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– From the Mystical Revelations of Maria Valtorta –
— INTRODUCTORY NOTE —
The following Vision and subsequent Commentary are taken from I Quaderni del 1944 ["Notebooks for 1944"] of the contemporary Italian mystic, Maria Valtorta [1897-1961†], and are translated from the critical Italian edition of that Work,1 specifically Notebook No. 21, under the date of the Vision as indicated.
In order to differentiate more clearly between Valtorta's own narrative descriptions and the words of Jesus within the Vision, a bolder type-face has been used for the words of Jesus.
"I see a rocky cavern in which there is a bed made of leaves piled upon a crude frame-work of branches intertwined and tied with reeds. It must be fitting as an instrument of torture. The cave has also a large rock which serves as a table and a smaller one which serves as a seat. Further back against the side, there is another: a large fragment protruding from the rock which has been treated by cleaning it -- I do not know if by nature or by patient and toilsome human labor -- and thus it presents a fairly smooth surface. Upon this protrusion, which seems to serve as a crude altar, there is placed a cross made from two branches held together by twigs. In a fissure of the clay ground, the inhabitant of the cave has also planted an ivy plant, and led its branches up to frame and embrace the cross, while in two crude vases which seem to have been molded in clay by an inexperienced hand, stand two wild flowers gathered in the vicinity. And just at the foot of the cross, in a giant conch, is a little wild cyclamen plant with its clean little leaves and two buds close to blooming. At the foot of this altar is a bundle of thorny branches and a scourge of knotted cords. In the cave there is also a crude little jar of water. Nothing else.
From the narrow and low opening can be seen a background of mountains, and by the moving luminosity that can be glimpsed far off, you could say that from this point the sea is visible. But I cannot be sure. Some hanging branches of ivy, honeysuckle and wild roses, all the usual display of alpine places, hang over the opening and make a sort of moving veil that separates the interior from the outside.
A woman, thin, clothed in a crude dark garment over which is placed a goatskin as a mantle, enters the cave, moving the hanging branches aside. She seems exhausted. Her age is indefinable. To judge by her withered face, one would have to give her many years: more than sixty. But if she must be judged by her hair, still beautiful, thick, golden: she is no more than forty. She wears her hair in two tresses along her bent and gaunt shoulders, and it is the one thing that shines in that squalor. The woman would certainly have been beautiful, because her forehead is still high and smooth, her nose well made and her oval face, however much thinned by exhaustion, is regular. But her eyes have no more sparkle. They are deeply sunken in their sockets, and both are marked by bluish, dark-brown shadows.
Two eyes which tell of many tears shed. Two wrinkles, almost two scars, are cut from the corner of her eyes along the nose and lose themselves in that other wrinkle characteristic of someone who has suffered much, and which descends from the nostril to the corner of the mouth. Her temples also are sunken in and their blue veins are outlined in her great pallor. Her mouth bends in a weary curve and is of a very pale rose color. It must once have been a splendid mouth. Now it is faded. The curve of her lips is like that of two wings that hang broken. A sorrowful mouth.
The woman drags herself to the boulder that serves as a table, and places upon it some blackberries and wild strawberries. Then she goes to the altar and kneels down. But she is so worn-out that in doing so she almost falls, and must support herself on the boulder. She prays, looking at the cross and with tears descending in the furrow to her mouth which drinks them. Then she lets her goatskin fall and remains with only her rough tunic, and she takes the scourge and the thorns. She squeezes the thorny branches around her head and on her loins, and scourges herself with the cord. But she is too weak to do it. She lets the scourge fall and, supporting herself on the altar with both her hands and her forehead, she says: 'I cannot anymore, Rabboni! No more suffering in memory of Your sorrow!'
The voice makes me recognize her. It is Mary Magdalen! I am in her cave of a penitent.
Mary weeps. She calls Jesus with love. She cannot suffer anymore. But she can still love. Her flesh, worn out by penance, cannot endure anymore the fatigue of scourging herself, but her heart still has passionate throbs, and with her last strength she consumes herself in loving. And she loves by remaining with her forehead crowned with thorns and her waist enclosed in thorns. She loves by talking to her Master in a continuous profession of love and in a renewed act of sorrow.
