The Lily Of Israel By The Abbe Gerbet. Part 29.


IT was at Nazareth that the Messias had fewest followers. "A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house," (St. Matthew xiii, 57.) Jesus had said, in leaving the town which had sheltered Him so long. And in the course of His whole mission He rarely returned to it, for He knew that there His preaching would be without fruit.

Neither the humble Mary nor the lowly Joseph had ever told of the wonders of the birth of Jesus. He had passed as the son of an obscure workman, and the neighbors—those who had seen Him lead, in their very midst, a solitary and busy life, similar in almost every detail to their own—could not believe in Him, despite the prodigies they heard recounted. Some declared that He neglected the Law —and to prove this assertion, added that He healed on the Sabbath day, even as He did on the other days of the week. Others again, hearing that He conversed with publicans and Samaritans, preaching brotherly love to all men, without regard to place or country, were scandalized.

His brothers—so called because they were the children of Joseph's sister—those who loved and followed Him, doubted the truth of His divine mission. They saw in Him an extraordinary man. They admired Him. But they did not believe in His divinity. Several times they had merited His rebuke, "men of little faith, slow of heart to believe.'' His miracles astonished them, but could not completely banish their doubts. Jesus restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb. He changed the most rebellious hearts and minds, yet their incredulity, vanquished for the moment, returned.

But they could not weary the goodness of Jesus. He read their hearts; He saw that, within, they were pure and upright. They loved Him dearly, but their minds were in doubt.

And the miracles continued.

In their presence He cured all kinds of disease and suffering. He multiplied the loaves in the desert, and fed the hungry multitudes that flocked to hear His words. He healed the mother-in-law of Simon, who had been sick for twelve years, and was gradually wasting away. The officer from Capharnaum approached Him, supplicating Him that He would come and restore his dying son to life. And the words of Jesus were: "Go thy way, thy son liveth.'' (St. John iv, 50.)

And the father, returning home, learned that at the very hour in which the Lord had pronounced these words the fever left his son.

Nor could they forget that early incident in His ministry when, before Sichar, near the well of Jacob, they saw the confusion of the woman of Samaria, to whom the Lord had spoken.

"Come and see a Man who has told me all things whatsoever I have done. Is not He the Christ ?" (St. John iv, 29.)

The Samaritans themselves believed when told of what had occurred. "And many more believed in Him because of His own word." (St. John iv, 41. )

One day, James and Jude, returning from a mission to which the Saviour had dispatched them, had come, according to His orders, to rejoin Him in a city of Galilee called Nairn, where their Master had arrived that morning.

There they found the people in great agitation. The women had left their household duties, the men their labors. A great rumor reigned in the streets and public places, and from the crowds that flocked together in tremendous excitement rose the praises of the Lord, men crying out:

"A great prophet has appeared among us; the Lord God of Israel has visited His people!"

Some, seized with fear, struck their breasts, tore their hair, and spread ashes upon their heads in penance for their sins, and all conversed, some in dread and some in astonishment, of the marvelous occurrence which had transpired under their very eyes.

The two disciples were anxious to find out the reason of such general consternation. They learned it from the mouth of an eye-witness who had evidently not yet recovered from his fright.

"The Lord arrived this morning from Capharnaum," he said. "Passing near the gate of Nelpha, He met a dead body which was being carried out to be buried. Now, the entire town had seen the dead man during the funeral ceremonies, for all had sorrow for his mother. He was her only son, and she was a poor widow."

The narrator paused as if to control his emotion.

"When the Lord saw her He had compassion on her, and said 'Weep not.' Then He came near and , touched the bier. They that were carrying it stood still."

Again the man ceased, almost overcome.

"And Jesus^ said, 'Young man, I say to thee, Arise.' And he that was dead sat up and began to speak. And He gave him to his mother. (St. Luke vii, 12-15.)

"I saw him," continued the man faintly. "His limbs were still trembling with terror at the thought of what he had been delivered from."

James and Jude exchanged looks of surprise.

"Do the dead obey His voice?" they murmured. But before they were able to express the thoughts which this extraordinary event caused to spring up in their souls, they beheld a numerous crowd approaching them.

It was the man restored to life, whom the people were conducting in triumph to his dwelling. Beside him walked his mother, who appeared to have lost her reason for joy. Holding one of her son's hands in hers, as if to assure him of her presence, her manner plainly indicated that happiness had almost unbalanced her.

"Let us see this through to the end," said the disciples. And they joined the crowd and followed.

Despite the rejoicing caused by this tremendous event the silence was remarkable. They had witnessed the occurrence of the miracle, but with the admiration it kindled was mingled a great fear. So that, when the young man and his mother had arrived at their own house, those who had escorted them thither wished them a thousand prosperities and withdrew, speaking in low tones of the wonderful thing which they had seen with their own eyes.

