First Christmas Vision

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    Christmas inspires me to read anew the writings of mystic Maria Valtorta whose volumes initially called Poem of  Man-God was once included in the Vatican’s list  of condemned books. But God has ways to let known His very works,  intended for some, if not for all.

    Such is the stupendous (what word should I use to manifest  amazement?)  book of Maria Valtorta who is now being pushed for sainthood.Valtorta spent most of her life in bed, after  a mentally imbalanced man hit her and caused  her lameness.

    During all those years, she, by  Divine Power, had been  transported in time  to witness events in the lives of the Blessed Virgin and Jesus Christ, on top of being moved  to the  future to see an episode during the Final Judgement. 

    Valtorta was said to have come across the work of Blessed  Anne Catherine Emmerich who was also similarly blessed in her lifetime,  but was reported to have been  shocked by  it. Emmerich’s work, it seemed, was heavily  filtered by ultra conservative Church leaders, so that much  of truth was shaved. 

    Up to our times, there are critics, too, of Valtorta, but there is no shortage of scholars, religious and lay in various disciplines, who  are astonished by the genius, if not signs that cannot but be divine in her  work.

    I am not a  scholar, but I can fit in the latter category. Since it’s Christmas, I am here devoting this long  excerpt on her account of the first Christmas. I am not using any quote for  purposes of coping with deadline pressure  inserting quotes can take time), but the direct quote starts in the next paragraph:

    I see a very wide country.  he moon is at its zenith and she is sailing smoothly in a sky crowded with stars. They look like diamond   studs fixed to a huge canopy of dark blue velvet  and the moon is smiling in the middle of them with her big white  face,  from which streams of  light descend and make the earth white.

    The barren trees seem taller and darker against  so white a ground, whereas the low walls which  rise here and there on the boundaries, look as white as milk  and a little house far away seems  a block of Carrara marble.

    On my right I see a place enclosed by  a  thorn-bush hedge on two sides and by a  low rugged wall on the other two. The wall supports a kind of low wide shed, which inside  the enclosure is built in masonry and part in wood, as if in summer the wooden part should be removed and the shed should become a  porch.

    From the enclosure intermittent short bleatings can be heard now and   gain. It must be the little sheep which dream or perhaps sense that it is almost daybreak because of   he very  bright moonlight.

    The brightness is intense to an excessive degree and it is  increasing more and more as if the planet were coming near the earth or were sparkling  because of a mysterious fire.

    A shepherd boy looks out of the door, and  lifting one arm to his forehead to shield his eyes, he looks up. It seems improbable that one should protect one’s eyes from moonlight. But the moonlight in this case is so bright that it  blinds people, particularly those who  come out  from a dark enclosure.

    Everything is calm. But the bright moonlight is surprising. The  shepherd calls his companions. They all come to the door: a group of hairy men of various ages. Some are just teenagers, some are already white haired. They comment on the strange event and the younger ones are afraid.

    One in particular, a boy about  twelve years old, starts crying, and the older  shepherds jeer at him.“What  are you afraid of, you fool?” the  oldest man says to him. “Can’t you see that  the air is very quiet? Have you never  seen  clear moonlight?

    You have always been tied to your mother’s apron-strings, haven’t you? But  there are many    things for you to see! Once, I had gone as far as the Lebanon mountains,  even farther. High up. I was young, and walking was a pleasure.

    And I was also rich,  then…one night I saw such a bright light that  I thought Elijah was about  to come back in his  chariot of fire. And an old man—he was the old  man then—said to me: “A great adventure is about to take place in the world”. It was for us  a misadventure, because the Roman soldierscame.

    Oh! Many things  you will see, if you live…long enough.”  But the little shepherd is no longer listening  to him. He looks as if he is no longer frightened,  because he leaves the threshold and steals from behind the shoulders of a brawny herdsman, behind whom he had previously sought shelter,  and he goes out on to the grassy fold in front of the shed.

    He looks up   and walks about like a  sleep-walker or one hypnotised by something that compellingly attracts him. At a certain   moment he shouts: “Oh!” and remains petrified  with his arms slightly stretched out. His mates look at one another  dumbfounded.

    “But what is the matter with the fool?” says one. “I will send him back to his mother tomorrow. I don’t  want mad people here as guardians of the sheep” says another.  And the old man who had spoken earlier says: “Let us go and see before we judge  him.

    Call also the others who are sleeping and bring your sticks. It might be a  wild animal or  some robber…” They go in, they call the other shepherds and they come out with torches and clubs.   

    They  join the boy. “There, there” he whispers smiling. “Above  the tree, look at the light that is coming. It seems to be  coming on the ray of the moon. There it is, it is coming near. How beautiful it is!”

    “I can only see a rather bright  light.” “So can I.”  “So can I” say the others. “No. I see something like a body” says one  whom I recognize to  be the shepherd who gave the milk to Mary. 

    “It is… it is an angel” shouts the boy. “Here he is, he is coming down,  he is coming near…  Down! On your knees before the angel of God!” A long and venerable “Oh!” comes from   he  group of shepherds who fall down face to  the ground and the older they are, the more they appear to be crushed by  the refulgent apparition.

    The young ones are on their knees,  looking at the angel who is coming nearer and  nearer, and then he stops mid-air above the  enclosure wall, waving his large wings, a pearly  brightness in the white moonlight surrounding  him.

    “Do not fear. I am not bringing you misfortune. I announce you a great joy for the people of Israel and for all the people of the  world.” The angelic voice is the harmony of a harp and of singing  nightingales. 

    “Today, in the City of David, the Savior has been born.” In saying so, the angel spreads  out his wings   wider and wider, moving them as a sign of overwhelming joy, and a stream of golden sparks and precious stones  seem to fall from them: a real rainbow describing a triumphal arch above the poor shed.  “…the Savior, Who is Christ.”

    The angel  shines with a brighter light. His two wings, now motionless, pointed upright towards the sky  like two  still sails on the sapphire of the sea, seem two bright flames ascending to Heaven. “…Christ, the Lord!”

    The angel gathers his sparkling wings and covers himself with them  as if they were a coat of diamonds on a dress of  pearls, he bows down in adoration, with his arms crossed over his heart, while his head  bent down as it is,  disappears in the shade of  the tops of the folded wings.

    Only an oblong  bright motionless form can be seen for a few moments. But now he stirs. He spreads out his wings, lifts his head, bright with a heavenly  smile, and says:

    “You will   recognise Him from the following signs: in a poor stable, behind  Bethlehem, you will find a baby in swaddling  clothes, in a manger for animals, because no roof was found for the Messiah in the city of  David.” The angel becomes grave, almost  sad, in saying that     

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