle brought hither by the disciples. They that were to be baptized bared their shoulders to the breast, and lowered their head over the tub while Saturnin baptized them. I think the words he used were dictated to him by Jesus and were different from those employed by John; but I do not remember them clearly. Jesus celebrated the Sabbath in this place, after which Andrew and Saturnin went to Galilee.
Jesus proceeded to a city named Luz and, going into the synagogue, held a long discourse during which He explained very many ancient mysterious symbols from the Scriptures. I remember that He spoke of the Children of Israel. After crossing the Red Sea, they had on account of their sins wandered so long in the desert, before being allowed to pass through the Jordan and into the Promised Land. Now was the actual fulfillment of what was then only typical, for the baptism in the Jordan had been symbolized by the passage of the Israelites through its waters. If they now remained true and observed God’s commands, they should indeed be put into possession of the Promised Land and the City of God. Jesus spoke in a spiritual sense, signifying thereby the Heavenly Jerusalem. But His hearers dreamed only of an earthly kingdom and of deliverance from the Romans. Jesus then spoke of the Ark of the Covenant and of the severity of the Old Law, for whoever approached so near the Ark as to touch it instantly fell dead; but now was the Law fulfilled and grace poured forth in the Son of Man. Now, too, was being fulfilled that of which the angel’s conducting Tobias back into the Promised Land was a figure; for they who, faithful to the commands of God, had so long pined in captivity were now to be introduced into the freedom of the Law of grace. Jesus referred also to Judith, the widow, who had delivered Bethuel from oppression by cutting off the head of Holofernes, the Assyrian, as he lay sunk in the fumes of wine. Now would the Virgin, foreseen from eternity, become great and exalted, while the proud heads that had once oppressed Bethuel would fall. By this Jesus signified the Church and her tri-umph over the powers of the world.
Still many other similitudes of a like bearing Jesus spoke, all which had now been fulfilled. But He never once said the words: “I am He.” He spoke always as of a third person. Then He referred to His followers, saying that they should abandon all things and have no immoderate care for their maintenance, for it was a far greater thing to be regenerated than to find nourishment for the body. But if they would be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, He who had regenerated them would also nourish them. They that follow Him, He said, must leave their relatives and live in continence, for it was not now the time for sowing, but for reaping. He spoke of the manna also. The people listened in astonishment and reverence, but interpreted all His teaching in an earthly and material sense.
Lazarus now departed. The other friends of Jesus had already left Him at the Jordan. The holy women, too, who had been staying with Susanna in Jerusalem, had gone away through the desert.
From Luz Jesus travelled southward with His disciples and crossed the desert. After journeying for some time, they came to a double row of date trees. As they passed under them, the disciples expressed a doubt as to whether they might gather and eat the fruit that had fallen. Jesus told them to eat it without scruple and henceforth not to be so constrained in acting, that they should cultivate purity of soul and holiness of speech rather than make so much account of that which went into the mouth.
I saw Jesus entering some houses that stood in a row off by themselves on the road. He there visited about twelve sick persons whom He consoled and some of whom He cured. Several of these last followed Him.
Jesus next entered a little town called Ensemes, whither many had come to meet Him. They now presented themselves before Him, for it had already been announced that the new Prophet was nigh. They came with their children by the hand, saluted Him solemnly, and prostrated before Him. Jesus told them kindly not to do that. He was conducted to their home by the most distinguished of the place. The Pharisees escorted Him thence to the synagogue, for they were well-disposed and rejoiced to have among them a Prophet. But when they learned from the disciples that Jesus was the Son of Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth, there arose in their breast all sorts of prejudices against Him, for they had at first thought that He was another Prophet. When Jesus spoke of the baptism they, in order to ensnare Him, asked which baptism was to be preferred, His own or John’s. Jesus answered by repeating what John had said of his own baptism and, also, of that of the Messiah. “But,” He added, “whoever despises the baptism of the Precur-sor will not honor that of the Messiah.” Still Jesus never said: “I am He,” but always spoke of Himself in the third person, calling Himself “The Son of Man,” as the Gospel records. In the house to which He had been conducted, He partook of a meal, and before retiring for rest prayed with His disciples.
