Jesus Teaching in Azanoth. Second Conversion of Magdalen
About an hour to the south of the inn at Dothain lay the little town of Azanoth. It was built on an eminence upon which was a teacher’s chair and, in earlier times, it had often been the scene of the Prophets’ preaching. Through the activity of the disciples, the report had been spread throughout the whole region that Jesus was about to deliver a great instruction in that place, and in consequence of this report, multitudes were gathered there from all Galilee. Martha, attended by her maid, had journeyed to Magdalen in the hope of inducing her to be present at the instruction, but she was received very haughtily by her sister, with whom things had come to the worst. She was, on Martha’s arrival, engaged at her toilet, and sent word that she could not speak to her then. Martha awaited her sister’s appearance with unspeakable patience, occupying herself meanwhile in prayer. At last the unhappy Magdalen presented herself, her manner haughty, excited, and defiant. She was ashamed of Martha’s simple attire. She feared that some of her guests might see her, consequently she requested her to go away as soon as possible. But Martha begging to be allowed to rest in some corner of the house, she and her maid were conducted to a room in one of the side buildings where, either through design or forgetfulness, they were allowed to remain without food or drink. It was then afternoon. Meanwhile Magdalen adorned herself for the banquet, at which she was seated on a richly decorated chair, while Martha and her maid were in prayer. After the revelry, Magdalen went at last to Martha, taking with her something on a little blue-edged plate and something to drink. She addressed Martha angrily and disdainfully, her whole demeanor expressive of pride, insolence, uneasiness, and interior agitation. Martha, full of humility and affection, invited Magdalen to go with her once more to the great instruction Jesus was going to deliver in the neighborhood. All Magdalen’s female friends, Martha urged, those whom she had lately met, would be there and very glad to see her. She herself (Magdalen) had already testified to the esteem in which she held Jesus, and she should now gratify Lazarus and herself (Martha) by going once more to hear Him preach. She would not soon again have the opportunity of hearing the wonderful Prophet and at the same time of seeing all her friends in her own neighborhood. She had shown by her anointing of Jesus at the banquet at Gabara that she knew how to honor greatness and majesty. She should now again salute Him whom she had once so nobly and fearlessly honored in public, etc., etc. It would be impossible to say how lovingly Martha spoke to her erring sister, or how patiently she endured her shamefully contemptuous manner. At last Magdalen replied: “I shall go, but not with you! You can go on ahead, for I will not be seen with one so miserably clothed. I shall dress according to my position, and I shall go with my own friends.” At these words, the two sisters separated, for it was very late.
Next morning Magdalen sent for Martha to come to her room while she was making her toilet. Martha went, patient as usual and secretly praying that Magdalen might go with her and be converted. Magdalen, clothed in a fine woolen garment, was sitting on a low stool, while two of her maids were busily engaged washing her feet and arms and perfuming them with fragrant water. Her hair was divided into three parts above the ears and at the back of the head, after which it was combed, brushed, oiled, and braided. Over her fine woolen undergarment was put a green robe embroidered with large yellow flowers, and over that again a mantle with folds. Her headdress was a kind of crimped cap that rose high on the forehead. Both her hair and her cap were interwoven with numberless pearls, and in her ears were long pendants. Her sleeves were wide above the elbow, but narrow below and fastened with broad, glittering bracelets. Her robe was plaited. Her under-bodice was open on the breast and laced with shining cords. During the toilet, Magdalen held in her hand a round, polished mirror. She wore an ornament on her breast. It was covered with gold, and encrusted with cut stones and pearls. Over the narrow-sleeved under dress she wore an upper one with a long flowing train and short, wide sleeves. It was made of changeable violet silk, and embroidered with large flowers, some in gold, others in different colors. The braids of her hair were ornamented with roses made of raw silk, and strings of pearls, interwoven with some kind of stiff transparent stuff that stood out in points. Very little of the hair could be seen through its load of ornamentation. It was rolled high around the face. Over this headdress, Magdalen wore a rich hood of fine, transparent material. It fell on the high headdress in front, shaded the cheeks, and hung low on the shoulders behind.
Martha took leave of her sister, and went to the inn near Damna, in order to tell Mary and the holy women the success she had had in her efforts to persuade Magdalen to be present at the instruction about to be given in Azanoth. With the Blessed Virgin about a dozen women had come to Damna, among them Anna Cleophas, Susanna Alpheus, Susanna of Jerusalem, Veronica, Johanna Chusa, Mary Marcus, Dina, Maroni, and the Suphanite.
Jesus, accompanied by six Apostles and a number of the disciples, started from the inn at Dothain for Azanoth. On the way, He met the holy women coming from Damna. Lazarus was among Jesus’ companions on this occasion.
After Martha’s departure, Magdalen was very much tormented by the devil, who wanted to pre-vent her going to Jesus’ instruction. She would have followed his suggestions, were it not for some of her guests who had agreed to go with her to Azanoth, to witness what they called a great show. Magdalen and her frivolous, sinful companions rode on asses to the inn of the holy women near the Baths of Bethulia. Magdalen’s splendid seat, along with cushions and rugs for the others, followed packed on asses.
