Jesus Goes to Egypt, Teaches in Heliopolis, and Returns to Judea Through the Desert
From the castle of the idols, Jesus’ route now lay toward the west. He travelled quickly with His four companions, pausing nowhere, but ever hurrying on. First, they crossed a sandy desert, toiled slowly up a steep mountain ridge, pursued their way over a country covered with vegetation, then through low bushes like juniper bushes, whose branches, meeting overhead, formed a covered walk. After that they came to a stony region overrun with ivy, thence through meadows and woods until they reached a river, not rapid, but deep, over which they crossed on a raft of beams. It was still night when they arrived at a city built either on both sides of the river, or on one of its branches, or on a canal. It was the first Egyptian city on their route. Here, unobserved by anyone, Jesus and His companions retired under the porch of a temple, where were some sleeping places for travelers. The city appeared to me very much gone to ruin. I saw great, thick walls, massive stone houses, and many poor people. I had an interior perception that Jesus had journeyed hither by the same side of the desert by which the Children of Israel had come.
Next morning, as Jesus and the disciples were leaving the city, children ran after them crying out: “There go holy people!” The inhabitants were very much excited, inasmuch as great disturbances had happened the night before. Many of the idols had fallen from their places, and the children had been dreaming and uttering prophetic words about certain “holy people” that had entered the city.
Jesus and the disciples departed hurriedly, and plunged into the deep ravines that traversed the sandy region. That evening I saw them, not far from a city, resting and taking food at the source of a brook, the disciples having washed Jesus’ feet. Nearby on a great round stone was stretched the figure of a dog in a lying posture. It had a human head, the expression of the face quite friendly. It wore a cap, like that worn by the people of the country, a band with hanging lappets notched at the ends. The figure was as large as a cow. Under a tree outside the city stood an idol whose head was like that of an ox. It had holes pierced in its body and several arms. Five streets led from the gate into the great city, and Jesus took the first to the right. It ran along the city wall, which was like a rampart on top of which were gardens, and a carriage way. In the lower part of the walls were dwellings shut in by light doors of wickerwork. Jesus and His disciples passed through the city by night without speaking to anyone, or being remarked by anyone. Here too, there were several idolatrous temples, and many massive buildings gone to ruins in whose walls people lived.
At a good distance from this city, the way led over an immense stone bridge across the broadest river that I saw on this journey. It flowed from south to north, and divided into many branches that ran in different directions. The country was low and level, and off in the distance I saw some very high buildings in form like the temples of the star worshippers, though built of stone and much higher. The soil was exceedingly fruitful, but only along the river.
About one hour’s distance from that city in which Jesus as a child had dwelt with His Mother He took the same road by which, with Mary and Joseph, He had entered it. It was situated on the first arm of the Nile, which flows in the direction of Judea. I saw here and there on the way people clipping the hedges, transporting rafters, and laboring in deep ditches. It was nearly evening when Jesus approached the city. Both He and the disciples had let down their garments, something that I had never seen them do before reaching their destination. Some of the laborers, as Jesus came in sight, broke off branches from the trees, hurried forward to meet Him, cast themselves down before Him, and presented them to Him. After He had taken them in His hand, they stuck them down into the ground along the roadside. I know not how they recognized Jesus. Perhaps they knew by His garments that He was a Jew. They had been waiting and hoping for His coming that He would free them. I saw others, however, who appeared indignant, and who ran back to the city. About twenty men surrounded Jesus as He went to the city, before which stood many trees.
Before entering, Jesus paused near a tree that was lying over on one side in such a way that its roots were being torn out of the earth, and around them was a large puddle of black water. This puddle was enclosed by a high iron grating, the bars of which were so close that one could not put his hand through. In this place an idol had sunk at the time of Mary and Joseph’s flight with the Child Jesus into Egypt, on which occasion the tree, too, had been uprooted. The people conducted Jesus into the city. Before it lay a large, four-cornered, perfectly flat stone, on which, among other names, was inscribed one that bore reference to the city and that ended in the syllable Inside the city, I saw a very large temple surrounded by two courts, several high columns tapering toward the top and ornamented with numerous figures, and a great many huge dogs with human heads, all in a recumbent posture. The city showed evident signs of decay. The people led Jesus under the projection of a thick wall opposite the temple, and called to several of the citizens of the neighborhood. Then came together many Jews, young and old, among the latter some very aged men with long beards. Among the women there was one, tall and advanced in years, who pleased me especially. All welcomed Jesus respectfully, for they had been friends of the Holy Family at the time of their sojourn here. In the back of the projecting wall was a space, now ornamented in festal style, in which St. Joseph had prepared an abode for the Holy Family. The men who had in their childhood lived in this neighborhood with Jesus, introduced Him to it. The apartment was lighted by hanging lamps.
