I see a bare, flat country, without any villages or vegetation. There are no cultivated fields, but a few odd plants are growing here and there in clusters, like vegetable families, where the deep soil is less parched. Imagine that the arid waste land is on my right-hand side, with my back turned to the north, and the harsh area stretches southwards.
On my left instead, l can see a river with very low banks, flowing slowly from north to south. The very slow flowing water makes me understand that there are no falls in the level of the riverbed and that it flows in such a flat country as to form a depression. The movement of the water is just sufficient to avoid the formation of marshes. The river is so shallow that the bottom can be seen: I would say the water is a metre deep, or a metre and a half, at most. It is as wide as the river Arno in the S. Miniato-Empoti area: about twenty metres. However, I am not good at estimating. And yet its color is blue with a light green hue near the banks, where on the humid soil, there is a strip of thick green vegetation, very pleasant to look at: the sight of the stony, sandy bleakness of the ground tying before it is, instead, a very monotonous one indeed.
The internal voice, which l told you I hear and tells me what I must take note of and know, is now warning me that I am looking at the Jordan valley. I am calling it a valley, because that is the name used to indicate the place where a river flows, but here it is incorrect to call it so, because a valley presupposes the presence of mountains, but I do not see any mountains in the neighborhood. In any case, I am near the Jordan, and the waste land on my right is the desert of Judah.
If it is correct to call a desert a place where there are no houses or man's works, it is not so according to our idea of a desert. There are none of the undulating sands of the desert, as we understand it, but only bare ground strewn with stones and rubble, like alluvial grounds after a flood. There are hills in the distance.
And yet, near the Jordan, there is a great peace, something special and unusual, as one often feels on the shores of Lake Trasimeno. It is a place which seems to be full of memories of angels' flights and celestial voices. I cannot describe exactly what I feel. But I feel that I am in a place that communicates with my soul.
While I am watching these things, I notice that the right bank of the Jordan (in respect to me) is becoming crowded with people. There are many men dressed in different fashions. Some seem ordinary people, some rich, and there are some who appear to be Pharisees, because their tunics are adorned with fringes and braids.
In the midst of them, standing on a rock, there is a man whom I recognize at once to be the Baptist, although it is the first time I have seen him. He is speaking to the crowds, and I can assure you that his sermon is not a sweet one. Jesus called James and John the Sons of thunder. Well then, what should we call this impetuous orator? John the Baptist deserves the names of thunder- bolt, avalanche, earthquake, so impetuous and severe he is in his speech and gestures.
He is announcing the Messiah and exhorting the people to prepare their hearts for His coming, eradicating all obstructions and rectifying their thoughts. But it is a violent and harsh speech. The Precursor does not possess the light hand Jesus used to cure the wounds of hearts. He is a doctor who lays the wound bare, scrutinizes it and cuts it mercilessly.
While I am listening -- I am not repeating the words, because they are related by the Evangelists, but here they are amplified in impetuosity -- I see my Jesus proceeding along a path, which is at the edge of the grassy shady strip coasting the Jordan. This rustic road -- it is more a path than a road -- seems to have been opened by the caravans and the people who throughout years and centuries, passed along it to reach a point where it is easy to wade, because the water is very shallow. The path continues on the other side of the river, and disappears from sight in the green strip of the other bank.
Jesus is alone. He is walking slowly, coming forward, behind the Baptist. He approaches noiselessly and listens to the thundering voice of the Penitent of the desert, as if He also were one of the many who came to John to be baptized and purified for the coming of the Messiah. There is nothing to distinguish Jesus from the others. His clothes are those of common people, but He has the bearing and handsomeness of a gentleman. There is no divine sign discriminating Him from the crowd.
But it would appear that John perceives a special spirituality emanate from Him. He turns round, and at once identifies the source of the emanation. He descends impulsively from the rocky pulpit and moves quickly towards Jesus, Who has stopped a few yards away from the crowd and is leaning against the trunk of a tree.
Jesus and John stare at each other for a moment: Jesus, with His very sweet blue eyes; John with his very severe black flashing ones. Seen from nearby, one is the antithesis of the other. They are both tall -- their only resemblance -- for all the rest, they differ immensely. Jesus is fair haired. His hair is long and tidy, His face is white ivory, His eyes blue, His garment simple, but majestic. John is hairy: his straight, black hair falls unevenly onto his shoulders, his sparse dark beard covers his face almost completely, but his cheeks, hollowed by fasting, are still noticeable, his feverish eyes are black, his complexion is dark, tanned by the sun and weather-beaten, his body is covered with hairs, he is half- naked in his camel-hair garment, which is tied to his waist by a leather belt and covers his trunk, reaching down to his thin sides, whilst his right side is uncovered and bare, completely weather- beaten. They look like a savage and an angel, seen close together.
