The History Of The Blessed Virgin, Translated From The French By The Very Rev. F. C. Husenbeth, D.D., V.G. Part 41.


How much she must have suffered, when she thought how Jesus was wandering in a labyrinth of bare rocks, where the bird finds hot a blade of moss for its nest, or a wild berry to support its little life, where all is stones and heat! What anguish did she feel when the tempest howled out of doors t Where was Jesus ? What was he doing, alone and unsheltered, on those high mountains of Jericho, where the steep paths, full of rolling stones, wind among frightful precipices ? 1 No means of saving himself if his foot slipped on the edge of an abyss ! No help if during this fast, so complete, so long, so little proportioned to the strength of nature, he fell through weakness on the way. These forty days were to Mary forty ages,—maternal anxiety making of every minute thus passed an eternity; but Jesus returned to Nazareth, with his disciples, and his beloved presence was to Mary like the breath of spring after the cold of winter.

Then it was that the marriage took place at Cana, in Galilee. The married couple, who were related to the Blessed Virgin, 2 invited Mary, Jesus, and his disciples. All of them accepted this cordial invitation, and the Virgin, ever good and obliging, took the lead in forwarding the preparations for this feast, where the national customs required a certain degree of splendour. The assembled company was numerous, and the family were poor; the bridegroom had not calculated well, and the bottles of wine were almost exhausted, when our Lord, who was pleased to elevate marriage to the rank of holy things, by purifying it by his holy presence, entered the banqueting-room, followed by Peter, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael, four young fishermen, whom he had impressed with confidence in his character. The wine failed entirely in the middle of the repast, and Mary, having been the first to perceive it upon a sign of distress given by the new married couple, turned her head towards Jesus, who was seated near her, and said to him significantly, " They have no wine."

Jesus answered in a low and emphatic voice, " Woman, what is it to me and to thee ? My hour is not yet come." 3

The Virgin, wishing to spare her relatives a humiliation which would have filled them with confusion, did not consider this a refusal; she judged that, if the hour of manifestation was not come, Christ, notwithstanding his austere words, would anticipate it for her sake ; and with that faith which would remove mountains, she said softly to the waiters, " Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye." Now there were set there six water-pots of stone, according to the manner of purifying of the Jews; and by the command of Jesus, they were filled to the brim from a neighbouring spring; and this water was changed into delicious wine.

Thus it was that the Blessed Virgin had the first fruits of the miracles of her divine Son, and that her intercession caused even the will of God to bend in her favour.

The miracle of Cana was soon followed by many others, which marked the high and providential mission of our Saviour with the seal of the Divinity. At his voice the storms were hushed, human infirmities disappeared, the devils sunk back to their gloomy kingdom, dead bodies came forth from the tomb, and, upon that corner of the earth where his blessed feet trod, there was made a great healing of all sufferings of soul and body. 4 They came to him from Sidon, Tyre, Idumea, and Arabia; and crowds of people, gathering together on his way, kissed the hem of his garments, and humbly begged of him health and life,—things which God alone can give.

Mary, whom our Lord had not yet thought fit to associate with him in his painful and wandering life, heard these extraordinary accounts with a joy mingled with trouble and an uneasy admiration. Her alarm was well founded; for, if the people followed the Messias, loading him with benedictions, the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the princes of the synagogue began to be greatly scandalised—worthy souls!—at the conduct of the Son of God. He forgave sins; blasphemy! He consoled and converted sinners; degradation! He healed the sick on the Sabbath-day; crying and notorious impiety! His doctrine fell from his lips like a beneficent dew, and not like stormy rain; then he was not at all like the ancient prophets! He preached humility, the forgiveness of injuries, voluntary poverty, alms given for God's sake, universal charity.—What novel doctrine was all this! A multitude of enemies arose up against him every time that he preached, whether in the desert or in the cities. He could not attack hypocrisy without coming into collision with the Pharisees, or declaim against avarice without alienating from himself the doctors of the law; the discontented, ever ready to contrive dark plots which broke out into mad and sanguinary revolts, were scandalized at him for not preaching sedition against Caesar; the Herodians accused him of aspiring to the throne; and the Sadducees could not endure that he should proclaim eternal life. These men, divided in views, creeds, and political interests, made a truce with their absurd antipathies out of hatred for the Galilean; they girded themselves with the intention of injuring him, and pressed forward against him to destroy him. Every word was a snare, every smile was a treason. Some treated him unsparingly as an imposter and a Samaritan ; others gently hinted that he was a madman; the dense mass of the envious, tired of the praises which the people gave to this new prophet, and unable to deny his miracles, disputed his claim to them, to give the honour of them to Satan. " If he casts out devils," said they, "it is by Beelzebub, the prince of devils: in Beelzebub, principe dæmoniorum, ejicit dæmonia." 5 These vague rumours alarmed Mary, and the bad spirit of her own neighbourhood was little calculated to encourage her. Of all the cities of Galilee, Nazareth was the most unbelieving and hardened against the sacred Word; of all the families of Nazareth, the family of Jesus Christ was apparently the least disposed to accept him for the kingly Messias. As the divine parturition of the Virgin had never been revealed to her relations, and as the miracles which had been displayed during the infancy of the Lord had taken place in distant countries, they saw nothing in the supposed son of Joseph but a young Israelite without learning, brought up among themselves, fed like themselves, more poorly lodged, more simply clad, and living from day to day by very hard labour, which connected him only with the lower classes. Christ, who would ennoble poverty by taking it for his own portion, Buffered the consequences of the position which he had chosen. " His brethren" says St. John, " did not believe in him." 6 The fame of the miracles which accompanied the preaching of the gospel astonished these obstinate Nazareans, without the power to convince them. Knowing that Jesus was saluted throughout Galilee by the dangerous title of son of David, and that crowds of two or three thousand persons ran to hear him, they were afraid that these numerous assemblies would give umbrage to Herod Antipas, and that they themselves might be molested on account of the young prophet. With this idea they said publicly that Jesus was insane, and swore that they would take him back to Nazareth well guarded. Concealing this family conspiracy from Mary, they induced her to come with them to Capharnaum, that they might approach him under the authority of her name. 7