From Ensemes Jesus and His followers crossed the brook Cedron into Judah. For the most part He followed the by-ways and valleys, the indirect routes by which the Blessed Virgin and Joseph had journeyed to Bethlehem, and paused at those places where they had put up. The atmosphere was foggy and the season tolerably cool, while in the deep valleys might sometimes be seen snow or frost. On the sunny side, however, all was green and lovely, fruit still hanging on the trees and bushes. The Lord and His disciples ate of it on the way. Jesus avoided the large cities, because there was already much talk everywhere of His baptism, the circumstances attending it, and the testimony of John. The same rumors created a great stir in Jerusalem. Jesus intended to make His public appearance only after His return from the desert of Galilee. He made this little journey into these parts only through affection to certain individuals and with a view to induce them to go to the baptism. He was not always accompanied by all His disciples; sometimes only two were with Him. The others scattered among the houses of the shepherds lying off the road, and tried to rectify the notions of the occupants, for all were so partial to John that they looked upon Jesus as merely His assistant, and called Him only “The Helper.” The disciples related to them the apparition of the Holy Ghost, the words heard at the baptism, and the testimony rendered by John. They explained that the latter was only the preparer of the way of the Lord, and consequently so ardent and vehement, for it was his to break the way.
As a result of the disciples’ exhortations, numbers of the shepherds and weavers dwelling around in the valleys came to Jesus to pay Him homage, and to listen under the trees and sheds to His short instructions. Jesus blessed and exhorted them.
Jesus explained to the disciples on the way the meaning of the words they had heard at the bap-tism, “This is My beloved Son.” These words, said Jesus, were spoken by His Eternal Father of all who, free from sin, should receive the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.
This region was that through which Joseph and Mary had journeyed to Bethlehem. Joseph was familiar with it, for his father owned meadows in the country around. Joseph had indeed kept clear of Jerusalem by a day and a half’s journey, and had shunned the other cities. As the shepherds’ houses were to be met all along the road, he made only a few hours a day, for the Blessed Virgin found both sitting on the cross-saddle and continual walking very painful.
The chief places to which Jesus went were the houses of two shepherds at which during their jour-ney His parents had asked admission. He went first to the one by whom Mary had been badly received. The master of the house was a rough, old man, and he refused hospitality to Jesus also. He looked like some of the peasants of our own day who say: “What more do I want? I pay my tithes, I go to church,” and, for the rest, live as they list. And thus spoke the people of this house in Jesus’ time. “What more do we want? We have our Law of Moses given to us by God Himself, and more than that we do not need.” Then Jesus spoke of the mercy and hospitality exercised by all the holy Patriarchs, for where would the Blessing and the Law then be had Abraham repulsed the angels that brought the former? The Lord spoke to them a parable: “He that had refused shelter when she knocked at his door to the travel-wearied Virgin, so soon to become a Mother, and had scorned the companion of her journey when so meekly seeking admission to the inn, had repulsed the Son also along with the salvation that He brought with Him.” Jesus uttered these words so significantly that I saw them fall like a thunderbolt upon the heart of one present, for this was the house from which Mary and Joseph had been contemptuously repulsed when on their jour-ney to Bethlehem. I recognized it at once. The most aged of the occupants became greatly distressed, for without naming Himself, Mary, or Joseph, Jesus had in this parable related what they had done.
Hereupon one of them cast himself at Jesus’ feet, begging Him to tarry with them and accept refreshment, for, as he said, Jesus must surely be a Prophet, since He knew all that had happened here thirty years ago. But Jesus would accept nothing from them. He taught the shepherds who had assembled around Him, saying that one action is the type, the kernel of that which follows, that the roots of sin are destroyed by contrition and penance, and that by conversion man would be born anew in the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and bring forth fruits of eternal life.
