Jesus in the City of Mallep
I noticed some men very respectfully closing the well outside of Chytrus, at which the disciples had been baptizing. The crowd that had been present at Jesus’ instructions, as well as the newly baptized, were upon the point of separating for their homes. Some were standing around several Jewish travelers that had just arrived. To their questions as to Jesus’ whereabouts, they received the answer: “The Prophet taught here from early this morning until noon. But now He is gone with His disciples and about seven philosophers of Salamis, just baptized, to the great village of Mallep.” This place was built by the Jews, therefore only Jews lived in it. It was situated on a height toward the base of a mountain chain, and commanded a wondrously beautiful view upon all sides, even as far as the sea. It had five streets, all converging toward the center where, hewn out of the rocky foundation, was a reservoir which received its water supply from the conduit of the well near Chytrus. All around the reservoir were beautiful seats under shady trees, and from it stretched a magnificent view over the whole city and the surrounding country, which was teeming with fruit. Mallep was surrounded by a double entrenchment, the inner one lower than the outer. A great part of it was hewn out of the rock, and beyond it, looking like little valleys, ran ditches all around the city. On the fresh green sward, covered with lovely flowers, stood rows of the most magnificent fruit trees, under which lay the large yellow fruit in the grass, for everything here was now in full harvest. The people were busy drying the fruit that was to be sent to a distance. They manufactured also cloths, carpets, mats, and out of sapwood light, shallow cases in which to dry the fruit.
On Jesus’ arrival, He was met at the gate by the Doctors of the synagogue, the school children, and a crowd of people who had come to welcome Him, all adorned as for a feast. The children were singing, playing on musical instruments, and carrying palm branches, the little girls going before the boys. Jesus passed through the children, blessing them as He went, and with His followers, about thirty men, was escorted by the Doctors into a reception hall where the ceremony of washing the feet was performed.
Meanwhile about twenty invalids, some lame, others dropsical, were brought into the street out-side the house. Jesus cured them, and directed them to follow Him to the well in the heart of the city. Great was the joy of the relatives as, with the lately cured, they made their way to the place designated, where Jesus gave them an instruction upon daily bread and gratitude toward God.
From here He went to the synagogue and taught upon the petition: “Let Thy Kingdom come.” He spoke of the Kingdom of God in us and of its near approach. He explained to His hearers that it was a spiritual, not an earthly kingdom, and told them how it would fare with them that cast it from them. The pagans who had followed Jesus were standing back of the Jews, for the line of separation was more strictly observed here than in pagan cities.
The instruction over, Jesus assisted at a dinner given by the Doctors, after which they escorted Him to the inn, which they had prepared for Him and His company. A steward had been appointed to see to all things.
On the following day, Jesus taught again in the extraordinarily beautiful synagogue where all the people were assembled. He spoke of the sower, of different kinds of soil, of weeds, and of the grain of mustard seed, which bears fruit so large. He took His similitudes from a shrub that grew in those regions which, from a very small kernel, shoots forth a stalk thick as one’s arm and almost as high as a man, and which is very useful. Its fruit was large as an acorn, red and black. Its juice when expressed was used for dyeing. The baptized pagans were not in the synagogue, but outside on the terraces listening to Jesus’ words.
When Jesus was afterward taking dinner with the Elders, three blind boys about ten to twelve years old were led in to Him by some other children. The former were playing on flutes and another kind of instrument which they held to the mouth and touched at the same time with the fingers. It was not a fife, and it made a buzzing, humming sound like the Jew’s harp. At intervals also they sang in a very agreeable manner. Their eyes were open, and it seemed as if a cataract had obscured the sight. Jesus asked them whether they desired to see the light, in order to walk diligently and piously in the paths of righteousness. They answered most joyously: “Lord, and wilt Thou help us! Help us, Lord, and we will do whatever Thou commandest!” Then Jesus said: “Put down your instruments!” and He stood them before Him, put His thumbs to His mouth, and passed them one after the other from the corner of the eyes to the temple above. Then He took up a dish of fruit from the table, held it before the boys, said: “Do ye see that?” blessed them, and gave them its contents. They stared around in joyful amazement, they were intoxicated with delight, and at last cast themselves weeping at Jesus’ feet. The whole company were deeply touched; joy and wonder took possession of all. The three boys, full of joy, hurried with their guides out of the hall and through the streets to their parents. The whole city was in excitement. The children returned with their relatives and many others to the forecourt of the hall, singing songs of joy and playing upon their instruments, in order thus to express their thanks. Jesus took occasion from this circumstance to give a beautiful instruction on gratitude. He said: “Thanksgiving is a prayer which attracts new favors, so good is the Heavenly Father.”
After dinner, Jesus walked with the disciples and the pagan philosophers through the beautiful shady meadows around the city, teaching the pagan men and new disciples. The elder disciples were themselves instructing separate groups. That evening Jesus taught again in the synagogue.
