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CHAPTER XII.

MARVELLOUS HISTORY OF THE DEATH OF A GENTLEMAN WHO DIED OF LOVE ON MOUNT OLIVET.

Besides what I have said, I have found a history which to sacred lovers is none the less credible for being wonderful, since, as the holy Apostle says: Charity willingly believeh all things;3533531 Cor. xiii. 7. that is, it is not quick to believe that any one is lying, and if there are no apparent marks of falsehood in things which are told, it makes no difficulty about believing them; but above all when they are things which exalt and magnify the love of God towards men, or the love of men towards God, for charity, which is sovereign queen of the virtues, rejoices in the things which contribute to the glory of its empire and domination. And although the account I am about to give is not so fully published nor so well witnessed as the greatness of the marvel which it contains would require, it does not therefore lose its truth; for, as S. Augustine excellently says, miracles, magnificent as they may be, are scarcely known in the very place where they are worked; and even when they are related by those who have seen them, they are with difficulty believed, but they do not therefore cease to be true; and, in matter of religion, 315good souls have more sweetness in believing things in which there is more difficulty and admiration.

Upon a time, then, a very illustrious and virtuous knight went beyond seas to Palestine, to visit the holy places in which Our Lord had done the works of our redemption; and, properly to begin this holy exercise, before everything he worthily confessed and communicated. Then he went first to the town of Nazareth, where the angel announced to the most holy Virgin the most sacred Incarnation, and where the most adorable conception of the Eternal Word took place; and there this good pilgrim set himself to contemplate the abyss of the heavenly goodness, which had deigned to take human flesh in order to withdraw men from perdition. Thence he passed to Bethlehem, to the place of the Nativity, and one could not say how many tears there he shed, contemplating those with which the Son of God, little infant of the Virgin, had watered that holy stable, kissing and kissing again a hundred times that sacred earth, and licking the dust on which the first infancy of the divine Babe had been received. From Bethlehem he went to Bethabara, and passed as far as the little place of Bethania, when, remembering that Our Lord had unclothed himself to be baptized, he also unclothed himself, and entering into the Jordan, and bathing in it, and drinking of the waters thereof, it seemed to him as if he saw his Saviour receiving baptism from the hand of his precursor, and the Holy Ghost descending upon him in the form of a dove, with the heavens yet opened, while from them seemed to him to come the voice of the Eternal Father, saying: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. From Bethania he goes into the desert, and there sees with the eyes of his Spirit the Saviour fasting, and fighting and conquering the enemy, then the angels ministering to him admirable meats. Thence he goes up to Mount Thabor, where he sees the Saviour transfigured, then to Mount Sion, where he seems to see Our Lord still on his knees in the supper-room, washing the disciples' feet, and afterwards distributing to them his divine body in the sacred Eucharist. He passes the torrent of Cedron, and goes to the Garden of Gethsemani, where his heart melts into the tears of a most loving sorrow, while he there represents to himself 316his dear Saviour sweating blood, in that extreme agony, which he suffered there, to be soon afterwards bound fast with cords and led into Jerusalem; whither he goes also, following everywhere the footprints of his beloved, and in imagination sees him dragged hither and thither, to Annas, to Caiphas, to Pilate, to Herod, scourged, blindfolded, spat upon, crowned with thorns, presented to the people, condemed to death, loaded with his cross—which he carries, and while carrying it has the pitiful meeting with his mother all steeped in grief, and with the daughters of Jerusalem who weep over him. He ascends at last, this devout pilgrim, to Mount Calvary, when he sees in spirit the cross laid upon the earth, and our Saviour, stript naked, thrown down and nailed hands and feet upon it, most cruelly. He contemplates then how they raise the cross and the Crucified into the air, and the blood which streams from all parts of this ruined divine body. He regards the poor sacred Virgin, quite transpierced with the sword of sorrow; then he turns his eyes on the crucified Saviour, whose seven words he hears with a matchless love, and at last he sees him dying, then dead, then receiving the lance-stroke, and showing by the opening of the wound his divine heart, then taken down from the cross and carried to the sepulchre, whither he follows him, shedding a sea of tears on the places moistened with the blood of his Redeemer. And so he enters into the sepulchre and buries his heart by the body of his divine Master; then, rising again with him, he goes to Emmaus, and sees all that passes between the Lord and the two disciples; and at last returning to Mount Olivet, where the mystery of the Ascension took place, and there seeing the last marks and vestiges of the feet of the Divine Saviour, prostrate upon them, and kissing them a thousand thousand times, with sighs of an infinite love, he began to draw up to himself all the forces of his affections, as an archer draws the string of his bow when he wishes to shoot his arrow, then rising, his eyes and his hands turned to heaven: O Jesus! said he, my sweet Jesus! I know no more where to seek and follow thee on earth. Ah! Jesus, Jesus, my love, grant then to this heart that it may follow thee and go after thee thither above. And with these ardent words, he at the 317same moment shot his soul into heaven, a sacred arrow which as an archer of God he directed into the central-white of his most blessed mark. But his companions and servants who saw this poor lover fall suddenly thus as if dead, amazed at this accident, ran instantly for the doctor, who coming found that he had really passed away: and to make a safe judgment on the causes of so unexpected a death, he inquires of what temperament, of what manners, and of what feelings, the deceased might be; and he learned that he was of a disposition very sweet, very amiable, wondrously devout, and most ardent in the love of God. Whereupon the doctor said: Without doubt, then, his heart has broken with excess and fervour of love. And in order the better to confirm his decision, he would have him opened, and found that glorious heart open, with this sacred word engraved within it: Jesus my love! Love, then, did in this heart the office of death, separating the soul from the body, no other cause concurring. And it is S. Bernardine of Siena, a very wise and very holy doctor, who makes this relation in the first of his Sermons on the Ascension.

Indeed, another author of nearly the same age, who has concealed his name out of humility, but who is worthy to be named, in a book which he has entitled: Mirror of Spiritual Persons, relates a history even more admirable. For he says that in the parts of Provence there was a nobleman entirely devoted to the love of God and to the devotion of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Now one day, being extremely afflicted with a malady which caused him continual vomitings, the divine communion was brought him; and not daring to receive it on account of the danger of casting it up again, he begged his pastor to apply it at least to his breast, and with it to make the sign of the cross over him. This was done, and in a moment his breast, inflamed with holy love, was cleft, and drew into itself the heavenly food wherein his beloved was contained, and at the same instant gave up its breath. I see in good truth that this history is extraordinary, and would deserve a more weighty testimony: yet after the true history of the cleft heart of S. Clare of Montefalco, which all the world may see even to this day, and that of the stigmata of S. Francis, 318which is most certain, my soul finds nothing hard to be believed amongst the effects of divine love.

 


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