Next morning Magdalen, again arrayed in her most wanton attire and surrounded by her companions, made her appearance at the place of instruction, which was about an hour from the inn at which she was stopping. With noise and bustle, loud talk and bold staring about, they took their places under an open tent far in front of the holy women. There were some men of their own stamp in their party. They sat upon cushions and rugs and upholstered chairs, all in full view, Magdalen in front. Their coming gave rise to general whispering and murmurs of disapprobation, for they were even more detested and despised in these quarters than in Gabara. The Pharisees especially, who knew of her first remarkable conversion at Gabara and of her subsequent relapse into her former disorders, were scandalized and expressed their indignation at her daring to appear in such an assembly.
Jesus, after healing many sick, began His long and severe discourse. The details of His sermon, I cannot now recall, but I know that He cried woe upon Capharnaum, Bethsaida, and Corozain. He said also that the Queen of Saba had come from the South to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but here was One greater than Solomon. And 10, the wonder! Children that had never yet spoken, babes in their mothers’ arms, cried out from time to time during the instruction: “Jesus of Nazareth! Holiest of Prophets! Son of David! Son of God!” Which words caused many of the hearers, and among them Magdalen, to tremble with fear. Making allusion to Magdalen, Jesus said that when the devil has been driven out and the house has been swept, he returns with six other demons, and rages worse than before. These words terrified Magdalen. After Jesus had in this way touched the hearts of many, He turned successively to all sides and commanded the demon to go out of all that sighed for deliverance from his thralldom, but that those who wished to remain bound to the devil should depart and take him along with them. At this command, the possessed cried out from all parts of the circle: “Jesus, Thou Son of God!”—and here and there people sank to the ground unconscious.
Magdalen also, from her splendid seat upon which she had attracted all eyes, fell in violent convulsions. Her companions in sin applied perfumes as restoratives, and wanted to carry her away. Desiring to remain under the empire of the evil one, they were themselves glad to profit by the opportunity to retire from the scene. But just then some persons near her cried out: “Stop, Master! Stop! This woman is dying.” Jesus interrupted His discourse to reply: “Place her on her chair! The death she is now dying is a good death, and one that will vivify her!” After some time another word of Jesus pierced her to the heart, and she again fell into convulsions, during which dark forms escaped from her. A crowd gathered round her in alarm, while her own immediate party tried once again to bring her to herself. She was soon able to resume her seat on her beautiful chair, and then she tried to look as if she had suffered only an ordinary fainting spell. She had now become the object of general attention, especially as many other possessed back in the crowd had, like her, fallen in convulsions, and afterward rose up freed from the evil one. But when for the third time Magdalen fell down in violent convulsions, the excitement increased, and Martha hurried forward to her. When she recovered consciousness, she acted like one bereft of her senses. She wept passionately, and wanted to go to where the holy women were sitting. The frivolous companions with whom she had come hither held her back forcibly, declaring that she should not play the fool, and they at last succeeded in getting her down the mountain. Lazarus, Martha, and others who had followed her, now went forward and led her to the inn of the holy women. The crowd of worldlings who had accompanied Magdalen had already made their way off.
Before going down to His inn, Jesus healed many blind and sick. Later on, He taught again in the school, and Magdalen was present. She was not yet quite cured, but profoundly impressed, and no longer so wantonly arrayed. She had laid aside her superfluous finery, some of which was made of a fine scalloped material like pointed lace, and so perishable that it could be worn only once. She was now veiled. Jesus in His instruction appeared again to speak for her special benefit and, when He fixed upon her His penetrating glance, she fell once more into unconsciousness and another evil spirit went out of her. Her maids bore her from the synagogue to where she was received by Martha and Mary, who took her back to the inn. She was now like one distracted. She cried and wept. She ran through the public streets saying to all she met that she was a wicked creature, a sinner, the refuse of humanity. The holy women had the greatest trouble to quiet her. She tore her garments, disarranged her hair, and hid her face in the folds of her veil. When Jesus returned to His inn with the disciples and some of the Pharisees, and while they were taking some refreshments standing, Magdalen escaped from the holy women, ran with streaming hair and uttering loud lamentations, made her way through the crowd, cast herself at Jesus’ feet, weeping and moaning, and asked if she might still hope for salvation. The Pharisees and disciples, scandalized at the sight, said to Jesus that He should no longer suffer this reprobate woman to create disturbance everywhere, that He should send her away once for all. But Jesus replied: “Permit her to weep and lament! Ye know not what is passing in her”—and He turned to her with words of consolation. He told her to repent from her heart, to believe and to hope, for that she should soon find peace. Then He bade her depart with confidence. Martha, who had followed with her maids, took her again to her inn. Magdalen did nothing but wring
her hands and lament. She was not yet quite freed from the power of the evil one, who tortured and tormented her with the most frightful remorse and despair. There was no rest for her—she thought herself forever lost.
Upon her request, Lazarus went to Magdalum in order to take charge of her property, and to dissolve the ties she had there formed. She owned near Azanoth and in the surrounding country fields and vineyards which Lazarus, on account of her extravagance, had previously sequestered.
To escape the great crowd that had gathered here, Jesus went that night with His disciples into the neighborhood of Damna, where there was an inn, as well as a lovely eminence upon which stood a chair for teaching. Next morning when the holy women came thither accompanied by Magdalen, they found Jesus already encompassed by people seeking His aid. When His departure became known, the crowds awaiting Him at Azanoth, as well as new visitors, came streaming to Damna, and fresh bands continued to arrive during the whole instruction.