The Messias was teaching in the synagogue, in the midst of a crowd of attentive and silent hearers, when the Nazareans arrived. Displaying ostentatiously an authority which they were not sorry to magnify in the sight of the multitude, as St. John Chrysostom remarks, they deliberately caused our Saviour to be informed that his brethren and his mother were outside inquiring for him; but Jesus reading the secret thoughts of his relations according to the flesh, and laying hold of this circumstance to extend the limits of the old law by adopting solemnly and without respect of persons the whole family of mankind, made this admirable answer to the indiscreet message of his relatives, " Who is my mother, and who are my brethren ? " Then casting his eyes over his numerous disciples, " My mother and my brethren," he exclaimed, " are they who hear the word of God, and do it." After this severe reprimand, which the sons of Alpheus may have understood, the Son of God went out immediately, says St. John Chrysostom, " to pay his mother all the honour which propriety required of him."

When he had greeted Mary, and remained some time with her on the sea-shore, our Saviour went up into a ship, whence he began to teach the people. The Virgin, hidden among the crowd, but profoundly attentive, heard in religious silence the parable of the sower. The Nazareans, petrified by the irresistible eloquence and superhuman dignity of Jesus Christ, asked themselves, in surprise, if he really was the son of Mary: they experienced that sort of fascination which charms the serpent of the American savannahs, when he hears in the depths of the woods soft music which attracts him. They had come with the celerity of fear, with the eloquence of egotism, with the arrogance of superiority, to turn Christ from his compromising and perilous mission, and they were so far disabled by his very look as to be afraid to open their mouths in his presence. This is clearly indicated by the text of St. Mark, who, after initiating us into their hostile intentions, does not give us anywhere to understand that they even dared to speak to our Lord.

1 The sacred retreat where the God-man spent forty days is a natural cave, which is reached only after climbing up a path cut in the rock. A recess has been made in one side of it, as if to set*up an altar. Some frescoes are to be seen there, almost effaced, which represent angels. A thick wall encloses this sort of chapel, which is lighted by a window, from which you cannot look down without terror.—(Ibid.)

2 The oriental tradition, which the Mahometans have received from the Christians, is that St. John the Evangelist was the bridegroom of the marriage feast of Cana, and that, after witnessing the miracle which Jesus Christ performed there, he immediately left his spouse to follow him.—(D'Herbelot, Biblioth. Orientale, t. ii.) Baronius, t. i. p. 106. Maid, (in Joan.) also adopts this opinion, which we do not guarantee.

3 The answer of our Saviour to his Holy Mother must have been, as we should say, aside ; the gospel narrative gives us so to understand. It was impossible in the outset that Jesus Christ should have made this enigmatical answer aloud to his mother; the guests, who were not in the secret, would have considered it as something very harsh to Mary. It is evident that the waiters, by their listening to what the Blessed Virgin said to them, were ignorant of the apparent refusal of our Saviour.

4 A Mussulman poet has depicted in graceful verses this command, which Jesus Christ exercised over the maladies of the soul: the following is a translation from the French version of D'Herbelot:—

" The heart of the afflicted draws all its consolation from thy words. " The soul recovers its life and vigour from only hearing thy name pronounced.

" If the mind of man can ever rise to the contemplation of the mysteries of the Divinity,

" It is from thee that he derives his light to know them, and it is thou who givest him the attraction with which he is penetrated."

A Christian could not have explained himself more energetically, observes the learned orientalist.

5 The Methnevi-Manevi, speaking of the impotent and envious hatred of the Jews against Jesus Christ, expresses its opinion in these terms against those attacks which are so common against all that meet with success,—attacks which are, in the end, hurtful to those only who make them. " The moon sheds her light and the dog barks," says the Persian author, " but the barking of the dog does not hinder the moon from shining. Sweepings are cast into the current of a river, and these ordures swim on the surface of the water without stopping or disturbing it. The Messias, on the one hand, raises the dead to life, and you see. on the other, the Jews, gnawed with envy, biting their nails and plucking their beards." — (Hussein-Yaez. D'Herbelot, BibL Orient.)

6 St. John, c vii v. 5.

7 St. Mark. c. iii. v. 21, 31, 32, 33, 34, and 35.