Mary of the Holy Family  

Mary of the Holy Family

 

 

From an old French translation

Revised

Mary of the Holy Family

 

Table of Contents

 

             Chapter                  

 1       Life of the Blessed Virgin                                           

2       The Birth of Mary                                                    

 3       In the Temple                                                       

 4       Marriage of the Virgin                                               

 5       Annunciation                                                           

 6       The Adoration of the Magi                                         

 7       Flight to Egypt                                                       

 8       Return                                                                    

 9       Kinship                                                                   

10      Following Jesus                                                         

11      Trial                                                                         

12      Crucifixion                                                                        

13      Resurrection                                                            

14      Mary Led the Apostles                                              

15      The Assumption                                                       

Names for Mary                                            

    

 

Foreword 

  

    This is a Book of Mary, though not yet the Mary Book which the Order has been expecting and which may require considerable time to develop.  The old-fashioned version presented herewith was translated from the French over 150 years ago and makes pleasing use of the gallant phraseology of our forefathers* It has also been somewhat condensed and edited, bringing it more up-to-date.  Since very little was written in the Bible about Mary, the Apocryphal scriptures have been generously drawn upon.

 

A comment on the original work, dated 1853:

 

    "The Abbe Orsini, in tracing the annals of the worship of the Blessed Virgins which commenced with Christianity, and in raking up authorities which, but for him, might perchance have remained in oblivion, presents to the reader the titles whereon hyperdulia and the worship of the Virgin are founded, a worship which certainly occupies a golden page in the calendar of the world, and is connected with the most glorious association.  Nor is this all that the Abbe has done; his book comprises the biography of Jesus, and in some measure, the history of the terrestrial globe, which dates from the fall of man and the promise of a Redeemer."

 

    In most stories Mary, as a person, has been shaped, chipped, and polished until she scarcely resembles anything more real than her statues.  It is quite possible that in real life she was rather plain, as outward appearance goes.  Our artists have made her look just as we would want her to.  Even the heavenly visions of her do not solve the question entirely, as she has appeared in many different forms to different peoples showing characteristics according to the need of the moment and the viewer.

 

   All we can say for certain is that she was beautiful in the only way that really and permanently counts.  She possessed a profound inner loveliness born of purity and the love of God.  We know that she could not have been crude or coarse to bear the Christ child.  She could never have been nor obstinate nor untruthful.  Her inner qualities were so beautiful that God saw her truly as the loveliest of all women.

 

    She could easily have looked like our own mothers, if they were living in that time.  But her qualities have been idealized so that a noble and perfect image has grown up around her, and she is pictured, as everyone knows she really was.

 

    We do not truthfully know whether Joseph was old or young, a widower or a young man vowed to celibacy.  There is no statement in the Bible to verify either, and after Jesus was twelve years of age, he is not mentioned.  There are legends of many descriptions, which mention all the various possibilities, so one might sift the old literature, but still feel free to his own conclusions.

 

   

 

(i)

As to the continuing argument whether or not Mary bore other children after Jesus, as the literal wording of the Gospels would indicate, is it our business?  She performed that for which she was born upon the earth.  She did the work set before her by God with perfect success.  If He demanded continuing virginity throughout her life, it is certain that she abided by this directive but no such directive is indicated in Scripture.

 

    Jesus alone is well documented in the last three years of his life, and in his infancy.  The years between 12 and 30, or thereabouts, say nothing. But even that matters little, for it was what he did for posterity and us that counts; and what he taught. When we mention names and dates in this account, they are not intended as the final statement that could be made.

 

    They are the best we have found, So let us leave aside meaningless conjecture, and give respect where it is due, for the tender years of upbringing and preparation of this Child for his divine mission upon the earth - the MAN sent to save mankind.

 

*               *                     *                *

 

    A paper has recently come to our attention regarding the birth date of our Savior.  The authenticity of this information has not been verified, but this is what was claimed In December 1919 the Deputy Military Governor of   Palestine  then in British Foreign Service, was present at the opening of the safe of the Samaritan Synagogue, where the ancient scroll of the Talmud, 3000 years old, was seen. In it was written a brief account of each high priest.  He read that in the time of Caiaphas, a man called Jesus came to Shechem.  He was the son of Yusuf, a carpenter, and Miriam, his wife.  This same man went to   Jerusalem  where he was crucified.  And he read that Jesus was born on the date equivalent to April 12, 7 B. C. This date was a Jewish Sabbath.

 

    For those interested in the heavenly configurations at that time, they were calculated to show his Sun and Mercury in Aries, Saturn, Jupiter and Uranus in Pisces Venus in Capricorns Neptune in Scorpio Pluto Mars and Moon in Virgo.  These factors would only show the patterns through which the vehicle and personality would work.  They would not show the soul and spiritual status.

 

 

 

(ii)


Life of the Blessed Virgin

 

In those remote times when the world was still in its infancy, when our first fathers, 
trembling and amazed, heard under the majestic shades of Eden the awful voice of 
Jahweh condemning them to exile, to labor and to death in punishment of their mad 
disobedience, a mysterious prediction, wherein the pitying kindness of the Creator 
was manifested through the wrath of the offended Deity, came to raise the drooping 
spirits of those two frail creatures who had sinned.

 

A daughter of Eve, it was said, a woman of masculine courage, was to crush the head
 of the serpent beneath her feet, and to regenerate forever a guilty race; that woman was 
Mary.  Thenceforward, it was a tradition amongst the antediluvian tribes that a woman 
should come to repair the evil, which another had done.

 

This consoling tradition, which kept up the hopes of a fallen race, had not yet been effaced
 from the minds of men at the time of their grand dispersion on the plains of Sennaar; they 
carried with them over seas and mountains that sweet, though distant hope, together with the
 religion of Noah and the wreck of art and science saved from the waters of the Deluge.  
While the Egyptians are usually given credit for astronomy, among other sciences, it was
 said by Josephus that the Egyptians derived their first astronomical knowledge from the 
traditions saved from the Deluge, and that Abraham instructed them in arithmetic and astrology.

 

In after times, when the primitive religion faded away, and the ancient traditions were 
shrouded in obscurity, that of the Virgin and the Messiah resisted, almost alone, the action 
of time, and reared itself up on the ruin of ancient creeds, swallowed up in the fables of 
polytheism, like the evergreen which grows amid the ruins of what was once Babylon the 
Great. They're as but one single tree found amid those ruins, miraculously preserved from 
ancient days.

 

Let us survey the various regions of the globe; let us search from north to south, from east 
to west, the religious chronicles of the nations, and we shall find the Virgin promised and her 
divine maternity at the basis of almost all theologies.

 

In Tibet, in Japan, and in a portion of the eastern peninsula of India, it is said the god Fo, 
to save mankind, became incarnate in the womb of the young betrothed of a king, the nymph 
Lhamoghinprul, the fairest and holiest of women. 

 

Another who is reckoned amongst the sons of Heaven is the Emperor Hoang-Ti, whose 
mother conceived by a flash of lightning.  And the emperor   Yao, who lived at the 
time of the Deluge, had for his mother a Virgin who conceived from the beam of a star; 
while Yu, the head of the first Chinese dynasty, owed his life to a pearl. (The emblem of 
light throughout the entire East, the pearl is called by the Tartars "globe of light", and by 
the Persians "production of light".) This pearl had fallen from Heaven into the chaste 
bosom of a young maiden. 

 

Heou-Tsi, chief of the dynasty of Tcheou, changed not by his birth the virginity of his 
mother, who conceived him by divine operation, one day as she was in prayer, and 
brought him forth without effort and without pain in a deserted grotto, where lambs 
and oxen warmed him with their breath. 

 

The most popular goddess of the Celestial Empire, SchingMou, conceived at the simple 
touch of a water-flower; her son, brought up under the roof of a poor fisherman, became a 
great man, and wrought miracles.

 

The lamas say that Buddha is born of the Virgin Maha-Mahai.  Sommonokhodom, who 
became prince, legislator and the god of  Siam, likewise owes his life to a Virgin 
made fruitful by the rays of the sun.  Isis of the Druids was to bring forth the future 
Savior.  The Brahmins teach that when a god assumes human flesh, he is conceived in the
 womb of a Virgin, by divine operation. 

 

Jagrenat, the seventh incarnation of Brahma, is represented in the shape of a pyramid. 
Without hands and without feet, because he lost them, say the Brahmins, trying to carry 
the world in order to save it.  He too was born of a Virgin. And Chrichna was said to have 
been born of a Virgin in a grotto where angels and shepherds came to adore him in his cradle.

 

Zoroaster, the famous prophet of the Magi, is the fruit of a nocturnal vision wherein a 
brilliant messenger from Oromazes deposits at the feet of a maiden the most magnificent 
raiment, and then a celestial light falls upon the face of the sleeper who becomes fair as 
the day-star.

 

In Paraguay, the Maceniques who inhabit the shores of Lake Zarayas relate that at a very
 remote period a woman of rare beauty became a mother yet remained a Virgin.  Her son, 
after having wrought many extraordinary miracles, ascended one day into the open air, in 
presence of his disciples, and transformed himself into a Sun.

 

Let all these scattered fragments of many creeds be brought together and they will make 
up, in nearly all its details, the history of the Virgin and her divine Son.

 

The Virgin Mary, notwithstanding the royal blood, which flows through her veins, is of
 obscure condition like the mother of Zoroasteri like her, too, she receives the visit of an angel
 bearing a message from Heaven.  Born of a Virgin who conceives him during a fervent prayer,
 and brings him forth without hurt or pain in a poor stable, our divine Savior, like the first-born
 of the noble and pious Kiang Yuen, dwelt amongst the lower classes like the Son of the Chinese
 goddess; angels and shepherds come to render him homage, as to Chrichnao on the very night
of his birth then after having stilled the tempest, walked on the water expelled demons, and 
raised the dead to life, he ascended triumphantly into Heaven in the presence of five hundred 
disciples, whose dazzled eyes lost him in the clouds, precisely as is related by the savage tribes 
of Paraguay. 

 

It is assuredly very strange that these marvelous legends--which have not been copied from 
the evangelical chronicles of the Christian faith, are manifestly more ancient--yet these forms, 
when taken together, the real life of the Son of Food.  And it is certain that the Apostles had 
nothing to do with the conformities remarked between the evangelical facts and the traditions 
fabulous or not, of the ancient nations.  How then to explain these analogies?

 

It is not by chance that the mystery of the incarnation of a god in the womb of a Virgin is one 
of the fundamental doctrines of Asia.  It is not by chance that the privileged women who 
bear in their womb that emanation of the Divinity are always chaste, beautiful and holy; that 
hey have glorious and mysterious names, which signify, in all these ancient tongues expected 
beauty, immaculate Virgin faithful Virgin, delight of mankind or polar star.  And that they are 
all so much alike that one would say they were molded on a far-off type hidden from us by the 
darkness of time.  Finally, it is not by chance that a luminous ray unites the divine and human 
nature.

 

These notions wherein the stamp of a primitive time is so plainly visible, evidently ascend to 
the birth of the world.  The antediluvian patriarchs that chain of men who lived in the age of 
cedars of old, wishing to form for themselves an idea of the woman blessed amongst all others, 
whose miraculous maternity was to save mankind, represented her to themselves under the 
likeness of Eve before her fall; they gave her a majestic and saintly beauty which could awake
in the minds of men no other feeling save that of religious veneration; they made her a mild 
and veiled star, whose dawn was to precede that of the Sun of Justice.

 

The means whereby God gave fecundity to that virginal womb are strikingly alike, amongst 
the different nations of the world.  Cast a glance over all the old religions, and you will there 
find a sacred fire.  But the fire was, for the Persians, the terrestrial emblem of the sun and the 
sun himself was but the dwelling of the Most High, the glorious tent of the God of Heaven. 
(The Persians suppose that the throne of God is in the sun, and hence their veneration for that 
Star.)

 

The Hebrews, who shared in this belief, recognized the divine presence, or the Shekinah, 
in the radiant cloud, which overhung the cherubim of the mercy seat.  They believed that God 
clothed Himself with light as with a garment, when manifesting Himself to men, on solemn 
occasions.  It was the opinion of the Synagogue, supported by the tradition of the Temple, 
that in the midst of the wild rosebush, which burned without being consumed, when Moses, 
that great shepherd of men, was tending on Mount Horeb the flocks of his Arab father-in law, 
there was seen a very lovely face, resembling nothing that is seen here below; and that this 
celestial Image, clearer than the flame and more brilliant than the lightning, was without doubt 
the Image of the Eternal God.  With this premise, it is not difficult to understand the drift of 
the opinion, so generally diffused, that a luminous ray was to impart fecundity to the womb 
of the favored Virgin who was the expectation of all people.

 

With this graceful tradition of a pure Virgin admitted to a divine union, surrounded by 
impenetrable mystery, was connected that of a Savior God, born of her womb, who was to 
labor for the salvation of the world.

 

Worship, that demonstration of love, that homage of gratitude which Adam and Eve were 
to render to God immediately after their creation, was in Eden composed only of innocent 
prayers and ablations of fruits and flowers.  Man was not immortal in this world, as the 
pure spirits are, for a body formed of dust must needs return to dust; he was so only by 
a favor, without precedent and conditionally granted, whereby he was elevated to and 
maintained in a position far above his proper sphere.

 

In the delicious garden where he had placed mortal man, God planted the tree of life, 
a plant of celestial origin, which had the property of repelling death--as the laurel, according 
to the ancients, keeps off the thunder.  To that mysterious tree was attached the immortality of 
the human species away from that protecting tree, death again seized his prey, and man was 
hurled from the height of heaven into his perishable tenement of clay.

 

But when they had infringed upon the precept which the Lord had imposed like a sweet 
yoke upon them; when they had lost, with the immortalizing fruits of the tree of life, their 
talisman against death, and descended from the charming hills of Eden to a land bristling 
with briers and thorns, a land whose Virgin bosom they must open to nourish themselves; 
they added to the gift of fruits and wild flowers produced by the land of exile; to their Creator 
were now offered a sacrifice of the first fruits of their flocks.

 

This merits attention.  Adam, who joined to the perfection of the human form an intelligent 
and elevated mind wherein the Lord had planted the germ of all virtue and of all knowledge, 
could not be devoid of humanity.  His mistaken complaisance to Eve shows him loving even 
to weakness, and therefore susceptible in some degree, of kindly feelings and affections.  How 
could it then occur to him that the Creator would take pleasure in the violent death of his 
creatures or that an act of destruction was an act of piety?

 

The immolation of animals, which has not the slightest connection with the vows and prayers
 of man, and which the purely vegetable food of the first patriarchs left unharmed, must needs 
have excited a thousand feelings of disgust and repugnance in the mind of our Heavenly Father.  
Long had these poor, dumb creatures, devoid of reason, but very capable of attachment, composed 
in  Eden the court of that solitary king, Adam. He then seated himself at the same table, slept on 
the same mossy hillocks quenched his thirst at the same spring, and his prayer ascended to Heaven, 
at early dawn and evening's close, with the warbling of the birds that seemed to sing, in their turn, 
the morning or evening hymn.  Those companions of his happier days, involved in his misfortune, 
now shared his exile.  Some, giving way 'to the ferocious instinct which in Paradise had remained 
undeveloped, fled to the depth of the wilderness or the secret caverns of the mountains, whence 
they soon waged deadly warfare against their former master.  Others, mild and inoffensive by 
nature, established themselves around the grotto of their lord, to whom they offered, to satisfy 
his wants and soothe his caress their milk, their labor, their fleece, and their melodious concerts.

 

The time that Adam and Eve remained in the terrestrial paradise is not exactly known; it must 
nevertheless have been of some duration.  The Persians and the Chinese have it that the first 
man was in  Paradise for many ages.  According to the Arabs and the Rabbins a day was equal 
to a thousand years.

 

However that may be, it was in Eden that Adam learned to distinguish and to call by name 
all the birds of the air, the beasts of the earth, and the fishes of the water it was there he learned 
the virtues of plants and what God chose to teach him concerning the course of the stars.  We 
must then conclude that all this was not the work of a day.

 

The span of time enabled the first man to establish his supremacy over the animals subject 
to him, and to attach him to his humble dependents by the ties of habit.  When he turned upon 
them, he committed a sin so enormous by its aggravating circumstances and its disastrous 
consequences that in order to express its full extent, the Hebrew tradition relates that the sun 
hid his face in horror.  It is in remembrance too of the sin of Eve, at sight of which according 
to the Jews, the sun hid his light that the Jewish women are specially charged to light the lamps, 
which burn in every house during the Sabbath night.  "It is just," say the Hebrew doctors, "that 
women should rekindle the flame which they have extinguished, and that they be charged with 
that trouble, in expiation of their sin."

 

The justice of God demanded a punishment proportionate to the offence.  Man was to die, 
until a Divine Being, predestined before the birth of time to the work of our redemption, took 
it upon himself to make satisfaction for us all.  Thenceforward he was called the Messiah, and 
revealed as a Savior, at the very moment when the voice of God. --That Voice which rends the 
cedars--pronounced the sentence of the three offenders.

 

"Because thou hast done this things," said God to the serpent, (who showed himself proud 
of our ruin), "the seed of the woman--that is, to say, her offspring--shall crush thy head."

 

And the Hebrew tradition adds that God, touched by the repentance of our first parents, had 
it revealed to them by an angel that from their race should arise a just man who would annihilate 
the pernicious effects of the tree of knowledge, by means of a voluntary oblation, and would be 
the salvation of those who put their trust in Him.

 

God ripens His councils by ages, for a thousand years are to Him but as one day; but man is 
eager to obtain, for he lasts on earth but a short time.  It appears that Eve had concluded, from 
the words of the angel, that she was to be the mother of the promised Redeemer.

 

The just persons of the race of Seth, those pure solitary and contemplative men called in 
Scripture "the children of God", (and in the Assyrian legends 'genii"), long flattered themselves 
with a similar hope.  And the Jewish tradition represents them as wandering on the heights 
around the Garden of Eden, whose gigantic cedars they wistfully admired.  The lofty cedars 
of  Eden have remained traditionally in the memory of the Hebrews who have made the 
terrestrial paradise their Heaven.  In many of their epitaphs we read these words "He is gone 
down to the garden of Eden to those who are amongst the cedars." These people flattered 
themselves the while that from amongst themselves should arise a just man who would obtain 
admission for them.

 

But it was not the name of a Virgin of the primitive times that was written in the immutable 
decrees of the Eternal; and the earth, still quivering under the divine malediction, had need of 
being washed as by the ablution of a baptism, before the foot of Him who was to bring the 
glad tidings should leave its sacred impress on the mountains.

 

When the earth had absorbed the waters of the Deluge, and the winds had dried it up, the 
new human family, springing into life under more favorable auspices, hastened to re-establish 
the worship of Enos.  Noah joined there to the seven precepts, which bear his name, not 
forgetting the historical and religious traditions, which his long existence prior to the Deluge
had enabled him to gather.  He told how man was formed of clay, his rebellion, his fall, and 
his future reparation, which the world was to owe to the miraculous maternity of a new Eve.

 

The Indians, the Chinese, the Peruvians, and even the Hurons, acknowledge that the first 
man was formed of clay.  The Brahmins, who make representations of their paradise, place 
therein a tree whose fruit would confer immortality if it could be eaten.

 

At that remote period God was worshipped in a manner worthy of Him, and with ideas 
so clear, so sublime, so uniform and so simple, that they had evidently emanated from Him.  
Altars were erected at the confluence of rivers in the shade of forests, on the summits of 
mountains, by the green sea-wave, and on the sandy moor where the wormwood tree spreads 
its leaves to the desert wind.  The soft moonlight illumined, from the first, those rural temples, 
which had no other bounds than the horizon, no other roof than the firmament with all its stars.

 

Nevertheless in the postdiluvian worship remained the fresh and dreary remembrance of the 
submersion of the globe; a remembrance of which traces are found in most of the religious festivals 
of antiquity, history has preserved proofs of the displacing of rivers after the Deluge, in many lands.  
People tended to congregate on the higher tablelands as though in dread of the plains.  In vain, it 
seemed, did the rainbow span the clouds to encourage the children of men, with its soft mellow 
hues.  The avenging hand of an angry God had fallen so crushingly that man, whose heart still 
palpitated with fear remembering the risk he had run, was more disposed to fear his Sovereign 
Master with a mighty fear than to love Him with confiding love; he had learned to fear God.

 

Like a drowning mariner he eagerly sought around him some helping object, which might 
interpose between them, and ward off, if need be, that just but terrible wrath.  Noah had spoken 
to them of an influential and divine Being whose tenseness for men was infinite, and who was 
to plead their cause before the Eternal, and take upon himself their crimes but who was that 
privileged mediator, that powerful advocate?  They knew not.  The descendants of Shem 
believed that they had found him in the stars which cheered their solitary watch, and which 
they supposed inhabited by celestial spirits, they engaged those spirits to protect them, and 
kindled fires in their honor on the mountaintops.

 

In the lapse of time the shades thickened, religions became burdened with rites; the worship 
of the true God was gradually intermixed with idolatry.  The few truths, which escaped were 
carefully concealed from the multitude, which lavished its senseless adoration on stones, trees,
 and on animals.  And hope began to build the cradles of the Messiah.

 

Not all of the heathen nations took the mystery of the Messiah as an already accomplished 
fact.  The Druids, just before the Christian era, were still raising altars in the gloomy forests 
of Gaul, to the "Virgin who is to bring forth."

 

The Chinese - instructed by Confucius, whom had himself, found that oracle in old traditions - 
expected the Holy One, born of a Virgin, and Son of God, who was to die for the salvation of the 
solemn embassy, less than half a century after the death of the Man-God.  According to the ancient 
sages of China, the Holy One, the miraculous man, will renew the universe, change its morals expiate 
the sins of the world, and die overwhelmed with sorrow and opprobrium.

 

The Magi, on the faith of Zoroaster, studied the constellations in quest of the star of Jacob, 
which was to guide them to the cradle of Christ.  For he had prophesied to the Magi the birth 
of the Messiah, sprung from a Virgin, adding that at the time of his birth there should arise an 
unknown star to guide them to his cradle, and he commanded them to bring presents with them 
when they went.  Another prediction of Zoroaster mentioned a great prophet who was to reform 
the world as well in religion as in justice, and to whom kings and princes were to be submissive.

 

The Brahmins sighed for the glorious avatar of him who was to purge the world of sin, and 
begged it of Wichnou, laying on his jeweled altar odorous stuffs of sweet basil, a plant beloved 
by the Indian god.

 

The haughty children of Romulus, those idolaters par excellence who had created whole 
legions of gods, read in the books so jealously and so wisely kept by the sibyl of Cunes, "the 
virgin, the divine infant, the adoration of the shepherds, the serpent crushed and the golden 
age restored to the earth."

 

Finally, about the time of the Messiah, all the nations of the East were in expectation of a 
future Savior.  But what were those glimmering rays, powerless to dispel the darkness of 
idolatry, when compared with the blaze of light, which illumined the chosen people?

 

We are struck with amazement at sight of that prophetic chain of which the first link was 
fixed to the cradle of the world, and the last settles down at the sepulcher of Christ.  The 
threat of Jaweh to the serpent contains the first prediction of the Messiah.  We have further 
said, and the Jewish traditions confirm it, that this prediction was more fully explained in 
after times to the exiled of Eden , when they had conciliated Heaven by penance.

 

Noah, who was adopted by God as inheritor of the faith, transmitted to Shem his revelations, 
that Shem, whose life was nearly as long as that of his ancestors might repeat them to the fathers 
of the faithful.

 

Then it was that a mysterious benediction, wherein the promise of the Messiah was contained 
made it manifest that the blessed seed promised to Eve should be also the seed and the offspring 
of Abraham.  The primitive traditions were very soon succeeded by the great prediction of Jacob.  
The expiring patriarch who has seen in spirit the state of the twelve tribes when in Palestine, 
announces to his sons assembled round his death-bed that Judah has been chosen, from amongst 
his brethren, to be the root of the kings of Israel and the father of that "Schilo" so long promised,
who was to be the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  "Schilo" is understood to mean the Messiah.  
The coming of Christ is pointed out in a precise manner: he shall arise from amid the ruins of his 
country when the scepter, the legislative power, shall rest in the hand of strangers.

 

The prophet saved from the waters of the Nile , who was divinely called to gather and 
consign to writing the history of the first ages and the ancient traditions of mankind - traditions 
whose remembrance was still vivid amongst the nations - fails not to lend the weight of his 
imposing testimony to the prophecy of Jacob.  "A prophet," says Moses, speaking to the people 
of God, "shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren like unto me: him you 
shall hear according to all things, whatsoever he shall speak to you.  And it shall be, that even
some which will not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people.

 

It was predicted by the prophets of Ecclesiastes, "The law which man studies in this world is 
but vanity, in comparison to that of the Messiah." (Ec. 9:8) And it is of the Messiah that the 
synagogue has always clearly understood this text.

 

Towards the end of the mission of Moses, and while Israel was still encamped in the deserts 
Balaam A Chaldean seer, came to strengthen in his turn the expectation of the Messiahs and to 
point out in a clear and precise manners the period of his coming.  Standing on a precipitous 
height, actuated by the spirit of God, he perceived an admirable vision, and his phrases interrupted 
by solemn pauses are flung without order or art to the mountain wind like fragments of a mysterious 
dialogue kept up in a whisper with the invisible powers.  "I shall see him... but not now.  I shall 
behold him... but not nigh.  A Star shall come forth from Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel … 
out of Jacob shall come him that shall have dominions…"

 

Much time rolls away without further promise, and the prophecies are either confided to tradition, 
which faithfully preserves them, or else consigned to the sacred books. Israel maintains an obscure but 
ceaseless struggle against the idolatrous nations, which surround and press in upon its tribes.  But 
through all these vicissitudes, the people forgot not the coming of Christ they live in the faith of the 
Messiahs in default of new revelations their very life becomes prophetic.

 

Political and religious institutions, local customs and private habits all tend to the same end, all flow 
from the same sources all is linked to the generation of the Savior born of a Virgin of Judah.

 

There is nothing but the present incredulity of the Jews to equal in depth the faith of their fathers.  
The grand business with the men of those days was the coming of the Messiahs they who died at a 
period remote from that which was to see the fulfillment of the divine promises, departed in the firm
persuasion that they should one day be fulfilled.  Standing on the threshold of eternity they hailed from
afar that consoling hope, even as the great prophet, Moses, saluted with a sigh that land of milk and 
honey which the Lord did not permit him to enter.

 

From the time of David, and under the kings of his race, the thread of prophecy is renewed, 
and the mystery of the Virgin and the Messiah is made more manifest than ever by magnificent 
predictions clearer than the Sun.

 

A holy king, preferred by the God of Israel saw the virginity of Mary and the extraordinary birth 
of the Son of God.  "Thy birth", said David "unsullied by sin, shall be pure as the morning dew." 
Then raising his eyes higher, he beholds Him whom God has given him for a Son, according to t
he flesh, seated at the right hand of Jahweh, on a throne more lasting than sky or stars.

 

In the earlier prophecies, the blessed Virgin though always pointed out, was yet left somewhat 
in the shade, and, so to speak, on the verge of the picture.  But from the time of David the radiant 
figure of Mary is no longer undefined, and she who was to transfuse into the veins of the Man-God 
the blood of Abraham, of Jacob, and of Jesse the Just, begins to be clearly defined.  David had 
spoken of her virginal maternity; Solomon took delight in tracing her image in colors so enchanting 
as to far outstrip the graceful descriptions of the  Eastern Peri, those smiling and vapory divinities 
that visit the dreams of Arabian shepherds.

 

He sees her rise amid the daughters of Judah like a lily among thorns; her eyes are soft and 
mild as those of the dove from her lips red as a fillet of scarlet, comes a voice clear and melodious 
as the sound of the harp which inspires Israel in the battle. Her step is ethereal as the breath of 
perfumes; and her beauty is radiant as that of the rising morn.  Her tastes are simple and poetical; 
she loves to wander in the fresh valleys when the vines a-re in blossom and the figs hang like 
clusters of emeralds from the leafless branches; her looks seek out the red roses of the pomegranate 
and the tree of paradise, and she hears with delight the plaintive song of the turtle.

 

Silent and collected, she seeks not every eye, and conceals herself within her dwelling like the 
dove, which makes her nest in the cleft of the rock.  She is chosen for a mystical marriage, preferable 
to all the Virgins and queens of nations; he, whom her soul loveth; promises a crown to her and the 
blissful tie, whereby she is united to her royal spouse is stronger than death. (It is agreed by all the 
holy fathers that the Canticle of Canticles is but one continued allegory of the Mother of Jesus.)

 

Elias, praying on Mount Carmel for the cessation of that long drought which, for three years, parched 
the earth and dried up every spring, discovers the promised Virgin under the form of a transparent cloud 
arising from the bosom of the waters to announce the return of rain.  The declamations of the people salute 
this propitious omen, and the prophet, who penetrates divine things, builds a chapel to the future Queen of 
Heaven.  He dedicated the chapel built by him, on  Mt. Carmel, to the Virgin who was to bring forth.  The 
chapel was called Semnoeum, which means a place consecrated to an empress, which can only refer to 
Mary, Empress of Heaven and Earth.

 

Everything that happens in this world has its preceding sign.  When the sun is about to rise, the horizon 
is colored with a thousand hues, and the East appears all on fire.  The figures of the Old Testament are the 
signs, which announce the rising of the Sun of Justice, and of the Star of the Sea.  To Christ, the Son of God, 
belongs strength and power; to Mary, grace and kindness.  She is the tree of life planted in the abodes of men 
by the hands of God Himself, and the pledge of happiness far beyond that which our first parents enjoyed in Eden. 

 

Like that enchanting figure which an ancient painter composed by borrowing a thousand detached 
beauties from the loveliest women of Greece, so the chaste spouse of the Holy Ghost united, in her 
own persons all that had been most admirable in the celebrated women of the old law.  Fair as Rachel 
and Sarah, she united to the prudence of Abigail the heroic courage of Esther; and is like Susannah, 
chaste as the lily flower whose name she bears.  The ancients attribute to the lily the power of nullifying 
enchantments and warding off danger.  Judith encircled her brows with a garland of lilies, so as to make 
her way without fear.

 

The wild roses, emblematical of modest maidens who shed their sweet perfume in solitude, and who 
are made resplendent by contact with the Deity, these are the most striking image of Mary, that mystical 
rose of the new law.

 

Yet in Mary's and in Jesus' veins flows also the blood of those four illustrious women who alone 
were mentioned in the genealogy of Matthew.  Luke mentions none at all.  None of these was ordinary 
or average, none was virginal before entering the "line", and it appears that none was Hebrew by birth, 
but by marriage only.  Their names were Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and "the wife of Uriah".

 

Tamar was the daughter-in-law of Judah, presumably a Canaanite woman whose first two husbands 
died, leaving no heir, and Judah feared to give her his third and final son, lest he also should die, yet the 
law required this "levirate" marriage.  Tamar grew tired of waiting, desiring to fulfill her function of bearing 
a child and heir, so she disguised herself and tricked her widowed father-in-law Judah into thinking she 
was a prostitute by the wayside, and was soon found with child. (Genesis 38)

  

Rahab was a prostitute, a Canaanite woman of the city of Jericho, who helped Joshua and his men 
to take the city, by hiding them in her house - for which they in turn saved her and her household alive.  
She afterward married the Hebrew Salmon, father of Boaz.

 

Ruth was a native of Moab, which was east of Bethlehem , across the Dead Sea.  She also was 
widowed, and when her Hebrew mother-in-law Naomi decided to return to her native Bethlehem, 
Ruth went with her.  Here she met the well-to-do Boaz as she was gleaning barley sheaves in his 
fields; and by following- the advice set forth by Naomi, they were afterward married.

 

The fourth was probably a woman from northern Syria, near Damascus, as these people were called 
Hittites.  She was Bathsheba, the beautiful wife of Uriah the Hittite, whom David saw bathing on a rooftop, 
and whose beauty he coveted.  He later ordered her husband sent to the battlefront to certain death, and 
married Bathsheba, who became the mother of Solomon.

 

And now there is "Mary, of whom Jesus was born", and the female side of the genealogy is complete.  
For in her were untied all the perfections of those who had gone before, and these she lifted up to God, 
that mankind might be redeemed from its hopeless state.  After an expectation of four thousand years, the 
time marked out by so many prophecies at length arrives; the shadows of the ancient law disappear, and 
Mary arises on the horizon of Judea like the star which heralds the approach of day.