Magdalen, crushed and miserable, now sat among the holy women. Jesus inveighed severely against the sin of impurity, and said that it was that vice that had called down fire upon Sodom and Gomorrha. But He spoke of the mercy of God also and of the present time of pardon, almost conjuring His hearers to accept the grace offered them. Thrice during this discourse did Jesus rest His glance upon Magdalen, and each time I saw her sinking down and dark vapors issuing from her. The third time, the holy women carried her away. She was pale, weak, annihilated as it were, and scarcely recognizable. Her tears flowed incessantly. She was completely transformed, and passionately sighed to confess her sins to Jesus and receive pardon. The instruction over, Jesus went to a retired place, whither Mary herself and Martha led Magdalen to Him. She fell on her face weeping at His feet, her hair flowing loosely around her. Jesus comforted her. When Mary and Martha had withdrawn, she cried for pardon, confessed her numerous transgressions, and asked over and over: “Lord, is there still salvation for me?” Jesus forgave her sins, and she implored Him to save her from another relapse. He promised so to do, gave her His blessing, and spoke to her of the virtue of purity, also of His Mother, who was pure without stain. He praised Mary highly in terms I had never before heard from His lips, and commanded Magdalen to unite herself closely to her and to seek from her advice and consolation. When Jesus and Magdalen rejoined the holy women, Jesus said to them: “She has been a great sinner, but for all future time, she will be the model of penitents.”
Magdalen, through her passionate emotion, her grief and her tears, was no longer like a human being, but like a shadow tottering from weakness. She was, however, calm, though still weeping silent tears that exhausted her. The holy women comforted her with many marks of affection, while she in turn craved pardon of each. As they had to set out for Naim and Magdalen was too weak to accompany them, Martha, Anna Cleophas, and Mary the Suphanite went with her to Damna, in order to rest that night and follow the others next morning. The holy women went through Cana to Naim.
Jesus and the disciples went across through the valley of the Baths of Bethulia, four or five hours farther on, to Gathepher, a large city that lay on a height between Cana and Sephoris. They passed the night outside the city at an inn that was near a cave called “John’s Cave.”
Jesus in Gathepher, Kisloth, and Nazareth
Next morning Jesus approached Gathepher. The schoolmasters and Pharisees came out to meet Him and bid Him welcome, though making all kinds of remonstrances, and imploring Him not to disturb the peace of their city. They especially insisted upon His discountenancing the crowding around Him and clamoring of women and children. He might, they said, teach quietly in their synagogue, but public disturbance they did not want to see. Jesus replied in grave and severe words that it was precisely for those that cried after Him, longed for Him, that He had come, and He reproached them for their dissimulation. The Pharisees had, in fact, on hearing that Jesus was coming, issued an order that the women should not appear on the streets with their children nor should they go to meet the Nazarene with clamorous greeting. The cry of “Son of God,” “Christ,” was, they said, positively preposterous and scandalous, since everyone in this part of the country knew full well whence Jesus came, who were His parents, and who His brethren. The sick might assemble in front of the synagogue and allow themselves to be cured, but noise and excitement would not be tolerated. Such were the directions given by the Pharisees, who had likewise arranged the sick around the synagogue as they thought proper, just as if it were theirs by right to order Jesus’ actions. When, however, they reached the city with Jesus, to their intense chagrin they beheld the streets filled with mothers surrounded by their little ones, and some with infants in their arms. The children were stretching out their hands to Jesus and crying: “Jesus of Nazareth! Son of David! Son of God! Holiest of Prophets!” The Pharisees tried to drive the women and children back, but all in vain. They came pouring out of the neighboring streets and houses, while the Pharisees, eaten with vexation, withdrew from Jesus’ escort. The disciples too, who were surrounding Jesus, were somewhat timorous and frightened. They would have desired a less demonstrative entrance into the city, one attended by less danger, and so they remonstrated with Jesus while attempting to drive the children back. But Jesus reproached them with their faint-heartedness. He restrained them, allowed the children to press around Him, and showed Himself all love and affection for them. And thus they proceeded to the court before the synagogue amid the uninterrupted shouts of the little ones: “Jesus of Nazareth! Holiest of Prophets!” Even the sucklings that never yet had spoken, cried out after Him. They were witnesses to Jesus. They bore convincing testimony before all the people. In front of the synagogue the children halted, the boys on one side, the girls on the other, the mothers with their infants in the rear. Jesus blessed the children and addressed some words of instruction to the mothers and their domestics who likewise had made their way thither. He said to the mothers that they should regard these last as their children. He spoke to the disciples also of the high value God sets on the child. The Pharisees were annoyed at these delays, and the sick were impatient for their cure. At last Jesus went to the latter, cured many of them, and then entered the synagogue, where He taught about the Patriarch Joseph. During His discourse He took occasion to return to the dignity of children. Jesus did so because the Pharisees were complaining of what they called
When Jesus was leaving the synagogue, three women presented themselves before Him, requesting a private interview. When He withdrew with them from the crowd, they cast themselves on their knees before Him, and made their laments over their husbands, whom they begged Jesus to help. Their husbands, they said, were tormented by evil spirits, by whom they themselves were sometimes attacked. They had heard, they said, that He had helped Magdalen, and they hoped that He would likewise have pity on them. Jesus promised to visit their homes. He went first, however, with His disciples to the house of a certain Simeon, a simple-hearted man belonging to the married Essenians. He was of middle age and the son of a Pharisee of Dabereth on Thabor. Jesus and the disciples partook, in this house, of refreshments standing. Simeon was desirous of bestowing all his goods upon the Community, and he spoke with Jesus to that effect.