From this place Jesus journeyed on through the valleys, teaching here and there as He went. The possessed cried after Him, but became silent upon His command.
He arrived at a second shepherd inn which stood on a hill. The Holy Family had been there also. The man of the house owned numerous herds. In rows of houses along the valleys, dwelt shepherds and tent weavers. Stretched in the open air were long strips of stuff upon which the weavers worked one to another. There were many flocks of sheep in this region, and wild animals not a few. The doves went in flocks like hens, and there was another kind of bird, large with a long tail, very numerous here. In the wilderness ran animals with little horns like deer; they were not timid, but mixed up freely with the herds. Jesus was most cordially received. The people of the house with the neighbors and children went out joyously to meet Him, and cast themselves down before Him. The Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph had been most kindly entertained at this house, which was now kept by a couple of young people, children of the old householder. The latter was still alive, a little, stooped old man who carried a small shepherd staff. Jesus accepted food here: fruits, herbs which they dipped in sauce, and small rolls baked in the ashes. The members of this family were very pious and enlightened.
They introduced Jesus into the room wherein the Blessed Virgin had passed the night, and which they had long ago changed into an oratory. It was at first merely a retired corner of the house cut off by only a partition, but later they had so arranged it as to form a separate apartment with an entrance of its own. From a four-cornered, they had changed it into an eight-cornered room; the ceiling running up from the different corners formed a central obtuse point, from which hung a lamp. There was also in the roof an aperture that could be opened at pleasure. In front of the lamp was a narrow table, something like our Communion rail, upon which one could lean when in prayer. The room was very neat and beautiful like a chapel. The venerable old man led Jesus in and pointed out to Him the spot in which His Holy Mother had rested, also where Anne, His grandmother had slept; for she, too, had put up here on her journey to visit the Blessed Virgin in Bethlehem.
These people knew of the birth of Jesus, the adoration of the Three Kings, the prophecies of Simeon and Anna in the Temple, the flight into Egypt, and of the admirable teaching of Jesus in the Temple. Several of these days they commemorated with prayer in their little chapel, for from the very beginning this family had sincerely believed, hoped, and loved. Like the simple peasants that they were, they questioned Jesus as to how things were then in Jerusalem, for they had heard that, among the great ones there, the report was current that the new Messiah would, in quality of King of the Jews, restore to them the scepter and free them from the Roman yoke. They asked Jesus whether, indeed, things would so turn out. Jesus answered their questions by a parable. “A young prince,” He said, “had been sent by the king, his father, to take possession of his throne, to restore the Sacred Mystery, and to free his people from bondage. But they to whom he was sent would not recognize him as the king’s son, they persecuted and maltreated him. Nevertheless, he would after a time be exalted, he would draw to himself in the kingdom of his father all that faithfully kept his commandments.”
Many accompanied Jesus into the little chapel and there listened to His teaching. He also performed some cures here. The old shepherd conducted Him to one of his neighbors who had for long years been confined to bed with the gout. Jesus took her by the hand and commanded her to arise. She obeyed instantly and, casting herself on her knees, thanked the Lord, after which she followed her Benefactor to the door. The poor woman had been as crooked and stooped as Peter’s mother-in-law.
Jesus asked to be taken down into a deep valley in which were many sick. He cured several, perhaps about ten, and consoled the rest.
John was still baptizing the crowds that continued to present themselves. The tree from Jesus’ bap-tismal pool had been removed to the center of the large pool and had become beautifully green. This latter pool was reached by steps descending from the shore. Many tongues of land jutted out into it, and on them the people in turn took their stand, descending on one side and ascending on the other.
When Jesus left the shepherd house, distant from Jerusalem about five hours, the people followed Him. They had associated with the shepherds who had visited Jesus in the Crib and, on that account, were so upright in intention.
The Lord and His disciples pursued their journey through byways and retired places. Here and there assembled around Him crowds of shepherds and laborers whom He instructed in similitudes borrowed from their own occupations. He exhorted them repeatedly to baptism and penance, and spoke of Redemption and the near coming of the Messiah.