 

A woman destined from all eternity to save the world by deifying our nature, and to bear in her chaste 
womb Him whose tent is the sun, and whose steps are over the highest heavens; a woman expected from 
the beginning of the world, revealed by God even in Paradise, and the acknowledged end of all the holy 
generations who succeeded each other from the days of the Patriarchs, she can be no ordinary creature, and 
must needs have special qualities.  The pious belief of the immaculate conception of Mary is the result of 
that sentiment of respect.

 

The misfortune of Eden inherent in the human race is common to all, and the Scripture makes no 
exception in favor of any son of Adam.  But the piety of the faithful cannot bear the idea that the Mother 
of our Lord should be submitted to the condemnation whereby mankind as a whole was stamped.  
Notwithstanding the silence of the Gospel, it has therefore been generally supposed that the Virgin, 
in anticipation of her divine maternity, has been restrained, so to speak, on the verge of the dread 
abyss hollowed under our feet by the fatal disobedience of our first parents, and that her conception 
is immaculate as her life.

 

This belief, which the Greeks borrowed from Palestine and adopted with enthusiasm, gave rise 
to the institution of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, which was celebrated with great pomp in 
Constantinople, from the sixth century.  We find in the "Menees" (secret practices) so ancient in use 
among the Greeks, these words, which clearly prove their belief in the Immaculate Conceptions "By a 
special dispensation, the Lord decreed that the blessed Virgin should be as pure, from the first moment 
of her existence, as was suitable and becoming for her who was to conceive and to bring forth Jesus 
Christ, the Word made flesh."

  

In the West, on the contrary, this doctrine met powerful opponents, for St. Anselm, St. Bernard, 
St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas d'Aquinas, Albertus Magnus, and many other pious and learned doctors, 
all great theologians, and moreover devoted to the service of Mary, have maintained that she was 
conceived by man and subjected to the common law, although she was very soon entirely purified 
there from by a special and excellent grace which commenced her glorious state of "Mother of God".

 

But the belief in the Immaculate Conception of the blessed Virgin prevailed, at length, over the opinion 
of the great doctors of the middle age; what the eagles of the school had not seen was revealed to the simple.  
The writings of the doctors and of the apostles were again searched; a more careful examination was made 
of what has been handed down to us regarding the, greatness and glory of Mary, and the investigation served 
to throw a more vivid light on that doubtful point in the life of the Mother of Jesus.

 

In fact, going back to the Apostles, we find already the title of "blessed and immaculate" applied to 
Mary, as brought out by St. James the Major, and St. Mark, in their liturgies.

 

The Apostle St. Andrew, quoted by the Babylonian Abdias, expresses himself in these terms; "Even
as the first Adam was made of the earth before it was cursed, so was the second Adam formed of a pure 
Virgin who was never under the ban."

 

The saints and martyrs who lived in the third century, St. Hippolytus, Origen, and St. Denis of Alexandria 
all give to the blessed Virgin the qualification of pure and Immaculate.  St. Cyprian is more precise, and says 
clearly that "there is a great difference between the rest of mortals and the Virgin, and that she has nothing in 
common with them but nature, - not sin."

 

In the fourth century, St. Ambrose compares the Virgin "to a bright and luminous stem, whereon has never 
been either the knot of original sin or the bark of actual sin"; St. John Chrisostom, proclaims her most holy 
immaculate, blessed above all creatures; St. Jerome poetically calls her the day-cloud which never knew 
darkness St. Basil, whom the defenders of the Immaculate Conception are proud to regard as their leader - 
these have never varied regarding that stainless purity which so well becomes the Queen of Angels.

 

Islamism itself declares for the Immaculate Conception, and the Arab Commentators on the Koran 
have adopted in their own way, the opinion of the Catholic theologians who have pronounced in favor 
of that doctrine "Every descendant of Adam from the moment that he comes into the world is touched by 
Satan; Jesus and Mary are alone excepted; for God interposed between them and Satan a veil which preserved 
them from his fatal touch."

 

These testimonies in favor of the Immaculate Conception became weaker and less abundant in the 
twelfth and thirteenth centuries; few writers of any note then took this view of the subject, and several 
men of eminent piety and learning maintained the contrary opinion.  But notwithstanding, the feast of the
Conception of the Virgin was established in many kingdoms.

 

William the Conqueror established this festival in Normandy as early as the year 1074; it was
instituted, say the chroniclers, because of the holy apparition seen by an ecclesiastic worthy of credit, 
who found himself exposed to the peril of the sea during a storm.  Her feast provided pious themes for
poetry to the land of minstrels.

 

From Normandy the feast of the Conception passed over to the English.  The first council of Oxford, 
held by the archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1222, placed it in the number of holidays to be observed. 

 

Finally a manuscript of the thirteenth century found in the library of the Dominicans of Dijon fixes
the festival of the Conception of our Lady on the 8th of December, which shows that in St. Dominick's 
time the feast was already being celebrated in nearly all the church.

 

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary had been banished from the pulpits and schools 
for a very long period of time, when some theologians undertook to revive it.  The Franciscans wrote 
many volumes in defense of the Immaculate Conception.  The learned body at the university of Sorbonne 
in France, which was then called "the firmament of science, the prop of truth and piety in the   church of 
God," decreed that all those who should be promoted to the degree of doctor were to engage themselves 
by oath to maintain this pious belief.  So, in succession, did certain other Catholic universities of Europe.  
This is the decree of Sorbonne. We resolve and declare that no one shall be admitted for the future into 
our Faculty, until he swears to maintain all his life this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception."

 

The Dominicans showed themselves almost alone hostile to the pious doctrine, which was embraced 
by many other Orders.

 

But the Council of Bale in 1429 declared that the doctrine which teaches the Immaculate Conception 
is to be approved, held, and followed by all Catholics so no one shall be hereafter permitted to preach 
or teach the contrary..." and the shield of religion took its stand before the Blessed Virgin.  In the words 
of Bousset "the Church does not oblige us to believe it immaculate but she makes us understand that that 
belief is very pleasing to her. "Spain protested that they had observed this festival from the seventh 
century, and it was again instituted in the 13th century in those provinces of Spain, which had shaken 
off the 500-year yoke of Islamism.

 

 

The Birth of Mary

 

About the time when the religion and prosperity of the Hebrews was on the declines at the period pointed out by the prophets, and when the royal scepter was in strangers' hands according to the great prediction of Jacob, there was in Nazareth, a city of Lower Galilee not far from Mount Carmel, a just man named Joachim, of the tribe of Judah and the race of David by Nathan.  The Rabbins and certain Fathers of the Church say the father of Mary had two names, Heli and Joachim.  The Arabs and Muslims know him under the name of Amram, son of Matheus and distinguish him from another Amram, father of Mary (Miriam) the sister of Moses.

 

The wife of Joachim who according, to the opinion of St. Augustine was of the priestly tribe, was called Anne, or Hannah, a name which in Hebrew signifies "graceful".  According to the Proto-gospel of St. James, and the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, Joachim was of the race of David Justin who flourished only fifty years after the death of John the Apostles and who was born in Palestine and in a position to collect traditions still quite recent, likewise says that Mary was descended in a direct line from David.

 

They were both just before Jahweh and walked in the way of His commandments with a perfect heart, but the Lord seemed to have turned His face away from them for a great blessing was wanting unto them; they were childless, and therefore sorrowful, because in Israel barrenness was a disgrace.

 

Joachim who loved his wife for her exceeding mildness and her eminent virtues would not increase her misfortune by giving her those letters of divorce, which the law then granted quite easily that abuse of divorce that was so loudly censured by our Lord, for they taught that a wife might be put away for the most trifling cause.  But he kept her with him and that pious pair, humbly resigned to the divine behest, passed their days in labors prayers and alms-deeds.

 

The divine Wisdom had prepared all things to separate from the corrupt mass of human nature the mother of all grace.  The allotted number of the patriarchs and prophets was already complete, and the mountains rose whereon that mystical City of God was to be placed. His right hand had prepared the incomparable treasures of His divinity, to portion and endow her.  A thousand angels were ready to guard and protect her, and to serve her as their lady and royal mistress.  He prepared for her a royal line of ancestors; he gave her parents. holy and perfect beyond all the men and women of that age, for had there been any greater saints or more fit to be the parents of her whom He chose to be mother of the Incarnate God, there is no doubt but the divine Majesty would have chosen them.

 

He disposed them for their office by numberless graces and blessings enriched them with all virtues and illumined their minds by divine wisdom and the various gifts of the Holy Spirit.  They, having been apprised of the admirable daughter who was to be given them, the work of the first conceptions that was that of the pure body of Mary, were executed.

 

For the execution of this decree the holy archangel Gabriel was sent to make it known to each.  He appeared in corporal form to St. Anne when she was in fervent prayer, petitioning for the coming of the world's Savior, the Salvation of mankind.  She saw this celestial prince so radiant in glory and in beauty that she was troubled with a holy fear, accompanied however, by an interior joy which, his presence caused her by reason of the lights which he communicated to her soul.

 

The saintly Anne prostrated herself with profound humility to honor the ambassador of heaven; but he prevented her from so humbling herself, saying, "Continue your prayers and supplications, and have no other care, for the same Lord will decree the accomplishment of your desire.  Walk in the narrow way of justice, raise your heart and mind to the things of heaven, pray always for the coming of the Messiah, and rejoice in the Lord, Who is thy salvation." Thereupon the angel disappeared, having left Anne much inward light for the penetration of various mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures, filled her soul with consolation, and renewed the fervor of her spirit.

 

The archangel neither appeared nor spoke to St. Joachim in corporal form as he did to St. Anne; but the man of God, heard himself thus addressed in a dream "Joachim, blessed be thou among men; persevere in thy desires, and practice justice and perfection.  It is the will of God that thou receive thy spouse, for the Almighty hath filled her soul with benedictions..."

 

The story was thus preserved in the Apocryphal "Book of the Birth of Blessed Mary, and of the Childhood of Christ", from the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, Chapter III

 

“The angel which had already appeared to him while awake, appeared to him in sleep, saying, 'I am an angel and am given thee by God as a guardian; go down in confidence, and return to Anna, because the kind acts which thou and thy wife Anna have done are rehearsed in the presence of the Most High; and God will give you such fruit as neither the prophets nor any saint ever had from the beginning, nor shall have.

 

“Now when Joachim had awaked from sleep, he called all his herdsmen to him, and told them the dream.  And they adored the Lord, and said to him, 'Take heed not to condemn the sayings of the angel any further.  But arise, let us go hence and let us return at a slow pace, feeding our flocks.

 

“When they had tarried the space of some days on their return, and were now nigh behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Anna as she stood and prayed saying to hers 'Go to the gate which is called the Golden Gates and meet thy husband in the way, for today he will return to thee.'

 

“She therefore went out in haste to meet him, with her maidens, praying to the Lords she stood in the gate a long time waiting for him.  When she was growing faint, with very long expectation, she raised her eyes and saw Joachim

(16)

 

afar off coming with his flocks; she met him, and hung upon his neck giving thanks to God, and saying, "I was a widow, and lo, I am not one now I was barren, and, behold, I have already conceived." So then, having worshipped the Lords they entered the house.

 

“When this was heard, great joy was caused to all his neighbors and acquaintances, so that the whole land of Israel was gladdened by this report.”

 

So many virtues could not go un-rewarded and so after twenty years of barrenness, Anne conceived, as it were by a miracles and brought forth that favored creature who was more perfect, more holy, and more agreeable to the Lord than all the elect taken together.

 

It was about the beginning of the month Tisri - the eighth of September, according to the teaching of the Church in the year of Rome 733 or 734, the latter being the opinion most generally favored, about 21 years before the vulgar era, being Saturday at the dawn of day.  It was during the month when they celebrated Yom Kippur, the Atonement Day of the Jews when smoke was ascending to heaven for the expiation of the sins of the people, that the promised Virgin was born - she who was to repair the primitive fault.  Her birth was humble, like that of her divine Son.  Her parents were of the people, although descended from a long line of kings, and led to all appearance, an obscure life; that mystical Roses whom St. John afterwards beheld clothed with the Sun as with a radiant garment, was to blossom, in the scorching wind of adversity, on a stem which time had stripped of its leaves of splendor.

 

Mary's coming to earth, which had also been foretold in Scripture, was the last stage in the journey of the Redeemer from Heaven to earth.  The mother of our Savior was born into a world as yet unconscious of her identity.

 

Anne had been chosen to shelter this "Lily of the Valley, this mystic rose", the future mother of our Lord whom the angel Gabriel would one day greet in the name of her mother Anne, calling her "full of grace", the very meaning of Anna's name.

 

St. Anne has since become known as the patron saint of miners, not without reason, as Mary is often symbolically related to silver, and Christ to gold, both coming forth from this humble ancestress.

 

The cradle of the Queen of Angels was neither adorned with gold nor covered with the richly embroidered quilts of Egypt , neither perfumed with spikenard, myrrh, nor aloes, like those of the Hebrew princes. It was formed of flexible branches, while bands of homespun linen confined the little arms, which were one day to cradle the Savior of the world.

 

It was customary amongst the Israelites to assemble the family on the ninth day, in order to give the newborn child its name.

 

There was a portentous moment when all the relatives gathered and stood round gazing down upon the tiny babe.  It seemed many of them knew that this was a child of spiritual promise, but it had not yet been revealed in what way.

 

Perhaps among them stood one who might be called upon to wed with her one day because in a family without male heir, the daughter must marry one of the same tribe, to keep the property in the family.  However, this was still far in the future, and today they rejoiced with these good friends in their happiness, and felt the greater respect at this manifestation of the grace of God.

 

The daughter of Joachim received from her father the name of Miriam (Mary), which means, in the Syriac language, "lady", "sovereign", or "mistress", and in Hebrew 'bitter" or "Star of the Sea". (these are derivations of uncertain authenticity).  Many have found hidden in that divine name a potent spell, of such marvelous sweetness that merely to pronounce it softens the heart.

 

Eighty days after the birth of a daughter the Jewish woman was solemnly purified in the temple, where she offered her first-born child.  Conforming to the Law of Moses, with her husband Joachim she then brought to the Lord a lamb, or two doves, as her holy offering, and in their generosity, it appears they offered both.

 

But the gratitude of the pious mother went still farther than the customary sacrifice; worthy imitator of another Hanna, the mother of Samuel (I Samuel 1). She offered to the Lord a gift more pure, a dove more innocent than those that came under the rule of sacrifice.  She had no votive crown of purest gold wherewith to adorn the walls of the temple, so she laid at the feet of the Most High the crown of her old age, the child whom He had given her, and solemnly promised to bring back her daughter to the Temple, and to consecrate her to the service of the holy place as soon as her mind was capable of knowing good from evil.  Mary's father ratified this vow, which then became binding upon them.

 

The ceremony being finished, the holy couple took their way back to their own country, to that country so barren in regard to great men that Israel was far from expecting a prophet to arise there ("Can anything good come forth from Nazareth?") And they returned to their humble dwelling.

 

There it was that the child of benediction, the child of grace and of miracle, passed her earliest years the delight of her family, growing up like one of those lilies whose loveliness is praised by Jesus himself, and which have the odor of hope.  Anne was herself to nurse the child according to the custom of her people.  In Judah women did not often dispense with nursing their children.  Some believe that Mary grew up here with her parents, but we will take the line that has proven more appealing and follow her to that life in the Temple , which has become legend, whether or not it was ever fact.

 

Mary's understanding, like the day in some favored regions, had scarcely a dawn, and shone clearly out from her earliest days.  Her precocious fervor and the wisdom of her discourse at a period of life when other children still enjoy but a purely physical existence, made the parents judge that the time of their separation was come; and when Joachim had offered to the Lord, for the third time since the birth of his daughter, the first-fruits of the crops and the fruits of his inheritance, the husband and wife, grateful and resigned, set out on the day appointed, accompanied by some of their relatives for Jerusalem in order to deposit within the sacred precincts of the Temple the treasure which they had received from the Holy One of Israel.

 

  

The river of Cison which flows between Nazareth and Mount Carmel, rolled majestically on, its reddish waves swelled by the equinoctial rains, and the green mountains of Galilee were beginning to put on their snowy covering when Mary's parents undertook the journey to Jerusalem, bearing with them the true ark of the Covenant, the most pure Mary, to consecrate her in the holy Temple of Jerusalem.

 

There is no knowing the motive, which induced them to leave their native province during the rainy season.  It might be that they wished to assist at the grand solemnities of the feast of the Dedication; or perhaps it was that they simply regulated their departure by the period of Zachary's service in the Temple, which only took place at regular intervals.

 

Having before them a journey of several days in the midst of the rainy season, with an infant child the pious and prudent travelers journeyed not towards the Holy City by the wild and pebbly road, which winds amid the arid plains.  Instead they sought to skirt the foamy torrents and deep ravines of the mountains of Samaria , where the frosts of winter had already set in.  They descended by the woody slopes of Carmel, into the charming plains, which extend between the mountains of Palestine and the coasts of Syria that fair and favored region whose climate is so mild that, the orange trees blossom in the depth of winter, and the flowers of summer bloom in December.

 

Days passed.  Eventually they left behind them the rich pasturage, the groves of palms and pomegranates clothing the hills of Galilee .  As they traveled southward, all was changed.  No more flowers were seen no more verdure, for all around were sterile rocks, or profound ravines through which the wind swept and murmured.  Abrupt and craggy mountains resounded with the hoarse cry of the eagle; in a word, they found a landscape the grandest the most desolate, and the most cheerless that can well be imagined.

 

The little party had been following, for some time, a rugged path, which crossed the tableland of a barren mountain, when in due course of their travels; Joachim suddenly stopped at an abrupt turn of the road and stretched his arm towards the south with an emotion of religious exultation mingled with national pride.  That which he thus pointed out to his companions was well worthy of being remarked, for Asia had then nothing more magnificent or fantastic.

 

It was a city about 33 stadas in circumference, set in stone like a jewel.  The city of marble, cedar and of gold. Whose splendor yet suggested something gloomy and suspicious, denoting an unsettled power and a dread of the stranger.  There were seen enormous towers, magnificent as palaces, and again palaces fortified like citadels.  Its temple, radiant with gold, stood glittering on a narrow tableland of the highest mountain, like the full-orbed moon when it rises over the snowy heights of Lebanon .  It was an almost impregnable fortress, held in awe by the people of God, whilst the tower of Antonia , with its four elegant turrets of polished marble, kept jealous and unceasing watch over the precincts of their Temple.  Josephus said" the exterior front of the Temple was so thickly covered with plates of gold that, when the day began to appear, it was no less dazzling than the rays of the rising sun on the other sides".  Where there was no gold, their stones were so white that, at a distance, that superb pile of building looked like a mountain covered with snow.

 

A triple enclosure of massive stonewalls with ninety forts, encompassed that singular city, and all around it lay gloomy valleys, dizzy heights and inaccessible rocks.  That stately and warlike city, which seemed as though it were transported by magic from the fabulous regions of Ginnistan - described in the marvelous legends of the Arabs and Assyrians - to be placed under the cloudless sky of Palestine, was that Jewish paradise so poetically mourned and still hailed throughout the East by the ancient appellation then given it by the father of Mary: "the Holy City!" (They remembered that long before this entire splendor, the city was called Salem , and its priest-king was Melchizedek, to whom Abraham gave tithe.  The parents of the Virgin entered the capital city by the gate of Rama, which was shaded by a tower so lofty that its flat roof commanded a view of Mount Carmel, the great seat and the mountains of Arabia .

 

The travelers then took their way through some dark and winding streets, bordered with heavy-looking square houses having no windows, their flat roofs forming long unbroken lines that looked like fortifications.  They stopped in the eastern part of the city, in front of a house of unpretending appearance, since pointed out by tradition as the dwelling of St. Anne, at that time a home belonging to one of their relations.

 

Having purified himself for seven days, according to the custom of those who went to offer sacrifice in the temple, Joachim provided himself with the lamb which he was to present to the Lord put on white garments, gathered together such of his relations and friends as he had in Jerusalem, and went up with them resolutely to the Temple.  It was not only that they had to present themselves in the Temple with their child; the law required that they should remain outside for seven entire days, and that they should solemnly purify themselves on the third and seventh days with ashes and hyssop, before they might offer their sacrifice.

 

That Temple of the Lord of Hosts where the Virgin then presented herself like the dove with the olive branches had undergone numerous vicissitudes.  One of the ancestors of Mary, the wise son of David, had made it after the glory of the past.  He lavished upon it the gold of Ophir, the perfumes of Saba, the cedar of Lebanon, brass that the fleets of Tyre brought from far off lands, and silver, which was then so plentiful that it had become almost as a base metal.

 

That splendor had passed away like a vision of the night, thanks to the insatiable greed of the tribes of Egypt and Chaldea .  A score of times it had been despoiled, and as often restored to its former splendor; and finally it arose from ruins under Zorobabel, who built it sword in hand, notwithstanding the active opposition of many envious nations.  However, the second temple, with all its magnificence, was as inferior to the first in grandeur as in sanctity.

 

It was in vain that the Jews poured forth upon it with a liberal hand the strength of wheat and the blood of the vine; that rivers of gold, flowing in from every point of the compass unceasingly replenished its sacred treasury; that the pagan kings, recognizing the awful sanctity of the God of Israel, sent thither the most magnificent offerings.

 

Nothing of all that could supply the absence of the Ark, which had disappeared with the tables of the Law, that is to say, the decrees of God written by Himself amid the lightings of Sinai; the miraculous rod which constituted the most ancient title of the sons of Aaron to the supreme priesthood; and the manna of the desert, which confirmed by the miracle of its long preservation, so many ancient prodigies wrought for the deliverance of Israel.

 

Those precious objects were lost, together with the sacred fire, and the oil of unction, prepared by Moses from which the priests and the kings derived their lofty titles "anointed of the Lord." But most mournful of all, the Schekina, that radiant cloud which attested the divine Presence had never been seen in this sacred temple, and even the jewels of the breastplate that last and most brilliant oracle of the God of Hosts, had lost their prophetic luster.  God made use of the precious stones which the high-priest wore on the breast-plate in order to presage victory, for, before they encamped these stones emitted so bright a luster that the people thereby recognized the Presence and assistance of His divine Majesty; but for these two hundred years past, according to Josephus, the breast-plate had ceased to emit that light.

 

This filled the hearts of the sons of Aaron with bitterness, when they compared the present state of their Temple with the temple of Solomon, the son of David; and his it was that made the doctors of the law declare that the fulfillment of the prophecy of Aggeus was not to be hoped for, unless the Messiah himself appeared in person in the new temple.

 

Having passed that magnificent gate of Corinthian brass which twenty Levites could hardly close at night and which, to the great dismay of the peoples opened of its own accord four years before the ruin of Jerusalem, Mary and her parents found themselves in a vast enclosure paved with black and white flagstones, and surrounded by lofty porches which, in time of war, served as ramparts.  A crowd of strangers and of natives, whose brilliant costumes of glaring colors recalled the idea of an immense bed of tulips walked to and fro in conversation in that forum of Jerusalem which was not considered sacred, and was called the Gentiles' Porch, because non-Jews could not, under pain of death, advance farther.

 

At some distance from the crowd under Solomon's Porch, stood the proud aristocrats of Israel, clad in scarlet and purple, or in those long Babylonian robes embroidered with gold, which cost enormous sums, awaiting the hour of prayer, and detaching, themselves from the strangers with a haughty reserve that savored of contempt, Joachim, whose birth notwithstanding his modest circumstances, was as noble as that of any of the princes of his people, bent his steps in that direction, sure of a cordial reception; for those Jews, so disdainful towards the Gentiles whom they looked down upon as dogs, were nonetheless amongst themselves like brethren, especially when they belonged to the same line.

 

Scarcely had they perceived him when a number of illustrious persons of the house of David came to meet him and after the usual salutations, they joined the Galilean family as though to form a suitable company for Mary.  The fathers, who note this circumstance, have piously supposed that the flower of the Jewish nobility were not there by mere accident, but that God, who would have the future mother of the messiah enter His temple in triumph, and divinely inspired others of the clan to be there at that particular time. From the middle of the Gentiles' Porch arose two other enclosures, both sacred, which composed the Temple .  Seen from below that majestic and resplendent edifice presented a quadrangular mass, whose walls, of alabaster whiteness, were pierced with ten superb gates covered with thick plates of gold and silver.  As the Temple , properly so called, crowned the summit of Mount Maria, a becoming site for the dwelling of the 'God of Mountains, the ground had a gradual ascents and the walls were completely surrounded by marble steps, which somewhat concealed their height.

 

Having ascended the steps of the Temple , the purified group in whose midst was the holy child about to be consecrated to God, paused a moment on the narrow platform of the chel, an area the space of ten cubits between the court of the Gentiles and that of the women.  There the Pharisees displayed their phylacteries and threw back over their subdued and pious brows a flap of their tailed, a species of square cloak which the Jews wore while praying in the Temple.  This was composed of line white wool, adorned with purple pomegranates and small violet twists.

 

The undaunted captains of Herod half concealed their dazzling breastplates under their long cloaks, and the daughters of Sion wrapped themselves more closely in their veils of purple, of azure, or of Syrian gauze embroidered with gold, through respect for the holy angels of the sanctuary.  That done, they entered the temple by the eastern gate, the most gorgeous of all; that gate which poured forth streams of liquid gold when the Romans, unable to force an entrance through it, opened it by means of fire.

 

In our cold northern regions vast edifices are required to shelter the people from the inclemency of the weather.  Hence we have immense cathedrals, made to contain whole multitudes; but in ancient Asia the temples were for little else than the use of the priests; the people prayed without.  In Israel, the engdah or sacred assembly was usually held in the women's court.  The second enclosure was so called because the Jewish women, whom the old law, in its severity, refused full status, could not advance farther.  Separate from their sons and husbands, who remained, during the religious ceremonies, either in the open air of the square, or in the next level beyond the women's gallery, where the more pious had advanced, the women themselves prayed apart in the upper galleries, their heads humbly inclined toward the house of Yahweh, whose magnificent roof of cedar, bristling with needles of gold, they beheld at some distance.

 

 

The ceremony of the presentation undoubtedly took place in the women's court, and not in the very interior of the sanctuary, as some authors have said.  It opened with a solemn sacrifice.  The gate of Nicanor, opening to admit the child, gave a perspective view of the inner enclosure, like a glimpse of that lost paradise whose golden palaces, shaded by lofty cedars were as the Pharisees taught, the dwelling of the just.

 

Through the marble columns of a stately portico, overhung by the gigantic leaves and fruit of a golden vine, there was seen a structure which, at first sight, seemed of massive gold, so dazzling was the effect of its golden front of a hundred cubits, as it reflected the rays of the Asiatic sun.

Certain votive garlands, whose design of fruits and flowers were studded with jewels according to their color, were attached to the walls by cords of gold; and when the wild mountain-breeze agitated them, you would have taken them for real flowers, so exquisite was the workmanship and so perfect the imitation of nature.

 

Herod, that cruel prince but valiant leader, had recently donated the standards taken in his successful expeditions against the Arabs; and the sight of those warlike trophies filled with patriotic pride and martial ardor those Jewish hearts who regarded death as a trifling thing when there was question of fighting for what was dearer to them than gold, family, or life - that is the Temple!

 

The priests and Levites assembled in the inner enclosure received from the hands of Joachim the sacrifice of prosperity.  These ministers of the living God were not crowned with laurel, as were the pagan priests.  A sort of round miter, composed of very thick linen a linen tunic, long, white, and without fullness, confined by a broad zone embroidered with sky-blue and purple; these composed the sacerdotal costume, which was worn only in the Temple.

 

One of the sacrifices took the lamb, and after a short invocation to the God of Jacob, slaughtered him, turning him towards the north; the blood was then caught in a vase of brass and sprinkled around the Temple.  These preliminary rites being gone through, the priest arranged on a golden dish some portion of the flesh of the lamb, together with part of the entrails, which had been carefully washed by the Levites in the hall of the spring.  He wrapped up the oblation in a coat of fat, covered it with incense, and threw upon it that front of the brazen altar; he deposited the offering on the sound, firm logs, which stripped of their bark, fed the sacred fire.  The remainder of the host, with the exceptions the breast and the right shoulder which belonged to the priests, was given back to Joachim, in order to furnish a banquet for his friends and neighbors, according to custom.

 

This festival, which was considered sacred, might be kept up for two days in succession, but the law expressly prohibited keeping anything of it for the third.  While it lasted, the poor were to have their full share and that for two reasons, says Philo.  Firstly, because the sacrifice belonged to God, Who is bountiful by nature, and wished that the needy should be relieved; secondly, for fear that avarice, which is a slavish vice, might creep in and dishonor a pious practice.

 

The last sounds of the priestly trumpets were dying away along the arched roof, and the sacrifice was still burning on the brazen altar, when a priest descended to the woman's court in order to complete the ceremony Anne followed by Joachim, and bearing Mary in her arms, advanced, veiled, towards the minister of the Most High, and (if we may believe an Arabian tradition inserted in the Koran) presented to him the young servant of the Lord, saying, in a tremulous voices "I come to offer you the gift which God gave to me."

 

The priest accepted in the name of God, who fructifies the womb of mothers, the precious deposit which gratitude confided to him, and blessed Joachim and his pious companion; then extending his hands over the assembly who bowed down to receive his pontifical blessings "O Israel", said he, "May the lord shed His light upon thee; may He prosper thee in all thy ways, grant thee peace!" A canticle of thanksgiving, harmoniously accompanied by the priestly harps, terminated the presentation of the Virgin.

 

Such was the ceremony which took place about the end of November, in the holy temple of Sion Men, who went no farther than the surface, saw there only a young child of marvelous beauty and precocious piety, consecrated by her mother to the God who harkened to her tears and mortifications; but the angels of heaven, hovering over the sanctuary beheld in that fair and fragile creature the Virgin of Isaiah, the spouse whose mystic hymn was sung by Solomon, the celestial Eve who came to restore to a fallen race the hope of a glorious immortality.  Penetrated with joy to see the dawn of the Messiah's day at last appear, "they thronged", say the ancient authors, to that earthly festival and, covering with their snowy wings the youthful descendant of paradise, and celebrated her entry into the temple by melodious concerts." And who can tell what was then passing in Mary's soul, that soul prematurely blown by the breath of the sanctifying Spirit, wherein all was peace and light and love?

 

We know not the name of the priest who received the blessed Virgin amongst the daughters of the Lord; some incline to the opinion that it was the father of St. John the Baptist.  The relationship existing between Zachary and the family of Joachim, the high rank which he then held in the priesthood, and the tender affection wherewith Mary ever regarded him, as well as Elizabeth, make this supposition extremely probable.

 

Whoever it was, the blessed daughter of Joachim was solemnly admitted to the number of the almas or young Virgins who were brought up in the sacred shade of the altar.

 

That Mary spent her best years in the Temple is indicated by apostolic tradition, and the writings of the fathers.  Nevertheless, skeptics have chosen to treat this circumstance as fabulous, and even some Christian authors have considered it as an obscure point, shrouded by the veil of time, and very difficult to determine.

                                                                                                                             

 

In the Temple

 

Though late Jewish writers argue the statement that there were virgins or women engaged in the Temple service, this fact is confirmed by certain ancient writings.

 

In the time of Moses (Exodus 38,8) and again in the days of the Judges (I Samuel 2:22) women were described as serving in the Temple.

 

In Psalm 68, verse 25, in the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant, there is mentioned "young damsels playing on timbrels".  Another Hebrew work written about the year 60, by one Rabbi Asarja, states that virgins devoted to the service of God lived in community in the Temple.

 

In dedicating their children to the Temple service, the parents along with the more devout leaders of Israel had the secret hope that the marriage of one of the virgins would result in the coming of the promised Messiah.

 

Within the fortified enclosure of the temple rose that part of the sacred edifice, which was set apart for the virgins consecrated to the Lord.  Thither did Zachary conduct his youthful relative? Although virginity was, in Israel , but the virtue of a season, and was soon to give place to the conjugal duties, it was not without its honors and its special prerogatives.

 

Some of the ancient traditions have it that God gave the Virgin in charge to Zachary, who placed her in the Temple.  An Arabian tradition says that he went now and then to visit her at the Temple, and sometimes seeing near her some of the finest fruits of the Holy Land , at seasons when they were not to be had, he asked where she got all these fine fruits.  Mary answered, "All that you see comes from God, Who provides for whosoever He will, without number and without measure."

