28th August 1944.
In Jerusalem I see Joachim and Anne, together with Zacharias and Elizabeth, coming out from a house, which must belong to friends or relatives, and they are turning their steps towards the Temple for the ceremony of the Purification.
Anne is carrying the Baby, all wrapped up in swaddling clothes, nay, all tied up in a wide garment of light wool, which, however, must be soft and warm. It is impossible to describe how carefully and lovingly she carries and watches her little creature, lifting the edge of the fine warm cloth to see if Mary is breathing freely, and then she readjusts it to protect Her from the sharp air of a clear but cold winter day.
Elizabeth is holding some parcels in her hands. Joachim is pulling with a rope two big and very white lambs, that are more like rams than lambs. Zacharias has nothing in his hands. He is handsome in his linen garment, which can be seen under a white heavy woolen mantle. Zacharias, much younger than the one already seen at the birth of the Baptist, in his full manhood, as Elizabeth is a mature woman, but still fresh in her appearance, and she bends in ecstasy over the tiny sleeping face every time Anne looks at the Baby. She also looks beautiful in her blue almost dark violet dress and in her veil that covers her head and then falls on her shoulders, and on the mantle which is darker than her dress.
But Joachim and Anne are certainly solemn in their best clothes. Unexpectedly, he is not wearing his dark brown tunic. Instead he has on a long garment of a very deep red, which we would now call St. Joseph's red, and the fringes attached to his mantle are new and beautiful. He, too, is wearing a kind of a rectangular veil on his head and it is secured with a leather band. Everything is new and of excellent quality. Anne, oh! She is not wearing dark clothes today! Her dress is a very pale yellow, almost the colour of old ivory, tied at her waist, neck and wrists with a large belt that seems of silver and gold. Her head is covered by a very light damask veil, held at her forehead by a thin but precious plate. She has a filigree necklace round her neck and bracelets at her wrists. She is like a queen, also because of the dignity with which she wears her dress, and particularly her cape, which is of a light yellow colour hemmed with a Greek fret beautifully embroidered in the same shade.
« You look exactly as the day you got married. I was just a little older than a girl, then, but I still remember how beautiful and happy you were » says Elizabeth.
« But now I am even more so... and I decided to wear the same dress for this rite. I had kept it for this... and I was no longer expecting to put it on for this. »
« The Lord has loved you very much...» says Elizabeth sighing.
« And that is why I am giving Him the thing I love most. This flower of mine. »
« How will you be able to tear it from your heart when the time comes? »
« Remembering that I did not have it and that God gave it to me. I shall always be happier now than then. When I know She is in the Temple I will say to myself: “She is praying near the Tabernacle, She is praying the God of Israel also for Her mummy” and I will have peace. And a greater peace I will have in saying: “She belongs entirely to Him. When these two old but happy parents, who received Her from Heaven, are no longer alive, He, the Eternal, will still be Her Father.” Believe me, I am fully convinced, this little creature is not ours. I was not able to do anything more... He put Her in my bosom, a divine gift to wipe away my tears and fulfill our hopes and our prayers. That is why She belongs to Him. We are the happy guardians... and may He be blessed for this! »
They have now reached the walls of the Temple.
« While you go to Nicanor's Gate, I will go and inform the priest. And then I will come, too » Zacharias says. And he disappears behind an arch leading into a large yard surrounded by porches.
The group continues to proceed along the ensuing terraces. I do not know whether I have said this before: the enclosure wall of the Temple is not on level ground but it rises up higher and higher by means of successive terraces. Each terrace is reached by means of a flight of steps and on each terrace there are yards and porches and beautiful portals wrought in marble, bronze and gold.
Before reaching their destination they stop to take out the contents of the parcels: cakes, I think, which are wide and flat and very greasy, some white flour, two doves in a small wicker cage and some big silver coins: they are quite heavy but fortunately garments did not have pockets in those days. They would have made holes in them.
Here is the beautiful Gate of Nicanor, all chiselled in heavy bronze silver plating. Zacharias is already there beside a stately priest dressed in linen.
Anne is sprinkled with what I suppose is lustral water and then she is instructed to move towards the altar of the sacrifice. The Child is no longer in her arms. Elizabeth, who has stopped at this side of the Gate, has taken Her.
