of the Holy Family
an old French translation
of the Holy Family
Table of Contents
Life of the Blessed Virgin
The Birth of Mary
Marriage of the Virgin
The Adoration of the Magi
Mary Led the Apostles
Names for Mary
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.
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
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
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
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.
Life of the Blessed Virgin
those remote times when the world was still in its infancy, when our first
trembling and amazed, heard under the majestic shades of Eden the awful
Jahweh condemning them to exile, to labor and to death in punishment of
disobedience, a mysterious prediction, wherein the pitying kindness of
was manifested through the wrath of the offended Deity, came to
raise the drooping
spirits of those two frail creatures who had sinned.
daughter of Eve, it was said, a woman of masculine courage, was to crush the
of the serpent beneath her feet, and to regenerate forever a guilty race;
that woman was
it was a tradition amongst the antediluvian tribes that a woman
should come to
repair the evil, which another had done.
consoling tradition, which kept up the hopes of a fallen race, had not yet been
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.
after times, when the primitive religion faded away, and the ancient traditions
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
us survey the various regions of the globe; let us search from north to south,
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.
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.
who is reckoned amongst the sons of Heaven is the Emperor Hoang-Ti, whose
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
"production of light".) This pearl had fallen from Heaven into the
bosom of a young maiden.
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
and oxen warmed him with their breath.
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,
great man, and wrought miracles.
lamas say that Buddha is born of the Virgin Maha-Mahai.
became prince, legislator and the god of Siam, likewise owes his life to a Virgin
made fruitful by the rays of the sun.
of the Druids was to bring forth the future
The Brahmins teach that when a god assumes human flesh, he is conceived
womb of a Virgin, by divine operation.
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
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.
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
raiment, and then a celestial light falls upon the face of the
sleeper who becomes fair as
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,
having wrought many extraordinary miracles, ascended one day into the open air,
presence of his disciples, and transformed himself into a Sun.
all these scattered fragments of many creeds be brought together and they will
up, in nearly all its details, the history of the Virgin and her divine
Virgin Mary, notwithstanding the royal blood, which flows through her veins, is
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,
him forth without hurt or pain in a poor stable, our divine Savior, like the
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
whose dazzled eyes lost him in the clouds, precisely as is related by the savage
is assuredly very strange that these marvelous legends--which have not been
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
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?
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
notions wherein the stamp of a primitive time is so plainly visible, evidently
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
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.
means whereby God gave fecundity to that virginal womb are strikingly alike,
the different nations of the world.
Cast a glance over all the old religions, and you will there
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.
suppose that the throne of God is in the sun, and hence their veneration for
Hebrews, who shared in this belief, recognized the divine presence, or the
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
It was the opinion of the Synagogue, supported by the tradition of the
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.
this graceful tradition of a pure Virgin admitted to a divine union, surrounded
impenetrable mystery, was connected that of a Savior God, born of her womb,
who was to
labor for the salvation of the world.
that demonstration of love, that homage of gratitude which Adam and Eve were
render to God immediately after their creation, was in Eden composed only of
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
in a position far above his proper sphere.
the delicious garden where he had placed mortal man, God planted the tree of
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
from the height of heaven into his perishable tenement of clay.
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
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.
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.
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
immolation of animals, which has not the slightest connection with the vows and
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.
had these poor, dumb creatures, devoid of reason, but very capable of
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
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
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.
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.
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
virtues of plants and what God chose to teach him concerning the course of the
must then conclude that
all this was not the work of a day.
span of time enabled the first man to establish his supremacy over the animals
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,
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
in expiation of their sin."
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
thou hast done this things," said God to the serpent, (who showed himself
of our ruin), "the seed of the woman--that is, to say, her
offspring--shall crush thy head."
the Hebrew tradition adds that God, touched by the repentance of our first
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.
ripens His councils by ages, for a thousand years are to Him but as one day; but
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.
just persons of the race of Seth, those pure solitary and contemplative men
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
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
while that from amongst themselves should arise a just man who would obtain
admission for them.
it was not the name of a Virgin of the primitive times that was written in the
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.
the earth had absorbed the waters of the Deluge, and the winds had dried it up,
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
future reparation, which the world was to owe to the miraculous maternity of a
Indians, the Chinese, the Peruvians, and even the Hurons, acknowledge that the
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.