 

The virgins or almas, which means unmarried young women, figured in the ceremonies of the Hebrew worship before that worship had a temple.  We see them, under the guidance of that earlier Mary, the sister of Moses, celebrating by songs and dance the passage of the Red Sea .  Those dancing-choirs of young maidens, transplanted from Egypt to the desert, were long kept up amongst the Hebrews.  The virgins of Silo, who seem to have been, from the time of the judges, more especially consecrated to the service of Adonai than the other daughters of Israel , were singing canticles and dancing to the sound of the harp within a short distance of the holy place during a certain festival, when the Benjamites carried them off.  But that event did not abolish the custom, which was kept up till that disastrous period when the ark was lost and the first temple destroyed.

 

It is probable that all the almas , (or young unmarried women), were admissible to those sacred choirs, when their reputation was untarnished; but there was amongst them a select number who gathered around the altar with more fervor and perseverance.  Whilst the ark of the Lord was yet encamped under the tents, the women who watched and prayed at the door of the tabernacle offered to rod the brazen mirrors, which they had brought from Egypt . These were probable pious widows who had refused to contract new ties, in order to apply themselves more constantly to heavenly things, and almas devoted by their parents to the service of the sanctuary, who had been placed under the care of those righteous matrons.  After the return from captivity, the influence of the Persians operated against the institution of the almas , as that people excluded women from their religious celebrations.

 

Nazareth

 

It appears, then, that whatever may be said to the contrary, there were virgins attached to the service of the second temple at the time of Mary's presentation.  The institutions of the first Christians certify that such was the case, and St. Ambrose, St. Jerome , and before them, the Proto-gospel of St. James affirmed it.

 

But what took place during the Virgin's sojourn in the Temple?  What were, at that most interesting period of her life, her tastes, her habits, her practices of devotion?  There remains to us on this head, but few authentic documents.  The details were mostly lost.  The Gospel of the Childhood of Mary and St. Jerome , when they mention that Mary was admitted amongst the daughters of the Lord, say very little more on the subject.

 

To fill up this vacuum in a life which God seems to have taken pleasure in surrounding with mystery, we have only some inconclusive lines, some pages lopped from the fathers, from which it is very difficult, even with the utmost care, to make a satisfactory sketch.  No matter; like the Indian workman who joins a broken tissue, thread by thread, and patiently tries to tie the ends together, unweaving knotting, sending his shuttle with infinite care along that worn-out and attenuated woof, we are going to apply ourselves assiduously to our work and father together the scattered fragments of the precious tissue of the Virgin's life, so as to connect, if possible, the-broken thread.  With persevering patience we will endeavor - not to make a suppositions narrative, which our profound respect for our subject forbids - but to give, with the help of the best authorities, and a long study of the customs of the Hebrews, the most precise idea, and the nearest to the truth that can possibly be given, of the almost monastic life of the blessed Virgin in the Temple.

 

Many of the old legendary writers took pleasure in surrounding the childhood of Mary with a multitude of prodigies.  These we pass over in silence, because they are not sufficiently authenticated.  But there is one thing, which we cannot omit to mention, viz., an inaccurate, or rather an inadmissible assertion, which has been adopted credulously and without examination by some holy personages and religious writers.  From the fact that the Virgin was always sanctity itself, which no one disputes, they inferred that she must have been placed in the most sanctified part of the Temple, which is materially false.

 

The Holy of Holies, that impenetrable sanctuary of the God of Hosts, was closed to the whole Hebrew priesthood except the high-priest, who entered it but once a year, after much fasting, watching and purification.  He only presented himself there in the midst of a thick cloud of incense, which interposed between him and the Divinity, Whom no man can see and live, says the Scripture.  Finally, he remained there but a few minutes, while the people, prostrate on the ground, sobbed and wept, fearing lest he should meet his death.  He himself afterwards gave a grand banquet to his friends, to rejoice with them from having escaped such imminent and fearful danger.  From this we may judge whether it is possible that Mary was brought up in the Holy of Holies.

 

Philo said," The sanctuary is so holy a place, that none amongst us, save the high-priest, is permitted to penetrate there, and even he only once a year after a solemn fast, to burn perfumes in honor of God, and humbly to beg of Him that the year may be favorable for all men.  If any one even a prince of our nation dared to enter, or if the high-priest himself went in a second time in one year, or more than once on the day that he is permitted to do so, it would cost either of them his life, without any chance of escape, so strict was the ordinance of Yioses, our legislator, concerning the veneration of the Temple."

 

Amongst the Hebrews, women in general were considered unclean creatures, on the level of servants, and scarcely bound even to pray, as were men. This was especially true after they had reached the age of puberty, for during the menstrual period, concerned as it was with the life-blood, according to the law God gave Moses, (Leviticus 15, 19-31) 'her impurity shall last for seven days. Anyone who touches her, …(or) her bed, (or) anything she sits on ... by touching it he shall become unclean until evening..." In these matters, He was not discriminating against women, for certain restrictions applied to men as well.  Regarding various reasons for ritual impurity, He then said "in this way you shall warn the Israelites against uncleanness, in order that they may not bring uncleanness upon the Tabernacle where I dwell among them, and so die...-"

 

It is clear, then, why the maidens were required to leave the Temple as they reached the age of young womanhood, around 12 or 13 years of age.  It was believed then that the sanctuary must be protected from any contagion of impurity.  But Jesus was to reverse this, by considering that holiness was the more contagious through such contact.  It appears the old way was a necessary prerequisite, in preparation for the new.

 

Any woman who came to the Temple to worship was banished to an enclosure whose boundaries she might not cross, and the interior of the Temple was to her a forbidden place, even though she be a prophetess or the daughter of a king.  In fact, the priests could not grant to Mary a privilege, which they themselves did not enjoy, and which would, moreover, have exposed her to certain death.

 

And finally, even supposing the priests of Jahweh to have been without these fears and prejudices, they would by no means have suffered any one to penetrate to the Holy of Holiest seeing that it was important to conceal from the people the disappearance of the Ark , lost in some obscure grotto of the mountains since the days of Jeremiah. -The Jews do not agree concerning the fate of the Ark after the ruin of the first Temple.  Some will have it that Jeremiah concealed it in a cavern of the mountains, the entrance to which was never found others say that the holy king Josias warned by Holda the prophetess that the Temple would be destroyed, caused the precious Ark to be placed in a subterraneous vault which had been constructed by Solomon.

 

The education, which Mary received in the Temple, was the best that those times and the customs of the Hebrews permitted.  It was chiefly confined to the domestic labors, from which even the wife and daughter of Caesar Augustus did not exempt themselves in their imperial palace amid the delights of Rome .

 

Brought up in strict observance of the Mosaic Law, and conforming herself to the customs of her people, Mary arose with the lark, at the hour when wicked spirits are silent, and when prayers are most favorably heard.  She dressed herself with the greatest modesty, through respect for the glory of God Who is everywhere present and beholds all the actions of men, even through the gloom of the darkest night.  At the same time she gave thanks to the Lord for having added another day to her life, and for having preserved her companions in good health during their sleep.  She sought His holy guidance in the day ahead, that in all things she might conform perfectly to His will.

 

Her toilet was extremely simple, and occupied but little time.  She wore neither bracelets of pearl, nor chains of gold inlaid with Silver, nor purple tunics, such as were worn by the daughters of the princes of her race.  A robe of celestial blue, a white tunic, confined at the waist by a cincture with flowing ends, a long veil simply but gracefully arranged, so as completely to cover the face when necessary; these, with a species of shoe corresponding to the robe, composed the oriental costume of Mary. (An order called the Annunciade of Genoa in sixteenth-century Italy wore the costume of the blessed Virgin, that is to say, white under and blue over, in order that such dress might continually remind them of her.  The slippers of the choristers were also composed of blue leather.)

 

The women of Nazareth at that time were said to be still wearing a tunic of celestial blue, con--Pined by a white cord, the soft folds of a white tunic falling gracefully over the blue.  So it seems the blue and the white could be reversed.  Again, it may only be fond wishfulness of that which seems suitable.

 

After the customary morning ablutions, the Virgin and her young companions, with certain pious women who were answerable to the priest and to God for that sacred child, took their way towards the gallery of women, where the almas sat in the place of honor.  As the sun began to gild with his radiant beams the distant mountains of Arabia, the eagle described circles in the clouds above, the sacrifice burned on the brazen altar to the sound of the morning trumpets, when Mary, her head bowed down beneath her veil, after repeating the eighteen prayers of Esdras, demanded of God, with all Israel, that Christ, so long promised and so tardy in appearing, might come:

 

"Let Thy name, 0 God! Be praised and glorified in this world which Thou hast created according Thy good pleasure; vouchsafe to establish Thy reign; let redemption flourish, and the Messiah quickly come." This prayer, which is called the Kaddisch, is the most ancient of all those which the Jews have preserved, and as read in the Chaldean tongue, it is thought to be one of the prayers composed after the return from Babylon .  The Apostles themselves later used this prayer in the synagogues.  At certain pauses the assembly was obliged to respond, in chorus, with their "Amen!"  

They then sang a psalm, followed by the reading of the schema (from three different sections of Deuteronomy and Numbers) and the blessing of the priest terminated this public prayer, which took place every morning and evening.  It is certain that the Blessed Virgin must have assisted very often at the morning and evening prayers.

 

Having fulfilled with great fervor this first religious duty, Mary and her young companions resumed their wonted avocations.  Some rapidly twirled in their agile fingers spindles of cedar or of ithel. (The ithel is a species of acacia, which grows in Arabia ; it is of-a beautiful black, resembling ebony; and is thought to be the setim wood of Moses).

 

Others embroidered the veil of the Temple, or the rich Tinctures of the priests, with purple, blue, and gold; whilst groups, bent forward over a Sidonian loom, applied themselves to the execution of those magnificent carpets which won the admiration of all Israel , and were extolled by Homer himself.  The Virgin surpassed all the daughters of her people in those beautiful fabrications so highly prized by the ancients.  We learn from St. Epiphanius that she excelled in embroidery and the art of working in wool, in byssus, and in gold.  The Church of Jerusalem early consecrated this remembrance by ranking amongst its treasures the spindle of Mary.  Those spindles were subsequently sent to the Empress Pulcheria, who placed them in the Church of the Guides in Constantinople .

 

The Proto-gospel of St. James represents Mary seated before a distaff of purple wool, which moved under her taper fingers like the trembling leaf of the poplar; and the Christians of the West have perpetuated the traditional opinion of her unrivalled skill in spinning the flax of Pelusia, by giving the name of "Virgins' thread" to that network of dazzling whiteness and of almost vaporous texture, which floats over deep valleys in the damp mornings of autumn.  The chaste and modest brides of the early Christians, in memory of these domestic avocations of the Queen of Angels, never failed to consecrate to her a distaff adorned with fillets of purple, and charged with spotless wool.

 

But the talents and acquirements of the Virgin did not end here.  St. Ambrose ascribes to her a perfect understanding of Holy Writ, and St. Anselm will have it that she was thoroughly acquainted with the Old Hebrew, the language of the terrestrial paradise, in which God Himself traced on tables composed of precious stones, the ten precepts of the Decalogue.  According to some Oriental writers the tables of the Law were of either rubies or carbuncles; but the most common opinion amongst the Arabs is that they were of emeralds, within which the characters were cut so they could be read on every side.

 

Whether Mary, studying the idiom of Anna and-of Deborah, became conversant during her solitary vigils with the lofty conceptions of the seers of Israel, or whether she received from the sanctifying Spirit, who had so richly endowed her, a breath of poetic inspiration like the harmonious breezes which swept the Aeolian harp of the Royal Prophet, it must be acknowledged that the youthful prophetess, who gave to the New Law its finest canticle, could not have been a stranger to the sweetest or the most sublime inspirations of genius. (According to the ancient traditions, David had a harp, which played by night when a certain wind came to blow.)

 

Mary was not a mere common girl, and must have united to unequaled sanctity talents of the highest order.  But this brilliant aspect of her character was scarcely perceptible, so carefully did she cover it with her angelic modesty.  Knowing the delicate duties and real interests of, her sex, she shrank from all display, and passed silently along the way of life, like some fair star gliding through the clouds.  The rich treasures of her mind and heart were but partially revealed on earth, but were like the roses hidden beneath a veil whose gentle perfume is felt.

 

Mary had bound herself to the horns of the altar by a vow of virginity which her infant lips could barely articulate, and which her heart subsequently ratified, with perfect renunciation of the pomps and Vanities of the world.  There were vows, which by Law could be redeemed by paying a set amount to the Temple.  As an earlier Anna or Hannah, when bringing her young son Samuel to be brought up in the Temple consecrated to God, "loaned' him to the Temple .

 

By her vow, Mary crossed the boundary which divides the old law from the new, and plunged so deep into the sea of virtue, that one might think she had already sounded its depths when her divine Son came to reveal it to the children of men.

 

God does not alter his course abruptly.  He announces and prepares long beforehand the great events, which are to change the aspect of the world.  A precursor was required for the Messiah, and one was found in the New Law, and the virtues of Mary were to the Gospel what the fresh and roseate dawn is to the risen day.

 

The Virgin, according to a fourth-century bishop, was not of tall stature, though somewhat above the middle height; her face was of that soft hazel color.  Her person wasp in fine, a casket worthy of the prize it contained, and was, like it, truly beautiful.

 

But it was not to the assemblage of physical perfections that Mary owed the power of her beauty; it emanated from a higher source.  This was well understood by St. Ambrose when he said that her charm was but a transparent veil which disclosed all her virtues; and that her soul, the noblest and the purest that ever was, after the soul of Jesus Christ, revealed itself fully in her look.  The fathers, in their glowing descriptions of Mary's loveliness, dwelt particularly on the charms of her mind:

 

“If we could-form a mosaic of the gems, which hail her qualities,

 it would go something like this:

 

“She was kind, affable, compassionate, and never tired

 of hearing the complaints of the wretched;

 

“She spoke little, always to the point, and never did falsehood defile her lips.

Her voice was mild and penetrating, and her words were like a

soothing unction, which infused peace into the soul.

 

“She was first in vigils, most exacting in fulfilling divine law;

The most profound in humility, the most perfect in every virtue.

 

“She was never seen in anger; never offended, annoyed, or rebuked anyone.

 

“She was averse to all pomp; simple in her apparel, simple in her manners,

 and never turning to her own account the uses of her beauty,

her noble birth,   or the rich treasures of her mind and heart.

 

“Her politeness was no idle formula, and held no empty words; it was

 an expansion of universal beneficence proceeding from her inmost soul.

 

“Her presence seemed to sanctify all around.

Already her look denoted the Mother of Mercy.”

 

Although she had but little of this world's wealth, yet Mary was bountiful towards the poor, and her childish alms fell often unperceived into the poor-box attached to one of the pillars of the per style, the same into which Jesus, in after-times, saw the widow drop her mite.

 

St. Ambrose reveals the pure and sacred source whence Mary derived her alms.  She deprived herself of much; even her fasts were made profitable to the poor.  The fasts observed by the Virgin were not like our northern fasts, which last but for a sin-le morning, and are confined to the abstaining from certain kinds of food; it was a total abstinence from all things, for a full day which began at sunset and continued the whole of the next day till the stars were in the sky; for a Jewish day extends from one sunset until the next.

 

Her meditations were frequent, and her prayer so collected, so attentive, so profound that her soul seemed to melt in adoration before the Eternal God.  Hers was a sublime gift of contemplation.  Her mind, in accordance with her heart, never lost sight of Him Whom she loved more ardently than all the seraphim put together.  Her whole life was but a continual exercise of the purest love of God, and when sleep weighed down her eyelids, her heart still watched and prayed.

 

Such were the virtues, such the occupations of Mary in the Temple .  She shone amongst her young companions like a rich diamond which, placed amidst other precious stones, and effaces them all by its splendor. Hence men who had grown gray in the priesthood would murmur a blessing when she passed by, and consider her as the fairest ornament of the holy house.

 

The history of the Virgin is as barren and full of gaps as is the childhood of our Lord himself.  And that of St. Ann , after the elaborate descriptions of her late maternity and the outpouring of her gratitude, is barely mentioned again.  However, it is certain that the mother who had obtained her blessed daughter after so many fasts and tears, who had so lovingly watched over her infancy and had brought her in her arms to the Lord and had laid her weeping in his sanctuary, would not have remained nine years without seeing her child again.

 

The outer buildings of the Temple where the consecrated children were brought up could not have been closed against their mothers.  All nations declare the sacredness of the rights of a mother, and indeed that other Anna, the mother of Samuel, freely visited her son in the Temple on solemn days, and she never failed to bring a tunic spun by her own hands to the young prophet whom she had returned to the Lord.

 

Let us look at them for a moment in I Samuel 2:

 

“Hannah said to the priest Elite For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me my petition, which, I made to Him.  Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.

 

“And the boy ministered to the Lord, in the presence of Eli the priest.

 

“Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy, girded with a linen ephod.  And his mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. (The priest blessed them, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters).”

 

It is then almost certain that St. Ann , the mother of Mary, in company with her husband came to see the child Mary as often as piety drew her to the temple, and that she also sat up, by the light of her lamp or the silvery radiance of the moon, to spin the virginal robes of her child.

 

It is thought that St. Joachim and St. Ann returned to their home after the presentation of Mary, and that they remained there for some years before their final settlement in Jerusalem.  Joachim, who was not an artisan like Joseph, seems to have cultivated the small patrimony, which he had inherited, and enjoyed that happy mediocrity for which sages and poets have ever sighed when weary of the great world. Churches have been erected in Sephoris, in Nazareth , and in Jerusalem on sites supposed to have formed part of his inheritance.  But the vineyard or farm of his fathers must have been in the vicinity of Sephoris; hence his return to Lower Galilee .

 

Joachim was a true Israelite, strongly attached to the Law of Moses.  He went to the Temple on every solemn festival with his wife and some of their kinsfolk, according to the custom of the Hebrews; and it is likely' that the desire of seeing his daughter made him still more eager to visit there.  How joyously did they set out for the Holy City! With what emotion did they hail the tower of Antonia rising to their view in the distance, near journey's end?

 

When evening came and the sacerdotal trumpets summoned the people to the ceremony, Ann would hasten to make devotions to the Lord, and to catch a glimpse of the dear daughter whom she had not seen for weeks, or sometimes months.  The courtyard had no other covering than the sky, and the dazzling radiance of its candelabras (which were of gold and 50 cubits high) mingled with the glimmering light of stars.  Thousands of lights gleamed beneath the porticoes, garlands of fresh flowers were wreathed around the pillars, and the chief priests walked through the crowd with their splendid ornaments, brought by the caravans from India.  Murmurs of prayer went up like the voice of many waters from that multitude of Hebrews assembled from as far away as the banks of the Nile, the Tiber and Euphrates , come here to bend the knee before the only altar of their fathers' God.

 

In the midst of this immense concourse of native and foreign believers, Ann, absorbed in prayer, raised her head but for a moment; this was when Mary and her young companions passed, veiled and robed in white, with lamps in their hands, like the wise virgins of the gospel.

The festival over, having blessed and embraced Mary, they took their homeward way through the mountains; slowly did they depart from Jerusalem bearing the joyous reminiscences of their brief visit.

 

When years and toil had exhausted Joachim's strength, so that he was no longer able to cultivate his ground, he began to think of moving nearer to his daughter.  Accordingly, he and his spouse bade a last farewell to Lower Galilee and took up their abode in Jerusalem , in the neighborhood of the Temple.  Ann was then at the summit of her wishes; she could both serve the Lord in His holy house, and see her daughter frequently.  St. Ann might have shortened the duration of their separation, as the Law of Moses would accept compensations, but this she would not do.  Her gratitude to God spoke still louder than her maternal tenderness, and when the voice of religion made it heard that of nature became silent.

 

The Virgin had been nine years in the service of the Temple when the first cloud fell upon her young life, as her beloved father Joachim the just, fell ill, and was about to leave the little family for other worlds.  He smiled benignly on his kinfolk, his friends and neighbors gathered around, for he was loved much.  When bodily weakness gave him to understand that time was short, the holy old man confessed his sins aloud in the presence of all, according to the custom of the Hebrews, and offered up his death to the Supreme Judge in expiation of the faults inherent in nature, from which even the just are not exempt.

 

This duty accomplished, Joachim asked for his daughter, in order to give her his blessing.  It was customary from the very times of the patriarchs for the dying father to bless his children, and Mary had to conform to this custom.  Her seclusion in the Temple was not monastic, and St. Joachim then resided in Jerusalem.  Mary came, and her ardent prayers for the soul of her father were heard.  Then the old man left in holy peace.

 

As he bowed his head at last, the lamentations began, according to Hebrew custom. Crying and wailing, they tore their hair, and covered their heads with ashes and rent their garments, whilst some of the matrons placed a thick veil over his face.  Then having washed the body in water mingled with myrrh and dried Rose leaves, those pious women wrapped it up in a linen shroud which they tied round with bands after the manner of Egypt.  Having then opened all the doors and windows of the house, they lit near the corpse a brazen lamp with several sockets.

 

On the following day a numerous train, of which the flute players were conspicuous, stopped before the house', and the funeral procession began, the mourners chanting psalms, their noisy lamentations accompanied by the soft wailing sound of the flutes.  Ann and Mary accompanied the mourners, walking with downcast eyes among the matrons of their family.  Having then committed to the earth the holy remains of the just man, they rolled to the mouth of the sepulchral cave an enormous stone, which no man was to remove under pain of excommunication.  Thus terminated the earthly existence of the grandsire of Jesus, according to the flesh.

 

This was Mary's apprenticeship in sorrow, the first affliction of her life.  Yet, though she wept, there was within her the wisdom of the ages, and she did not weep for long, knowing that her father lived.

 

They followed faithfully the customs of their people.  Mourning was an elaborate affair, with certain regulations attending.  They must put on tight robes made of haircloth, their head and feet bare, their face concealed in a fold of their robes fasting and abstaining, they remained for seven days seated on the ground, weeping and lamenting with their kindred and praying for the departed one's soul.

 

When the seven days were ended, Ann had lamps lit in the synagogue, and prayers offered up for her husband, giving alms in proportion to her means.

 

According to some authorities, Ann survived Joachim but a very short time. (Yet there are other stories too).  When Mary was again called to the home of her parents, St. Ann gathered all her failing strength to bless her daughter, and recommend her to her friends.  But most of all she commended her to the Father in heaven, and then calmly slept the sleep of the just.

 

It was at this period of sorrow, of isolation and lonely watching, that a historian has placed the time of 'Mary's vow of perpetual virginity; in fact, we do not find certainty that either Ann or Joachim knew of that vow, and without their knowledge it was not valid in the eyes of the law, either civil or religious.  It was, therefore, after their death that Mary chose the Lord for her portion, and devoted herself to His service without any limitation of time, says Bernardine de Busto, and with the intention of remaining always in the Temple.  Of course, there is no certainty that she actually made such a vow, but the conjecture has become increasingly accepted.

 

It is known that Nazareth men did bind themselves, for specified periods, to observe chastity and other forms of abstinence and to restrain from cutting their hair.  But it is not known whether a vow similar to that of the Nazarenes existed for women as well as for men.  Vows were respected among the Jews, as they were about religion.

 

It could well have been the very year of Mary's birth when Herod announced his intention to rebuild the Temple, for as she grew up the building was also being renewed and the parallelism here has its own symbolic value for the meditative heart.

 

Mary must have been about 12 years old when the solemn opening the Dedication, took place at Pentecost, in the midst of a crowd of spectators and to the accompaniment of an unheard magnificence.  It became ready to receive worshippers in the same period that she came near the conceiving of our Lord, and the Temple of the living God was being built along with that of stone and cedar wood.  Nor did the Temple of Jerusalem long outlast the events-for the figure and symbol of the True ark had served Its' purpose when the reality came in the person of the Messiah and his mother.

 


 

   Marriage of the Virgin

 

Here are two separate Apocryphal accounts of the ' marriage of Mary and Joseph.  They do not agree on her age, and are undoubtedly exaggerated in other respects, such as calling all the people of Israel , and according different names to the high priest.

 

Gospel of St. James:

 

“And when she was twelve years old, there was a council of the priests, sayings Behold Mary is become twelve years old in the temple of the Lord.  What then shall we do with her? Lest she pollute the sanctuary of the Lord   And they said unto the high priests Thou standest over the altar of the Lord.  Enter in and pray concerning her: And whatsoever the Lord shall reveal to thee, that let us do.

 

“And the high priest took the vestment with the twelve bells and went in unto the Holy of Holies and prayed concerning her.  And lo, an angel of the Lord appeared saying unto him: Zacharias, Zacharias, go forth and assemble them that are widowers of the people, and let them bring every man a rod, and to whomsoever the Lord shall show a sign, his wife shall she be.

 

“And the heralds went forth over all the country round about Judea , and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and all men ran thereto.

 

“And Joseph cast down his adze and ran to meet them, and when they were gathered together they went to the high priest and took their rods with them.  And he took the rods of them all and went into the temple and prayed.  And when he had finished the prayer he took the rods and went forth and gave them back to them: and there was no sign upon them.

 

“But Joseph received the last rod and lo, a dove came forth of the rod and flew upon the head of Joseph.  And the priest said unto Joseph: Unto thee hath it fallen to take the Virgin of the Lord and keep her for thyself.

 

“And Joseph refused, saying I have sons, and I am an old man, but she is a girl: lest I became a laughing-stock of Israel .

 

“And the priest said unto Josephs Fear the Lord thy God, and remember what things God did unto Dathan and Abiram and Korah, how the earth clave and they were swallowed up because of their gainsaying.  And now fear thou, Joseph, lest it be so in thine House.

 

“And Joseph was afraid, and took her to keep her for himself.  And Joseph said unto Mary: Lo: I have received thee out of the Temple of the Lords and now do I leave thee in my house, and I go away to build my buildings and I will come again unto thee.  The Lord shall watch over thee.

 

 

   

Then from the Pseudo-Gospel of Matthews Ch. VIII:

 

“Now it came to pass, that when she was fourteen years of age, this gave occasion to the Pharisees to say that according to custom a woman of that age could not remain in the Temple of God, a decision of this kind was come to, that a crier should be sent among all the tribes of Israel; saying that all should meet on the third day, at the Temple of the Lord.

 

“Now when all the people had met, Abiathar, the high priest, arose, and ascended to the upper step, so that he could be heard and seen by all the people; and when great silence was made, he said; hear me O children of Israel, and receive my words in your ears.  Since Solomon built this Temple, there have been therein virgins the daughters of kings, and the daughters of prophets, and of high priests, and of priests, and they have been great and admirable.  But when they have come to a lawful age, they have been given in marriage to husbands, and have followed the course of their precursors, and have pleased God.

 

“But by Mary, alone, a new order of life has been invented, and she promised God that she would remain a Virgin.  Wherefore it seems to me, that by our inquiry and the answer of God, we should seek to know to whom she ought to be committed to be kept.

 

“Then his saying pleased the synagogue.  And the lot, which did the priests, for the twelve tribes, cast and the lot fell upon the tribe of Judah .

 

“And the priests said, on the next day, let whoever is without a wife come and bring a rod in his hand.

 

“Wherefore it came to pass, that Joseph brought a rod along with the younger men.  And when they had delivered their rods to the high priest, he offered sacrifice to the Lord God, and asked of the Lord and the Lord said to him, Put the rods of all in God's Holy of Holies, and there let the rods remain, and bid them come to thee in the morning to receive their rods, and to him from the top of whose rod a dove shall come forth and fly to heaven, and in whose hand the rod, when returned, shall give this sign, Mary shall be delivered to be kept.

 

“Now on the next day, when they all came early, and an offering of incense had been made, the high priest went into the Holy of Holies and brought out the rods.  And when he had given a rod to each, and a dove had not gone forth from any, the chief priest arrayed himself, with twelve bells and a priestly robe and went in to the Holy of Holies and burned sacrifice and poured out Prayer there.

 

“And an angel of God appeared, saying, There is here a very short rod which thou hast counted for nothing, and hast placed it with the rest, but hast not taken it out with the rest, when thou hast taken that out and given to him to whom it belongs, there shall appear in it the sign which I have spoken to thee of.

 

 

“It was the rod of Joseph, and because he was old, he was as it were discarded, as though he could not receive it; but neither would he himself ask for his rod.  And when he stood, humble, and the last, the chief-priest with a loud voice cried to him, saying, Come Joseph, and receive thy rod, because thou art waited for.

 

“And Joseph came fearing, because the high priest called him with so very loud a voice; but straightway as he stretched out his hand to receive his rod, immediately a dove went forth from its top, whiter than snow and most beautiful, and fluttering a long time among the pinnacles of the Temple, at last it flew towards the heavens.

 

“Then all the people congratulated the old man, saying, Thou art become blessed in thine old age, father Joseph, in that God hath shown thee fit to receive Mary.

 

“And when the priests had said to him, Take her, for out of all the tribe of Judah thou alone art elected by God, Joseph began with modesty saying, I am old and have sons, and why do ye deliver to me this little child, whose age is less even than of my grandchildren?

 

“Joseph answered him, I do not condemn the will of God, indeed, but I will be her keeper until I know this by the will of God, - which of my sons can have her to wife.  Let there be given her certain virgins of her companions for a solace, with whom she may meanwhile abide.

 

“Abiathar the chief priest answered, saying, Five virgins shall be given, indeed, for her solace, until the day appointed cometh in which thou shalt take her, for she cannot be joined to another in matrimony.”

 

* * * * * * * * *

 

Mary was probably 14, or 15 at the most, when she was betrothed to Joseph.  It was at this age the daughters of Israel married.  As soon as they were marriageable they became engaged, and it was common for a woman of 30 to be a grandmother. To quote the Talmud, "Iran was created that he might procreate."

 

When the Virgin had reached the age of somewhere between 12 and 14 and was told she must leave the Temple to be married, she explained to the priests her distress, for she had earnestly desired to remain betrothed only to God, and it was not her wish to marry.

 

But celibacy was not considered of merit in the Old Testament days for, "The inheritance of the Lord are children; the reward, the fruit of the womb." Psalm 127s3. (Ps. 126 in Catholic Bibles)

 

Deut. 7:14 --

 

"Blessed shalt thou be among all people.  No one shall be barren among you of either sex." Alternate stories from other sources claim that, the young mature Joseph, ever virgin like Mary: was poor and that Anna helped them establish a home, she being still alive.

 

* * * * * *

 

Or an older widowed Joseph with grown children had a home (not at Bethlehem ) and took the orphaned Mary from the Temple to look after her.  She had the ancestral home, which must be put in charge of a close relative, Joseph.  He also had a home and a carpenter business.  Neither of them had a house, at Bethlehem ; nor there would have been a problem.

 

* * * * * *

 

The information, which can be gathered about marriages among the Jews, confirms what the Gospel tells us.  Considering his wisdom and prudence, it seems likely that Joseph was already a man of mature years; and this seems confirmed by the fact that he died before the public life of our Lord began.  Marriages between persons of widely differing ages were common among the Jews then.

 

It was the law that a daughter with property must marry within her own tribe. "No patrimony in Israel shall pass from tribe to tribe, but every Israelite shall retain hit father's patrimony...

Numbers 36:7  --  "An heiress may marry a man from any family in her father's tribe.

 

It appears that a poor woman with no inheritance might marry into another tribe if requested.  A woman usually retained no inheritance for herself, as she became the ward of the nearest male kin of her father or husband.

 

Whether Joachim on his deathbed had placed the Virgin under the special protection of the priesthood; or that the magistrates who took care of orphans had themselves chosen guardians for her in the powerful family of Aaron, to which she was related by the mother's side; or that the tutelage of children devoted to the service of the Temple belonged of right to the Levites, it is certain that Mary, after the death of her parents, had guardians of the sacerdotal tribe.

 

It is probable (and Arab traditions say so) that the cares of this tutelage devolved chiefly on Zachary: the holy spouse of St. Elizabeth, whose high reputation and near relationship entitles him to that office.  The alacrity wherewith the Blessed Virgin traversed all Judea, some time thereafter to assist and congratulate the mother of St. John the Baptist, and her prolonged sojourn in the mountains of Hebron. Seem indeed to indicate a closer connection than that of mere relationship; the roof which sheltered Mary for so long a time must have been, according to the rigorous propriety of the Hebrews, as sacred to her as the paternal roof.