On leaving Simeon’s Jesus went as He had promised to the homes of the women, and had an interview with them and their husbands. Affairs were not just as the wives had stated, for they had thrown upon their husbands the blame of which they were themselves deserving. Jesus exhorted both parties to live in harmony, to pray, to fast, and to give alms. After the Sabbath these infirm women followed Jesus to a mountain a little to the north of Thabor where He was going to deliver a discourse. He did not remain long there, He went southward toward Kisloth, which city the holy women passed on their road to Naim, Magdalen also, when journeying with her party. On the way Jesus again instructed the Apostles upon what was in store for them. He told them how they should behave when they arrived in Judea, where they would not be so well received. He gave them new directions as to their conduct, also for the imposition of hands and the driving out of the demon, and as an additional source of strength and increase of grace, He again conferred upon them His benediction.
Three youths from Egypt came to Jesus in this place. He received them as disciples, though picturing to them at the same time the hardships that awaited them. One was named Cyrinus. They had been playmates of Jesus in Egypt, and they were now about thirty years old. Their parents had ever revered the dwelling and the fountain used by the Holy Family as sacred memorials. The young men had visited Bethlehem and Bethania, and had gone to Dothain, to see Mary, to whom they delivered their parents’ greeting.
Some Pharisees of Nazareth came to Jesus at Kisloth to invite Him to His native city. Those Pharisees who, on a former occasion, wanted to hurl Him from the rock, were no longer in Nazareth. The envoys told Jesus that He ought to go to His native city and there exhibit some of His signs and wonders. The people, they said, were eager to hear His doctrine; then too He could cure His fellow countrymen that were sick. But they laid down as a condition that He would not heal on the Sabbath day. Jesus replied that He would go and keep the Sabbath with them. He warned them, however, that they would be scandalized on His account, and as to the cures, He would condescend to their desires even if it proved to their own detriment. Upon receiving this answer, the Pharisees returned to Nazareth, whither Jesus soon followed with His disciples, whom He instructed on the way. It was noon when they arrived. Many from curiosity, others really well intentioned people, came forth from the city to meet Him. They washed the feet of the newcomers and offered them some refreshments. Jesus had two disciples from Nazareth, Parmenas and Jonadab. With the widowed mother of the latter, Jesus and His companions took up their quarters. These disciples had been friends of Jesus in early youth, and had accompanied Him on His first journey to Hebron after Joseph’s death. He now employed them frequently in discharging commissions and errands of all kinds.
Jesus went to some sick who had implored His assistance. He knew that they believed in Him and had need of His aid. But He passed by many who wanted only to test His power or who, under the pretence of a cure, were desirous only of getting a sight of Him. An Essenian youth, paralyzed on one side from his birth, was brought to Him. He implored Jesus to cure him, and He did so on the street, as also two blind men. Then He entered certain houses wherein He cured many aged sick people, men and women. Some of them were afflicted with dropsy in its worst form; one woman in particular was frightfully swollen. Jesus cured, altogether, fifteen people.¹ After that He went to the synagogue where also some sick were gathered; but He passed without curing them, and celebrated the Sabbath without interruption. The reading for this Sabbath was about God’s speaking to Moses in Egypt, also some chapters from Ezechiel.
Next morning Jesus again taught in the synagogue, but healed no one. At noon I saw Him walking with the disciples and some good people on the road between Nazareth and Sephoris. They entered one of the neighboring villages, as was usual on the Sabbath. The road from Nazareth to Sephoris extended toward the north and was tolerably level, but when within about a quarter of an hour from the latter place, it began to rise. I saw Jesus on this road instructing separate groups of people. The members of some households in which reigned strife and disunion cast themselves at His feet. He made peace between man and wife and reconciled neighbors, but performed no cures. The two young men who had so often desired to be received among the disciples met Jesus on this road. He asked them again whether they were willing to forsake home and parents, distribute their goods to the poor, obey blindly, and suffer persecution for His sake. Their only answer was a shrug of the shoulders as they turned away.
When returned to Nazareth, Jesus visited His parents’ house. It was in perfect order, but unoccupied. He visited likewise Mary’s elder sister, the mother of Mary Cleophas, who took care of the house, though she did not live in it. Jesus then went with the disciples to the synagogue, preached in sharp and severe terms, called God His Heavenly Father, pronounced judgment upon Jerusalem and upon all that would not follow Him, openly addressed His disciples, alluded to the persecution that awaited them, and exhorted them to fidelity and perseverance. When the Pharisees found that He did not intend to remain and that He would perform no more cures in Nazareth, they began to give utterance to their vexation, and to ask, first this one, then that one: “Who is He, then? Who does He pretend to be? Where did He get His learning? Is He not of Nazareth? His father was the carpenter. His relatives, His brothers and sisters-all belong here?” By these last words, they meant Anne’s elder daughter, Mary Heli and her sons James, Heliachim, and Sadoch, all disciples of John, Mary Cleophas and her sons and daughters. Jesus made them no answer, but went on quietly instructing His disciples. Then another Pharisee, a stranger from the region of Sephoris, more insolent than the rest, cried out: “Who, then, art Thou? Hast Thou forgotten that only some years before Thy father’s death, Thou didst help him to put up partitions in my house?” Still Jesus deigned no answer. Then the Pharisees all began to shout: “Answer! Is it good manners not to answer an honorable man?” At these words, Jesus addressed His bold questioner in terms like the following: “I did indeed work on wood belonging to thee. At the same time I cast a glance upon thee, and I grieved at not being able to free thee from the hard rind of thine own heart. Thou hast now proved thyself to be what I then suspected. Thou shalt have no part in My Kingdom, although I have helped thee to build up thy dwelling place upon earth.” Jesus said likewise that nowhere was a Prophet without honor, excepting in his own city, in his own house, among his own relatives.