I saw on Jesus’ road a fertile spot on the declivity of the mountain and there, engaged in all kinds of field and vineyard labor, were many people. I saw plowing, sowing, planting going on, and heaps of corn being gathered together. It was very fruitful here although, as in other places, frost or snow covered the valleys. The corn was not put up in sheaves. The ears were cut off about one-half a foot in length and then bound together in the center, so that they piled up in heaps. They were not gathered in as had been done long before in the harvest, but were allowed to stand outdoors in heaps high and broad like hills. They were covered with straw when the rainy season came on, and the field was plowed up anew. The ears were afterward cut off with a curved knife, the straw pulled out and thrown on the heaps. Then I saw the gathering in, the ears piled on litters and borne away by four men. The straw remained lying in rows; it was afterward rolled into bundles, I think for burning. In other places they were plowing. The plow had no wheels, but was drawn by men. The one that I saw was like a sled on three sharp heavy runners, between two of which was the place for yoking. Usually the plow was not guided from behind, but asses or men pulled it in front. The fields were plowed both in length and breadth. The harrows used by these people were three-cornered, the broad part in front. They seemed to work quite well. Where the soil was rocky, a little earth spread over it afforded sufficient support for vegetation. The sowers carried their sack slung round the neck, the two ends hanging on their breast. The plants that I saw set out were garlic, and a certain large-leaved plant used for seasoning, I think. One species is called durra.
The disciples gathered the people together on the way, and Jesus taught them in parables of plowing, sowing, and reaping. He spoke to the disciples of the seed they would scatter by means of Baptism. He appointed two, one of whom was Saturnin, to baptize shortly at the Jordan. He addressed them, saying: “This is the seed. And like unto the people before us, shall ye in two months begin your harvest.” Then He spoke of the straw that was to be cast into the fire.
While Jesus was thus teaching, a crowd of laborers from Sichar came in sight along the road, car-rying spades, pickaxes, and long poles. They looked like slaves, and appeared to be returning home from work on some public building or road. They halted at some distance and listened with a timid air to the words of Jesus, not daring to approach nearer to the Jews. But Jesus, raising His voice, bade them draw near, telling them that His Heavenly Father called all to Himself through Him; and then He spoke of the equality of all that do penance and receive Baptism. The poor creatures were so affected by Jesus’ gentle words that, falling on their knees, they implored Him to come to Samaria and help them also. Jesus replied that He would indeed go to them, but not just yet, for He must now go away for awhile in order to prepare His Kingdom, of which His Father had sent Him to take possession.
And now the shepherds again conducted Jesus over all the roads and byways that His Mother had traversed. But when they found that He was better acquainted with them than even they themselves, they exclaimed in wonder: “Lord, Thou art a Prophet! Thou art a filial Son, thus to know and trace the footsteps of Thy Blessed Mother!”
After Jesus had taught and exhorted the multitude, He went to the little city of Beth-Araba. It was afternoon when He and His disciples arrived. They proceeded to an open square, and Jesus mounted the stone pulpit under the trees. A crowd gathered around Him, and He taught. The people here were men of good will.
Jesus in the Valley of Shepherds Near Bethlehem
Jesus leaving Beth-Araba directed His steps, followed by many of His last audience, toward the valley of the shepherds about three and a half hours distant. Once I saw Him with the disciples under an open shed, eating corn and red berries, which they had gathered on the way. Then the disciples separated, each taking a different road, Jesus having appointed the place at which they should again join Him. As they went along, they told all whom they met about Jesus and exhorted them to penance
and Baptism, if they had not already been baptized. Many of those whom they thus exhorted followed them to the appointed meeting place, there to listen to the teaching of Jesus. Jesus Himself took very circuitous routes, and I often saw Him passing half the night alone on the hills in prayer, so that the whole time of the journey was entirely filled up. I heard the dis-ciples beseeching Him not to bring on an untimely death by the little care He took of His body, His fasting, His going barefoot, His long night-watches during that cold, damp season. But Jesus reproved them gently and went gravely on His way.