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
Altars were erected at the
confluence of rivers in the shade of forests, on the summits of
the green sea-wave, and on the sandy moor where the wormwood tree spreads
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.
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
of antiquity, history has preserved proofs of the displacing
of rivers after the Deluge, in many lands.
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
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.
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
mediator, that powerful advocate? They
knew not. The descendants of Shem
that they had found him in the stars which cheered their solitary watch, and
they supposed inhabited by celestial spirits, they engaged those spirits
to protect them, and
kindled fires in their honor on the mountaintops.
the lapse of time the shades thickened, religions became burdened with rites;
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,
animals. And hope began to build the
cradles of the Messiah.
all of the heathen nations took the mystery of the Messiah as an already
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."
Chinese - instructed by Confucius, whom had himself, found that oracle in old
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
sages of China, the Holy One, the miraculous man, will renew the universe, change its morals
the sins of the world, and die overwhelmed with sorrow and opprobrium.
Magi, on the faith of Zoroaster, studied the constellations in quest of the star
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
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.
Brahmins sighed for the glorious avatar of him who was to purge the world of
begged it of Wichnou, laying on his jeweled altar odorous stuffs of
sweet basil, a plant beloved
by the Indian god.
haughty children of Romulus, those idolaters par excellence who had created
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."
about the time of the Messiah, all the nations of the East were in expectation
future Savior. But what were
those glimmering rays, powerless to dispel the darkness of
compared with the blaze of light, which illumined the chosen people?
are struck with amazement at sight of that prophetic chain of which the first
fixed to the cradle of the world, and the last settles down at the
sepulcher of Christ. The
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
, when they had conciliated Heaven by penance.
who was adopted by God as inheritor of the faith, transmitted to Shem his
that Shem, whose life was nearly as long as that of his ancestors
might repeat them to the fathers
of the faithful.
it was that a mysterious benediction, wherein the promise of the Messiah was
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,
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.
prophet saved from the waters of the
, who was divinely called to gather and
consign to writing the history of the
first ages and the ancient traditions of mankind - traditions
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
"shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren like unto me:
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.
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
the end of the mission of Moses, and while Israel was still encamped in the
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
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
behold him... but not nigh. A
Star shall come forth from Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of
out of Jacob shall come him that shall have dominions…"
time rolls away without further promise, and the prophecies are either confided
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
the time of David, and under the kings of his race, the thread of prophecy is
and the mystery of the Virgin and the Messiah is made more manifest
than ever by magnificent
predictions clearer than the Sun.
holy king, preferred by the God of Israel saw the virginity of Mary and the
of the Son of God. "Thy
birth", said David "unsullied by sin, shall be pure as the morning
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.
the earlier prophecies, the blessed Virgin though always pointed out, was yet
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
of Abraham, of Jacob, and of Jesse the Just, begins to be clearly defined.
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
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
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
tree of paradise, and she hears with delight the plaintive song of the turtle.
and collected, she seeks not every eye, and conceals herself within her dwelling
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.)
praying on Mount Carmel for the cessation of that long drought which, for three
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
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.
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.
that enchanting figure which an ancient painter composed by borrowing a thousand
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
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
and warding off danger. Judith
encircled her brows with a garland of lilies, so as to make
her way without
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.
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".
was the daughter-in-law of Judah, presumably a Canaanite woman whose first two
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)
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.
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.
fourth was probably a woman from northern Syria, near Damascus, as these people were called
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
Bathsheba, who became the mother of Solomon.
now there is "Mary, of whom Jesus was born", and the female side of
the genealogy is complete.
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.
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
who succeeded each other from the days of the Patriarchs, she can be no ordinary
must needs have special qualities.
The pious belief of the immaculate conception of Mary is the result of
that sentiment of respect.
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
immaculate as her life.
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
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
the West, on the contrary, this doctrine met powerful opponents, for St. Anselm,
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
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.
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.
Apostle St. Andrew, quoted by the Babylonian Abdias, expresses himself in these
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
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."
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
itself declares for the Immaculate Conception, and the Arab Commentators on the
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."
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
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.