But what especially irritated the Pharisees were Jesus’ words to His disciples; for instance, “I send ye as lambs among wolves”; “Sodom and Gomorrha will be less severely condemned on the last day than they that refuse to receive you”; “I am not come to bring peace, but the sword.”
The close of the Sabbath found many waiting to be healed, but, to the great vexation of the Pharisees, Jesus cured none. Some of the people, imitating the insolence of the Pharisees in the synagogue, cried out to Jesus: “Don’t you remember this? Don’t you remember that?” And they recalled circumstances in which they had formerly seen Him. The Pharisees remarked to Him that this time He had come with fewer followers than on the preceding occasion, and they inquired whether He was not again going to take up His quarters among the Essenians. As a general thing, the Essenians did not much frequent Jesus’ public instructions, and He rarely spoke of them. The enlightened among them at a later period joined the Community. They never opposed His doctrine, but looked upon Jesus as the Son of God.
Jesus did, in effect, again visit those Essenians with whom He had been the last time He was in Nazareth. He and the disciples took with them a light repast, after which He taught during a part of the night. Toward ten o’clock, Peter, Matthew and James the Greater returned from the Apostles in Upper Galilee. They had left the rest in the region around Seleucia to the east of Lake Merom. Andrew, Thomas and Saturnin, who had lately arrived, and another Apostle, immediately started to replace those just come.
Jesus left Nazareth that night with His followers. He journeyed about two hours toward Thabor to the little place where recently, on His return to Capharnaum after raising the youth of Naim, He had cured the leprous property holder. An instruction had been announced for the following day, which was to be delivered on a height southwest of Thabor, about half an hour from the mountain itself. Jesus stopped again with the schoolmaster of the place. The latter, counting upon Jesus’ coming, had received many sick into his house. Jesus restored speech to one dumb. The boy that had so cleverly delivered to Jesus the message sent by his leprous master was among the schoolmaster’s pupils. Jesus spoke to him. His name was Samuel, and he afterward became a disciple.
Jesus’ Instruction on the Height Near Thabor, in Sunem
The lord of the place, he whom Jesus had healed of leprosy, came to Him and renewed his acts of gratitude. He pleaded for several other lepers for whom he had caused a tent to be erected on the road by which Jesus was to pass, and he likewise made overtures for applying a part of his fortune to defraying the expenses of Jesus’ apostolic journeys.
It was still dawn when Jesus left the house and went out on the road where were awaiting Him about five men and women. From a retired spot, a little off from the road, they cried to Him for assistance. Jesus stepped to them, and they cast themselves at His feet. One of the women addressed Him: “Lord, we are from Tiberias, and until now we have hesitated to implore Thy help. The Pharisees told us that Thou art hard and pitiless toward sinners. But we have heard of Thy merciful compassion to Magdalen whom Thou didst free from her miseries, and whose sins Thou didst also forgive. All this gave us courage, and we have followed Thee thither. Lord, have mercy on us! Thou canst heal us and purify us. Thou canst likewise forgive us our sins.” The men and women were standing apart from one another. They were afflicted with leprosy and other maladies. One woman was possessed by a wicked spirit who threw her into convulsions.
Jesus took them aside, one by one, to hear the particulars of their confession, inasmuch as the detailed account would serve to increase their sorrow and repentance. He did not exact this from all, unless it was necessary. He cured those of whom we are now speaking, and forgave them their sins. They melted into tears of gratitude, and begged Him to say what they should henceforth do. In reply, Jesus commanded them not to return to Tiberias, but to go to another place. I understood at that moment that Jesus Himself would not go to Tiberias, and indeed I never saw Him there. These people now went to the mountain to hear His instructions.
Jesus, however, turned off to the tent of the lepers, about four or five in number. He cured them, addressed to them words of admonition, commanded them to go to Nazareth and show themselves to the priests.
Jesus never lingered long over such cures, though there was never anything like precipitation in His manner. All was done with dignity and moderation, and especially without a superfluity of words. All was striking and appropriate whether He consoled or exhorted, whether He was gentle or severe. His manner was overflowing with patience and love. He went straight on with His work, but without the least hurry. Many of those that needed His help, Jesus went to meet; yes, even turning out of His way, He hastened to them, like a loving friend of men who sought to save them. From others, again, He turned away, permitting them to follow Him, to sigh after Him, a long time.
The spot upon which Jesus now taught was a beautiful plateau where, from the stone chair, the Prophets of bygone days had taught. From it one could see across the valley of Esdrelon and into the country around Mageddo. Crowds were gathered from the surrounding cities, and there were very many sick from Nazareth also, whom Jesus had not cured there, but who now were restored to health. There were some possessed, who testified to Him as usual and whom He delivered. He again taught upon the first four of the Eight Beatitudes, and related some parables referring to penance and the coming of the Kingdom. Then in most touching terms, He begged His hearers to profit by the grace offered them while still they had time. The Apostles listened attentively, because each in his own peculiar way was to repeat this instruction on his next mission.
