She was of middle height. She appeared to be quite young, and had the grace of the age of twenty years. But, without losing aught of its tender delicacy, this lustre, so fleeting in time, had in her the stamp of eternity. Further, in her features so divinely marked, there were mingled in some sort, but without disturbing their harmony, the successive and distinct beauties of the four seasons of human life. The innocent candor of the Child, the absolute purity of the Virgin, the tender seriousness of the highest of Maternities, and Wisdom superior to that of all accumulated ages, were summed up and melted into each other, without injuring the effect of each in this marvelous countenance of youthful womanhood. To what can we compare it in this fallen world, where the rays of the beautiful are scattered, broken and tarnished, and where they never appear to us without some impure admixture? Any image, any comparison would be a degradation of this unutterable type. No majesty existing in the universe, no distinction of this world, no simplicity here below, could convey any idea of it or assist us to comprehend it better. It is not with earthly lamps that we can render visible, and, so to say, light up the stars of heaven.
Even the regularity and the ideal purity of these features, in which nothing clashed, shields them from any attempt at description. Need we however say, that the oval curve of the countenance was infinitely graceful; that the eyes were blue and so sweet that they seemed to melt the heart of everyone upon whom they turned their gaze? The lips breathed forth divine goodness and kindness. The brow seemed to contain supreme wisdom, that is to say, the union of omniscience with boundless virtue.
Her garments of an unknown texture, and doubtless woven in the mysterious loom which furnishes attire for the lilies of the valley, were white as the stainless mountain snow, and more magnificent in their simplicity than the gorgeous robe of Solomon in all his glory. Her robe, long and training, falling in chaste folds around her, suffered her feet to appear reposing on the rock, and lightly pressing the branches of the wild rose which trailed there. On each of them in their virgin nudity there expanded the mystic rose of a bright, golden color.
In front, a girdle―blue as the heavens―was knotted half-way round her body and fell in two long bands reaching within a short distance of her feet. Behind, a white veil fixed around her head and enveloping in its ample folds, her shoulders and the upper part of her arms, descended as far as the hem of her robe.
She wore neither rings, nor necklace, nor diadem, nor jewels of any description; none of those ornaments with which human vanity has decorated itself in all ages. A chaplet, with beads as white as drops of milk strung on a chain of the golden hue of harvest, hung from her hands, which were fervently clasped. The beads of the chaplet glided one after the other through her fingers. The lips however of this Queen of Virgins, remained motionless. Instead of reciting the rosary, she was perhaps listening in her own heart to the eternal echo of the Angelic Salutation, and to the vast murmur of the invocations coming from the earth.
She was silent; but later her own words, and the miraculous events which we shall have to recount, plainly testified that She was the Immaculate Virgin, the most august and holy Mary, Mother of God.
This marvelous apparition gazed on Bernadette, who, in the first shock of amazement, had, as we have already said, sunk down, and without assigning any reason to herself, had suddenly prostrated herself on her knees.
Excerpt for OUR LADY OF LOURDES
By Henri Lasserre, 19th century