She has slipped down with her forehead to the ground. The same posture she had on Calvary in front of Jesus laid on the lap of Mary. The same one she had in the house of Jerusalem when Veronica unrolled her veil. The same one she had in the garden of Joseph of Arimathaea, when Jesus called her and she recognized Him. But now she weeps because Jesus is not there.
'My life escapes me, my Master. And must I die without seeing You again? When can I be blessed with the sight of You? My sins stand before me and accuse me. You have forgiven me, and I believe that Hell will not have me. But how long the stop for expiation before living with You! Oh! Good Master! Because of the love that You have given me, comfort my soul! The hour of death has come. Because of Your desolate dying on the Cross, comfort Your creature! You are the One who has begotten me. You. Not my mother. You have resurrected me more than You resurrected Lazarus, my brother. Since he was already good, and his death could not but be a waiting in Your Limbo. I was dead in my soul, and to die means to die for eternity. Jesus, into Your hands I commend my spirit! It is Yours, because You have redeemed it. I accept for a last expiation to know the bitterness of Your dying abandoned. But give me a sign that my life has served to expiate my sins.'
Jesus has appeared. He seems to descend from the crude cross. But He is no longer wounded and dying. He is beautiful, as the morning of the Resurrection. He descends from the altar and goes toward the prostrate woman. He bends over her. He calls her again, and since she seems to believe that the Voice sounds through her spiritual senses, and with her face to the ground as it is, she does not see the light which Christ radiates. He touches her, placing His hand on her head and taking her by the elbow, as at Bethany, to raise her up. When she feels herself touched and recognizes the length of that hand, she gives a loud shout, and raises a face transfigured with joy. Then she lowers it to kiss the feet of her Savior.
'Arise, Mary. It is I. Your life escapes. It is true. But I come to tell you that the Christ awaits you. For Mary, there is no waiting. All is forgiven her. From the first moment, she was forgiven. But now she is more than forgiven. Your place is already prepared in My Kingdom. I have come, Mary, to tell you that. I did not give an order to an angel to tell you, because I return a hundredfold what I receive. And I remember what I received from you.
Mary, let us re-live together an hour of the past. Recall Bethany.2 It was the evening after the Sabbath. There were but six days lacking till My death. You recall your house? It was all beautiful in the flowery enclosure of its orchard. Water sang in the pond, and the first roses scented its walls all around. Lazarus had invited Me to his supper, and you had stripped the garden of its most beautiful flowers to adorn the table where your Master had taken His food. Martha had not dared to reprove you, because she remembered My words [Lk 10:38-42], and she watched you with a sweet envy because you were radiant with love, coming and going with the preparations.'
As Jesus spoke, I saw the scene described: The house of Bethany all with flowers and cheerful. The banquet room richly laid out; Martha occupied with chores and Mary with some flowers.
'And then I arrived. And swifter than a gazelle you ran, preceding the servants, to open the gate with your habitual shout. It always seemed like the shout of a prisoner set free. In fact, I Myself was your freedom, and you were a prisoner set free. The apostles were with Me. All of them. Even that one who was now a gangrenous member of the apostolic body. But you were there to take his place. And you did not know that while looking at your head bowed to kiss My feet, and looking at your eye, sincere and full of love, and above all in looking at your spirit, I forgot My disgust at having the traitor at My side. I had wanted you on Calvary for this. And in the garden of Joseph for this. Because to see you was to be assured that My death was not without purpose. And to show Myself to you was an act of gratitude for your faithful love. Blessed are you, Mary, who have never betrayed Me, who have confirmed Me in My hope as Redeemer, you in whom I saw all those saved by My dying! While all ate, you adored.'
Then I see the arrival of Jesus with the twelve and the meeting with Mary who leads Him toward the house, into a room in front of the one for the banquet. Mary brings water in a basin and wants to wash the feet of Jesus herself. Then she changes the water and holds the basin until Jesus has purified His hands. And when He returns the towel to her, she takes it from His hands and kisses them. Then she sits on the ground at the feet of Jesus, on a carpet that covers the pavement, and listens to Him talk with her brother, who shows Jesus some scrolls, new acquisitions made recently at Jerusalem.
Jesus discusses with Lazarus the contents of these works and explains, I believe, the doctrinal errors which they contain, or else the differences between those doctrines of the Gentiles, and the doctrines that are true. They must be literary works which Lazarus, rich and cultured, had wanted to know. Mary never speaks. She listens and loves.
