The Forty Days’ Fast of Jesus
Accompanied by Lazarus, Jesus went to the inn belonging to the latter situated near the desert. It was just before the hour at which the Sabbath began. Lazarus was the only one whom Jesus had told that after forty days, He would return. From this inn He began His journey into the desert alone and barefoot. He went at first, not toward Jericho, but southward toward Bethlehem, as if He wished to pass between the residence of Anne’s relatives and that of Joseph’s near Maspha. But He turned off toward the Jordan, shunned the different cities and villages by taking the footpaths around them, and passed that place near which the Ark had once stood and at which John had celebrated the feast.
About one hour’s distance from Jericho, He ascended the mountain and entered a spacious grotto. This mountain rises to the southeast of Jericho, and faces Madian across the Jordan.
Jesus began His fast here near Jericho, continued it in different parts of the desert on the other side of the Jordan, and after the devil had borne Him to the top of the mountain, concluded it where it had been commenced. From the summit of this mountain, which is in some parts covered with low brushwood, in others barren and desolate, the view is very extended. Properly speaking, it is not so high as Jerusalem, because it lies on a lower level; but rising abruptly from low surroundings, its solitary grandeur is the more striking. The height that commands the whole plateau upon which stand the Holy City and its environs is the Mount of Calvary, the loftiest point of which is almost on a level with the highest parts of the Temple. On the south side, the nearest to Bethlehem, Jerusalem is flanked by rocks dangerously steep. There was no gate on this side, the whole being taken up by palaces.
It was night when Jesus climbed that steep, wild mountain in the desert now called Mount Quarantania. Three spurs, each containing a grotto, rise one above another. Jesus climbed to the topmost of all, from the back of which one could gaze down into the steep, gloomy abyss below. The whole mountain was full of frightfully dangerous chasms. Four hundred years before, a Prophet, whose name I forget, had sojourned in that same cave. Elias, also, had dwelt there secretly for a long time and had enlarged it. Sometimes, without anyone’s knowing whence he carne, he used to go down among the inhabitants of the surrounding district to prophesy and restore peace. About twenty-five Essenians one hundred and fifty years ago dwelt on this mountain. It was at its foot that the camp of the Israelites was pitched when, with the Ark of the Covenant, they marched around Jericho to the sound of trumpets. The fountain whose water Eliseus rendered sweet was not far off. St. Helena caused these grottoes to be transformed into chapels. In one of them, I once saw on the wall a picture of the Temptation. At a later period a convent arose on the summit of the mountain. I wondered how the workmen could get up there. Helena erected churches on numerous sacred spots. It was she who built the church over Mother Anne’s birthplace two hours from Sephoris. In Sephoris itself Anne’s parents owned a house. How sad that most of these holy places have gone to ruin, some even lost to memory! When as a young girl I used to go before the day through the snows of winter to Coesfeld to church, I used to see all those holy places so plainly. And I often saw how good men, to save them from destruction, would cast themselves flat in the road before the destroying soldiers.
The words of Scripture: “He was led by the Spirit into the desert,” mean that the Holy Spirit, who descended upon Jesus at the moment of His baptism when He allowed His Humanity to be, in some measure, visibly penetrated by the Divinity, impelled Him to go into the desert to prepare as Man in close communication with His Heavenly Father for His vocation to suffering.
Jesus, kneeling in the grotto with outstretched arms, prayed to His Heavenly Father for strength and courage in all the sufferings that awaited Him. He saw all in advance, and begged for the grace necessary for each. All His afflictions, all His pains passed before me in vision, and I saw Him receiving consolation and merit for everyone. A cloud of white light, large like a church, descended and hovered over Him. At the end of each prayer spirits approached Him. When close to Him, they assumed a human form, offered Him homage, and presented to Him consolation and promises from On High. I saw then that Jesus here in the desert acquired for us all our consolation, all our strength, our help, our victory in temptation; purchased for us merit in struggle and conquest; gave value to our fasting and mortifications; and offered to God the Father all His future labors and sufferings, in order to give worth to the prayers and spiritual works of all His faithful followers in the ages to come. I saw the treasure that He thereby laid up for the Church, and which she, in the forty days’ fast, opens to her children. During this prayer, Jesus sweat Blood.
From this mountain Jesus went down again toward the Jordan to the country between Gilgal and John’s place of baptism, about an hour further on to the south. He crossed that narrow but deep part of the river on a beam, and journeyed on leaving Bethabara to the right. Crossing several highroads that led to the Jordan, He took the rugged mountain paths from the southeast through the wilderness. Proceeding through the valley leading to Callirrhoe, He crossed a small stream and climbed a mountain spur a little to the north where Jachza lies in a valley opposite. The Children of Israel defeated Sihon, king of the Amorrhites, here in a battle in which the Israelites were only three against sixteen. But God wrought a miracle in behalf of His people. A frightful noise swept over the Amorrhites and terrified them.
Jesus was now upon a very wild mountain range about nine hours from the Jordan, and far more savage and desolate than the one near Jericho, almost opposite to which it lies.
The Divinity of Jesus, as well as His mission, was hidden from Satan. The words: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” were understood by Satan as spoken of a mere human being, a Prophet. Jesus had already been frequently and in many ways interiorly afflicted. The first temptation that He experienced was: “This nation is so corrupt. Shall I suffer all this and yet not perfect the work for which I came upon earth?” But with infinite love and mercy, He conquered the temptation in the face of all His torments.