Before daybreak I beheld Him and His disciples descending the mountain side into the valley of the shepherds. The shepherds dwelling around already knew of His coming. All had been baptized by John, and some even had had dreams and visions of the approach of the Lord. Several were on the watch for Him. They gazed uninterruptedly toward the point whence He might be seen coming down the mountain. Suddenly He appeared in sight. They beheld Him shining with glory and surrounded by light, descending into the valley, for many of these simple-hearted people were highly favored with grace. Instantly they sounded a horn, to arouse the more distant dwellers and summon them to the spot. This was their custom at every extraordinary occurrence. All hastened to meet the Lord. They knelt before Him, with head lowly bent, their long staves resting in their arms; many of them prostrated flat on their face. They wore short doublets to the knee, mostly of sheepskin, some open on the breast, others closed, their wallets hung on their shoulder. They greeted Jesus in words from the Psalms that foretold the coming of the Messiah and proclaimed Israel’s gratitude for the fulfillment of the Promise. Jesus showed them great affection, and congratulated them on their happy state. Here and there He taught in the huts that lay around the broad meadow valley, His instructions turning upon the pastoral life which He treated in parables.
Then, followed by His hearers, He passed farther on through the valley toward Jerusalem to the shepherd tower. This tower stood on an eminence in the center of a field, its foundation being huge fieldstones. It consisted of a very high superstructure of beams, supported in part by the green trees around it. The walls were hung with mats. There were galleries and outside steps around it, and at various distances little, covered standing places like sentry boxes. From a distance it looked like a ship with high masts and spreading sails; it also bore some resemblance to the towers in the land of the Three Kings from which they watched the stars. The whole country around could be scanned from this tower, even Jerusalem and the mountain upon which Jesus was at a later period tempted by Satan.
The shepherds made use of it to catch their herds and ward off threatening danger. Some of them with their families dwelt around it in a circle of about five hours in circumference, in farmhouses surrounded by gardens and field. But their general rendezvous was in the near neighborhood of the tower. Here they kept their various utensils, and here the herdsmen received their food. All along the base of the tower-hill were huts, and at some distance from it a large enclosed shed wherein the wives of the herdsmen dwelt and prepared the food. These women did not go forth with the rest to meet the Lord and His disciples, but later on they were instructed by Jesus. There were about twenty shepherds living around here. Jesus instructed them, called their attention to the happiness of their state of life, and told them that He had come to visit them because they had greeted Him in His infancy and had lovingly treated both Himself and His parents. He taught especially in parables of shepherds and herds, telling them that He, too, was a Shepherd, that He had under Him other shepherds who till the end of time should gather together, heal, and guide His flocks.
Then the shepherds told Jesus all about the glad tidings brought them by the angels, also about Mary, Joseph, and the Child. They had seen, they said, the image of the Child in the star that had hovered over the Crib Cave. They told of the Kings and how they in their turn had beheld the shepherd tower in the stars, and of the numerous gifts they had left here on their return to their own country. Many of them had been put to use both in the tower and in the surrounding huts, which were formed of coarse canvas. Some of the old men present had in their youth been at the Crib. They repeated the story all over again to Jesus.
Next day Jesus and the disciples were escorted by the shepherds farther on toward Bethlehem to the dwellings of the sons of the three eldest shepherds to whom the angels at Christ’s birth had first appeared, and who first had offered Him their homage of veneration. They were now dead and lay buried not far from the dwellings, which were about one hour’s distance from the Crib Cave. Three sons of the old shepherds were still alive and they were themselves old men. They were held in great respect by all the others, their families being something like superiors over the rest, something similar to the Three Kings among their people. They received Jesus very humbly and joyfully, and led Him to the graves of their fathers. The site was an isolated hill covered by a vineyard; the base was surrounded by a kind of covered walk from which opened various caves and cellars. The cave containing the remains of the old shepherds was high up on the hill. The light entering from above disclosed the three graves which lay together in the ground, two parallel, the third lengthwise between them, thus 1 — 1. They were closed by doors. The shepherds opened the graves for Jesus, and I saw the brown faces of the closely enveloped corpses. The space around the coffins was filled with little pebbles. The shepherd crooks lay in the coffins by their owners.
