The "Gloria In Excelsis". The Birth Of Christ Announced To The Shepherds
I SAW in many places, even in the most distant countries, an unusual joy and an extraordinary movement during this night. I saw the hearts of many good men animated with a joyous desire, and those of the wicked full of anguish and trouble. I saw many animals show their joy by their movements, the flowers raise their heads, plants and trees receive as it were new life and spread far and wide their perfumes. I saw also springs burst out of the ground. Thus at the moment that the Savior was born an abundant spring burst forth in the grotto which is on the hill to the north of the Grotto of the Crib. Joseph saw it on the following day and prepared a place for it to run off. Over Bethlehem the sky was of a somber red, whilst over the Grotto of the Crib, in the valley near the Grotto of Maraha, and over the Valley of the Shepherds there was a shining vapor.
In the Valley of the Shepherds, about a league and a half from the Grotto of the Crib, there was a hill at which vineyards commenced which extended from thence as far as Gaza. The cottages of three shepherds, who were the heads of the families of shepherds who lived in the neighborhood, stood on the side of this hill. At a distance twice that from the Grotto of the Crib, was a tower called the Shepherd s Tower: it was a large pyramid shaped scaffolding of woodwork, having for its base blocks of stone placed in the midst of green trees, and built upon an isolated hill standing in the midst of the plain. It was surrounded with staircases and galleries, with a kind of small round towers, the whole being as it were hung round with matting. It had some resemblance to those towers of wood from the top of which they observed the stars in the country of the three Magi kings, and which had in the distance the appearance of a large ship with many masts and sails. There was a very extensive view from this tower over the surrounding country. Jerusalem, and even the Mountain of the Temptation in the Desert of Jericho could be seen from here. The shepherds had watchers there to look after the movements of their flocks, and to warn them by sounding a horn, in case of an incursion of robbers or soldiers, and whom they could see for a long distance from this spot.
The families of the shepherds lived all about here within a radius of more than two leagues ; they occupied small isolated farms surrounded with gardens and fields. The place where they assembled together was near this tower. The guardians appointed to watch over the common property dwelt here on the side of the hill where the tower stood; there were cottages, and separate from these a large shed with many apartments, where the wives of the guardians lived and prepared the food. On this night I saw the flocks near the tower ; a part were in the open air, another part were under a shed near the hill of the three shepherds.
When Jesus was born I saw the three shepherds struck with the unusual aspect of this marvelous night. Standing near their cottages, they looked round and observed with wonder an extraordinary light above the Grotto of the Crib. I saw also that the shepherds who were near the tower were excited. I saw them mount the scaffolding and look towards the side of the Grotto of the Crib. While the three shepherds had their eyes turned towards heaven, I saw a luminous cloud descend before them. As it came near I observed a movement. I saw forms and figures become visible, and I heard harmonious songs of a joyful kind, and which became more and more distinct. The shepherds were at first afraid ; but an angel appeared before them and said : " Fear not ; I come to announce to you great joy for all the people of Israel : for today is born for you in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign by which you shall know Him : you shall find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger." Whilst the angel announced this the splendor increased all around him, and I saw six or seven large figures of angels, beautiful and shining. They had in their hands something like a long streamer, whereon was written something in large letters of the size of a hand, and I heard them praise God and sing : " Glory to God in the highest heavens, and on earth peace to men of good will."
The shepherds of the town had the same apparition, but a little later. The angels also appeared to a third group of shepherds near a fountain, situated three leagues from Bethlehem to the east of the Shepherd’s Tower. I did not see the shepherds go immediately to the Grotto of the Crib, from which one part of them were a league and a half distant, and the others double that distance.
The Sister saw during the night of the Nativity many things touching the precise determination of the time of the birth of Christ ; but her state of sickness and the visits which were paid to her on the day following, which was the festival of St. Catherine, her patron Saint, caused her to forget a good deal. However, a short time afterwards, being in an ecstasy, she communicated some fragments of her visions, when it is remarkable that she always saw the numbers written in Roman letters, and that she had often difficulty in reading them ; but she explained them, repeating the name of the letters in the order in which she saw them, or she traced them with her fingers : this time, however, she told the numbers.
You can read it, she said, it is marked there. Jesus Christ was bom before the year of the world 3997 was ended ; after wards the four years, less a portion of a year, which elapsed between the Nativity and the end of the year 4000 were forgotten, for subsequently they have made our new era commence four years later.
One of the Consuls of Rome was then named Lentutus : he was the ancestor of St. Moses, priest and martyr, of whom I have here a relic, and who lived in the time of St. Cyprien. Also the Lentutus who became the friend of St. Peter in Rome was descended from him. Herod had reigned forty years. During seven of those years he was not independent, but he already oppressed the country and practiced great cruelty. He died, if I mistake not, in the sixth year of the life of Jesus. I believe that his death was kept secret for some time. He was sanguinary up to the time of his death, and in his last days did much evil. I saw him drag himself along into a large room all cushioned. He had a lance at hand and tried to strike those who came near him. Jesus was born a little before the thirty-fourth year of his reign. Two years before Mary entered the Temple, Herod made some erections in it. It was not a new Temple which he made, only changes and decorations. The flight into Egypt took place when Jesus was nine months old, and the Massacre of the Innocents when He was still in His second year. She mentioned also several circumstances and several facts from the life of Herod which show how she saw everything in detail ; but it was impossible to put into order what she had related at broken intervals.
The birth of Jesus Christ took place in a year in which the Jews reckon thirteen months. It is an arrangement analogous to that of our bissextile years. I believe also that the Jews have twice in the year months of twenty and twenty-two days. I understood something of this in reference to their festival days, but of this I have only a confused recollection. I remarked also that several times they made changes in the calendar. This was at the time of their coming out of the captivity, when they were working at the Temple. I saw the man who changed the calendar and I have known his name.