Next day He visited the parents of the blind boys whom He had cured. They were Jews from Arabia, from the region in which Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had dwelt. They had a particular name. They travelled around a great deal, and had already been baptized near Capharnaum. They were journeying through that part of the country at the time, and had heard Jesus’ sermon on the mount. These people, that is, these two families composed of about twenty persons including the women and children, were tradesmen and manufacturers, who, as among us the Italians, the Tyrolese, and the inhabitants of the Black Forest, tarry awhile sometimes here, sometimes there, busying themselves in making clocks, mousetraps, figures in plaster of Paris, which they sold to their neighbors, thus uniting labor and traffic. At this season they generally visited Mallep for a couple of months. Outside the city, on the north, they occupied a private inn in which they had all kinds of tools, weaving apparatus, etc. Their blind boys had, in their wanderings, to earn something by singing and playing on the flute when occasion offered. Jesus told the parents that they should no longer drag the boys around after them, but that they should remain in Mallep and attend school. He indicated to them the persons that would receive and instruct their boys, for He had already arranged all that the day before. The parents promised to do whatever He directed.
Jesus Teaching Before the Pagan Philosophers. He Attends A Jewish Wedding
Jesus walked with the disciples and the seven baptized philosophers through the charming meadow valley that led from Mallep to the village of Lanifa and then, gently rising, turned southward into the mountains. From this southern side descended a brook, about three feet broad, which took its rise in the spring near Chytrus. It ran in a covered bed through the mountains, then through the village Lanifa and the valley near Mallep whose surrounding moats it fed. But it was not the same water as that in the elevated fountain in the center of Mallep, although the street by which Jesus left the city, the fifth and last of the place, was that of the canal by which the beautiful reservoir was supplied. Words cannot describe the charm and quiet of this verdant valley, gently winding around and entirely shut in by the surrounding heights. As far as Mallep lay isolated granges on either side of the road, dependent upon the village of Lanifa at the end of the valley. All was perfectly green and covered with the most beautiful flowers and fruits which here grew, some wild, some cultivated. Jesus took the road to the left, on the south side of the brook to Lanifa. He met a band of young people on their way to take ship for Jerusalem, there to celebrate Pentecost. Jesus accosted them with the command to salute Lazarus, but beyond that not to speak of Him. Farther on, He crossed the brook, turned to the north, and descended again into the valley, in order to return to Mallep. On that side He came to another village, which bore the singular name of Leppe.
The harvest was now over, and the people placed together the sheaves destined for the poor.
During the whole journey Jesus taught the pagan philosophers, sometimes walking, sometimes tarrying in some lovely spot. He instructed them upon the absolute corruption of mankind before the Flood, of the preservation of Noe, of the new growth of evil, of the vocation of Abraham, and of God’s guidance of his race down to the time in which the promised Consoler was to come forth from it. The heathens asked Jesus for explanations of all kinds, and brought forward many great names of ancient gods and heroes, telling Him of their benevolent deeds. Jesus replied that all men possessed by nature, more or less, human kindness by which they effected many things useful and advantageous for time, but that many vices and abominations arose from such benefits. He showed them the state of degradation, the partial destruction of the nations sunk in idolatry, the ridiculous and fabulous deformity running through the history of their divinities, mixed up with demoniacal divinations and magical delusions which were woven into them as so many truths.
The philosophers made mention also of one of the most ancient of the wise kings who had come from the mountainous regions beyond India. He was called Dsemschid. With a golden dagger received from God, he had divided off many lands, peopled them, and shed blessing everywhere. They asked Jesus about him and the many wonders which they related of him. Jesus answered that Dsemschid, who had been a leader of the people, was a man naturally wise and intelligent in the things of sense. Upon the dispersion of men at the time of the building of the Tower of Babel, he had put himself at the head of a tribe and taken possession of lands according to certain regulations. He had fallen less deeply into evil, because the race to which he belonged was itself less corrupt. Jesus recalled to them also the fables that had been written in connection with him, and showed them that he was a false companion-picture, a false type of Melchisedech, the priest and king. Jesus told them to fix their attention on the latter and upon the descendants of Abraham, for as the stream of nations moved along, God had sent Melchisedech to the best families that he might guide them, unite them, and make ready for them countries and dwellings, in order to preserve them in their purity and, according to their worthiness or unworthiness, either hasten or retard the fulfillment of the Promise. Who Melchisedech was, He left to themselves to determine; but of him this much was true, he was an ancient type of the then far-off, but now so near grace of the Promise, and the sacrifice of bread and wine which he had offered would be fulfilled and perfected, and would endure till the end of the world.
Jesus’ words upon Dsemschid and Melchisedech were so clear, so indisputable, that the philosophers exclaimed in astonishment: “Master, how wise Thou art! It would almost seem as if Thou didst live in that time, as if Thou didst know all these people even better than they knew themselves!” Jesus said to them many more things concerning the Prophets, both the greater and the minor, and He dwelt especially upon Malachias. When the Sabbath began, He went to the synagogue and delivered a discourse upon the passage of Leviticus referring to the jubilee year, also upon something from Jeremias. He said that a man should cultivate his field well, so that his brother, who was to receive it from him, might see in it a proof of his affection.
On the following morning, Jesus continued in the synagogue His discourse on the jubilee year, the cultivation of the field, and the passages from Jeremias. This over, He went with the disciples and, followed by many people, Jews and pagans, to a Jewish bathing garden outside the southern end of the city, the water supply to which was furnished by the Chytrus aqueducts. There was a beautiful cistern in the garden and all around it were the large basins for bathing, pleasant avenues, and long shady bowers. Everything necessary for administering Baptism was already prepared here. Crowds followed Jesus to an open place near the well fitted up for teaching, and among them were seven bridegrooms with their relatives and attendants.