That evening Jesus was escorted by a very aged Jew to the school, which was very ably conducted. The women took their stand back on a grated gallery, where they had a lamp to themselves. Jesus prayed and taught, for they reverently yielded precedence to Him. On the following day, I saw Him again teaching in the synagogue.
The inhabitants of this city wore white bands around their heads, their tunics were short, and only a part of their shoulders and breast was covered. The edifices were extraordinarily broad and massive, built of immense blocks of stone upon which numerous figures were carved. I saw also great figures that bore prodigious stones, some upon their neck, others on their head. The people of this country practiced the most extravagant idolatry. Everywhere were to be met idols in the form of oxen, recumbent dogs with human heads, and other animals held in peculiar veneration in special places. When Jesus, escorted by many of the inhabitants, left Heliopolis, He took with Him a young man belonging to the city, and who now made His fifth disciple. His name was Deodatus, and that of his mother was Mira. She was that tall old lady who had, on the first evening of Jesus’ arrival, been among those that welcomed Him under the portico. During Mary’s sojourn in Heliopolis, Mira was childless; but on the prayer of the Blessed Virgin, this son was afterward given her. He was tall and slender, and appeared to be about eighteen years old. When His escort had returned to the city, I saw Jesus journeying through the desert with His five disciples. He took a direction more to the east than that taken by the Holy Family on their flight into Egypt. The city in which Jesus had just been was called Eliopolis The E and the L were joined back to back, something that I had never before seen, on which account I thought there was an X in the word.
Toward evening, Jesus and His disciples reached a little city in the wilderness inhabited by three different kinds of people: Jews, who dwelt in solid houses; Arabs, who lived in huts built of branches covered with skins; and still another kind. These people had drifted hither when Antiochus ravaged
Jerusalem and expelled many of its inhabitants. I saw the whole affair. A pious old priest2 slew a Jew who had gone forward to sacrifice to the idol, overturned the altar, called all good people together and, like a hero, maintained the Law and testament of God. It was during this persecution that these good people had fled hither. I saw also the place at which they first lived. The Arabs, having joined them, were likewise expelled with them. At a still later period they, the Arabs, fell again into idolatry. As usual the Lord went to the fountain, where He was welcomed by some of the people and conducted to one of their houses. There He taught, for they had no school. Jesus told them that the time was at hand when He should return to the Father, that the Jews would maltreat Him, and He spoke as He had everywhere done on this journey. They could scarcely believe what they heard, and they wanted very much to retain Him with them.
When He left this place, two new disciples followed Him, the descendants of Mathathias. The travelers now plunged deeper into the wilderness and hurried onward day and night with but short intervals of rest. I saw them in a lovely spot of beautiful balsam hedges taking some rest at that fountain which had gushed forth for the Holy Family on their flight into Egypt, and with whose waters Mary had refreshed herself and bathed her Child. The road by which Jesus had returned from Egypt here crossed the circuitous byway that Mary had taken on her flight thither. Mary had come by an indirect route on the west side of the desert, but Jesus had taken the eastern one which was more direct. On His journey from Arabia to Egypt, Jesus could descry on His right Mount Sinai lying off in the distance.
