Jesus Reaches the First Tent City of the Star Worshippers
When Jesus with the three youths left Cedar, Nazor, the Ruler of the synagogue, who traced his origin up to Tobias, Salathiel, Eliud, and the youth Titus accompanied Him a good part of the way. They crossed the river and passed through the pagan quarter of the city, in which just at that time a pagan feast was being celebrated and sacrifice was being offered in front of the temple. The road ran first eastward and then to the south through a plain that lay between two high mountain ridges, sometimes over heaths, again over yellow or white sand, and sometimes over white pebbles. At last they reached a large, open tract of country covered with verdure, in which stood a great tent among the palm trees, and around it many smaller ones. Here Jesus blessed and took leave of His escort, and then continued His journey awhile longer toward the tent city of the star worshippers. The day was on its decline when He arrived at a beautiful well in a hollow. It was surrounded by a low embankment, and near it was a drinking ladle. The Lord drank, and then sat down by the well. The youths washed His feet and He, in turn, rendered them the same service. All was done with childlike simplicity, and the sight was extremely touching. The plain was covered with palm trees, meadows, and at a considerable distance apart there were groups of tents. A tower, or terraced pyramid of pretty good size, still not higher than an ordinary church, arose in the center of the district. Here and there some people made their appearance and from a distance gazed at Jesus in surprise not unmingled with awe, but no one approached Him.
Not far from the well stood the largest of the tent houses. It was surmounted by several spires, and consisted of many stories and apartments connected together by partitions, some grated, others merely of canvas. The upper part was covered with skins. Altogether it was very artistically made and very beautiful. From this tent castle five men came forth bearing branches, and turned their steps in the direction of Jesus. Each carried in his hand a branch of a different kind of fruit: One had little yellow leaves and fruit, another was covered with red berries, a third was a palm branch, one bore a vine branch full of leaves, and the fifth carried a cluster of grapes. From the waist to the knees they wore a kind of woolen tunic slit at the sides, and on the upper part of the body a jacket wide and full, made of some kind of transparent, woolen stuff, with sleeves that reached about halfway to the elbow. They were of fair complexion, had a short, black beard, and long, curling hair. On their head was a sort of spiral cap from which depended many lappets around their temples. They approached Jesus and His companions with a friendly air, saluted them and, while presenting to them the branches they held in their hands, invited them to accompany them back to the tent. The vine branch was presented to Jesus, the one who acted as guide carrying a similar one. On entering the tent Jesus and His companions were made to sit upon cushions trimmed with tassels, and fruit was presented to them. Jesus uttered only a few words. The guests were then led through a tent corridor lined with sleeping chambers containing couch beds, and furnished with high cushions, to that part of the tent in which was the dining hall. In the center of the hall rose the pillar that supported the tent; and around it were twined garlands of leaves and fruits, vine branches, apples, and clusters of grapes—all so natural in appearance that I cannot say whether they really were natural or only painted. Here the attendants drew out a little oval table about as high as a footstool. It was formed of light leaves that could be opened quickly and its feet separated into two supports. They spread under it a colored carpet upon which were representations of men like themselves, and placed upon it cups and other table furniture. The tent was hung with tapestry, so that no part of the canvas itself could be seen.
When Jesus and the young disciples stretched themselves on the carpet around the table, the men in attendance brought cakes, scooped out in the middle, all kinds of fruits, and honey. The attendants themselves sat on low, round folding stools, their legs crossed. Between their feet they stood a little disk supported on a long leg, and on the disk they laid their plate. They served their guests themselves turnabout, the servants remaining outside the tent with everything that was necessary. I saw them going to another tent and bringing thence birds, which had been roasted on a spit in the kitchen. This last named apartment consisted merely of a mud hut in which was an opening in the roof to let out the smoke from the fire on the hearth. The birds were served up in quite a remarkable manner. They were (but I know not how it was done) covered with their feathers, and looked just as if they were alive. The meal over, the guests were escorted by five men to their sleeping rooms, and there the latter were quite amazed at seeing Jesus washing the youths’ feet, which service they rendered Him in return. Jesus explained to them its signification, and they resolved to practice in future the same act of courtesy.
Nocturnal Celebration of the Star Worshippers
When the five men took leave of Jesus and His young companions, they all left the tent together. They wore mantles longer behind than before, with a broad flap hanging from the back of the neck. They proceeded to a temple which was built in the shape of a large four-cornered pyramid, not of stone but of very light materials such as wood and skins. There was a flight of outside steps from base to summit. It was built in a hollow that rose in terraces and was surrounded by steps and parapets. The circular enclosure was cut through by entrances to the different parts of the temple, and the entrances themselves were screened by light, ornamental hedges. Several hundred people were
already assembled in the enclosure. The married women were standing back of the men; the young girls, back of them; and last of all, the children. On the steps of the pyramidal temple were illuminated globes that flashed and twinkled just like the stars of heaven, but I do not know how that was effected. They were regularly arranged, in imitation of certain constellations. The temple was full of people. In the center of the building rose a high column from which beams extended to the walls and up into the summit of the pyramid, bearing the lights by which the exterior globes were lighted. The light inside the temple was very extraordinary. It was like twilight, or rather moonlight. One seemed to be gazing up into a sky full of stars. The moon likewise could be seen, and far up in the very center of all blazed the sun. It was a most skillfully executed arrangement, and so natural that it produced upon the beholder an impression of awe, especially when he beheld by the dim light of the lower part of the temple the three idols that were placed around that central column. One was like a human being with a bird’s head and a great, crooked beak. I saw the people offering to it in sacrifice all kinds of eatables. They crammed into its enormous bill birds and similar things which fell down into its body and out again. Another of these idols had a head almost like that of an ox, and was seated like a human being in a squatting posture. They laid birds in its arms, which were outstretched as if to receive an infant. In it was a fire into which, through the holes made for that purpose, the worshippers cast the flesh of animals that had been slaughtered and cut up on the sacrificial table in front of it. The smoke escaped through a pipe sunk in the earth and communicating with the outer air. No flames were to be seen in the temple, but the horrible idols shone with a reddish glare in the dim light. During the ceremony, the multitude around the pyramid chanted in a very remarkable manner. Sometimes a single voice was heard, and then again a powerful chorus, the strains suddenly changing from plaintive to exultant; and when the moon and different stars shone out, they sent up shouts of enthusiastic welcome. I think this idolatrous celebration lasted till sunrise.
