23. The Birth of the Baptist.
3rd April 1944.
This vision of peace descends from Heaven, amid the disgusting things which the world nowadays offers us, and I do not know how that can be, because I am like a little twig at the mercy of the wind in my continuous conflicts with human wickedness so discordant with what lives within me.
We are still in Elizabeth's house. It is a beautiful summer evening, still clear in the last rays of the sun, and yet the sky is already decorated with a falcated moon that looks like a silver comma attached to a large deep blue cloth.
The rose-bushes give off strong perfume and the bees, like humming gold drops, are making their last flights in the quiet warm evening air. From the meadows, there is a strong smell of hay dried in the sun, it is almost like that of bread, of warm bread, just taken out of the oven. Perhaps it comes also from the many sheets hanging everywhere to dry, and which Sarah is now folding.
Mary is walking with Her cousin, linking arms with her. They go up and down very slowly, under the semi-dark pergola.
But Mary watches everything and, while taking care of Elizabeth, She sees that Sarah is ill at ease in folding a long sheet which she has taken off a hedge. « Sit down here, and wait for me » She says to her relative. And She goes to help the old servant, pulling the sheet to straighten it, and then folding it carefully. « They still smell of sun, they are warm » She says with a smile. And to make the old lady happy, She adds: « This sheet, after your bleaching, has become as beautiful as ever. You are the only one who knows how to do things so well. »
Sarah goes away, overjoyed, with her load of scented sheets.
Mary goes back to Elizabeth and says: « Let us take a few more steps. They will do you good. » And as Elizabeth is tired, and does not wish to move, Mary says to her: « Let us go only to see if your doves are all in their nests, and if the water in their tub is clear. We shall then come back home. »
Doves must be the favourite pets of Elizabeth. When they are in front of the rustic tower where all the doves are gathered, Elizabeth is deeply moved; in fact the hens are in the nests and the cocks are in front of them, but neither of them move, instead they all start cooing loudly when they see the two women: a gentle form of greeting. Elizabeth is overcome by the weakness of her condition and by fears which make her cry. She expresses her fears to her cousin. « If I should die… what will happen to my poor little doves? You will not be staying here. If You were to remain in my house, it would not matter if I died. I have had the greatest joy a woman can possibly have. The joy which I was no longer expecting to have, and I cannot even complain of death with the Lord, because He has overwhelmed me with His benignity, may He be blessed for it. But there is Zacharias-… and then there will be the child. An old man who would feel as though he were lost in a desert without his woman. And the other is so small, that he would be like a flower, condemned to die of cold because he is without his mother. Poor baby, without the caresses of his mother!… »
« But why are you so sad? God has given you the joy of being a mother, and He will not take it away from you when it is full. Little John will receive all the kisses of his mummy, and Zacharias all the attentions of his faithful wife until the very end of his long life. You are two branches of the same tree. One will not die, leaving the other alone. »
« You are good, and You comfort me. But I am so old to have a son. And now that I am about to have one, I am afraid. »
« Oh! No! There is Jesus here. We must not be afraid where there is Jesus. My Child relieved your pain, you said that yourself, when He was just a bud newly formed. Now that He is becoming more and more mature, and He already lives as My Creature - I can feel in My throat the beating of His little heart, and I feel as if a little nestling with a light pulsating heart were resting on My throat He will remove all dangers from you. You must have faith. »
« I have. But if I should die… don't leave Zacharias at once. I know that You are concerned with Your own house. But please remain here a little longer to help my husband in his first days of sorrow. »
« I shall stay to take delight in your joy and in the joy of your husband, and I will leave you when you are strong and happy. But now be quiet, Elizabeth. Everything will be all right. Nothing will happen to your household while you are suffering. Zacharias will be served by the most loving maid, your flowers will be looked after, and your doves will be attended to, and you will find them all beautiful and happy to rejoice with, when their loved mistress comes back. Let us go in now, because you are getting pale… »
« Yes, I think I am beginning to suffer again. Perhaps my time has come. Mary, pray for me. »
« I will support you with My prayer until your labour ends in joy. »
The two women slowly go back into the house.
Elizabeth withdraws to her rooms. Mary, a capable and provident woman, gives the necessary instructions, prepares everything that may be necessary, and at the same time, She comforts Zacharias who is worried.
