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II. THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
1. JOACHIM AND ST. ANNE MEET BENEATH THE GOLDEN GATE.
It was a warning from on high that had led Joachim into the Holy Place, and it was by a similar inspiration that he was brought into a subterranean passage which belonged to the consecrated part of the Temple and ran under it and under the Golden Gate. I have been told what was the meaning and origin of this passage when the Temple was built, and also what it was used for, but I have no clear recollection of this. Some religious observance relating to the blessing and reconciliation of the unfruitful was, I think, connected with this passage. In certain circumstances people were brought into it for rites of purification, expiation, absolution, and the like. 3232 The matter of the tunnel is one that has long puzzled students. Josephus (Ant., XV, xi, 5) certainly mentions an eastern gate where the ‘pure’ could enter, and (ib., 7) a tunnel that led from the eastern gate into the central enclosure, adding that this was built specially for the king (Herod). Then the Mishnah, Middoth, I, 9, mentions a tunnel leading under the Temple to a bath-house within the enclosure, where ceremonial cleansing could be performed. Whether these refer to the same tunnel is uncertain. See further, n. 45, p. 34 . (SB) Joachim was led by priests near the slaughtering-place through a little door into this passage. The priests turned back, but Joachim continued along the passage, which gradually sloped downwards. Anna had also come to the Temple with her maidservant, who was carrying the doves for sacrifice in wicker baskets. She had handed over her offering and had revealed to a priest that she had been bidden by an angel to meet her husband under the Golden Gate. I now saw that she was led by priests, accompanied by some venerable women (among whom I think was the prophetess Anna), through an entrance on the other side into the consecrated passage, where her companions left her. I had a very wonderful view of what this passage was like. Joachim went through a little door; the passage sloped downwards, and was at first narrow but became broader afterwards. The walls were of glistening gold and green, and a reddish light shone in from above. I saw beautiful pillars like twisted trees and vines. After passing through about a third of the passage Joachim came to a place in the midst of which stood a pillar in the form of a palm tree with hanging leaves and fruits. Here he was met by Anna, radiant with happiness. They embraced each other with holy joy, and each told the other their good tidings. They were in a state of ecstasy and enveloped in a cloud of light. I saw this light issuing from a great host of angels, who were carrying the appearance of a high shining tower and hovering above the heads of Anna and Joachim. The form of this tower was the same as I see in pictures, from the litany of the Blessed Virgin, of the Tower of David, the Tower of Ivory, and so forth. I saw that this tower seemed to disappear between Anna and Joachim, who were enveloped in a glory of brightness. I understood that, as a result of the grace here given, the conception of Mary was as pure as all conceptions would have been but for the Fall. I had at the same time an indescribable vision. The heavens opened above them, and I saw the joy of the Holy Trinity and of the angels, and their participation in the mysterious blessing here bestowed on Mary’s parents. Anna and Joachim returned, praising God, to the exit under the Golden Gate: towards the end the passage sloped upwards. They came into a kind of chapel under a beautiful and high arch, where many lights were burning. Here they were received by priests who led them away. The part of the Temple above which was the hall of the Sanhedrin lay over the middle of the subterranean passage; above this end of it were, I think, dwellings of priests whose duty it was to look after the vestments. Joachim and Anna now came to a kind of bay at the outermost edge of the Temple hill, overlooking the valley of Josaphat, where the path could no longer go straight on but branched to right and left. After they had visited another priest’s house, I saw Joachim and Anna and their servants starting on their journey home. On their arrival at Nazareth, Joachim, after a joyful meal, gave food to many poor people and distributed generous alms. I saw how full he and Anna were of joy and fervor and gratitude to God when they thought of His compassion towards them; I often saw them praying together with tears.
It was explained to me here that the Blessed Virgin was begotten by her parents in holy obedience and complete purity of heart, and that thereafter they lived together in continence in the greatest devoutness and fear of God. I was at the same time clearly instructed how immeasurably the holiness of children was encouraged by the purity, chastity, and continence of their parents and by their resistance to all unclean temptations; and how continence after conception preserves the fruit of the womb from many sinful impulses. In general, I was given an overflowing abundance of knowledge about the roots of deformity and sin.
2. SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN.
[Here follow various visions which Catherine Emmerich communicated at different times in the course of her yearly meditations during the octave of the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Though they do not directly continue the story of the Blessed Virgin’s life, yet they throw a remarkable light on the mystery of her election, preparation, and veneration as the vessel of grace. As these visions were related by Catherine Emmerich in the midst of much suffering and many interruptions, it is not surprising if they are somewhat fragmentary in character.]
2.1 THE ANGELS ARE SHOWN THE RESTORATION OF MANKIND.
I saw in a wonderful picture that God showed the angels how it was His will to restore mankind after the Fall. At first sight
I did not understand this picture, but soon it became quite clear to me. I saw the Throne of God and the Holy Trinity, and
at the same time a movement within that Trinity. I saw the nine choirs of angels, and how God announced to them in what manner
it was His will to restore the fallen human race. I saw an inexpressible joy among the angels over this. I was now shown in
a number of symbolic pictures the unfolding of God’s designs for the salvation of mankind. I saw these pictures appearing
among the nine choirs of angels and following each other in a kind of historical sequence. I saw the angels helping to make
these pictures, protecting and defending them. I cannot now remember for certain the order in which they appeared, but will
tell in God’s name what I can still recollect. I saw a mountain as of precious stones appear before the Throne of God; it
grew and spread. It was in terraces, like a throne; then it changed into the shape of a tower—a tower which enshrined every
treasure of the spirit and every gift of grace and was surrounded by the nine choirs of angels. At one side of this tower
vine tendrils and ears of corn, intertwined like the fingers of folded hands, seemed to be streaming down from the edge of
a golden cloud. I cannot remember at what exact moment in the whole picture I saw this. I saw in the sky a figure like a virgin
which passed into the tower and as it were melted into it. The tower was very broad and was flat at the top; it seemed to
have an opening at the back through which the virgin passed into it. This was not the Blessed Virgin as she is in time, but
as she is in eternity, in God. I saw the appearance of her being formed before the face of the Holy Trinity, just as when
one breathes, a little cloud is formed before one’s mouth.