Jesus taught of the Fall, of the perversion of Adam and Eve, of the Promise, of the degeneracy of men into the wild state, of the separation of the less corrupt, of the guard set over marriage, in order to transmit virtues and graces from father to son, and of the sanctification of marriage by the observance of the Divine Law, moderation, and continency. In this way, Jesus’ discourse turned upon the bride and bridegroom. To illustrate His meaning, He referred to a certain tree on the island which could be fertilized by trees at a distance—yes, even across the sea, and He uttered the words: “In the same way may hope, confidence in God, desire of salvation, humility and chastity become in some manner the mother for the fulfillment of the Promise.” This led Jesus to touch upon the mysterious signification of marriage, in that it typifies the bond of union between the Consoler of Israel and His Church. He called marriage a great mystery. His words on this subject were so beautiful, so elevated, that it seems to me impossible to repeat them. He afterward taught upon penance and Baptism, which expiate and efface the crime of separation, and render all worthy to participate in the alliance of salvation.
Jesus went aside also with some of the aspirants to Baptism, heard their confession, forgave their sins, and imposed upon them certain mortifications and good works. James the Less and Barnabas performed the ceremony of Baptism. The neophytes were principally aged men, a few pagans, and the three boys cured of blindness, who had not been baptized with their parents at Capharnaum.
The Sabbath over, some of the philosophers started the following questions: Whether it was necessary that God should have allowed the frightful deluge to pass over the earth; Why He permitted mankind to await so long the coming of the Redeemer; Could He not have employed other means for the same end, and send One who would restore all things? Jesus answered by explaining that that entered not into the designs of God, that He had created the angels with free will and superior faculties, and yet they had separated from Him through pride and had been precipitated into the kingdom of darkness; that man, with free will, had been placed between the kingdom of darkness and that of light, but by eating the forbidden fruit he had approached nearer to the former; that man was now obliged to cooperate with God in order to receive help from Him and to attract into himself the Kingdom of God, that God might give it to him. Man, by eating the forbidden fruit, had sought to become like unto God; and that he might rise from his fallen state it was necessary that the Father should allow His Divine Son to succor him and reconcile him again to Himself. Man, in his entire being, had become so deformed that the great mercy and wonderful guidance of God were needed, to establish upon earth His Kingdom, which that of darkness had driven from the hearts of men. Jesus added that this Kingdom consisted not in worldly dominion and magnificence, but in the regeneration, the reconciliation of man with the Father, and in the reunion of all the good into one body.
On the following day, Jesus taught again at the place of Baptism. The seven bridal couples were present. Among the bridegrooms two were converted pagans who had received circumcision and espoused Jewish maidens. There were some other pagans inclined toward Judaism, who had sought and obtained permission to assist at the instructions with them.
At first Jesus spoke in general terms upon the duties of the married state, and especially upon those of wives. They should, He said, raise their eyes only to fix them upon those of their husband; at other times they should be kept lowered. He spoke, likewise, of obedience, humility, chastity, industry, and the care of their children. When the women had retired in order to prepare a repast in Leppe, Jesus instructed the men for Baptism. He spoke of Elias and of the great drought that fell upon the whole country, and of the rain cloud which, at the prayer of Elias, had risen out of the sea. (Today there was just such another dense, white cloud of fog resting over the earth. One could not see far around him.) Jesus referred to that drought over the country as to a punishment from God for the idolatry of King Achab. Grace and blessing likewise had withdrawn, and the drought had prevailed even in human hearts. He spoke of Elias’ concealment by the torrent of Carith, of his being fed by the bird, of his journeying to Sarepta and his being helped by the widow, of his confounding the idolaters on Carmel, and of the uprising of the cloud by whose rain all things were refreshed. He compared this rain to Baptism, and admonished His hearers to reform their lives and not, like Achab and Jezabel, continue in sin and dryness of heart after the rain of Baptism. Jesus alluded also to Segola, that pious pagan woman of Egypt, who settled at Abila and performed so many good works that she at last found favor in the sight of God. Then He showed them how the pagans ought to strive to practice virtue that thereby they might attract upon themselves divine grace, for His pagan listeners knew something of Elias and Segola.
After the Baptism of the bridegrooms, Jesus and His followers, along with all the bridal parties and the rabbis, were invited by the Jewish Doctor of the place to an entertainment at the village of Leppe, west of Mallep. The daughter of this Doctor was the bride of a pagan philosopher of Salamis, who had there heard Jesus preach and received circumcision. The way to Leppe ran in a gently undulating course through beautiful walks like those of a garden. Near Leppe ran the highroad to the little port Cerinia, about two miles off. The other road, upon which Jesus spoke with the travelling Arabs, led to the haven of Lapithus more to the west. The pagans of Leppe occupied a row of houses built along the highway, and carried on commerce and other business. The Jews lived apart and had a beautiful synagogue. I saw in the pagan gardens idols like swathed puppets and, in an open square a short distance from the road and surrounded by a hedge, an idol larger than a man and with a head bearing some resemblance to that of an ox. Between the horns was something that looked like a little sheaf. The figure was squatting on its legs, its short hands dangling before it.
