Journey Of The Holy Family
THIS morning I saw the holy travellers arrive at six leagues from Nazareth, at a plain called Ghinim, where the angel had appeared to St. Joseph the evening before. Anne possessed some pastures at this place, and the servants were to bring from this place the ass of a year old, which Joseph had to take with him : it ran sometimes in advance of the travelers, sometimes close to them. Anne and Mary of Cleophas here bid good-bye to the holy travelers and returned with the servants.
I saw the Holy Family proceed further by a road which rises towards the mountains of Gilboa. They did not go into cities, and followed the young ass, which always took cross ways. It was in this manner that I saw them at some property of Lazarus, a short distance from the village of Ghinim, by the side of Samaria. The superintendent received them in a friendly manner. He had known them on another journey. Their family had connections with that of Lazarus. There were there beautiful orchards and walks. The position was so elevated as to command a very extensive view. Lazarus inherited this property from his father. Our Lord Jesus Christ stayed often here during His ministry, and taught in the vicinity. The manager and his wife conversed in a friendly manner with the Blessed Virgin, and showed their surprise that she should have undertaken so long a journey in her present condition, when she could have remained so comfortably at her mother‘s house.
Night of Thursday or Friday, the i6th of November. I saw the Holy Family at some leagues beyond the spot mentioned above, proceeding in the night towards a mountain through a very cold valley. It seemed to have been a white frost. The Blessed Virgin suffered much from the cold, and she said to St. Joseph, " We shall be obliged to stop here ; I can t go any further." Scarcely had she said these words when the young ass stopped all at once under a large and very old fir tree which was near the place-awl near which was a spring. They halted under this tree.
Joseph arranged with wrappers a seat for the Blessed Virgin, whom he assisted to alight from the ass and she sat against the tree. Joseph hung up a lantern which he carried with him on a bough of the tree. I have frequently seen persons who travel at night in this country do the same. The Blessed Virgin called upon God, and asked that He would not permit the cold to be hurtful to him. Then she all at once perceived such a great heat that she stretched her hands to St. Joseph that he might warm his. They refreshed themselves a little with the small cakes and the fruits which they had with them, and drank of the water from the neighboring fountain, in which they mixed some of the balm which Joseph had brought in a little pitcher. Joseph consoled and encouraged the Holy Virgin. He was so good : he suffered so much because the journey was so painful to her. He spoke to her about the good lodgings which he expected to procure at Bethlehem : he knew of a house belonging to some very honest people, where they could be well accommodated at reasonable expense. He praised Bethlehem in general, and said anything he could to console her. This gave me anxiety, as I knew things would turn out otherwise.
To this place on their journey they had passed two small streams of water, one of them by a high bridge, and the two asses had passed through the ford. The young ass, which ran at liberty, had singular ways of proceeding. When the road was well defined, for instance, between two mountains, and they could make no mistake, sometimes it ran behind the travelers, sometimes a long way before them. When the way divided it always reappeared and took the right direction ; when they desired to stop, it stopped of itself, as at their rest under the fir tree. I do not know whether they passed the night under this tree or reached another resting place.
This fir tree was an old and sacred tree which had formed part of the Wood of Moreh, near to Sichem. Abraham coming from the land of Chanaan, had there seen the Lord appear, who had promised him this land for his posterity. He had erected an altar under this fir tree. Jacob, before going to Bethel to offer sacrifice to the Lord, had buried under this fir tree the idols of Laban, and the jewels which his family had with them. Joshua had erected there the tabernacle in which was the Ark of the Covenant, and had there assembled the people and made them renounce their idols. It was there also that Abimelech, the son of Gideon, had been proclaimed King by the Sichemites.
Friday, the 16th of November. To-day the Holy Family arrived at a large farm, two leagues more to the south than the fir tree. The mistress of the house was absent, and the master refused to receive St. Joseph, telling him that he could easily go further on. When they had gone a short way further they found the young ass in the cottage of a shepherd, into which they also entered. Some shepherds, who were engaged arranging the cottage, received them with much kindness. They gave them some straw and small bundles of rushes and branches to make a fire. The shepherds went to the house from which they had been sent away ; and when they told the mistress of this house how Joseph appeared to be good and pious, and his wife was beautiful and had a saintly appearance, she reproached her husband for having driven away such excellent persons. I saw this woman also soon go to the cabin where the Blessed Virgin was staying ; but she dare not enter through timidity, and returned to her house to get some food.