See the Little Chapter in the Vespers of the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary from
24.14. ‘From the beginning, and before the world, was I created, and to the world to come I shall not cease to be’
(‘Ab initio et
ante saecula creata sum et usque ad futura saecula non desinam
’). Compare also the passage of Holy Writ which has long been applied by the Church to Mary: ‘I came out of the mouth of the
Most High, the first-born before all creatures. I made that in the heavens there should rise light that never faileth. . .
. My throne is in a pillar of cloud’
(‘Ego ex ore Altissimi prodivi primogenita ante omnem creaturam, ego feci in coelis, ut orietur lumen indeficiens. Thronus
meus in columna nubis
I also saw something going forth from the Holy Trinity towards the tower. At this moment of the picture I saw a vessel like
a ciborium being formed among the choirs of angels. The angels all joined in giving this vessel the form of a tower surrounded
by many pictures full of significance. Beside it stood two figures joining hands behind it. This spiritual vessel went on
increasing in size, beauty, and richness. Then I saw something proceed from God and pass through all nine choirs of angels;
it seemed to me like a little shining holy cloud which became more and more distinct as it approached the sacramental vessel
which it finally entered. But in order that I should recognize this to be a real and essential blessing of God, conferring
the grace of a pure and sinless line from generation to generation (like the cultivation of some plant in all its purity),
I finally saw this blessing in the shape of a shining bean, enter the ciborium, which then passed into the tower.
In the course of her many visions, some historical and some symbolical, from the Old and New Testaments, Catherine Emmerich
referred to this blessing in many different connections, some of which we will here enumerate in their chronological order.
This was the same blessing by means of which Eve was brought forth from the right side of Adam. I saw this blessing withdrawn
by God’s merciful providence from Adam when he was about to acquiesce in sin; but it was restored to Abraham by the angel
after the institution of circumcision, with the promise of Isaac’s birth. Abraham handed it on, with solemn sacramental ceremony,
to his first-born Isaac, from whom it descended to Jacob. It was taken away from Jacob by the angel that strove with him and
handed on to Joseph in Egypt. Finally it was taken by Moses, together with the bones of Joseph, in the night before the flight
out of Egypt, and became the Israelites’ sacred treasure in the Ark of the Covenant.
We had just prepared these disclosures for the press, but with considerable doubt and hesitation, when we learnt that the book Zohar (ascribed to Simon Bar Jochai in the second century of our era) reproduces almost word for word these and other statements of Catherine Emmerich about this mystery of the Jewish Covenant. Anyone able to read late Chaldean can convince himself of this by referring to the following passages: Zohar Par. Tol’doth, pp. 340 and 345 (edit. Sulzbach), Bereshith, p. 135, Terumah, pp. 251, etc. (CB)
It would seem that CB was slightly misled in regard to the Zohar, and it is unlikely that he was in a position to examine it himself, since qualified Hebraists and Aramaic scholars admit its great difficulty. The Zohar does not appear to contain any notably close parallels with statements of AC, either about the ‘mystery of the Ark’ (p. 16 ), or the ‘holy thing’ within it (pp. 23 - 24 ), or about the blessing handed down through the Patriarchs to Moses (p. 23 and CB’s note above).
The references given by CB above are to the Hebrew (and Aramaic) text published at Sulzbach in 1684, and refer to columns in the commentaries on Genesis and Exodus. We are adding here the standard modern references (to folios of the Mantua edition of 1588), which are also inserted in the English translation by Sperling and Simon (London, 1931-1934).
Bereshith (Genesis), col. 135 in Sulzbach (= f. 48b-49a, standard), contains no relevant reference; but f. 55b (Sulzbach, col. 171), commenting on ‘This is the book’ ( Gen. 5.1), takes that phrase literally and refers it to the story of the book containing sacred wisdom, which was given by God through an angel to Adam, and then handed down through the patriarchs and finally to Abraham.
Toledoth (Genesis), col. 340 in Sulzbach (= f. 146a, b, standard), recounts the many occasions on which Jacob received a blessing. The next reference, to col. 345 (=f. 148a, standard), belongs in fact to the next section Wayyese, and discusses the mystical meaning of the stones picked up by Jacob in Gen. 28.11.
Terumah ( Exodus), col. 251 in Sulzbach (=f. 153b, 154a, standard), though commenting on the construction of the ark ( Exod. 25), has no reference to the ‘mystery’ or the ‘holy thing’. A little earlier, however, f. 145b (Sulzbach, col. 238) has a passing reference to the heavenly mystery of the Holy of Holies.
It seems therefore legitimate to say that the Zohar, interesting though it is in itself, throws very little light on the matter in hand. (SB) I saw the angels actively taking part in the showing forth of these visions. There rose, however, from the depths below a series of what seemed to be false visions, for I saw the angels combating these and thrusting them aside. Many of these false visions I have forgotten, but here is what I still remember about them.
I saw a church rise up from below, almost in the same form in which the holy universal Church always appears to me when I see it not as a particular building but as the Holy Catholic Church in general. There was, however, this difference, that the latter has a tower over the entrance and the church rising from the depths had not. It was a very large church but a false one. The angels thrust it aside so that it stood all crooked. I also saw a great bowl, with a lip on one side; which tried to enter the false church but was also thrust aside. I then saw the angels preparing a chalice, of the shape of the Chalice of the Last Supper, which passed into the tower entered by the virgin. I also saw a lower tower or building appear, with many doors, through which I saw crowds of people passing, among them figures like Abraham and the Children of Israel. I think this had reference to the slavery in Egypt. I saw a round terraced tower arise, which also had reference to Egypt. This was thrust back and made to stand crooked. I also saw an Egyptian temple arise, like the one on the ceiling of which I had seen the Egyptian priests, idolaters, fastening the image of a winged virgin after receiving from Elijah’ messenger communications of a prophetic vision of the Blessed Virgin. I will speak of his vision later; it was seen by the prophet on Mount Carmel. This temple, too, was thrust back and made to stand crooked.