James and Jude, compelled thereto by an ungovernable curiosity, approached the open door after the crowd had dispersed, resolving to hear more from the lips of the young man himself. They hesitated, however, for although they could be seen, neither the youth nor the woman paid the slightest attention to them. Still clothed in his winding-sheet, the young man was seated on a stool by the almost extinguished fire. The disordered bed, the untidiness of the room, the embalmer's table, the vessels of perfume, the remains of aromatic herbs scattered upon the floor—all, all announced the indescribable desolation which death brings to the home. The young man looked about him furtively, fearfully, and every once in a while a terrible shudder convulsed his frame.

His mother, whose emotions had, till now, deprived her of the power of speaking, began to weep.

"My son! My well-beloved Melkam! Is it true that I again see thee? That thou art restored to me? My child, my life, my treasure! Speak to me! Of what art thou afraid? Dost thou still suffer? Speak to me!"

Melkam did not answer his mother nor did he return her caresses or dry her tears. Instead, he continued to gaze about him in terror. She was grieved, and followed the direction of his eyes. Then she observed, for the first time, the poverty of her dwelling, and thinking that it was displeasure which she saw upon that livid and wasted countenance, she went on:

"Oh, my dear son, our home is indeed most empty. I sold all that I possessed of any value to cover the expenses of thy funeral. We have only that which thou now lookest upon! But what of it, what of it ?" She threw her arms about him and drew him close to her bosom." Thou art here! What matters famine or thirst, or poverty, or evil of any kind? Thou art here! My beloved, my beloved! I will work, I will beg, I will starve for thee, so great is my love, my gratitude, my courage! Blest a thousand, thousand times be He who has restored thee to me! Now I may again cherish the sweet hope that has ever encouraged me during the days of my widowhood. I shall not have the sorrow of seeing thee die! Thou, thou wilt close my eyes!"

She looked at her son tenderly—then bent and kissed his forehead, as if to assure herself that life and warmth had really revivified his body. And when her lips encountered that living flesh she raised her streaming eyes to heaven in a very transport of intensest joy.

But the young man did not move. Gloom shrouded his features—a gloom that began, gradually, to give way to profound fear.

"Mother!" he exclaimed at last, in a low tone.

"My sort?" she answered.

"Is—is it true that I behold thee? Is it . . . true? Art thou sure? Sure? Ah! What a ream I have had! What terror has taken possession of me, of my heart, my brain. . . . Ah, mother, do not leave me! Do not! Hold me, let me feel thy loving hands! Do not let me die again!"

He clung to her as if he were a little child, and she put her arm about him gently, striving to reassure him. After a moment's silence, resting his cheek upon the hand he held, he began to speak.

"How dreadful is death when one is guilty I O my God, I will never forget Thee! I will wash all sin from my heart! Oh, mother, if you knew! Damned! My soul was damned!"

"Dear boy, it is past—"

"I was descending, whirled by the wind into a gulf without noise or weight. A demon kept forcing me down, pressing me, so that I could not give one single look backward. It was that demon against whom thou hadst warned me—"

He began to tremble violently.

"Fear not," said the poor mother, resting her boy's head against her bosom. "It is over. Fear not."

James and Jude exchanged glances of awe.

"He was the angel of darkness" said the young man. "And so announced himself. 'I have fed thy passions upon earth, and tempted thy young desires. Thou hast followed my counsels, and now . . . thou art mine, mine!' And he laughed—and his laughter was like a sword, at once red with heat and frozen with bitterest cold, which pierced through my whole body."

"Oh, my child, my child!" said the mother, weeping as she kissed him.

"And then another voice sounded near me. A voice which fell feebly on my ears, and which, as the distance between us increased, grew still more faint. 'Oh,' it exclaimed, 'if thou hadst but listened to me in the voice of thy mother! Thou wouldst now be accompanying me to the realms of the angels of light!'

"With difficulty I lifted my head. There, far above me, I beheld a troop of beautiful seraphim. They escorted a soul, white as a dove, and this beautiful soul looked at me with pity. But the angel of darkness laughed once more, and pushed me on . . . down . . . down ... to that yawning abyss. I beheld that place where faults are expiated.

"And then a voice resounded through the gloom. Such a voice! At its accents the demon released me. My downward progress was stayed. I opened my eyes . . . before Him who had called me, and looking upon Him with dumb lips, my heart cried out, 'Master, behold Thy servant!'

"Ah, mother, watch over me, lest I again return to the tomb. Who is this that has restored me? Where is He? How shall I find Him and serve Him evermore? How does it happen that I am here . . . with thine arms about me . .

He regarded her with uneasiness, for he feared this life to which he had returned. And the mother, twice happy, related to him the miracle of his resurrection, and how Jesus had restored to her alive the son who had been two days dead.