In the house that is sleepless that night, and where one can hear the strange voices of women called in to help, Mary is watchful like a lighthouse on a stormy night. The whole house rotates around Her, and She sees to everything, smiling sweetly. And She prays. When She is not called for this or that matter, She concentrates in prayer. She is now in the room where they always gather for their meals and to work. Zacharias is with Her, and he sighs and walks up and down uneasily. They have already prayed together. Then Mary has continued to pray. Also now that the old man, being tired, has sat down on his big chair near the table, and is quiet and sleepy, She prays. And when She sees him sleeping with his head resting on his arms crossed on the table, She takes Her sandals off to make no noise and walks barefooted and, making less noise than a butterfly fluttering around the room, She takes Zacharias' mantle, and lays it on him so gently that he continues to sleep in the comfort of the woollen cloth that protects him from the cold air of the night that comes in, in gusts from the door, which is very often opened. Then She starts praying again, and She prays more and more intensely, kneeling down, raising Her arms, when the painful cries of Elizabeth become heart-rending.
Sarah comes in and invites Her to go out. Mary goes out barefooted into the garden. « My mistress wants You » she says.
« I am coming. » And Mary walks along the house, goes upstairs… She looks like a white angel, wandering in the peaceful starry night. She goes into Elizabeth's room.
« Oh! Mary! Mary! What a pain! I can't stand it any longer, Mary! How much pain one must suffer to be a mother! »
Mary caresses her lovingly, and kisses her.
« Mary! Mary! Let me put my hands on Your belly! »
Mary takes the two wrinkled and swollen hands, and lays them on Her round abdomen, pressing them tightly with Her smooth, slender little hands. And She speaks in a low voice, now that they are alone: « Jesus is here, and He hears and sees you. Have faith, Elizabeth. His holy heart is beating more strongly because He is acting for your good. I can feel it throbbing as though I were holding it in My hands. And I understand the words that My Child says to Me. He is now saying: "Tell the woman not to be afraid. Only a little more pain. And then, with the first rays of the sun, among the many roses awaiting the morning's rays to open out on their stems, her house will have the most beautiful rose, and it will be John, My Predecessor". »
Elizabeth now presses also her face against Mary's belly, and weeps gently.
Mary stands for some time in that attitude because the pain seems to ease giving a moment's relief. And she beckons everybody to be quiet. She remains standing, beautiful and white in the pale, faint light of an oil lamp, like an angel near a person who suffers. She is praying. I can see Her moving Her lips. But even if I did not see them move, I would understand that She is praying from the enraptured expression on Her face.
Some time goes by, and Elizabeth is in the throes once again. Mary kisses her again, and goes out . She goes downstairs very quickly in the moonlight, and goes to see if the old man is still sleeping. He is sleeping, and moaning in his sleep. Mary makes a gesture of compassion, and starts to pray once again.
More time passes. The old man awakes from his sleep and lifts up his head, and he is confused, because he does not recollect why he is there. Then he remembers, makes a gesture, and utters a guttural exclamation. He then writes: « Is he not born yet? » Mary shakes Her head in denial. Zacharias writes: « How much pain! Oh my poor woman! Will she manage without dying? »
Mary takes the hand of the old man, and reassures him: « At dawn, in a short while, the baby will be born. Everything will be all right. Elizabeth is strong. How beautiful this day will be - it will soon be daybreak - how beautiful this day will be when the child sees the light! It will be the nicest day of your life! The Lord has kept aside great graces for you and your child is the announcer of them. »
Zacharias shakes his head sadly, and points to his dumb mouth. He would like to say many things, but cannot.
Mary understands, and replies: « The Lord will complete your joy. Believe in Him completely, hope in Him indefinitely, love Him totally. The Most High will grant you more than you dare hope for. He wants this total faith from you, to wash out your past mistrust. Say in your heart with me: "I believe". Say it with every beat of your heart. The treasures of God are opened for those who believe in Him and in His powerful bounty. »
The light begins to filter in through the partly open door. Mary opens it. Dawn makes the dewy earth completely white. There is a strong smell of humid earth and green herbs, and the first chirping of the birds, calling one another from branch to branch, can be heard.