I then saw between the choirs of angels, to the right of the holy tower, a branch which put forth buds, making a whole ancestral tree of little male and female figures holding each other’s hands. This family tree ended with the appearance of a little crib with a little child in it. The crib was of the same shape as the one I had seen exposed in the temple of the Three Kings. 3535 In Catherine Emmerich’s visions of the public ministry of Our Lord, which she daily recounted in chronological order for three years, she saw Our Lord, after the raising of Lazarus (which happened on Oct. 7th of His third year of teaching), withdraw Himself beyond the Jordan in order to escape the persecutions of the Pharisees. From here He dismissed the apostles and disciples to their homes, and Himself went on with three young men named Eliud, Silas, and Erimenzear. (These were descended from the companions of the Three Kings who, when the latter went away, had remained behind in the Holy Land and intermarried with the families of the shepherds of Bethlehem.) With these Our Lord journeyed to the place where the Three Kings were then settled, returning afterwards to the Promised Land by way of Egypt. On the first day of the January which preceded His death, He re-entered Judea, and on the evening of Monday, Jan. 8th, He again met the Apostles at Jacob’s well, thereafter teaching and healing in Sychar, Ephron, round Jericho, in Capharnaum, and in Nazareth. Towards February He came again to Bethany and the surrounding country, teaching and healing in Bethabara, Ephraim, and round Jericho. From the middle of February till His Passion on March 30th. He was in Bethany and Jerusalem by turns. The Evangelists are silent about the whole period between the raising of Lazarus and Palm Sunday, except for St. John, who says (11.53, 54): ‘From that day therefore they devised to put him to death, wherefore Jesus walked no more openly among the Jews, but he went into a country near the desert, to a city that is called Ephraim. And there he abode with his disciples.’ Catherine Emmerich mentions the presence of Our Lord in Ephraim near Jericho on Jan. 14th, 15th, and 16th, and again between Feb. 6th and 12th, without giving the exact date. We must, however, return to what gave rise to this note. From Dec. 1st to the 15th of the third year of His ministry, Catherine Emmerich saw and daily described the sojourn of Our Lord and His three companions in a town of tents inhabited by the three Holy Kings of Arabia, where they had established themselves shortly after their return from Bethlehem. Two of these chieftains were still alive. She describes in most remarkable detail their way of life and their religious practices and the festivities with which they received Jesus. Amongst many other things she recounted from Dec. 4th to 6th how these star-worshippers brought Our Lord into their temple (which she described as a square flattened pyramid surrounded with terraced wooden steps), from the top of which they observed the stars and inside which they performed their religious ceremonies. They showed Him in it the image of the Child Jesus in the crib, which they had made and placed therein immediately after their return from Bethlehem; this was made in the exact shape of the one they had seen in the star before they set out on their journey to Bethlehem. Catherine Emmerich describes it in the following words : ‘The whole representation was in gold and surrounded by a star-shaped sheet of gold. The golden child lay on a red blanket in a crib like the one at Bethlehem; his little hands were crossed on his breast and he was wrapped in swaddling-bands from breast to feet. They had even included the hay of the crib, it could be seen behind the child’s head like a little white wreath; I cannot remember what it was made of. They showed Jesus this image; they had no other in their temple.’ This is her description of the image of the crib to which she refers above in the text. (CB) Then I saw a beautiful great church appear.
The way in which all these pictures were united with each other and yet melted one into the other was very wonderful. The whole vision was indescribably rich and full of significance. Even the hateful, evil, false appearances of towers, chalices, and churches, which were thrust aside, were made to assist in the unfolding of the scheme of salvation.
[When recounting these scattered visions, she came back again and again to the unspeakable joy of the angels. There was no real conclusion to these fragmentary visions, which seem to have been a series of symbolic pictures of the history of our salvation. She added: ‘First of all I saw the emblems of the work of redemption among the choirs of angels, and then a series of pictures from Adam down to the Babylonian captivity.’]
2.2 AN EGYPTIAN REPRESENTATION OF MARY PRIOR TO ELIJAH.
I saw something happening in Egypt very long ago which had a symbolic application to the Blessed Virgin. It must have been long before the days of Elijah. I also saw something in Egypt, in his lifetime, which I will tell later.
I saw a place in Egypt, much farther away from the Promised Land than On or Heliopolis, where on an island in the river an idol stood. This idol had a head which was something between that of a man and of an ox, with three horns, one in the middle of the forehead. The figure was hollow, and had openings in its body in which sacrifices were burnt as in an oven. Its feet were like claws, and in one hand it held a plant like a lily which grows out of the water and opens and shuts with the sun. In the other hand the idol held a plant like ears of corn with quite thick grains; I think it grows out of the water too, but am not quite sure of this. After a great victory a temple had been built in honor of this idol, which was now to be consecrated, and all preparations had been made for the sacrifice. But as the people were on their way to the island I saw something wonderful happen. Near the idol I saw a dark and dreadful apparition, and then I saw a great angel descending upon it from heaven like the one who appeared to St. John the Evangelist in the Apocalypse. This angel struck the dark figure in the back with his staff. The demon, writhing, was forced to speak out of the mouth of the idol, warning the people to consecrate the temple, not in honor of it but of a virgin who was to appear upon earth and to whom thanks for their victory were due. I cannot remember the exact circumstances, but I saw that the people set up in the new temple the image of a winged virgin, which was fixed to the wall. The virgin as she flew was bending down over a little ship in which lay a child in swaddling clothes. The ship stood on a little pillar, with a leafy top like a tree. One of her outstretched hands had a balance hanging from it, and I saw two figures beside her on the wall who were putting something into each scale of the balance. The little ship in which the child lay was like that in which Moses lay on the Nile, but it was uncovered, whereas Moses’ one was entirely closed in except for a small opening at the top.