When Jesus reached Bersabee, He taught in the synagogue. He formally declared His identity, and spoke of His approaching end. From this place also He took with Him on His departure some young men. It was about four day’s journey from Bersabee to Jacob’s Well near Sichar, the spot appointed for Jesus and the Apostles to meet again. Before the beginning of the Sabbath Jesus reached a place in the vale of Mambre where He celebrated the Sabbath in the synagogue and taught. He likewise visited the homes of the inhabitants and healed their sick. From this place to Jacob’s Well it may have been twenty hours at most. Jesus now travelled more by night, in order that the news of His return to Judea might not be the occasion of some sudden rising among the people. He took the route through the shepherd valleys near Jericho to Jacob’s Well, at which He arrived during the evening twilight. He had now sixteen companions, since some other youths had followed Him from the vale of Mambre. In the neighborhood of the well was an inn where, in a locked place, was stored all that was necessary to contribute to the traveler’s comfort when he stopped to rest. A man had the care of opening both the inn and the well. The country stretching out from Jericho to Samaria was one of indescribable loveliness. Almost the whole road was bordered by trees, the fields and meadows were green, and the brooks flowed sweetly along. Jacob’s Well was surrounded by beautiful grass plots and shade trees. The Apostles Peter, Andrew, John, James, and Philip were here awaiting Jesus. They wept for joy at seeing Him again, and washed His and the disciples’ feet.
Jesus was very grave. He spoke of the approach of His Passion, of the ingratitude of the Jews, and of the judgment in store for them. It was now only three months before His Passion. I have always seen that the feast of Easter falls at the right time when it happens late in the season. Jesus went with His sixteen new disciples to visit the parents of Eliud, Silas, and Eremenzear, who dwelt in a shepherd village not far off. The Apostles, however, betook themselves to Sichar for the Sabbath.
As Jesus was journeying with the new disciples from the shepherd village, where He remained only a few hours, to Sichem, I frequently saw Him standing still and giving them animated instructions. He ordered Eliud, Silas, and Eremenzear to disclose to no one where they had gone with Him nor what had befallen them on that journey, and He told them some of the reasons for silence on those subjects. I saw Eremenzear holding the sleeve of Jesus’ robe and begging to be allowed to write down something about it. Jesus replied that he might do so after His death, but ordered him at the same time to leave the writing with John. I cannot help thinking that a part of that writing is still in existence somewhere.
Peter and John came forward to meet the Lord on His way, and outside the gate of the city were waiting six of the other Apostles. They conducted Him and the disciples to a house, the master of which, though he had never before seen Jesus, gave Him a cordial reception. Jesus, however, appeared not to wish to make Himself publicly known, but rather to be confounded with the Apostles. The feet of the newly arrived were washed, and when the Sabbath began, the lamps were lighted. Jesus and His companions put on long, white garments and girdles, and after prayers went to the school, which was built on a little eminence. After that they partook of a meal prepared by their host, at which some Jews with long beards were present. The eldest of them was clothed as a priest of superior rank, and was led by attendants. Neither in the school nor at table did Jesus make Himself known. The host had a false look, and it seemed to me that he was a Pharisee.
The meal over, Jesus demanded that the synagogue should be opened for Him. He had, He said, listened to their teaching, but now He too would teach. He spoke of signs and miracles, which are of no avail when in spite of them people forget their own sinfulness and want of love for God. Preaching was for them more necessary than miracles. Even before the meal the Apostles had besought Jesus to express Himself more clearly, for they did not yet understand Him. He was always talking of His approaching end, they said, but He might before it go once more to Nazareth, there to show forth His power and by miracles proclaim His mission. At this juncture also Jesus replied that miracles were useless if people were not converted by Him, if after witnessing them, they remained what they were before. What, He demanded, had He gained by signs and miracles, by the feeding of the five thousand, by the raising of Lazarus, since even they themselves were hankering after more. Peter and John were of one mind with their Master, but the others were dissatisfied. On the way to Sichem, Jesus had explained to Eliud, Silas, and Eremenzear why He had wrought no signs and wonders on His last journey. It was, He said, because the Apostles and disciples should confirm His doctrine by miracles, of which they would perform even more than He Himself had done. Jesus was displeased at the Apostles’ wanting to find out from the three youths where He had been and what He had done. They were very much vexed at the youths’ silence on being questioned. Jesus announced to them that He was going to Jerusalem and would preach in the Temple.
I saw that the Jews of Sichem sent messengers to report in Jerusalem that Jesus had again appeared, for the Pharisees of Sichem were among the most dissatisfied. They threatened to seize Jesus and deliver Him at Jerusalem. But Jesus replied that His time had not yet come, that He would Himself go to Jerusalem, and that not for their benefit, but for that of His own followers had He spoken.
