When we left off, in a discussion of the hidden “saint,” Maryam of Bethlehem [here], it was mentioned that besides her powerful spiritual lessons, she’d also offered glimpses of the afterlife.
During an experience that brought her to the very cusp of death — in a squalid little cave on the outskirts of Alexandria, where her “dead” body was taken after a savage attack by a Muslim — “something very mysterious was going to happen to this young adolescent,” writes Sister Emmanuel Maillard in a splendid, powerful little book, Maryam of Bethlehem. “Years later, she would tell her spiritual director [one Father Estrate] that she went up to Heaven, and that, there, she had a vision of God, a vision of the Blessed Trinity.
“She saw Jesus Christ in His humanity. She saw the Throne of God. She saw the most Blessed Virgin Mary, who was standing near the Throne of the Lord, in all the splendor and glory. She saw the Angels of God. She also saw the souls of saints. She was immersed in a great, immense beatitude, in this happiness with no name that she could never really describe with her poor words, because, she said, it was indescribable.”
It was not all a bed of roses. No true journey to all the realms could be.
“Let’s not forget that Maryam had seen purgatory, and that there she received great illumination from God,” says the book.
“This illumination was not only knowledge in itself or some kind of information to hold onto. No, it was, rather, a transforming light. All light which comes from God transforms the heart. Seeing those souls who suffered so much in purgatory, Maryam developed a great compassion for them. She truly became attached to them. In this outpouring of her heart, she burned with a passionate desire to come to the aid of those whose souls were suffering. It’s not surprising then, that these souls should come in great numbers to visit her, all too happy to find someone so willing to help them!”
Quite an intense experience, on which to meditate, as we enter that intercessional time of the year.
Yet in the midst of that (perhaps it was a sort of ecstasy), someone approached to tell her, “Your book is not finished. You are going to return to earth.” And jarred awake, she saw a woman come to her in the grotto, her clothing unrecognizable. Though it resembled the habit of a nun, it was a magnificent blue color.
The female stranger simply stood there, exuding a tremendous gentleness. “Then, the woman began to stitch up Maryam’s neck, to care for her, to bandage her, to put ointments on her wound,” writes the author. “The lady hardly spoke. Every day she appeared next to Maryam and cared for her like a good nurse.”
The stranger also brought “a very special food, something she had never seen.”
“‘It was a soup, but not normal soup. It was deliciously good soup,'” writes Sister Emmanuel, quoting the young mystic, who years later died at the age of thirty-three. “We know what happened next, that this lady, this mysterious nun, was none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary!”
[resources: Maryam of Bethlehem: The Little Arab; thank you for your support!]