2.3 ELIJAH’S VISION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN.
I saw the whole Promised Land withered and parched with drought, and I saw Elijah ascending Mount Carmel with two servants to beseech God to give rain. First they climbed over a high ridge, then up steps of rock to a terrace, then up many more rock steps, and so reached a great open space with a hill of rocks in its midst in which was a cave. Elijah climbed up steps to the top of this rocky hill. He left the servants at the edge of the open space and bade one of them look towards the Sea of Galilee, which had, however, a terrible aspect, for it was quite dried up and was full of hollows and caverns with rotting bodies of animals in the swampy ground. Elijah crouched down on the ground with his head sunk between his knees, and covering himself in his mantle prayed fervently to God and cried seven times to his servant to know whether he did not see a cloud rising out of the lake. At his seventh call I saw the cloud rise up, and saw the servant announce it to Elijah, who sent him to King Ahab. I saw a white eddy form itself in the middle of the lake; out of this eddy rose a little black cloud like a fist, which opened and spread itself out. In this little cloud I saw from the first a little shining figure like a virgin. I saw, too, that Elijah perceived this figure in the spreading cloud. The head of this virgin was encircled with rays; she stretched her arms out in the form of a cross, and had a triumphal wreath hanging from one hand. Her long robe seemed to be tied beneath her feet. She appeared as if hovering above the whole Promised Land in the cloud as it spread ever farther. I saw how this cloud divided into different parts and fell in eddying showers of crystal dew on certain holy and consecrated places inhabited by devout men and those who were praying for salvation. I saw these showers edged with the colors of the rainbow and the blessing taking shape in their midst like a pearl in its shell. It was explained to me that this was a symbolic picture, and that the favored places watered by the showers from the cloud were in fact those which had had their share in contributing to the coming of the Blessed Virgin.
I saw as well a prophetic vision of how Elijah, while the cloud was rising, discerned four mysteries relating to the Blessed Virgin. Unfortunately I have forgotten the details, and much else, as a result of disturbances and interruptions. Elijah discerned in the cloud, among other things, that Mary would be born in the seventh age of the world; hence his sevenfold call to his servant. He saw, too, from what family she was to come. On one side of the country he saw a low but very broad family tree, and on the other a very high one, broad at the base but tapering towards its top, which bent down into the first tree. He understood all this, and discerned in this way four mysteries relating to the future mother of the Savior. Hereupon I had a vision of how Elijah enlarged the cave above which he had prayed and how he made the Sons of the Prophets into a more regular organization. Some of these were always praying in this cave for the coming of the Blessed Virgin and paying her honor in anticipation of her future birth. I saw that this devotion to the Blessed Virgin continued here uninterrupted, that the Essenes carried it on during Mary’s earthly life, and that subsequently it was perpetuated up to our time by hermits and the Carmelite Order which eventually succeeded them. 3636 This is the general tradition about the origins of the Carmelite Order. It is briefly recounted in the Breviary Lessons for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (July 16th), where mention is also made of the tradition that the cloud seen by Elijah (3 Kings 18.42-45) is a symbol of Our Lady. (SB)
2.4 AN EXPOUNDING ON ELIJAH’S VISION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN.
[When Catherine Emmerich communicated later her visions of the time of John the Baptist, she saw the same vision of Elijah with reference to the state of the country and of mankind which prevailed in St. John’s time. We therefore reproduce from this what follows as explanatory of what she has said above.]
I saw a great commotion in the Temple at Jerusalem, much consultation, much writing with reed pens, and messengers being sent about the country. Rain was besought from God with cries and supplications, and search was made everywhere for Elijah. I saw Elijah receiving food and drink in the wilderness from the angel, who held a vessel like a little shining barrel with white and red diagonal stripes. I saw all Elijah’ dealings with Ahab, the sacrifice on Mount Carmel, the slaughter of the priests of Baal, Elijah’ prayer for rain and the gathering of the clouds. I saw as well as the dryness of the earth, a great dryness and failing of good fruit amongst men. I saw that by his prayer Elijah called forth the blessing of which the cloud was the form, and that he guided and distributed its showers in accordance with inner visions; otherwise it might perhaps have become a destroying deluge. He asked his servant seven times for news of the cloud; this signifies the seven generations or ages of the world which must go by before the real blessing (of which this cloud of blessing was but a symbol) took root in Israel. Elijah himself saw in the ascending cloud an image of the Blessed Virgin, and discerned several mysteries relating to her birth and descent. 3737 In the Office for the Immaculate Conception and in other liturgical books there occurs the following verse: ‘As a cloud I covered all the earth’ ( Ecclus. 24.6), which is in complete harmony with this prophetic vision of the Mother of God. (CB)
I saw that Elijah’ prayer called down the blessing at first in the form of dew. Layers of cloud sank down which formed themselves into eddies with rainbow edges; these finally dissolved into falling drops. I saw therein an association with the manna in the desert, but the manna lay thick and crisp on the ground in the morning like fleeces, and could be rolled up and taken away. I saw this whirling eddy of dew floating along the banks of the Jordan, but dropping down only at certain notable places, not everywhere. In particular at Ainon, opposite Salem, and at the places where baptisms took place later, I clearly saw these shining eddies floating downwards. I asked what the colored edges of these dew eddies portended, and was given as an explanation the example of the mother-of-pearl shells in the sea which also bore edges of shining color; they expose themselves to the sun, absorbing the light and cleansing it of color until the pure white pearls take form in their centers. It was shown to me, too, that this dew and the rain that followed it was something much more than the ordinary refreshing of the earth by moisture. I was given clearly to understand that, without this dew, the coming of the Blessed Virgin would have been delayed by more than a hundred years; whereas, after this softening and blessing of the earth, nourishment and refreshment were imparted to the human beings who lived on the fruits of the soil; the blessing communicated itself to their bodies and ennobled them. This fructifying dew was associated with the coming of the Messiah, for I saw its rays penetrating generation after generation until they reached the substance of the body of the Blessed Virgin. I cannot describe this. Sometimes, on the colored edge that I have mentioned I saw emerge one or more pearls having the likeness of a human figure which disappeared in a breath to unite itself with others of these pearls. The picture of the pearl shell was a symbol of Mary and Jesus.
I saw, too, that just as the earth and mankind were parched and panting for rain, so, at a later time, was the spirit of man thirsting for the baptism of John; so that the whole picture was not only a prophecy of the coming of the Blessed Virgin, but also of the state of the people at the time of the Baptist. In the first instance there was the alarm of the people, their longing for rain and their search for Elijah, followed, nevertheless, by their persecution of him; and later there was a like yearning of the people for baptism and penance, and again the lack of comprehension by the synagogue and its messages to John.