Jesus prayed in the grotto sometimes prostrate, again kneeling, or standing. He wore His customary dress, but ungirded, loose and flowing, His feet bare. His mantle, a pair of wallets, and the girdle lay on the ground nearby. Daily was His labor of prayer different; daily did He acquire for us new graces, those of today unlike those of the preceding eve. Were it not for this labor of His, our resistance against temptation would never have been meritorious.
Jesus neither ate nor drank, but I saw Him strengthened by angels. He was not emaciated by His long fast, though He became perfectly pale and white.
The grotto was not quite on the summit of the mountain. In it was an aperture through which the wind blew chill and raw, for at that season it was cold and foggy. The rocky walls of the grotto were streaked with colored veins; had they been polished, one would have thought them painted. There was space enough in it to afford room for Jesus, whether kneeling or prostrate, without His being directly under the aperture. The rock outside was overgrown by straggling briars.
One day I saw Jesus prostrate on His face. His unsandaled feet were red, wounded by the rugged roads, for He had come to the wilderness barefoot. At times He arose, and again prayed lying prostrate. He was surrounded by light. Suddenly a sound from Heaven was heard, light streamed into the grotto, and myriads of angels appeared bearing with them all kinds of things. I was so afflicted, so overcome, that I felt as if pressed into the rocky wall of the grotto; and, filled with the sensation of one falling, I began to cry out: “I shall fall! I shall fall next to my Jesus!”
And now I beheld the angelic band bending low before Jesus, offering Him their homage, and begging leave to unfold to Him their mission. They questioned Him as to whether it was still His will to suffer as man for the human race, as it had been His will to leave the bosom of His Heavenly Father, to become incarnate in the Virgin’s womb. When Jesus answered in the affirmative, accepting His sufferings anew, the angels put together before Him a high cross, the parts of which they had brought with them. It was in shape such as I always see it, of four pieces, as I always see the winepress of the cross. The upper part of the trunk, that is the part that arose between two inserted arms, was likewise separate. Five angels bore the lower portion; three, the upper; three, the left and three, the right arm; three, the ledge whereon His feet rested; and three carried a ladder. Another had a basket full of ropes, cords, and tools, while others bore the spear, the reed, the rods, the scourges, the crown of thorns, the nails, the robes of derision—in a word, all that figured in His Passion.
The cross appeared to be hollow. It could be opened like a cupboard, and then it displayed the innumerable instruments of torture with which it was filled. In the central part, where Jesus’ Heart was broken, were entwined all possible emblems of pain in all kinds of frightful instruments, and the color of the cross itself was heartrending, the color of blood.
The various parts presented different tints symbolical of the pain there to be endured, but all, like so many streams, converged to the heart. The different instruments were likewise symbolical of future pains.
In the cross were also vessels of vinegar and gall, as well as ointment, myrrh, and something like herbs, prefiguring perhaps to Jesus His death and burial.
There were also numbers of open scrolls like billets of about a hand in width. They were of various colors, and on them were written pains and labors to be realized by sufferings of innumerable kinds. The colors were significant of the several degrees and species of darkness which were to be enlightened and dissipated by that suffering. What was utterly lost was typified by black; aridity, dryness, agitation, confusion, negligence were symbolized by brown; red was significant of all that was heavy, earthly, sensual; while yellow betokened effeminacy and horror of suffering. Some of the scrolls were half yellow and half red; they had to be bleached entirely white. There were others white like currents of milk, and the writing on them shone and glittered. They signified the won, the finished.
These colored bands of writing were like the summing up of all the pains that Jesus would have to endure in His mortal life, all His labors, all that the Apostles and others would cause Him to suffer.
Then there appeared before Him, as in a procession, all those men through whom were to come the most keenly felt sufferings He would have to endure, the malice of the Pharisees, the treason of Judas, the insults of the Jews at His bitter and ignominious death.
The angels arranged all, unfolded all before the Saviour, doing all with unspeakable reverence, like priests performing the holiest functions. While thus the entire Passion was unfolded and passed in detail before His gaze, I saw Jesus and the angels weeping.
On another occasion, I saw the angels placing before Jesus the ingratitude of men, the skepticism, the scorn, the mockery, the treachery, the denial of friends and of enemies up to the moment of His death and after it. All passed before Him in pictures, as also those sufferings and labors of His that would bear no fruit. But for His consolation, they showed Him likewise all that would be gained by them. As these pictures floated past, the angels pointed them out with a motion of the hand.
In all these visions of Jesus’ Passion, I always saw His cross composed of five kinds of wood, the arms set in with a wedge under each, and a block upon which the feet were to rest. The piece above the head, on which was the inscription, I saw put on separately, for the trunk of the cross was too low to admit of the writing over the head. It fitted on like the cover on a needle case.
Jesus Tempted in Many Ways by Satan
Satan knew not of the Divinity of Christ. He took Him for a Prophet. He had noted His holiness from early youth, as also that of His Mother. But Mary took no notice whatever of Satan. She never listened to a temptation. There was nothing in her upon which Satan could fasten. Though the fairest of women, the fairest of virgins, she never thought of a suitor excepting at the holy lottery, at the flowering of the rods in the Temple, when there was question of her marriage. That Jesus was wanting in a certain pharisaical severity toward His disciples in nonessential points, puzzled the wicked fiend. He took Him for a man, because the pretended irregularities of His disciples scandalized the Jews.