The shepherds also showed Jesus the treasure that they still had from the gifts of the Three Kings and which was concealed here in the cave. It consisted of little solid bars of gold and whole pieces of very costly stuffs embroidered in gold. They asked Jesus whether or not they should give it to the Temple. He answered by telling them to keep it for the Community which was to form the new Temple, and He foretold to them that there would one day be a church erected over this tomb.1 On this hill began a vineyard that extended toward Gaza. It was the usual burial-place of the shepherds.
From here the Lord was conducted to the place of His birth in the Crib Cave distant about an hour. Their way led through a remarkably beautiful meadow valley. Three paths ran through it between tracts of fruit trees trimmed into shape. The shepherds told on the way of the angelic and I saw all again in pictures. The angels had appeared in three different places: first, to the three shepherds; then, on the following night, at the shepherd tower; and lastly, at the well near the spot at which Jesus had the day before been welcomed by the shepherds. Around the shepherd tower they appeared in greater numbers, large, wingless figures. The shepherds took Jesus into the tomb cave of Maraha, Abraham’s nurse, near the great pine tree.
The Crib Cave, A Place of Devotion Among the Shepherds
The path to the Crib Cave ran along the east, from which side Bethlehem was not directly accessible, since no straight road led thither. The city could scarcely be seen from this side, for it was separated from the valley of the shepherds by dilapidated walls, and massive ruins of similar masonry between which ran deep ravines. The nearest direct entrance into the city was by the south gate that led to Hebron. Leaving this gate, one would have to go around toward the east in order to reach the region of the Crib. This region was contiguous to the valley of the shepherds from which one could go to it without entering Bethlehem. Both the Crib Cave and the adjoining caves belonged to the shepherds, who used them for storing their utensils and sheltering their cattle. No one from Bethlehem had any communication with this region, neither road nor path leading thither. Joseph, whose father’s house stood on the south side of the city, had often when a boy visited the shepherds here, concealed himself in the caves from his brothers, and spent therein much time in prayer.
When Jesus now visited the Crib in company with the shepherds, it was already very much changed, for they had fitted it up as a place of devotion. No one was allowed to step on the sacred ground; consequently a grated passage had been made around the cave, thus enlarging the space covered by it. Into this passage opened cells hewn in the rock. It was like a cloister. The ground and walls of the cave were covered with the tapestry and carpets left by the Kings. They were woven in colors, the principal figure in them being pyramids.2 Two flights of steps ran from the passage up above the Crib Cave. The roof of the latter, wherein had once been oblique openings to admit light, had been entirely removed and replaced by a domelike cupola through which the light streamed. By one of the flights mentioned above, one could mount from the dome of the cave to the top of the hill and thence proceed toward Bethlehem. All these changes had been made with the means left by the Kings.
The Sabbath was just beginning and the lamps had been lighted in the Crib Cave when the shep-herds brought Jesus hither. The Crib itself still occupied the same place. Jesus pointed out to the shepherds something that they did not know; viz., the exact spot upon which He was born. He gave them an instruction and they celebrated the Sabbath in the Cave. He told his hearers that His Heavenly
Probably many-colored triangles. The triangle was a favorite figure among the Jews for the ornamentation of walls. Sister Emmerich frequently refers to it, as, for instance, in Mary’s little chamber at the Temple. Father had chosen this place for His nativity at the time of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and I saw that it had been the theater of several significant events of the Old Testament. Abraham and Jacob had been within its walls, and before them had Seth, the Child of Promise, been born therein of Eve after a penance of seven years. An angel appeared to Eve on that occasion, telling her that this was the seed that God had given her in the place of Abel. Seth was for a long time hidden here and nursed, also in the Suckling Cave of Abraham’s nurse Maraha; for, as Jacob’s sons pursued Joseph, so did the brothers of Seth pursue him. The Suckling Cave was now Maraha’s tomb.