Then they go for supper. The two sisters serve table. They do not eat. Only the men eat. The servants also come and go, carrying platters which are rich and beautiful. But the two sisters personally serve the table, taking from the sideboards the platters which the servants set there and the amphoras full of wine which they mix. Jesus drinks water. Only at the end does He accept about an inch of wine.
'You gave Me perfumed water, Mary, for My weary feet, and chaste and burning kisses for My hands, and still not content, you wanted to break your last precious vase to anoint My head, arranging My hair for Me like a mama. And you wanted to anoint My hands and My feet so that all of your Master would be fragrant like the members of a consecrated King'. . . .
Toward the end of the banquet, when the supper already slackens its rhythm and becomes more conversation than anything else, while they pass the fruits and sweets, Mary, who has disappeared for some minutes, returns with an amphora of alabaster and breaks the neck of it against the corner of a piece of furniture, to be able to get at it more easily. And with her hands full she takes it and anoints the hair of Jesus while standing behind Him, arranging the curls at the end of His hair, rolling them lock by lock on her fingers. She seems like a mama combing her child. When she is finished, she very lightly kisses the head of Jesus, and then takes His hands and embalms them and kisses them, and then does the same with His feet.
'And Judas -- who hated you because you were honest now, and with your honesty you repelled the greediness of males -- Judas had reproached you... But I had defended you because you had accomplished all for love, a love so great that the memory of it came with Me in the agony from Thursday evening until the ninth hour.... Now, for this act of love which you had given Me at the threshold of My death, I come, to the threshold of your death, and return love to you.'
The disciples look on. John smiles as though encouraging Mary. Peter shakes his head, but... come now! --he too smiles in his beard, and so do the others, more or less. Thomas and another little old man grumble quietly. But Judas, with an indefinable but certainly an ugly look, explodes in his bad humor:
'What foolishness! To be a fool it is enough to be feminine. Why such waste? The Master isn't a former publican or prostitute to need such effeminacies. It's also dishonoring for Him. What will the Jews say smelling Him perfumed like an effeminate youth?
Master, I'm astonished that you allow a woman such foolishness. If she has riches to squander, let her give them to me for the poor. It'll be more sensible. Woman, stop it I tell you, because you disgust me.'
Mary looks at him abashed and, blushing, is about to obey. But Jesus puts His hand upon her head which she holds bowed down, and then brings that hand down upon her shoulder to draw her lightly to Himself as though to defend her:
'Let her alone,' He says. 'Why do you reproach her? No one should reproach a good work and put there hidden meanings which only malice teaches. She has performed a good act towards Me. The poor you always have. I will not be among you any more and the poor will still be there. To them you can continue to do good. To Me, no, because I am close to leaving you.
She has anticipated for all of you the homage to My sacrificed Body, and she has already anointed It for burial because then It will not be able to be done. And it would pain her too much not to have embalmed Me. Truly I say to you that till the end of the world and in every place where the Gospel will be preached what she has done now will be recalled. And from her act, souls will take lessons in giving Me love, the beloved balm of the Christ, and will take courage in sacrifice, thinking that every sacrifice is an embalming of the King of kings, of the Anointed of God, of Him from Whom Grace descends like this nard upon My hair to make hearts fertile with love, and to Whom love rises up in a continual flowing back and forth of love from Me to My souls, and from My souls to Me.
Judas, imitate, if you can. If you still can do it. And respect Mary, and Me with her. Respect yourself also. Since it is not a dishonoring of oneself to accept a pure love with a pure love. Rather, it is by nourishing a grudge and making insinuations under the goading of sense. It has been three years, Judas, that I am teaching you. But still I have not been able to change you. And the hour is near. Judas, Judas... Mary, thank you. Persevere in your love.'
[The secondary Vision of the Bethany scene ends here. Jesus continues now His words to Mary in her cave. -- Trans. ]
'Your Master loves you, Mary. He is here to tell you this. Have no fear, no anxiety of another death. Your death is no different than that of one who pours out his blood for Me. What does the martyr give? His life for love of his God. What does the penitent give? His life for love of his God. What does the lover give? His life for the love of his God. You see that there is no difference. Martyrdom, penitence, love consummate the same sacrifice and for the same end. In you, then, penitent and lover, is the same martyrdom of one who perishes in the arena. Mary, I precede you into glory. Kiss My hand and lay down in peace. Rest. It is time for you to rest. Give Me your thorns. Now is the time for roses. Rest and wait. I bless you, blessed one.'