As Satan had often seen Jesus fired with zeal, he thought at one time to irritate Him by assuming the appearance of one of the disciples who had followed Him thither; and as he had also seen examples of His tenderness of heart, he tried at another time, under the form of a decrepit old man, to excite His compassion; and again as an Essenian, to dispute with Him. I saw him therefore at the entrance of the grotto under the form of the son of one of the three widows, a youth especially loved by Jesus. He made a noise to attract attention, thinking that Jesus would be displeased at His disciple’s following Him against His prohibition. Jesus did not look toward him even once. Then Satan put his head in and began to talk, first of one thing, then of another, and at last of John the Baptist who, he said, was very indignant at Jesus for encroaching upon his rights, by allowing His disciples to baptize from time to time.
Foiled in this first ruse, Satan tried another. He sent seven, eight, or nine apparitions of the disciples into the grotto. In they came one after another, saying to Jesus that Eustachius had informed them that He was there, and that they had sought Him with so much anxiety. They begged Him not to expose His life in that wild abode, not to abandon them. The whole world was talking about Him, they continued, and He should not allow such and such things to be said. But Jesus’ only reply was: “Withdraw, Satan! It is not yet time,” and the phantoms disappeared.
Again Satan drew near under the form of a feeble old man, a venerable Essenian, toiling painfully up the steep mountain. The ascent seemed so difficult for him that, really, I pitied him. Approaching the grotto, with a loud groan he fell fainting from exhaustion at its entrance. But Jesus took no notice of him, not even by a glance. Then the old man arose with an effort, and introduced himself as an Essenian from Mount Carmel. He had, he said, heard of Jesus and, though almost worn out by the effort, had followed Him thither in order to sit with Him a little while and converse on holy things. He too knew what it was to fast and to pray, and when two joined their prayers to God, edification became greater. Jesus uttered a few words only, such as: “Retire, Satan! It is not yet time.” Then I discovered that it was Satan, for as he turned away and vanished, I saw him becoming dark and horrible to behold. I felt like laughing when I thought of his throwing himself on the ground and of having to pick himself up again.
When Satan next came to tempt Jesus, he assumed the appearance of old Eliud. Satan must have known that His Cross and Passion had been shown to Jesus by the angels, for he said that he had had a revelation of the heavy trials in store for Him, and that he felt He would not be able to resist them. For a forty days’ fast, he continued, Jesus was not in a state; therefore, urged by love for Him, he had come to see Him once more, to beg to be allowed to share His wild abode and assume part of His vow. Jesus noticed not the tempter, but raising His hands to Heaven, He said: “My Father, take this temptation from Me!” whereupon Satan vanished in a horrible form.
Jesus was kneeling in prayer when, after a time, I saw three youths approaching. They were those who, on His first departure from Nazareth, were with Him and who subsequently abandoned Him. They appeared to approach timidly. They cast themselves on the ground before Him, complaining that they could find no rest until He pardoned them. They begged Him to have mercy on them, to receive them again to favor, and allow them to share His fast as a penance for their defection, and they promised thenceforth to be His most faithful disciples. They had ventured into the grotto, and they surrounded Jesus with tears and loud lamentation. Jesus rose from His knees, raised His hands to God, and the apparitions vanished.
On another day as He knelt in the grotto praying, I beheld Satan in a glittering robe borne, as it were, through the air up the steepest and highest side of the rock. This precipitous, inaccessible side faced to the east; in it were some apertures opening into the grotto. Jesus glanced not toward Satan, who was now intent on passing himself off for an angel. But he was a poor imitation, for the light that enveloped him was far from transparent. It looked as if it had been smeared on, and his robe was stiff and harsh, while those of the angels are soft and light and transparent. Hovering at the entrance of the grotto, Satan spoke: “I have been sent by Thy Father to console Thee.” Jesus turned not toward him. Then Satan flew around to the steep, inaccessible side of the grotto and, peering in through one of the apertures, called to Jesus to witness a proof of his angelic nature, since he could hover there without support. But Jesus noticed him not. Seeing himself foiled in every attempt, Satan became quite horrible, and made as if he would seize Jesus in his claws through the aperture. His figure grew still more frightful and he vanished. Jesus looked not after him.
Satan came next under the appearance of an aged solitary from Mount Sinai. He was quite wild, almost savage-looking, with his long beard and scanty covering, a rough skin being his only garment. But there was something false and cunning in his countenance as he climbed painfully up the mountain. Entering the grotto, he addressed Jesus, saying that an Essenian from Mount Carmel had visited him and told him of the baptism, also of the wisdom, the miracles, and the present rigorous fasting of Jesus. Hearing which, notwithstanding his great age, he had come all the way to see Him, to converse with Him, for he himself had long experience in the practice of mortification. He told Jesus that He should now desist from further fasting, that he would free Him from what remained, and he went on with much more talk in the same strain. Jesus, looking aside, said: “Depart from Me, Satan!” At these words, the evil one grew dark and, like a huge, black ball, rolled with a crash down the mountain.