 

Whoever the priests might be that were honored with the tutelage of the blessed daughter of St. Ann , they scrupulously acquitted themselves of the obligations of their charge; and, when the Virgin had attained her fifteenth year, they began to think of providing her with a suitable husband.  This project gave Mary the utmost uneasiness; that soul, so lofty and pure, so contemplative had anticipated that virginity would be the most perfect, holy and desirable of all states.  An ancient author states that she long refused, with much modesty, to accede to the proposal made her, and that she humbly entreated her family to consent to her remaining in the Temple and leading a life of innocence, of seclusion, and of freedom from all ties except those of the Lord.

 

Her demand was wholly unaccountable to those who had care over her.  They could not understand her imploring as a favor that barrenness which was considered disgraceful, and was solemnly condemned by the law of Moses - the celibacy of an only child, if such she was, involving the total extinction of her father's name - a thought which was almost impious amongst the Jews, who considered it the greatest misfortune if their name were not perpetuated in Israel.

 

As to the vow of virginity to which she had bound herself, she could make little excuse since it might be annulled by a decision of the family-council.  Hence it was that the Virgin's supplications found little sympathy even amongst the priests of Jahweh.  Such yearnings were beyond their reach, with all their learning and wisdom; to them the soul of Mary was a sealed book.  Her thought was in advance of her age, and the time in which she lived.  But, even then, how could she have succeeded in this, which was contrary to the wish of God?

 

For it was the will of the Father that her marriage with a just man, who was to render testimony to the purity of her life, should screen her from the importunities of the young Hebrews, who might have sought her hand despite all declarations.  "God would give to her divine Son a protector in the hour of peril, and one who would be the means of hiding the mystery of the Incarnation from the scrutiny of a perverse world.

 

The disciples of Moses, who lived for so many ages in anxious expectation of the Melech-Hamaschiak, the Messiah King, were not at liberty to reject the bonds of marriage.  She owed a son to the ambitious piety of her family, who would not have renounced. For all the treasure of the great king, the hope of one day numbering amongst themselves the Liberator of Israel.

 

According to the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, and the Proto-gospel of St. James, the guardians of the Blessed Virgin, regardless of her remonstrance, convoked a meeting of her nearest relations of the race of David and the tribe of Juda, like herself, in order to proceed to the choice of the husband whom they imposed upon her.  Amongst those who were entitled to aspire to her hand, there were a number of young Israelites, some handsome and brave, others the possessors of fertile lands, vineyards, flocks and groves of olives.  The captains of Juda would have added to Mary's portion a part of the spoils and slaves taken in battle; and the merchants would have offered many other gifts from the rich markets of the East.  But these were all weighed in the balance and found wanting.  Despising the advantages of youth, rank, wealth, or martial glory, the ancients of her house fixed their choice on a man of advancing age, an older patrician whose fortune had been swallowed up in the political revolutions and religious wars of Judea as the sea absorbs a drop of rain.

 

This poor but highborn man was, according to the Proto-gospel of St. James, a widower, but according to St. Jerome had never been married, --this man of years was Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth.

 

We might be astonished at this decision of her family, were we not informed by the fathers that Joseph was chosen by lot and by the express manifestation of divine Will.  Only Joseph had gazed upon her with purity free from desire for young beauty.  An ancient tradition, inserted in the Proto-gospel of James and mentioned by St. Jerome, relates that the candidates, after having invoked Him Who decides lots, left each his own almond-tree rod in the Temple in the evening, and that next day the dry and withered branch of Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Nathan, was found green and blossomed like that which had of old secured the priesthood to the Aaronites – as told in the 17th chapter of Numbers:

 

 The Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the people of Israel , and get from them rods, one for each fathers' house, from all their leaders, according to their fathers' houses, twelve rods.

 

 “Write each man a name upon his rod, and write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi. For, there shall be, one rod, for the head of each fathers' house.  Then you shall deposit them in the tent of meeting before the testimony where I meet with you.  And the rod of the man whom I choose shall sprout; thus I will make to cease from Me the murmurings of the people of Israel , which they murmur against you."

 

“Moses spoke to the people of Israeli and all their leaders gave him rods, one for each leader, according to their fathers' houses, twelve rods; and the rod of Aaron was among their rods.  And Moses deposited rods before the Lord in the tent of the testimony.

 

 “And on the morrow Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds, and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.

 

“Then Moses brought out all the rods from before the Lord to all the people of Israeli and they looked, and each man took his rod.  And the Lord said to Moses, "Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their murmurings against Me, lest they die." Thus did Moses, as the Lord commanded him, so he did.”

 

How often do we find Biblical parallels?  The history of Mount Carmel states that at sight of Joseph's rod, a young and wealthy patrician who ardently desired to wed the Virgin, seeing the loss of his hopes broke his own rod in pieces with every sign of despair, and hastened to shut himself up in one of the eaves of Carmel with the disciples of Elias and lived thereafter as a hermit.  This young candidate for the Virgin's hand, who was named Agabust afterwards became a Christian, it is said, and was famous for his sanctity.

 

When the guardians had made their choice, they announced it to Mary, and the young Virgin, accustomed only to the life of the magnificent Temple with its works for the multitude, its fancy appointments, melodious song, redolent incenses, and the lights of golden candelabra--all the pageants of the holy house--hesitated not a moment in devoting herself to an obscure life with its menial occupations and arduous cares, with the humble artisan chosen by her friends.  A divine revelation had, they say, made known to her that this just man would be to her only a protector, a father, and the guardian of her chastity.  What would she more?  The Lord had heard her prayer.  While leaving her faithful to the vow, which she had made, he gave her, in merit of obedience, a godly companion.

 

Though their marriage may have come to some as a surprise, yet none could have thought it any way improper.  A mechanical trade, while not holding distinguished rank in the state, yet was not considered degrading to the simple ways of Israel .  In fact, a master craftsman was to be regarded with due respect.  Included in the genealogy of the tribe of Juda were workers in fine flax, potters, and many others.  What is more, every father of a family, whatever might be his social position, was bound to make his son learn some means of livelihood, unless, said the laws he would make him a thief.  Those Jews, whose patrimony had passed into the hands of strangers, had no other alternative than to quit the country or support themselves by the labor of their hands, awaiting the arrival of that grand epoch which would restore a property to its original owners.

 

Unlike Egypt and India. Israel had no castes.  Her pride was based on her religious belief, and descent from the patriarchs.  "To be the issue of Abraham according to the flesh," says the great Sousset, "was a distinction beyond all others." In fact, the lowest of the Hebrews was held as a prince in comparison with strangers.  There were however, amongst the Jews as amongst other nations and tribes, some houses more noble than others.  The tribe of Juda, which carried the national standard at the head of the embattled thousands of Israel, and with whom the scepter was to remain till the coming of the Messiah, had long held preeminence and the family of David was the first and most honored amongst the families of Juda.

 

Now Joseph, though poor, was of the Davidic race.  The blood of twenty kings flowed in his veins, and it was Zorobabel, one of his ancestors, who brought back the people of God from the land of exile.  The splendor of his house since then had gradually declined, his family had become identified with the people, like that of Moses and of Samuel, but its illustrious origin was not forgotten.

 

Joseph was a simple and unpretentious lad, whose main inclinations were toward prayer and the performance of handicrafts.  He worked with an old carpenter from the Essenes, who taught him the use of tools. This did not concur with the wishes of his parents that he undertakes some worldly profession, in which he had no inclinations. He was devout and well-loved, but was retiring and avoided women.

 

If we regard this union from a higher point of view, we find that it was in fact a noble alliance.  "Man judges by appearance says the Scripture, "but Jahweh beholds the heart."

 

The Virgin was not confided to the most powerful, but to the most worthy; thus the ark, which the princes and captains of Israel dared not touch for fear of being stricken with death, drew down the blessing of heaven on the house of a simple Levite wherein it was sheltered.

 

On the occasion of the marriage contract, a young Hebrew Virgin received from her relatives only the necessary apparel. It was the husband who gave the dowry; and Joseph, in presence of the guardians and some witnesses, presented her with a small piece of money, the value of which is not now known, saying, "If thou consentest to become my wife, accept this pledge." Mary, by accepting the gift, was solemnly bound, and thence forward nothing but a formal divorce could restore her to freedom.

 

These betrothals, or espousals carried most of the rights of marriage, except for residence in the bridegroom's homes or for physical contact.  In the case of virgins, it was required to wait one year before consummating the marriage, and with widows, one month.  However, if conjugal relations were entered into during this period, the child was regarded as legitimate.

 

The contracted couple was required to remain faithful to one another during this period and any infidelity was regarded as adultery.  If the adulteress, were openly accused by her husband, she was stoned to death, the same as if they were fully married.  Certain of the Scribes drew up, the contract.  The husband promised to honor his wife, to provide for her support, according to the custom of Hebrew husbands, and secured to her a dowry of two hundred zuses, being just the same for the daughter of a prince as for the daughter of a mechanic, but it might be increased according to the wealth of the husband.  After having insured this dowry by pledging all his possessions, and even his cloak, which nevertheless, the law, did not allow to be claimed until after his death, Joseph signed the contract to which Mary likewise affixed her signature. A short benediction in honor of God terminated this ceremony, which took place several months before that of the marriage.

 

After the festivities of the wedding Mary returned to her old home in Nazareth with some of the maidens.  They spent the first night at Bethoron, and made the journey on foot.

 

According to the Apocryphal Pseudo-Yiatthew, Chapter VIII:

"Then Joseph took Mary with five other virgins, who were to be with her in the house of Joseph. Now these virgins were Rebecca, Zipporah, Susanna, Abigea, and Cael, whom was given by the high priest, silk and blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and flax.  And they cast lots among themselves what each virgin should do; and it fell out that Mary received the purple for the veil of the Temple of the Lord.

 

"When she had received it, the virgins said, since thou art the last, and humble, and less than all, thou hast deserved to receive and obtain the purple.  And saying this, as though, in vexatious speech, they began to call her, the queen of virgins.  Therefore, while they did thus among themselves, an angel of the Lord appeared among them saying unto them, that saying shall not be uttered for vexing, but

prophesied for a most true prophecy.  Therefore, being terrified at the presence of the angel and at his words, they asked her to pardon them and pray for them.”

 

Joseph went to Bethlehem after the wedding, for he had to settle some family affairs, and he did not return to Nazareth until later.  But as an elder brother of Joseph lived in Galilee , it was here that he eventually turned his steps.

 

It was later that the marriage of the Blessed-Virgin was solemnized in Jerusalem, and the most dignified members of her family made it their duty to appear on the occasion, with all that magnificence so characteristic of the East, and which excites the wonder of European travelers - even the common people exhibiting at such times the most unheard of splendor.

 

Not to invite all their relatives, on an occasion so solemn, would have been tantamount to rejecting the ancient customs of their fathers; a thing, which could not happen amongst that traditional people; as unchanging in its customs as in its religious practices.  For this would have outraged all the observances of Hebrew society and the presence of Mary at the wedding of Cana proves that she conformed to them.

 

Marriages amongst the Jews were not celebrated indiscriminately on any day of the week, we are told; they were usually solemnized at the time of a new moon, and Wednesday was preferred above other days.  The church believes this marriage took place on the 22 of January, though the 23rd or some favors the 24th.

 

It was a bright winter's day, and the new moon was slowly rising behind the mountains, when a long train-of richly dressed women was seen to approach the place where Mary then was dwelling.  The light of the torches borne by servants flashed on the jeweled ornaments worn on such a special occasion.  They were ushered into the inner room, where the young and holy bride was seated in company with some pious matrons of her family.

 

Belonging to Jewish society with whom the bridal adornment was a Biblical reminiscence, and could not properly be dispensed with, Mary was obliged to submit for a while to the usual requirements although it had no charms for her.  Gold, pearls, and rich fabrics are not in themselves reprehensible, it is only the thought of pride and vanity, which they engender in weak minds that demand caution.  Her wedding gown, is said to have been preserved, taken to Constantinople in 461, and given to the Cathedral at Chartres in 877.

 

Instead of the pointed golden crown worn by brides of the more opulent classes, there was placed on Mary's fair tresses a simple wreath of myrtle, which in spring would have been intertwined with Roses.  Her bridal veil covered her from head to foot, and floated around her head like a cloud.

 

A canopy of precious stuff, borne by four young Hebrews, awaited the bride outside her dwelling.  Mary was placed there between two matrons, the one on the right representing her mother, the other may have been Mary the wife of Cleophas, who was an older brother of Joseph.  After them came all the nuptial train, waving palm and myrtle branches in token of rejoicing.  The procession moved along to the sound of cymbals, harps and flutes playing grave and simple airs in concert, not unlike the choirs of David.  Then came the bridegroom, his brow adorned with a fantastic crown peculiar to his people.  This was said to contain a mysterious lesson, and was composed of salt and sulphur.  The salt was clear as crystals and upon it were traced various characters with the sulphur.  He was surrounded by a number of friends singing a mystic and sublime marriage songs imitated from Solomon's Canticle of Canticles.

 

Now and then young people brought up the rear, performing dances, which were associated in origin with the religious festivals.  Women of Israel, grouped along the wayside, strewed palm-branches before the bride and bridegroom, and now and then they stopped the former to sprinkle her garments with essence of roses.

 

Arrived at Joseph's nuptial dwelling, the friends of the bride and bridegroom cried in chorus, "Blessed be he who cometh!" Joseph covered with his tailed, and Mary with her veil, sat side by side under the canopy, Mary taking the right side   because the Psalmist said, "the queen, thy spouses stood on thy right hand" - and turning towards the south.  The bridegroom placed a ring upon her finger, saying "Behold Thou art my spouse according to the law of Moses and of Israel ." He removed his tailed and threw it over the shoulders of the bride, in imitation of what passed at the marriage of Ruth, who said to Boazo "Spread thy coverlet over thy servant."

One of the nearest kinsmen then poured wine into a cup, tasted it, and then presented it to the new-married pair, blessing God for having created man and woman, and instituted marriage.  Whilst they carried to their lips the sacred marriage-cup, the assistants sang to the God of Israel a hymn, which contained six blessings. Joseph then poured out the remainder of the wine in token of liberality, and the assembly scattered handfuls of wheat as the symbol of abundance; then the cup was broken to pieces by a child.

 

All the assembly surrounding the newly married pair with torches blessed the Lord, and then passed on to the banquet-hall, where they proceeded to choose the king of the feast, who was to be of the sacerdotal race and to preside over the meats and the wines, and to see that the guests did not infringe upon the rules of their religion and propriety.  Joseph and Mary also arose, but one may presume that they paused to exchange a few words, gazing up into the brightly starred firmament to attest to the glory of the Most High. I will respect thee even as the altar of Jahweh", he may have said to her, from which time they would have been as brother and sister within their union.

 

These festivals could last as long as seven days, as in the time of the patriarchs.  After their finish, the relations would ride or walk, to escort them to the home they would occupy, if it were not far off.  In this case the party took leave of them at a fountain about five leagues outside Jerusalem., and they continued alone the rest of the long journey.  On the fifth day, they came near to the fair town of Nazareth, overlooking the fertile valley, and paused to enjoy its peaceful aspect.

 

The travelers went to the house left them by St. Ann, an ancient and mysterious dwelling, partly hollowed from the rock like the prophetic grottoes of former times.  These are low dwellings, communicating with a cave excavated from the side of the mountain.  The women of Nazareth greeted the youthful bride with blessings as she modestly advanced, wrapped up in her veil like Rebecca of old; and Mary, amid the congratulations of those who had seen her in early infancy, entered once more that calm paternal dwelling which seemed still redolent with the good odor of the virtues of Ann and Joachim, warmed and readied by kinfolk for their coming.


 

It is easy to imagine the blessed tranquility in which Joseph and Mary passed the first months of their chaste union.  The peace of God was in and around their humble dwelling, and their labor was sanctified by the time given over to prayer.

 

Joseph wrought at his trade in a house apart from his dwelling.  Tradition places this house of St. Joseph about 130 or 140 paces from that of St. Ann.  The place is still pointed out under the name of Joseph's Workshop.  This workshop, the same in which Jesus himself subsequently worked was a low room, ten to twelve feet in width by as many in length.  St. Ambrose asserts that Joseph worked at the hewing and felling of trees, the building of houses, and other works of that kind.  St. Justin mentions that Jesus helped his adoptive father to make yokes and ploughs.

 

For her part, this gentle and holy helpmate was not idles gifted with an enlightened mind, wise and prudent, seeing the world just as it is, and her own position in its true lights she piously conformed herself to it, and fulfilled with religious fidelity its sacred obligations.  From the moment they took possession of her mother's dwellings she clothed herself with her new role as with a garment sent by God, and became what she ought to be, in the obscure condition to which Providence had reduced her, a humble and unassuming maiden.

 

The brilliant works and elegant display of the Temple were put aside, and replaced by the arduous caress the monotonous occupations of a poor households the repeated tasks that become privileges nonetheless when performed with love.  The delicate hands of Mary, accustomed to handle silken tissues must now plait the date-leaves or reeds into mats, which covered the earthen floor of her dwelling.  Her spindle was more often charged with coarse flax, than with the silks of priestly vestments.  She herself ground the wheat and barley which formed a staple of their diet, and which she kneaded into round loaves, or cakes.

 

Wrapped in her white veil, an antique urn on her head, like the wives of the old patriarchs, she went to draw water from a neighboring fountain, since called Mary's Fountain.  Water was scarce in Nazareth, and she carefully conserved what was needed to wash the garments of Joseph and hers.

 

At nightfall when the birds seek their lofty nests, Mary placed on a clean bright table the, cakes of wheat and barley, the savory dates, milk and cheese, fruits and vegetables.  At sunset when Joseph entered his humble home, tired from the labors of the day, he found his young spouse with water to bathe his feet and fresh clear water from the fountain also in a vase free from all unclean touch, as prescribed in their law for the ablutions necessary before meals.  That grave and simple man, with his fine patriarchal countenances and that angelic maiden so eager to serve him with the solicitude of a tender child, proved themselves worthy of the destiny ahead. Mean while, the hour had come - the hour, which the Eternal had marked out in His divine counsels for the Incarnation of His Son.

 

 

 

Annunciation

But let us go back a space:

The angel Gabriel, one of the four, who stand always before the Lord, received a mysterious mission from the heavenly court.  Assuming one of those radiant coverings of trick air wherewith the celestial spirits clothe themselves when they are to fall under the gross senses of the children of men, the angel spread his vast white wings, his face radiant with benign joy; for he was bearing to earth a message of peace, and the holy angels take much pleasure in the happiness of men.

 

In Exodus 3O: 7

"And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps in the evening, he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before the Lord 'throughout your generations…"

 

Zacharias and Elizabeth lived about five miles outside Hebron , at Jutta.  There was a small farm, and a garden with arbors and a little house.  Zacharias prayed here with his companions among the priests and-taught-the younger of them.  It was near the time of his forthcoming service at the Temple, and he spoke of his heaviness of heart, and of the presentiment that something was about to happen.

 

He went with the people to Jerusalem.  It was four days before it was his turn to sacrifice, and in the meantime he prayed in the Temple.  When his turn came to kindle the incense offering, he went into the sacred place where the golden altar of incense stood in front of the entrance to the Holy of Holies.  The ceiling above it had been opened so that one could see the sky.  The sacrificing priest could not be seen from outside, but the smoke rose up heavenward in the sight of all.  When Zacharias entered the Temple, another priest spoke to him saying,

"Kindle the incense offering."

 

As he went about his function of preparing and lighting the incense, and as the smoke rose, a radiance descended upon him from the right side of the altar, and within it a shining figure approached him. The angel lifted him up and spoke with him for some time, saying, "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God, and am sent to speak unto thee, to show thee these glad tidings."

 

The people marveled that he stayed so long in the Temple, and when he came out he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had had a vision for the angel promised him a child.  When the days of his ministrations were accomplished, he hastened to his home, and soon after, his wife Elizabeth conceived, though they had been childless for many years, and had long prayed for an heir.  Zacharias spoke not again until the child was born, when he asked for a paper and wrote upon it, "His name is John", as the angel had instructed, and only then his tongue was loosed.

From the Book of James X:

“Now there was a council of the priests, and they said Let us make a veil for the Temple of the Lord.  And the priest said Call unto me pure virgins of the tribe of David.

 

“And the officers departed and sought and found seven virgins.  And the priests called to mind the child Mary that she was of the tribe of David and was undefiled before God and the officers went and fetched her.  And they brought them into the temple of the Lord, and the priest said Cast me lots, which of you shall weave the gold and the undefiled (the white), and the fine linen and the silk, and the hyacinthine, and the scarlet and the true purple.  And the lot of the true purple and the scarlet fell unto Mary, and she took them and went unto her house.

 

“(And at that season Zacharias became dumb, and Samuel was in his stead until the time when Zacharias spoke again.)

But Mary took the scarlet and began to spin it.”

 

Book of James XI:

“And she took the pitcher and went forth to fill it with waters and lo a voice sayings Hail, thou that are highly favored: the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

 

“And she looked about her upon the right hand and upon the left, to see whence this voice should bet and being filled with trembling she went to her house and set down the pitcher, and took the purple and sat down upon her seat and drew out the thread.”

 

The sun was declining towards the lofty promontory of Camel, and would soon set behind the horizon of the Syrian Sea , when the angel presented himself in the simple oratory of the blessed Virgin.  Faithful to the religious customs of her people, Mary, her head turned towards the Temple, was then engaged in her evening prayer to the God of Jacob.

 

"Hail, full of grace," said the heavenly messenger bending his radiant head "the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women." Mary was startled at this unexpected intrusion into her solitary prayer, and sought for an answer to this strange visit.

 

The angel, perceiving her thought, said, "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast won favor before God.  And Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a Son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus.  He shall be great and shall be called (the) Son of the Most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father and of his reign there shall be no end."

 

At these words, which would have overwhelmed any Hebrew maiden with joy at being so chosen, the chaste and prudent Mary thought of her virginal hope, which she had desired never to change, and inquired how this prediction was to be reconciled with her vow of perpetual chastity.

 

And she questioned in herself, saying: “Shall I verily conceive of the living God, and bring forth after the manner of all women?  For I am not knowing a man.”

 

The angel proceeded to reveal a part of the divine mystery of the Incarnation.  "The power of the Most High shall overshadow thee," said he, "and the Holy One which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God."

 

Then according to the custom of heavenly ambassadors, he gave her a sign, which would confirm the truth of his words.  And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: because no word shall be impossible with God."

 

Sarah had smiled incredulously at a similar announcement; but Mary believed the divine promise, and without hesitation, humbly submitted her will to God, saying, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to Thy Will.'

 

The opinion was adopted here that Joseph was already the legal spouse of Mary, to explain what is claimed, also by others that she was living in the house of Joseph, at the time of the Annunciation.  The blessed Virgin would have been in an awkward position, being an orphan and alone in the world, yet residing in the home of her betrothed husband, and it would have been against the code of the law as well.

 

Arguments are advanced, that the neighbors and relatives could not have failed to see what Joseph saw, before they were married, and to celebrate a wedding at such a time would not have given the child a fair start.  It seemed the village, fully recognized Joseph as the father of Jesus, and so whatever circumstances surrounded his birth, these were well covered.

 

Mary, upon receiving this new information concerning her relative Elizabeth hastened forth to verify it, knowing this couple were probably the only ones she knew who might understand the news she too had to offer, and Zachary the high priest could help and advise her.

 

Since Mary never went abroad without fitting company, it is probable that she joined some relatives who were going to the Holy City, or a friendly caravan, and that she thus traveled in safe company.  In fact, we always find her traveling with some of her friends, whether in going to Jerusalem, to celebrate the grand festivals, or with the holy women, following Jesus during his missions, at a much later period of her life.

 

Book of James XIII:

"And she made the purple and the scarlet and brought them unto the priest.  And the priest blessed her and said: Mary, the Lord God hath magnified thy name, and thou shalt be blessed among all generations of the earth."

 

And Mary rejoiced and went away unto Elizabeth her kinswoman. Arriving at the sacerdotal town where dwelt Zachary with his wife Elizabeth, Mary went straight to their well-known house and knocked at the door.  Elizabeth, when she heard it, cast down her scarlet wool and came forth to meet this unexpected visitor with every demonstration of joy.  On seeing her approach, the young Virgin bowed down and laying her hand on her heart, gave the customary salutation, "Peace be with you."

 

Elizabeth's countenance changed, the pleased and friendly expression, giving place to one of profound respect.  As the prophetic spirit descended upon her, she suddenly exclaimed, "Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is, the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed art thou that thou hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord."

 

Mary's answer was the sublime Magnificent the first canticle of the New Testament, and the most beautiful.

 

“And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit

Hath exulted in God my Savior

Because He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaid

Yeah behold henceforth all generations shall call me blessed

Because He who is mighty hath wrought great things for me,

and holy is His  Name:

And for generation upon generation is His mercy

Unto them that fear Him.

He hath put forth His arm powerfully:

He hath scattered the proud in their heart's conceit

He hath cast down monarchs from their thrones,

And the lowly He hath exalted.

He hath filled the hungry with goad things, and the rich He hath

sent away empty.  He hath come to the aid of Israel , His servant,

Mindful of His mercy (even as He promised unto our fathers)

To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

 

It was thus the Virgin suddenly saw, by a supernatural light, those ancient prophecies and their perfect accomplishment - herself a thousand times more privileged than all the prophets.  "In that celebrated interview," says St. Ambrose, "Mary and Elizabeth both prophesied by the Holy Ghost, with whom they were filled, and by the merit of their children."

 

The Virgin remained three months in the country of the Hethites, within a short distance of the city of Ain , in the depth of a shady and fertile vale, where Zachary had his country-house.  It was then that the daughter of David - herself too a prophetess, could contemplate at her leisure the starry firmament, and the outlines of the hills.  All the works of nature spoke to her heart of their great Author, and gently animated her soul.  

 

The holy spouse of Zachary had no want of servants.  Both Christians and Jews agree that this family was of distinguished rank, and the illustrious birth of St. John the Baptist could have seemed at first to outshine that of Jesus, whose reputed parents were much more obscure, and lived the life of the common people.

 

The attentions which the mild and amiable Virgin lavished on Elizabeth had in them nothing of servility; they were just such attentions as she would have bestowed on her mother had heaven spared her; and we may suppose that she was often reminded of her own parents by the sight of that devoted and venerable pair who loved her so paternally, and who after that first interview never failed to treat her with profound respect.  The house of Zachary was blessed by housing the Ark of the New Covenant under its roof.

 

We see by the Gospel that Elizabeth was surrounded by her friends on the solemn occasion of the, birth of her son; virgins were not usually present at such times, and since Mary's presence was not mentioned by the gospel at the birth of John the Baptist, it seems she had withdrawn to Galilee, perhaps to escape the knowing eyes of the attending matrons, for indeed her own pregnancy was becoming evident.  Yet it is possible that she remained in seclusion until she might embrace and bless the new Elias, before eventually quitting the mountains of Judea, to make her way back to Joseph in Nazareth .

 

And she abode three months with Elizabeth , and day by day her womb grew and Mary was afraid and departed unto her house and hid herself from the children of Israel.  Now she was sixteen years old when these mysteries came to pass, (according to one author.)

 

The Apocryphal Book of Mary then states that Joseph was at Capernaum at work making tabernacles in the maritime regions: for he was a carpenter.  The Protoevangelion says merely that he was employed in the timber yards.

 

From the Book of James XIII:

“Now it was the sixth month with her, and behold Joseph came from his building, and he entered into his house and found her great with child.  And he smote his face, and cast himself down upon the ground on sackcloth and wept bitterly, saying:  “With what countenance shall I look unto the Lord my God? And what prayer shall I make concerning this maiden? For I received her out of the Temple of the Lord my God, a virgin, and have not kept her safe.  Who is he that hath ensnared me?  Who hath done this evil in mine house and hath defiled the Virgin?  Is not the story of Adam repeated in me? For as at the hour of his giving thanks the serpent came and found Eve alone and deceived her, so hath it befallen me also?”

 

“And Joseph arose from off the sackcloth and called Mary and said unto her: O thou that was cared for by God, why hast thou done this? Thou hast forgotten the

Lord thy God.  Why hast thou humbled thy soul, thou that were nourished up in the Holy of Holies and didst receive food at the hand of an angel?

“But she wept bitterly, saying: I am pure and I know not a man.

 

“And Joseph said unto her whence then is that which is in thy womb?

 

“And she said: As the Lord my God liveth, I know not whence it is

come unto me.

 

XIV: “And Joseph was sore afraid and ceased from speaking unto her, and pondered what he should do with her.  And Joseph said: If I hide her sin, I shall be found fighting against the law of the Lords and if I manifest her unto the children of Israel, I fear lest that which is in her be the seed of an angel, and I shall be found delivering up innocent blood to the judgment of death.  What then shall I do? I will let her go from me privily.”

 

When his mind became calm enough to reflect he found himself in a most painful predicament.  According to the Jewish law, adultery was punished with death.  When there were no witnesses, and the woman denied the crime laid to her charge, she was conducted, by order of the Sanhedrin to the eastern gate of the Temple, and there in presence of all, her veil was torn off, a cord from Egypt was put around her neck to remind her of the miracles which God had wrought in that country, her long hair was spread over her shoulders - because it was a disgrace for a Jewish woman to be seen with her hair disheveled - a priest pronounced a formal malediction, to which she had to answer "Amen", and then presented to her the famous cup of the "waters of jealousy", which was also called the bitter waters, because they had the taste of wormwood.

 

That accursed cup was sure to kill a guilty wife, unless the husband himself had been unfaithful.  In that case, the miracle did not take place, "seeing", said the doctors of Israel , "that it would have been unjust if one criminal were absolved, whilst God Himself punished the other."

 

A hasty or passionate husband might have dragged Mary before the priests; but Joseph being moderate as well as just, never so much as thought of taking such a step.  Being unable to keep Mary under his roof, since the law of honor and the Law of Moses both forbade it, he would simply take all possible precautions to prevent the separation from injuring her character, for he was a just man, and unwilling to expose her to public scorn.  And the son of David was overwhelmed with affliction.

 

Gospel of James XIV:

“And the night came upon him and behold an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, sayings Fear not this child, for that which is in her is of the Holy Spirit, and she shall bear a son and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.  And Joseph arose from sleep and glorified the God of Israel, which had shown this favor unto her; and he watched over her.”

 

 

XV: “Now Annas the scribe came unto him and said to him Joseph,

to whom thou bearest, witness that he is righteous hath sinned grievously.

 

The Pseudo-Gospel of Matthew continues:

 

"But after this there arose a great rumor that Mary was with child.  And Joseph was laid hold of and led by the ministers of the Temple, with Mary, to the chief priest, who together with the priests began to reproach him and to say, Why hast thou wronged her who is such and so eminent a virgin, whom as a dove the angels of God nourished in the temple, and who had the best learning in the law of God?

 

"And Joseph took a solemn oath that he had never touched her at all.

 

"The high priest Abiathar answered him, as God liveth, I will now cause thee to drink the water of the Lord's drinking, and forthwith thy sin will appear.

 

'Then there gathered together a multitude of people which could not be numbered, and Mary was brought to the Temple.

 

"And the priest said: The Virgin whom he received out of the Temple of the Lord, he hath defiled her, and married her by stealth, and hath not declared it unto the children of Israel .

 

“And they brought her together with Joseph unto the place of judgment.

 

"And the priest said; Mary, wherefore hast thou done this and wherefore hast thou humbled thy soul and forgotten the Lord thy God, thou that was nurtured in the Holy of Holies and didst receive food at the hand of an angel and didst hear the hymns and didst dance before the Lord, wherefore hast thou done this?"

 

But she wept bitterly, saying; As the Lord my God liveth I am pure before Him, and I know not a man.

 

And the priest said unto Joseph:  Wherefore hast thou done this?

 

And Joseph said "As the Lord my God liveth I am pure as concerning her."

 

And the priest said "Bear no false witness but speak the truths thou hast married her by stealth and hast not declared it unto the children of Israel, and hast not bowed thine head under the mighty hand that thy seed should be blessed."

 

And Joseph held his peace.

XVII:

“And the priest said "I will give you to drink of the water of the conviction of the Lord, and it will make manifest your sins before your eyes."

 

“And the priest took thereof and made Joseph drink and sent him into the hill-country.  And he returned whole.

 

“He made Mary also drink and sent her into the hill country.  And she returned whole.  And all the people marveled, because sin appeared not, in them.