Jesus now dismissed the Apostles and disciples to different places, keeping with Himself only the three that were in the secret of His last journey. With them He started for Ephron, in order to meet the holy women at a rented inn near Jericho. He had previously announced to them His return by the parents of the three disciples. On the journey from Sichem to Ephron, it was very foggy, and quantities of rain fell, Jesus did not confine Himself to the straight route. He went to different localities, different towns and houses, consoling the inhabitants, healing the sick, and exhorting all to follow Him. The Apostles and disciples likewise did not take the direct road to the places to which they were sent, but turned off into the farms and houses lying along their way in order to announce Jesus’ coming. It was as if all who sighed after salvation were to be again stirred up, as if the sheep that had strayed in the forest because their Shepherd had gone away were, now that He had come back, to be gathered again by the shepherd servants into one herd. When, toward evening, Jesus with the three disciples arrived at Ephron, He went into the houses, cured the sick, and called upon all to follow Him to the school. This place had a large synagogue, consisting of two halls, one above and the other below. A crowd of people, men and women, some from Ephron and some from neighboring places, flocked to the instruction. The synagogue was crowded. Jesus directed a chair to be placed in the center of the hall whence He taught first the men and then the women. The latter were standing back, but the men gave place to them. Jesus taught upon the necessity of following Him, upon His approaching end, and upon the chastisement that would fall on all that would not believe. Murmuring arose in the crowd, for there were many wicked souls among them.
From Ephron Jesus dispatched the three trusty disciples to meet the holy women who, to the number of ten, had reached the rented inn near Jericho. They were the Blessed Virgin, Magdalen, Martha, and two others, Peter’s wife and stepdaughter, Andrew’s wife, and Zacheus’ wife and daughter. The last-mentioned was married to a very deserving disciple named Annadias, a shepherd and a relative of Silas’ mother. Peter, Andrew, and John met Jesus on the road, and with them He went on to Jericho. The Blessed Virgin, Magdalen, Martha, and others awaited His coming near a certain well. It was two hours before sundown when He came up with them. The women cast themselves on their knees before Him and kissed His hand, Mary also kissed His hand, and when she arose, Jesus kissed hers. Magdalen stood somewhat back. At the well, the disciples washed Jesus’ feet, also those of the Apostles, after which all partook of a repast. The women ate alone and, when their meal was over, took their places at the lower end of the dining hall to listen to Jesus’ words. He did not remain at the inn, but went with the three Apostles to Jericho, where the rest of the Apostles and disciples along with numerous sick were assembled. The women followed Him. I saw Him going into many of the houses and curing the sick, after which He Himself unlocked the school and ordered a chair to be placed in the center of the hall. The holy women were present in a retired part. They had a lamp to themselves. Mary was with them. After the instruction, the holy women went back to their inn and on the following morning returned to their homes. Crowds were gathered at Jericho, for Jesus’ coming had been announced by the disciples. During His teaching and healing on the following day, the pressing and murmuring of the Pharisees were very great, and they sent messengers to Jerusalem to report. Jesus next went to the place of Baptism on the Jordan where were lying numbers of sick in expectation of His coming. They had heard of His reappearance and had begged His aid. There were little huts and tents around, under which they could descend into the water. I saw too the basin in the little island in which He had been baptized. Sometimes it was full, but again, the water was allowed to run off. They came from all parts for this water, from Samaria, Judea, Galilee, and even from Syria. They loaded asses with large leathern sacks of it. The sacks hung on either side of the beast, and were kept together over the animal’s back by hoops. Jesus cured numbers. Only John, Andrew, and James the Less were with Him.
No Baptisms took place at this time, only ablutions and healing. Even the baptism of John had in it more of a sacramental character than the ablutions on this occasion. The last time that Jesus was in Jericho, many persons were healed at a bath in the city, but it was not Baptism. There was at this part of the Jordan a bathing place much resorted to, which John had merely enlarged. In the middle of the well on the island in which Jesus was baptized, the pole on which He had leaned was still standing. Jesus cured many without application of water, though He poured it over the heads of the leprous, and the disciples wiped them dry.
Baptism proper came into use only after Pentecost. Jesus never baptized. The Mother of God was baptized alone at the Pool of Bethsaida by John after Pentecost. Before the ceremony he celebrated Holy Mass, that is, he consecrated and recited some prayers as they were accustomed to do at that time.