Then I asked myself how it was that Christ’s Divinity remained so concealed from Satan. And I received the following instruction: I understood clearly that it was the most incomprehensible advantage for men that neither they nor Satan knew of Christ’s Divinity, and that they were thereby to learn how to exercise faith. The Lord said one word to me that I still remember. «Man,” said He, «knew not that the serpent tempting him was Satan; in like manner, Satan was not to know that He who redeemed man was God.” I saw too that the Divinity of Christ was not made known to Satan until the moment in which He freed the souls from Limbo.
On one of the subsequent days, I saw Satan under the form of a distinguished man of Jerusalem. He approached the cave in which Jesus was praying and told Him that sympathy had urged him to come to Him, for he felt assured that He was called to give freedom to the Jewish nation. Then he related all the reports, all the discussions rife in Jerusalem on His account, and told Him that he had come to offer his support in the good cause. He was one of Herod’s officers, he said. Jesus might unhesitatingly accompany him back to Jerusalem, might even take up His abode in Herod’s palace, where He could lie concealed, gather His followers around Him, and set His undertaking on foot. And he urged Him to return with him at once. The pretended officer laid his proposal before Jesus in a multiplicity of words. Jesus looked not toward him, but continued earnestly to pray. Then I saw Satan retreating, his form becoming frightful, fire and smoke bursting from his nostrils, until at last he vanished.
When Jesus began to hunger, and especially to thirst, Satan appeared in the form of a pious hermit and exclaimed: “I am so hungry! I pray Thee give me of the fruits growing here on the mountain outside Thy grotto. I would pluck none of it without asking the owner” (pretending that he took Jesus for the owner), “then let us sit together and talk of good things.” Not at the entrance of the grotto, but on the opposite side, that is, toward the east, and at a little distance, grew figs and berries, and another kind of fruit something like nuts, though with soft shells like those of the medlar. Jesus answered the false hermit: “Depart from Me! Thou art from the very beginning liar. Harm not the fruit!” Then I saw Satan as a little somber figure hurrying off, a black vapor exhaling from him.
But he returned again in the form of a traveler, and asked Jesus for permission to eat of the fine grapes growing nearby, because they were so good for thirst. But Jesus gave him no answer, did not even look at him.
On the following day, Satan tempted Jesus again on the same head, only this time it was with a spring instead of fruit.
Satan Tempts Jesus by Magical Arts
Satan appeared to Jesus in the grotto as a magician and philosopher. He told Him that he had come to Him as to a wise man, and that he would show Him that he, too, could exhibit marvels. Then he showed Him hanging on his hand a piece of apparatus like a globe, or perhaps still more like a bird cage. Jesus would not look at the tempter, much less into the globe as Satan desired, but turning His back on him, He left the grotto. I saw that a look into Satan’s raree-show disclosed the most magnificent scenes from nature, lovely pleasure gardens full of shady groves, cool fountains, richly laden fruit trees, luscious grapes, etc. All seemed to be within one’s reach, and all was constantly dissolving into ever more beautiful, more enticing scenes. Jesus turned His back on Satan, and he vanished.
This was another temptation to interrupt the fast of Jesus, who now began to thirst and to experience the pangs of hunger. Satan did not yet know what to think of Him. He was aware, it is true, of the Prophecies relating to Him and he felt that He exercised power over himself, but he did not yet know that Jesus was God. He did not know even that He was the Messiah whose advent he so dreaded, since he beheld Him fasting, hungering, enduring temptation; since he saw Him so poor, suffering in so many ways; in a word, since he saw Him in all things so like an ordinary man. In this Satan was as blind as the Pharisees. He looked upon Jesus as a holy man whom temptation might lead to a fall.
Satan Tempts Jesus To Turn Stones into Bread
Jesus was now suffering from hunger and thirst. I saw Him several times at the entrance of the grotto. Toward evening one day, Satan in the form of a large, powerful man ascended the mountain. He had furnished himself below with two stones as long as little rolls, but square at the ends, which as he mounted he molded into the perfect appearance of bread. There was something more horrible than usual about him when he stepped into the grotto to Jesus. In each hand he held one of the stones, and his words were to this effect: “Thou art right not to eat of the fruit, for it only excites an appetite. But if Thou art the beloved Son of God over whom the Spirit came at baptism—behold! I have made these stones look like unto bread. Do Thou change them into bread.” Jesus glanced not toward him, but I heard Him utter these words only: “Man lives not by bread!” These were the only words that I caught distinctly. Then Satan became perfectly horrible. He stretched out his talons as if to seize Jesus (at which action I saw the stones resting on his arms), and fled. I had to laugh at his having to take his stones off with him.
Satan Carries Jesus to the Pinnacle of the Temple, and then to Mount Quarantania. Angels Minister Unto Jesus
Toward evening of the following day, I saw Satan in the form of a majestic angel sweeping down toward Jesus with a noise like the rushing wind. He was clad in a sort of military dress such as I have seen St. Michael wear. But in the midst of his greatest splendor, one might detect something sinister and horrible. He addressed boasting words to Jesus, something in this strain: “I will show Thee who I am, and what I can do, and how the angels bear me up in their hands. Look yonder, there is Jerusalem! Behold the Temple! I shall place Thee upon its highest pinnacle. Then do Thou show what Thou canst do, and see whether the angels will carry Thee down.” While Satan thus spoke and pointed out Jerusalem and the Temple, I seemed to see them both quite near, just in front of the mountain. But I think that it was only an illusion. Jesus made no reply, and Satan seized Him by the shoulders and bore Him through the air. He flew low toward Jerusalem, and placed Jesus upon the highest point of one of the four towers that rose from the four corners of the Temple, and which I had not before noticed. The tower to which Satan bore Jesus was on the west side toward Zion and opposite the citadel Antonia. The mount upon which the Temple stood was very steep on that side. The towers were like prisons, and in one of them were kept the costly garments of the High Priest. The roofs of these towers were flat, so that one could walk on them; but from the center rose a hollow, conical turret capped by a large sphere, upon which there was standing room for two. From that position, one could view the whole Temple below.