Toward noon I saw Jesus gathering the Apostles and disciples around Him in a sequestered spot at the foot of the mountain. He sent them all out, two and two, with the exception of Peter, John, and some of the disciples who were to remain with Him. They were to go in three different directions: one set into the valley of the Jordan, another into that near Dothan, and a third to the west, into the country around Jerusalem. It was on this occasion that I heard Jesus telling the Apostles that they should go without purse, without scrip, girded with one garment only, and a staff in their hand. They were not to go to the heathens nor to the Samaritans, but to the lost sheep of Israel. He indicated to them how they might be received, told them where to shake the dust from their feet, and commanded them to preach penance.¹ Jesus thus particularized because He was sending the Apostles into a hostile part of the country, and because persecution threatened Himself after the death of John, which was now drawing nigh. Many of the private inns had been established in this part of the Holy Land, therefore it was that the Apostles had no need of money. But they that were sent to Upper Galilee and beyond the Jordan, had received some, though very little, money. And now began a new era in their apostolic career, and new regions were visited by them.
Jesus blessed them before their departure, and gave them some further instructions upon curing the sick and driving out demons. He blessed the oil also that was to be used for the sick. He notified some where they should again meet Him.
After healing many more sick, Jesus bade farewell to the multitude, and accompanied by Peter, John and the disciples, journeyed southward about three hours to Sunem. Many of the people followed Him, among others a man who, the last time that Jesus went from Samaria to Galilee, had entreated Him to visit his sick children who were at an inn not far from Endor. This man again proffered his request to Jesus, and now it was granted.
The two demoniacal women of Gathepher had followed Jesus to the instruction given on the mount, and had been delivered by the imposition of His hands. When He reached the brook Cison, before crossing He healed a poor leper whose condition was truly forlorn and despised. He had for twenty years been reduced to this pitiable state, and someone had built him a tent hut here on the roadside. Jesus hastened to him, healed him, and told him to join the others that were going to Jerusalem to show themselves to the priests.
It was dusk when Jesus arrived in Sunem. With Peter and John, He put up at the house of the man that had invited Him to visit his sick children, all of whom were in a most miserable state. One son, sixteen years old and very tall for his age, was deaf and dumb. He lay flat on the ground in convulsions with contortions of the body so frightful that his head and heels met. He was perfectly lame and unable to walk. Another son was a poor idiot afraid of everything, and his two daughters also were timorous and simple. Jesus cured the deaf mute that evening. Peter and John had gone into the city. Jesus with the parents went alone into the sick boy’s chamber, knelt by his bed, prayed, and supporting Himself on His hands, inclined over the boy’s face. He did this either to breathe into or to say something into his mouth. Then He took the boy by the hand and raised him up. The boy stood upright on his feet, and Jesus led him a few steps backward and forward. Then He took him alone into another room, made a salve out of His saliva and a little earth, took some upon His fingers and anointed his ears, and ran the first two fingers of His right hand under his tongue. Then began the boy in an unwonted, lively voice to cry: “I hear! I can speak!” The parents and servants rushed in at the sound and embraced him, weeping and shouting for joy. They cast themselves with their child on the ground before Jesus, sobbing and rocking to and fro for joy. During the evening Jesus had a private interview with the father, upon whom a great crime committed by father was still resting. The man asked Jesus whether the chastisement was to fall even to the fourth generation. Jesus answered that if he did penance and atoned for the crime, he might blot out its consequences.
In the morning Jesus cured the other son and the two daughters of their idiocy. He performed the cure by the imposition of hands. When restored to sense, the children appeared to be perfectly amazed, and as if awaking from a dream. They had always thought that people wanted to kill them, and had in particular a great dread of fire. When on the day before Jesus healed the elder boy, He told (very unusual for Him) the father to go out and relate to all what had taken place. The consequence was a great concourse of people, among them numbers of sick, and that morning I saw Jesus instructing the people on the street, and curing and blessing many of the children.
After that I saw Him with Peter and John journeying rapidly the whole day and night through the plain of Esdrelon in the direction of Ginny. They seldom paused to rest. I heard Jesus saying on the way that John’s end was approaching, and after that, His enemies would begin their pursuit of Himself. But it was not lawful to expose one’s self to one’s enemies. I think I understood that they were going to Hebron, to console John’s relatives and prevent any imprudent manifestation.
The holy women, Mary, Veronica, Susanna, Magdalen, and Mary the Suphanite, were now in Dothan near Samaria. They were stopping with Issachar, the sick husband, whom Jesus had lately healed. The holy women never went to the public inns. Martha, Dina, Johanna Chusa, Susanna Alpheus, Anna Cleophas, Mary Johanna Marcus, and Maroni went, two by two, to look after the inns and supply what was wanting. There were about twelve of these women.
Early the next morning, I saw Jesus and the two Apostles to the south of Samaria, where He met the two Egyptian disciples and the son of Johanna Chusa coming to Him from the East. These Egyptian disciples had already been over a year in Hebron, where they were studying. They had also been a long time in Bethlehem with Lazarus and other disciples that were on intimate terms with Jesus. They were in consequence very well instructed.
