CHAPTER XXIX. MARY MEETS THE YOUNG MAN WHO WAS BLIND
WHEN the Angel Gabriel had left her, Mary sought the Magdalen.
"We will depart," she said, in her mild and gentle tones. "We will follow, while we may, the Son of God, and water His footprints with our tears."
The sinner who had been called Magdalen was now Magdalen the saint. Her heart had been purified by her repentance, and this sincerity rendered her very dear to the Blessed Mother. She had risen from her fall, wearing the bright robe of a new innocence—that robe with which the angels clothe the sorrowful penitent.
The other Mary, Salome, Joanna, the wife of Chuza, and several other noble-hearted women also wished to accompany her. Cleophas, too, went with them.
That evening they set forth. When Mary passed over the threshold of her dwelling, she turned to salute it, as the departing soul salutes, it may be, its mortal remains when leaving them.
"Farewell, dear abode! Many graces, many joys have been mine under thy beloved roof" she said. "Here have my father and mother smiled upon me. Here did the angelic voices sound within my ears. Here," she crossed her arms upon her pure bosom, "the Messenger of heaven announced that happiness with which the Eternal was about to overwhelm ! His humble servant!
"Oh, how beautiful were those days! What raptures overflowed my heart! Blessed be God who has bestowed them upon me!
"And whatever may be the horror that is still to come, the remembrance of God's gifts to me shall never be effaced. No claims have I upon Him, yet He has loaded me with favors. May His name be blessed!
"Farewell, dear roof, dear room, dear dwelling! Is there none to care for you in memory of those wonders which have transpired within your walls ?"
And she sent a last look to the sacred places which she loved. Immediately the door of her little cell opened as if wafted by a gentle breeze; the harmonious vibration of the angels' wings sounded in her ears; the sweet perfume of lilies saluted her. So did the Virgin understand that this beloved house of Nazareth was to remain under the guardianship of the heavenly spirits, and when she turned away, her heart soared up to God in an infinite transport of thanksgiving.. Perhaps she hoped that her exile upon earth would not be prolonged after her divine Son's death.
Whatever might have been her thoughts she was calm as ever, her beautiful countenance serene in its mild and saintly majesty.
The little band journeyed for some time before they found Jesus. He had finished preaching in Galilee, and had gone toward Jerusalem, but everywhere they found evidences that He had preceded them along the road.
Here He had forgiven the sins of the astonished and confused woman of Samaria. There He had healed the paralytic who had been sick for thirty years. Farther on they met some of those who had followed Him into the desert, and had witnessed the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, when He took pity on the famished multitudes—even as He was soon to multiply, without end and without measure, the divine Body and precious Blood, which was to feed, after His death to the end of the ages, so many souls famishing for everlasting life.'
Mary listened with eagerness to these stories, and followed the traces of her Son's passage, the new Conqueror, whose feet did not tread the way of devastation, sorrow, or death, but of peace, happiness, and life. And the Virgin blessed those upon whom the Saviour had allowed His blessed eyes to rest, and even those places which He had hallowed by His presence.
They were about a day's journey from Jerusalem when they halted for the noon-hour meal. A young man was seated upon a rock near the fountain and as they prepared their food close by they could not help observing him.
He was a handsome youth, and his countenance bore a singular expression—a mixture of joy and curiosity. He appeared, moreover, lost in contemplation of the beautiful landscape that was spread before his eyes. Even the presence of strangers did not serve to interrupt him. He looked at the sky, at the earth, the rivulet at his feet, at everything that surrounded him. Some flowers hung above his head. He gathered them in his hands, and seemed to take exquisite pleasure in examining them. An old dog sat near by, watching him uneasily, as if astonished at each movement of its master.
Mary and her fellow travelers had rested for some time under the palm-trees. As they conversed they could not help noticing the young man, with surprise and with pleasure, too, for he appeared extraordinarily happy. Cleophas at last, raising his voice, said in friendly fashion:
"Good stranger, you evidently are not a dweller in this country, for you examine all about you as if you had never seen them before. Will you not cease for a moment admiring nature's beauty and partake of our repast? The blessings which the Lord has bestowed upon us we would share with our brethren."
The young man turned upon Cleophas a pair of large and beautifully clear blue eyes. He looked at him a moment, and then upon those who accompanied him. After which, smiling, he rose. But, almost involuntarily, it seemed, he extended both hands before him as if feeling his way; and the dog rose, too, and walked in front of him, dragging a chain.
"You love such scenes as these?" asked the Virgin, sympathetically.