When the crowd became too great, Jesus went with the three Apostles to Bethel, where the Patriarch Jacob saw on a hill the ladder reaching from earth to Heaven. It was already dark when they arrived and approached a house wherein trusty friends were awaiting them: Lazarus and his sisters, Nicodemus, and John Marc, who had come hither from Jerusalem secretly. The master of the house had a wife and four children. The house was surrounded by a courtyard in which was a fountain. Attended by two of his children, the master opened the door to the guests, whom he conducted at once to the fountain and washed their feet. As Jesus was sitting on the edge of the fountain, Magdalen came forth from the house and poured over His hair a little flat flask of perfume. She did it standing at His back, as she had often done before. I wondered at her boldness. Jesus pressed to His Heart Lazarus, who was still pale and haggard. His hair was very black. A meal was spread, consisting of fruit, rolls, honeycomb, and green herbs, the usual fare in Judea. There were little cups on the table. Jesus cured the sick who were lying in a building belonging to the house. The women ate alone and afterward ranged in the lower part of the hall to hear Jesus’ preaching.
Next morning Lazarus returned to Jerusalem with his companions, while Jesus with the three Apostles went by a very circuitous route to the house of a son of Andrew’s half-brother, whose daughter lay ill. They reached the well belonging to the house about noon. The master of the house, a robust man engaged in the manufacture of wicker screens, washed their feet and led them to his home. He had a great many children, some of them still quite small. Two grown sons from sixteen to eighteen years of age were not at home but at the fishery on the Sea of Galilee, in Andrew’s dwelling place. Andrew had sent messengers to tell them that Jesus had returned, and to come to meet Him at a certain place.
After a repast, the man led Jesus and the Apostles to his sick daughter, a girl about twelve years old. For a long time she had been lying upon her bed perfectly pale and motionless. She had the greensickness, and she was also a simpleton. Jesus commanded her to arise. Then with Andrew He led her by the hand to the well, where He poured water over her head. After that, at the Lord’s command, she took a bath under a tent, and returned to the house cured. She was a tall child. When Jesus with the Apostles left the place, the father escorted Him a part of the way. Before the hour of the Sabbath, Jesus reached a little city. He took up His quarters at an inn in the city wall, and then went at once with His followers to celebrate the Sabbath in the synagogue.
Next morning He went again to the synagogue, where He prayed and delivered a short instruction. I saw a great crowd around Him. They brought to Him numbers of sick of divers kinds, and He healed them. I saw that all the people of this place honored Jesus and pressed around Him. The concourse was great. The Apostles also cured and blessed; even the priests led the sick forward.
I saw Jesus cure in this place a leper who had often been carried and set down on the road He was to travel, but whom He had always passed by. They had, just before Jesus’ coming, brought the poor creature from a distant quarter of the city, where he dwelt in a little abode built in the wall. They brought him to Jesus sitting on a couch in a kind of litter shut in by hangings. No one went near the sick man excepting Jesus, who raised the curtain, touched the invalid, and directed that he should be taken to the bath near the city wall. When this order was executed, the scales of leprosy fell from him. He had been afflicted by a double leprosy, for that of impurity was added to the ordinary disease. The Lord healed likewise many women of a flux of blood. When He was healing in the court outside the synagogue, the crowd was so great that the people tore down the barriers and climbed upon the roof.