The old man and Mary move towards the door. They are pale because of the sleepless night, and the light at dawn makes them look even more pale. Mary puts on Her sandals, and goes to the foot of the staircase and listens. A woman looks out, nods, and then goes back in. Nothing yet.
Mary goes into the room, and comes back with some warm milk which She gives to the old man. She goes to the doves, comes back, and disappears into the same room. Perhaps it is the kitchen. She moves around watching. She looks as though She had slept the most perfect sleep, She is so quick and serene.
Zacharias is walking up and down the garden very nervously. Mary looks at him compassionately. She then goes again into the usual room, and kneeling near Her loom, She prays intensely, because the cries of Elizabeth are becoming sharper. She bows down to the ground imploring the Eternal Father. Zacharias comes back in, and seeing Her in this prostrate state, the poor old man cries. Mary gets up and takes him by the hand. She is so much younger than he is, but She looks as though She were the mother of the poor old desolate soul, and She pours Her consolation on him.
They are standing thus, one beside the other, in the sun that makes the morning air rosy, and it is thus that the joyful news reaches them: « He is born! He is born! It's a boy! Happy father! A boy as beautiful as a rose, as beautiful as the sun, as strong and good as his mother! Joy for you, father, blessed by the Lord Who gave you a son that you may offer him to the Temple! Glory to God, Who has granted posterity to this house! Blessed are you, and your son who was born to you! May his offspring perpetuate your name for centuries, from generation to generation, and may his descendants always be in union with the Eternal Lord. »
Mary blesses the Lord weeping for joy. Then the two receive the little one, who has been brought to the father, that he may bless him. Zacharias does not go to Elizabeth. He receives the child, who is screaming desperately, but he does not go to his wife.
Mary instead goes, carrying with love the little one, who becomes quiet, as soon as She takes him in Her arms. The woman who is following Her notices this, and she says to Elizabeth: « Woman, your child became quiet immediately, when She took him. Look how peacefully he is sleeping, and only Heaven knows how restless and strong he is. But look now! He seems a little dove. »
Mary lays the creature near his mother and caresses her, tidying up her grey hair. « The rose is born » She whispers in a low voice, « and you are alive. Zacharias is happy. »
« Does he speak? »
« Not yet. But hope in the Lord. Rest now. I am staying with you. »
« If My presence had sanctified the Baptist, it did not nullify for Elizabeth the sentence against Eve. "You shall give birth to your children in pain" the Eternal Father had said.
Only I, because I was without stain, and I had not had any human copulation, was exempted from generating with pain. Sadness and pain are fruits of fault. I, Who was the Innocent One, had to know also sorrow and sadness, because I was the Co-Redeemer. But I did not know the torture of generating. No. I did not know that torture.
But believe Me, daughter, that there never was, and never will be a torture of puerpery like Mine as the Martyr of a spiritual Maternity, which was accomplished on the hardest of beds, the bed of My cross, at the foot of the scaffold of My dying Son. Which mother is compelled to generate thus? To blend the torture of Her bowels which contract spasmodically because of the death rattle of Her dying Creature, with the torture which tears Her bowels apart in the strain of overcoming the horror of having to say: "I love you, come to Me Who am your Mother" to each murderer of Her Son, born of the most sublime love that Heaven ever saw, of the love of a God with a virgin, of the kiss of Fire, of the embrace of Light which became Flesh, and made the womb of a woman the Tabernacle of God?
"How much pain to be a mother!" says Elizabeth. So much! But nothing when compared to Mine.
“Let me press my hands on Your belly". Oh, if you always asked Me for that when you suffer!
I am the Eternal Bearer of Jesus. He is in My womb, as you saw last year, like the Host in the monstrance. Who comes to Me, finds Him. Who leans on Me, touches Him. Who addresses Me, speaks to Him. I am His Dress. He is My Soul. My Son is united to His Mother more, much more now, than He was in the nine months that He was in My womb. And every pain is appeased, every hope flourishes and every grace flows for those who come to Me and rest their heads against My bosom.
I pray for you. Remember that. The beatitude of being in Heaven, living in the ray of God, does not cause Me to forget My children who are suffering on the earth. And I pray. And all Heaven prays, because Heaven loves. Heaven is living charity. And Charity has mercy on you. But even if I were all by Myself, My prayer would be sufficient for the needs of those who hope in God. Because I never stop praying for you all, for the holy and the wicked, to give joy to the holy, to give repentance to the wicked that they might be saved.
