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Written by Maria Valtorta, February 24, 1944, the Thursday after Ash Wednesday. POEM OF THE MAN-GOD, Volume #1, Chapter 46.
Jesus is Tempted in the Desert by the Devil.
I see the solitary land which I already saw on my left-hand side in the vision of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan. But I must be some way inside the desert, because I neither see the beautiful, blue, slow flowing river, nor the green strips of vegetation which coast its banks, and are nourished by its waters. There is nothing here but solitude, stones and such a parched earth that it has become a yellowish dust, raised now and again by the wind in small eddies, which are so hot and dry that they seem to be the breath of a feverish mouth. And they are very troublesome because of the dust penetrating nostrils and throats. There are a very few small thorny bushes, strangely surviving in so much deslolation. They look like small forelocks of surviving hair on a bald head. Above, there is a merciless blue sky; below, arid land; around, stones and silence. That is what I see as far as nature is concerned.
Leaning against a huge piece of overhanging rock which, because of its shape, forms a kind of grotto, there is Jesus sitting on a stone that has been taken into the cave. That is how He protects Himself from the scorching sun. And my internal adviser informs me that the stone, on which He is now sitting, is also His kneeling-stool and pillow, when He takes a few hours rest, enveloped in His mantle, under a starry sky in the chill air of the night. Near Him, there is a haversack which I saw Him take before departing from Nazareth. It is all He has. And from the way it is folded, I realise it has been emptied of the little food Mary had put into it.
Jesus is very thin and pale. He is sitting with His elbows resting on HIs knees, His forearms foreward, His hands joined and His fingers interlaced. He is meditating. Now and again He looks up and around, then looks at the sun, almost perpendicular in the blue sky. Now and again, particularly after looking around and at the sun, He closes His eyes and leans on the rock sheltering Him, as if He were seized by dizziness.
I see Satan's ugly face appear. He does not show himself in the features we imagine him: horns, tail, etc. He looks like a bedouin enveloped in his robe and in a large mantle that resembles a domino. He is wearing a turban on his head and its white flaps fall along his cheeks, down to his shoulders protecting them. Thus only a very small dark triangle of his face can be seen, with thin, sinuous lips, very black hollow eyes, full of magnetic flashes. Two eyes that penetrate and read into the bottom of your heart, but in which you can read nothing, or one word only: mystery. The very opposite of Jesus' eyes, also so magnetic and fascinating, which read in your heart, but in which you can also read that in His Heart there is love and bounty for you. Jesus' eyes caress your soul. Satan's are like a double dagger that stabs and burns you.
He approaches Jesus: "Are You alone?"
Jesus looks at him, but does not reply.
"How did You happen to be here? Did You get lost?"
Jesus looks at him again, and is silent.
"If I had water in my flask, I would give You some. But I have none myself. My horse died, and I am now going on foot to the ford. I will get a drink there, and I will find someone who will give me some bread. I know the road. Come with me. I'll take You there.
Jesus does not even look at him.
"You are not answering? Do You know that if You stay here, You will die? The wind is already beginning to blow. There will be a storm. Come."
Jesus clenches His hands in silent prayer.
"Ah! It is You, then? I have been looking for You for such a long time! And I have been watching You for so long. Since You were baptized. Are You calling the Eternal? He is far away. You are now on earth, in the midst of men. And I reign over men. And yet, I feel sorry for You, and I want to help You, because You are so good, and you have come to sacrifice Yourself for nothing. Men will hate You because of Your goodness. They understand northing, but gold, food and pleasure. Sacrifice, sorrow, obedience are words more arid for them that the land around us here. They are more arid for them than this dust. Only snakes can hide here, waiting to bite, and jackals waiting to tear to pieces. Come with me. It is not worthwhile suffering for them. I know them better than You do."
Satan has sat down in front of Jesus and he scrutinizes Him with his dreadful eyes, and smiles at Him with his snakelike mouth. Jeus is always silent, and is praying mentally.
"You don't trust me. You are wrong. I am wisdom of the earth. I can be Your teacher and show You how to triumph. Then, once we have imposed ourselves and we have enchanted the world, then we can take them wherever we want. But first, we must be as they wish us to be. Like them. We must allure them, making them believe that we admire them and follow their thoughts.