The shepherds led Jesus into the adjacent cave also, where for a time the Holy Family had tarried. The fountain that had sprung up therein on the night of Christ’s Nativity, they had beautifully enclosed, and they made use of its waters in sickness. Jesus commanded them to take some of the water away with them. On leaving the cave, He visited the shepherds’ huts.
Saturnin baptized several aged men who were unable to go to the baptism of John. Into the water which they had brought from the fountain of the cave near the Crib, they poured some of Christ’s baptismal water from the pool on the island in the Jordan. At John’s baptism all confessed their sins publicly; but at that of Jesus each acknowledged his sins privately, gave proofs of contrition, and received pardon. The old men whom Saturnin baptized knelt, their shoulders bared to the breast, their head bowed over a large basin. In this manner they were baptized. The form made use of at this baptism was similar to that employed by John at the baptism of Jesus. But to the word Jehovah and the invocation of the three gifts, was added “and in the name of the One that has been sent.”
Jesus Visits Certain Inns, The Halting Places of the Holy Family on Their Flight into Egypt
Jesus had spent His nights alone and in prayer. Upon leaving the shepherds He addressed His dis-ciples, telling them that He was now going to make another journey to some people who had hospitably sheltered Him and His parents on their flight, that He would cure their sick and convert a sinner, that no footstep of His holy parents should remain unblessed, and that everyone who had shown them compassion and kindness on their flight, He would now seek out and lead to salvation. The mercy and benevolence of all such persons have been to them a pledge and a furtherance of salvation; their effects will continue forever. As now, He said, He was visiting all that had at that time shown charity to Him and His, so would His Heavenly Father be mindful of all that showed mercy and charity to even the most insignificant of His brethren. Jesus then appointed a place near the city and Mount Ephraim, where His disciples were to await His coming.
He now journeyed alone around Herod’s dominions toward the desert near Anim, or Enzannim, a few hours from the Dead Sea. His way lay through a wild, though tolerably fertile region where, hedged in by enclosures, were pastured a great many camels divided into droves of forty. There was an inn for the accommodation of travelers through the desert, and to it Jesus went. Several huts and sheds stood nearby, and the proprietors of the inn owned many camels.
This inn was the last in Herod’s dominions met by the Holy Family on their flight into Egypt. The people were a bad set who carried on thievery, but notwithstanding they had received the Holy Family kindly. The neighboring city contained many disorderly characters who had settled there after some war.
Jesus went to the inn and asked hospitality. The proprietor was a man about fifty years old, called Reuben, who had been there at the time of the flight into Egypt. When Jesus glanced at him and addressed him, grace shot like a ray of light into his breast. The words of Jesus and His salutation fell upon him like a blessing, and deeply moved he exclaimed: “Lord, it is as if the Promised Land enters with Thee into my house!” Jesus replied that, if he would believe in the Promise and would not cast away from him its fulfillment, he would indeed share in the Promised Land. Then He spoke of good works and their consequences, telling him that He had now come to announce salvation to him, because he had kindly entertained His Mother and His foster-father so many years before when on their flight to Egypt. In like manner does every action, the good as well as the bad, bear its own fruit. At these words of Jesus, the man cast himself trembling on the ground before Him, saying: “Lord, whence is this to me, a poor, despised, miserable man, that Thou shouldst enter my house?” Jesus answered that He had come to cleanse sinners from their iniquity and lead them back to God. The man still spoke of his own baseness, and said that all the inhabitants of the place belonged to a miserable, lost generation; he also told Jesus of his poor, sick grandchildren. Jesus replied that if he would believe in Him and be baptized, He would restore his grandchildren to health. He washed Jesus’ feet, and gave Him the best he had for His refreshment. When the neighbors came in, he told them who Jesus was and what He had promised. He had a relative among them who was named Issacher.