2.5 A REPRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN IN EGYPT.
In Egypt I saw the message of salvation being announced in the following manner. I saw that by God’s command Elijah sent messages
to summon devout families scattered about in three regions to the east, north, and south. For this purpose he sent forth three
of the sons of the prophets, but only after asking a sign from God that he had decided rightly, for it was a difficult and
dangerous mission, and he had to choose messengers whose prudence would lessen the danger of their being murdered. One traveled
northwards, one eastwards, and the third southwards. This last one had to pass through a considerable part of Egyptian territory,
where the Israelites were in particular danger of being killed. This messenger took the way followed by the Holy Family on
their flight into Egypt. I think, too, that he passed near On, where the Child Jesus took refuge. I saw him come to an idolatrous
temple on a great plain; in this temple, which was surrounded by a meadow and by many other buildings, they adored a living
bull. They had an image of a bull and many other idols in their temple; their sacrifices were gruesome and they slaughtered
deformed children. They seized the son of the prophet and brought him before the priests. Fortunately, the latter were very
inquisitive; otherwise, they might easily have murdered him. They questioned him as to whence he came and what brought him
there, and he answered without hesitation, telling them how a virgin would be born from whom the salvation of the world was
to come, and that then all their idols would fall in pieces.
Epiphanius, in his work on the life of the Prophet, says of Jeremiah: ‘This prophet gave the Egyptian priests a sign and told
them that all their idols would fall in pieces, when a virgin mother should set foot in Egypt with her Divine Child. And so
it befell. Therefore do they to this day adore a Virgin Mother and a Child lying in the crib. When King Ptolemy questioned
them as to the reason therefore, they answered, “This is a secret which we received from our ancestors to whom it was announced
by a holy prophet, and we await its fulfillment”’ (
Vol. II, p. 240). The above-mentioned son of the prophet sent to Egypt by Elijah cannot, however, be taken to be Jeremiah,
for the latter lived some three centuries later. (CB)
This is presumably the Greek Father, St. Epiphanius of Salamis, d. 403, but an examination of various editions, old and new, has so far failed to identify the passage. The quotation may be linked with Jeremiah’ prophecy (43.13) of the shattering of the idols of Egypt after his warning to the Jews who had assassinated Gedaliah and were preparing to flee to Egypt ( Jer. 41-43). (SB)
They were amazed at his announcement, seemed greatly moved thereby, and let him go unharmed. I saw them taking counsel together thereafter, and having the image of a virgin constructed and fixed in the middle of the temple roof. This image [See Figure 4], represented as floating downwards at full length, had a headdress like the idols, so many of which lie in rows there, half like a woman, half like a lion. On the top of the head was something like a little high vessel or bushel of fruit; the elbows were close to the body, while the forearms were held out in a gesture as it were of withdrawal and repulse. In her hands were ears of corn. She had three breasts; a large one in the middle, with two smaller ones on each side of it but lower down. The lower part of the body was clothed in a long dress, and from the feet, which were comparatively small and pointed, hung tassels or something of the sort. She had as it were wings on her arms both above and below the elbows; these wings seemed to be made of delicate feathers spreading out on each side like rays and intertwined with each other. Feathers ran crosswise down both thighs and over the middle of the body to the feet. The dress had no folds. They venerated this image and sacrificed to it, begging it not to destroy their God Apis and their other gods. At the same time they continued their gruesome idolatry as before, except that they always began by invoking this virgin. In making this image they had, I believe, followed the indications given them by the son of the prophet in his account of the vision which Elijah had seen.
Figure 4. Egyptian idol of the blessed virgin Mary constructed after receiving Elijah’s prophesy. 3939 Since the description of this unfamiliar figure was not clear, an archeologist used an antique image of Isis, which appeared appropriate, to design Figure 4 without in the least needing to change the description. (CB)
2.6 MARY PROCLAIMED TO PIOUS PAGANS.
I saw also that by the great mercy of God it was announced to certain God-fearing heathens that the Messiah was to be born from a virgin in Judea. The ancestors of the three holy kings, the star-worshippers of Chaldea, received this message by the appearance of a picture in a star or in the sky, by which they made prophecies. I saw traces of these prophetic images of the Blessed Virgin in the pictures in their temple, which I have described in my account of Jesus’ visit to them after the raising of Lazarus in the last quarter of the third year of His ministry.
2.7 THE LIFE STORY OF TOBIAS. AN ALLEGORY OF THE COMING OF SALVATION.
[On the feast of the Archangel Michael in September 1821, Catherine Emmerich recounted, amongst other fragments of a vision of the holy angels, the following fragment of the story of Tobias, whom she had seen with the Archangel Raphael as his guide.]
I saw many things from the life of Tobias, which is an allegory of the history of the coming of salvation in Israel; not an imaginative allegory, but one which actually happened and was lived. It was shown to me that Sarah, the wife of the young Tobias, was a prototype of St. Anne. I will relate as much as I can remember of the many things that happened, but shall not be able to reproduce them in their right order. The elder Tobias was an emblem of the God-fearing branch of the Jewish race, those who were hoping for the Messiah. The swallow, the messenger of spring, indicated the near approach of salvation. The blindness of old Tobias signified that he was to beget no more children, and was to devote himself entirely to prayer and meditation; it signified also the faithful, though dim, longing and waiting for the light of salvation and the uncertainty as to whence it was to come. Tobias’ quarrelsome wife represented the empty and harassing forms into which the Pharisees had converted the Law. The kid which she had brought home in lieu of wages had, as Tobias warned her, really been stolen, and had for that reason been handed on to her in return for very little. Tobias knew the people concerned and all about it, but his wife only mocked him. This mockery also indicated the contempt of the Pharisees and formalists for the devout Jews and Essenes and the relationship between the two groups, but I cannot now remember how this was.
The Archangel Raphael was not telling an untruth when he said that he was Azarias, the son of Ananias, for the general meaning
of these words is: ‘The help of the Lord out of the cloud of the Lord’.
