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

10. THE HOLY FAMILY MOVES INTO THE CAVE OF THE NATIVITY.




[November 23 ^rd:] The sun was already low when they reached the entrance of the cave. The young she-ass, which had left them at Joseph's ancestral house to run round the outside of the town, met them as soon as they arrived here and gamboled joyfully round them. Look,' said the Blessed Virgin to Joseph, it is certainly the will of God that we should go in here.' Joseph was, however, very distressed and secretly ashamed at having spoken so often of their good reception in Bethlehem. He put the pack-donkey under the shelter by the entrance of the cave and prepared a place for the Blessed Virgin to rest there while he kindled a light, opened the wickerwork door of the cave, and went into it. The passage into the cave was narrow, for it was full of bundles of straw like rushes, stacked against the walls with brown mats hanging over them. Behind, the cave itself was encumbered with a quantity of things. Joseph cleared out as much as was necessary to make a comfortable resting-place for the Blessed Virgin at the eastern end of the cave. Then he fastened a burning lamp in the wall of the dark cave and led the Blessed Virgin in. She sat down on the couch of rugs and bundles which he had prepared. He apologized most humbly for the poorness of the shelter, but Mary was joyful and contented in her inmost spirit. As she rested there, Joseph hurried with a skin which he had brought with him into the valley-meadow behind the hill, where there was a tiny brook. He fastened the skin with two pegs under the spring so that the water had to run into it, and then brought it back to the cave. Then he went to the town and fetched little bowls, some fruit, and bundles of twigs. The Sabbath was approaching, and because of the many strangers in the town, who were in urgent need of all kinds of things, tables had been set up at the street corners where indispensable necessities could be bought at reduced prices. Those who sold were menservants or people who were not Jews. I cannot quite remember about this. Joseph came back bringing burning coals in a sort of closed metal basket with a handle like a stalk under it. He emptied these out by the entrance to the cave on the northern side and made a little fire. He had the fire-basket and other small utensils with him on the journey. The bundle of wood was of thin sticks neatly tied together with broad rushes. Joseph then prepared a meal: it consisted of a kind of porridge made from yellow grains and a cooked fruit, thick, and when opened for eating, full of seeds. There were also little flat loaves of bread. After they had eaten and prayed, Joseph prepared a sleeping place for the Blessed Virgin. He first made a mattress of rushes, and then spread on it a coverlet of the kind I have described as having been prepared in Anna's house. At the head he put a rolled-up rug. After bringing in the pack-donkey and tying him up out of the way, he closed the openings in the roof to keep out the draught, and then prepared his own sleeping place in the entrance. As the Sabbath had now begun, he stood with the Blessed Virgin under the lamp, reciting the Sabbath prayers with her, after which they ate their little meal in a spirit of great piety. Joseph then left the cave and went into the town, while Mary wrapped herself up to lie down to rest. During Joseph's absence I saw for the first time the Blessed Virgin kneeling in prayer. She knelt on her couch, and then lay down on the coverlet on her side. Her head rested on her arm, which lay on the pillow. Joseph did not come back till late. He was distressed and I think he wept. He prayed and then lay down meekly on his couch at the entrance of the cave.











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