 

“And the priest said: "If the Lord God hath not made your sin manifest, neither do I condemn you."  And he let them go.  And Joseph took Mary and departed unto his house rejoicing, and glorifying the God of Israel.”

 

After this, remembering the words of the angel, Joseph found himself completely changed.  His humility was not disturbed by the honor which God conferred upon him, in transferring to him the guidance of His only Son; but he was to become a father as well as a spouse, and he thought of nothing more but the care of his divinely ordained charges.

 

Meanwhile the "impious Empire" as the Jews designated it, had planted its eagles even on the farthest shores.  The Romans had caught the Eastern world, as in a net.  The power of Rome was at its height, as Balaam had predicted; and according to the famous prophecy of Jacob, the scepter was departed from Juda. Just then there was published in Judea an edict of Caesar Augustus, ordering all the people to be enrolled.  This census, much more complete than that which took place under his predecessors, comprised not only persons, but also property, and various descriptions of the lands.  It was on this basis that the tribute was to be levied.

 

The Roman governors were charged with the execution of this edict, each in his own department.  Caesar and his agents thought they were performing only an administrative operation, by ascertaining the population and resources of true empire; but God had other designs, which they were made instrumental in executing, though they knew it not.  His Son was to be born in Bethlehem of Juda, the humble birthplace of King David.  He had foretold it, by His prophet, more than seven hundred years before and the entire world was put in motion to accomplish that prophecy.

 

It appears that, faithful to an ancient customs the news still had them enrolled by families and by tribes.  David was born at Bethlehem ; his descendants, therefore, regarded that small city as their native place, and the cradle of their house.  There it was, then, that they assembled to give in their names and the state of their property, conformable to the edict of Caesar.

 

On a dark gloomy morning, in the year of Rome 748, a Nazarene was seen busily engaged in preparing for a journey, which could not be of choice, for the time was unseasonable, and the woman who accompanied him and whom he seated so carefully on the mild and patient animal which the daughters of the east prefers was very young and well advanced in her pregnancy. 

 

To the saddle they attached a basket of palm-leaves containing provisions for the journey; dates, figs, and dried grapes, some barley cakes, and an earthen pitcher for taking water from the spring or the cistern.  A leathern flask, of Egyptian manufacture, hung on the opposite side.  The traveler flung over his shoulder a bag containing some clothes, girded his loins, wrapped himself up in his goat-skin cloak, and holding in one hand his crooked stick, with the other he seized the bridle of the ass which bore his young wife.  Thus they quitted their humble abode, and descended the narrow streets of Nazareth , amid the good wishes of their friends and neighbors, who cried on every side, "Go in peace!"

 

These travelers, Joseph and Mary, who thus set out on that cloudy morning, were the humble descendants of the kings of Juda, and were going, on the order of a pagan and a stranger, to inscribe their obscure names beside the most illustrious names in the kingdom.

 

Never has date been more disputed than that of the birth of Christ.  We adopt that of the authors of a French work, "The Art of Verifying Dates", which seems to us the most correct, and which places the birth of the Savior on the 25th of December in the year of Rome 748.

 

This journey again taken in an inclement season, and in a country like Palestine, was not easy; but with Joseph advancing by her side, meditating on the ancient prophecies which promised a Liberator to his people, and her own anticipation, it was a wondrous experience.  Journeying toward Bethlehe, he reflected on the words of the prophet Michaeas, "And thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda; out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be the Ruler in Israel.

 

Glancing then at his humble equipage and his modest spouse, in her plain unpretending apparel, he revolved in his mind the great prophecies of Isaiah, "He shall grow up as a tender plant before him, and as a root out of the despised and the most abject of man." And the patriarch began to comprehend the designs of God on his Christ.

 

After five days of toilsome journey, the travelers caught a distant view of Bethlehem, the city of kings, seated on a rising ground, amid smiling hills planted with vines, olives, and groves of verdant oaks.

 

Outside the city, but a short distance from its walls, arose a large square building, whose white walls stood out in strong relief from the pale green of the olive-trees, which covered the hill.  It looked like one of the Persian caravan series.  Through its open door were seen many servants coming and going in its vast yard.  This was the inn.

 

Joseph, hurrying the pace of the animal on which the Virgin rode, hastened thither, in hopes of arriving in time to obtain one of those narrow cells, which belonged of right to the first comer, and was never refused to any one; but merchants and travelers were already issuing in crowds from the caravansary.  It could accommodate no more, Gold might, doubtless, have procured admission, but Joseph carried no gold.

 

The evening wind fell cold and piercing on them now, and after several fruitless attempts, the lonely travelers, despairing of obtaining a shelter in the city of their fathers abnormally crowded with home-coming taxpayers, quitted Bethlehem.  Without knowing which way they ought to turn, they advanced through the fields, still partially lighted by the fading twilight, while jackals made the air resound with their shrill cries, as they roamed in search of their prey.  But Joseph knew the area well from his boyhood days, and he set their course toward a hillside.

 

Southward, within a short distance of the inhospitable city, there appeared a cavern, hollowed in the rock.  The entrance was towards the north, and the cave became narrower towards its farther end.  It served as a common stable for the Bethlehemites, and sometimes as a shelt6r for the shepherds on stormy nights.  The pious couple blessed Heaven for having guided their steps towards this rude asylum.

 

It was there, in the fortifications of rock, (As Isaiah had predicted: "The fortifications of rocks shall be his highness.') That just as the rising of the mysterious constellation Virgo announced midnight, the alma of the great Messianic prophecy, amidst the solemn stillness of nature, concealed by a luminous cloud, brought forth him whom God Himself had produced before the hills, and who was begotten from all eternity.  He suddenly appeared, like a sunbeam emerging from a cloud before the eye of his young and astonished mothers and same to take possession of the throne of his poverty, whilst the angels of God, prostrate around, adored him under his human form.

 

The Book of James says:

 

“Now, I, Joseph was walking, and I walked not.  And I looked up to the air and saw the air in amazement.  And I looked up unto the pole of the heaven and saw it standing still, and the fowls of the heaven without motion.  And I looked upon the earth and saw a dish set, and workmen lying by it, and their hands were in the dish and they that were chewing, chewed not, and they that were lifting the food, lifted it not, and they that put it to their mouth, put it not thereto, but the faces of all of them were looking upward.'

 

“And behold there were sheep being driven, and they went not forward, but stood still; and the shepherd lifted his hand to smite them with his staff, and his hand remained up.  And I looked upon the stream of the river and saw the mouths of the kids upon the water and they drank not.  And of a sudden all things moved onward in their course."

 

The virginal childbirth was exempt from cries, as from pains, and no groan disturbed the sacred silence of that right of wonders.  Miraculously conceived, Jesus was born more miraculously still.

 

What he was to say later might have been said now 'the fox has his den, the birds of the air have their nests but the Son of man has not where to lay his head." He was laid in a manger, on a handful of damp straw. God provided a couch for His only Son, as He provides nests for the birds of the air.

 

Mary dealt with him tenderly, and having rubbed the child with salt in the proper manner as prescribed by Hebrew law, she wrapped him tightly in the linen cloth prayerfully woven by her own hands.  Then was the infant adored as she and her holy spouse gazed upon this miracle with wonderment?

 

St. Basils considering the mysteries of that hour, supposes her as thinking, 'What am I to call thee?" "A mortal?  Not so for I conceived thee by divine operation.  A god? But thou hast a human body.  Am I to approach thee with incense, or to offer thee my milk?  Am I to cherish thee as a tender mother, or to serve thee prostrate in the dust?  A marvelous contrast!  Heaven is thy dwelling place, yet I rock thee on my knee!  Thou art on earth, and yet retains thy place in heaven..."

 

Thus were accomplished the great prophecies of Isaiah and Micheas:

“For the shepherds of sheep also declared that they had seen angels at midnight, singing a hymn, praising and blessing the God of heaven, and saying that the Savior of all was born, which is Christ the Lord, by Whom the salvation of Israel will be restored.”

 

Luke 2: 9-14  --

“And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them and they feared with a great fear.  And the angel said to them fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the peoples for this day is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.  And this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lay in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and sayings Glory to God in the Highest; and on earth, peace to men of good will."

 

The marvelous vision had disappeared, the heavenly music had ceased, and the shepherds, leaning on their crooks, still listened for a renewal of those ravishing sounds.  When they could hear nothing more save the night breeze murmuring through the valley, and they could no longer discover in the deep blue sky a single radial point which fancy could convert into an angel, the shepherds took counsel together, and said one to another "Let us go to Bethlehem, and see this word that has come to pass."

 

The village of the shepherds is situated on a very pleasant plain, about a quarter of a league to the north of Bethlehem, and in the depth of the valley is the celebrated field where these shepherds were grazing their flocks on that first Christmas night.

 

Then, leaving the flocks to their own guidance for a while, they set out by the glimmering light of the stars for the little city of David.  At sight of the poor stable, they-felt their hearts burn within them, like the disciples of Emmaus, and they said to each other, "Perhaps this is the place." For they knew that the divine child who was born to them had not seen the light under gilded ceilings, nor was laid in a royally adorned cradle.  The angel had made the announcement clear.  They advanced, then, with faith, hope and love, towards that deserted stable where they well deserved to find the promised Savior, since they came to seek him with pure hearts and single minds.

 

Moreover, from evening until morning, a great star shone above the cave, and one so great had never been seen from the beginning of the world.  And prophets who were in Jerusalem said that this star indicated the nativity of Christ, who should restore the promise, not only to Israel, but to all nations.

 

According to legends there were other miracles, which took place at that time.  The vines of Engaddi blossomed, they say.  And a heathen temple fell, the heathen deities banished.

 

The Virgin, bent over her newborn infant, was regarding him with touching humility and profound tenderness.  Joseph stood close by, his venerable head bowed down before that adopted son who was truly of God.  A ray of moonlight shone on the divine group, and on the reddish wall of rock without, the earth was calmly reposing in the bright silvery light.  The Persians call Christmas night "the clear and luminous night", because of the descent of the angels.

 

"This is the place", said the shepherds, and prostrating themselves respectfully before the manger of the King of kings, they offered to the infant Son their mite and the homage of the poor.

 

There they related the apparition of the angels their ravishing hymns, and their joyful words.  Joseph admired this divine manifestation, and Mary, who heard the simple tale in silence, treasured up every word within her heart.  This duty fulfilled, and their mission ended, the shepherds of Juda retired praising God, and published in the mountains the marvels of that holy night.

 

“Now on the third day after the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the most blessed Mary went out of the cave, and, entering a stable, put her child in a manger, and the ox and ass adored him.  Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, who said, "The ox doth know his owner, and the ass his master's crib."

 

“The very animals, therefore, ox and ass, having him between them, incessantly adored him.  Then was fulfilled that which did Habakkuk the prophet, who said, between two animals thou art made known, speak.  In the same place Joseph tarried with Mary three days.”

 

Perchance it was these tales, told at evening in the skirt of the woods or in deep ravine, whilst the camels drank together at the lonely spring that induced one of the Arab tribes to deify Mary and the child.  The sweet image of the Virgin, with her Son on her knee, was painted on one of the pillars of the Caaba, and solemnly placed amongst the three hundred and sixty deities of the three Arabias.  In the time of Mohammed they were still seen there.

 

On the eighth day after his birth the Son of God was circumcised and named Jesus, according to the command of his heavenly Father. He must have had a godfather, like all the Israelites, but there is no record of the name of that favored man.

 

The ceremony of the circumcision was always performed under the patronage of Elias, (who according to the Hebrews, never failed to assist invisibly).  It took place, says St. Epiphanius, in the very cavern where Jesus was born; and St. Bernard presumes, with much probability, that St. Joseph was the minister on that occasion.

 

The name "Jesus" is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Y'heshua - the latter being a compound of "Y'," (for Yah, the Lord), and the Hebrew "shua," (to be freed.) "Y'shua," the same word as "Joshua," means "salvation," "aid," or "deliverance of the Lord." 'The Lord saves".

 

In later times, Lamsa has mentioned the Hebrew name as being "Yasha," and the Aramaic as "Eshoo," for the name "Jesus."

 

But the spelling can never be exactly transposed, due to difference of language and alphabet.  The general-sound is similar in all these variations.

                                                                                                                             

  The Adoration of the Magi

 

    The European visionary Catherine Emmerich always had visions of the Holy Family on the days set aside by the church for their celebration, but she also received that these were not the correct dates.  As she saw it, Jesus was born a whole month earlier, on November 25, or on the tenth day of Kislev in that year.  15 days later she envisioned Joseph as keeping for several days the Feast of Dedication of the Temple, called the Feast of Lights.  This would accordingly place the Annunciation date at February 25.

 

The episode of the Magi has been considerably developed in the apocryphal literature of Armenia , Syria , and Arabia, as these places had contact with Persia whence had come the mysterious visitors.  Thus one finds certain details expressed differently in the various texts.

 

From the Arabic text:

“In the days of the prophet Moses, there lived a man named Zaradust (Zoroaster) who was the founder of an occult doctrine.

 

“On a certain day, as he was seated by the side of a fountain giving instruction to students of the occult, he interrupted his discourse to say to them: "Behold a virgin shall conceive without having known man.  She shall bring forth a child and, nevertheless, the seal of her virginity will remain unbroken; and these glad tidings shall be known in the seven regions of the earth.

 

“The Jews will crucify this Child in the Holy City that was established by Melchisedech.  He shall visit the regions of the dead and shall then ascend on high.

 

“As a sign that he had been born you, shall see a star in the East, a star brighter than the sun and than all other lights which are in the sky, for as a matter of fact, it will not be a star at all but rather an angel of the Lord.  When you shall see it, then hasten toward Bethlehem.  There you shall adore the newborn King and offer gifts unto him. The star will guide you to him."

 

“Now these words foretold what was to occur, and Joshuah the son of Nun declared that this Zaradust is none other than Salaam the astrologer.  The prophecy was fulfilled in due time.”

 

Protoevangelion XII:

“And behold, Joseph made him ready to go forth into Judaea.  And there came a great tumult in Bethlehem of Judaea: for there came wise men, saying; where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him.

   

“And when Herod heard it he was troubled and sent officers unto the wise men.  And he sent for the high priests and examined them, saying: How is it written concerning the Christ, where he is born?

 

“They say unto him; In Bethlehem of Judaea; for so it is written.  And he let them go.

 

“And he examined the wise men saying unto them: What sign saw ye concerning the king that is born?

 

“And the wise men said: "We saw a very great star shining among those stars and dimming them so that the stars appeared not, and thereby knew we that a king was born unto Israel, and we came to worship him."

 

“And Herod said: "Go and seek for him, and if ye find him, tell me, that I also may come and worship him."

 

“And the wise men went forth.  And lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them until they entered into the caves and it stood over the head of the cave.  And the wise men saw the young child with Mary his mother and they brought out of their script Gifts, Gold and frankincense and myrrh.  And being warned by the angel that they should not enter into Judaea , they went into their own country by another way.”

 

A miracle of high order brought to the crib, soon after the first fruits of converted gentilism.  The shepherds of Juda had led the way it was for kings and sages to follow.

 

In the course of the autumn which preceded the birth of Christ certain of the Chaldean Magi, skillful in the science of the heavenly bodies, discerned a star of the first magnitude, which they recognized, by its extraordinary motions and other unequivocal signs, as that star of Jacob foretold by Balaam so long before; the star which was to rise on their horizon at the coming of the Messiah.

 

The Aramic word for Magi is Magoshey, its root derived from the Persian word "magno", meaning "receptive." According to the ancient traditions of Iran, Zoreasters the restorer of the Magi religion who was a man of science, a great astronomer, and well-versed, moreover in the Hebrew theology, announced, under the immediate successors of Cyrus, and soon after the re-establishment of the Temple, that a divine child, destined to change the aspect of the world, should be born of a pure and immaculate Virgin in the extreme west of Asia.  He added that a star, unknown in their hemisphere, should signalize that remarkable event and that on its appearance the Magi were to set out with presents to that infant King.  Faithful and religious executors of Zoroaster's will, three of the most illustrious sages of the East had no sooner remarked the star than they gave the signal for departure.

  

Leaving behind them the city of Seleucides , with its stately palm-wood buildings, and Babylon , where the mournful desert-wind seemed whispering to the silent ruins the fatal prophecy of the son of Amos, they quitted the land of dates and took the sandy road to Palestine.

 

The best authorities point out Persia as their country, and that opinion seems the most correct.  The names Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazart generally given to the Magi, are Babylonian.  In fact, Babylonia and after it, Seleucia, situated at a short distance, was the seats of the most famous astronomers of antiquity.

 

Finally, those cities are to the east of Jerusalem, and it is only twenty days' journey from the banks of the Euphrates to Bethlehem. Origen, who was judicious and well informed, states that the Magi were addicted to astrology; but in that land of the East, every astronomer was an astrologer.

 

Before them on their journey moved the luminous star of the Messiah.  That new star, independent of the laws, which govern the heavenly bodies, had no regular motion peculiar to itself.  Now it advanced at the head of the caravan, moving in a straight line towards the west; now it remained stationary over the tents erected for the night, seeming to balance itself gently in the clouds like a sleeping albatross.  At the dawn of day it gave the signal for departure, as it had done each night for halting.

 

At length the lofty towers of Jerusalem were visible in the distance, amid the bare bleak summits of its mountains.  The camels were quenching their thirst at a wayside cistern when the Magi gave a cry of surprise and alarm.  The star had disappeared into the dark depths of heaven, like a rational creature, which perceives an impending danger.

 

Thus put out, like the mariners of ancient times when dark clouds concealed the polar star, the Magi consulted a moment. What meant the sudden disappearance of their brilliant guide?  Were they then at the term of their long journey?  It was very possible and even probable that the infant King, whom they came from the banks of the Tigris to adore, might be found in Jerusalem.

 

St. Augustine had said, "A new star appeared at the birth of Him whose death was to obscure the ancient sun." What then, was that star which never appeared in the firmament before or since?  Was it not the magnificent language of heaven, recounting the glory of God?

 

"The God of Heaven", thought the Wise men, "does not idly prolong His miracles; they cease when human agents are sufficient.  What matter though the star has left us?  We may easily, without its assistance, find this new king in this capital of His states. To find out the young Messiah, we have only to enter the first street which we shall find strewed with green branches, perfumed with essence of roses, and tapestries with cloth of gold.  The sound of the Hebrew harps, their dancing choruses and shouts of joy will speedily show us which way we are to go.  Then quickening their pace, they passed the boundary gate and penetrated into the ancient Zion through two files of barbarian soldiers.

 

But they found the populace of Jerusalem cheerless, busy, yet silent, with no appearance of either joy or festival.  The Eastern cavaliers, as they passed along, bent over the neck of their dromedaries to ask some of the numerous spectators where they were to find the new-born King of the Jews whose star they had seen in the East.  The people of Jerusalem, regarding each other in surprise, knew not what to answer.  A king of the Jews! - What king?  They knew none but Herod, whom they abhorred, and he had no infant son.

 

Meanwhile, the appearance of these Persian nobles, who seldom visited the mountains of Judea, their startling questions which both amazed and intimidated a people who were kept in constant trepidation by the system of espionage organized by Herod, soon excited a general tumult in that seditious city, the most restless in all the East.  Herod had strictly forbidden the Jews to speak of state affairs.  They could not even assemble to hold those great family-festivals hitherto so common amongst them.  His spies, spread over the whole city and even along the highways, instantly arrested those who infringed on the royal edict.  They were thrown secretly, and sometimes even openly, into the fortresses, where they were severely punished.

 

The satraps of Persia were considered the first astrologers in the world.  They had, doubtless, read the birth of the Hebrew Messiah in the stars.  The heir of the kings of Juda was about to ascend the Great throne of his fathers, and to banish the race of the Herods', those half-Jews, who were the slaves of Rome.  All, Jerusalem was troubled, says the Gospel, and it was soon the tyrant's turn to be himself troubled.

 

Herod then dwelt in his palace in Jerusalem; but its flowery gardens, peopled as they were with rare birds, and intersected by limpid streams, could not divert his mind from the gloomy and terrible recollections and dark forebodings which rendered life a burden to him.  Apprised by his chief spy of the arrival of the Magi, and their strange discourse, his massive brow, wrinkled with harassing thoughts, grew dark as a stormy sky, and his anxiety was visible to all. The apprehensions of the Jewish king are easily understood, and are explained by his peculiar Position.  Herod was neither the anointed of the Lord, nor yet the chosen of the people; a branch of laurel, gathered within the pagan precincts of the capitol, formed his tributary crown.

 

Hated by the nobles, whose heads he struck off at the first suspicion; dreaded by his relatives, whose lives he sacrificed without remorse on the slightest, pretext; detested by the priests, whose Privileges he tramped underfoot; abhorred by the people, for his speculative religion and his foreign extraction, he had nothing to depend on but his courtiers, his assassins, his artists, and the wealthy-but by no means numerous--sect of the Herodians, who were infatuated by his magnificence.  Often he was the friend of Caesar openly braved by his obstinate subjects. The Pharisees, an artful and powerful sect, had mockingly and insultingly refused to take the oath of fidelity. While the young and impetuous disciples of the doctors of the law had recently cut down in broad day light, the golden eagle, which in compliment to the Romans, he had placed over the gate of the Temple.

 

Advancing in age, he seemed to think that making himself appear young would alleviate the feeling against him, and he exhausted all the secrets of art to make himself young again, even to using makeup, and having his hair and beard dyed black.

 

In the midst of these element's of civil discord, when the army was in a state of all but open revolt, and the whole nation seemed merely awaiting the signal for a general insurrection, there arrived in Jerusalem these foreigners of lofty mien, who inquired, without either mystery or concealment, for a new-born king of the Jews, whose star they have perceived.  Herod is astounded. He anxiously questions his memory.  The fatal predictions concerning his dynasty, which the Pharisees carefully kept afloat, the oracles of the ancient seers, to which he has hitherto paid but little attention, now recur to his mind.

 

That warrior Messiah -- that prophet-son of David, who was to overrun the world from east to west, begins-already to give him some vague uneasiness.  It is not he who suggests these thoughts to the old king's mind, but the wily prince. The more he thinks of it, the more he is, convinced that that mysterious event is connected with a vast conspiracy, tending to raise an occult and rival power on the ruins of his own.

 

He had crushed beneath the iron wheel of his despotism all that offered resistance.  He had lost his peace of mind, his rest by night, when his bleeding victims haunted his dreams.  And why all that?  To prepare the way for the race of David?  That scepter, so dearly bought, was it only to pass to another line?

 

Some are surprised at the fears wherewith Herod regarded a branch of the family of David nevertheless; Herod was not the only one who persecuted that noble house because of its ancient rights and its glorious hopes.  In later-Years after the conquest of Jerusalem , Vespasian gave orders to seek and destroy all the posterity of David.  Under Trajan, the persecution still continued.  Finally, Domitian, near the end of the first century A.D., had two members of the illustrious family of David brought to Rome , who where the lineal descendants of the Apostle St. Jude.  The emperor, having questioned them, found that they possessed only thirty-nine acres of land, which they tilled with their own hands. He sent them back to their home, being satisfied, on account of their poverty, that there was no danger from their ambition.

 

“Let this child be earthly prince or heaven-sent prophet", said Herod, after a pause, "he must die.  But where are they hiding this newborn king of the jaws, whose birth the stars proclaim, and whom these insolent satraps come to seek at the very gates of my palace?  Can it be indeed that Schilo foretold by Jacob?  There are perchance only the idle dreams of astrologers.  No matters we must make all sure."

 

A few hours after, the doctors of the law and the chief priests were assembled in council with Herod presiding, and were asked that question which seemed strange to them in the mouth of such a prince, "In, what place is the Messiah to be born?"

 

The answer was prompt and unanimous "In Bethlehem of Juda." And the ancients of Israel, quite willing to annoy the friend of the Romans, failed not to add that as the last week of Daniel was nearly at an end, the coming of the Messiah must be at hand.  This information, by no means satisfactory, would not do for Herod, who must ascertain where the blow was to be struck.  He resolved to interrogate the Magi, and to find out, if possible the precise period of the child's birth, computing by the appearance of the star.

 

Too cunning to grant the Persian sages a public audience which would have given notoriety to a rumor which it was most important to stifle, the king had them brought before him, and examined them closely as to the time of the starts appearance He inquired minutely, not after the child but the star, in order to observe all possible circumspection in laying his snare.  Having learned, all that he wished to knows the man of blood dismissed these strangers in an affable and gracious manner.

 

"Go said he," and diligently inquire after the young child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore him."

 

Now the Magi, like all lofty-minded men - sons of science and contemplation - were simple, sincere, and but little disposed to suspect evil.  They understood despotism and cruelty in a prince, but they did not understand falsehoods for the first thing that the wise kings of Persia learned in their infancy was to speak the truth.  They quitted the Betzetha with its posts, north of the Temple had their tents taken ups and once more traversed the Holy City to repair to the supposed birthplace of the Messiah.  They wound along the walls, quitted Jerusalem by the Damascus gate; then, turning to the left, they made their way through some hollow ravines, intersected with steep hillocks, which they had to climb.  They were nearly an hour's journey from the capital of Judea , and had permitted their camels to stop at a cistern to drink, when a brilliant point appeared in the heavens, and rapidly descended towards them like a falling star.

 

“The star! Our star!" cried the delighted company, for they were now sure of being in the right ways and resumed their march with increased ardor.

 

They were preparing to enter the city of David when the star, inclining toward the south, suddenly stopped over a cave, which had the appearance of a rustic stable, and down, down, it went until it seemed to rest, almost, on the head of an infant.  The sight of that motionless star, its soft rays falling brightly on the dreary grotto, filled the Magi with a lively faith, and a lively faith it did require to discover the King-Messiah in a poor, unnoticed child, born in such a place, laid in a manger, and whose mother, though fair and full of grace, was evidently of very obscure condition.

 

God, who would make the Jews ashamed of their obduracy by contrasting it with the pious haste and the docile faith of infidels, allotted it so that the strange humiliation of the holy family should not shake the firm belief of the Magi.

 

The worshippers of the sun - the Gentiles - who were to be saved by the Cross as well as the children of the covenant, penetrated into the lowly abode of Christ with as much veneration as though it were one of their own temples, built over subterraneous fires, wherein starry spheres kept turning.

 

    Following the custom of their people, they prostrated themselves as they crossed the threshold, and having taken off' their rich sandals, they adored their gods and their masters.  Then, opening their caskets of perfumed wood, wherein were the offerings intended for the Messiah, they took out some of the finest gold, gathered in the neighborhood of Nineveh the Great, and perfumes, purchased with fruits and pearls from the Arabs of Yemen.  These mysterious gifts were not carnal, like the offerings of the Jews.  The cradle of him, who was come to abolish the sacrifices of the synagogue, was not to be sprinkled with blood; hence, the Magi did not sacrifice to him either spotless lambs or white heifers.  They offered him gold, as an earthly prince - myrrh, and incense, as a god.  Then bowing down to the ground before Mary, whom they found fair as the moon and modest as the pale water lily, they invoked the blessing of God upon her, and prayed that the hand of misfortune might never reach her.

 

And now the Magi prepared to leave Bethlehem, having nothing more to do in Judea.  They proposed, according to their promise, to seek the king in his palace at Jericho, to let him know where the Messiah was; but the angel of the Lord apprised them in a dream of the dark designs of that perfidious prince, and commanded them to go home by another way.

 

The sons of Ormuzd returned thanks to the Master of the sun and of the morning star for this nocturnal revelation, and instead of journeying by the dangerous city of the king, they turned their camels' heads towards the coast of the Great Sea, and wound their way across the lovely strand of Syria.  A tradition says that in later years they, received baptism from St. Thomas, in India where he preached.

 

Purification

 

Forty days after the Savior's birth, the Virgin prepared to return to Jerusalem for the fulfillment of the Levitical precept, which prescribed the purification of mothers and the redemption of the first-born, and Mary willingly submitted to the law, because the secret of her virginal maternity was not known.  In ordinary attire, and undistinguished from the crowd, in their first appearance on the dusty road to Jerusalem since the birth of the divine Infant, Mary stopped under a spreading tree to nurse her child, and that tree according to the common belief had ever after a secret virtue, which effected marvelous things, until the seventeenth century since when it is no longer standing, it was an object of veneration to Christians and Turks.

 

After this memorable halt, the holy couple journeyed on to the tomb of Rachel, where every Hebrew was to pray in passing.  This primitive monument consisted of twelve large stones overgrown with moss, on each of which was engraved the name of a tribe, and its only epitaph was a white Syrian rose, frail, sweet emblem of that lovely woman it commemorated.

 

At the moment when Joseph and Mary made their way into the sacred enclosure of the Temple, with shekels of silver for the ransom and two doves for the sacrifice, a holy old man named Simeon, to whom it had been divinely revealed that he should not die until he had seen the Christ of the Lord, entered the Temple by an impulse of the Holy Spirit.  At sight of the Holy Family, the eye of the just man became inspired.  Discovering the 'King-Messiah under the poor swaddling-clothes of a common child, he took him in his arms, drew him close to him, and gazed upon him with delight, whilst the tears of joy rolled down his venerable cheeks.

 

"Now thou dost dismiss Thy servant, 0 Lord, according to Thy word, in peace. Because my eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel."

 

Having uttered these words, Simeon solemnly blessed the mother and her spouse; and then, addressing himself to Mary, after a moment's poignant silence, he added that this child was born for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which should be contradicted, and that grief, like a sharp sword, should pierce his mother's soul.

 

The words of Simeon, like a stormy wind, made her bend her head, and her heart throbbed with anguish.  But Mary knew how to accept without murmur or complaint, whatever came from God.

     

She was resolving in her mind these thoughts when there came in a prophetess named Anna, who was far advanced in years, wife of Phanuel of the tribe of Aser.  This holy widow remained continually in the Temple, serving God night and day in prayer and fasting.  Seeing the divine child, she began to praise the Lord aloud, and to speak of Him to all those who expected the redemption of Israel .

 

As women might not enter the inner court of the Temple, where the child was to be offered to the Lord, because of his sex, Joseph himself carried him into the hall of the firstborn, asking himself whether the scenes which had marked the entrance of Jesus into the holy house were to be renewed before the Hebrew pontiffs.  But nothing revealed the Infant God in that privileged part of the Temple .

 

This was a solemn moment, which suspended the angelic concerts, and fixed the attention of the heavenly hosts on a single point of the universe - that moment foretold by Aggeus when the glory of the second temple effaced that of the first - that moment passed unnoticed before the darkened vision of the priests and doctors.  The Desired of all nations - Him whose way the angels had prepared - the Great Redeemer, so long promised and so long expected, was there bodily in His holy house, and no one thought of welcoming him, or crying out on the watch-towers of the Temple and the house-tops of Jerusalem, "Hosanna to the Son of David" - with the exception of two old souls, unless perhaps Zacharias was present within.


Flight to Egypt

 

Before many months had passed, Zacharias would be forced to flee to save the life of his own son, John.  For suspicion had been directed toward him since the birth of this child, an occasion which had been surrounded by many wonders. And the child himself radiated a sort of light, according to certain of the folk who possessed true sight.  Herod was particularly suspicious, and caused Zacharius to be questioned, thinking this child might the prophets foretell the Messiah-king.

 

After Mary and Joseph had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, says St. Luke, they returned into Galilee, and to their city Nazareth.  Others say Joseph fully intended to settle permanently in his ancestral town of Bethlehem, and that it was there the angel came to warn them to flee.

 

Luke does not mention the flight to Egypt. However, Matthew ways that right after the departure of the Wise Men, Joseph was warned by an angel, during his sleep, to “Arise, take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt; and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him.”

 

The child Jesus would have been about one year old when this call came. Mary and Joseph hastily collected a few belongings and some provisions for the journey, then preceded by Joseph, she carried Jesus in her arms as they left behind the city reposing in the calm star-light.

 

The prophecies of Simeon were speedily accomplished. Scarcely was Jesus born, when a tyrant’s persecution sought him in his cradle, and his mother, so young, so holy, was forced to flee by night like a guilty creature. But they understood that the solemn moment of Christ’s manifestation not being yet come, God would save them from the devices of Herod by certain means of prudence.

 

To Joseph belongs much of the care, and the honor of that arduous enterprise: it was for him, an obscure carpenter, to thwart the plans, to defeat the schemes, to elude the jealous watchfulness of a gloomy, politic tyrant who was served by his myrmidons, like an Eastern despot.  The weather was still cold, and while crossing Palestine, the Holy Family had to choose the wildest and least frequented roads. Where were they to lodge during the night? Where could they venture to rest a little during the day, or take a frugal meal necessary to sustain their strength? There is a place beyond Bethlehem toward Hebron where the Virgin rested.