You are young and handsome. Start with a woman. One must always start from her. I made a mistake inducing her to be disobedient. I should have advised her differently. I would have turned her into a better instrument, and I would have beaten God. I was in a hurry. But You! I will teach You, because one day I looked at You with angelic joy, and a fraction of that love is still left in me, but You must listen to me, and make use of my experience. Find yourself a woman. Where you do not succeed, she will. You are the new Adam: You must have Your Eve.
In any case, how can You understand and heal the diseases of the senses, if You do not know what they are? Don't You know that that is where the seed is, from which the tree of greediness and arrogance sprouts? Why do men want to reign? Why do they want to be rich and powerful? To possess woman. She is like a lark. She will be attacted only by something sparkling. Gold and power are two sides of the mirror that draw woman, and are the causes of evil in the world. Look: in a thousand different crimes, there are at least nine hundred that take root in the lust of possessing a woman or in the passion of a woman, burning with a desire that man has not yet satisfied, or can no longer satisfy. Go to a woman if You want to know what life is. And only then, You will be able to cure and heal the diseases of mankind.
Women, You know, are beautiful! There is nothing nicer in the world. Man has brains and strength. But woman! Her thought is a perfume, her touch is the caress of flowers, her grace is like wine, pleasant to drink, her weakness is like a hank of silk, or the curl of a child in a man's hand, her caress is a strength which is poured over our own strength, and inflames it. Sorrow, fatigue, worries are forgotten when we lie near a woman, and she is in our arms like a bunch of flowers.
But what a fool I am! You are hungry and I am talking to You of women. Your energy is exhausted. That is why that fragrance of the earth, that flower of creation, the fruit that gives and excites love, seems without any value to You. But look at these stones. How round and smooth they look, gilded by the setting sun! Don't they look like loaves? Since You are the Son of God, all You have to say is: 'I want' and they will become sweet-smelling bread, just like the loaves housewives are now taking out of their ovens for the supper of their families. And these arid acacias, if You only wish so, will they not be filled with sweet fruit and dates as sweet s honey? Eat your fill, Son of God. You are the Master of the earth. The earth is bowing down to put itself at Your feet and appease Your hunger.
Don't You see that You are turning pale and unsteady at the mention of bread? Poor Jesus! Are You so weak that You cannot even work a miracle? Shall I work it for You? I am not Your equal, but I can do something. I will do without any strength for a whole year, I will gather it all together, but I want to serve You, because You are good, and I always remember that You are my God, even if now I have forfeited calling You so. Help me with Your prayers, that I may..."
"Be quiet! Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."
The devil starts with anger. He grinds his teeth, and clenches his fists. But he controls himself, and turns his grinding into a smile.
"I understand. You are above the necessities of the earth and You are disgusted at making use of me. I deserved it. But come, then, and see what there is in the House of God. You will see how even priests do not refuse to come to a compromise between the spirit and the flesh. After all, they are men, and not angels. Work a spiritual miracle. I will take You up to the pinnacle of the Temple and You will undergo a transfiguration and become most handsome. You will then call the cohorts of angels and will tell them to form a footrest for Your feet with their interlaced wings, and to let You down, thus, into the main yard. So that people may see You, and remember that God exists. One must show oneself now and again, because man's memory is so weak, particularly with regard to spiritual matters. You can imagine how happy the angels will be in forming a protection for Your feet and a ladder for You to descend!"
"It is said: 'You must not put the Lord your God to the test.' "
"You understand that Your apparition would not change anything and the Temple would continue to be a market full of corruption. Your divine wisdom is aware that the hearts of the ministers of the Temple are nests of vipers, that tear and are torn to pieces for the sake of prevailing. They are subdued only by human power.
Well then, come. Adore me. I will give you the earth. Alexander, Cyrus, Caesar, all the great rulers, past or present, will be like the leaders of miserable caravans as compared with You, as You shall have the kingdoms of the world under Your scepter. And with the kingdoms, all the wealth, all the beautiful things on earth, women, horses, armies and temples. You will be able to raise Your Sign everywhere when You are the King of kings and Lord of the world. You will then be obeyed and respected both by the people and by the priesthood. All classes will honor and serve You, because you will be the Powerful One, the Only One, the Lord.