Come, come, o children of My sorrow. I am waiting for you at the foot of the Cross to grant you graces. »
24. The Circumcision of the Baptist.
4th April 1944.
I see the house rejoicing. It is the day of the circumcision.
Mary has made sure that everything is beautiful and in good order. The rooms are bright with light, the most beautiful cloths, the nicest furnishings are shining everywhere. There is a lot of people. Mary moves agile amongst the various groups. She is very beautiful in Her most beautiful white dress.
Elizabeth, respected by everybody as a matron, is enjoying most happily her feast. The child is laid on her lap sated with milk.
It is now the moment for the circumcision.
« We will call him Zacharias. You are old. It is only fair that the child be called after you » say the men.
« Not at all! » exclaims Elizabeth. « His name is John. His name must be the witness of the power of God. »
« But has there ever been a John in our kinship? »
« It does not matter, his name is to be John. »
« What do you say, Zacharias? You want your name, don't you? »
Zacharias shakes his head in denial. He takes his tablet and writes: « His name is John. » And as soon as he finishes writing, he adds, with his tongue now free: « because God has granted a great grace to me, his father, and to his mother, and to this new servant of His who will spend his life for the glory of the Lord, and will be called great for ever in the world and in the eyes of God, because he will give converted hearts to the Most High Lord. The angel said so, and I did not believe. But now I believe, and the Light is now in me. The Light is amongst us, but you do not see it. It is its destiny not to be seen, because the souls of men are encumbered and idle, but my son will see It, and will speak of It, and will turn to It the hearts of the just in Israel. Oh! Blessed are those who believe in It and will always believe in the Word of the Lord. And blessed be You, o Eternal Lord, God of Israel, because You have visited and redeemed Your people, and You have raised up for us a powerful Saviour in the house of Your servant David. As You promised by mouth of the holy Prophets from ancient times, that You would save us from our enemies, and from the hands of all who hate us, to show Your mercy to our ancestors, and thus remember Your holy covenant. This is the oath You swore to our father Abraham; that You would grant us, free from fear, deliverance from the hands of our enemies, to serve You in Heaven and thrive in Your presence all our days » and he continues to the end.
The people present are most surprised at the name, at the miracle, at the words of Zacharias.
Elizabeth, who at the first words of Zacharias had uttered a cry of joy, is now weeping, embracing Mary, Who is caressing her happily.
I do not see the circumcision. I only see them bring back John, who is screaming at the top of his voice. Not even his mother's breast can calm him down. He is kicking like a little colt. Then Mary takes him, and lulls him, and he becomes quiet, and lies down peacefully.
« Now just look! » says Sarah. « He is quiet only when She picks him up! »
The people begin to go away slowly. In the room now there are only Mary, holding the baby in Her arms, and Elizabeth who is most happy.
Zacharias comes in, and closes the door. He looks at Mary with his eyes full of tears. He wants to speak. Then he is silent. He moves forward. He kneels down in front of Mary. « Bless the poor servant of the Lord » he says to Her. « Bless him, because You can do so, since You are carrying Him in Your womb. The word of the Lord was spoken to me when I admitted my error and I believed everything I had been told. I see You, and Your happy destiny. I adore the God of Jacob in You. You are my first Temple, where once again a priest, I can pray the Eternal Father again. You are blessed, because You obtained grace for the world and You are now bringing the Saviour to it. Forgive Your servant if he did not see Your majesty before. When You came here, You brought us all the graces, because everywhere You go, o Full of Grace, God works His miracles, and holy are those walls which You enter, holy become the ears which listen to Your voice, and holy the flesh You touch. Holy the hearts, because You grant graces, Mother of the Most High, Virgin of the Prophets, expected to bring the Saviour to the people of God. »
Mary smiles, full of humility and She speaks: « Praise be to the Lord. To Him only. From Him, not from Me, comes every grace. And He grants it to you, that you may love Him, and that it may help you to reach perfection in the following years to deserve His Kingdom that My Son will open to the Patriarchs, to the Prophets, to the just of the Lord. And since you can now pray before the Holy, please pray for the maidservant of the Most High, because to be Mother of the Son of God is blissful, to be Mother of the Redeemer must be a destiny of deepest sorrow. Pray for Me, because I feel My weight of sorrow increasing from hour to hour. And I shall have to bear it all My life. And even if I do not see the details, I feel that it will be heavier than if the whole world were placed on My shoulders of a woman, and I were to offer it to Heaven. I, I alone, poor woman! My Child! My Son! Ah! Your son no longer cries if I lull him. But shall I be able to lull Mine, to soothe His pain?… Pray for Me, priest of God. My heart shudders like a flower in a storm. I look at men, and I love them. But I see the Enemy appear behind their faces, and make them enemies of God, and of My Son Jesus… »
And the vision ends with the paleness of Mary, and Her tears, that cause Her eyes to shine brightly.