This interpretation, alluded to but not definitely established by earlier commentators, is shown by Biblical philology to
be perfectly correct. (CB)
The names Azarias and Ananias both occur in Neh. 3.23, where Ananias is in Hebrew Ananyah, which may mean ‘the cloud of the Lord’, but the much commoner name is Hananyah, ‘the Lord is merciful’. Azaryah means ‘the help of the Lord’. (SB) This angel, the companion of young Tobias, represented God’s watchfulness over the Blessed Virgin’s descent through her ancestors and His preservation and guidance of the Blessing through the generations which preceded her conception. In the prayer of the Elder Tobias, and of Sarah, the daughter of Raguel (I saw both these prayers being brought by the angels at one and the same time before the Throne of God and there granted), I recognized the supplications of the God-fearing Israelites and of the Daughters of Sion for the coming of salvation, as well as the simultaneous prayers of Joachim and Anna, separated from each other, for the promised offspring. The blindness of the elder Tobias and his wife’s mockery of him also symbolized Joachim’s childlessness and the rejection of his sacrifice at the Temple. The seven husbands of Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, who were destroyed by Satan, came to their end through sensuality; for Sarah had made a vow to give herself only to a chaste and God-fearing man. These seven men symbolized those whose entry into Jesus’ ancestry according to the flesh would have hindered the coming of the Blessed Virgin, and thus the advent of salvation. There was also a reference to certain unblessed periods in the history of salvation and to the suitors whom Anna had to reject that she might be united to Joachim, the father of Mary. The maidservant’s reviling of Sarah ( Tob. 3.7) symbolized the reviling by the heathen and by the godless and unbelieving among the Jews against the expectation of the Messiah, for whose coming all God-fearing Jews were, like Sarah, inspired to pray with ever-increasing fervor. It was also an image of the reviling of Anna by her maidservant, whereafter that holy mother prayed with such fervor that her prayer was granted. The fish which was about to swallow young Tobias symbolized the powers of darkness, heathendom, and sin striving against the coming of salvation, and also Anna’s long barrenness. The killing of the fish, the removal of its heart, liver, and gall, and the burning of this by Tobias and Sarah to make smoke—all these symbolized the victory over the demon of fleshly lusts who had strangled Sarah’s seven husbands, as well as the good works and continence of Joachim and Anna, by which they had obtained the blessing of holy fruitfulness. I also saw therein a deep significance relating to the Blessed Sacrament, but can no longer explain this. The gall of the fish, which restored the sight of Tobias’ father, symbolized the bitterness of the suffering through which the chosen ones among the Jews came to know and share in salvation; it indicated also the entry of the light into the darkness brought about by Jesus’ bitter sufferings from His birth onwards.
I received many explanations of this kind, and saw many details of the history of Tobias. I think the descendants of young Tobias were among the ancestors of Joachim and Anna. The elder Tobias had other children who were not godly. Sarah had three daughters and four sons. Her first child was a daughter. The elder Tobias lived to see his grandchildren.
2.8 THE GENEALOGICAL TREE OF THE MESSIAH.
I saw the line of the descent of the Messiah proceeding from David and dividing into two branches. The right-hand one went through Solomon down to Jacob, the father of St. Joseph. I saw the figures of all St. Joseph’s ancestors named in the Gospel on this right-hand branch of the descent from David through Solomon. This branch has the greater significance of the two; I saw the line of descent issuing from the mouths of the separate figures in streams of white colorless light. The figures were taller and looked more spiritual than those of the left-hand line. Each one held a long flower stem with hanging leaves like those of palms: this stem was crowned with a great bell-shaped flower shaped like a lily and having five stamens, yellow at the top, from which a fine yellow dust was scattered. These flowers differed in size, vigor, and beauty. The flower borne by Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, was the most beautiful and purest of all, with fresh and abundant petals. Halfway down this ancestral tree were three rejected shoots, blackened and withered. In this line through Solomon there were several gaps separating its fruits more widely from each other. The right-hand and left-hand branches met several times, and they crossed each other at a point a few generations before the end. I was given an explanation about the higher significance of the line of descent through Solomon. It had in it more of the spirit and less of the flesh, and had some of the significance belonging to Solomon himself. I cannot express this.
The left-hand line of descent went from David through Nathan down to Heli, which is the real name of Joachim, Mary’s father,
for he did not receive the name of Joachim till later, just as Abram was not called Abraham until later. I forget the reason,
but it will perhaps come back to me. In my visions I often hear Jesus called after the flesh a son of Heli.
Many ancient and modern commentators of the Greek text have suggested the following version of the passage in
St. Luke (3.23
‘He was supposed to be the son of Joseph, but was in truth descended from Heli’, instead of ‘being as it was supposed the
son of Joseph, who was of Heli’. The absence of any mention of Mary (whose line of descent is, however, given by St. Luke)
is explained by the basic principle of the Jewish genealogists: ‘The father’s race is called a race, the mother’s race is
not called a race’ (Talmud Baba Bathra, f. 110). The father of Mary was, according to this rule, the first of Our Lord’s forebears
according to the flesh who could be named in His line of descent. Christ, who had no earthly father, may be as truly called,
according to the flesh, the son of Heli as Laban (
Gen. 29.5) could be called the son of Nachor, and Zechariah (
Ezra 5.1) could be called the son of Iddo, for these were both great-grandchildren. (CB)
The emphasis on Our Lord’s Davidic descent ( Luke 1.32, 69) shows that Our Lady must also have been of the Davidic line (see Fr. R. Ginns, OP., in Cath. Comm., 1953, 748b). The interpretation proposed by CB requires a fresh punctuation of Luke 3.23 (literal translation from the Greek): ‘Jesus … being the son (as it was supposed of Joseph) of Heli.’ This rendering, though according to Fr. Ginns ( ib., 750g) ‘rejected by the majority of scholars’, is a tenable reading of the Greek. It involves the interpretation of ‘son’ as ‘grandson’ through the mother, as CB explains; and the identification of Heli with Joachim (cf. supra, n. 29, p. 22 ). The more usual reconciliation of the genealogies in Luke and Matthew is by the supposition of a second marriage of Joseph’s mother. (SB)
I saw this whole line from David through Nathan flowing at a lower level: it generally issued from the navels of the separate figures. I saw it colored red, yellow, or white, but never blue. Here and there were stains; then the stream became clear again. The figures upon it were smaller than those of the line through Solomon. They carried smaller branches which hung down sideways and had little yellow-green leaves with serrated edges; their branches were crowned with reddish buds of the color of wild roses. These were always closed; they were not flower buds but the beginnings of fruits. A double row of little twigs hung down on the same side as the serrated leaves. At a point three or four generations above Heli or Joachim, the two lines crossed each other and rose up, ending with the Blessed Virgin. 4242 Catherine Emmerich no doubt meant by this the connection between the line of David through Nathan and that through Solomon (see p. 32 ). In the third generation upwards from Joachim, St. Joseph’s grandmother (who had married as her first husband Matthan, of the line of Solomon, and had by him two sons, one of whom was Jacob, the father of St. Joseph) took as her second husband Levi, of the line of Nathan, and had by him Matthat, the father of Heli or Joachim. Thus Joachim and Joseph were related to each other. It is remarkable that Raymundus Martini, in his Pugio fidei (p. 745, ed. Carp), also states that St. Joseph’s grandmother after the death of Matthan married a second husband, from whom Joachim was descended. (CB) At the point of crossing I think I already saw the blood of the Blessed Virgin beginning to shine in the stream of descent.