Before taking leave of these people on the following morning, Jesus gave them a few words of instruction. To their questions as to who He was and whither He was journeying, He answered by telling them about His Father’s Kingdom. He was, He said, seeking friends that had saluted Him at His birth. After that He was going down to Egypt, to hunt up some companions of His childhood and to call them to follow Him, as He was soon to return to His Father. He spoke to them on the subject of their idolatrous worship for which they put themselves to so much trouble and slaughtered so many sacrifices. They should adore the Father, the Creator of all things, and instead of sacrificing victims to idols which they themselves had made, they should bestow those gifts upon their poor brethren. The abodes of the women were back of and entirely separate from the tents of the men, each of whom had many wives. They wore long garments, jewels in their ears, and headdresses in the form of a high cap. Jesus commended the separation of the women from the men. It was well, He said, for the former to stand in the background, but against a multiplicity of wives He inveighed strenuously. They should have but one wife, He said, whom they should treat as one that owed submission, though not as a slave. During this instruction, Jesus appeared to them so lovable, so much like a supernatural being, that they implored Him to remain with them. They wanted to bring a wise, old priest to converse with Him, but Jesus would not allow it. Then they produced some ancient manuscripts which they consulted. They were not rolls of parchment, but thick leaves, which looked as if made of bark, and upon which the writing was deeply imprinted. These leaves were very like thick leather. The pagans insisted upon the Lord’s remaining and instructing them, but He refused, saying that they should follow Him when He had returned to His Father, and that He would not neglect to call them at the right time.
When about to leave, Jesus wrote for them with a sharp metallic rod on the stone floor of their tent the initials of five members of His race. It looked to me like only the letters, four or five of them, entwined together, and among them I recognized an M. They were deeply engraven on the stone. The pagans gazed in wonder at the inscription, for which they at once conceived great reverence. Later on they converted the stone upon which it was traced into an altar. I see it now at Rome enclosed in one of the corners of St. Peter’s church, nor will the enemies of the Church be able to carry it off!
Jesus would not allow any of these pagans to accompany Him when He departed. He directed His steps southward with His young disciples through the widely scattered tents and passed the tower of the idols. He remarked to the youths how affectionately He had been received by these pagans for whom He had done nothing, and how maliciously the obstinate, ungrateful Jews had persecuted Him, although He had loaded them with benefits. Jesus and His young companions hurried on rapidly the whole of that day. It seems to me that He still had a journey of some days, about fifty miles, before reaching the country of the Kings.
Jesus Encounters a Pastoral Tribe
Shortly before the commencement of the Sabbath I saw Jesus in the neighborhood of some shepherd tents, where He and His young companions sat down by a fountain and washed one another’s feet. Then He began to celebrate the Sabbath, praying with the youths and instructing them in order that even here in a strange land, the Jews’ reproaches that He did not sanctify the Sabbath day might not be verified. He slept that night with the three youths in the open air by the well. There were no permanent dwellings in this place, and no women among the shepherds. They had only one temporary inn, or caravansary, near their distant pasture grounds. Next morning, the shepherds gathered around Jesus and listened to His words. He asked them whether they had not heard of some people who, three and thirty years before, had been guided by a star to Judea, to salute the newborn King of the Jews. They cried out: “Yes! Yes!” and He went on to tell them that He was now travelling in search of those men. The shepherds exhibited a childlike joy and love for Jesus. On a lovely spot surrounded by palm trees, they made for Him a beautiful high seat or throne, up to which led steps covered with sod. They worked so very quickly, cutting and raising the sods with long stone, or bone knives, that the seat was soon finished. The Lord seated Himself upon it, and taught in most beautiful parables. The shepherds, about forty in number, listened like little children and afterward prayed with Jesus.
That evening the shepherds took down one of their tents, and uniting it to another, formed thereby one large hall, in which they prepared for the whole party an entertainment consisting of fruit, a kind of thick pap rolled into balls, and camel’s milk. When Jesus blessed the food He was about to take, they asked Him why He did so, and when He explained the reason, they begged Him to bless all the rest of the food, which He did. They wanted Him also to leave behind Him some blessed food; and when they brought Him for that purpose things soft and very perishable, He called for fruits that would not decay. They brought them, and He blessed some white balls made of rice. He told them always to mix a little of the blessed provisions with their other food, which then would never spoil, and the blessing would never be taken away.
The Kings already knew through dreams that Jesus was coming to see them.
A Wonderful Globe
I saw the Lord again teaching from the mossy throne. He taught about the creation of the world, the Fall of Man, and the promise of Redemption. Jesus asked whether they preserved the tradition of any promise. But they knew only a few things connected with Abraham and David, and those were mixed up with fables. They were so simple, just like children in school. Whoever knew anything in answer to a question, said it right out. When Jesus saw how innocent and ignorant they were, He wrought a great miracle in their behalf. I cannot recall exactly what He said, but He appeared to catch with His right hand at a sunbeam from which He drew a ball like a little luminous globe, and let it hang from the palm of the same hand by a ray of light. It seemed to be large enough to contain all things, and all things could be seen in it. The good people and the disciples beheld in it everything just as the Lord related it to them, and they all stood in awe around Him. I saw the Most Holy Trinity in the globe, and when I saw the Son in it, I did not see Jesus any longer upon earth, only an angel hovering by the globe. Once Jesus took the globe upon His hand, and again it seemed as if His hand itself was the globe, in which innumerable pictures unfolded, one from another. I heard something about the number three hundred and sixty-five, as if relating to the days of the year, connected with which also there was something in the pictures formed in the globe.
