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

28. HEROD HAS ZECHARIAH CAPTURED, QUESTIONED, AND KILLED. ELIZABETH DIES.




When John was about six years old, Elizabeth took the opportunity of Zechariah's absence on a journey to the Temple with herds for sacrifice to pay a visit to her son in the wilderness. Zechariah, I think, never went to see him there, so that he might truthfully say, if asked by Herod where his son was, that he did not know. In order, however, to satisfy his intense longing to see John, the latter came several times from the wilderness to his parents house in great secrecy and by night, and stayed there a short time. Probably his guardian angel led him there at the right moment when there was no danger. I saw him always guided and protected by higher Powers, and sometimes accompanied by shining figures like angels.

John was destined to live in the wilderness, separated from the world and from ordinary human food, and to be taught and trained by the Spirit of God. Providence so ordained matters that outer circumstances made him take refuge in the desert to which his natural instincts drew him with irresistible force; from his earliest childhood I always saw him thoughtful and solitary, just as the Child Jesus fled to Egypt as the result of a divine warning, so did John, His precursor, fly to a hiding place in the wilderness. Suspicion was directed to him, too, for there had been much talk in the land about John ever since his early days. It was well known that wonders had attended his birth, and that he was often seen surrounded by light, for which reasons Herod was particularly suspicious of him. He had caused Zechariah to be questioned several times as to the whereabouts of John, but had never yet laid hands on the old man. This time, however, as he was on his way to the Temple, he was attacked by Herod's soldiers in a sunken road outside the Bethlehem Gate of Jerusalem, from which the city was not yet visible. These soldiers, who had been lying in wait for him, dragged him brutally to a prison on the slope of the Hill of Sion, where later I used often to see Jesus' disciples making their way up to the Temple. The old man was here subjected to ill-treatment and even torture, in order to force from him a confession of his son's whereabouts. When this had no effect, he was, by Herod's soldiers, stabbed to death. [170] His friends buried his body not far from the Temple. This was not the Zechariah who was murdered between the Temple and the altar. When the dead came out of their graves at the death of Christ, I saw the grave of that Zechariah falling out of the Temple walls near the praying-room of the aged Simeon, and himself coming forth from it. At that moment several other secret graves in the Temple burst open. On the occasion when that Zechariah was murdered between the Temple and the altar, there were many disputes going on about the descent of the Messiah, and about certain rights and privileges in the Temple of various families. For instance, not all families were allowed to have their children brought up in the Temple. (This reminds me that I once saw in the care of Anna in the Temple a boy whose name I have forgotten; I think he was a king's son.) Zechariah was the only one among the disputants who was murdered. His father was called Barachiah. [171] I saw that later the bones of that Zechariah were found again, but have forgotten the details.

Elizabeth came home from the desert expecting to find Zechariah returned from Jerusalem. John accompanied her for some of the way; when they parted, she blessed him and kissed him on the forehead, and he hastened back, untroubled, to the wilderness. On reaching home Elizabeth heard the terrible news of the murder of Zechariah. She grieved and lamented so sorely that she could find no peace or rest at home, and so left Juttah for ever and hastened to join John in the wilderness. She died there not long after, before the return of the Holy Family from Egypt. She was buried in the wilderness by the Essene from Mount Horeb who had always helped little John.

After this John moved farther into the wilderness. He left the rocky ravine for more open country, and I saw him arrive at a small lake in the desert. The shore was flat and covered with white sand, and I saw him go far out into the water and all the fishes swimming fearlessly up to him. He was quite at home with them. He lived here for some time, and I saw that he had made himself in the bushes a sleeping-hut of branches. It was quite low, and only just big enough for him to lie down in. Here and later I saw him accompanied very often by shining figures or angels, with whom he associated humbly and devoutly, but unafraid and in childlike confidence. They seemed to teach him and to make him notice all kinds of things. I saw that his staff had a little cross-piece, so that it formed a cross; fastened to it was a broad band of bark which he waved about in play like a little flag.

A daughter of Elizabeth's sister now lived in John's family house at Juttah near Hebron. It was well supplied with everything. When John was grown-up he came there once in secret, and then went still farther into the wilderness, remaining there until he appeared among mankind. Of this I shall tell later.











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