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.
a manuscript of the thirteenth century found in the library of the Dominicans of
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.
doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary had been banished from the pulpits
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
in France, which was then called "the firmament of science, the prop of truth and
piety in the church
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
This is the decree of Sorbonne. We
resolve and declare that no one shall be admitted for the future into
Faculty, until he swears to maintain all his life this doctrine of the
Dominicans showed themselves almost alone hostile to the pious doctrine, which
by many other Orders.
the Council of Bale in 1429 declared that the doctrine which teaches the
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.
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
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.
wife of Joachim who according, to the opinion of
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.
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
barrenness was a disgrace.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
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.'
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
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.
this was heard, great joy was caused to all his neighbors and acquaintances, so
that the whole
was gladdened by this report.”
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.
was about the beginning of the month Tisri - the eighth of September, according
to the teaching of the Church in the year of
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.
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
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.
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.
cradle of the Queen of Angels was neither adorned with gold nor covered with the
richly embroidered quilts of
, 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.
was customary amongst the Israelites to assemble the family on the ninth day, in
order to give the newborn child its name.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
, which has become legend, whether or not it was ever fact.
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.
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
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.
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
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
, 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
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.
passed. Eventually they left behind
them the rich pasturage, the groves of palms and pomegranates clothing the hills
. 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.
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
had then nothing more magnificent or fantastic.
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
. It was an almost impregnable
fortress, held in awe by the people of God, whilst the
, 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
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.
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
, 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
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.
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.
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
brought from far off lands, and silver, which was then so plentiful that it had
become almost as a base metal.
splendor had passed away like a vision of the night, thanks to the insatiable
greed of the tribes of
. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
which was not considered sacred, and was called the Gentiles' Porch, because
non-Jews could not, under pain of death, advance farther.
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.
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
. 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
, properly so called, crowned the summit of
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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;
for fear that avarice, which is a slavish vice, might creep in and dishonor a
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."
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
dedicating their children to the Temple
service, the parents along with the more devout leaders of
had the secret hope that the marriage of one of the virgins would result in the
coming of the promised Messiah.
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
, 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.
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
, 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."
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
. Those dancing-choirs of young
maidens, transplanted from
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
, 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.
is probable that all the
, (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
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
. 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
, as that people excluded women from their religious celebrations.
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,
, and before them, the Proto-gospel of St. James affirmed it.
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
, when they mention that Mary was admitted amongst the daughters of the Lord,
say very little more on the subject.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
woman who came to the
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.)
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.
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
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,
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
. The Apostles themselves later used
this prayer in the synagogues. At
certain pauses the assembly was obliged to respond, in chorus, with their
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.
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
; it is of-a beautiful black, resembling ebony; and is thought to be the setim
wood of Moses).
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
, 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
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
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.
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
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.)
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.
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
consecrated to God, "loaned' him to the Temple
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.
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.
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.
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:
we could-form a mosaic of the gems, which hail her qualities,
would go something like this:
was kind, affable, compassionate, and never tired
hearing the complaints of the wretched;
spoke little, always to the point, and never did falsehood defile her lips.
voice was mild and penetrating, and her words were like a
unction, which infused peace into the soul.
was first in vigils, most exacting in fulfilling divine law;
most profound in humility, the most perfect in every virtue.
was never seen in anger; never offended, annoyed, or rebuked anyone.
was averse to all pomp; simple in her apparel, simple in her manners,
never turning to her own account the uses of her beauty,
noble birth, or the rich
treasures of her mind and heart.
politeness was no idle formula, and held no empty words; it was
expansion of universal beneficence proceeding from her inmost soul.
presence seemed to sanctify all around.
her look denoted the Mother of Mercy.”
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
history of the Virgin is as barren and full of gaps as is the childhood of our
Lord himself. And that of
, 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.
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.
us look at them for a moment in I Samuel 2:
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.
the boy ministered to the Lord, in the presence of Eli the priest.
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
is then almost certain that
, 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
is thought that St. Joachim and
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
, and in
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
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
rising to their view in the distance, near journey's end?
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
, come here to bend the knee before the only altar of their fathers' God.
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.
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.
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
, 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
, and according different names to the high priest.
of St. James:
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.
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
the heralds went forth over all the country round about
, and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and all men ran thereto.
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.
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.
Joseph refused, saying I have sons, and I am an old man, but she is a girl: lest
I became a laughing-stock of
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.