« God forgives him who acknowledges his sin, repents and confesses it with a humble and sincere heart, He does not only forgive, He rewards. Oh! How good is My Lord to those who are humble and sincere! To those who believe in Him, and trust in Him!
Clear your souls of what encumbers them and makes them insipid. Prepare your souls to receive the Light. As a light in darkness, It is a guide and a holy consolation.
O holy friendship with God, beatitude of His faithful ones, wealth unequalled by anything else, who possesses you is never alone, and never tastes the bitterness of despair. O holy friendship, you do not eradicate sorrow, because sorrow was the destiny of a God incarnate and can thus be the destiny of man. But you make this sorrow sweet in its bitterness, and you mingle with it a light and a caress which relieve the cross with a celestial touch.
And when Divine Bounty grants you graces, make use of the gift received to give glory to God. Do not be like foolish people who turn a good thing into a harmful weapon, or like lavish persons who convert their wealth into misery.
You give Me too much sorrow, My children, behind whose faces I see the Enemy appear, that is, he who hurls himself against My Jesus. Too much sorrow! I would like to be the Source of Grace for everybody. But too many among you do not want Grace. You ask for "graces", but with a soul devoid of Grace. How can Grace succour you if you are Her enemies?
The great mystery of Good Friday is approaching. It is commemorated and celebrated in churches. But it is necessary to celebrate and commemorate it in your hearts, and to beat your breasts like those who were descending from Golgotha and say. "In truth, this Man was the Son of God, the Saviour", and say: "Jesus, for the sake of Your Name, save us", and say: "Father, forgive us", and finally say: "I am not worthy, but if You forgive me and come to me, my soul will be healed, and I no longer want to commit sin, because I no longer wish to be ill and hateful to You".
Pray, children, with the words of My Son. Say to the Father for your enemies: "Father, forgive them". Call the Father Who has withdrawn indignant at your errors: "Father, Father, why have You forsaken me? I am a sinner. But if You forsake me, I will perish. Come back, Holy Father, that I may be saved". Entrust your eternal good, your spirit, to the Only One Who can preserve it unhurt from the demons: "Father' into Your hands I commit my spirit". Oh! If with humility and love you surrender your spirit to God, He will lead it as a father leads his little one, neither will He allow anything to hurt your spirit.
Jesus, in His agony, prayed to teach you how to pray. I am reminding you of it in these days of His Passion.
And you, Mary, since you see My joy of a Mother and you are enraptured by it, consider and remember that I possessed God through an ever increasing sorrow. It descended into Me with the Seed of God and like a gigantic tree it has grown until it touched Heaven with its top, and hell with its roots, when I received on My lap the lifeless remains of the Flesh of My flesh, and I saw and counted His tortures, and I touched His torn Heart to consume My sorrow right until the last drop. »
25. The Presentation of the Baptist in the Temple.
5th and 6th April 1944.
This is what I see the night between the Wednesday and Thursday of the Holy Week.
I see Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary and Samuel getting off a comfortable waggon, to which also Mary's little donkey is tied. Mary is holding little John in Her arms and Samuel has a lamb and a basket with a pigeon in it. They get off at the usual stable, which must be the halting place for all the pilgrims to the Temple, who leave their mounts there.
Mary calls to the owner and asks him whether anybody arrived from Nazareth the day before or early that morning. « Nobody, woman » replies the little old man. Mary is surprised, but does not say anything else.
She gets Samuel to fix her little donkey, and then She joins the two elderly parents, and She explains Joseph's delay: « He must have been held up by something. But he will certainly come today. » She takes the child again from Elizabeth to whom She had handed him before, and they all set out for the Temple.