Jesus taught the shepherds a short prayer, in which occurred words like those of the and He gave them three intentions for which they should alternately recite it. The first was to thank for creation; the second, for Redemption; and the third, I think, was for the Last Judgment. The whole history of the Creation, the Fall, and the Redemption was unfolded in successive pictures in this globe, along with the means given to man to participate therein. I saw all things in the globe connected by rays of light with the Most Holy Trinity, out of whom all things proceeded, but from whom many separated miserably. The Lord gave to the shepherds an idea of Creation by the globe which sprang forth from His hand; an idea of the connection of the fallen world with the Godhead and its Redemption, by the suspension of the globe from His hand by a thread; and when He held it in His hand, He gave them some idea of Judgment. He taught them likewise about the year and the days that compose it inasmuch as they are figures of this history of Creation, and then He showed by what prayers and good works they ought to sanctify the different seasons.
When the Lord concluded His instruction, the luminous globe with its varied pictures disappeared as it had come. The poor people, quite overcome by the sense of their own profound misery and the godlike dignity of their Guest, showed signs of deep affliction and cast themselves, along with the three youths, prostrate on the ground, weeping and adoring. Jesus too became very sad and prostrated on the grassy mound upon which He had been sitting. The youths attempted to raise Him; and when at last He arose of Himself, the shepherds rose also, and standing around Him timidly ventured to ask Him the cause of His sadness. Jesus answered that He was mourning with those who mourned. He then took one of the hyacinths that grew wild in that region (but which were far larger and more beautiful than those we have), and asked them whether they knew the properties of that flower. When the sky is troubled, He said, it wilts, it pines as it were, and its color grows pale, and so too a cloud had passed over His own sun. He told them many other remarkable things about these flowers and their signification. I heard Him also calling them by an exceedingly strange name which, I was told, corresponded to our name for it, the hyacinth.
Abolition of Idol Worship
Although Jesus knew full well, He questioned the shepherds upon the kind of worship they practiced. He was like a good teacher who becomes a child with his children. Thereupon the good people brought to Him their gods in the shape of all kinds of animals, sheep, camels, asses—all very skillful imitations of the animals themselves. They appeared to be made of metal, and were covered with skins; and, what was truly laughable, all the idols represented female animals. They were provided with long bags, in imitation of udders, to which were attached reed nipples. These bags they filled with milk, milked them at their feasts, drank, and then danced and leaped about. Everyone selected from his herd the most beautiful, the most excellent cattle, which he raised with care and looked upon as sacred. It was after these holy models that the poor idolaters made their gods, and it was with their milk that they filled the udders. When they celebrated religious services, they brought all their idols together into one tent decorated for the occasion, and then began great carousing as at a kermess. The women and children also were in attendance, and milking and eating, drinking, singing, dancing, and adoring of the idols went on vigorously. It was not the Sabbath they were celebrating, but the day after.
While the pagans were relating all this to Jesus and showing Him their idols, I saw the whole thing taking shape and being enacted before my eyes. The Lord explained to them what a miserable shadow of true religious service theirs was and, after some more words to that effect, ended by telling them that He Himself was the Chosen from the herd. He was the Lamb from whom flowed all the milk that was to nourish the soul unto salvation. Then He commanded them to abolish their zoolatry, to drive the living animals back among the herds, and the metal of which the idols were composed to be given to the poor. They should, He said, erect altars, burn upon them incense to the Almighty Creator, the Heavenly Father, and give thanks to Him. They should moreover pray for the coming of the Redeemer, and divide their goods with their poor brethren, for not far off in the desert lived people so poor that they had not even tents to shelter them. Whatever parts of their slaughtered cattle they could not eat, ought to be burned as a sacrifice, also the bread that was over and not intended for the poor. The ashes should be sprinkled upon unproductive ground, which Jesus pointed out to them, in order to attract upon it a blessing. As He prescribed these different points He explained the reasons for observing them. Then He alluded again to the Kings that had visited Him. The people said, yes, they had heard that thirty-three years before, those Kings had journeyed afar in search of the Saviour and in the hope of finding along with Him everything that could be conducive to happiness and salvation. The Kings, they added, had returned to their country and changed something in their religious worship, but that was all they had ever heard about them.
Jesus next went around with these shepherds among their herds and huts, teaching them all kinds of things, even about the different herbs growing there. He promised to send someone to them soon to instruct them. He assured them that He had come on earth not merely for the Jews alone, as they in their humility thought, but for every single human being that sighed for His coming. From the little that they knew of Abraham, this poor shepherd tribe had conceived great esteem for sobriety. The three youths were impressed in a special manner by the late miracle of the luminous globe. Their relations toward the Lord were very different from those of the Apostles. They served Him in dependence, silence, and childlike simplicity. Unlike the Apostles, they never had anything to reply to their Master. The Apostles, however, held an office, whereas these youths were like poor, dependent scholars.
Jesus Continues His Journey to the Tent City of the Kings
When Jesus left the shepherds and pursued His journey to the land of the Three Kings, about twelve of them bore Him company. They appeared to have some kind of a tax to pay for which they were taking with them birds in baskets. This journey was a very lonely one, for on the whole length of the route they did not meet one dwelling house. The road was, however, distinctly marked out, and there was no chance of the traveler’s losing his way in the desert. Trees lined the roadside bearing edible fruits the size of figs, and here and there were found berries. At certain points, marking one day’s journey, resting places were formed. They consisted of a covered well surrounded by trees, whose tops were drawn together in a large hoop, their pendent branches thus forming an arbor. These resting places were furnished with conveniences for making a fire and passing the night. During the great noonday heat, Jesus and the youths rested at one of these wells and refreshed themselves with some fruit. Each time they thus paused on their journey, Jesus and the youths washed one another’s feet. The Lord never permitted any of the others to touch Him. The youths, drawn by His goodness, at times treated Jesus with childlike confidence, but again, when they thought of His miracles, His divinity, they cast timid and frightened glances toward Him and looked at one another. I saw too that Jesus often appeared to vanish before them, although He did not fail to direct their attention to all that they met on their way and instruct them upon the same.