On leaving this place, Jesus journeyed on with the three Apostles and reached a strong castle surrounded by moats, or ponds with discharging channels attached. It seemed that there were baths here, and I saw all kinds of vaults and massive walls. When Jesus manifested His intention to enter this castle, the Apostles made objections to His doing so. He might, they said, rouse indignation and give occasion for scandal. Jesus rejoined that if they did not want to accompany Him, they should suffer Him to enter alone, and so He went in. It contained all sorts of people, some of whom appeared to be prisoners, others sick and infirm. Guards were standing at the gates, for the inmates dared not go out alone. Several always went together and attended by a guard. They were obliged to work in the country around the castle, clearing the fields and digging trenches. When Jesus with the Apostles attempted to pass through the gate, the guards stopped them, but at a word from Him, they respectfully allowed Him to enter. The inmates assembled around Him in the courtyard, where He spoke with them and separated several from the rest. From the city, which was not far off, Jesus summoned two men who appeared to be officers of the law, for they had little metallic badges hanging on straps from their shoulders. Jesus spoke with them, and it looked as if He were giving bail for those that He had separated from the rest of the inmates. Later on, I saw Him leaving the castle with five and twenty of those people, and with them and the Apostles travelling up the Jordan the whole night. This hurried march brought Him to a little city in which He restored to their wives and children several of the prisoners lately freed. Others crossed the Jordan higher up, and then turned to the east. They were from the country of Kedar where Jesus had taught so long before His journey to the star worshippers. Jesus sent the Apostles away on this road. When journeying through the valleys near Tiberias and past the well of Jacob, the three disciples and the other companions of His visit to the heathens joined Jesus. They continued their journey a part of the night, rested only a few hours under a shed, and toward evening of the next day arrived in Capharnaum. Here a young man called Sela, or Selam, was presented to Jesus. He was a cousin of the bridegroom of Kedar to whom Jesus had given the house and vineyard on the occasion of His journey to the star worshippers. It was the bridegroom who had sent Sela to Jesus, and he had been in Andrew’s house awaiting His coming. He threw himself on his knees before Jesus, who imposed hands upon his shoulders and admitted him to the number of His disciples. Jesus made use of him at once, sending him to the superintendent of the school to demand the key and the roll of Scriptures that had been found in the Temple during the seven years that it had stood dilapidated and deprived of divine service. The last time Jesus taught here, He had made use of the same roll of Scriptures, which were from Isaias. When the youth returned, Jesus and His companions went into the school and lighted the lamps. Jesus directed a space to be cleared and a pulpit with a flight of steps to be placed in it. A great crowd was gathered, and Jesus taught a long time from the roll of Scriptures. The excitement in Capharnaum was very great. The people assembled on the streets, and I heard the cry: “There is Joseph’s Son again!”
Jesus left Capharnaum before daylight next morning, and I saw Him going into Nazareth with the disciples and several of the Apostles who had joined Him. I saw on this occasion that Anne’s house had passed into other hands. Jesus went also to Joseph’s old home, now closed and unoccupied. Thence He proceeded straight to the synagogue. His appearance was the signal for great excitement among the people, who ran out in crowds. One possessed, who had a dumb devil, suddenly began to shout after Him: “There is Joseph’s Son! There is the rebel! Seize Him! Imprison Him!” Jesus commanded him to be silent. The man obeyed, but Jesus did not drive the devil out of him.
In the school Jesus ordered room to be made and a teacher’s chair to be set for Him. On this journey He acted with perfect freedom and taught openly as one having a right to do so, which proceeding greatly incensed the Jews against Him. He visited likewise many of the houses in the neighborhood of Joseph’s old home, and healed and blessed the children; whereupon the Jews who during the instruction had been tolerably quiet, became extremely indignant. Jesus soon left the city, telling the Apostles to meet Him on the mount of the multiplication of the loaves, whither He went accompanied by the disciples only.
When they reached the mountain, it was already night, and fires were kindled on its summit. Jesus stood in the center, the Apostles ranged around Him, the disciples forming an outer circle. A considerable crowd had gathered. Jesus taught the whole night and until almost morning. He indicated to the Apostles, pointing with His finger here and there, whither they should go on their mission of healing and teaching. It looked as if He were giving them orders as to their journeys and labors for the time just about to follow. They and many of the disciples took leave of Him here, and at morning dawn He turned His steps southward.
On this journey Jesus was implored by a father and mother to go into their house and cure their daughter who was a lunatic, pale and sick. He commanded her to arise, and she was cured.
One hour’s distance from Thanath-Silo all the Apostles, bearing green branches, came to meet Jesus. They prostrated before Him and He took one of the branches in His hand. Then they washed His feet. I think this ceremony took place because they were all again reunited, and because Jesus once more appeared openly as their Master and was about to preach again everywhere. Accompanied by the Apostles and disciples He went to the city, where the Blessed Virgin, Magdalen, Martha, and the other holy women, except Peter’s wife and stepdaughter and Andrew’s wife, who were still at Bethsaida, received Him outside an inn. Mary had come from the region of Jericho and had here awaited Jesus. The other women also had come hither by different routes. They prepared a meal of which fifty guests partook, after which Jesus, having ordered the key to be brought, repaired to the school. The holy women and a great many people listened to His instruction.