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 fulfills 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 « Ssst! » 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. »