They journeyed a part of the night. When they paused to rest, the youths struck fire by revolving two pieces of wood together. They had also a lantern at the end of a pole. It was open on top, and its little flame shed around a reddish glare. I do not know of what it consisted. I saw during the night wild animals running furtively about. The road ran sometimes over high mountains, not steep but gently rising. In one field I saw many rows of nut trees, and people filling sacks with the nuts that had fallen. It looked something like a gleaning. There were other trees whose leaves were gone but the fruit was still remaining, peach trees with slender trunks planted on rising ground, and another that looked almost like our laurel. Some of the resting places for travelers were under large juniper bushes whose branches were as thick as the arm of a good -sized man. They were closely grown together overhead, but thinned out below, so as to afford a delightful shelter. The greater part of the journey, however, was through a desert of white sand interspersed with places covered, some with small white pebbles, others with little polished ones like birds’ eggs; and there were large beds of black stones, like the remains of fractured pipkins, or pieces of hollow pottery. Some of these fragments were provided with holes like regular rings, or handles, and the people in the country around used to come in search of them in order to utilize them as bowls and other vessels. The last mountain the travelers crossed was covered with gray stones only. They found on descending its opposite side a dense hedgerow, behind which flowed a rapid stream around a piece of cultivated land. By the shore lay a ferryboat formed of the trunks of trees woven together with osiers. On this they crossed the stream, and then directed their steps to a row of huts built of sticks woven together and overlaid with moss. They had pointed roofs, and all around the central apartment were sleeping places furnished with mossy seats and couches. The occupants were modestly clothed and wore blankets around them like mantles. At some distance I saw tent buildings, much larger and stronger than any I had hitherto seen. They were raised on a stone foundation, and had several stories reached by outside steps. Between the first and the second hut was a well, by which Jesus seated Himself. The youths washed His feet, and then He was conducted to a house set apart for strangers. The people here were very good. They who had accompanied Jesus now left Him for their homes, taking with them provisions for the way.
This region of moss cabins was of very considerable extent, and numberless dwellings such as described lay around among the meadows, fields, and gardens. The large tent palaces could not be seen from here, for they were still at quite a distance; but they were plainly visible from the descent of the mountain. The whole country was extraordinarily fruitful and charming. On the hills were numerous clusters of balsam trees, which when notched distilled a precious juice. The natives caught it in those stone vessels which looked something like iron pots, and which they found in the desert. I saw also magnificent wheat fields, the stalks as thick as reeds, vines, and roses, flowers as large and round as a child’s head; and others remarkable for their great size. There were also little purling brooks clear and rapid, over arched by carefully trimmed hedges whose tops were bound together to form a bower. The flowers of these hedges were gathered with care, and those that fell into the water were caught in nets, spread here and there for that purpose, and thus preserved. At the places at which the blossoms were fished out there were gates in the hedges, which were usually kept closed. The people brought and showed to the Lord all the fruits they had.
When Jesus spoke to them of those men who had followed the star, they told Him that on their return from Judea to the place from which they had first noticed the star, they built on the spot a lofty temple in the form of a pyramid. Around it they erected a city of tents in which they dwelt together, although before that they had lived widely apart. They had received the assurance that the Messiah would eventually visit them, and that upon His departure they too would leave the place. Mensor, the eldest, was still alive and well; Theokeno, the second, borne down by the weakness of old age, could no longer walk. Seir, the third, had died some years previously, and his remains, perfectly preserved, lay in a tomb built in pyramidal form. On the anniversary of his death, his friends visited it, opened it, and performed certain ceremonies over the remains, near which fire was kept constantly burning. They enquired of Jesus after those of the caravan that had remained behind in Palestine, and sent messengers to the tent city, a couple of hours distant, to inform Mensor that they thought they had among them an envoy of that King of the Jews so desired by him and his people.
When the hour for the Sabbath approached, Jesus asked for one of the unoccupied cabins to be placed at the service of Himself and His disciples, and as there were here no lamps of Jewish style, they made one for themselves and celebrated their holy exercises.
Jesus Ceremoniously Escorted by Mensor to his Tent Castle
When the Kings received the news of Jesus’ arrival, they made great preparations for His reception. Trees were bound together so as to form covered walks, and triumphal arches erected. These latter were adorned with flowers, fruits, ornaments of all kinds, and hung with tapestry. Seven men in white, gold-embroidered mantles, long and training, and with turbans on their heads ornamented with gold and high tufts of feathers, were dispatched to the pastoral region to meet Jesus and bear to Him a welcome. Jesus delivered in their presence an instruction in which He spoke of right-minded pagans who, though ignorant, were devout of heart.
The dwelling place of the Kings was so commodious and so rich in ornamentation that words cannot describe it. It was more like a delightful pleasure garden than a real tent city. The principal tent looked like a large castle. It consisted of several stories raised upon a stone foundation. The lowest was formed of railings through which the eye could penetrate, and the upper ones contained the various apartments, while all around the immense building ran covered galleries and flights of steps. Similar tent castles stood around, all connected together by walks paved with colored stones ornamented with representations of stars, flowers, and similar devices. These walks, so clean and beautiful, were bordered on either side by grass plots and gardens whose beds, regularly laid out, were full of flowers, slender trees with fine leaves, such as the myrtle and dwarf laurel, and all kinds of berries and aromatic plants. In the center of the city, upon a grassy mound such as described, rose a very high and beautiful fountain of many jets. It was surmounted by a roof supported on an open colonnade around which were placed benches and other seats. The streams from the jets shot far around the central column. Back of this stood the temple, with its surrounding colonnades, containing the vaults of the Kings, among which was the tomb of King Seir. This temple was open on one side, but closed on the others by the doors leading to the vaults. It was in shape a four cornered pyramid, but the roof was not so flat as those that I saw on the early part of the Lord’s journey. Spiral steps with railings ran up around the pyramid, whose summit was executed in openwork. I noticed also a tent house in one side of which youths were being educated; and on the other, but entirely separate, girls were instructed in various branches. The dwellings of the females were all together and outside of this enclosure. They lived entirely separate from the men. Words cannot say with what elegance the whole city was laid out, and with what care it was preserved in its beauty, freshness, and neatness. The buildings presented an airy appearance characterized by simplicity of taste. Beautiful gardens with seats for resting were everywhere to be met. I saw an immense cage, more like a large house than a cage, filled from top to bottom with birds; further on, I saw tents and huts in which dwelt smiths and other workmen. I saw also stables and immense meadows full of herds of camels, asses, great sheep with fine wool, also cows with small heads and large horns, very different from those of our country.