 

Tradition is silent on most of the details of this touching pilgrimage. They sometimes found shelter in deep caves, but even these had their dangers, for they were often chosen as secure hiding place by some of those numerous bands of robbers who had long shown defiance to the laws of the kingdom, and were not emboldened by the condition of Herod.

 

They spent one night in a large cave about a mile from the wood of Mambre, in a wild mountain gorge. From here two hours later they entered the wilderness where little John the Baptist had been taken for hiding. The last place where the Holy Family sheltered in Herold’s territory was not far from a town on the edge of the dessert, a few hours’ journey from the Dead Sea . The inhabitants seemed to be camel-drivers, for they kept a number of camels in enclosed meadows, and they lived in huts and sheds on a hill, where some wild fruit grew around them. Though a rather wild people, they showed hospitality to these three.

 

They had passed Anathot, and were making for Ramla, to descend into the low country; anxious to escape from a dangerous vicinity, they had borrowed some hours from the night, when they saw winding from a gloomy ravine just before them a number of armed men, who blocked up the way. He who appeared the leader of this troop of brigands, stepped forward in front of his men to take a view of the travelers. Joseph and Mary stood still, looking on each other in terror and alarm; Jesus was sleeping. The bandit who was on the lookout for blood and gold, cast an astonished glance on Joseph, with his simple patriarchal air, and then on the young veiled woman, with her infant clasped to her heart.

 

“They are poor”, said the robber to himself, “and as they travel by night, they must be fugitives!” Perhaps he too had an infant son, or perhaps the atmosphere of mildness and mercy which surrounded Joseph and Mary had its effect on that ferocious soul; however it was, he lowered the point of his lance, and extending a friendly hand to Joseph, offered him a lodging for the night in his rock-hard built fortress.  This frank offer was accepted with a holy confidence, and the brigand’s roof was as hospitable, on that occasion, as an Arab tent.

 

Finally gaining a maritime town of the Philistines, there they joined the first caravan destined for Egypt. According to the learned calculations of chronologist, who admit of no interval in this long journey, the holy couple must have found a caravan at once setting out from the coast. The spring equinox was drawing near, so that every traveler would be anxious to outstrip the season when the simoom sweeps over the desert, rendering its sands as treacherous as the ocean wave.

 

On leaving the dilapidated towers of Gaza, the travelers saw before them only immense wastes of sand, dreary desolate, and fearfully naked, agitated by the scorching wind of the desert, and overhung by fiery sky. Not a trace of vegetation, save perchance an occasional patch of heath stretching here and there across the desolate waste; no water except the brackish spring, which the Holy Family, now tiered an apparently poor, were allowed to approach after the rich merchants and their camels had had their fill.

 

As they receded from the frontiers, their thirst grew greater, and the water more scarce. At the approach of night, the song of the camel-drivers ceased. The leader of the caravan hoisted a flag, which was the signal for halting, and all the travelers gathered around the spot. An animated scene quickly followed. The camels, squatting down at the feet of their masters, were freed from their heavy burdens; bales of goods were heaped up, a circle of stakes was planted around, and to these the beasts of burden were fastened; the wealthy travelers had their tens erected, and the master of the caravan placed sentinels who were to give notice of the approach of the Bedouins, those pirates of the desert who were plunderers like Ishamel, and yet hospitable as Abraham.

 

Each merchant, after having taken his repast of dates and mil, lay down to sleep under this tent, awaiting the rising of the moon. The reminder of the company seated themselves on a rush mat spread on the ground, with no other covering than the sky; with the night air chilling exhausted limbs. Though at this season the desert was burning hot by day, it was by night freezing cold. But the glorious panorama of the heavens above them provide a dazzling spectacle to inspire the loftiest thoughts, before they fall finally to sleep.

 

At length the outskirts of that strange and silent region were gained. Egypt – that ancient nursery of knowledge and of science, presented itself to the travelers, with its red granite obelisks, its colossal pyramids, its island-like villages, and its providential river fringed with reeds and covered with boats. That country appeared more rich, more populous and commercial than Judea, but still it was the land of exile: Beyond the desert was home, to the banished children of Israel. There appeared flat land, with green pastures where cattle fed.

 

After a journey of one hundred an forty leagues, the fugitives reached Heliopolis, where there was a colony of their people. In that city arose the Temple of Jehovah, which Onias had constructed on the plan of the Holy House. The ornaments of that Egyptian temple almost equaled those of another, only as a token of inferiority; a massive golden lamp suspended from the roof replaced the famous candlestick of Jerusalem with its seven branches.

 

At the gate of that city, which was chiefly inhabited by Egyptian and Arab idolaters, there was a majestic tree, of the mimosa kind, which legend says at the approach of the Holy Family bent its shady branches, as if saluting the young master of nature whom Mary carried in her arms; and Palladius says at the moment when the divine travelers passed under the granite arches of the gate of Heliopolis, all the idols of a neighboring temple fell prostrate on the ground.

 

Joseph and Mary only passed through this city of the sun, and repaired to Matarich, a pretty village shaded with sycamores, and having the only fountain of fresh water to be found thereabouts. There, in a habitation like a beehive, where the doves made their nest, the persecuted family found rest and peace, being at last free from the power of Herod.

 

That cruel prince, having vainly expected the Magi to return to his palace, learned at last that they had passed the frontiers of his kingdom, and that regardless of his injunctions, they had returned to Persia without letting him know the result of their mission. Pale already from the slow fever which was wearing him away, the king of the Jews became paler still with anger.

 

Those, "uncircumcised dogs", those infidel travelers, had duped him. They had guessed his reason for seeking the whereabouts of the child, and had eluded him on their return to their own countries.

 

How could he make sure to dispose now of that threat to his kingdom - that indistinguishable from many others? There was but one way to make sure of his destruction, to include all in a general massacre. “And sending, he killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the boarders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.”

 

According to many grave authors, supported by tradition and probability, the Holy Family remains seven years in Egypt. Joseph supported the family by this trade of carpentry. They lived frugally but did not suffer want. Traces of their sojourn are still found there; the fountain where Mary went to wash the Child’s swaddling clothes, the bushy knoll where she dried them in the sun, the sycamore in whose shade she loved to sit with her Son on her knee, were still being pointed out, after the lapse of eighteen hundred years.

 

One of the legends brought from the eastern climes by an old French baron, said: “When out the Lady, the Mother of Jesus, had crossed the desert and reached this place, she laid Our Lord on the ground, and went all around in quest of water, but there was no water to be found. She went back, sad and sorrowful, to her dear child, where he lay on the sand, but behold! He had stuck his heels into the ground until a fountain of clear sweet water gushed out. Our Lady was overjoyed at this, and thanked her son, Our Lord. She then washed Our Lord’s clothes in the water of this fountain, and spread them on the ground to dry, and every drop of water that trickled from those clothes sprang up into a bush, which bushes bear balm…”

 

Herod finally died, and the Angel of the Lord of this fact apprised Joseph in a dream. Joseph then returned with Mary and the child into the land of Israel, thinking to settle once more in his ancestral home of Bethlehem.  But hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of Herod, is father, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in sleep, retired into the quarter of Galilee .

 

 


                                                                                                                         

Return

 

How great must have been the joy of those holy spouses on again beholding their native land its stately hills, waving outlines, its endless variety contrasting so happily with the monotonous splendors of Egypt:  But their homecoming was a challenge.  The little house was damp, with weeds outside the door. Joseph vigorously moved to make the needful repairs; tolls had to be procured, furniture replaced. They pooled resources, the little patrimony of Joseph and the property left Mary by her parents, and sold a small parcel in order to make a new beginning.  Jesus followed his father about on carpentry jobs, and gladly helped him in those things measurable with his years and strength. He who might command legions of angels asked for nothing from God for himself or his family but their “daily bread”.

 

The question recurs:  “Did Mary have sisters, or did she or they have other children? Did she remain virginal after the birth of Jesus?

 

We think this matter irrelevant. The purpose of her virginity had been accomplished with the birth of Jesus. It was up to the parents, the husband and wife, from then on in their private family life, to do what was best for the child, and to perform whatever was right and good, without breaking any of His directives. As far as the Gospel goes, there was no instruction after his birth concerning their private life. And they did live as a family in near seclusion for 30 years, as far as we know.

 

If it had really mattered one way or the other to posterity, if people were intended to note this in their worship, the gospels would have gone out of there as to make this clear.  Anything like a vow of virginity so unusual in those times throughout many years of marriage would have be noted in some way, even if slightly.

As it is, two of the gospels do not begin until the time of Jesus’ baptism, when he was grown. Of the other two, Matthew says only – “He (Joseph) knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.”

 

And Luke, who quoted the song Mary sang when the angel appeared to her, and to whom it is believed Mary confided her story in late years, makes no mention at all even of this. He said only, at the time Jesus was 12 and they sought him in the Temple, (Mary said) “Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” (Or have sought you sorrowing). This implied a sense of togetherness with the married couple, at least of companionship.

 

The parental relationship toward Jesus would not have benefited by celibacy on the part of the parents, unless he was being taught total non-attachment.  The love between parents is a symbol of heavenly love.

 

On the other hand, if she, or he, did choose lifelong virginity, that was never given to us as a prerequisite for our faith. We know they must have been exemplary to be given such a mission, but celibacy does not of itself make saints of people, nor was it required in order that we might look up them now with respect. Married life should be considered impure if the participants live nobly and selflessly.

 

Mary has a vivid, yet muted look, not exotic but somehow rare and a bit beyond reach. Her skin was not coarse with exposure to the sun, but almost creamy and smooth. Her hair was of chestnut brown, not outstanding but a fine frame for her face. She had the serious and rarified look of one well disciplined and under special training.

 

It seems that she chose to wear most often a deep bright blue robe, over a gown of white, which was not the bleached-white as we know it, but the creamier sort of home spun wear. With her knowledge of the weaving and embroidery her family always looked well dressed, simply and in good taste, with no show of pretension. It appears that she sometimes chose a wine red robe to wear, of the shad usually shown in the pictures of Jesus.

 

The ordinary undergarment worn in that time was the ”saq”, usually translated as “sack” and made of linen cloth, hence comes the term “sackcloth”. The Book of Revelations mentions that two prophets shall prophecy just before the Day of Judgment, dressed in sackcloth. Sometimes the prophets of old had worn the saq as a protest against luxury.  To perform penance, they probably made this of a more coarse material.

 

Flax, from which linen is made, grew quite abundantly in Galilee, whereas in Judea wool was used more commonly, due to the suitability of that land for herding sheep, as around Bethlehem. Cotton was used but little whereas silk was far too expensive for all but the very rich with their luxurious finery, for it was imported from the East.

 

Men were forbidden to wear women’s clothing, and women were not allowed to dress like men, but women’s clothing was not unlike that of the men, being rather full, with a belt or girdle, the main difference being that their clothing tended to be finer in their weave and more colorful. Both men and women wore cloth headgears, and all wore sandals or shoes, without stockings; but everyone was required to enter the holy places barefoot.

 

The “coat” and the “cloak” mentioned in the Gospels referred to the two main garments worn by all. The coat was really a tunic, somewhat like that of the Greeks, but longer. It came down well below the knees, and the rabbi’s coat had to show a hand’s breadth below his outer cloak. Most were made of pieces sewn together, but some were of wool woven in one piece, and these were esteemed.

 

The cloak or talith, was the other garment, and was a necessary sign of dignity, without which it would have been improper to appear before a superior. It served many purposes, not only as a suit of clothing, removable upon retiring, but also as a blanket or bedroll upon occasion, if on were traveling. A belt or girdle was needed to hold in the large billowing bulk. These were of many types, from the hermits’ rope, to lengths of cloth for the merchants, and the leathern belt for soldiers or laborers.

 

Mary would have worn linen in summer, and wool in winter. She wore the two garments, somewhat as a chemise over a robe or gown, while a veil covered her head in traditional fashion. It was looked upon as unbefitting for a woman to be seen in the streets without a veil. On festival occasions she might wear richer colors and more flowing lines, while on her head would be worn a kind of filet, called the ornament of the Golden City (of Jerusalem).

 

The food which Mary prepared for her family consisted of barley bread or biscuits, lentils prepared with honey or oil, and vegetables such a beans, asparagus, onions, tomatoes, marinated radishes, and rice occasionally from the caravans. There was a abundance of fruit such as figs, dates and pomegranates, peaches, pears, plums and melons. While they might eat fritters heavy with oil and honey, there was very little meat. Fish was easier to come by and there was wine from the vineyards.

 

On the Sabbath days all work was set aside, but most other days would find Mary drawing water from the town well, doing more creative stitching for her family or the priests, and she would at least three times daily repeat the psalms and blessings as prescribed by her faith.

 

The house in which Jesus grew up was built into the Nazareth hillside so that its back part was almost cave like in the rock, though artfully covered over and not in the least primitive for their times. The rock actually provided the finest sort of insulation from both head and cold, while the front part of the dwelling was constructed after the prevailing manner, with finer touches added by the industrious Joseph.

 

The interior like of that blessed family, surnamed the “earthly trinity”, has not come to the knowledge of men: it is like the streamlet hidden in long grass, or more properly, it is the Holy of Holies with His cloud of perfumes and His double veil. Nevertheless, by examining minutely under every point of view, the evangelical facts, what we know enables us to guess to a certain extent at what we do not know; and the public life of Jesus Christ throws some bright rays of light on his own hidden life and that of the Blessed Virgin. That sacred abyss we are about to sound with all due reserve, and the conscientious application that so serious a subject requires.

 

One of the Infancy Gospels, from the Arabian text, says:

“A woman there had two sons who fell sick, and one died but the other lived:  so his mother took him up and, weeping, brought him to my lady, lady Mary, and said, O my lady, help and succor me. For I had two sons, one of whom I have now buried, but the other is near to death.  See how I will beg and pray to God."

 

“And she began to say, O Lord, Thou art kind and merciful and good; Thou gavest me two sons, but since Thou has taken on of them away, leave me at least this one."

 

“Therefore lady Mary, seeing the violence of her weeping pitied her, and said, "Put thy son in my son’s bed and cover him with his clothes." And when she had put him in the bed in which Jesus was lying, and he was already dead and had closed his eyes, as soon as the smell of the garments of the Lord Jesus Christ reached the boy, he opened his eyes, and calling his mother, with a loud voice, asked for bread, which he swallowed when he received it.

 

“Then said his mother, O lady Mary, now I know that the power of God dwells in thee, so that thy Son heals men who are partakers of the same nature with himself, after they have touched his garments.”  

Jesus, in whom were hidden all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge, had no need of human teaching; and the contrary supposition has not been permitted by the Church. St. John also in his gospel mentions that the Jews, contemporaries of Jesus Christ, regarded him as a man who had “never learned”, and the surprise of the Nazarenes, on seeing him so profoundly versed in sacred letters, shows clearly enough that he had not been, to their knowledge brought up like St. Paul at the feet of a master.

 

The Talmudists and the Jewish authors of the Toldos maintain on the contrary, that a celebrated rabbi initiated Jesus in the mysteries of science and of magic; but, deducing from the second part of the assertion and viewing the matter in a purely human light, as do the rationalists, this is evidently false for two reasons. Jesus was, at first, neither a zealot nor a traditionist, and it is everywhere apparent in the Gospel that he openly disapproved of the narrow views, the captious distinctions, and shallow subtleties of the Synagogue. In the second place, Rabbi Joshua Perachia, who they name as his preceptor, was yet unborn, as he flourished a hundred years later.

 

Strauss admits that all the wisdom and all the science of the period would have been unable to form such a man as Jesus Christ. “Even if Jesus had exhausted,” he says, “all the sources of instruction then to be had, it is no less true that none of these elements would suffice, even remotely, to affect a revolution in the world; and the leaven necessary for so great a work he must have drawn from the depths of his own soul.”  (And that of the Cosmos).

 

His eloquence was peculiar to himself. It was not the emphatic exaggerations of the Rabbins, nor yet the majestic, overwhelming and violently contrasted diction of the ancient prophets. It was, as he himself said, a source of living water, reflecting in its course the birds of the air, the crops and flowers of the field. That simple eloquence penetrated to the very bottom of every thing and was easily connected with high and lofty ideas.  Every word was a precious seed of virtue; every lesson threw afar, over the mysterious wastes of the future, a long train of light, which was to spread into the perfect day of the world’s regeneration. Even those who have audaciously denied his miracles were yet forced to acknowledge that his words were those of a god.

 

Jesus was endowed with a high meditative soul which required a vast space for its expansion: confined, during the day, at manual labor which occupied much of his time, he made up by night for his obscure toil, and was again the legislator and the prophet which commended a view of the mountains and forests of the land of Cannan, he poured out his soul before the Author of Nature, Whose ambassador and Whose son he was.

 

These communing with God in the silence of the night were customary with Jesus, as we see in many places of the Gospel. The model-man, the Incarnate word, would later instruct his own disciples to distinguish the pure gold of prayer from the monstrous alloy of ostentation and hypocrisy wherewith the Pharisees of his time were wont to mix it up.

   

The Virgin, who was neither troublesome nor exacting, placed no obstacle in the way of her Son’s solitary habits: she knew that Jesus was sounding the depth of the unfathomable abyss then opening under the feet of men, and that the world’s redemption was to be the fruit of these silent meditations. At her approach, Jesus withdrew his pensive glance from the starry heavens; his youthful brow, contracted by a thought as vast as the universe, became again the smooth, fair brow of the child. Mary then, driving back into her heart any apprehension for the future, called him to seek repose. Strength must be recruited for the morrow’s fatiguing labor, and the Son of God followed his mother in silence, for he loved and was subject to her.

 

The entrance of Jesus into adolescence was marked by an extraordinary incident, which gave Mary’s soul a violent shock.  Joseph and Mary, faithful observers of the law of their fathers, went regularly every year to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. This journey, which they made in secret, so long as the son of the enemy of God filled the throne of the Maccabees,, had now become more easy since the banishment of Archelaus and the occupation of the Romans.

 

When Jesus had attained his twelfth year, his parents, having no longer the fear of the monarch before their eyes, brought him with them to Jerusalem.  They set out from Nazareth in a crowd; and on the way, the Hebrew pilgrims formed themselves into little bands, according to age and sex, and the ties of family or friendship.

 

With the Virgin were Mary of Cleophas, the sister-in-law of Joseph; another Mary, mentioned in the Gospel as “altera Maria”, Salome, the wife of Zebedee come from Bethsaida with her husband and sons; Joanna, wife of Chus; and a number of Nazarean women, her neighbors and friends. Joseph followed at some distance, in grave conversation with Zebedee, the fisherman, and the ancients of his tribe.

 

Jesus walked with the young Galileans whom the Gospel, according to the peculiar genius of the Hebrew tongue, has called his brethren, they being his nearest relations. He affected nothing, neither devotion, nor austerity, nor wisdom, nor science, because he possessed the fullness of all these things, and people seldom affect anything but what they have not.

 

To see him clad so simply – like an Essenian – his long hair, of the color of ancient bronze, parted on his high sun-browned forehead, and floating gracefully over his shoulders, one would have taken him for David as he presented himself to the prophet Samuel – small, attired in a shepherd’s dress, to receive the sacred unction. Yet there was something more in the soft brown eye of Jesus than even in that of his great ancestor, gleaming as it was with the brightness of poetic inspiration. Here was something penetrating and divine which lay bare the inmost thoughts and reached the most secret recesses of the soul. But Jesus then veiled the splendor of this look as Moses did his radiant brow on going forth from the tabernacle. He talked in wise, yet appropriate conversation with his young kinsmen according to the flesh, some of whom he designed to make his apostles.

 

After a journey of four days the pilgrims reached the Holy City, then filled with an immense concourse of Jewish strangers. History gives mammoth figures for these crowds, it was said by one writer over two million.

 

The family of Joseph and Mary assemble to eat the Paschal lamb, which the priests took care to immolate between the two evening prayers, in the court of the temple. To this was added unleavened bread, wild lettuce, and all that belonged of right to that ancient ceremony.

 

Several days were passed and then the festival days being over, the parents and kinfolk of Jesus met together in order to return home; as they went back in the same order in which they came, it was not , at first perceived that Jesus was missing. Mary thought him with Joseph, of James, Joseph, on the other hand, thought him with his young kinsmen, or with Mary. At nightfall, the various companies came together, and the Virgin sought Jesus in vain amongst the crowd of travelers who arrived successively at the inn; no one knew what had become of him.

 

The grief of the holy spouses was inexpressible. “The deposit of heaven, the Son of God!” murmured Joseph sadly. “How shall we answer Him?” And the poor young mother held back tears, not willing yet to give up hope, and they both prayed that he be found safe, and they would not be found wanting in their stewardship of this sacred charge.

 

All that night they sought him, and the following day, asking every one they met along the road, calling him in the woods, looking fearfully down the precipices, and not knowing what was to happen if the were lost.

 

They returned to Jerusalem and ran to the houses of their friends, then tired of wandering through every park of that large city, they, at last, entered the temple. In the porch, where sat the doctors of the law, was this child who charmed the ancients of Israel by the depth of his observation and the clearness of his answers to questions, even the most difficult. They all stood in a circle round him everyone wondering within himself at his marvelous and precocious wisdom.

 

“Is this Daniel returned?” asked someone in their hearing. “It is Jesus!” cried he Virgin, making her way through the doctors. Then approaching him, with a look of tender reproach: “Son”, said she mildly, but with a rush of feeling, “Why hast thou done so to us? Behold they father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”

 

His answer was dry an unexpected – their child had disappeared before God: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”

 

The holy couple was silent; it was difficult at once to comprehend the turn of affairs. Nevertheless, Jesus arose and followed them to Nazareth; his perfect submission to their will very soon effaced this light cloud. “And his mother kept all these things in her heart; and Jesus advanced in wisdom and age, and grace with God and men.

                                                                                                                         

Kinship

 

That glorious revolution which placed charity on the throne, attended by all the other virtues, that ever-memorable event which changed the aspect of the world, and whose results shall be felt till the end of all things, had its origin in Nazareth. From the hollow of that nameless rock flowed the humble stream of Christianity.

 

Nothing is known of the means, which brought about that grand fact which stands pre-eminent above all modern history. From the day of his manifestation in the temple, with his mother and his adoptive father, the remainder unrecorded. This period, lost to the world, was undoubtedly that in which the Virgin spent her calmest and happiest days. It is not when human life rolls noisily on like a wintry torrent, that it is the happiest; but when it resembles the streamlet gliding in silvery ripples through the flower bespangled meadows.

 

Mary, living near her Son, working for him, studying his tastes, was offering to him, as it were, the first fruits of his sacred harvest.  As the first, the humblest and the most docile of his disciples, and bending her cultivated understanding before the divinity and superior mind of her Son Mary must then have been a happy mother! If, at times, while Jesus was explaining to her the most profound meaning of the prophecies, he came on some passage which spoke of sufferings to be endured, a dark cloud might gather on the modest brow of the Virgin, but it soon passed away, and then mild, benign countenance resumed its wonted serenity.

 

The storm was still afar off, and their bark was moored in a quiet harbor. Her son was there, except for unsung journeys, and she missed nothing of his words, or his slightest gestures. And how she loved to serve that son, how joyfully would she sit up a night to sew, to weave his working tunics, or his festival robes, and that prized seamless garment, a masterpiece of art and skill.

 

As yet the Lord had only anointed His son with the oil of gladness.  The companion of the Spouse, the wise Virgin of the gospel, left the morrow to provide for itself, “and the peace of God, which surpassed all understanding, dwelt in her heart and mind.”

 

Jesus was perfection itself, but as a man he owed something to Mary. She it was who initiated him from his earliest childhood in the humble virtues appertaining to humanity. That patient and unalterable meekness which he knew how to unite with the firmness of the prophet and the legislator; that merciful compassion which tempered the wrath on an angry God.  We cannot doubt that Jesus returned, with interest, all the Virgin’s tenderness and solicitude, a woman so noble in blood and in her was entitled to the respect of all, and especially of a Son for whose sake she had imposed on herself, in the early spring of life, so many privations, so much toil, and so many sacrifices.

 

He who takes note in heaven of a glass of cold water given in his name, must assuredly be mindful of the obligations which he owed to Mary; and, if we see in the Gospel that he sometimes spoke to his divine mother less as her son than as her lord, it is that at such times he detached himself from all earthly connections in order to promote the glory of his Father, Whose interest were ever paramount with him. The Virgin knew too well the sacred mission of her son to be disturbed by this occasional severity: she calmly awaited the moment when the legislator should give place to the young Galilean whom she had nourished, and her trust was not misplaced; the human nature very soon granted what the divine nature had refused.

 

Jesus had just attained his twenty-ninth year when the angel of death summoned away the venerable head of the Holy Family.

 

Joseph – that patriarchal man – whose submissive faith and simplicity of heart recalled the memory of Abraham and the era of the tent; Joseph, on whom the Holy Spirit Himself bestowed the title of “just”; Joseph slept calmly in the Lord, in the sweet presence of his adopted son and his chaste spouse.  Jesus and Mary mourned him, and kept their silent watch by his side. The great ones of Galilee died not thus; their death was attended by more noise and ostentation, though they had not at the final moment the glorious prospects of the carpenter of Nazareth .

 

The obsequies of the son of David were humble as his fortune, but Mary shed tears over his funeral bed, and the Son of God was himself chief mourner. What emperor was ever so highly honored?

 

At length, the time for preaching the gospel began to approach, and He whom God ordained from all eternity to be its pontiff and apostle, quitted Nazareth to repair to the banks of the Jordan where John was baptizing. That parting of the Blessed Virgin and her son, while casual, must have been both solemn and affecting. The public life of Jesus was about to commence. The Virgin could not help feeling an emotion on seeing Jesus commit himself to that stormy sea – the Jewish world – on which so many illustrious prophets had perished. She knew the insurmountable pride of the Pharisees, the narrow and revengeful fanaticism of the Synagogue, the sanguinary whims of Herod Antipas; she also knew the Messianic oracles, which spoke of suffering and ignominy! The daughter of the kings of Juda, who was not of the race of the feeble, and who knew that her son was God, was none the less affected by that first separation which seemed the prelude to many.

 

The absence of Jesus was prolonged; the Virgin learned with profound admiration, but without surprise, the wonders of his baptism, when the Holy Trinity was, as it were, make palpable and revealed to men:  The white dove extending its divine wings over the Savior who was, at the same time, announced as the Son of God by a voice from heaven. Her maternal joy was, however, replaced by some apprehension when she heard that Jesus almost immediately after his baptism, had plunged alone into the deep and perilous ravines of the lofty Mount Quarantine to prepare for the work of the work’s redemption by fasting, prayer, and meditation.

  

What must she suffer as she thought of Jesus wandering through labyrinth of naked rocks, where the bird found scarcely a particle of moss to make its nest, or a wild berry to maintain life – where all is rock and fire!

 

What faith reaffirmed when the tempest roared without! Where was Jesus? What was he doing alone and unsheltered on the high mountains of Jericho, whose steep pathways, full of rolling stones, wound amid frightful precipices. These forty days were, to Mary, so many ages; maternal concern making the days thus passed an eternity. But Jesus returned to Nazareth with his disciples, and his loved presence was, for Mary, like the balmy breath of spring after the piercing frost of winter.

 


Just then it was that the wedding took place in Cana of Galilee.  The bride and bridegroom, who were relatives of the Blessed Virgin, invited Mary, with Jesus and his disciples. All accepted the cordial invitation, and the Virgin, kind and obliging, undertook to assist in making preparations for the banquet, in which custom required a certain degree of splendor.  But the company was large; the bridegroom had been mistaken in his reckoning, and the wine jars were almost empty, when our Lord – who would raise marriage to the rank of holy things, purifying it by his presence -- entered the banquet hall followed by Peter, Andrew, Philip, and Nathaniel, four young fishermen who had been impressed with confidence in this genius and power.

 

The wine ran out in the middle of the repast, and Mary, having first perceived it on a sign of distress from the hosts, turned to Jesus who was sitting near her, and said pointedly, “They have no wine!”

 

Jesus answered her in a low voice, but with emphasis, “Woman, what is it to me and to thee? My hour is not yet come.”

 

The Virgin, anxious to save her friends a most painful humiliation, was yet not at all discouraged by these words. She knew that if the hour of his manifestation were not come, Jesus would anticipate it for her sake; and, with that faith which would remove mountains; she mildly said to the servants, “Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.”

 

Now there were there six water pots of stone used for purifications; at the bidding of Jesus, these were filled to the brim with fresh water from a neighboring spring, and that water was changed into delicious wine.

 

Thus it is that the Blessed Virgin had the first fruits of the miracles of her divine son, and that her intercession changed the very will of God.

 

The miracle of Cana was soon followed by a number of others, which stamped with the seal of the Divinity the high and providential mission of the Savior. At his voice, the storm was hushed, human infirmities disappeared, the devils were hurled back to their gloomy kingdom, corpses arose from their coffin, and all over that spot of earth which his blessed footsteps marked, there was a great amelioration of both spiritual and corporeal suffering. People came to him from Sidon, from Tyre, from Idumea, and from Arabia; and whole multitudes, gathering along his way, kissed the hem of garments, and humbly asked him for health and life, things, which only a God can give.

 

 (*1) A curious flash comes through on this: from the words, it sounds as though SHE HAD TAUGHT HIM TO DO THIS, and now was giving him the opening to test his powers, while she stood by: and he was reluctant to comply just yet. Perhaps she had learned more of the priestly lore than generally supposed.

 

    Mary, whom our Lord had not as yet thought proper to associate in his painful and wandering life – Mary heard these extra ordinary tidings with great joy, not unmixed, however, with foreboding. Her fears were will founded; for, the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the princes of the Synagogue began to be greatly scandalized, worthy souls! – by the conduct of the Son of God.  He remitted sins- blasphemy! He consoled and converted sinners – degradation!  He healed the sick on the Sabbath day – open and shameless impiety!

 

His doctrine fell from his lips like beneficent dew, rather than a stormy rain, so that he was in every way unlike the ancient prophets. He preached humility, forgiveness of injuries, voluntary poverty, alms given for God’s sake alone, universal charity …What novel doctrines these were! A host of enemies rose up against him after every sermon, whether in the desert or in the city. He could not attack hypocrisy without offending the Pharisees, nor condemn avarice without exiting the ire of the doctors of the law; the discontented were scandalized because he did not preach sedition against Caesar; the Herodians accused him of aspiring to the throne of Herod, and the Sadducees could not bear to hear him announce eternal life.

 

Of all the cities of Galilee, Nazareth was the most incredulous, and the most hardened against the divine Word; and of all the families of Nazareth, that of Jesus was the least disposed, it seems, to accept him for the king-Messiah. As the divine maternity of Mary had never been revealed to her relatives, and the miracles which had been wrought during the Lord’s infancy had taken place in distant countries, so they saw in the supposed son of Joseph only a young Israelite without learning, brought up among themselves, simple clad, and living from day to day by hard work, which brought him chiefly in contact with the lower classes. Christ, who would ennoble poverty by taking it for this portion, incurred the consequences of the position he had chosen.

 

“Neither did his brethren,” said St. John, “believe in him.” The report of the miracles, which accompanied the preaching of the gospel astonished, but could not convince, these obstinate Nazarenes. Knowing that Jesus was saluted all over Galilee, and that crowds of two or three thousand persons gathered to hear him, they feared that these numerous assemblies might excite the suspicions of Herod Antipas, and that themselves might be brought into trouble an account of the young prophet.

 

The Messiah was teaching in the synagogue, in the midst of a silent and attentive audience, when the Nazarenes arrived. They sent word to the Savior that his mother and his brethren were without, and wished to see him; but Jesus availed himself of the occasion to extend the narrow limits of the old law, by solemnly and unreservedly adopting all the great human family. He gave this admirable reply to the imprudent message of his kinsfolk:

 

“While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out him hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

 

And yet it appears that he saluted his relatives, and perhaps accompanied them home at the end of the day, for that same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables.

 

The virgin little noticed in the crowd but profoundly attentive, heard in devoted silence the parable of the sower. The Nazarenes, petrified by the resistless eloquence and the super-human dignity of Jesus Christ, asked each other in surprise if he were, indeed, the son of Mary.

 

“And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his own country he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this, the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas; and are not all his brothers with us? Where then did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house? And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief."