The entertainment at Leppe consisted of a simple meal of birds, fish, honey, bread, and fruits. The brides and bridesmaids, veiled, sat by themselves at the end of the table. They wore long, striped dresses with wreaths of colored wool and tiny feathers on their heads.
Both during and after the meal, Jesus spoke of the sanctity of marriage. He insisted on the point of each man’s having but one wife, for they had here the custom of separating on trifling grounds and marrying again. On this account, He spoke very strenuously, and related the parables of the wedding feast, the vineyard, and the king’s son. The groomsmen invited the passersby to share the feast and listen to Jesus’ teaching. The three cured boys played on their flutes, while little girls sang and played on various instruments.
It was already dark when Jesus and His disciples returned to Mallep. From the heights along the road, the view was exceedingly beautiful. One could behold the sea, whose surface reflected a most wonderful luster. Great preparations had been made in Mallep for the nuptials of the seven bridal couples. The whole city appeared to be taking part in the feast. One would have said that all the inhabitants constituted one great brotherhood. No poor were to be seen, as they were lodged and provided for in a separate part of the city.
Mallep was built very regularly. It looked like a pancake divided into five equal parts. The five streets that divided the city converged toward the center where was an elevated place ornamented by a fountain, around which were trees and terraces. Four of these quarters, or city wards, were cut through by two cross streets, which ran in a circle around the fountain, the central point of the place. In one of these circular streets was a house in which childless widows and aged women lived together at the expense of the community, kept school, and took care of orphans. There was another house here also for lodging and entertaining poor strangers and travelers. The fifth quarter comprised the public buildings. It was cut into halves by the aqueduct that conducted the water to the fountain. In one half were the public marketplace, several inns, and an asylum for the possessed, who were not permitted here to go at large. Jesus had already cured some of them who had been led to Him with the rest of the sick. In the other half stood the public house used for feasts and weddings, the top of its roof being almost on a level with the fountain near which it was. Its entrance was not facing the fountain, but on the side opposite. From the court in front, a walk about a hundred feet wide and bordered by green trees ran down through the cross streets to the forecourt of the synagogue. It was as long as about two thirds of one of the five streets. There were other avenues leading thither from the cross streets, but they were open to the people only on feast days and by virtue of special permission.
Now on this day of the marriage festivities, the whole morning was spent in adorning the public feast-house. Meanwhile Jesus and His disciples retired to the inn whither came to Him men and women, some seeking instruction, others advice and consolation, for in consequence of their connection with the heathens, these people often had scruples and anxieties. The young affianced were longer with Jesus than the others. He spoke with the maidens alone and singly. It was something like confession and instruction. He questioned them upon their motives in entering the married state, whether they had reflected upon their posterity and the salvation of the same, which was a fruit springing from the fear of God, chastity, and temperance. Jesus found the young brides not instructed on these points.
In the public avenues, arches were erected, tapestry, wreaths of flowers, and garlands of fruits hung around, and steps and platforms raised, that the spectators might gaze from them down into the pleasure grounds below. In front of the synagogue especially, an open arbor was formed of numerous beautiful little bushes and plants in boxes. Into the courts and bowers around the feast-house, I saw people transporting all things, viands, etc., necessary for the entertainment. Whoever brought from the city something for this end, had a right to take part in the feast. The viands were brought in a kind of long barrow, which served at the same time as tables. The various dishes, bread, little jugs, etc., stood in them and, from little side openings, could be drawn out by the guests as they reclined before them. The upper surface of the barrow was covered with a cloth, from which they ate. These barrows, or hand-carriages, were woven baskets, long and shallow, provided with a cover and side openings, as I have said, by which to get out the food. The guests reclined on mats and were supported by cushions. All these things were prepared and transported hither from various quarters.
Under the nuptial bower, a tapestried canopy was raised. Jesus and His disciples entered by special invitation. As among the bridegrooms some were converted pagans, several pagan philosophers and others of their friends took up the position assigned them not far off. The brides and bridegrooms arrived from different quarters. They were preceded by youths and maidens crowned with flowers and playing on musical instruments, accompanied by the bridesmen and bridesmaids, and surrounded by their relatives, who escorted them into the nuptial bower. The bridegrooms wore long mantles and white shoes; on their cincture and the hem of their tunic were certain letters, and in their hands they carried a yellow scarf. The brides appeared in very beautiful, long, white woolen dresses embroidered with lines and flowers of gold. Their hair (some of them were golden-haired) was in the back woven into a net with pearls and gold thread and fastened at the ends with a riband. The veil fell over the face and down the back. On the head was a metal band with three points and a high, bent piece in front upon which the veil could be raised. They also wore little crowns of feathers or silk. Several of the veils glistened, as if made of fine silk or similar material. In their hands they carried long, golden flambeaux, like lamps without feet. They grasped them with a scarf, either black or of some other dark color. The brides likewise wore white shoes or sandals.