I saw no mountain in this region, only gently rising hills, not much higher than our pagan sepulchral mounds. Down through these hills, through pipes inserted for that purpose, borings were made in search of gold. If the boring tube were brought up with gold on its point, the mine was opened in the side of the hill and the gold dug out. It was then smelted in the neighborhood of the mine in furnaces heated not with wood, but with lumps of something brown and clear, which too was dug out of the earth.
Mensor, who was under the persuasion that it was only an envoy from Jesus who had arrived, set all in motion to give him as solemn a reception as if it were the King of the Jews Himself who had come. He deliberated with the other chiefs and priests, and prescribed the various details of His reception. Festal garments and presents were prepared, and the roads by which He was to come magnificently decorated. All was carried forward with joyous earnestness. Mensor, mounted on a richly caparisoned camel which was laden on both sides with small chests, and attended by a retinue of twenty distinguished personages, some of whom had formed part of the caravan to Bethlehem, set out to meet Jesus who, with the three youths and seven messengers, was on His way to the tent castle, Mensor’s party chanted, as they went along, a solemn, plaintive melody such as they had nightly sung during their journey to Bethlehem. Mensor, the eldest of the Kings, he of the brownish complexion, wore a high, round cap ornamented with some kind of a white puffed border, and a white training mantle embroidered in gold. As a mark of honor, a standard floated at the head of the procession. It looked like a horse’s tail fastened to a pole, the top of which was indented with points. The way led through an avenue across lovely meadows carpeted here and there with patches of tender white moss that glanced like dense fungus in the rays of the sun. At last, the procession reached a well covered by a verdant temple of artistically cut foliage. Here Mensor dismounted from his camel and awaited the Lord, who was seen approaching. One of the seven delegated to escort Jesus ran on before and announced His coming. The chests borne by the camels were now opened, and magnificent garments embroidered in gold, golden cups, plates, and dishes of fruit were taken out and deposited upon the carpet that was spread near the well. Mensor, bowed with age, supported by two of his retinue and attended by his train-bearer, went to meet Jesus. His whole demeanor was marked by humility. He carried in his right hand a long staff ornamented with gold and terminating in a scepter shaped point. At a glance from Jesus he experienced, as formerly at the Crib, an interior monition similar to that which had drawn him, first of the three, down upon his knees. Reaching his staff to Jesus, he now prostrated again before Him, but Jesus raised him from the ground. Then the old man ordered the gifts to be brought forward and presented to Jesus, who handed them to the disciples, and they were replaced upon the camel. Jesus did indeed accept the splendid garments, though He would not consent to wear them. The camel likewise was presented to Him by the old man, but Jesus thanked without accepting.
They now entered the bower. Mensor presented to the Lord fresh water into which he had poured some kind of juice from a small flask, and fruit on little dishes. In a manner inexpressibly humble, childlike, and friendly, Mensor questioned Jesus about the King of the Jews, for he still looked upon Him as an envoy, though he could not explain to himself his inward emotion. His companions conversed with the youths and wept for joy when they heard from Eremenzear that he was the son of one of those followers of the Kings that had remained behind and settled near Bethlehem. He was a descendant of Abraham by his second wife, Ketura. Mensor wanted Jesus to ride upon his camel when they were again starting for the tent castle, but Jesus insisted on walking, He and the young disciples heading the procession. In about an hour they reached the vast circular enclosure wherein stood Mensor’s dwelling and its dependencies, and around which, in lieu of walls, was stretched white tent cloth. Under the triumphal arch before the entrance, Jesus and the disciples were met by a troop of maidens in festive attire. They came forward, two by two, carrying baskets of flowers which they strewed over the way by which He had to pass until it was entirely covered with them. The path led through an avenue of shade trees whose top branches were bound together. The maidens wore under their upper garment which fell around them in the form of a mantle, wide white pantalets; on their feet, pointed sandals; around their heads, bands of some kind of white stuff; and on their arms and breast and around their necks were wreaths of flowers, wool, and glistening feathers. They were clothed very modestly, though they wore no veils. The shady avenue ended at a covered bridge which led across the moat, or brook, into the large garden around which the brook ran. In front of the bridge was erected a highly ornamented triumphal arch, under which Jesus was received by five priests in white mantles with long trains. Their robes were richly adorned with lace, and from the right arm of each hung a maniple to the ground. They wore on their head a scalloped crown in the front of which was a little shield in the form of a heart, and from which rose a point. Two of them bore a fire-pan of gold, upon which they sprinkled frankincense from a golden vessel shaped like a boat. They would not allow the trains of their mantles to be held up in Jesus’ presence, but tucked them up in a loop behind.
Jesus received all these honors quietly, as He afterward did those of Palm Sunday.
The magnificent garden was watered by many little streams and laid off in triangular flowerbeds by paths beautifully paved with ornamental stones. Through the center of it ran an embowered walk, likewise paved with colored stones in figures, to a second covered bridge. The trees and garden bushes were trained in all kinds of figures. I saw some cut to represent men and animals. The outside row was formed of high trees, but the inner ones were smaller, more delicate, and there were many shady resting places.
The second bridge once crossed, the way led to the middle of a large, circular place that formed the center of the surrounding enclosure. There on a mound entirely surrounded by water stood, over a well, an open edifice, like a little temple. The roof, formed of skins, was raised upon slender pillars. The whole island was one lovely garden, and opposite to it rose the large royal tent.
When Jesus crossed the second bridge, He was received by youths playing on flutes and tambourines. They dwelt near the bridge in low, four-cornered tents which stretched right and left in arches. They must have been a kind of bodyguard, for they carried short swords and stood on guard. They wore caps garnished with something like a feather horn, and they had many kinds of ornaments hanging around them, among them the representation of a large half-moon, in which was a face regularly cut out. The procession halted before the little island of the well. The King dismounted from his camel and led Jesus and the disciples to the fountain, which consisted of a wellspring with many circles of jets one above another, all made of shining metal. When a faucet was turned, the streams of water
spouted far around and ran down the mound in channels, through the green hedges, and into the surrounding brook. All around the fountain were seats. The disciples washed Jesus’ feet, and He theirs. A covered tent avenue ran over the bridge from the fountain to the other side of the great, circular place and up to Mensor and Theokeno’s tent castle. On one side of the tent castle stood, in the spacious enclosure around the fountain island, the temple, a four-cornered pyramid. It was not so high as the tent castle and was surrounded by a colonnade, in which was found the entrance to the vaults of the deceased Kings. Around the temple pyramid ran a flight of spiral steps up to the grated summit. Between the temple and the fountain island, the sacred fire was preserved in a pit covered by a metallic dome upon which was a figure with a little flag in its hand. The fire was kept constantly burning. It was a white flame that did not rise above the mouth of the pit. The priests frequently put into it pieces of something that they dug out of the ground.
