Preparations For The Birth Of Jesus Christ. Departure of the Holy Family For Bethlehem
SUNDAY, the 11th of November, 1821. For many days past I have seen the Blessed Virgin near her mother, St. Anne, whose house is about a league from Nazareth, in the Valley of Zabulon. Her servant remained at the house of Nazareth. She attends to St. Joseph when Mary is with her mother. In reality, so long as Anne lived, they had not an entirely separate establishment, but received always from the latter everything they required. I saw, during fifteen days, the Blessed Virgin engaged in preparations for the birth of Jesus Christ ; she got ready coverlets, bandages, and swaddling clothes. Her father, Joachim, was no longer living. There was in the house a little girl of about seven years old who was often near the Blessed Virgin, and to whom she gave lessons. I believe that she was the daughter of Mary of Cleophas. She was also called Mary. Joseph is not at Nazareth, but he will soon arrive. He is on his return from Jerusalem, where he had led victims for sacrifice.
I saw the Blessed Virgin in the house. She was in an advanced state of pregnancy, and was working sitting in a room with several other women. They were preparing articles and coverlets for the confinement of Mary. Anne had considerable property in cattle and pasture lands. She furnished the Blessed Virgin abundantly with everything which was needful for her condition : as she believed that Mary would be confined at her house, and that all her relatives would visit her on this occasion, she made all sorts of preparations for the birth of the child of promise. They prepared for this purpose beautiful coverlets and rugs.
I had seen a coverlet of this kind at the time of the birth of St. John, in the house of Elizabeth. It had on it symbolical figures and sentences worked by the needle. In the middle was a sort of wrapper in which the woman when lying in, was placed. When the different parts of the coverlet were fitted together around her with strings and buttons she seemed like a little child in its swaddling clothes, and could easily sit up between the cushions, and receive the visits of her friends, who would sit round her on the border of the tapestry.
They got ready also in the house of St. Anne things of this kind, besides bandages and swaddling clothes for the child. I saw also threads of gold and silver, which they interwove here and there. All these articles and coverlets were not only for the use of the person confined ; there were also many things intended for the poor, whom they al ways thought of, on such occasions. I saw the Blessed Virgin and other women sitting on the floor round a large chest, and working at a larger coverlet, which was placed on this box in the midst of them. They made use of short sticks, to which thread of different colors was attached. St. Anne was very busy ; she went here and there to get the wool, to divide it, and give their work to her servants.
Monday, the 12th of November. Joseph should return to-day to Nazareth. He was at Jerusalem, whither he had led some animals for sacrifice. He had left them at a small inn, situated a quarter of a league from Jerusalem and kept by an old couple without children. They were pious people with whom persons could stay with all. confidence. Joseph went from there to Bethlehem ; but he did not visit the relatives he had there. He wished only to get information relative to a numbering or a levy of duty, which required that every one should come to the place where he was born. He did not, however, report himself; as he intended, when the time of the purification of Mary was accomplished, to go with her from Nazareth to the Temple at Jerusalem, and thence to Bethlehem, where he intended to settle. I do not know what advantage he expected from this ; hut he did not like living at Nazareth. It was on this account that he took advantage of this opportunity to go to Bethlehem.
He there got information about stones and wood used by carpenters, as he had the intention to build a house. He returned afterwards to the inn near Jerusalem, conducted the victims to the Temple and returned home.
As to-day towards midnight he was crossing the Plain of Kimki, six leagues from Nazareth, an angel appeared to him and told him to depart with Mary for Bethlehem, for it was there that she should bring her child into the world. The angel also directed what he should take with him : that he must take but few things, and especially not the embroidered coverlets. He must also, besides the ass on which Mary would ride, take with him an ass of a year old who had not had young ; he must let it run at liberty, and always follow the road which it took.
This evening Anne went to Nazareth with the Blessed Virgin. They knew that Joseph was coming ; they appeared, however, not to know that Mary would go to Bethlehem. They believed that Mary would bring her child into the world in the house at Nazareth, for I saw that they brought there many things which they had prepared packed in matting. Joseph will arrive at Nazareth in the evening.
Tuesday, the i3th of November. Today I saw the Blessed Virgin Mary with her mother in the house at Nazareth, when Joseph informed them of what had been said to him on the preceding night. They returned together to Anne s house, and I saw them make preparations for a speedy departure. Anne was much distressed. The Blessed Virgin knew already that she must bring forth her son at Bethlehem, but through humility she said nothing.
She knew this from the prophecies on the birth of the Messiah, which she kept at Nazareth. She had received these writings from her mistresses in the Temple, and these holy women had explained them to her. Her ardent desire continually invoked the coming of the Messiah ; she called blessed, her who should bring into the world this holy infant, and desired only to be the least of her servants. She did not think in her humility that this honor could be destined for her. As she knew by the text of the prophecies that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem, she conformed with still greater joy to the Divine will, and prepared for this journey, a very painful one at this season, for it was often very cold in the valleys between the chains of mountains.
This evening St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin, accompanied by Anne, Mary of Cleophas, and some servants, departed from St. Anne s house. Mary was sitting on the saddle of an ass which also carried the luggage. Joseph led the ass. There was another ass on which Anne intended to return.