Zacharias is received with honour by the guards, and is greeted and congratulated by other priests. He is very handsome today, in his priestly robes and his joy of happy fatherhood. He looks like a patriarch. I think that Abraham must have been like him when he rejoiced offering Isaac to the Lord.
I see the ceremony of the presentation of the new Israelite and the purification of his mother. The ceremony is more stately than Mary's, because the priests celebrate it solemnly for the son of another priest. They all rush round the group of women and the child, and are happily engaged with them.
Also some curious people have come near and I can hear their comments. Since Mary is holding the child in Her arms while they move to the appointed place, the people think She is the mother.
But a woman says: « It's not possible. Can't you see that She is pregnant? The baby is only a few days old and she is already with child. »
« And yet » points out another one « only She can be the mother. The other woman is old. She must be a relative. But she certainly cannot be the mother at her age. »
« Let us follow them, and we will see who is right. »
And their surprise becomes even greater when they see that it is Elizabeth who fulfils the purification rite: she offers the bleating lamb in holocaust and the pigeon for sin.
« She is the mother. Didn't I tell you? »
« No! »
« Yes. »
The people whisper, still incredulous. They whisper so much that a peremptory « Sssh! » comes from the group of priests present at the rite. They are silent for a moment, but start whispering even louder when Elizabeth, radiant with holy pride, takes the child and moves forward in the Temple to make the presentation to the Lord.
« It is she! »
« It's always the mother who makes the offering. »
« What miracle can this be? »
« .What will that child be, who has been granted to that woman at such an old age? »
« What sign can it be? »
« Don't you know? » says one, who has just arrived panting. « It's the son of Zacharias, the priest of the house of Aaron, the one who became dumb when he was offering incense in the Sanctuary. »
« It's a mystery! A mystery! And now he speaks once again! The birth of his son has untied his tongue. »
« I wonder what spirit spoke to him and paralysed his tongue to accustom him to be silent about the secrets of God! »
« It is a mystery! What secret truth does Zacharias know? »
« Will his son be the Messiah expected by Israel? »
« He was born in Judaea. Not in Bethlehem and not of a virgin. He can't be the Messiah! »
« Who is he, then? »
But the answer remains in the silence of God and the people are left to their curiosity.
The ceremony is over. The priests are now joyfully paying compliments to the mother and her child. The only one who is hardly noticed, nay, is avoided almost with disgust when they become aware of Her condition, is Mary.
After all the congratulations, most of them go out on to the road. Mary wants to go to the stable to see whether Joseph has arrived. He has not. Mary is disappointed and worried.
Elizabeth is anxious about Her. « We can stay until midday, then we must go, to be home before night. He is too young to be out at night. »
And Mary, calm and sad: « I will stay in one of the yards of the Temple. I will go to My teachers… I do not know. I will do something »
Zacharias puts forward a proposal which is immediately accepted as a good solution: « Let us go to Zebedee's relatives. Joseph will certainly look for You there. If he should not come there, it will be quite easy for You to find someone who will accompany You to Galilee, because the fishermen from Gennesaret are continuously going to and coming from that house. »
They take the little donkey, and go to Zebedee's relatives, who are the very same people with whom Joseph and Mary stayed four months before.
The time passes quickly, but there is no sign of Joseph. Mary controls Her grief lulling the baby, but it is obvious that She is worried. Although it is so warm that everybody is perspiring, She has not taken off Her mantle, concerned as She is to conceal Her condition.
At long last, Joseph is announced by a loud knocking at the door. Mary's face shines, cheerful again.
Joseph greets Her, because She is the first to go and meet him and greet him reverently. « The Lord's blessing on you, Mary! »
« And on you, Joseph. And praised be the Lord that you have come! Here, Zacharias and Elizabeth were about to leave, to be at home before night. »
« Your messenger arrived in Nazareth, when I was at Cana, working there. I was told the other evening. And I left at once. But although I have travelled without stopping, I am late, because the donkey lost one of his shoes. Please forgive me. »
« I am to be forgiven by you, because I have been away from Nazareth for such a long time! But see, they were so happy to have Me with them, that I decided to please them up till now. »
« You have done well, Woman. Where is the baby? »
They enter the room where Elizabeth is giving suck to little John, before departing. Joseph congratulates the parents on the sturdiness of the child, who screams and kicks, as if they were thrashing him, because he has been taken away from his mother's breast to be shown to Joseph. They all laugh at his protests. Also Zebedee's relatives, who have come in with fresh fruit, milk and bread for everybody, and a large tray of fish, laugh and join in the conversation.