The tent castle of the Kings was several stories high. The lowest, that is, the one next above the solid foundation, was merely grated, so that one could see quite through it. It was full of little bushes and plants, and served as a garden for Theokeno, who could no longer walk. Covered steps and galleries ran around the tent castle from the ground up to the top. Here and there were openings like windows, though not symmetrically placed. The roof of the tent had several gables, all ornamented with flags, stars, and moons.
After a short time spent at the fountain, Jesus was escorted through the covered tent avenue to the castle and into the large octagonal hall. In the center rose a supporting column all around which, one above another, were little circular cavities in which various objects could be placed. The walls were hung with colored tapestry upon which were representations of flowers, and figures of boys holding drinking cups, and the floor was carpeted. Jesus requested Mensor to conduct Him at once to Theokeno, whose rooms were in the trellised basement near the little garden. He was resting on a cushioned couch, and he took part in the meal that was served up in dishes of surpassing beauty. The viands were prepared very elegantly. Herbs, fine and delicate, were arranged on the plates to represent little gardens. The cups were of gold. Among the fruits was one particularly remarkable. It was yellow, ribbed, very large, and crowned by a tuft of leaves. The honeycombs were especially fine. Jesus ate only some bread and fruit, and drank from a cup that had never before been used. This was the first time that I saw Him eating with pagans. I saw Him teaching here whole days at a time, and but seldom taking a mouthful.
He taught during that meal and, at last, told His hosts that He was not an envoy of the Messiah, but the Messiah Himself. On hearing this, they fell prostrate on the ground in tears. Mensor especially wept with emotion. He could not contain himself for love and reverence, and was unable to conceive how Jesus could have condescended to come to him. But Jesus told him that He had come for the heathens as well as for the Jews, that He was come for all who believed in Him. Then they asked Him whether it was not time for them to abandon their country and follow Him at once to Galilee, for, as they assured Him, they were ready to do so. But Jesus replied that His Kingdom was not of this world, and that they would be scandalized, that they would waver in faith if they should see how He would be scorned and maltreated by the Jews. These words they could not comprehend, and they inquired how it could be that things could go so well with the bad while the good had to suffer so much. Jesus then explained to them that they who enjoy on earth have to render an account hereafter, and that this life is one of penance.
The Kings had some knowledge of Abraham and David; and when Jesus spoke of His ancestors, they produced some old books and searched in them, to see whether they too could not claim descent from the same race. The books were in the form of tablets opening out in a zigzag form, like sample patterns. These pagans were so childlike, so desirous of doing all that they were told. They knew that circumcision had been prescribed to Abraham, and they asked the Lord whether they too should obey this part of the Law. Jesus answered that it was no longer necessary, that they had already circumcised their evil inclinations, and that they would do so still more. Then they told Him that they knew something of Melchisedech and his sacrifice of bread and wine, and said that they too had a sacrifice of the same kind, namely, a sacrifice of little leaves and some kind of a green liquor. When they offered it they spoke some words like these: “Whoever eats me and is devout, shall have all kinds of felicity.” Jesus told them that Melchisedech’s sacrifice was a type of the Most Holy Sacrifice, and that He Himself was the Victim. Thus, though plunged in darkness, these pagans had preserved many forms of truth.
Either the night that preceded Jesus’ coming or that which followed, I cannot now say which, all the paths and avenues to a great distance around the tent castle were brilliantly illuminated. Transparent globes with lights in them were raised on poles, and every globe was surmounted by a little crown that glistened like a star.
Jesus in the Temple of the Kings. Feast of the Apparition of the Star.
The Lord’s first visit to the temple of the Kings took place by day, and He was escorted to it from the tent castle by the priests in solemn procession. They now wore high caps. From one shoulder depended ribbons with numbers of silver shields, and from the opposite arm hung the long maniple. The whole way to the temple was hung with drapery, and the priests walked barefoot. Here and there in the neighborhood of the temple, women were sitting, anxious to see the Lord. They had little parasols, little canopies on poles, to shade them from the sun. When Jesus passed in the distance, they arose and bowed low to the ground. In the center of the temple rose a pillar from which chevrons extended to the four walls, and from the highest point was suspended a wheel covered with stars and globes, which was used during the religious ceremonies.
The priests showed Jesus a representation of the Crib which, after their return from Bethlehem, they had caused to be made. It was exactly like that which they had seen in the star, entirely of gold, and surrounded by a plate of the same metal in the form of a star. The little child, likewise of gold, was sitting in a crib like that of Bethlehem, on a red cover. Its hands were crossed on its breast up to which from the feet it was swathed. Even the straw of the manger was represented. Behind the child’s head was a little white crown, but I do not now know of what it was made. Besides this crib there was no other image in the temple. A long roll, or tablet, was hanging on the wall. It was the sacred writings, and the letters were principally formed of symbolical figures. Between the pillar and the crib stood a little altar with openings in the sides, and they sprinkled water around with a little brush, as we do holy water. I saw also a consecrated branch, with which they performed all kinds of ceremonies, some little round loaves, a chalice, and a plate of the flesh of victims sacrificed. As they were showing all these things to Jesus, He enlightened them on the truth and refuted the reasons they advanced for their use.