Adore me for one moment only! Appease this thirst of mine for being worshipped! It ruined me, but it is still left in me, and I am parched by it. The flames of hell are like a fresh morning breeze as compared to this fierce ardor burning inside me. It is my hell, this thirst. One moment, one moment only, Christ. You are so good! One moment of joy for the eternally Tortured One! Let me feel what it is like to be god, and I will be a devoted, obedient servant for all Your life and all Your enterprises. One instant, one instant only, and I will no longer torture You!" And Satan falls on his knees. imploring.
Jesus, instead, stands up. He has lost weight because of the long days of fast, and He now looks taller. His face is terribly sever and potent. His eyes are two burning sapphires. His voice is like thunder: it reverberates in the cave of the huge stone, and spreads over the stony, desolate plain when He cries: "Be off, Satan. It is written: 'You must worship the Lord your God, and serve Him alone.' "
Satan, with a cry of fearful torture and indescribable hatred, springs to his feet, a dreadful sight in his furious, smoky figure. And he disappears with a last cursing yell.
Jesus is tired, and sits down, leaning back with His head resting on the stone. He looks exhausted. He is perspiring. But angels come to blow gently with their wings in the closeness of the cave, thus purifying and refreshing the air. Jesus opens His eyes, and smiles. I do not see Him eat. I would say that He is nourished by the aroma of Paradise, and is reinvigorated by it.
The sun has set in the west. He takes His empty haversack and in the company of the angels who, flying above His head, emit a mild light while it is getting dark very rapidly. He starts walking eastwards, or rather north-eastwards. He has resumed His usual expression, His step is steady. The only remaining sign of His long fast is a more ascetic look on His pale, thin face and in His eyes, enraptured with a joy which does not belong to this world.
Jesus says: (to Maria Valtorta)
"Yesterday you had no strength, which is My will, and you were, therefor, half-alive. I let your body rest and I made you fast the only way which is burdensome for you: depriving you of My word. Poor Mary! You kept Ash Wednesday. You tasted an ashen flavor in everything because you were without your Master. I did not let you perceive Me, but I was there.
This morning, as our anxiety is reciprocal, when you were half asleep, I whispered to you: 'Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem' and I made you repeat it many times and I repeated it to you many times. You thought that I was going to speak about that. No. First there is the subject which I showed you and upon which I will comment for you. Then this evening I will illustrate this other one.
As you have seen, kindness is always Satan's disguise when he presents himself. He looks like an ordinary person. If souls are careful, and above all, if they are in spiritual contact with God, they percieve the warning that makes them cautious and prepares them to fight the devil's snares. But if souls are distracted, separated from God by an overwhelming sensuality, and are not assisted by prayer, which joins them to God and pours strength into hearts of men, then they seldom perceive the snares hidden under the innocent appearance and athey fall into the trap. It is then very difficult for them to free themselves.
The two most common means adopted by Satan to conquer souls are sensuality and gluttony. He always starts from material things. Once he heas dismantled and subdued the material side, he attacks the spiritual part.
First the morals: thoughts with their pride and greed; then the spirit, obliterating not only its love--which no longer exists when man replaces divine love with other human loves--but also the fear of God. Then man surrenders his body and soul to Satan, only for the sake of enjoying what he wants, and enjoying it more and more.
You saw how I behaved. Silence and prayer. Silence. Because if Satan performs his work of seducer and comes round us, we must put up with the situation without any foolish impatience or cowardly fears. We must react with resolution to his presence, and with prayer to his allurements.
It is useless to debate with Satan. He would win, because he is strong in his dialectics. Only God can beat him. And so you must have recourse to God, that He may speak for you, through you. You must show Satan that Name and that Sign, not so much written on paper or engraved on wood, but written and engraved in your hearts. My Name, My sign. You should answer back to Satan, using the Word of God, only when he insinuates that he is like God. He cannot bear that.
Then after the struggle, there comes victory and the angels serve and defend the winner from Satan's hatred. They restore him with celestial dews, with the Grace that they pour with full hands intothe heart of the faithful son, with a blessing that caresses his soul.
One must be determined to defeat Satan, and have faith in God and in His help. Faith in the power of prayer, and in the Lord's bounty. Then Satan can do no harm.
Go in peace. This evening I will gladden you with the remainder.
"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and stoic philosopher, 121-180 A.D.
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