St. Anne descended on her father’s side from Levi, and on her mother’s side, from Benjamin. I saw in a vision the Ark of the Covenant being borne by her ancestors with great piety and devotion; I saw them receiving rays of blessing from it which extended to their descendants, to Anna and to Mary. I always saw many priests in the house of Anna’s parents, and also in Joachim’s house; this was the result of the relationship with Zechariah and Elizabeth.
2.9 APPARITION OF SAINT ANNE.
[On the afternoon of July 26 th, 1819, Sister Emmerich, after relating many things about Anna, the Blessed Virgin’s holy mother, fell asleep as she was praying. After a while she sneezed three times and exclaimed impatiently, but still half asleep, ‘O, why must I wake up?’ Then she woke up completely and said with a smile: ‘I was in a much better place, I was much better off than here. I was being much comforted, and then all of a sudden I was woken by my sneeze and someone said to me “You must wake up “, but I did not want to, I was so happy there and was annoyed at having to go away, then I had to sneeze, and I woke up.’
[Next day she told me:] I had just fallen asleep last night after saying my prayers when someone whom I recognized as a young girl I had often seen before came to my bed. She said to me rather shortly: ‘You have been speaking a great deal about me today, you shall now have a sight of me, so that you may make no mistakes.’ So I asked her: ‘Have I perhaps talked too much?’ She answered abruptly ‘No!’ and disappeared. She was still a girl, slim and attractive, her head was covered with a white hood, drawn together at the back of her neck and ending there in a hanging knot as if her hair were inside it. Her long dress, which completely covered her, was of whitish wool; the sleeves of it seemed to be rather full at the elbows. Over this she wore a long cloak of brownish wool, like camel’s hair.
Hardly had I had time to feel touched and pleased by this vision, when suddenly I saw by my bed an aged woman in similar dress with her head more bent and very hollow cheeks—a Jewess of some fifty years, thin but handsome. ‘Why,’ I thought, ‘does this old Jewess come to me?’ Then she said: ‘You need not be afraid; I only want to show you how I was when I bore the mother of the Lord, so that you may make no mistakes.’ I asked at once: ‘O, where is the dear little child Mary?’ and she replied: ‘I have not got her with me now.’ Then I asked again: ‘How old is she now?’ And she answered: ‘Four years old.’ I asked her once more: ‘But have I spoken rightly?’ and she said shortly, ‘Yes.’ I asked her: ‘O, please do not let me say too much!’ She did not answer and disappeared.
Then I woke up, and thought over everything that I had seen of Anna and of the childhood of the Blessed Virgin, and everything became clear to me and I felt blissfully happy. Next morning, when I was again asleep, I had a new and very beautiful vision. I thought I could not forget it, but the next day brought with it so many interruptions and sufferings that nothing of it remains in my mind.
During the whole night I saw a terrible, horrifying picture of the sins of the whole world; but towards morning I fell asleep again and was transported to the place in Jerusalem where the Temple had stood, and then on to the region of Nazareth, where the house of Joachim and Anna used to stand. I recognized the country round. Here I saw a slender column of light rising out of the earth like the stem of a flower. This column was crowned with the appearance of a shining octagonal church, which grew forth from the stem like the calyx of a flower or the seed vessel of a poppy. 4444 Catherine Emmerich had visions of all the feasts of the Church being celebrated by the Church Triumphant, even when they were no longer celebrated on earth by the Church Militant. She saw these feasts being celebrated in a shining transparent church, the shape of which she generally described as octagonal. She saw a mysterious gathering of all the saints who were particularly associated with the feast in question, sharing in the celebrations. She usually saw this church floating in the air; but it is noteworthy that in all the feasts having so to speak a blood-relationship with Jesus Christ or with the mysteries of His life, she saw this church not floating in the air but appearing as the crown of a pillar or of a stern thrusting itself up like a flower or fruit growing out of the earth. What, however, surprised the writer in particular was that on all feasts of saints who had received the stigmata (for instance, St. Francis of Assisi or St. Catherine of Siena), she saw the church not floating in the air but on the stem growing out of the earth. She never made any reflection on this point, probably from humility, though it might well have been edifying had she done so. (CB) The column grew up within this church like a little tree, with symmetrical branches bearing the figures of those among the Blessed Virgin’s family who were the objects of veneration on this feast. It was as if they were standing on the stamens of a flower. I saw the Blessed Virgin’s holy mother St. Anne, standing between Joachim and another man, her father perhaps. Beneath St. Anne’s breast I saw a space filled with light, somewhat in the shape of a chalice, and in this I saw the figure of a shining child growing and developing. Its little hands were crossed on its breast and its little head was bent, and countless rays of light issued from it towards one part of the world. (I thought it strange that they did not shine in all directions.) On others of the surrounding branches were many figures turned towards the center in veneration, and all round within the church I saw orders and choirs of saints, countless in number, all turning in prayer towards that holy mother. This celebration, in the sweetness of its harmony and devotion, can only be compared to a meadow of innumerable flowers, stirred by a gentle wind and lifting their heads to offer their scents and their colors to the sun from which they have received life itself and all they have to offer. Above this symbolical picture of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception the tree of light sent up another shoot, and in this second crown I saw a further moment of the feast being celebrated. Mary and Joseph were kneeling here, and a little lower St. Anne, all in adoration of the child Jesus, whom I saw above them in the top of the tree, holding in His hand the orb or globe and surrounded by an infinite glory of light. Around this scene, and bowing in adoration before it, were, nearest of all, the three holy kings, the shepherds, and the apostles and disciples; farther away other saints joined in the choirs of worshippers. In the light from above I saw indistinct figures of Powers and Principalities, and still higher I saw as it were a half-sun, its light streaming down through the dome of the church. This second picture seemed to indicate the approach of the Feast of the Nativity after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. When the picture first appeared, I seemed to be standing outside the church, looking outwards from under the pillar; later I saw into the inside of the church as I have described it. I saw, too, the little child Mary developing in the space of light under St. Anne’s heart, and received, at the same moment, an inexpressible conviction of the Immaculate Conception. I read it as clearly as in a book, and understood it. It was shown to me, that a church to the glory of God had once stood here, but had been given over to destruction in consequence of unworthy disputes about this holy mystery; that the Church Triumphant, however, still celebrated this feast on this spot.