They took Him also to the tombs of King Seir and his family, which lay in the vaults in the covered way that surrounded the pyramidal temple. They looked like couches cut in the wall. The bodies lay in long, white garments, and beautiful covers hung down from their resting places. I saw their half-covered faces and their hands bare and white as snow; but I know not whether it was only their bones or whether they were still covered with dried skin, for I saw that the hands were deeply furrowed. This sepulchral vault was quite habitable, and there was a stool in each of the tombs. The priests brought in fire and burnt incense. All shed tears, especially the aged King Mensor, who wept like a child. Jesus approached the remains and spoke of the dead. Theokeno, speaking to Jesus of Seir, told Him that a dove was frequently seen to alight on the branch which, according to their custom, they stuck on the door of his tomb, and he asked what it meant. Jesus in reply asked him what was Seir’s belief. To this Theokeno answered: “Lord, his faith was like unto mine. After we began to honor the King of the Jews, Seir up to his death desired that all he thought and did, all that was to befall him, might ever be in accordance with the will of that King.” Thereupon Jesus informed him that the dove on the branch signified that Seir had been baptized with the baptism of desire.
Jesus drew for them on a plate the figure of the lamb resting on the Book with the Seven Seals, a little standard over its shoulder, and He bade them make one on that model and place it on the column opposite the crib.
Since their return from Bethlehem, the Kings had every year celebrated a memorial feast of three days in honor of that upon which, fifteen years before the Birth of Christ, they had for the first time seen the star containing the picture of the Virgin who held in one hand a scepter, and in the other a balance with an ear of wheat in one dish and a cluster of grapes in the other. The three days were in honor of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. They reverenced St. Joseph in a special manner, because he had received them so kindly and graciously. It was now time for this annual festival, but in their humility in presence of the Lord, they wanted to omit the usual religious ceremonies, and begged Him to give them an instruction instead. But Jesus told them that they must celebrate their feast, lest the people in their ignorance of what had just taken place might be scandalized at the omission. I saw many things connected with their religion. They had three images in the form of animals standing around outside the temple: one was a dragon with huge jaws; another a dog with a great head; and the third was a bird with legs and neck long, almost like a stork, only that it had a peaked bill. I do not think that these images were adored as gods. They served only as symbols of certain virtues whose practice they inculcated. The dragon represented the bad, the dark principle in man’s nature, which he must labor to destroy; the dog, which had reference to some star, signified fidelity, gratitude, and vigilance; and the bird typified filial love. The images embodied besides all kinds of deep, profound mysteries, but I cannot now recall them. I know well however that no idolatry, no abomination was connected with them. They were embodiments of great wisdom and humility, of deep meditation upon the wonderful things of God. They were not made of gold, but of something darker, like those fragments that were used for smelting the ore, or perhaps what remained after that process. Below the figure of the dragon I read five letters, A A S C C or A S C A S, I do not remember exactly which. The dog’s name was Sur, but that of the bird I have forgotten.
The four priests delivered discourses in four different places around the temple before the men, the women, the maidens, and the youths. I saw them open the dragon’s jaws and I heard them say at the same time: “If, hateful and frightful as he is, he were now alive and about to devour us, who alone could help us but the Almighty God?”—and they gave to God some special name that I cannot now recall. Then they caused the wheel to be taken down from its place, put it on the altar in a track formed to receive it, and one of the priests made it revolve. There were several circles one inside the other all hung with hollow golden balls, which glittered and tinkled at every revolution, thus announcing the course of the constellations. This revolving of the wheel was accompanied by singing, the refrain being to this effect: “What would become of the world if God should cease to direct the movement of the stars?” This was followed by the offering of sacrifice before the golden Christ Child in the crib, and the burning of incense. Jesus commanded them to do away with those animals for the future, and to teach mercy, love of the neighbor, and the Redemption of the human race; as for the rest, they should admire God in His creatures, give Him thanks, and adore Him alone. On the evening of the first of these three festivals, the Sabbath began for Jesus; therefore, He withdrew with the three youths into a retired apartment of the tent castle to celebrate it. They had with them white garments almost like grave clothes. These they put on, along with a girdle, ornamented with letters and straps, which they crossed like a stole over the breast. On a table covered with red and white stood a lamp with seven burners. When in prayer, Jesus stood between two of the youths, the third behind Him. No pagan was present at Jesus’ celebration of the Sabbath.
During the whole of the Sabbath, the pagans were gathered together in the enclosure around their temple, men, women, youths, and maidens—all had their respective tiers of seats. After Jesus had finished His celebration of the Sabbath, He went out to the pagans and then I witnessed a wonderful scene. In the center of the women’s circle stood the image of the dragon. The women were very differently clothed according to their rank. The poorest wore under their long mantles only a short garment, very simple; but the more distinguished were arrayed like her whom I now saw step in front of the dragon. She was a robust-looking woman of about thirty. Under the long mantle, which she laid aside when seated, she wore a stiff, plaited tunic and a jacket very closely fitting around the neck and breast, and ornamented with glittering jewels and tiny chains. From the shoulder to the elbow hung lappets like open half-sleeves, and the rest of the arms, like the lower limbs, was covered with lace and bracelets. On her head she wore a close-fitting cap that reached down to the eyes, partly concealed the cheeks and chin, and which was formed entirely of rows of curled feathers. Above the middle of the head, bent from the forehead back, arose a kind of roll or pad through which could be seen the hair, braided and ornamented. A great many long ornamental chains were pendent from the ears down to the breast.
Before the priest began his instruction, the woman, attended by many others, went in front of the dragon, cast herself down and kissed the earth. She performed this action with marked enthusiasm and devotion. At this moment Jesus stepped into the middle of the circle and asked why she did that. She answered that the dragon awoke her every morning before day when she arose, turned toward the quarter in which the image stood, prostrated before her couch, and adored it. Jesus next asked: “Why dost thou cast thyself down before Satan? Thy faith has been taken possession of by Satan. It is true indeed that thou wilt be awakened, but not by Satan. It is an angel that will awake thee. Behold whom thou adorest!” At the same moment, there stood by the woman, and in sight of all present, a spirit in the form of a figure lank and reddish, with a sharp, hideous countenance. The woman shrank back in fright. Jesus, pointing to the spirit, said: “This is he that has been accustomed to awake thee, but every human being has also a good angel. Prostrate before him and follow his advice!” At these words of Jesus, all perceived a beautiful luminous figure hovering near the woman. Tremblingly she prostrated before him. So long as Satan stood beside the woman, the good angel remained behind her, but when he disappeared, the angel came forward. The woman, deeply affected, now returned to her place. She was called Cuppes. She was afterward baptized Serena by Thomas, under which name she was later on martyred and venerated as a saint.