After that he conducted Jesus to his sick grandchildren who, some from leprosy and some from lameness, had become quite deformed. Jesus commanded the children to rise, and they stood up cured. He visited some women also, who were sick of a bloody flux. Then He ordered a bath to be prepared. They got ready a large vessel of water under a tent. From one of the two flasks that He carried with Him strapped to His side under His outer robe, He poured into it some of the baptismal water from the Jordan, and blessed the whole. The sick were then ordered to bathe in it. They did so, and came forth cleansed and thanking the Lord. Jesus did not baptize them Himself, although this washing was equivalent to Baptism in case of death; but He exhorted them to go seek for the baptism at the Jordan.
When the people questioned Jesus, asking if the Jordan really possessed special virtue, He answered that the channel of the Jordan had been hollowed out and its course directed; that all holy places of this land had been allotted to special purposes by His Heavenly Father long before man had existed there, yea, even before the land or the Jordan had sprung forth from nothing. Very wonderful things spoke Jesus on this subject, and He instructed the women on marriage inculcating modesty and continency. He pronounced the degeneracy of the people of this place and the pitiful condition of the children, consequences of the illegitimate connections so common among them. He spoke of the parents’ share in the corruption of their children, of arresting the evil by penance and satisfaction, and of the second birth in baptism.
Then He recounted to them all the kind offices they had performed for the Holy Family at the time of their flight, and gave them some information relative to the places at which they had rested and refreshed themselves. Mary and Joseph had with them on their flight a she-ass, as well as the ass upon which the Blessed Virgin rode. Jesus showed the people all their actions at the time of the flight, that is all the acts of kindness they had shown the Holy Family, as so many types of their present turning from sin to salvation. They prepared for the Lord a repast from the best they had. It consisted of a kind of milk thick like white cheese, honey, rolls baked in the ashes, grapes, and birds.
Accompanied by some of these men, Jesus left Ainon and, returning by another route, arrived toward evening at a city built on both sides of a mountain, through which ran a rugged valley full of deep ravines. Both mountain and city bore the name of Ephraim, or Ephron. The mountain faced straight toward Gaza. Jesus had come through the country of Hebron. At some distance from the road that He travelled could be described a ruined city with a tower still standing, whose name sounded like Malaga.1 About an hour’s distance from this place was the grove Mambre whither the angels bore to Abraham the promise of a son, Isaac; also the double cave that Abraham bought from Ephren, the Hethite, and which afterward formed his tomb. The field that witnessed David’s combat with Goliath was not far off.
Jesus, His escort having taken leave, wended His way around one side of the double city and met His disciples in the rugged valley road which had been designated by Him as the place of meeting. He conducted them out of the winding ravine into a very spacious cave in the wildest part of the mountain, to which no path led. It had afforded a resting place, the sixth in order, to the Holy Family on their flight into Egypt, and here Jesus and His disciples passed the night.
Jesus told this circumstance to the disciples, impressing upon them the sacred character of the place, while they were busying themselves making a fire. They struck a light by revolving one piece of wood inside another. One of the Prophets had frequently spent some time in this cave, in order to give himself more unreservedly to prayer. I think it was Samuel. David, too, while guarding his father’s flocks around here, had made the cave a place of prayer and there received commands of God through the ministry of angels. It was while thus engaged that he was admonished to slay Goliath.
When the Holy Family reached this cave, they were dejected and exhausted. The Blessed Virgin wept sadly. They were in want of all things, because they had fled by unfrequented ways, shunning the great cities and customary inns. They spent a whole day here recruiting their strength, and several wonders were vouchsafed them for their refreshment—a fountain sprang up in the cave, and a wild goat bounded in and allowed itself to be milked.
Jesus spoke to the disciples of the great tribulations in store for Him and all His followers, of the hardships here endured by Himself and His Blessed Mother, of the mercy of His Heavenly Father, and of the holiness of the place. He added that at some future day there would be a church built on the spot, and He blessed the cave as if consecrating it. The disciples had brought with them some fruit and rolls, and of them all partook.