Very softly James and Jude stole away, not daring to interrupt, by a single word, this tender and affecting scene, their hearts filled with the deepest conviction of Christ's divinity,
"Death and hell obey Him," they said. "Can we doubt? No, no! He is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God!"


As for Melkam, he embraced his mother affectionately.

"From this hour I wish to become a new man. Life has not been restored to me that I may lose my soul a second time. My dear mother, bless me. Never again shalt thou have to complain that I pay no heed to thy wise counsels!"

He caressed her, and the poor mother, in a very transport of joy, fell upon her knees, thanking God who had restored her son to her in full physical strength, at the same time enlightening his soul.

Afterwards, when they had time for recollection, and the youth had somewhat recovered his strength, he turned to his mother thoughtfully.

"Mother, it would be well for us to follow this Man, and be instructed by Him. Since death obeys Him, He must have the words of eternal life."

So, rising, they set out, and found and followed Jesus, and Melkam's voice was raised above all the others who sang the Lord's praises, crying:

"Blessed be He whom heaven and earth and hell obey!"

So Christ passed in the midst of acclamations. The sick, the poor, and the infirm followed Him, or crawled after Him, or begged to be carried wherever His way led. A divine virtue emanated from Him. Those whom He approached were cured or strengthened.

* * * * *

Now, while Melkam thus followed our dear Lord through the city, making one of the great throng which surrounded Him, he was astonished after some time, to perceive, passing close to him, a white figure entirely covered by a veil. An old man, recognizable, by his garments, to be a chief of a synagogue, marched near her, and sang aloud the praises of Jesus Christ.

"Behold!" he cried, in thrilling tones, "my dearly* beloved daughter! She was dead. We were about to carry her sweet body to the grave! With her had passed the happiness of my house! And then He came, and restored her to life! May His name be ever blessed! May His name be adored from generation to generation, until the end of the ages."

And his voice was raised in a song of joy that told of the resurrection of his only one.

The young girl, whose name was Jezel, still bore upon her pale face the marks of the sickness which had brought her to her grave. She seemed, moreover, to have only one emotion—love for the Master, who was passing amid the throng, and whom she endeavored to keep in view. Melkam heard the old man's words, and trembled. He approached neat to the maiden.

"Thou, t00?'' he said. "Has {he Master brought thee back to earth? I, also, owe my life to Him!"

The daughter of Jairus—for such was her father's name—uttered a low cry.

"Hast thou been snatched from death?"

"And given time for repentance. I was on the brink of hell."

The maiden shuddered.

"Poor soul! Ah! Bless God all the days of thy life—"

"My mother, walking beside my bier, met the Man of God, and on her He had compassion. He recalled me from the gates of the damned—whence weeping and the gnashing of teeth already ascended to me!"

These two young and handsome children called back to life—one from the threshold of heaven, the other from the brink of hell—conversed a long time upon the miracles of sorrow and happiness of which both had had a glimpse. Those who surrounded them listened with terror, and some who had never given a thought to life beyond the grave, were smitten with fear.

"Man lives when life is o'er!" they said, in astonishment. And several left all and went after Jesus.

The mother of Melkam and the father of Jezel followed their children, mingling in the crowd. They wept for joy as they heard their voices; as they looked upon them, living, walking, moving, whom they had beheld lifeless and motionless.

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They were transported with happiness. At nightfall each went to his home—but Melkam could not forget the sweet young girl, and she, on her part, demanded the presence of her new friend. The terrors and joys of death filled their minds. They were like two travelers, who, having visited a distant country, where each had encountered great suffering and great dangers, knew now no greater pleasure than that of talking over what they had seen.

Both followed Jesus from city to city. They could not leave Him. He drew them on and on, their hearts on fire with love of Him.

"This Christ, this God made man," said Jezel one day, "who by a word recalled us to this earth— do you know that I beheld His countenance in the celestial regions?"

"And I, Jezel," returned Melkam, tremblingly, 4 1 dare not contemplate Him even now! I shall never forget the sternness as I was forced downward . . . downward toward the bottomless abyss!"

"He is everywhere," said the young and innocent girl. "But if He were always present to thy heart, Melkam, and if thy life were employed in His service, thou wouldst not fear Him. As for me, I can not do aught but look upon Him. His presence fills my soul with that unutterable content and perfect happiness which I enjoyed for a moment in the company of the angels."

"Jezel," said Melkam, tenderly, "permit me to live near thee. Teach me how to love Him. Thou wilt be my shield against every evil thought or action. If I had always known thee I would have been worthy of thee."

And so did this young maid, by her love of purity and goodness lead Melkam to the love of God and the love of virtue.

After these great, these incomprehensible miracles, the number of Jesus' disciples suddenly increased, and the Apostles, the men whom He had chosen from among all to carry His word throughout the world, believed in Him with invincible faith, and followed Him with admiration and confidence.