 

Some time after, Jesus returned to Nazareth, and great was the joy of the Virgin. To see her son seated on the mat where he used to sit in his childish days, to eat the bread which he had blessed and broken, to lead him silently to the sick bed of some poor sufferer whom he healed, with an injunction of secrecy. To see him mighty in word and work, he who had been so long the man of tool and silence, this was too much happiness in the cup of her existence! And God who often afflicts those, whom He loves, soon brought a bitter test. On the Sabbath day, the son and mother went together to the Synagogue, each sitting in proper sector. A great concourse of people had assembled there to see and hear Jesus; but the curiosity of the Nazarenes had not that character of confidence and respectful attention that Christ had so often met elsewhere. They were there, scandalized beforehand by what the son of Mary was to do and say, and admirably disposed to stone him if occasion offered.

 

Nevertheless, one of the ancients presented the Savior of men with the book of the prophet Isaiah, and Jesus, unrolling the parchment, read this passage with simple grace and marvelous dignity.

 

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me; He hath sent me to preach to the meek, to heal the contrite of heart, and to preach a release to the captives, and deliverance to them that are shut up; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Having closed the book, he sat down, and speaking with that lively and natural eloquence which so strongly impressed his auditors, he made to himself the application of the Messianic oracle, and taught, not as a disciple of the synagogue, but as the very master of the synagogue.

 

A low murmur ran through the assemblage. Some were amazed at the force and the grace of his discourse; other, faithful to their system of contemptuous calumny, said aloud: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?”

 

And Jesus, penetrating their thoughts, and reading their hearts, spoke to them those words, which have become proverbial: “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country and in his own house.”

  

Knowing that they intended to ask him for a demonstration of miraculous works like unto those which he had wrought in Capernaum, he told them plainly that their incredulity rendered them unworthy of any such, and that, in order to obtain healings they must be requested in honesty, and with faith. Thence, alluding to the propagation of his gospel, and to that wild olive grafted on the ancient tree of the synagogue, symbolical of the call of the Gentiles, “In truth I say to you in the days of Elias there were many widows in Israel, when heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there was great famine throughout all the earth. And to none of them was Elias sent but to Zarepheth of Sidon, to a widow woman. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian.”

 

These last words were the drop of water, which makes the cup overflow. Wounded in their national pride, in their hereditary separatism, in their traditional hopes, the assembly in the synagogue, were filled with fury at his presumptuousness and thirsted for vengeance. They rose up tumultuously, and thrust him out of their city; and they brought him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.

 

Seated among the women, in a grated gallery, the Virgin had observed with intense anxiety the rise and progress of the storm. Reading the sinister projects of the Nazarenes in their fierce glances and furious gestures, she did not hesitate to brave the danger in order to make her way to her son; but her strength did not quite equal her courage. The Jews ran swiftly –they were impetuous to battle –and Mary, with thumping heart, hastened after them like one in a dream. She saw Jesus near the summit of a steep rock which overhands a fearful precipice; she heard from afar the cry for his blood and her knees bent under her; a mist gathering over her eyes, she can only call to God in prayer as she falls to the ground, wondering how his end, prophesied by Simeon, could have come so soon, when he had scarce begun.

 

Meanwhile, the ferocious wolves in pursuit of the lamb had been grievously disappointed; the hour of sacrifice was not yet come for the Son of man, and no one could take his life until he chose to give it up.

 

Jesus passed unseen through the midst of his enemies and returned once more to Capernaum, where his mother and the sons of Alpheus soon after joined him.

 

       John, Chapter 7:

“After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him Depart hence and go into Judea , that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, show thyself to the world. For Jesus said unto them my time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hates, because I testify of it, this feast; for my time is not yet fully come. When he had said these words unto them he abode still in Galilee. But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly but as it were in secret.

 

“Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him; for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews. Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marveled, saying, how knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me. If any man will do His Will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh His glory that sent him, the same is true and no unrighteousness is in him." Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, and they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.

 

“Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, "Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am, and I am not come of myself, but He that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He hath sent me." Then they sought to take him; but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come. Jesus was not yet glorified. Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, "this is the Christ." But some said, "shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?" So there was a division among the people because of him. And some of them would have taken him: but no man laid hands on him.”


                                                                                                                               

 

Following Jesus

 

After having preached the Gospel in the country bordering on the fair lake of Tiberias, or the Sea of Galilee, whose waves are radiant as the light, and having wrought the great miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in the desert of Bethsaida, Jesus went up the Jordan again with his disciples, to Caesarea Philippi, the ancient Dan of Naphtali, (which name had just been changed by Philip, a son of Herod,) visiting all the different towns and villages on his way.

 

It was probably at this period that the waters of the Jordan, already sanctified, beheld another affecting ceremony which is not registered in the gospel but is accepted by some as having occurred; Jesus and the Virgin, with the Apostles, set out one morning at sunrise for that sacred, river ”which flows through two lakes, and empties itself into the third”. Its banks were robed in magnificent vegetation; blue herons hovered over its verdant isles white the wood pigeon and the white turtle still hang their mossy nests on the branches of the wild pomegranate. Clouds of violet hue, and of soft rose-color, floated like flowers in the deep blue sky, and the nightingale, that loves to sing in the lofty sycamores which overhand the sacred river of Palestine, was head to warble its most melodious strains/ Nature had donned her gala dress for the baptism of Mary.

 

The Virgin was clothed in white, according to the custom of the Hebrews when they figured alone in any religious ceremony: and she stood calm and collected by the side of her Savior and her Son. They both stepped into the river. Raising then with his divine hand the eastern veil worn by his chaste and beautiful mother, Jesus fixed his mild and penetrating eyes upon her with a glance of infinite tenderness; then, pouring on the Virgin’s forehead the sacred water of regeneration, he baptized her in the name of the most Holy Trinity, Himself one of the three divine Persons.

 

It was then that the Blessed Virgin left off her solitary habits to follow her son in his journeys. She had ministered to him for thirty years both abroad and at home; she had worked for him, wept over him, suffered for him, and had loved him dearly from the time when he lay crying in his cradle. It was natural that attaching her destiny to his lot, she should abandon the peaceful roof under which he was reared to follow his blessed footsteps while he evangelized the Hebrews.

 

Amidst all the trial of that troubled life, the Virgin was admirable as ever. Never did she intrude into his presence when, by so doing, she might interfere with the duties of his regenerating mission; never once did she speak to him of her fatigue, her fears or her personal wants. Mary was not only a sacred dove biding in the cleft of a rock; a pure virgin, called to nourish with her milk and to cradle in her arms a celestial guest; she was also a strong woman whom the Lord was pleased to place by turns in every situation of life, in order to leave for the daughters of Eve an example to follow and a model to imitate.

 

It was not fitting that the Mother of the Lord should follow Jesus and his Apostles alone through all Judea, hence Mary’s retinue consisted of Mary of Cleophas, mother (As believed) of James, Simon, Joseph and Jude—also sometimes called the brethren of the Lord: Salome, mother of the sons of Zebedee, the tetrarch’s steward,. Joanna; Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, made seven notable women followers who accompanied Mary.  There were certain wealthy women of Galilee who provided means for food and lodging for the disciples, and other dedicated workers who had given up all, for their faith in Jesus, to follow and serve him in whatever way they could.

 

One of these, a beautiful young Jewess who had been fairly rich, was the most tenderly attentive to the divine mother of her Lord. This woman, whose noble heart, storm tossed like the waves of the Aegean sea, had burned with an unholy flame before the eyes of men, and braved public opinion with mockery and disdain—had since become penitent and submissive to prostrate herself before Christ, and to ask of him whom she acknowledge as Lord, a cure for the wounds of her soul. And the chaste love of the Lord had absorbed all the vain love, all the worldly attachments of Mary the fallen, from Magdala.

 

In her new found way, she had trampled under foot her pearl necklaces, her jewels and chains of gold, and left her house by the lovely sea of Galilee, and now, without other ornament than a course brown garment, and those magnificent dark tresses wherewith she once dried the Lord’s feet, the young woman, adorned with her new virtues, poured out her penitent tears in the pure and pitying bosom of Mary. The immaculate Virgin had received her with open arms, and having thus won her heart she cultivated in that fertile but long-neglected soul, the flowers which bloom for heaven.

 

After divers sufferings, and joys; fears and triumphs—too many to enumerate – the Virgin entered Jerusalem from Bethany on that Day of Palms, in the train of Jesus Christ, to celebrate the last paschal which the Lord made with his disciples. She saw the people of the royal city trooping out to meet the son of David, who came to them full of strength, mounted as the young princes of his race were wont to be, and graciously receiving the simple honors so eagerly and so spontaneously offered by the multitude, thirsting for a sight of their prophet; for Jesus never rejected the humble testimonies of love and gratitude offered by his creatures. Trifling, as were those pledges of grateful affection, they were received with divine goodness the moment they came from the heart.

 

Magdalen, by turns regarding her Lord, and that multitude of people who made the air resound with their hosannas, wept in silence behind her veil. Mary’s eyes were likewise moist. She knew the time was crucial, and her strength lay in knowledge of that grace and salvation which are the hope of the world. The palm branches cast by the Hebres under the feet of their Messiah were still lying green and fresh on the steep road to Bethany; the echoes of the valley of cedars were still murmuring the expiring sounds of the glad, triumphant shouts wherewith the daughters of Sion had welcomed the King, when Jerusalem was again agitated by a new event of great and melancholy importance.

 

The chief priests, the senators, and the Pharisees, sought to get hold, even at the golden price, of a “great criminal” who they said was endangering both religion and the state. Dangerous indeed must this man have been, since those honorable personages had imposed upon themselves an extraordinary fast in order to get possession of him, and had even distributed certain alms through the city, by sound of trumpet, with the same intention.

 

The Pharisees – those conscientious Jews who robbed only the uncircumcised, and who would have left their neighbor at the bottom of a well rather than draw him out on the Sabbath day – these had undertaken to spread other, ominous reports and vague rumors, which had produced a sort of feverish uneasiness that could only end in a violent outbreak.

 

Although aware of the threats and murmurings, Jesus was intent upon preparing his disciples for the final stage of his earthly mission, in which both those who loved him, and those who resisted him, were to play their part.

 

On the first day of the unleavened bread, Jesus gathered his chosen 12 to eat the Passover supper. “And when the hour had come,” relates Luke, “he reclined at table and the twelve apostles with him.”

 

The Son whom Mary loved so dearly began the solemn feast with an expression of divine humility that his disciples did not understand.  He washed the feet of them all in turn, with the words, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

 

As the meal progressed, Jesus looked about them and made the stunning remark, “One of you shall betray me.” For the Divine Son knew full well the hearts of his followers. It was then the one who was to deliver him up into the hands of sinners, Judas of Iscariot, slipped out into the night that he might accomplish his betrayal.

 

At supper’s end Jesus blessed and distributed the bread to them, and gave this command: “Take, eat—this is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” And then as he passed the cup filled with wine, “This cup is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you.” Thus was the last supper ended. And the disciples wondered at the words of their Lord.

 

 Trial

 

Things thus prepared, there was seen to descend one evening, from Mt. Moria, a well armed troop accompanied by some senators, and commanded by the captain of the temple guards; after them came the footmen of the chief priests and at the head of this battalion marched, with a measured step and by the light of these large lanterns which the Asiatics hoist on long poles with some flaming torches, a man with a downcast brow and unsettled look, of mean and unprepossessing countenance, whose belt would soon be stuffed with the thirty pieces of silver which he was to gain by delivering up to his wily compatriots in the synagogue his master, his friend, and savor.

 

For as St. Luke relates, the myrmidons of the chief priests and Pharisees were going to seek on the Mount of Olives whither the Son of David, the conqueror of the preceding days, Jesus of Nazareth, the great Galilean prophet, had retired at night after having thought by day in the temple. They did not dare to arrest him in open day, fearing some resistance from that multitude of disciples who thronged from the dawn of day to hear him in Solomon’s Porch.

 

The armed band, led on by Iscariot, crossed the ravine through which flows the Kedron, that gloomy torrent which King David crossed of old, when he fled with a handful of faithful servants from rebellious soldiers. The soldiers of the temple, fierce and silent, followed the course of the torrent, which reflected the light of their torches, in order to gain the heights of Gethsemane. And the evening wind rustled in the drooping branches of the willows, from one of which Judas was soon to hang – a punishment too mild for such a traitor.  A sad and solemn scene was passing in that same garden of Olives where the unworthy Apostle was going to seek his Master, to destroy him.

 

After having prayed a long time prostrate on the ground, in that fearful agony which bedewed his divine brow with a bloody sweat, Christ arose in submissive resignation to the terrible will of his Father, and ready to drain the bitter chalice even to the dregs.

 

He raised his deep, wonderful eyes to the midnight heavens, studded with brilliant constellations and illumined by the meridian moon, that fair lamp of the heavens whose useful light the children of Abraham bless in their prayer; she was then at her full, and cast a sheet of radiant light over that austere landscape whose dark mountains, rising one above the other, were traced on the clear blue of the sky.

 

Jerusalem, half hid in shade, and in some places brilliantly lit up by the moon’s rays, sent afar an aromatic odor from the rare plants of its gardens, and its groves of palm trees rose stately and grand, interspersed with towers of with marble.

 

Silence reigned amid the mountains, but a low murmur arose from the depth of the valley, and Jesus’ body tensed. He walked slowly towards the spot where he had left the three Apostles whom he had chosen to share his lonely watch. Alas! Fatigued by the events of this strange night, the drowsy murmur of wind through the pal olive branches had gradually lulled the watchfulness of his sentinels, until they drifted into slumber.

 

Jesus stood looking on them a moment with a twinge of regret; he had told them that his parting was near at hand, that the hour of danger had arrived, and yet they slept – they, his friends and chosen disciples – as though indifferent to his danger in the hour of trial and misfortune. However, he knew they had no real cognizance of the situation, as yet.

 

A confused noise was heard on the hollow road leading to the little village of Gethsemane, and soon after, the light of many torches flashed on the trees. Jesus then, bending over his sleeping Apostles, said in a low, deep voice, “Arise! He who is to betray me is near at hand!”

 

He had scarcely spoken these words when Judas and his band arrived. Advancing to Jesus, emboldened by his escorts and with a false smile masking his lips, he pointed out the Lord to the hostile troop who came to seek him, by giving him that sacrilegious kiss which has since taken his name; this was the prearranged signal. Jesus received the traitor kindly, and said to him, with an undercurrent of knowing and of divine love, “Friend, whereto art thou come?” Such words of a higher love that would afterward ring in Judas’ mind again and again to torment him.

 

Judas had not time to answer this embarrassing question, for the others, advancing, threw themselves on Jesus and laid hold of him. Then arose the hot blood of Peter, Prince of the Apostles, who drew his sword and smote one of the servants of the high priest; but Jesus, arresting the only arm that was raised in his defense, commanded the sword to be restored to its scabbard. “That the Scriptures may be fulfilled,” said the sacred one, “so it must be done.”  The Lamb of God was willing to be immolated for the sins of the world.

 

Thereupon there was heard within the garden a confused sound of retreating footsteps, of breaking branches, and the shadowy forms of men where suddenly seen scaling the low wall which surrounded the garden, as the disciples made their escape.

 

For three years they had lived by his every word and action, they had obeyed his every command, and looked to him for direction. Suddenly that direction was taken from them, snatched by a senseless crowd. What could the sheep do at that first instant without a shepherd, but to scatter impulsively as the scripture had prophesied? They ran from the unbelievable – the sight of their all-powerful Lord, in captivity. If he, their Savor, would not help himself, what could they do against the priestly authorities and armed soldiers to save him? It was a surprising turn about. They had thought him infallible, and did not understand that he had to suffer this.

 

It is possible that the Spirit itself blinded their understanding and sent them fleeing, in order to preserve their lives for the work ahead, lest they should all have been arrested.

 

Mary in this was stronger than they. She had come to lean on his will and commands like them, but less fully. For she still remembered the years when she had commanded the child Jesus, and had cared for him. This gave her strength now, for she was once more brought to the consciousness of motherhood.

 

The hostile troop, having bound Jesus like a criminal, retraced their steps to the Holy city, bending their course towards the stone bridge over the Kedron; but some people from Jerusalem, coming to watch what transpired, had it already occupied, and tradition relates that Jesus was dragged across the stream; whereby the prophecy was literally fulfilled. “He shall drink in the way the water of the torrent.” The holy marks of the Savior’s feet and of one of his knees are imprinted in the bed and on the stone margin of the brook; so at least say the Christians of Jerusalem, who pointed them out.

 

It is unofficially said they preserve in Jerusalem the sentence pronounced by Pilate on Jesus Christ. We give it here, not as an authentic document, but as a local tradition, “conduct to the ordinary place of execution, Jesus of Nazareth, the seducer of the people, who has despised the authority of Caesar, and falsely announced himself as the Messiah according to the testimony of the ancients of his nation; crucify him between two thieves, with the derisive title of King. Go, lector, prepare the crosses.”

 

After the Trial

 

The streets were thickly lined with the multitude of spectators, some of whom displayed a ferocious joy, and loudly anathematized the son of David; others deplored the sad fate of that young prophet who had done naught but good to men, by whom he was now abandoned and betrayed. But those barren proofs of sympathy were scarcely perceptible; the good wept in silence; those whom he had fed with five loaves on the desert, those whom he had cured, those whom he had loved were there, lost in the crowd, and no voice was loudly raised to protest against his execution. The Apostles whom he had most loved had disowned him. The others had fled, with one exception.

 

As he painfully toiled down the long street, which leads to the Gate of Judgment, a woman made her way through the crowd. She was very fair, and her mild sweet face wore the stamp of purity, even while full of unutterable sorrow. She was pale, and the eyes, which could now weep no more rested with anguish on the gaping wounds of the Savor. The daughters of Jerusalem wept as they saw her, murmuring, “It is his mother.”

 

She silently moved among the people, who made way for her through an instinct of sympathy and compassion. Some hardened Pharisees were loading Jesus with bitter taunts and reproaches—he who was bathed in sweat and leaning under the weight of the cross; but his mother heard them not. The foreign soldiers who surrounded her Son made threatening gestures at her; she saw them not. But when a number of spears, pointed against her bosom, arose between her and Jesus, all the fire of the blood of David sparkled in her eyes, and she raised her beauteous head with an air of such majestic sorrow, such utter contempt of death, that the astonished soldiers slowly lowered their arms before that lowly and heroic woman. Fierce as their martial life had made them, they still remembered their own mothers.

   

Mary turned her trembling steps toward the Savior, she fixed her sorrowful eyes on that quiet form moving slowly along, bleeding and half naked under a heavy load; on that imposing countenance, so mild and merciful, which she had scarcely ever dared touch with her chaste lips, and which now appeared discolored with blood and spittle.  She passed her hand slowly over her brow as though to assure herself that the whole was not a fearful dream. No groan relieved her oppressed heart, no gesture of despair betrayed the secret of her agony; it only seemed that she was going to die, and die she must, in fact a thousand times over, during that solemn and heart rending pause, if He Who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb had not divinely sustained her.

 

Jesus soon perceived the presence of that mute and motionless figure, and bending still lower his already bowed head, he pronounced the words, “Hail, mother.” At this recognition a sharper anguish ran through her heart. She was seen to totter, and grow pale; then sinking beneath the accumulated load of sorrow, she fell prostrate on those rough stones already marked with the blood of Jesus.

 

A young Galilean with a gloomy, dejected countenance, and a young woman bathed in tears, quickly made their way to where Mary lay; thanks to their tender solicitude, the sorrowful Virgin recovered her senses, together with the consciousness of that physical and spiritual sacrifice which none, according to the Fathers, ever equaled.

 

Doubtless, John and Magdalen did all they could to keep her away from the bloody scene about to be enacted on Golgotha, but their efforts were not headed, for raising herself with difficulty, Mary began to climb, under the burning sun, the steepest side of Calvary, which being the shortest way, was that which they had made Jesus take.

 

   Crucifixion

They had reached the fatal and sacred place where the Lamb of God was to satisfy the justice of offended Heaven, substituting himself for all victims, and taking upon his all our miseries. It was there that he was to offer up that great sacrifice, the efficacy of which extends on the one side to the original transgression, consummation of the world. That little rocky esplanade was the altar whereon the blood of Christ was to flow in waves to wash away the sins of the world, and annihilate forever the compact of perdition.

 

But what had become of the sacred one? Mary cast an anxious glance over the dreary mountain, she saw the expectant multitude, and the crosses lay on the ground, laborers carelessly digging out the deep holes, which were to receive the three instruments of torture…. But where was Jesus?

 

He appeared, but in what a condition! Stripped of his garments with only a rag to cover this lacerated flesh and his bleeding wounds. His executioners ignominiously dragging him along, exposed him thus for some time to the ridicule of the people; then, the Just One stretched himself on the cross, that bed of honor prepared for him by the gratitude of men in return for his immense love.

 

It was a sight too dreadful for those who loved him; Mary was taken some paces thence, where she remained standing, white and cold. There was heard without a humming noise like that made by the bees of Engeddi when the Hebrew shepherd drives them from the hollow oak. At times there suddenly arose, amid that dull murmur, a storm of shouts mocking cries and hoarse bursts of laughter; the populace of all nations has ever had ferocious instincts, but these appeared to surpass themselves on this occasion.

 

During an interval of profound silence, accorded to some act of barbarity which captivate the attention of the multitude, there was heard the stroke of a hammer, the heavy stroke falling on wood and crushed flesh. Magdalen, with a shudder, pressed close to Mary, and the beloved disciple leaned for support against the side of the grotto; then all was done! “They are nailing him to the cross.”

 

John and Magdalen exchanged a sorrowful glance; they felt a sensation something like that, which rends the heart during a nocturnal storm, when the waves bring to the shore the drowning mariner’s piteous cries, without any possibility of assisting him.

 

But Mary, though trembling internally, became to observers as a statue hewn from cold marble, for she, too, was crucified! But numbness had come over her, as the anguish was dulled by shock. At the same time there began to well up from within her a sense of glory and of timelessness; their joint mission was accomplished – that for which she had given him birth was even now being completed.

   

Soon was heard the sharp rubbing of the cords on the pulleys; the cross arose slowly in the air, and the Son of Man- his face turned towards those western regions where the light was so long expected – was hoisted like a standard before the heathen nations; even so it was written. Thereupon, the mob raised a long, hoarse shout, “Hail, king of the Jews! If God loves him, let Him now deliver him! If thou art the Son of God, Nazarene, come down from the cross.”

 

And the robber crucified on his left cursed him in the intervals of his agony; the wretch would fain be vindictive till the last. Jesus, maintaining with calm and sublime dignity his great character as prophet and Savior-God, silently sealed with his blood the high doctrines of the new law. No complaint, no reproach escaped him amid the infamous torture, which he underwent in the presence of a whole city. He looked down on that misguided people with pity and forgiveness, and seeking to bend the divine Justice in favor of those who crucified him, “Father,” said he with pity in his voice, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

 

The Virgin left the spot where she had been semi-sheltered, and walked with her head bowed down to the place of execution.

 

At some paces from the infamous tree, rude soldiers were casting lots for the seamless robe which her own hands had spun, and clamorously contending for the sacred garments from which had been wrought so may miracles. A slight convulsion passed over Mary’s features, as she thought of the times when, rich only in the love of Jesus, but free from immediate anxiety, she worked, in the evenings, by his side, fabricating that festal robe and others. Now the remembrance was torture to her heart, for the light, which glided here past days of happiness did but darken by comparison the gloom of her present sorrow. She raised her eyes to heaven, seeking there, as usual, the strength to endure, and her eye met that of the crucified god. At that fearful sight, her feet were rooted to the earth, and she stood so petrified with sorrow, that all she had hitherto suffered seemed no more than a dream, a half effaced vision; all was absorbed in the cross.

 

Jesus, casting on the virgin a sweet and mysterious look, seemed to say to her as he did on the preceding evening to his Apostles, ‘Mother, the hour is come.” (As though he were relieved that the work was done)

 

It was the most memorable and eventful hour ever marked by the shadow of the sun since time began its course; the hour when the Son of God was to triumph over the world, death, and hell, and even over divine justice itself, the hour of the fulfillment of prophecies, of the abolition of sacrifices, of the restoration of woman to her primeval dignity, of the slave’s emancipation, and of our eternal redemption.

 

And the Virgin felt she could see the Patriarchs, the just kings, the prophets inspired by God, bowing down before Christ like the sheaves of the sons of Jacob before the mystical sheaf of Joseph. She thought she could see Moses and Aaron, laying before the new Tree of Life the ark of the covenant, the ephod, the golden plate, and the almond tree branch, symbols of the Hebrew priesthood, whose mission was about to end; Then David placing this sacred harp beside the sword of Phineas. Priests, rites and ordinances, types and symbols grouped around the Cross, awaiting their consummation, and the Book with the seven brazen seals was opened at the foot of the High Priest according to the Order of Melchisedech, which replaced that of Aaron.

 

The ancient world, receding like waves, gave place to other images, and Mary seemed at that moment to behold all the nations of the earth waiting at the food of the Cross - to receive the Gospel. Ethiopia and the isles stretched out their hands towards the Messiah; the desert, beginning to rejoice, blossomed like the rose; the knowledge of God filled the whole earth as the great waters cover the sandy bed of the ocean, and a thousand voices seemed to repeat in a thousand barbarous tongues: “Christ has conquered; blessed by his name!”

 

The noble and generous heart of Mary forgot for awhile its own poignant sufferings, to sympathize in the triumph of the law of grace and in the world’s regeneration –the vision of glory gradually faded away, but the impression of it remained to sustain her strength, and though she mourned with others, as custom required, there was exaltation at the magnificence of what he had so willingly done.

 

Meanwhile, all nature seemed to sympathize in the suffering of its god; the sky was gradually obscured, and the waning light gave a mournful coloring to that grand and sterile landscape so well suited to the crime of which it was the theatre.  Every moment the darkness increased; the dew fell, from the sudden interruption of the heat. Eagles screamed as they sought their nightly shelter; jackals howled on the banks of the Kedron, and Calvary, already so gloomy in itself, assumed the appearance of a great mausoleum of black marble. The people, strongly impressed by this unusual occurrence, were struck silent with fear, and only a few voices – those of the chief priests and Pharisees – continued to curse the avatar.

 

Soon, through the gloomy veil, which shrouded the face of the firmament, the stars shone out like burning torches, shedding over the scene a greenish light, which gave to the mass of spectators grouped on the sides of the mountain, the appearance of an assembly of specters. They looked at each other and grew pale. Vainly did the scribes and Pharisees – too far advanced in crime to attempt to recede endeavor to account for this prodigy by natural means; the longer the darkness continued, the less conclusive did their reasons appear. Old men, shaking their hoary heads, declared they had never beheld such an eclipse, and the learned, who were versed in the science of the Chaldeans, maintained, on the other hand, that no eclipse was either foreseen or possible in the then position of the moon, which was at the full. Indeed there can be no natural eclipse of the sun at the time of full moon – only at the new.

 

This eclipse of three hours was one of the Messianic prodigies, which were to signalize the wrath of heaven when Christ was put to death. “It shall come to pass in that day,” said the prophet Amos, “that the sun shall go down at mid-day; and I will make the earth dark in the day of light.” This darkness extended even to Egypt, where St. Denis was studying philosophy at Heliopolis . Struck with terror, the young Greek cried out, addressing his preceptor, “Either the world is about to be destroyed, or the God of nature suffers!” “We observed,” he later wrote, “that the moon suddenly interposed between the sun and the earth, although the time of that conjunction was not in accordance with the natural order of the laws to which the stars are subject…”

 

In the midst of the general consternation, Jesus occupied himself with the faithful souls who gathered around his cross in that hour of ignominy. Touched by the courage of John, and the profound affliction, which that young and ardent disciple sought not to conceal, he would leave him a pledge of his divine affection. He could leave him no worldly wealth, he, who had not had a stone whereon to lay his head, and who was even about to receive interment from the charity of a disciple; he had nothing in the world to leave but his mother; that mother who had clung to him through every trial, and who was now suffering equally with him. Here he solemnly bequeathed to his favorite disciple as an earnest of the celestial treasures, which he reserved for him in the kingdom of his Father. Knowing how well he was loved by those two holy souls, he foresaw, in his infallible goodness, the fearful vacuum, which his passage would make in their hearts, and he would strengthen these two faithful ones by giving them the support of each other. It too was in accord with the obligation of a Hebrew son, to see that his mother was properly cared for; and he knew she must remain among those of the faith.

 

When he would later command Peter, “follow me”, and of John say, “And if I will that he remain until I return…” he obviously foreknew that John, of all the disciples, would remain alive to great age, without martyrdom, and he alone would be present and able to remain beside this holy woman for many years. By this arrangement, which gave each a new and directive in life, the Virgin was to understand that she was not permitted as yet to follow her son to the gave, and that the term of her earthly pilgrimage was not yet arrived. She submitted to the divine will through love for us, whom she adopted in the person of the holy Apostle.

 

Mary’s sacrifice almost equaled that of Jesus. He willingly consented to die, she must also consent, to endure this ordeal and remain. Both those noble hearts were consumed with love for mankind, and were alone able to understand each other; for their thoughts were not as the thoughts of others, and the gold of their virtues was without alloy.

 

“Afterwards, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst. Now there was a vessel set there, full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar about hyssop, offered it to his mouth.”

 

Jesus having taken the vinegar, said, “It is consummated.” Then, in order to prove to the world that he died not by the power of death, but by a formal act of his own will, he gave a loud cry, bowed down his head and expired…

 

At that moment the pagan idols tottered on their pedestals; the lunar light brought by Moses, which had shone upon but one small portion of the globe, sank then below the horizon; and the sun of the gospel, the truth destined to light the world from pole to pole, and to least through all time, arose radiant from the east.

 

The supernatural darkness, as it began to disappear, was succeeded by the violent shocks of an earthquake, which destroyed, they say, twenty cities in Asia. At the same instant, the veil of the temple was rent asunder, rocks split, and several bodies of the saints who had slept in death arose and came into Jerusalem, to the great terror of the inhabitants.

 

Then it was that there was a marvelous reaction in favor of Jesus; the centurion had his soldiers who had presided at the execution cried out with one voice that the Nazarene prophet was certainly more than man, and that immense crowd of people who had heaped blasphemies and insults, mockery and derision on Christ in his agony, went down from the mountain striking their breasts, and repeating in dismay, "Indeed this was the Son of God!"

 

Pliny and Strabo speak of this earthquake. “It was so violent,” say both these authors, “that it was felt even in Italy.”

 

While the rocky flanks of the Golgotha were bursting open, and people fled in all directions without knowing where to turn their steps, there was seen in the pale lurid light, a woman standing completely motionless amid the convulsions and ruins of nature. She seemed insensible to the general consternation; her hands joined in the attitude of prayer, she was wholly absorbed in the sorrowful contemplation of the crucified prophet. And the daughters of Jerusalem again wept with compassion at the sight.

 



                                                                                                                               

Resurrection

 

Towards evening the Pharisees, unwilling that the sanctity of the Sabbath which commenced at nightfall should be endangered by allowing the bodies to remain on the cross, went to ask Pilate’s permission to have them removed. The permission obtained, they placed ladders against the gibbets whereon the two thieves were still in their agony, and having rudely torn their hands and feet from the cross, dispatched them by breaking their legs and arms. Jesus’ body being quite dead, a soldier contented himself with plunging his spear into his side, where upon the sacred blood that was to purify the world of its crimes flowed in streams, some say to the ground, others say the precious fluid was caught in a cup and saved, later to be known as the Holy Grail.

 

At some distance stood two veiled women, one of whom leaned on the other for support with a helplessness that betrayed the most heart rending grief; it was Mary and Magdalen, for she was also there; and at a distance were seen the other women of Galilee, who had quitted all for Jesus, and who had not abandoned him even in his hour of death and ignominy.

 

“Honor to them!” says Abeilard, “for when the disciples and apostles fled over the mountains, these frail but courageous creatures accompanied Christ even to the foot of the cross, and quitted him not till he was laid in the sepulcher!”

 

It might be said that they had nothing to lose by staying. Their lives went with Jesus, for whom they lived, whereas the Apostles still had his work to carry out. The women would not be arrested, the men would have been.