During the nuptial ceremony, which was performed by the rabbis, I remarked various rites that I cannot recall in order. Rolls of parchment were read—the marriage contract, I think—and prayers. The bridal couple stepped under the canopy; the relatives cast some grains of wheat after them and uttered a blessing. The rabbi pricked both bride and bridegroom on the little finger and let some drops of the blood of each fall into a goblet of wine, which they then drank together. Then the bridegroom handed the goblet to those behind him, and it was put into a basin of water. A little of the blood was allowed to run into the palm of the hand of each. Then each reached the hand, the bride to the groom, the groom to the bride, and the bloodstained spot was rubbed. A fine white thread was then bound around the wound and rings were exchanged. I think that each had two, one for the little finger, the other large enough for the forefinger. After that an embroidered cover, or scarf, was laid over the head of the newly wedded couple. The bride took into her right hand the flambeau with the black scarf, which for a time she had resigned to her bridesmaid, and placed it in the right hand of her husband. He then passed it to the left hand and returned it to his bride, who likewise received it in her left hand, and then once more returned it to her bridesmaid. There was also a cup of wine blessed, out of which all the relatives sipped. The marriage ceremony over, the bridesmaids
removed from the brides their headdress, and covered them with a veil. It was then that I saw that the large net was woven of false hair.
Three rabbis presided at the nuptials, the whole ceremony lasting three hours. Then the brides with their attendant trains went through the embowered walk to the feast house, followed by their husbands amid the good wishes and congratulations of the bystanders. After taking some refreshments, the bridal couples went to the pleasure garden near the aqueduct, there to amuse themselves.
That evening an instruction especially intended for the newly married was given in the synagogue. After the rabbis had spoken, they requested Jesus also to address some words of advice to the young people.
Next day the seven bridal couples, together with all the guests and attended by musicians, went again to the feast house. The disciples of Jesus also were present, but the only part they took in the merrymaking was that of server. The brides and grooms were presented with pastry and fruit on beautiful dishes—gilded apples stuck with gilded flowers and herbs. Then came bands of children singing and playing upon instruments. They were little strangers who made their living in this way; after being rewarded, they withdrew. After that the three little musicians that had been cured by Jesus made their appearance, along with several other choirs from the city, and soon a dance in honor of the occasion was performed. It took place in a long, four-cornered arbor upon a soft and gently swaying floor. It looked as if flexible planks of some kind were laid upon a thick carpet of moss. The dancers stood in four double rows, back to back. Each pair danced, changing hands by means of a scarf, from the first place of the first row to the last of the fourth, all being soon in a serpentine movement. There was no hopping, but a graceful swaying and balancing, as if the body had no bones. The brides, as also all the other women, had their veils raised on the golden hook of their headdress. After the dance all took refreshments which had been placed on stands in each corner of the arbor. Again the music sounded, and all filed out into the garden near the fountain.
Here were exhibited, in the arbors and on the mossy sward, various games of running, leaping, and throwing at a mark. The men played by themselves, as did also the women. Little prizes were awarded and fines imposed, in the shape of money, girdles, small pieces of stuff, scarves for the neck, etc. Whoever had nothing with which to pay his fine, sent to purchase it from a peddler who, with his goods, had taken his stand not far off. Lastly, all the prizes and fines were handed over to the Elder, who distributed them to the poor among the lookers-on. The brides and maidens played games in circles and in rows. Their dresses were raised to the knees, their lower limbs bound with strips of white, their veils thrown up and wound around the head back to the forehead and ear ornaments. They looked very beautiful and nimble. Each caught hold of her neighbor’s girdle with the left hand, and thus formed a ring which they kept constantly revolving. With the right hand they aimed at throwing to one another and catching a yellow apple. Whoever failed to catch in her turn had to stoop, the circle still revolving, to pick it up from the ground. At last, they played in company with the men. They sat in opposite rows and threw into furrows very ripe yellow fruits, which when they met and smashed, gave rise to shouts of laughter. Toward evening, all returned in festal procession. The newly married rode on asses gaily adorned for the occasion, the brides sitting on sidesaddles. Musicians led the way and all followed, rejoicing, to the feast house at which an entertainment was awaiting them.
The bridegrooms went to the synagogue and made before the rabbis a vow to observe continence during certain festivals, binding themselves to some penance if they broke it. They promised besides to watch together on Pentecost night and spend it in prayer. From the feast house, the bridal couples were conducted to their future homes. The party that had brought the house as a dowry, stood on the threshold while the relatives led the other thither from the feast house and three times made the rounds of the premises. The wedding gifts were borne in ceremoniously, and the poor received their share.
Feast of Pentecost. Jesus Teaches on Baptism
Mallep was now astir in preparation for the coming feast: all were busy cleaning, scouring, and bathing. The synagogue and many of the dwellings were adorned with green branches and garlands of flowers, and the ground was strewn with blossoms. The synagogue was fumigated with delicious perfumes, and the rolls of Sacred Scripture were wreathed with flowers.
In the special halls set apart for the purpose in the forecourt of the synagogue, the Whitsuntide loaves were baked, the flour having been previously blessed by the rabbis. Two of them were made from the wheat of that year’s harvest. For the others, as also for the large, thin cakes (which were indented, that they might be more easily broken into pieces), the flour had been ordered from Judea. It was ground from the wheat raised in the field upon which Abraham had participated in the sacrifice of Melchisedech. The flour had been transported hither in long boxes. It was called the Seed of Abraham. The baking of these loaves and cakes, in which there was no leaven, had to be finished by four o’clock. There was still another kind of flour there, as well as herbs, all of which received a blessing.