It was on the loftiest point of the tower that Satan placed Jesus, who uttered no word. Then Satan flew to the ground, and cried up to Him: “If Thou art the Son of God, show Thy power and come down also, for it is written: ‘He has given His angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.'” Jesus replied: “It is written again: ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord, thy God.'” Satan, in a fury, returned to Jesus, who said: “Make use of the power that hath been given thee!”
Then Satan seized Him fiercely by the shoulders, and flew with Him over the desert toward Jericho. While standing on the tower, I noticed twilight in the western sky. This second flight appeared to me longer than the first. Satan was filled with rage and fury. He flew with Jesus now high, now low, reeling like one who would vent his rage if he could. He bore Him to the same mountain, seven hours from Jerusalem, upon which He had commenced His fast.
I saw that Satan carried Jesus low over an old pine tree on the way. It was a large and still vigorous tree that had stood long ago in the garden of one of the ancient Essenians. Elias had once lived a short time in its vicinity. The tree was back of the grotto and not far from the rugged precipice. Such trees used to be pierced three times in one season, and each time they yielded a little turpentine.
Satan flew with the Lord to the highest peak of the mountain, and set Him upon an overhanging, inaccessible crag much higher than the grotto. It was night, but while Satan pointed around, it grew bright, revealing the most wonderful regions in all parts of the world. The devil addressed Jesus in words something like these: “I know that Thou art a great Teacher, that Thou art now about to gather disciples around Thee and promulgate Thy doctrines. Behold, all these magnificent countries, these mighty nations! Compare with them poor, little Judea lying yonder! Go rather to these. I will deliver them over to Thee, if kneeling down Thou wilt adore me!” By adoration the devil meant that obeisance common among the Jews, and especially among the Pharisees, when supplicating favors from kings and great personages. This temptation of Satan was similar to that other one in which, under the guise of one of Herod’s officers, he had sought to lure Jesus to take up His abode in the castle of Jerusalem, and had offered to assist Him in His undertaking. It was similar in kind, though more extended in degree. As Satan pointed around, one saw first vast countries and seas, with their different cities into which kings in regal pomp and magnificence and followed by myriads of warriors were triumphantly entering. As one gazed, these scenes became more and more distinct until, at last, they seemed to be in the immediate vicinity. One looked down upon all their details, every scene, every nation differing in customs and manners, in splendor and magnificence.
Satan pointed out in each the features of special attraction. He dwelt particularly upon those of a country whose inhabitants were unusually tall and magnificent-looking. They were almost like giants. I think it was Persia. Satan advised Jesus to go there above all to teach. He showed Him Palestine, but as a poor, little, insignificant place. This was a most wonderful vision, so extended, so clear, so grand, and magnificent!
The only words uttered by Jesus were: “The Lord thy God shalt thou adore and Him only shalt thou serve! Depart from Me, Satan!” Then I saw Satan in an inexpressibly horrible form rise from the rock, cast himself into the abyss, and vanish as if the earth had swallowed him.
At the same moment I beheld myriads of angels draw near to Jesus, bend low before Him, take Him up as if in their hands, float down gently with Him to the rock, and into the grotto in which the forty days’ fast had been begun. There were twelve angelic spirits who appeared to be the leaders, and a definite number of assistants. I cannot now remember distinctly, but I think it was seventy-two, and I feel that the whole vision was symbolical of the Apostles and the disciples. And now was held in the grotto a grand celebration, one of triumph and thanksgiving, and a banquet was made ready. The interior of the grotto was adorned by the angels with garlands of vine leaves from which depended a victor’s crown, likewise of leaves, over the head of Jesus. The preparations were made rapidly, though with marvelous order and magnificence. All was resplendent, all was symbolical. Whatever was needed appeared instantly at hand and in its proper place.
Next came the angels bearing a table, small at first but which quickly increased in size, laden with celestial viands. The food and vessels were such as I have always seen on the heavenly tables, and I saw Jesus, the twelve chief spirits, and also the others partaking of refreshment. But there was no eating by the mouth, though still a real participation, a passing of the essence of the fruits into the partakers. All was spiritual. It was as if the interior signification of the aliments entered into the participants, bearing with it refreshment and strength. But it is inexpressible.
At one end of the table stood a large, shining chalice with little cups around it, the whole similar to that which I have always seen in my visions of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament. But this that I now saw was immaterial, was larger. There was also a plate with thin disks of bread. I saw Jesus pouring something from the large chalice into the cups and dipping morsels of bread into it, which morsels and cups the angels took and carried away. With this the vision ended and Jesus, going out from the grotto, went down toward the Jordan.