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.
from the Pseudo-Gospel of Matthews
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.
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.
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.
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
the priests said, on the next day, let whoever is without a wife come and bring
a rod in his hand.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
* * * * * * * *
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."
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.
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)
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.
* * * * *
an older widowed Joseph with grown children had a home (not at
) 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
; nor there would have been a problem.
* * * * *
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.
was the law that a daughter with property must marry within her own tribe.
"No patrimony in
shall pass from tribe to tribe, but every Israelite shall retain hit father's
"An heiress may marry a man from any family in her father's tribe.
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.
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.
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.
the priests might be that were honored with the tutelage of the blessed daughter
, 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.
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
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?
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
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.
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
as the sea absorbs a drop of rain.
poor but highborn man was, according to the Proto-gospel of St. James, a
widower, but according to
had never been married, --this man of years was Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth.
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:
Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the people of
, and get from them rods, one for each fathers' house, from all their leaders,
according to their fathers' houses, twelve rods.
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
, which they murmur against you."
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
. 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
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.
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.
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.
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."
Virgin was not confided to the most powerful, but to the most worthy; thus the
ark, which the princes and captains of
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.
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.
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.
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.
the festivities of the wedding Mary returned to her old home in
with some of the maidens. They
spent the first night at Bethoron, and made the journey on foot.
to the Apocryphal Pseudo-Yiatthew, Chapter VIII:
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.
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
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.”
after the wedding, for he had to settle some family affairs, and he did not
until later. But as an elder
brother of Joseph lived in
, it was here that he eventually turned his steps.
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.
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
proves that she conformed to them.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
." 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
wrought at his trade in a house apart from his dwelling.
Tradition places this house of
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
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
had reduced her, a humble and unassuming maiden.
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.
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
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.
let us go back a space:
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.
Exodus 3O: 7
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…"
and Elizabeth lived about five miles outside
, 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.
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,
the incense offering."
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."
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
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.
the Book of James X:
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.
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
at that season Zacharias became dumb, and Samuel was in his stead until the time
when Zacharias spoke again.)
Mary took the scarlet and began to spin it.”
of James XI:
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.
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
sun was declining towards the lofty promontory of Camel, and would soon set
behind the horizon of the
, 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.
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.
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."
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.
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.”
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
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."
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.'
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.
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.
upon receiving this new information concerning her relative
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.
Mary never went abroad without fitting company, it is probable that she joined
some relatives who were going to the
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.
of James XIII:
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."
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
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."
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."
answer was the sublime Magnificent the first canticle of the New Testament, and
the most beautiful.
Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit
exulted in God my Savior
He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaid
behold henceforth all generations shall call me blessed
He who is mighty hath wrought great things for me,
holy is His Name:
for generation upon generation is His mercy
them that fear Him.
hath put forth His arm powerfully:
hath scattered the proud in their heart's conceit
hath cast down monarchs from their thrones,
the lowly He hath exalted.
hath filled the hungry with goad things, and the rich He hath
away empty. He hath come to the aid
, His servant,
of His mercy (even as He promised unto our fathers)
Abraham and to his seed forever.”
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
Virgin remained three months in the country of the Hethites, within a short
distance of the city of
, 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.
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
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.
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
of the New Covenant under its roof.
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
she abode three months with
, 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.)
Apocryphal Book of Mary then states that Joseph was at
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.
the Book of James XIII:
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?”
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
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?
she wept bitterly, saying: I am pure and I know not a man.
Joseph said unto her whence then is that which is in thy womb?
she said: As the Lord my God liveth, I know not whence it is
“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.”
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.
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
, "that it would have been unjust if one criminal were absolved, whilst God
Himself punished the other."
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.
of James XIV:
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.”
“Now Annas the scribe came unto him and said to him Joseph,
whom thou bearest, witness that he is righteous hath sinned grievously.
Pseudo-Gospel of Matthew continues:
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?
Joseph took a solemn oath that he had never touched her at all.
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.
there gathered together a multitude of people which could not be numbered, and
Mary was brought to the Temple.
the priest said: The Virgin whom he received out of the
of the Lord, he hath defiled her, and married her by stealth, and hath not
declared it unto the children of Israel
they brought her together with Joseph unto the place of judgment.