On the morning of this day Jesus gave an instruction at His inn to the baptized pagans and aged Jews. He took for His subjects the Feast of Pentecost, the Law given upon Sinai, and Baptism, all of which He treated in deeply significant terms. He touched upon many passages relating to them in the Prophets. He spoke also of the holy bread blessed at Pentecost, of Melchisedech’s sacrifice, and of that foretold by Malachias. He said that the time for the institution of that Sacrifice was drawing near, that when this feast would again come round, a new grace would have been added to Baptism, and that all the baptized who would then believe in the Consoler of Israel, would share in that grace. As difficulties and objections were here raised by some who did not wish to understand His teaching, Jesus chose about fifty whom He knew to be ripe for His instructions, and sent away the others, intending to prepare them later. Taking with Him those that He had selected, He left the city, went to the aqueduct nearby, and there continued His instruction. I saw them on the way sometimes standing still and with many gesticulations putting questions and raising objections; and I saw Jesus, His forefinger raised, frequently explaining something to them. In talking, they gesticulated freely with hands and fingers. As Jesus insisted upon the great grace, upon the salvation that would be conferred upon man by Baptism, and by Baptism alone, after the consummation of the Sacrifice of which He had spoken, some of them asked whether their present Baptism possessed the same efficacy. Jesus answered, yes, if they persevered in faith and accepted that Sacrifice; for even the Patriarchs, who had not received that Baptism, but who had sighed after it and had had a presentiment of it in the Spirit, received grace through both that Sacrifice and that Baptism.
Jesus spoke, too, of the advantages of fervent prayer during this Feast of Pentecost, which devout Jews of all times had observed and upon which they conjured God for the promised Consoler of Israel.
Jesus told them many other deeply significant things which I cannot now rightly repeat. I saw that they sent, from the wedding feast, food to Jesus and His disciples at the inn to which He had returned with them toward the Sabbath.
The heathens from Salamis started for home, and Jesus with the disciples accompanied them part of the way. He warned them not to return again to their worship of idols, and not to engage in business speculations, but as soon as possible to leave their country, for in it the new way would be full of obstacles for them. He directed them to different regions, among which I can recall Jerusalem, the Jewish district between Hebron and Gaza, and that near Jericho. Jesus recommended them to go to Lazarus, John Mark, the nephews of Zachary, and to the parents of Manahem, the disciple whose sight had been restored.
Before the commencement of the Sabbath exercises, the rabbis were solemnly conducted to the synagogue by the school children; the brides, by their female attendants; and the bridegrooms, by the young men. Jesus also went thither with His disciples. Divine service of this day consisted in no special explanation of Scripture, only in singing and alternate reading and praying. The consecrated bread was divided into little pieces in the synagogue. It was regarded as a remedy against sickness and witchcraft. Many of the Jews, among others the seven newly married men, spent the night in the synagogue in prayer. Many of the inhabitants of the city went in bands of ten or twelve out to the gardens and hills of the country around, and there spent the whole night in prayer. They carried a torch on the end of a pole. The disciples and baptized pagans thus passed the night, but Jesus went alone to pray. The women too were gathered together in the houses for the same purpose. On the day of the feast itself, the whole morning was spent in the synagogue, praying, singing, and reading the Holy Scriptures. They made, likewise, a kind of procession. The rabbis, with Jesus at their head and followed by crowds of the people, went processionally through the halls around the synagogue, paused several times at points that look toward different directions of the world, and pronounced a benediction over every region of land and sea. After an intermission of about two hours, they again returned to the synagogue in the afternoon, and the alternate reading and other exercises were resumed. At some of the pauses, Jesus asked: “Do ye understand this?” and then He explained different passages for them. The portions of Holy Scripture read were those from the Departure of the Israelites through the Red Sea to the giving of the Law upon Sinai. During the reading, I saw these events in detail, and of them I can recall the following.
Vision of the Passage of the Red Sea
The Israelites were encamped on a very low strip of land, about an hour long, on the shore of the Red Sea, which was here very wide. In it were several islands of half an hour in length and from seven to fifteen minutes in breadth. Pharao and his army at first sought the Israelites further up the shore, and found them at last through information given by their scouts. The king thought they would easily fall into his hands, flanked, as they were, by the sea. The Egyptians were very much incensed against them, on account of their carrying off with them their sacred vessels, many of their idols, and the mysteries of their religion. When the Israelites became aware of the approach of the Egyptians, they were terror stricken. But Moses prayed and bade them trust in God and follow him. At that moment the pillar of cloud arose behind the Israelites, making so dense a veil that the Egyptians entirely lost sight of them. Then Moses stepped to the shore with his staff (which was forked at the bottom and had a knob on the upper end), prayed, and struck the water. Then appeared before each wing of the army, right and left, as if springing out of the sea, two great luminous pillars, which increased in brilliancy toward the top and terminated in a tongue of flame. At the same time, a strong wind parted the waters along the whole of the army (it was about an hour broad), and Moses proceeded by a gently inclining declivity down to the bed of the sea. The whole army followed, at least fifty men abreast. The ground was, at first setting out, somewhat slippery, but soon it became like the softest meadowland, like a mossy carpet. The pillars of fire lit the way before them, and all was as bright as day. But the most beautiful feature of the whole scene were the islands over which they shed their light. They looked like floating gardens full of the most magnificent fruits and all kinds of animals, which latter the Israelites collected and drove along before them. Without this precaution, they would have been in want of food on the other side of the sea.