 

Then came Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy senator who had obtained from Pilate the body of Jesus – whose disciple he was, in secret – in order to give him decent burial. He took it down from the cross and prepared to wrap it up in a shroud of fine Egyptian lines which he had purchased in Jerusalem, when he saw a woman pale as death, whose stark frame was taut with anguish, and her lips barley moving to utter the prayer that arose from her heart, but every feature of her beautiful face was expressive of the most earnest supplication. The senator, recognizing Mary, made a sign of compassionate sympathy, and while Magdalen on her knees bathed with her scalding tears the bloody feet of her Lord, and moaned with pain, behind them stood the weeping women of Galilee who had followed and ministered to him, their wails contrasting with the silence of Mary.

 

Meanwhile, some of Joseph’s servants prepared the perfumes on the stone of unction, and others opened the new sepulcher hewn in a rock, which was to receive the mortal remains of the Son of God.

 

Calm was beginning to reappear, and the sings of divine wrath gradually diminished, so the executioners of the Lord laid aside their terror of a few hours before. Remorse vanished with their fears, and accordingly as the sky resumed its wonted serenity, so did their evil nature resume its sway.

 

Unable to deny the prodigies which a whole people had seen with their eyes, and which were still verified by the yawning rocks – the tombs scarcely closed – and the tattered veil of the temple, they ascribed them to magic, and maintained that this Jesus, so mighty in word and work, was but a son of Belial, who had infatuated the people and commanded the elements by the ineffable Name of the God of Israel, which he had taken by surprise from the Holy of Holies.

 

And the people allowed themselves to be caught by this bait thrown out by their chiefs, while nimble tongues helped spread it.

 

Meanwhile, a vigilant guard, chosen from amongst the satellites of the high-priest, watched by turns around the sepulcher; for Jesus had announced that he would rise on the third day; and the princes of the synagogue pretended to fear that his disciples might carry him off during the night.

 

The third day was beginning to dawn, but the east was, as yet, scarcely tinted with its roseate flush when several women of Galilee, bearing perfumes and aromatic plants to embalm Jesus after the manner of the kings of Juda, appeared on the bleak mountain, moving pensively towards the garden wherein was the tomb of Jesus. It is clear that they intended a peculiar or ritual sort of embalming for Jesus, since Nicodemus had already wrapped him up in costly bands perfumed with myrrh.

 

Tradition has it that Mary was among these holy women. Her quiet countenance revealed nothing of what she felt, except for a look expressive not only of resignation, but of expectation. Sometimes when she was alone, the tears would come, but she would quickly banish them knowing the purpose of all this was for joy and not sorrow.

 

The city still slept in the balmy breeze of the morning; flowers were opening their cups heavy with dew, the birds began to sing in the damp branches of wild fig trees, and the air was gradually assuming the worm coloring of the dawn. Nature seemed to assume her robe of light with unwonted joy, and that grand, though gloomy, landscape which surrounds Jerusalem began to wear a softer and gayer aspect, till then unknown, as though conscious of some glorious mystery passing near.

 

Suddenly in the midst of that smiling scene, a shock was felt; the stone which closes the mouth of the sepulcher rolled back as if pushed by some mighty arm; the guards fell stupefied to the ground, and those women who stood by Jesus during his long agony on the cross, now shuddered and grew pale, fearing that the terrible prodigies which accompanied the death of the Son of Man were about to be renewed.

 

But an angel in snow-white garments, with a face radiant as the lightning, appeared sitting on the stone and reassured the servants of Christ. “Fear not,” he said mildly, “I know that you seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified; he is not here, he is raised, as he told you. Come and see the place where the Lord was laid.”

 

While the pious Galileans looked timidly into the sepulcher, wondering at sight of the shroud and the perfumed bands, which remained there, the Virgin, her face grown radiant with a holy joy, stood leaning against an olive tree at some distance. A young man, in the homely garb of the people, stood conversing with her in a low voice. That young man was the first-born among the dead, the glorious conqueror of death, Jesus Christ. No one knew what passed during that solemn interview; but we may by affliction, felt then a degree of bliss, which we cannot know without experiencing it. And he spoke to the other women as well.

 

Our Lord, during the forty days following his resurrection, frequently manifested himself to the Apostles and talked with them on matters appertaining to the kingdom of God and the regeneration to be wrought among men. Pious authors have supposed that the Virgin was favored in these consoling apparitions, and that she found in them a foretaste of the joys of heaven. The bitter waters of her affliction were changed into sources of grace, and the Savior nourished her with the hidden manna, which he reserves for those who practice the patience enjoined by his law.

 

At length, the hour came when the Son of God was to be recalled to heaven; his redeeming mission was accomplished and the Apostles, fully convinced of this divinity by his resurrection, had received from him the necessary instructions for converting the nations to his glorious Gospel.

 

At noon on the fortieth day, he went out with them from Jerusalem towards the heights of Bethany. This direction was not taken by chance; there was that olive-crowned mountain whereon the Savior, detaching himself from the crowd, had often prayed to his Father, while the silent moon shone brightly over the still waters of the Dead Sea, the green valley of the Jordan, and the gigantic palms of the plain of Jericho, for in that elevated position “all far things seemed near.”

 

There was also that famous garden wherein Christ had undergone the first of his agony. It was just that his glory should commence in the same places that had witnessed his generous sufferings, and that those fields, whose woods, those shady wilds where he had so often prayed and meditated should receive the impression of his last footsteps before he ascended into heaven.

 

Arrived on the summit of that lofty mountain whence he could behold a great part of Judea, and make a farewell sign to those scenes which he had rendered famous by his miracles and his crucifixion, the Savior stopped on an open place, near a grove of olives whose pale foliage was parched and shriveled by the scorching noonday sun.  There, after raising his pierced hands towards his heavenly Father as though recommending to Him his infant church, he extended them over his mother and his disciples, as Jacob did over the sons of Joseph; then lifted himself up by his own power and slowly ascended into heaven.

 

This last act of the Savior worthily sealed his divine mission. During his life, he went about doing good; and Calvary, he prayed for friends whom he left behind him on the earth. While his hands were still raised over his prostrate disciples, they saw him enter a white cloud, which concealed him from their view.

 

The ascension of our Lord had not that gloomy and awful character of the reception of the Law by Moses, amid the thunder’s roar and the lightning’s flash; but the world’s Redeemer calm and serene majesty, which accorded, with the genius of the Gospel and the touching character of its author.

 

The angels, those beneficent spirits who rejoice in the happiness of men, where also seen to figure in that closing scene of the great drama of Redemption. Their divine songs had announced to shepherds the birth of the king-Messiah; their voices had proclaimed his resurrection from the dead; it was proper, then, that their words should confirm his glorious ascension.

 

While the disciples were attentively watching Jesus as he ascended into heaven, two men clothed in white stood suddenly before them, and said: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking up to heaven? This Jesus, who is taken up from you to heaven, shall so come as you have seen him going into heaven.”

 

It is said the Apostles and disciples cast down their eyes, dazzled by the brilliance of the glorious vision, but did the Virgin cast down hers? No, she must be permitted to catch a glimpse of that beyond, into which Jesus obtained admission for us by his blood and where he himself wipes away the tears of the Just.

 

The thing which springs from earthly man has not a lasting perfect ness: for no more does it ripen to fulfillment than it begins to deteriorate, and turn back gradually toward its source in earth. So are all things made of earth, and such as come by the will of earthly man.

 

But that perfection sent down from the Will of God above cannot descend to unfamiliar ground when past its height of strength, felling no pull of gravity below. It too must turn back whence it came, this being upward to the heavens. And so the Lord ascended, when his earthly mission is accomplished, rising as the air to that place from whence he came hither, unto us. And he gives to each something of that above, that we too may be drawn upward with him.

 

   Mary Led the Apostles

 

Ten days after this, we find her at prayer in the “upper chamber” where she received the Holy Spirit along with the Apostles. And from that day forward they looked to her as the spiritual leader of this shepherd less flock. Due to the position of women generally in those times, history has little to say, but the influence of this noble lady helped the disciples to find direction and courage in their new work.

 

In the Books of the Apocrypha it is said of Jesus’ attitude toward John that he was:

 

“More especially loved beyond the other apostles because he alone of them was a virgin in body. Unto him therefore he committed the charge of the holy Mary, saying to him: "Behold thy mother; and to her; behold thy son."

 

“From that hour the holy mother of God continued in the especial care of John so long as she endured the sojourn of this life. And when the apostles had taken the world by their lots for preaching, she abode in the house of his parents beside the Mount of Olive.”

 

It is mentioned that at the time St. John the Apostle was called by Jesus, he was engaged to a maiden with whom he then broke off the engagement to follow Jesus. In after years, she is said to have accompanied Mary the Mother of Jesus. (Note: None of the Apocryphal legends of the Assumption suggest that our Lady lived at Ephesus ; most suggest Jerusalem , and the Greek legend John 4 gives Bethlehem .)

 

Catherine Emmerich says that according to her visions:

 

“After Our Lord’s ascension Mary lived for 3 years on Mt. Sion , for 3 years in Bethany , and for 9 years in Ephesus (yet not in Ephesus, but southward near the sea.) Several Christian families and holy women had already settled here, to escape persecution."

 

“After 3 years sojourn here Mary had a great longing to see Jerusalem again, and was taken there by John and Peter. Several of the Apostles were assembled there: Thomas among them, and a Council was held at which Mary assisted them with her advice.”

 

Mary was the luminous pillar that guided the march of the infant Church. It was to her that the Apostles did homage for the numerous ears, which they gathered from the barren field of the synagogue into the granary of the Lord. She accepted this tribute in the name of her divine Son with graceful humility, and was continually seen surrounded by the poor, the sinful and the unhappy; for she always loved, in an especial manner, those to whom she could do good.

 

The Evangelists came to her for light; the Apostles for unction, courage, and constancy; the afflicted for spiritual consolation, and all went away blessing her. The Sun of Justice had set on the gloomy horizon of the Golgotha ; but the Star of the Sea still reflected his light over the renovated world, and shed a benign influence on the cradle of Christianity. She became the spiritual mother of the disciples, to whom they could go for counsel and sustainment in daily problems.

 

The Virgin remained in Jerusalem, till the terrible persecution, which broke out in the year 44 of our Lord, forced her to leave it with the Apostles. John, her adopted son, took her with him to Phesus. Nothing is now definitely known of Mary’s sojourn in Ephesus ; this is easily accounted for by the engrossing occupations of the time.

 

After the resurrection of the Savior, the Apostles, solely taken up with the propagation of the faith, considered everything as of minor importance that did not immediately bear on that all absorbing object. Full of their lofty mission entirely devoted to the salvation of souls, they forgot themselves so completely that they have barely left us a few unfinished records of the evangelical labors, which changed the face of the globe, so that their history resembles a sublime but almost effaced epitaph, having neither beginning nor end.

 

That the mother of Jesus shared the fate of the Apostles may well be conceived; the last years of her life having flown away, far from Jerusalem, in a strange land where her dwelling was signalized by memory of man. Nevertheless, the flourishing condition of the church of Ephesus, its tender devotion to Mary, and the praise, which St. Paul bestows on its piety, sufficiently indicate the fruitful cares of the Virgin, and the divine blessing, which followed her everywhere.

 

The coasts of Asia Minor, covered with opulent cities, rich in vegetation, and washed by a sea which bore thither a multitude of vessels, would have seemed to ordinary exiles a splendid compensation for the tall, bleak mountains of Palestine. However, it was not the homeland of the Virgin of Nazareth, hollowed by memory and tradition, it was not the land of her fathers, nor her divine Son.

 

Some Greek authors said that Mary Magdalen accompanied the Virgin and John to Ephesus; and that she died not too long after, and was buried in that city. There was a saying that the Emperor Leo had her relics brought from Ephesus to Constantinople about the year 890 where they were placed in the church of Lazarus there.

Another tradition, maintained by some respectable authors, will have it that Mary Magdalen ended her days in Province in the southeast of France.

 

The “Golden Legend” says that it:

    “Was in the fourteenth year after the Ascension of Our Lord, when the disciples went out into the divers regions of the earth to sow the word of God; and Saint Peter entrusted Mary Magdalene to Saint Maximums, one of the seventy two disciples of the Lord. Then Saint Maximums, Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Martha, Martilla, and Saint Cedonius, the man born blind who had been cured by Jesus, together with still other Christians, were thrown by infidels into a ship without a rudder and launched into the deep, in the hope that they would all be drowned at once. But the ship was guided by the power of God, and made port in good estate at Marseilles (France). There no one would give shelter to the newcomers, who were forced to take refuge beneath the porch of a pagan temple …Mary Magdalene arose and began to preach Christ to them. She died later in front of an altar in Marseilles, having performed certain healings and miracles and conversions and then having lived for 30 years there in contemplation in a grotto in a nearby mountain.”

 

Of all the ties of kindred and affection, at least St. John alone remained with the Virgin—John, that kind and loving disciple whom her Son had saved until the time should be ready for the Lord to bring the prophetic Book of Revelations and reveal them to John, to be written for the days at the end of the age. It was also from the Virgin that St. Luke obtained many of his marvelous and minute particulars of the infancy of Jesus Christ. Though some say Luke painted a portrait of the Virgin, it seems unlikely that the ardently religious Mary, trained as she had been, should have permitted such a thing so abhorrent to the Hebrew tradition. Yet how strange the multitude of pictures that have followed her time.

 

It is thought that Mary accompanied John in his travels, and it was doubtless in his conversations with the Queen of prophets that St. John discussed the Gospel he was to write. Assisted by light from Her whom the Fathers have compared to the golden candlestick with seven branches, the young fisherman of Bethsaida dived deeper than any other into the Word, and his mind took so bold a flight amid the mysterious heights of heaven that, compared with him, the other Evangelists seem but to skim the earth.

 

Meanwhile, the sowers of Christ had sowed the good seed of the word over every part of the Roman world; the evangelical harvest was green, and the laborers of the Lord worked with ardor in the sacred field. Mary considered that her mission on earth was accomplished, and that the Church could henceforward maintain herself. Then, like a tired workwoman who seeks rest and shelter during the heat of the day, she began to sigh after the cool shade of the Tree of Life, which grows near the throne of God, and for the living, sanctifying Waters known to Him who fathom the depths of the soul. The angel who stands at His right hand came to inform the future Queen of heaven that her Son had granted her wish. Tradition relates that the Blessed Virgin was apprised of her approaching demise by the ministry of an angel who made her acquainted with the day and the hour when it was to take place.

 

To this divine revelation, to which was added, as Nicephorus tells us, that of the day and hour of her passing, the daughter of Abraham began to sigh yet more ardently for her distant country; she would fain behold once more the lofty mountains of Judea, where the remembrance of the Redemption still floated on every breeze, and to die in sight of Calvary. St. John, to whom her wishes were, at all times, laws, made immediate preparations for returning to Palestine.

 

The Hebrew travelers probably embarked at Miletus, which was then famous as the rendezvous of all ships from Europe and Asia navigating those waters. While crossing the Grecian seas, the Virgin and the Evangelist recognized, in passing, the temple of Esculapius soaring into the clouds; Delos the birth-place of Apollos; and Rhodes, the cradle of Jupiter, each rising successively from amid the waters, with their green mountains and their ancient temples peopled with gods who were soon to be banished to the depths, through the new dispensation brought by him who was crucified on Calvary.

 

At some distance from Cyprus there was seen, far up amid the clouds, a dark point traced on the blue dome of heaven; it was the mount whereon the prophet Elias had of old erected an altar to the future mother of the Savior and where his disciples were then about to place themselves under her special protection. Next day, the galley entered a port of Syria Sidon, perhaps – its commercial intercourse being frequent with Palestine, as seen by the sacred books.

 

They returned to Israel after an absence of several years, Mary withdrew to the mountain of Zion, within a short distance of the ruinous and deserted palace of the princes of her race, to the house which had been sanctified by the descent of the Holy Ghost on that day of Pentecost – St. John, on his side, went to seek St. James, her close relative and the first bishop of Jerusalem, to inform him as well as the faithful who composed his already numerous church of Jerusalem, that the mother of Jesus had returned to depart from amongst them.

 

 

The Assumption

 

The day and the hour were come; the saints of Jerusalem once more beheld the daughter of David, still poor, still fair, still humble; for one would have said that this admirable and holy creature escaped the destroying action of time, and that, predestined from her birth to complete and glorious immortality, nothing in her was to perish.

 

Again quoting Apocryphal scripture:

 

“Upon a certain day Mary, fervent with desire of Christ, betook herself alone into the refuge of her dwelling to weep. And lo, an angel shining in a garment of great brightness stood before her and came forth with words of greeting, saying, "Hail, thou blessed of the Lord, receive the greeting of him that granted salvation to Jacob by his prophets. Behold, said he, this palm-branch. I have brought it to thee from the paradise of the Lord, and thou shall cause it to be carried before thy bier on the third day when thou shall be taken up out of the body. For behold, thy Son with the thrones and the angels and all the powers of heaven awaited thee."

 

“Then Mary said to the angel, "I ask that all the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ be gathered together to me". And the angel said: "Lo, this day by the power of my Lord Jesus Christ all the Apostles shall come to thee.”

 

“And St. John said to her: "How shall I alone prepare thy burial unless my brethren and fellow Apostles of my Lord Jesus Christ come to pay honor to thy body?”

 

“And lo, suddenly by the commandment of God all the Apostles were lifted up on a cloud and caught away from the places where they were preaching and set down before the door of the house wherein Mary dwelt. And they greeted each other and marveled saying: "What is the cause wherefore the Lord hath gathered us together here?"

 

VI:   “Then all the apostles rejoicing with one mind finished their prayer: and when they had said Amen, lo, suddenly the blessed John came and showed them all these things. And the apostles entered the house and found Mary and saluted her, saying: "Blessed by thou of the Lord, which made heaven and earth."

 

“And she said to them: "Peace be unto to you, my most beloved brethren. How came ye hither"? And they told her how they had come, each one of them being lifted up on a cloud by the Spirit and set down in that place.

 

“And she said to them: "God hath not deprived me of the sight of you. Behold, I go the way of all the earth, and I doubt not that the Lord hath now brought you hither to give me comfort in the anguish that is to come upon me. Now therefore I beseech you that we all keep watch together without ceasing, until the hour when the Lord shall come and I shall depart out of the body.”

 

The night had fallen, and lamps with many branches seemed to shed, with their pale light, something solemn and mysterious over that sad and silent assembly. The Apostles, deeply moved, stood close around the bed. St. Peter, who had so tenderly loved the Son of God during his life, contemplated the Virgin Mother with profound sorrow, and his speaking glance seemed to say to the bishop of Jerusalem, “How much she resembles our Lord.”

 

In fact, there was a remarkable likeness, and the bowed head of Mary, recalling that of the Savior during the last Supper, finished the effect. There was not, in the entire crowd, a heart unmoved, or an eye unmoistened by a tear. Mary, sympathizing in the general condition, and almost forgetting the splendor which awaited her on high, in order to wipe away the tears of those who loved her applied herself to confirm the faith of her children, to revive their pious hopes, and to inflame their charity; she told them with unequalled eloquence of those mighty and sublime things which people hold their breath to hear, which raise man above himself, and render him capable of any undertaking. Her speech, so mild that the Scripture has compared it to a honeycomb, became gradually strong; the daughter of David and of Solomon, the inspired prophetess who had changed the triumphal hymn of the Magnificent, soared up to considerations so high that the listeners forgot, in their upliftment, that the mystic strain was soon to close.

 

But the hour approached. Mary extended her protecting hands over those whom she was about to quit, and raising her beautiful eyes to the stars the heavens open, and the Son of man extending his arms towards her from amidst a luminous cloud. At this sight, a roseate flush overspread her face, her eyes sparkled with maternal love, joy attained its height, adoration became ecstatic, and her soul, disengaging itself without an effort from its fair and virginal covering, fell gently into the bosom of God.

 

To return to the Apocryphal Scripture:

 

VII:  “And as they sat about her, comforting her, and for three days gave themselves to the praises of God, lo, on the third day, about the third hour of the day, sleep fell upon all that were in that house, and no man at all could keep waking save only the apostles and three virgins that were there."

 

“And behold, suddenly the Lord Jesus Christ came with a great multitude of angels and a great light came down upon that place, and the angels were singing hymns and praising the Lord. Then the Savior spoke, saying: "Come, thou most gracious pearl, enter into the treasury of eternal life.”

 

VIII:  Then Mary fell on her face on the pavement worshipping God, and said: "Blessed be the name of Thy Glory, O Lord my God, who hast vouchsafed to choose me they handmaid and to commit to me Thy secret mystery. Remember me, therefore, O king of glory: for Thou know that with all my heart I have loved Thee and have kept the treasure committed unto me. Receive therefore Thy servant…"

 

“And the Savior answered her: "Come thou without fear, for the heavenly host awaited thee to bring thee into the joy of paradise." And as the Lord thus spoke, Mary arose from the pavement and laid herself on her bed, and giving thanks to God she gave up the ghost. But the apostles saw her soul, that it was of such whiteness that no tongue of mortal men can worthily express it; for it excelled all whiteness of snow and of all metal and silver that glistered with great brightness of light.”

 

Hippolytus of Thebes states, in his chronicle, that the Blessed Virgin became a mother at the age of sixteen, and died eleven years after Jesus Christ. According to some other authors, the Virgin was 66 when she died.

 

“All the host of heaven,” says St. Jerome, “came to meet the mother of God, at the moment of her death, signing hymns and canticles which were heard by all present."

 

Mary was no more, but her countenance, which had assumed the expression of a tranquil slumber, was so sweet to look upon that it seemed as though death hesitated to set his seal on that trophy which he was only to retain for a day.

 

A lamp was lit by her bed, the windows were all thrown open, and the summer breeze made its way into the room with the flickering beams of the stars. One would have said that a miraculous light filled the room when Mary had drawn her last sigh; it was, perhaps the glory of God, which surrounded the spotless soul of the predestined Virgin. When the death of Mary was no longer doubtful, there was nothing heard at first, but tears and lamentations; then the accustomed chant arose on the stillness of the night. It seemed to them that the angels chimed in with their golden choir, and echoes repeated the wail over the tombs of the kings of Juda.

 

On the following day, the faithful brought in with pious profusion the most precious perfumes and the richest stuffs for the burial of the Queen of Virgins, unlike the simple garments she had worn on earth. They embalmed her according to the custom of the people, but her blessed remains exhaled a sweeter odor than the perfumed bands wherewith she was bound.

 

IX:  “Then the Savior spoke, saying: "Arise, Peter, and take the body of Mary and bear it unto the right-hand side of the city toward the east, and thou wilt find there a new sepulcher where ye shall place it, and wait till I come unto you."

 

“And when the Lord had so said, he delivered the soul of the holy Mary to Michael, who was set over paradise and it the prince of the people of the Jews, and Gabriel went with them. And immediately the Savior was received up into heaven with the angels.”

 

X:  "Now the three virgins that were there and watched took the body of the blessed Mary to wash it after the custom of burials. And when they had stripped it of its apparel, that holy body shone with such brightness that it could indeed be touched to do the service thereof; but the appearance could not be looked upon for the exceeding flashing of light: and a great splendor appeared in it, and nothing was perceived by the sense when the body was washed, but it was most pure and not stained with any manner of defilement. And the body of the blessed Mary was like the flowers of the lily and a great sweetness of fragrance issued from it, so that nothing like that sweetness could elsewhere be found."

 

XI:  “Then therefore the apostles laid the holy body upon a bier and said one to another: Who shall bear the palm before her bier?” And the Apostles bore the body of the blessed Mary, and John carried the palm of light before the bier. And the rest of the Apostles sang with exceeding sweet voices."

 

XII:  “And behold, a new miracle. There appeared a very great cloud over the bier like the great circle that used to be seen about the splendor of the moon; and a host of angels was in the cloud sending forth a song of sweetness, and the earth resounded with the noise of that great melody. Then the people came out of the city, about fifteen thousand, and marveled and said:  What is this sound of such sweetness?”

 

    The preparations being duly completed, the sacred body of the holy mother was placed in a portable litter filled with aromatics, and covered with a sumptuous veil, and then the Apostles bore it on their shoulders to the valley of Josephat. The Christians of Jerusalem, bearing lighted tapers, and chanting hymns and psalms, followed sadly and reverently the remains.

 

Arrived at the place of sepulcher, the mournful procession stopped. Through the care of the holy women of Jerusalem, the tomb was deprived of its gloomy aspect and the sepulchral cave presented to the view only a flowery arbor.

 

The Apostles gently laid down the mortal remains of Mary, and doing so, they wept. Of all the testimonials pronounced on that occasion, that of Hierotheus was the most remarkable. St. Denis the Areopagite, who describes the scene as an eyewitness, relates that as he praised the Virgin, the orator was almost beside himself.

 

For three days, the Apostles and the faithful watched and prayed beside the sepulcher, where they heard distinctly the sacred concert kept up by the heavenly spirits, as though to soothe the last sleep of Mary. Juvenal, a fifth-century patriarch of Jerusalem, wrote that the Apostles, relieving each other, passed day and night with the faithful near the tomb, mingling their canticles with those of the angels, who, for three days, were constantly heard making the most celestial harmony.

 

The Apocrypha describes it thus:

 

XVI:  “The apostles carrying Mary came into the place of the valley of Josaphat which the Lord had showed them, and laid her in a new tomb and shut the sepulcher. But they sat down at the door of the tomb as the Lord had charged them: and lo, suddenly the Lord Jesus Christ came with a great multitude of angels, and light flashing with great brightness, and said to the apostles: Peace by with you.”

 

“And they answered and said: Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, like as we have hoped in Thee.

 

“Then the Savior spoke unto them, saying: Before I ascended up unto my Father I promised you, saying, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his majesty, ye also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Now this woman did I choose out of the tribes of Israel by the commandment of my Father, to dwell in her.:

 

XVII:  “Then the Savior commanded Michael the archangel to bring the soul of the holy Mary.

 

“And behold, Michael the archangel rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulcher, and the Lord said: Rise up, my love and my kinswoman; thou that didst not suffer corruption by union of the flesh, shall not suffer dissolution of the body in the sepulcher.

 

“And immediately Mary rose up from the grave and blessed the Lord, and fell at the Lord’s feet and worshipped him, saying: I am not able to render thee worthy thanks, O Lord, for Thine innumerable benefits which Thou hast vouchsafed to grant unto me Thy handmaid. Let Thy name be blessed for ever, redeemer of the world, Thou God of Israel

 

“And the Lord said unto her, ‘what you have asked, that I do grant. At your prayer, I will not shut up my grace and my mercy.’

“All things created were filled with joy and cried out: ‘So be it.’

 

“And the Lord kissed her and departed, and delivered her to the angels to bear her into paradise. And he said to the apostles; Come near unto me; and when they had come near, he kissed them and said: Peace be unto you; as I have been always with you, so will I be even unto the end of the world.

 

 

‘And immediately when the Lord had so said he was lifted up in a cloud and received into heaven, and the angels with him, bearing the blessed Mary into the paradise of God.

 

“And the unspotted Virgin was triumphantly borne aloft in a chariot of light. Then a cloud covered all that stood about her.

 

“There remained only the disciples who persevered in prayer for three days during which they heard the continuous chanting of hymns of praise. While they were still together, behold Thomas, one of the disciples, cometh on a cloud just as the body of the most blessed Mary was being borne on high by the angels; and he called aloud to them to stop that he might be blessed by her.

 

“Then when he came into the company of the other disciples who were continuing in prayer, Peter said to Thomas: ‘Thomas, our brother, what has delayed you from being present at the passing of the Mother of the Lord Jesus, and from seeing the great wonders which have been wrought in her honor? You have failed to receive her blessing.

 

“And Thomas replied; my duties in the Lord’s service made it impossible for me to be with you. Yet the Holy Spirit has revealed to me all that has taken place while I was preaching the grace of Our Lord in the Indies , where I have baptized the king’s nephew, Golodius. Now, tell me where you have placed the body of our Lady.

 

“They replied, in this tomb.

 

“And he said: I wish to see her and to be blessed by her. Then will I be able to affirm the truth of all that you have told me.

 

“Then the disciples cried out: You are now doubting, just as you were when the Lord arose and until you were satisfied by being allowed to finger his wounds and to place your had in his side.

 

“With the help of the disciples he drew aside the stone of the tomb, and they all went within. They found the tomb empty, and they were greatly amazed and cried out: While we were away the Jews have come and have taken the body to do what they will with it.

 

“But Thomas said, ‘Be not fearful, my brothers, for just as I was borne here from the Indies on a cloud, I beheld the holy body surrounded by a great company of angels. She has gone up on high in triumph. Loudly did I beg that the Holy Mary would bless me and she gave me this sash.’ (This scene is often depicted in medieval art.)

 

“And the apostles were taken up upon clouds and returned every one unto the lot of his preaching, declaring the mighty works of God and praising the Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reign with the Father and the Holy Ghost, in a perfect unity and in one substance of the Godhead, world without end.  Amen.”

 

Some ancient fathers, such as St. Eiphanius, seem to doubt whether she really died or whether she remained immortal, being taken body and soul to heaven; but the accepted opinion of the Catholic Church is that the Virgin did really die according to the condition of the flesh. This occurred, it is supposed, during the night, which precedes August 15.

 

The date of her transition is very uncertain, but Eusebius fixes it in the year 48 of the Christian era; so that, according to him, Mary lived 68 years.  But Nicephorus says she died in the year 45. Then, supposing that the Blessed Virgin was sixteen years old when the Savior was born, she would have lived 61 years.

 

It is noteworthy that neither the Latin's nor the Greeks, so eager to claim legends for their churches—and relics—in a word, no people, no city, no church—ever boasted of possessing  the mortal remains of the Blessed Virgin, nor any portion of her body. Hence, without prescribing a belief in the corporal assumption of Mary into heaven, the Church gives us clearly to understand the opinion to which she inclines.

 

To quote again from the Golden Legend:

 

“In the time of Pope St. Gregory, there was a plague in Rome, and the pope ordained that on Easter Day a procession should march around the city, bearing the picture of the Blessed Virgin which is in the possession of the church of Saint Mary Major. This picture, according to the common opinion, was painted by Saint Luke, who was as skilled in the art of painting as he was in medicine. And all at once the sacred image cleansed the air of infection, as if the pestilence could not withstand its presence; whenever it passed, the air became pure and refreshing. And it is told that the voices of angels were heard around the picture, signing Latin words which mean: ‘Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia! For He Whom thou wert worthy to bear, alleluia! Hath risen as He said, alleluia!’

 

“To this Saint Gregory promptly responded, begging that she pray for them, then above the fortress of Crescentius, he saw a mighty angel wiping a bloody sword and putting it back into its sheath. From this he understood that the plague was at an end, as indeed it was. And thenceforth this fortress was called, the Fortress of the Holy Angel.”


Names for Mary

 

Mystical Rose of the new laws

 

St. Gregory of Neocesarea, that cold, austere man, finds the most charming appellations for the Mother of God, whom he styles source of light and immaculate flower of life.

 

St. Ephraim, that melancholy and enthusiastic solitary, compared the Blessed Virgin to the golden censor exhaling the sweetest perfumes*

 

St. Epiphanius calls the Virgin spiritual ocean containing the celestial pearl.

 

 St. Cyril of Alexandria, the inextinguishable lamp which has brought forth the Sun of. Justice.

 

"With, what marvelous flowers of eloquence shall we weave thee a crown, O Mary" says St. Basil of Selemia; "from thee has budded the flower of Jesse, which embellishes us with glory and honor."

 

St. Gregory the Great compares Mary, that virgin fair and adorned with the glory, of her fruitfulness, to a very high mountain, which soars above the angelic choirs and, reaches even to the throne of the Divinity.

 

Alcuin, that light of the. Court of Charlemagne, said, 'IO Virgin thou art the life of heaven, the flower of the fields, the lily of the world."

 

Pope Innocent III compares Mary to the dawn.

 

St. Thomas of Aquinas to the star of the ocean, which guides and directs those who navigate the waters,

 

"Hail noble daughter of Kings," cries the learned and mystical Bramus, "thou art more brilliant than the dawn,-milder than the silver moon, purer than the fresh-blown lily, whiter than the mountain snow, more graceful than the rose, more precious than the ruby, more chaste than the angels..."

 

Home Up The Golden Force Book of Activity Book of Judgment Book of Woman Book of God Book of Man Book of Order Jesus of Nazareth Christ the Lord The Discovery Jesus of Galille White-Bro-TOC EVOLUTION OF WOMEN New Cosmic Consciousness Mary of the Holy Family THE HOLY GRAIL