The angels that ministered unto Jesus appeared under different forms and seemed to belong to different hierarchies. Those that, at the close of the banquet, bore away the cups of wine and morsels of bread, were clothed in priestly raiment. I saw at the instant of their disappearance, all kinds of supernatural consolation descending upon the friends of Jesus, those of His own time and those of after ages. I saw Jesus appearing in vision to the Blessed Virgin then at Cana, to comfort and strengthen her. I saw Lazarus and Martha wonderfully touched, while their hearts grew warm with the love of Jesus. I saw Mary the Silent actually fed with the gifts from the table of the Lord. The angel stood by her while she, like a child, received the food. She had been a witness of all the temptations and sufferings of Jesus. Her whole life was one of vision and suffering through compassion, therefore such supernatural favors caused her no astonishment. Magdalen, too, was wonderfully agitated. She was at the time busied with finery for some amusement. Suddenly anxiety about her life seized upon her, and a longing rose in her soul to be freed from the chains that bound her. She cast the finery from her hands, but was laughed at by those around her. I saw many of the future Apostles consoled, their hearts filled with heavenly desires. I saw Nathanael in his home thinking of all that he had heard of Jesus, of the deep impression He had made upon him, and of how he had cast it out of his mind. Peter, Andrew, and all the others were, as I saw, strengthened and consoled. This was a most wonderful vision.
During Jesus’ fast, Mary resided in the house near Capharnaum, and had to listen to all kinds of speeches about her Divine Son. They said that He went wandering about, no one knew where; that He neglected her; that after the death of Joseph it was His duty to undertake some business for His Mother’s support, etc. Throughout the whole country the talk about Jesus was rife at this time, for the wonders attendant on His baptism, the testimony rendered by John, and the accounts of His scattered disciples had been everywhere noised abroad. Only once after this, and that was before His Passion, at the resurrection of Lazarus, were reports of Jesus so widespread and active. The Blessed Virgin was grave and recollected, for she was never without the internal vision of Jesus, whose actions she contemplated and whose sufferings she shared.
Toward the close of the forty days, Mary went to Cana, in Galilee, and stopped with the parents of the bride of Cana, people of distinction who appeared to be of the first rank. Their beautiful mansion stood in the heart of the clean and well-built city. A street ran through the middle of it, I think a continuation of the highroad from Ptolomais; one could see it descending toward Cana from a higher level. This city was not so irregularly and unevenly built as many others of Palestine. The bridegroom was almost of the same age as Jesus and he managed his mother’s household with the cleverness of an old married man. The parents of the young people consulted the Blessed Virgin upon all the affairs of their children and showed her everything.
John was at this time constantly occupied in administering baptism. Herod did his best to procure a visit from him, and he likewise sent messengers to draw him out on the subject of Jesus. But John paid very little attention to him, and went on repeating his old testimony of Jesus. From Jerusalem also, messengers were again sent to call him to account concerning Jesus and himself. John answered as usual that he had never laid eyes on Him when he began his own career, but that he had been sent to prepare for Him the way.
Since Jesus’ baptism, John taught that through that baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him, water had been sanctified and out of it much evil had been cast. Jesus’ baptism had been like an exorcism of the water. Jesus had suffered Himself to be baptized in order to sanctify water. John’s baptism had in consequence become purer and holier. It was for this end that Jesus was baptized in a separate basin. The water sanctified by contact with His Divine Person had then been conducted to the Jordan and into the public pool of baptism, and of it also Jesus and His disciples had taken some for Baptism in distant towns and villages.
Jesus Goes to the Jordan, and Orders Baptism to be Administered
At break of day Jesus went over the Jordan at the same narrow place which He had crossed forty days before. Some logs lay there to facilitate a passage. This was not the usual crossing place, the terminus of the public road, but a neighboring one. Jesus proceeded along the east bank of the river up to a point directly opposite John’s place of baptism. John at that moment was busy teaching and baptizing. Pointing straight across the river, he exclaimed: “Behold, the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.” ( 1:36). Jesus then turned away from the shore and returned to Bethabara.
Andrew and Saturnin, who had been standing near John, hurried over the river by the same way that Jesus had passed. They were followed by one of the cousins of Joseph of Arimathea, and two others of John’s disciples. They ran after Jesus, who, turning, came to meet them, asking what they wanted. Andrew, overjoyed at having found Him once more, asked Him where He dwelt. Jesus answered by bidding them follow Him, and He led them to an inn near the water and outside of Bethabara. There they entered and sat down. Jesus stayed all this day with the five disciples in Bethabara, and took a meal with them. He talked of His teaching mission about to begin and of His intention to choose His disciples. Andrew mentioned to Him many of his own acquaintances whom he recommended as suitable for the work, among others Peter, Philip, and Nathanael. Then Jesus spoke of baptizing here at the Jordan, and commissioned some of them to do so. Whereupon they objected that there was no convenient place around those parts. The only suitable locality was where John was baptizing, and it would never do to interfere with him. But Jesus spoke of John’s vocation and mission, remarking that his work was well nigh its completion, and confirming all that John had said of himself and of the Messiah.
Jesus alluded also to His own preparation in the desert for the mission of teaching that was before Him, and of the preparation necessary before undertaking any important work. Jesus was cordial and confidential toward the disciples, but they were humble and somewhat shy.
Next morning Jesus went with the disciples from Bethabara to a group of houses that stood near the river ferry. Here He taught in presence of a small audience. After that He crossed the river and taught in a little village of about twenty houses, distant perhaps one hour from Jericho. Crowds of neophytes and John’s disciples kept coming and going, to hear His words and report them to the Baptist. It was near midday when Jesus taught here.