The waters were not divided on either side like perpendicular walls, for they flowed off more in the form of terraces. The Hebrews went forward with hurrying, sliding steps, balancing themselves like one speeding downhill. It was toward midnight when they entered the bed of the river. The Ark containing Joseph’s relics was carried in the center of the fleeing host. The pillars of light rose up out of the water. They appeared to be constantly rotating, and passed not over the islands, but around them. At a certain height they were lost in a brilliant luster. The waters did not open all at once, but before Moses’ steps, leaving a wedge-formed space until the passage was completed. Near the islands, one could see by the light of the pillars the trees and fruits mirrored in the waters. Another wonderful thing was that the Israelites crossed in three hours, whereas it would have naturally taken nine hours to do so. Higher up the shore, about six to nine hours distant, stood a city which was afterward destroyed by the waters.
About three o’clock, Pharao carne down to the shore, but was again repulsed by the fog. Soon, however, he discovered the ford and rolled down into it with his magnificent war chariot, after which hurried his entire army. And now Moses, already on the opposite shore, commanded the waters to return to their original position. Then the fog and the fire uniting to blind and perplex the Egyptians, all perished miserably in the waves. Next morning upon beholding their deliverance, the Israelites chanted the praises of God. On the opposite shore, the two pillars of light united again into one of fire. I cannot do justice to the beauty of this vision.
Next day Jesus went with His disciples into two quarters of the city which He had not yet visited, and to which several persons had sent to invite Him. He cured some invalids, men and women, who lay off by themselves in cells annexed to the courts of the houses, exhorted and consoled many others
afflicted with melancholy and whom some secret trouble was consuming. All things were so well regulated in Mallep that every misfortune by which one’s honor might be wounded, could be kept secret. Several women asked Jesus how they should act. Their husbands were unfaithful to them, and yet, on account of the public scandal and severe punishment attached to such crimes, they were timid in laying a charge against them. Jesus consoled them and counseled them to patience. He told them to reflect as to whether they would have their husbands warned by Himself or by His disciples, strangers in those parts, that thereby suspicion of having lodged a complaint might not fall upon them and the affair might not become known throughout the country. Many children were brought to Jesus in the different houses, to receive from Him a benediction.
That afternoon, He went to a large house where, in a hall back of the court and separated from one another, numbers of distinguished men lay sick. On the other side of the court lay the women. Among these poor invalids were some melancholy and quite inconsolable, whose tears flowed unceasingly. Jesus cured about twenty of them, prescribed what they should eat and drink, and sent them to the baths. He afterward caused them all to be assembled together and taught first the women, and then the men. This lasted almost till evening, when He went to the synagogue.
Jesus Delivers a More Severe Lecture in the Synagogue
The Scripture lessons of this day treated of God’s curse upon those that transgressed His commands, of tithes, of idolatry, of the sanctification of the Sabbath, etc.1 Jesus’ words were so earnest and severe that many of His audience, penetrated with grief, sobbed and wept. The synagogue was open on all sides, and His voice rang out clear and pure like unto no other human voice. He inveighed especially against them that relied upon creatures and looked for help and comfort from human beings. He spoke of the diabolical influence of the adulterer and adulteress over each other, of the malediction of the injured spouses which falls upon the children of such intercourse, but whose guilt rests upon the adulterous parties. The people were so strongly affected that many of them, at the close of the discourse, exclaimed: “Ah, He speaks as if the Day of Judgment were already nigh!” He spoke likewise against pride, against subtle erudition and the close investigation of trifles. By this He alluded to the doings of the great school of Jewish learning here established for such Jews as would afterward add to their store of knowledge by travelling.
After this castigatory discourse many persons sighing for relief and reconciliation with God, sought Jesus at His inn. Among them were learned men and young students belonging to the school of the place seeking advice as to how they should pursue their studies, and others troubled in mind on account of their constant communication with the pagans with whom they carried on trade, though from a kind of necessity as their lands and workshops adjoined. The husbands of the women that had complained of them to Jesus were also among the number, as well as others guilty of similar offenses, but against whom no charge had been laid. They presented themselves individually as sinners before Jesus, cast themselves at His feet, confessed their guilt, and implored pardon. What troubled them especially was the thought that the malediction of their wives might fall upon the illegitimate, though otherwise innocent, children, and they asked whether this curse could not be counteracted or annulled. Jesus answered that it might be annulled by the sincere charity and pardon of the one that had invoked it, joined to the contrition and penance of the guilty party. Besides this, the malediction of which I speak does not extend to the soul, for the Almighty Father has said: “All souls are Mine”; but it affects the body, the flesh, and temporal goods. The flesh is, however, the house, the instrument of the soul, consequently the flesh lying under such a curse causes great distress and embarrassment to the soul already oppressed with the burden of the body received with life. I saw on this occasion that the malediction varies in its baneful effects according to the intention of the one that invokes it and the disposition of the child itself. Many subject to convulsions, many possessed by the demon, owe their condition to this source. The illegitimate children themselves I generally see possessed of remarkable advantages of nature, though of an order earthly and prone to sin. They have in them something in common with those that, in early times, sprang from the union of the sons of God with the daughters of men. They are often beautiful, cunning, very reserved in disposition, agitated by eager desires and, without wishing it to appear, they would like to draw all things to themselves. They bear in their flesh the stamp of their origin, and frequently their soul goes thereby to perdition.