"Love!" echoed the stranger. "Ah! I can not pass a single moment without admiring them. Whether the sun shines upon them or night enshrouds them, I feel that I can never look my fill."
Seeing that those to whom he spoke smiled slightly, he added:
"You have seen all these things since you were born. You do not comprehend how truly beautiful they are!"
"Why not?" asked Cleophas. "Have not you also beheld them ?"
Mary approached nearer, with a presentiment of some new marvel.
"No," replied the young man, and his voice trembled from excess of emotion. "No, I saw none of them . . . until now. I have never seen anything. I have been blind from birth."
"Who has restored your sight?" asked Mary. But before he answered her she knew.
"A man called Jesus," the youth replied, joyously. "He saw me as He passed, and He saw that I was blind. And some of those who were with Him said:
"'Rabbi, who hath sinned—this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?'"
"And then?" urged Mary, trembling.
"And then Jesus answered: 'Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.' (St. John ix, 2, 3.)
"When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle, and spread the clay upon my eyes and said to me: 'Go—wash in the pool of Siloe.'
"I went, therefore, and washed, and came, seeing." (St. John ix, 6, 7.)
Cleophas and the others examined him with joy and surprise. Then, raising their hands to heaven, they praised the great Jehovah.
"You at least believe me, and thank the Lord with me," said the young man, gently. "There are many who will not believe! And it grieves me, for I want all to know it, all to believe it, that Jesus may be adored!"
"The power of God will manifest itself," murmured Mary, softly,
"You have really been blind since your birth?" asked Cleophas.
"I have been blind since my birth," answered the young man. "I have lived in that dark night of which none can comprehend the gloom unless he has experienced it. Oh, to see . . . nothing! To have the image of . . . nothing! Chaos! To be acquainted with naught save by sound! The sun, the flowers, color, have no sound—and I knew none of these!
"But now I behold the sun in the blue heavens! I have looked upon the stars! I have seen my mother's smile! Your faces speak to me. They tell me that you rejoice in my happiness! Everything is so beautiful, so brilliant, so magnificent! I see you! I am no longer solitary! I see the fields, the grass, the wonders which God has poured out upon this earth to gladden the eyes of men! I see, I see! How good He is! How I love Him!"
Mary and the other women looked at one another. A tender smile played about the Mother's lips. As for the young man, in his exultant joy he seemed to have fallen into a sort of ecstasy.
' 'Ah, look at these flowers! Examine these blades of grass, and this silvery foliage. Look at this translucent water. It lives and flows like a serpent amid the ferns. How the birds glitter in the sun! How golden bright the wings of the insects buzzing around us . . . 99 He noted their smiles, and added tremulously: "Oh, if you do not understand my happiness you can not feel as I do. Let me see! See all, everything! Contemplate everything! Admire everything! Nature belongs to me, since my sight has been restored. I can see!"
And he raised his arms toward heaven.
The holy Virgin looked at him with her sweet and penetrating glance. Yet she was not thinking of him. Her heart was with her Son, her God, the Author of all good.
The poor dog had followed all the actions of its master with the greatest uneasiness. Now, as the youth seated himself near the little group, the tears were coursing down his cheeks. The dog clambered to his lap, and thence put its paws upon his shoulder, looking into his face. Then with a sharp, short bark, it jumped to the ground and began to describe joyous circles around him. Returning to him again and again, it would look up into his face, bark once more, and resume its gambols.
The young man called him and caressed him.
41 You also, my good, faithful friend! Why, what a pleasure it is to look at you! See how glad it is with me! Since my cure it has been most uneasy, and at each step has barked as if to warn me of danger." He looked about him, caressing the dog's ears. "How beautiful Life is! I shall know naught but happiness as long as I live."
He was silent a few moments.
"And that happiness is one which none can know in its entirety save myself. I have but one fear ... a dread fear. I will die and lose the sun. I shall close my eyes . . . will all be dark again?"
Mary bent toward him.
"Do not be afraid," she said. "Death will not plunge you into darkness. There are far greater joys beyond its portals. You will find the light of heaven so much the brighter, that you will consider this brightness to have been obscurity."
The young man shook his head.
"It is difficult to believe," he said. "And yet... he who would have told me, during my darkness, of the beauty which I now behold . . . well, I would have doubted him. I understand. The power of God is infinite. I believe, hope, await all."
And the Virgin answered:
"Love God. Keep your heart pure. Remain grateful . . . and there is no hope which shall not be accomplished."
* * * * *
They left the youth behind them when they set out for Jerusalem. Everywhere people talked of the new Prophet, the new Christ. But the louder the acclamations the more sorrowful became the Virgin.