The place where they were now staying was on the northern side of a mountain, a short distance between Samaria and Thebez. To the east of the place beyond the Jordan is Succoth. Ainon is a little more to the south also beyond the river. Salem is on this side it would be about twelve leagues from there to Nazareth.
After a time the woman came with two children to see the Holy Family, bringing with her some provisions. She excused herself politely, and seemed touched with their position. When the travelers had eaten and taken some rest the husband came also and begged pardon of St. Joseph for having sent him away. He advised him to go another league towards the top of the mountain ; telling him that he would arrive at a good resting-place before the beginning of the Sabbath, and could remain there during the day of rest : they then set forward on their journey.
When they had traveled nearly a league always mounting upwards, they arrived at an inn of decent appearance, composed of several buildings surrounded with gardens and trees. These were also, ranged like espaliers, trees which yielded balm : this place of accommodation was also on the northern side of the mountain.
The Blessed Virgin had dismounted. Joseph led the ass. They came near the house and St. Joseph asked the host to accommodate them ; but he declined because his inn was full. His wife then came, and as the Blessed Virgin addressed herself to her, and asked her with the most touching humility to give them a lodging, this woman experienced a profound emotion, and the host also would no longer refuse. He arranged a convenient shelter for them in an adjoining cabin and put their ass into the stable. The young ass was not there ; it was running about at liberty in the neighborhood. It was always at a distance from them when not wanted to show the way.
Joseph prepared a lamp under which he placed himself at prayer with the Blessed Virgin, observing the Sabbath with a touching piety. They ate something and reposed on mats spread on the ground.
Saturday, the 17th of November. Today I saw the Holy Family rest in this place all the day. Mary and Joseph prayed together. I saw the wife of the host with her three children near the Blessed Virgin. The woman who had received them on the previous day came also to visit her with her two children ; they sat near her in a very friendly manner, and were touched with the modesty and wisdom of Mary. The Blessed Virgin talked to the children and gave them instructions.
The children had little rolls of parchment : Mary made them read, and spoke to them in such a kind way that they could not help looking at her. It was affecting to see, and still more affecting to hear. I saw St. Joseph in the afternoon take a walk with his host in the environs : this is what I have always seen done by pious country people on the Sabbath-day. The holy travelers remained still in this place during the following night.
Sunday, the i8th of November. The good hosts of this place had conceived an incredible affection for the Blessed Virgin, and showed a tender compassion for her state. They entreated her in the most friendly manner to remain with them, and to await the time of her delivery ; they showed her a convenient room which they desired to give her. The woman offered from the bottom of her heart all her assistance and friendship.
But they resumed their journey early in the morning, and descended by the south-east side of the mountain into a valley. They went then further from Samaria, to which the route they had till then taken seemed to lead them. As they descended the mountain they could see the Temple on Mount Garizim. It could be seen from a great distance. There were many figures of lions and other animals on the top, which shone in the sunbeams.
I saw them travel about six leagues today. Towards evening, being in a plain south-east of Sichem, they entered into a rather large house of shepherds, where they were well received. The master of the house was charged with the supervision of the orchards and fields which belonged to a neighboring town. The house was not completely in the plain, but on a slope. Here everything was fertile and in a better condition than the country which they had previously passed. It was turned towards the sun, which in the land of promise makes a consider able difference at this time of the year. From here to Bethlehem there were many similar dwellings of shepherds dispersed in the valleys.
The people of this place were some of those shepherds whose daughters many of the servants of the three kings, who remained in Palestine, subsequently married. From one of these marriages came a young boy, whom Our Lord cured in this same house, at the prayer of the Blessed Virgin, on the 3ist of July (yth of the month of Ab), in the second year of His ministry, after talking . with the woman of Samaria. Jesus took him and two other young men to accompany Him on the journey which He made into Arabia after the death of Lazarus, and he became later on a disciple of the Lord. Jesus frequently stayed and taught here. There were children in the house : Joseph blessed them before his departure.