Jesus and His companions some time afterward arrived at the shepherd houses where the holy women had met Him after His conversation with the Samaritan at Jacob’s well, and where He had cured the landlord’s sick son. They here partook of some refreshment and rested a little.
Some time after I had a vision of Jesus’ instructing, near a well, the laborers gathered together from the neighboring fields. He was relating to them the parable of the treasure hidden in a field, also that of the lost drachma found again. Some of His hearers laughed at the latter, saying that they had often lost more than one drachma, but they had never taken the trouble to sweep the whole house on that account. But when Jesus reproached them for their levity, and explained to them what the drachma signified and the virtue implied by that general sweeping, they became confused and laughed no more.
These laborers were occupied in threshing the grain which was lying in heaps in the fields. This they did with wooden mallets which rose and fell by means of a cylinder. Several men were employed in pushing the grain under the mallets and in sweeping it away again. The operation was carried on in a pure rocky basin hewn out of solid stone, streaked with colored veining. A large tree shaded the spot.
Jesus continued to teach here and there in the fields, and accompanied some of the laborers to their home in Thanath-Silo, which was not far off. The inhabitants received Him very cordially outside the city, presented refreshments, and washed His feet. They wanted to give Him also a change of raiment, but He declined. He related in their synagogue the parable of the king who made a great feast.
The Beheading of St. John the Baptist
For the last two weeks Herod’s guests had been pouring into Machaerus, most of them from Tiberias. It was one succession of holidays and banqueting. Near the castle was an open circular building with many seats. In it gladiators struggled with wild animals for the amusement of Herod’s guests, and dancers male and female performed all kinds of voluptuous dances. I saw Salome, the daughter of Herodias, practicing them before metallic mirrors in presence of her mother.
Zorobabel and Cornelius of Capharnaum were not among the guests. They had excused themselves.
For some time past, John had been allowed to go around at large within the castle precincts, and his disciples also could go and come as they pleased. Once or twice he gave a public discourse at which Herod himself was present. His release had been promised him if he would approve Herod’s marriage, or, at least, never again inveigh against it. But John had always most forcibly denounced it. Herod, nevertheless, was thinking of setting him free on his own birthday, but his wife was secretly nourishing very different thoughts .. Herod would have wished John to circulate freely during the festival, that the guests might see and admire the leniency of the prisoner’s treatment. But scarcely had the games and banqueting begun, scarcely had vice commenced to run riot in Machaerus, when John shut himself up in his prison cell and bade his disciples retire from the city. They obeyed and withdrew to the region of Hebron, where already many were assembled.
The daughter of Herodias had been trained entirely by her mother, whose constant companion she had been from her earliest years. She was in the bloom of girlhood, her deportment bold, her attire shameless. For a long time Herod had looked upon her with lustful eyes. This the mother regarded with complacency, and laid her plans accordingly. Herodias herself had a very striking, very bold appearance, and she employed all her skill, made use of every means, to set off her charms. She was no longer young, and there was something sharp, cunning, and diabolical in her countenance that bad men love to see. In me, however, she excited disgust and aversion as would the beauty of a serpent. I can find no better comparison than this, that she reminded me of the old pagan goddesses. She occupied a wing of the castle near the grand courtyard, somewhat higher than the hall opposite in which the birthday feast was to be celebrated. From the gallery around her apartments, one could look down into that open, pillared hall. Before the latter and in Herod’s courtyard, a magnificent triumphal arch had been raised. Steps led up to it, and it opened into the hall itself, which was so long that from the entrance the other end could not be descried. Mirrors and gold sparkled on all sides, flowers and green bushes everywhere met the eye. The splendor almost blinded one, for far, far back halls, and columns, and passages were blazing with flambeaux and lamps, with transparent glittering sentences, pictures, and vases.
Herodias and her female companions, arrayed in magnificence, stood in the high gallery of her apartments, gazing upon Herod’s triumphal entrance into the banqueting hall. He came attended by his guests, all arrayed in pomp and splendor. The courtyard through which he passed to the triumphal arch was carpeted and lined with choirs of singers, who saluted him with songs of joy. Around the arch were ranged boys and girls waving garlands of flowers and playing upon all kinds of musical instruments. When Herod mounted the steps to the arch of triumph, he was met by a band of dancing boys and girls, Salome in their midst. She presented him with a crown which rested on a cushion covered with sparkling ornamentation and carried by some of the children of her suite under a transparent veil. These children were clothed in thin, tightly fitting garments, and on their shoulders were imitations of wings. Salome wore a long, transparent robe, caught up here and there on the lower limbs with glittering clasps. Her arms were ornamented with gold bands, strings of pearls, and circlets of tiny feathers; her neck and breast were covered with pearls and delicate, sparkling chains. She danced for a while before Herod who, quite dazzled and enchanted, gave expression to his admiration, in which all his guests enthusiastically joined. She should, he said to her, renew this pleasure for him on the next morning.
And now the procession entered the hall, and the banquet began. The women ate in the wing of the castle with Herodias. Meantime I saw John in his prison cell kneeling in prayer, his arms outstretched, his eyes raised to Heaven. The whole place around him was shining with light, but it was a very different light from that which glared in Herod’s hall. The latter, compared with the former, appeared like a flame from Hell. The whole city of Machaerus was illuminated by torches and, as if on fire, it cast a reflection far into the surrounding mountains.
