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The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary
by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich

23. THE KINGS VISIT WITH THE HOLY FAMILY AGAIN. THEIR GENEROSITY TO THE SHEPHERDS.




[December 24 ^th:] Very early today I saw the kings and some of their followers pay separate visits to the Infant Jesus and the Blessed Virgin. During the whole day I saw them busy in their camp beside their beasts of burden distributing all kinds of things. They were full of joy and happiness, and gave away many gifts, as I have always seen done on joyful occasions. The shepherds who had rendered services to the kings and their train were given many presents, and I saw many poor people receiving gifts. I saw them hanging coverlets over the shoulders of some poor old women who crept up to them all bent. Several of the kings' followers took a great liking to the Shepherds' Valley, wishing to stay there and join the shepherds. They submitted this wish to the kings, who allowed them to leave their service and gave them rich presents. They were given blankets, household utensils, grains of gold, and also the donkeys on which they had ridden. When I saw the kings distributing a quantity of bread, I at first wondered where so much bread came from. Then I remembered having seen that sometimes, when they halted, they used their provision of flour to bake little thin flat loaves like rusks in iron moulds, which they carried with them. These loaves they packed tightly in light leather boxes, which they hung on their pack animals. Today many people came from Bethlehem and pestered the kings for gifts of all kinds. Some of these searched their baggage, and on various pretexts made greedy demands of them. Here, and in Jerusalem too, the sensation caused by their numerous following had been a great annoyance to the kings. They had arrived in a kind of triumphal procession, thinking to find general rejoicings over the newborn King, but after what had happened they now resolved to start their return journey quietly and with a smaller following, which would enable them to travel more rapidly. They therefore dismissed today many of their followers; some of whom remained behind in the Valley of the Shepherds, while others went on ahead to meeting-places arranged beforehand. I was surprised to see how much their train had diminished by the evening. The kings no doubt intended to travel the next day to Jerusalem and to tell Herod that they had found the Child; but they wanted to do this more quietly, and this was why they sent many on ahead, thus making the journey easier. They and their dromedaries could overtake them without difficulty.

In the evening they went to the Crib to say farewell. Mensor went in first, alone. Mary placed the Infant Jesus in his arms; he shed tears and his face was shining with joy. After him the two others came and wept as they said farewell. They brought vet more gifts, many pieces of different stuffs, some looking like undyed silk, some red and some with flowered patterns, and a number of beautiful thin coverlets; they also left behind their ample, thin cloaks. These were pale yellow and seemed to be woven of the finest wool; they were so light that they moved with every breath of air. They also brought many bowls standing one on the other, and boxes filled with grains, and a basket with pots of little delicate green bushes with small white flowers. There were three of these in the center of each pot, so arranged that another pot could be placed on the edge; the pots were built up above each other in the basket. This was myrrh. They also gave Joseph long narrow baskets containing birds; they had had a number of these hanging on their dromedaries for killing and eating.

They all shed many tears when they left the Child and Mary. I saw the Blessed Virgin standing up beside them as they said farewell. She held the Infant Jesus in her arms wrapped in her veil, and went a few steps with the kings towards the (hoar of the cave. There she stood still, and in order to give these holy men a remembrance, she took from her head the thin yellow veil covering the Infant Jesus and herself and handed it to Mensor. The kings received this gift with deep obeisances, and their hearts overflowed with awe and gratitude when they saw the Blessed Virgin standing before them unveiled with the Infant Jesus. They were weeping with joy as they left the cave. Henceforth the veil was the holiest treasure that they possessed.

The manner in which the Blessed Virgin accepted presents, although it did not show pleasure in the things themselves, was particularly touching in its humility and in its real gratitude towards the giver. During this wonderful visit I saw in her no trace of self-interest, except that to begin with, out of love for the Infant Jesus and out of pity for Joseph, she allowed herself in all simplicity the joy of hoping that now they might perhaps find a shelter in Bethlehem and not be so contemptuously treated as on their arrival. She had been truly sorry for Joseph's distress and confusion at this.

After the kings had said farewell it grew dark, and the lamp was lit in the cave. The kings went with their followers to the great old terebinth tree above Maraha's grave, there to hold their evening service as they had the day before. A lamp was burning beneath the tree. When they saw the stars coming out, they prayed and sang their sweet songs. The voices of the boys sounded particularly lovely among the others. After this they went into their tent, where Joseph had once more prepared a light meal for them; and then some returned to the inn in Bethlehem, while the rest lay down in the tent.











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