Joachim, instead, enters behind his wife, dragging a miserable bleating lamb. And I... I do exactly what I did on the occasion of Mary's purification: I close my eyes not to see any slaughter.
Now Anne is purified.
Zacharias whispers something to his colleague, who nods smiling. He then approaches the group which has reassembled and congratulating the mother and father on their joy and their loyalty to the promises, he is given the second lamb, the flour and the cakes.
« So this daughter is sacred to the Lord? May His blessing be with Her and with you. Here Anna is coming. She will be one of Her teachers. Anna of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. Come here, woman. This little one is offered to the Temple as a victim of praise. You will be Her teacher and She will grow holy under your guidance. »
Anna, already completely grey, fondles the Child, who has awakened and is looking with Her innocent and surprised eyes at all the white and gold lit up by the sun.
The ceremony must be over. I did not see any special rite for the offering of Mary. Perhaps it was sufficient to tell the priest, and above all God, at the sacred place.
« I would like to give the offering to the Temple and go over there where I saw the light last year. »
They go accompanied by Anna of Phanuel. They do not enter the actual Temple; since they are women and it is the case of a little girl, it is understandable that they do not even go where Mary went to offer Her Son. But very close to the wide open door, they look into the half-dark inside from which sweet songs of girls can be heard and where precious lamps are lit and spread a golden light on two flower beds of white veiled heads: two real flowerbeds of lilies.
« In three years' time You will be there too, my Lily » promises Anne to Mary, Who looks fascinated at the inside and smiles at the slow song.
« You would say that She understands » says Anna of Phanuel. « She is a beautiful child! She will be as dear to me as if She were my own. I promise you, mother. If I shall be granted to be so. »
« You shall, woman » Zacharias says. « You will receive Her amongst the sacred girls. I also shall be there. I want to be there that day to tell Her to pray for us from the very first moment...» and he looks at his wife who understands and sighs.
The ceremony is over and Anna of Phanuel withdraws, while the others leave the Temple speaking to one another.
I hear Joachim say: « Not only two lambs and the best, but I would have given all my lambs for this joy and to praise God! »
I do not see anything else.
« Solomon in his Wisdom says: “Whoever is a child, let him come to me.” And really from the stronghold, from the walls of her city, Eternal Wisdom said to the Eternal Maiden: “Come to Me”, longing to have Her. Later the Son of the Most Pure Maiden will say: “Let little children come to Me because the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs, and those who do not become like them will not have any part in My Kingdom.” The voices follow one another and while the voice of Heaven cries to little Mary: “Come to Me”, the voice of Man says, and thinks of His Mother in saying so: “Come to Me if you can be like children.”
I give you My Mother as a model.
Here is the perfect Maiden with the pure and simple heart of a dove, here is the One Whom years and worldly contacts do not make defiant in the cruelty of a corrupted, twisted, false spirit. Because She does not want it. Come to Me, looking at Mary.
Since you see Her, tell me: Is Her glance as an infant very different from the one you saw She had at the foot of the Cross or in the delight of Pentecost or when Her eyelids closed upon Her innocent eyes for Her last sleep? No. Here is the uncertain and astonished glance of an infant, then it will be the amazed and modest look of the Annunciation, and then the happy one of the Mother in Bethlehem, then the worshipping glance of My first and sublime Disciple, then the tormented one of the Tortured Mother on Golgotha, then the radiant glance of Resurrection and Pentecost, then the veiled look of the ecstatic sleep of the last vision. But whether it opens at the first sight, or closes tired on the last light, after seeing so much of joy and horror, Her eye is the clear, pure, placid piece of the sky that always shines below Mary's forehead. Wrath, falsehood, pride, lewdness, hatred, curiosity never soil it with their smoky clouds.
It is the eye that looks at God lovingly, whether it cries or laughs, and that for God's sake fondles and forgives and bears everything, and by the love of God is rendered unassailable to the assaults of Evil, that so often makes use of the eye to penetrate the heart. It is the pure, restful, blessing eye that the pure, the saints, the lovers of God possess. I said: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be all darkness.” Saints possessed this eye which is the light for the soul and salvation for the flesh, because like Mary throughout their lives they looked only at God. Even more: they remembered God.
I will explain to you, My little voice, the meaning of this word of Mine. »