After hearing and exhorting these sinners individually’ Jesus bade them send their wives to Him. When they came, He related to each one separately the repentance of her husband, exhorted her to heartfelt forgiveness and entire forgetfulness of the past, and urged her to recall the malediction she had pronounced. If, He told them, they did not act sincerely in this circumstance, the guilt of their husband’s relapse would fall upon them. The women wept and thanked and promised everything. Jesus reconciled several of these couples right away that same day. He made them come before Him, interrogated them anew, as is customary at the marriage ceremony, joined their hands together, covered them with a scarf, and blessed them. The wife of one of the faithless husbands solemnly revoked the malediction that she had pronounced upon the illegitimate children. The mother of the poor little ones, who were being raised in the Jewish asylum for children, was a pagan. Standing before Jesus, the injured but now forgiving wife placed her hand crosswise with that of her husband over the children’s heads, revoked the malediction, and blessed the children. Jesus imposed upon those guilty of adultery, as penance, alms, fasts, continence, and prayer. He who had sinned with the pagan was completely transformed. He very humbly invited Jesus to dine with him. Jesus accepted and went, accompanied by His disciples. A couple of the rabbis also were invited and they, as well as the whole city, marveled at the courtesy, for their host was known as a frivolous, worldly man who did not trouble himself much about priests and prophets. He was rich and owned landed property cultivated by servants. His house was near that hospital in which Jesus had cured the victims of melancholy. During the meal two of the little daughters of the family entered the dining hall, and poured costly perfume over Jesus’ head.
After dinner Jesus and all the people went to the synagogue for the closing exercises of the Sabbath. Jesus resumed His discourse of the day before, though not in terms so severe. He told His audience that God would not abandon them that call upon Him. He ended by dilating on their attachment to their houses and possessions, and exhorted them, if they put faith in His teaching, to forsake the great occasion of sin in which they were living among the pagans, and among those of their own belief to practice truth in the Promised Land. Judea, He said, was large enough to harbor and support them, although at first they might have to live under tents. It was better to give up all than to lose their soul on account of their idolatry, that is, their worship of their fine houses and possessions, better to give up all than to sin through love of their own convenience. That the Kingdom of God might come to them, it was necessary that they should go to meet it. They should not put their trust in their dwellings in a pleasant land, solid and magnificent though they might be, for the hand of God would fall suddenly upon them, scattering them in all directions, and overturning their mansions. He knew very well, He continued, that their virtues were more apparent than real, that they had no other basis than tepidity and the love of their own ease. They hankered after the wealth of the pagans and sought
to win it by their usury, traffic, mining, and marriages, but the day would come when they would see themselves stripped of all their ill-gotten gains. Jesus warned them likewise against such marriages with the heathens as those in which both parties, indifferent to religion, enter into wedlock merely for the sake of property and money, greater freedom and the gratification of passion. All were deeply moved and impressed by Jesus’ words, and many begged leave to be allowed to speak with Him in private.
The whole of the following day and even until late at night, was Jesus engaged visiting the different families in their homes, admonishing, consoling, and pardoning. Two women presented themselves before Him lamenting to Him over their illegitimate children. Jesus sent for their husbands, forgave the guilty parties, and united them once more to their lawful spouses. The children also—without understanding the ceremony, however—were received by the husbands and blessed as their own. It was harder for the wife to admit among her own the illegitimate children of her husband; she had to gain a great victory over herself. But all on this occasion did it so sincerely that they forced, so to say, their husbands to love them more and to bless children of their wives not their own. And so a general reconciliation was brought about, and scandal avoided.
Many sought comfort from Jesus on the score of His energetic admonition to them to emigrate from those pagan lands. Jesus’ teaching indeed pleased them and, looking upon themselves as Jews separated from their people, they felt greatly honored by His visit to them, but they did not like the idea of following Him, of leaving their homes. Here they were rich and comfortable, owned a city built by themselves, had a share in a mine, and carried on extensive trade. They enriched themselves by means of the pagans. They were not tormented by the Pharisees, not oppressed by Pilate. They were, as regards this life, in a most agreeable position, but their connection with the pagans was highly censurable. Pagan property and workshops were in their neighborhood. The pagan girls liked well to unite in marriage with the Jews, because they were not treated by them in so slavish a manner as by those of their own religion, and so they enticed the young Israelites in every way, by presents, attentions, and all kinds of allurements. When converted to Judaism, it was not from conviction, but from sordid views, and so insubordination and tepidity easily made their way into the family. The Jews of Mallep were besides less simple-hearted and hospitable than those of Palestine, their social surroundings were more studied and refined, their Jewish origin not so pure; consequently they brought forward all kinds of scruples and difficulties against Jesus’ counsel to emigrate to the Holy Land. Jesus argued that their forefathers owned houses and lands in Egypt, but that they had willingly and gladly abandoned them, and He repeated once more His prediction that if they persisted in remaining, misfortune would fall upon them. The disciples, Barnabas especially, went around a great deal in the environs teaching and exhorting the people. They were less timid in his presence and laid before him all their doubts. He always had a crowd around him.