« PreviousContinue »
was, they learn, in quelling a tumult caused by his own refusal to grant some popular request, in which he bathed the temple pavements with the blood of some three thousand slaughtered citizens.
Recalling, then, the quiet, the obscure Nazareth, in its hidden mountain nook, thitherward they turn their steps, and up by the sea-beaten shore they wind along.
The ancient mounds of old Gaza see them go by. Askelon marks them; Eskron and Ashdod, proud cities of Philistia. Joppa rises in their view; and on their right, the familiar outline of Samaria's blue hills. Carmel, further north, rears himself upon the left. And far, far in the distance, they recognize the dim but wellknown outlines of HERMON, hiding his icy summit in the clouds.
Not far from the end of August, weary and worn, we behold this humble family safely housed once more beneath the paternal roof, there to repose for a short time after their toilsome journeying
What a crowd of emotions besiege the virgin mother's heart, as, casting aside the dusty habiliments of travel, and arrayed once more in the more grateful as well as graceful robes of home life, she wanders free, and with fresh spirits, through the scenes of her childhood, visiting every room, and every well-known, favorite spot on the hills around her picturesque abode.
Once more she stands in the garden, where she stood more than a year ago, and looks again far forth upon that southern landscape. But ah! with what altered prospects! with what changed emotions! What things have conspired to work their changes on the soul of that simple, artless Jewish girl! Through what alternations has she passed in the short space of a few months—of joy and sorrow, hope and fear, repose and agitated enterprise ! What sudden and combining developments of unforeseen destinies! How large an unrolling of the scroll of Fate! She thinks of the sad winter's journey to Bethlehem, the cavern scenes, the shepherds, the temple, old Simeon and Anna, the magi, the flight to the Nile, the massacre they escaped sharing, the return; all these things picture themselves in her mind as she gazes on her child, and, with swelling heart and moistened eye, thinks it all over.
“ Truly,” she thinks, “ did the angel promise me! God hath fulfilled, thus far, his word.”
That child can now sit there alone upon the mossy bank, and sport, with many wiles, at her sandaled feet, every little wile dearer to her heart than worlds; and what with the actual past and present of his history, and what she knows, or hopes, or dreads of the future, and what with her natural mother's love, I see that her heart is full-full of emotion, which she can neither express nor I describe.
With what regret do we tear ourselves away from the contemplation of this scene! How like bidding adieu, as it were, to an only sister, does it seem here to lose sight of the lovely and beautiful Mary, with whose fortunes we have been so long conversant! How dark and dreary is that chasm of twelve years which must now intervene ere we see her again ! And that child also, at whom we never look without wonder, and whose presence hath already created so great sensation, even before he has exerted a single faculty of thought, how can we lose sight of him for a single day? Would it not be a joy to us to witness the first unfoldings of the earthly thinkings of that spirit from a distant sphere now first imprisoned—the first impressions made thereon by the gentle accents of a mother's voice, rehearsing ancient verses of the Word, and (as her duty was by the Mosaic law) teaching him to lisp them in his turn?
Ah! wondrous spectacle! when I behold that trembling maiden approach with awe the task of impressing her own thoughts and feelings upon the opening mind of that inscrutable being now waxing strong in spirit, and on whom the grace of God is shed abundantly! When I hear her instruct that child of his own wonderful origin, and the scenes attending his present condition, and of the career that prophetic oracles mark out before him, I am filled with strange dread, and yet delight in view of such a mighty task.
What mother ever enjoyed such blessed delight as was hers? Whom, not without reason, we have heard an angel's voice pronounce, 66 Blessed above women!" What fault could she ever discern? What tardy lack of comprehension? What forgetful heedlessness? How did the results of her tuition outrun all her conceptions, her most sanguine hopes ? Nay, what hidden depths of power, half unconsciously intimated rather than revealed, filled her soul with awe at what she was attempting! And what chiding, withal, was she ever forced to bestow ? What breath to breathe of censure ? What sparklings forth of sudden fires, as though some fiend of the pit had been caught and pent up there, ever could startle and terrify her ? What but a continually augmenting tide of admiration, pride, exultation, and the tenderest love, ever filled her mind during those twelve long years!
How, if upon another child, with all the obliquities and perversities of a fallen being momentarily evolving themselves from the imprisoned interior, a mother can yet fix an idolizing attachment, oh how, with preternatural, unspeakable intensity, must the unchecked, unalloyed love of this virgin mother have concentrated itself, where it could not become idolatrous by any possibility, upon the loveliest of all the spirits that ever came to earth?
And yet we can see directly naught of this. God hath not been pleased to speak thereof, and with sighing and sadness, therefore, we must leave blank in our minds these twelve years, save so far as they rise before us in our reverential musings.