Jesus has obliged Mary to lie down on her bed. And the saint, her face washed with weeping from ecstasy, has stretched herself out as her God wanted, and now seems to sleep with her arms folded on her bosom, with tears continuing to fall but with a mouth that laughs.
She rises to sit up when a very vivid brilliance occurs in the cave from the coming of an angel bearing a chalice which he lays upon the altar and which he adores. Mary also, kneeling near the little bed, adores. She cannot move anymore. Her strength fails. But she is blissful. The angel takes the chalice and gives her communion. Then he rises again to Heaven.
Mary, like a flower burned by too much sun, bows over, bows with her arms still folded on her bosom, and falls face down amid the leaves of her bed. She is dead. The eucharistic ecstasy has cut off the last vital thread."
– COMMENTARY ON THE VISION –
"The extent to which a creature can be absolute in its generosity of love and requital of the one who has loved it, is always relative. But your Jesus surpasses all the vastness of human desire and every limit of satisfaction, since He, your Jesus, is God. And to you, generous and loving souls -- since this is a page which I address especially to you, souls who do not content yourselves with obeying the precept, but embrace the counsel and push your love of Me to holy heroisms -- to you I give My lavishness of God, and that of a good God.
For you I create the miracle, to give you an exchange of joy for all the joy you give Me. I substitute Myself for what is lacking to you, or I stir up what is necessary for you. But nothing do I leave lacking to you who have stripped yourselves of all for My love, even to living in a material or moral solitude in a world which does not understand you and which scorns you, a world which, repeating the ancient insult already given to Me, your Master (Mt 12:24), shouts at you: "Insane!", and mistakes your penances and your lights for diabolical signs. For the world, subjugated to Satan, believes the saints to be Satan -- the saints who have put the world under their feet and made of it a footstool for themselves to rise higher toward Me, and to plunge themselves into My Light.
But let them even say that you are "insane and demons". I know that you are the possessors of a true wisdom, of an upright intelligence, and that you have the soul of an angel in a mortal body. I remember, nor does there pass as forgotten a single sigh of love that you have had for Me. And as I defend you against the world -- because to the better ones of the world I reveal what you are in My eyes -- so also I compensate you when the hour comes and I judge that it is time to pour into your chalice some sweetness.
It is only I Myself who have drunk it to the bottom, without tempering it with honey. I who have had to cling to the thought of those who would love Me in the future, in order to be able to endure the chalice to the bottom without reaching the point of cursing man for whom I shed My Blood, and thus knowing -- or more than knowing -- abandoning Myself to the despair of My condition as one abandoned by God.
But what I have suffered, I do not want any of you to suffer. My experience was too cruel to impose it on you. And that would be to try you beyond your strength. God is never imprudent. He wants to save you and not lose you. And to impose upon you certain hours too cruel, would be to lose your soul, which would bend down like an overloaded branch, and would end by being broken and knowing the mud after having known so much of Heaven.
I never disappoint one who hopes in Me. Say it, say it, say it to all."
– NOTES –
1. Maria Valtorta, I Quaderni Del 1944 (Edizioni Pisani / Centro Editoriale Valtortiano srl, Via Po 95, I 03036 Isola del Liri Fr, Italia, 1985).
2. In this Vision, as throughout all of The Poem of the Man-God, Mary Magdalen is identified as the Mary of Bethany in the Gospels, sister of Lazarus and Martha of Bethany. This accords with the ancient tradition of the Church, but contradicts the opinion of most modern biblical scholars today. This identification in Valtorta's works was an admitted problem for the holy (now "Venerable") biblical exegete, Gabriel Allegra, O.F.M., an enthusiastic admirer and connoisseur of Valtorta's Poem and other mystical works, and whose "Critique..." is featured on our Valtorta Home page. However, in his humility Fr. Allegra admitted that perhaps he, and many others with him, were mistaken in their views that Magdalen was not the sister of Lazarus and Martha. ( See Part II: "Notes for a Valtorta Critique" )