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?"
she wept bitterly, saying; As the Lord my God liveth I am pure before Him, and I
know not a man.
the priest said unto Joseph: Wherefore
hast thou done this?
Joseph said "As the Lord my God liveth I am pure as concerning her."
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
Joseph held his peace.
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."
the priest took thereof and made Joseph drink and sent him into the
hill-country. And he returned whole.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
appears that, faithful to an ancient customs the news still had them enrolled by
families and by tribes. David was
; 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.
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
, amid the good wishes of their friends and neighbors, who cried on every side,
"Go in peace!"
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Book of James says:
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.'
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."
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.
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.
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
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..."
were accomplished the great prophecies of Isaiah and Micheas:
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.”
2: 9-14 --
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
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
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.
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.
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
said that this star indicated the nativity of Christ, who should restore the
promise, not only to Israel, but to all nations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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".
later times, Lamsa has mentioned the Hebrew name as being "Yasha," and
the Aramaic as "Eshoo," for the name "Jesus."
the spelling can never be exactly transposed, due to difference of language and
alphabet. The general-sound is
similar in all these variations.
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.
episode of the Magi has been considerably developed in the apocryphal literature
, 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.
the Arabic text:
the days of the prophet Moses, there lived a man named Zaradust (Zoroaster) who
was the founder of an occult doctrine.
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.
Jews will crucify this Child in the Holy
that was established by Melchisedech. He
shall visit the regions of the dead and shall then ascend on high.
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."
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.”
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
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?
say unto him; In
Judaea; for so it is written. And he let
he examined the wise men saying unto them: What sign saw ye concerning the king
that is born?
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."
Herod said: "Go and seek for him, and if ye find him, tell me, that I also
may come and worship him."
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
, they went into their own country by another way.”
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.
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
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
behind them the city of
, with its stately palm-wood buildings, and
, 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.
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,
and after it, Seleucia, situated at a short distance, was the seats of the most famous astronomers of
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
through two files of barbarian soldiers.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
, 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
, 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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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."
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
had their tents taken ups and once more traversed the Holy
to repair to the supposed birthplace of the Messiah.
They wound along the walls, quitted
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
, 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! Our star!" cried the delighted company, for they were now sure of
being in the right ways and resumed their march with increased ardor.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
where the Virgin rested.
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.
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
. The inhabitants seemed to be camel-drivers, for they kept a number of camels
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
length the outskirts of that strange and silent region were gained.
– 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
"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.
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.”
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.
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…”
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
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
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
question recurs: “Did Mary have
sisters, or did she or they have other children? Did she remain virginal after
the birth of Jesus?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
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.
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).
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 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.
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
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.
of the Infancy Gospels, from the Arabian text, says:
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."
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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).
eloquence was peculiar to himself. It was not the emphatic exaggerations
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
had just attained his twenty-ninth year when the angel of death summoned away
the venerable head of the Holy Family.
– 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
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?
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
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.
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
to prepare for the work of the work’s redemption by fasting, prayer, and
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!
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.
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.
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!”
answered her in a low voice, but with emphasis, “Woman, what is it to me and
to thee? My hour is not yet come.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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,
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.
all the cities of Galilee,
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.
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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?”
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.”
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
in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the
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.
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.
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.
passed unseen through the midst of his enemies and returned once more to
Capernaum, where his mother and the sons of
soon after joined him.
John, Chapter 7:
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
, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man
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
were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly but as it were in
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.
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.”
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
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
Palestine, was head to warble its most melodious strains/ Nature had donned her gala
dress for the baptism of Mary.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
divers sufferings, and joys; fears and triumphs—too many to enumerate – the
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
where the unworthy Apostle was going to seek his Master, to destroy him.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
confused noise was heard on the hollow road leading to the little
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!”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
wept as they saw her, murmuring, “It is his mother.”
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.”
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!”
Virgin left the spot where she had been semi-sheltered, and walked with her head
bowed down to the place of execution.
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
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)
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
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
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.
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!”
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
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.
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.
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
Egypt, where St. Denis was studying philosophy at
. 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
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.
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
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.
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
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…
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
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.
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!"
and Strabo speak of this earthquake. “It was so violent,” say both these
authors, “that it was felt even in Italy.”
the rocky flanks of the
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.