In His instruction to the youths and maidens who were assembled in the vicinity of the bird, Jesus warned them to observe due measure in their love of both human beings and the lower animals, for there were some among them that almost adored their parents, and others that showed more affection for animals than for their fellow men.
On the last day of the festival, Jesus desired to deliver a discourse in the temple to the priests and Kings and all the people. That the aged King Theokeno also might be among His hearers, Jesus went to him with Mensor, and commanded him to rise and accompany Him. He took him by the hand and Theokeno, nothing doubting, rose up at once able to walk. Jesus led him to the temple and from that time forward he retained the use of his limbs. Jesus ordered the doors of the pyramidal temple to be opened, that all the people outside could both see and hear Him. He taught sometimes outside among the men and women, the youths, the maidens, and the children, relating to them many of the parables that He had formerly recounted to the Jews. His auditors were privileged to interrupt Him in order to ask questions, for He had commanded them to do so. Sometimes also He called upon a certain one to say aloud before all the others the doubts that troubled him, for He knew the thoughts of everyone. Among the questions they asked was this: Why He raised no dead to life, cured no sick, as the King of the Jews had done? Jesus answered that He did not perform such miracles among pagans, but that He would send some men who would work many wonders among them, and that through the bath of Baptism they should become clean. They should, He said, until that time take His words on faith.
Jesus then gave an instruction to the priests and kings alone, He told them that whatever in their doctrine bore an appearance of truth, was a mere lie: it had only the semblance, the empty form of truth, and the demon himself gave it that form. As soon as the good angel withdraws, Satan steps forward, corrupts worship, and takes it under his own guardianship. Heretofore, Jesus continued, they had honored all those objects to which they could attach some idea of strength, and of that worship they had omitted many things after their return from Bethlehem. Now, however, He told them they should do away with those figures of animals, should melt them down: and He indicated to them the people to whom their value should be given. All their worship, all their knowledge, He said, valued nothing. They should inculcate love and mercy without the aid of those images, and thank the Father in Heaven that He had so mercifully called them to the knowledge of Himself. Jesus promised them that He would send one who would more fully instruct them, and He directed them to remove the wheel with its starry representations. It was as large as a carriage wheel of moderate size and had seven concentric rims, on the uppermost and the lowest of which were fastened globes from which streamed rays. The central point consisted of a larger globe, which represented the earth. On the circumference of the wheel were twelve stars, in which were as many different pictures, splendid and glittering. I saw among them one of a virgin with rays of light flashing from her eyes and playing around her mouth, while on her forehead sparkled precious stones; and another of an animal with something in its mouth that emitted sparks. But I could not see all distinctly, because the wheel was constantly revolving. The figures were not all visible at the same time, for at intervals some were hidden.
Jesus desired to leave them some bread and wine blessed by Himself. The priests had, in obedience to His directions, prepared some very fine white bread like little cakes, and a small jug of some kind of red liquor. Jesus specified the shape of the vessel in which all was to be preserved. It was like a large mortar. It had two ears, a cover with a knob, and was divided into two compartments. The bread was deposited in the upper one; and in the lower one, in which there was a small door, the little jug of liquor was placed. The outside shone like quicksilver, but the inside was yellow. Jesus placed the bread and the wine on the little altar, prayed, and blessed, while the priests and the two Kings knelt before Him, their hands crossed on their breast. Jesus prayed over them, laid His hands on their shoulders, and instructed them how they should renew the bread, which He cut for them crosswise, giving them the words and the ceremony of benediction. This bread and wine were to be for them a symbol of Holy Communion. The Kings had some knowledge of Melchisedech, and they questioned Jesus concerning his sacrifice. When He blessed the bread for them, He gave them some idea of His Passion and of the Last Supper. They should, He told them, make use of the bread and wine for the first time on the anniversary of their adoration at the Crib, and after that three times in the year, or every three months, I cannot recall it exactly.
Next day Jesus again taught in the temple wherein all were gathered. He went in and out, leaving one crowd to go to another. He allowed the women and children also to come and speak to Him, and He instructed the mothers how to rear their children and teach them to pray. This was the first time that I saw many children gathered together here. The boys wore only a short tunic, and the little girls, mantles. The children of the converted lady were present. She was a person of distinction and her spouse, a tall man, was near King Mensor. She had fully ten children with her. Jesus blessed them, laying His hand not on the head as He did to the children of Judea, but on the shoulder.
He instructed the people upon His mission and His approaching end, and told them that His journey into their country was unknown to the Jews. He had, He said, brought with Him as companions youths that would take no scandal at what they saw and heard, and who were docile to all His words. The Jews would have taken His life, had He not made His escape. But apart from all that, He was desirous of visiting them because they had visited Him, had believed in Him, hoped in Him, and loved Him. He admonished them to thank God for not allowing them to be entirely blinded by idolatry and for giving them the true belief in Himself and the grace to keep His Commandments. If I do not mistake, He spoke to them also of the time of His return to His Heavenly Father, when He would send to them His disciples. He told them too that He was going down into Egypt where as a child He had been with His Mother, for there were some people there who had known Him in His childhood. He would, however, remain quite unknown, as there were Jews there who would willingly seize Him and deliver Him to His enemies, but His time was not yet come.
The pagans could not understand the human foresight of Jesus. In their childlike simplicity, they mentally asked themselves: “How could they do such things to Him, since He is truly God!” Jesus answered their thoughts by telling them that He was man also, that the Father had sent Him to lead back all the scattered, that as a man, He could suffer and be persecuted by men when His hour would have come, and because He was a man, He could be thus intimate with them.
He warned them again to renounce all kinds of idolatry and to love one another. In speaking of His own Passion, He touched upon true compassion. They should, He said, desist from their excessive care of sick animals, and turn their love toward their fellow beings both as regards body and soul; and if there were in their neighborhood none that stood in need of assistance, they should seek at a distance for such as did, and pray for all their destitute brethren. He told them also that what they did for the needy, they did for Him, and He made them understand that they were not to treat the lower animals with cruelty. They had entire tents filled with sick animals of all kinds, which they even provided with little beds. They were especially fond of dogs, of which I saw many large ones with enormous heads.