John, after scrutinizing Him with his piercing eyes, exclaims: "Here is the Lamb of God. How is it that my Lord comes to me?"
Jesus replies calmly: "To fulfill the penitential rite.
"Never, my Lord. I must come to You to be sanctified, and You are coming to me?"
And Jesus, laying His hand on the head of John, who had bowed down in front of Him, replies: "Let it be done as I wish, that all justice may be fulfilled and your rite may become the beginning of a higher mystery and men may be informed that the Victim is in the world."
John looks at Him with his eyes sweetened by tears and precedes Jesus towards the bank of the river. Jesus takes off His mantle and tunic, and is left with a kind of pair of short trousers. He then descends into the water, where there is John, who baptizes Him, pouring on His head some water from the river by means of a cup, tied to his belt. It looks like a shell or a half pumpkin dried and emptied.
Jesus is really the Lamb. A Lamb in the whiteness of His flesh, in the modesty of His gestures, in the meekness of His took. While Jesus climbs on to the bank and after putting on His clothes concentrates on praying, John points Him out to the crowd and testifies that he recognized Him by the sign that the Spirit of God had shown him as an infallible means to identify the Redeemer.
But I am enraptured in watching Jesus pray, and I can only see His bright figure against the green of the river bank.
"John did not need any sign for himself. His soul, which had been presanctified in his mother's womb, possessed that penetration of supernatural intelligence which all men would have had, if Adam had not sinned. If man had persevered in grace, innocence and loyalty to his Creator, he would have seen God through external appearance. In Genesis it is said that God used to speak to the innocent man in an informal way, and that man did not faint hearing His voice, neither was he deceived in discerning it. Such was the destiny of man: to see and understand God exactly as a son does his father. Then man sinned and he no longer dared look at God, he was no longer able to see and understand God. And now he is less and less able to do so.
But John, My cousin John, had been purified from fault, when the Full of Grace lovingly embraced Elizabeth who, after being barren, had become pregnant. The little child had leapt out of joy in her womb, because he felt the scales of sin falling from his soul, as a scab falls off a wound when the tatter is healed. The Holy Spirit, Who had made Mary the Mother of the Savior, started His mission of salvation on that child about to be born, through Mary, the living Tabernacle of Incarnate Salvation: the child was destined to be united to Me not so much by his blood, as by the mission, by which we were like the lips that express a word. John was the lips, I the Word. He was the Precursor both in the Gospel and in martyrdom; I, by means of My divine perfection, made perfect both the Gospel which John had started, and martyrdom, suffered to defend the Law of God.
John did not need any sign. But a sign was necessary for the darkness of spirit of other people. On what would John base his statement, but on an undeniable proof evident to the eyes and ears of backward and dull listeners?
Neither did l need to be baptized. But the wisdom of the Lord had chosen that moment and way for our meeting. And leading John out of his cave in the desert and Me from My home, He united us in that hour to open the Heavens above Me and He descended Himself, a divine Dove, on Him Who was to baptize men with that Dove, and His announcement was heard descending from Heaven, more powerful than the angel's, because it came from My Father: "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased". So that man should have no excuse or doubt in following or not following Me.
My fatherland was full of My manifestations. Like seed scattered to the four winds, they took place in every social condition and place in life: to shepherds, powerful people, scholars, skeptical men, sinners, priests, rulers, children, soldiers, Jews and Gentiles.
And they take place even now. But, as in the past, the world does not accept them. It does not accept the present manifestations and forgets the past ones. Well, I will not give up. I will repeat Myself to save you and to persuade you to have faith in Me.
Do you know, Mary, what you are doing? Or rather, what I am doing, in showing you the Gospel? Making a stronger attempt to bring men to Me. You yearned for it with your fervent prayers. I will no longer confine Myself to words. They tire men and detach them. It is a fault, but it is so. I will have recourse to visions, also of My Gospel, and I will explain them to make them more attractive and clear. I give you the comfort of seeing them. I give everybody the possibility of wishing to know Me. And if it is of no avail, and like cruel children they should throw away the gift without understanding its value, you will be left with My present, and they with My indignation. I shall be able once again to repeat the old reproach: "We played for you and you would not dance; we sang dirges and you would not weep". But it does not matter. Let them, the inconvertible ones, heap burning coals on their heads and let us turn to the little sheep seeking to become acquainted with their Shepherd. It is I, and you are the staff leading them to Me.
The Poem of the Man God, by Maria Valtorta, Volume 1, pages 242-246