Mary speaks very little. She is sitting quiet and silent in Her little comer, with Her hands on Her lap under Her mantle. Also when She drinks a cup of milk, and eats a bunch of golden grapes with a little bread, She speaks very little, and hardly moves. Her looks at Joseph are a mixture of pain and enquiry.
He also looks at Her. And after some time, bending over Her shoulder, he asks Her: « Are You tired or are You not well? You look pale and sad. »
« I am sorry I have to part from little John. I am very fond of him. I held him on My heart only a few minutes after he was born… »
Joseph does not ask any more questions.
It is time for Zacharias to depart. The waggon stops at the door and they all go towards it. The two cousins embrace each other fondly. Mary kisses the baby many times before putting him in the lap of his mother, who is already sitting in the waggon. She then says goodbye to Zacharias, and asks him to bless Her. When kneeling before the priest, Her mantle slips off Her shoulders, and Her figure appears in the bright light of the summer afternoon. I do not know whether Joseph notices Her figure at this moment, because he is intent on saying goodbye to Elizabeth. The waggon leaves.
Joseph goes back into the house with Mary, Who sits down again in the dim comer. « If You do not mind travelling by night, I would suggest we leave at sunset. It is very warm during the day. The night instead is cool and quiet. I am saying that for You, because I don't want You to get sunstroke. It makes no difference to me to be in a scorching sun. But You… »
« As you wish, Joseph. I also think it is better to travel by night. »
« The house has been all tidied up. And the little orchard. The flowers are beautiful, as You will see. You are arriving just in time to see them all in bloom. The apple-tree, the fig-tree, the vines are laden with fruit as was never seen before, and I had to put a support for the pomegranate, because its branches were so heavily laden with fruit already fully grown, a thing which has never been seen before at this time of the year. The olive-tree… You will have plenty oil. It blossomed in a miraculous way, and not one flower was lost. All the flowers are now little olives. When they are mature, the tree will seem full of dark pearls. There isn't another orchard as beautiful in the whole of Nazareth. Also Your relatives are surprised. Alphaeus says it is a miracle. »
« Your hands have worked it! »
« Oh! no! Poor me! What can I have done? I took care of the trees and I gave some water to the flowers… Do You know? I built a fountain for You down at the end, near the grotto, and I put a large basin there. So You will not have to go out to get water. I brought the water down from the spring which is above Matthew's olivegrove. It is pure and plentiful. I brought a little stream down to You. I dug a small duct in the ground, I covered it properly, and now the water comes down, singing like a harp. I was not happy that You should go to the village fountain, and then carry back home the jars full of water. »
« Thank you, Joseph. You are so good! »
Joseph and Mary are now silent, as if they were tired. And Joseph is also dozing. Mary is praying.
It is now evening. The host insists that they should eat something before leaving. Joseph, in fact, eats some bread and fish, while Mary takes only some milk and fruit.
They then depart. They get on their donkeys. Joseph has fastened Mary's little trunk to his saddle, as he had done when coming to Jerusalem. And before She gets on Her donkey, he makes sure that Her saddle is properly fastened. I see that Joseph looks at Mary when she mounts Her saddle. But he does not say anything. Their journey starts when the first stars begin to twinkle in the sky.
They hurry to the town gates to reach them before they close. When they come out of Jerusalem, and they take the main road towards Galilee, the clear sky is already crowded with stars. There is solemn quietness in the country. One can hear only a few nightingales singing, and the beating of the hooves of the two donkeys on the hard road, baked by the sun.
« It is the eve of Maundy Thursday. Some people may think that this vision is out of place. But your grief of lover of My Jesus Crucified is in your heart and will remain there even if a sweet vision is shown to you. It is like the tepidity emanating from a flame, which is still fire but is no longer fire. The flame is fire, not its tepidity which comes from it. No beatific or peaceful vision will be able to remove that grief from your heart. And regard it as something precious, more precious than your own life. Because it is the greatest gift that God can grant a believer in His Son. Further, my vision is not discordant, in all its peace, with the commemorations of this week.