After the Sabbath Jesus commissioned several of the disciples to cross the Jordan and go up the river to the distance of about one hour from Bethabara, there to prepare a pool for Baptism. The site chosen by Jesus was that upon which John, when going down from Ainon, had baptized before he had crossed to the west bank of the river opposite Bethabara.
The people of this place wanted to give Jesus an entertainment, but He would not stay. He crossed the Jordan and returned to Bethabara where He celebrated the Sabbath and taught in the synagogue. He ate with the principal of the school and slept in his house.
The baptismal pool which John had used just before he removed near Jericho was soon put in order again by the disciples. It was not quite so large as that just mentioned. It had an elevated margin and a projecting tongue of land on which the baptizer could stand. A small canal surrounded it, and from this the water could be turned into the basin.
There were now as many as three pools for Baptism: that above Bethabara, that of Jesus on the lately formed island in the Jordan, and that in use by John.
On Jesus’ arrival, He poured into the baptismal pool some of the water from the well on the island where He Himself had been baptized, and blessed it. Andrew had brought the water with him in a flask. The neophytes became unusually touched and agitated. Andrew and Saturnin administered Baptism, but not by complete immersion. The neophytes stood in the water near the edge of the pool, the sponsors’ hands upon their shoulders, while the baptizers, dipping the water up in the hollow of their hand, poured it thrice over them, baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. John baptized somewhat differently. He used a three-channeled shell for dipping up the water. Crowds were baptized at this time, most of them from Peraea.
Jesus, standing on a little green hill nearby, instructed the people on penance, baptism and the Holy Ghost. He said: “When I was baptized, my Father sent down the Holy Ghost and uttered the words, ‘This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ These words are addressed to everyone that loves his Heavenly Father and is sorry for his sins. Upon all that will be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, He sends His Holy Spirit. They then become His sons in whom He is well pleased, for He is the Father of all that receive His Baptism and to Him by the same are born again.”
It is always a subject of astonishment to me that the Gospel narratives of the facts in Jesus’ life are so short; for instance, it records the meeting of Jesus with Peter as happening close upon Andrew’s following Jesus after the testimony of John; while in reality, Peter was at the time not in that part of the country, but in Galilee. But still more wonderful is it to read of the Last Supper and the Passion’s following so closely the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, celebrated by us on Palm Sunday, since I always see so many days, and hear Jesus delivering so many instructions between the two events. So I think that Jesus remained here fourteen days before going to Galilee.
Andrew had not as yet been formally received as a disciple; indeed, Jesus had not even called him. He had come of himself, had offered himself, for he would gladly be near Jesus. He was more eager to serve, more ready to offer service than Peter. Peter was ever ready to quiet himself with the thought: “Oh, I am too weak for that! That is beyond my strength,” and so went about his own affairs. Saturnin and the two nephews of Joseph of Arimathea, Aram and Themeni, had, like Andrew, followed Jesus of their own accord.
John’s place of baptism was daily becoming less frequented, and many more of his disciples would have gone over to Jesus, had they not been prevented by some others, pertinacious characters, who took it hard that so many of his disciples abandoned John. They complained to him about it, saying that Jesus had no right to baptize in those parts, that He was encroaching upon John’s privilege, etc. John had some difficulty in convincing them to the contrary. He told them that they should call to mind his words and how he had always foretold what was now happening. He repeated that his duty was only to prepare the way, which done, he was to desist entirely from the work, and that that would be soon, since the way was almost prepared. But his disciples were greatly attached to him and they would not understand his words. Jesus’ baptismal place was already so crowded that He told His disciples they should on the morrow move further down the river.
With about twenty companions, among them Andrew, Saturnin, Aram, and Themeni, Jesus left Bethabara and went over the Jordan at the usual crossing place where the passage was easy. Leaving Gilgal on the right, He went to a very densely settled place called Ophra, situated in a narrow mountain valley. Hither flocked the merchants from the regions beyond Sodom and Gomorrha. With their camels laden with merchandise they passed to the east side of the Jordan, where they were baptized by John. There was at this place a byway leading from Judea to the Jordan. Ophra was in many respects quite forgotten. It was between three and four hours from John’s place of baptism, not quite so far from Jericho, and from Jerusalem about seven hours. It was not exposed to the influence of the sun; consequently, though well built, it was cold. The inhabitants were made up of merchants, publicans, and smugglers. They were not exactly wicked, but they were indifferent, and as is often the case among traders and innkeepers, they cleared great profits. I t seemed as if they made something off everyone that passed through their city. As yet they had paid little attention to John’s baptism; they hungered not after salvation. Things went on here as in places of which it is said: Business thrives there.
When they approached Ophra, Jesus sent the nephews of Joseph of Arimathea on ahead, in order to get the key of the synagogue and to call the people to the instruction. Jesus always entrusted such messages to these youths, for they were very clever and amiable. At the entrance of the city, the possessed and lunatics ran around Jesus, crying out: “Here comes the Prophet, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our enemy! He will drive us out!” Jesus commanded them to be silent and to cease their frantic gestures. All became quiet and followed Him into the synagogue, to which He had to go from almost one end of the city to the other. There He taught till evening, going out only once to take some refreshment. His theme was, as usual, the nearness of the Kingdom of God and the necessity of Baptism. In vigorous words He warned the inhabitants to awake from their indifference and fancied security’ lest judgment should come upon them. He spoke in strong terms against their usury, their smuggling, and such sins as are common to publicans and merchants. His hearers did not contradict Him, though they were not very well disposed. They were captives to their gains. Still some of them were really touched and very much changed by His teaching. That evening several of the most important men of the city, as well as some of the humblest class, called upon Jesus at the inn. They had resolved to receive baptism, and on the following day they went to John.