Herod’s banquet-hall opened toward that of Herodias which, as I have said, was opposite, though a little more elevated than the former. From this open side, the women feasting and enjoying themselves were reflected in one of the inclined mirrors of Herod’s hall. Between pyramids of flowers and fragrant green bushes, a playing fountain jetted up in fine sprays. When all had eaten and wine had flowed freely, the guests requested Herod to allow Salome to dance again, and for this purpose, they cleared sufficient space and ranged around the walls. Herod was seated on his throne surrounded by some of his most intimate associates, who were Herodians. Salome appeared with some of her dancing companions clothed in a light, transparent robe. Her hair was interwoven in part with pearls and precious stones, while another part floated around her in curls. She wore a crown and formed the central figure in the group of dancers. The dance consisted of a constant bowing, a gentle swaying and turning. The whole person seemed to be destitute of bones. Scarcely had one position been assumed when it glided into another. The dancers held wreaths and scarves in their hands, which waved and twined around one another. The whole performance gave expression to the most shameful passions, and in it Salome excelled all her companions. I saw the devil at her side as if bending and twisting all her limbs in order to produce that abominable effect. Herod was perfectly ravished, perfectly entranced by the changing attitudes. When at the end of one of the figures Salome presented herself before the throne, the other dancers continued to engage the attention of the guests, so that only those in the immediate vicinity heard Herod saying to her: “Ask of me what thou wilt, and I will give it to thee. Yes, I swear to thee, though thou askest the half of my kingdom, yet will I give it to thee!” Salome left the hall, hurried to that of the women, and conferred with her mother. The latter directed her to ask for the head of John on a dish. Salome hastened back to Herod, and said: “I will that thou give to me at once the head of John on a dish !” Only a few of Herod’s most confidential associates who were nearest the throne heard the request. Herod looked like one struck with apoplexy, but Salome reminded him of his oath. Then he commanded one of the Herodians to call his executioner, to whom he gave the command to behead John and give the head on a dish to Salome. The executioner withdrew, and in a few moments Salome followed him. Herod, as if suddenly indisposed, soon left the hall with his companions. He was very sad. I heard his followers saying to him that he was not bound to grant such a request; nevertheless they promised the greatest secrecy, in order not to interrupt the festivities. Herod, exceedingly troubled, paced like one demented the most remote apartments of his palace, but the feast went on undisturbed.
John was in prayer. The executioner and his servant took the two soldiers on guard at the entrance of John’s prison in with them. The guards bore torches, but I saw the space around John so brilliantly illuminated that their flame became dull like a light in the daytime. Salome waited in the entrance hall of the vast and intricate dungeon house. With her was a maidservant who gave the executioner a dish wrapped in a red cloth. The latter addressed John: “Herod the King sends me to bring thy head on the dish to his daughter Salome.” John allowed him little time to explain. He remained kneeling, and bowing his head toward him, he said: “I know why thou hast come. Thou art my guest, one for whom I have long waited. Didst thou know what thou art about to do, thou wouldst not do it. I am ready.” Then he turned his head away and continued his prayer before the stone in front of which he always prayed kneeling. The executioner beheaded him with a machine which I can compare to nothing but a fox trap. An iron ring was laid on his shoulders. This ring was provided with two sharp blades, which, being closed around the throat with a sudden pressure given by the executioner, in the twinkling of an eye severed the head from the trunk. John still remained in a kneeling posture. The head bounded to the earth, and a triple stream of blood springing up from the body sprinkled both the head and body of the saint, as if baptizing him in his own blood. The executioner’s servant raised the head by the hair, insulted it, and laid it on the dish which his master held. The latter presented it to the expectant Salome. She received it joyfully, yet not without secret horror and that effeminate loathing which those given to sin always have for blood and wounds. She carried the holy head covered by a red cloth on the dish. The maid went before, bearing a torch to light the way through the subterranean passages. Salome held the dish timidly at arm’s length before her, her head still laden with its ornaments turned away in disgust. Thus she traversed the solitary passages that led up to a kind of vaulted kitchen under the castle of Herodias. Here she was met by her mother, who raised the cover from the holy head, which she loaded with insult and abuse. Then taking a sharp skewer from a certain part of the wall where many such instruments were sticking, with it she pierced the tongue, the cheeks, and the eyes. After that, looking more like a demon than a human being, she hurled it from her and kicked it with her foot through a round opening down into a pit into which the offal and refuse of the kitchen were swept. Then did that infamous woman together with her daughter return to the noise and wicked revelry of the feast, as if nothing had happened. I saw the holy body of the saint, covered with the skin that he usually wore, laid by the two soldiers upon his stone couch. The men were very much touched by what they had just witnessed. They were afterward discharged from duty and imprisoned that they might not disclose what they knew of John’s murder. All that had any share in it were bound to the most rigorous secrecy. The guests, however, gave John no thought. Thus his death remained a long time concealed. The report was even spread that he had been set at liberty. The festivities went on. As soon as Herod ceased to take part in them, Herodias began to entertain. Five of those that knew of John’s death were shut up in dungeons. They were the two guards, the executioner and his servant, and Salome’s maid who had shown some compassion for the saint. Other guards were placed at the prison door, and they in turn were at regular intervals replaced by others. One of Herod’s confidential followers regularly carried food to John’s cell, consequently no one had any misgiving of what had taken place.