Also My Joseph suffered his passion. It began in Jerusalem when he noticed My condition. And it lasted several days, exactly as it had happened to Jesus and to Me. Neither was it less painful for his soul. And only because of the holiness of My just spouse, it was contained in such a dignified and secret form, that it has been hardly noticed throughout centuries.
Oh! Our first Passion! Who can feel its intimate and silent intensity? Who can describe My pain when I realised that Heaven had not yet heard My prayer by revealing the mystery to Joseph?
I understood that he was not aware of it when I saw that he was respectful to Me as usual. If he had known that I bore in Me the Word of God, he would have adored that Word enclosed in My womb, with the acts of veneration which are due to God and which he would not have failed to accomplish, as I would not have refused to receive, not for My own sake, but for Him Who was within Me and that I bore, as the Ark of the Alliance carried the stone code and the vases of manna.
Who can measure My struggle against the dismay that endeavoured to overwhelm Me in order to convince Me that I had hoped in vain in the Lord? Oh! I think it was the furious rage of Satan! I perceived doubt rising behind My back, and stretching its icy claws to imprison My soul and prevent it from praying. Doubt is so dangerous and lethal to the spirit. It is lethal because it is the first agent of the deadly disease called "despair", against which we must react with all our strength, so that our souls may not perish, and we may not lose God.
Who can truly tell Joseph's pain, his thoughts, the perturbation of his feelings? Like a little boat caught in a great storm, he was in a vortex of conflicting ideas, in a turmoil of reflections, of which one was more piercing and painful than the other. He was, to all appearances, a man betrayed by his wife. He saw his good reputation and the esteem of his world collapse around him; because of Her he saw scornful fingers pointed at himself and felt pitied by the village people. Above all, he perceived that his love and esteem for Me had fallen, struck to death, before the evidence of a deed.
In this respect, his holiness shines brighter than Mine. And I give this witness with the affection of a spouse, because I want you to love My Joseph, this wise, prudent, patient and good man, who is not separated from the mystery of Redemption, on the contrary, he is closely connected to it, because he suffered for it, consuming himself in sorrow for it, saving your Saviour at the cost of his own sacrifice because of his holiness.
Had he not been so holy, he would have acted in a human way, denouncing Me as an adulteress so that I should be stoned, and the Son of My sin should perish with Me. If he had been less holy, God would not have granted him His light as guidance in his trial. But Joseph was holy. His pure spirit lived in God. His charity was ardent and strong. And out of charity he saved your Saviour for you, both when he refrained from accusing Me to the elders, and when he saved Jesus in Egypt, leaving everything with prompt obedience.
The three days of Joseph's passion were short in number, but deep in intensity. And they were tremendous also for Me, those days of My first passion. Because I was aware of his suffering, which I could not alleviate, in fact I had to obey God's command Who had said to Me: "Be silent!"
And when, after we arrived in Nazareth, I saw him go away with a laconic goodbye, and bent as if he had aged in a short time, and I noticed that he no longer came to see Me in the evening as he used to do, then I tell you, My children, that My heart wept very bitterly. Closed in My house, all alone, in the house where everything reminded Me of the Annunciation and the Incarnation, and where everything reminded Me of Joseph, married to Me with spotless virginity, I had to fight despair and Satan's insinuation, and hope, hope, hope. And pray, pray, pray. And forgive, forgive, forgive Joseph's suspicion, his disturbance and just despair.
My children: it is necessary to hope, to pray, to forgive to obtain God's intervention in our favour. You must live your passions, because you deserved them with your sins. I can teach you how to overcome them and turn them into joy. Hope beyond measure. Pray with confidence. Forgive to be forgiven. God's forgiveness will be the peace you desire, My children.
I will not say anything else for the time being. There will be silence until after the Easter triumph. It is Passion time. Have pity on your Redeemer. Listen to His cries, and count His wounds and tears. The former were suffered, the latter shed for you. Let every other vision disappear before that one which reminds you of the Redemption accomplished on your behalf. »
Written by Maria Valtorta. From POEM OF THE MAN-GOD, Chapters 23, 24 & 25.
Copyright 1986 by Centro Editoriale Valtortiano, srl, Isola del Liri, Italy. All rights reserved in all countries.