Next morning Jesus and His disciples left Ophra and returned to Bethabara. On the way they separated, Andrew and the greater number being sent on ahead by the same route by which they had come; while Jesus with Saturnin and Joseph of Arimathea’s nephew went on toward John’s place of baptism, He took the same road as at the time upon which John rendered to Him the first public testimony after His baptism. On the way He entered some of the houses, taught their occupants, and exhorted them to Baptism. They reached Bethabara in the afternoon, where Jesus again delivered an instruction at the place of Baptism. Andrew and Saturnin baptized the crowds that succeeded one another. Jesus’ teaching was generally the same; viz., that to all that did penance and were baptized His Heavenly Father had said: “This is My beloved Son,” and that, in truth, all then became God’s children.
Most of those who now received Baptism were under the jurisdiction of the Tetrarch Philip, who was a good man. His people were tolerably happy, and therefore had thought little about receiving Baptism.
From Bethabara Jesus, with three disciples, went up through the valley to Dibon, where He had lately been for the Feast of Tabernacles. He taught in some houses, also in the synagogue, which was somewhat distant from the city on the road running through the valley. Jesus did not enter Dibon itself. He stayed overnight at a poor, retired inn which indeed was little more than a shed where the field laborers from the country around obtained food and lodging. It was now seed time on the sunny side of the valley, the crops of which were to ripen about the Pasch. They had to dig the ground here, for it was made up of soil, sand, and stone. They could not use the implement generally employed in breaking up the ground. Part of the standing-out harvest was now gathered in for the first time. The inhabitants of this valley, which was about three hours in length, were good people, of simple habits, and well inclined toward Jesus.
In the synagogue, as also among the field laborers, Jesus related and explained the parable of the sower. He did not always explain His parables. He often related them to the Pharisees without an explanation.
Andrew and Saturnin with some other disciples went afterward to Ophra, to confirm in their good resolutions those that Jesus had roused by His teaching.
When Jesus left the inn near Dibon, He started southward for Eleale about four hours distant, taking a road two hours farther to the southeast of the Jordan than that by which He had come thither from Bethabara. He arrived with about seven disciples, and put up with one of the Elders of the synagogue. When the Sabbath began, He taught in the synagogue taking for His subject a parable upon the waving branches of a tree scattering around their blossoms and bearing no fruit. By this parable Jesus intended to rebuke the inhabitants who for the most part had not become better after having received John’s baptism. They allowed the blossoms of penance to be scattered by every wind without bearing fruit. Such were they here. Jesus chose this similitude because these people found their support chiefly in the cultivation of fruit. They had to carry it far away for sale, as no highroad passed near their isolated city. They were also largely engaged in coarse embroidery and the manufacture of covers.
Up to the present Jesus had met no contradiction. The people of Dibon and the country around loved Him, and said that never before had they heard such a teacher. The old men always likened Him to the Prophets of whose teaching they had heard from their forefathers.
After the Sabbath Jesus went about three hours westward to Bethjesimoth on the east side of a mountain, the sunny side, about one hour from the Jordan. Andrew and Saturnin with some others of John’s disciples met Him on the way. Jesus spoke to them of the Children of Israel who had formerly encamped here, and of Josue and Moses who had instructed them, applying it to the present time and to His own teaching. Bethjesimoth was not a large place, but it was very fruitful, especially in wine.
Just as Jesus arrived, some demoniacs, who had been confined together in a house, were led out into the open air. All at once they began to rage and to cry: “There He comes, the Prophet! He will drive us out!” Jesus turned, enjoined silence upon them, commanded their fetters to fall, and that they should follow Him into the synagogue. Their chains fell miraculously and the poor creatures became quite calm. They cast themselves down before Jesus, thanked Him, and followed Him into the synagogue. There He taught in parables of the culture of the vine and its fruitfulness, after which He visited and cured many sick in their homes. Bethjesimoth did not lie on any highroad. The people had to carry their fruit to market themselves.
Jesus healed here for the first time since His return from the desert. On account of the cures wrought among them, the people were instant in their prayers for Him to remain. But He departed. With Andrew, Saturnin, Joseph of Arimathea’s nephews, and others, about twelve in all, He went in an
oblique line toward the north until He reached the public ferry leading to the highroad of Dibon, over which He had crossed in going from Gilgal to Dibon at the Feast of Tabernacles. It takes tolerably long to cross the river at this point, because the steep bank directly opposite does not afford a landing place. From here Jesus and His little company journeyed on for about an hour over the base of a mountain in the direction of Samaria, until they arrived at a small place consisting of only one row of houses and which had no school.
It was occupied entirely by shepherds and kindhearted people, who were habited in almost the same style as the shepherds I saw at the Crib. Jesus taught in the open air on a little elevation whereon a teacher’s chair of stone was erected. The people here had received John’s baptism.