2.11 THE BLESSED VIRGIN REVEALS SECRETS ABOUT THEIR LIVES.
[During her visions of Jesus’ ministry Catherine Emmerich related the following on December 16 th, 1822.]
I often hear the Blessed Virgin telling the women who were her close intimates (for instance, Joanna Chuza and Susanna of
Jerusalem) various secrets about herself and about Our Lord, which she knows partly from inner knowledge and partly from what
her holy mother Anna told her. Thus today I heard her telling Susanna and Martha that during the time when she was bearing
Our Lord within her she never felt the slightest discomfort, nothing but infinite inner joy and beatitude. She told them,
too, that Joachim and Anna had met in the hall under the Golden Gate in a golden hour; and that God’s grace had been granted
to them here in such abundance as to make it possible for her alone, from her parents’ holy obedience and pure love of God,
to have been conceived in her mother’s womb without any stain of sin. She also explained to them that but for the Fall the
conception of all men would have been as pure. She spoke, too, of her beloved elder sister Mary Heli, that her parents had
realized that she was not the promised fruit, and how, in their longing for that fruit, they had long practiced continence.
It was a joy to me to hear now from the Blessed Virgin herself what I have always seen about her elder sister. I saw now the
whole sequence of grace received by Mary’s parents just as I have always described it, from the appearance of the angel to
Anna and Joachim down to their meeting under the Golden Gate; that is to say, in the subterranean ball under the Golden Gate.
I saw Joachim and Anna encompassed by a host of angels with heavenly light. They themselves shone and were as pure as spirits
in a supernatural state, as no human couple had ever been before them. I think that the Golden Gate itself was the scene of
the examination and absolution of women accused of adultery, and that other ceremonies of reconciliation took place here.
Catherine Emmerich’s remarks are here in agreement with the accounts of the most ancient Jewish literature. Thus, for instance,
c. 5, and
c. I. (CB)
Mishnah, Tamid, V, 7, states that the ceremonially unclean were to wait at the eastern gate, but the tractate Sotah, I, 5, dealing with adultery, directs that the woman be taken to the ‘eastern or Nicanor’s gate’, where also lepers and mothers awaiting ‘purification’ were to go. The ‘Golden Gate’ was probably an eastern gate. An eastern gate is also mentioned in Middoth, I, 9, in connection with ceremonial cleansing (see supra, n. 32, p. 24 ). John 8.2 mentions that Our Lord was teaching in the Temple when He spoke with the woman taken in adultery. (SB) There were five of these subterranean passages under the Temple, and one also under the part where the virgins lived. These were used for certain ceremonies of atonement. I do not know whether others before Joachim and Anna had gone there, but I think the place was very seldom visited. I cannot at present recall whether it was in general connected with sacrifices offered by the unfruitful, but the priests had been given some order about it.
2.12 CELEBRATION OF THE CONCEPTION OF MARY IN VARIOUS LOCATIONS.
[On December 8 th, 1820, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the soul of Catherine Emmerich was transported in an active state of prayer and meditation over a great part of the earth. The whole of this visionary journey will be described in its proper place, but in the meantime we will reproduce the following extracts from it in order to give some idea of these journeyings of her soul.
[She came to Rome, was with the Holy Father, visited a much-loved and devout nun in Sardinia, reached Palestine after a short
visit to Palermo, went to India, and thence to what she calls the mountain of the Prophet.
Mountain of the Prophet’ is the name given by Catherine Emmerich to a place high above all the mountains of the world to which
she was taken for the first time on Dec. 10th, 1819, in her ecstatic state of dream-journeying, and again several times later.
There she saw the books of prophetic revelation of all ages and all peoples preserved in a tent and examined and superintended
by someone who reminded her partly of St. John the Evangelist and partly of Elijah—particularly of the latter, since she perceived
the chariot which had transported that prophet from the earth standing here on the heights near the tent and overgrown with
green plants. This person then told her that he compared with a great book lying before him all the books of prophetic knowledge
that had ever been given (often in a very confused state) or would in future be given to mankind; and that much of these he
crossed out or destroyed in the fire burning at his side. Mankind, he said, was not yet capable of receiving these gifts,
another must first come, and so forth. She saw all this on a green island in a lake of clear water. On the island were many
towers of different shapes, surrounded by gardens. She had the impression that these towers were treasuries and reservoirs
of the wisdom of different peoples, and that under the island, which was full of murmuring streams, lay the source of rivers
held to be sacred (the Ganges amongst them) whose waters issued forth at the foot of the mountain range. The direction in
which she was led to this mountain of the Prophet was always (taking into account the starting-point of her journey) towards
the highest part of Central Asia. She described places, natural scenery, human beings, animals, and plants of the region which
she traversed before being carried up through a lonely and desolate space, as if through clouds, to the place mentioned above.
Her detailed description of this place, with all that she experienced there, will be set down in its proper place with an
account of her whole visionary journey. On her return journey she was carried down through the region of clouds once more,
and then again traversed lands rich in luxuriant vegetation and full of animals and birds, until she reached the Ganges and
saw the religious ceremonies of the Indians beside this river.
The geographical situation of this place and Catherine Emmerich’s statement that she had seen everything up there overgrown with living green, reminded someone who read her account twenty years later of traditions about a place of this kind (sometimes with a similar inhabitant) in the religions of several Asiatic peoples. The Prophet Elijah is known to the Musulmans (under the name of Chiser, i.e. the Green One) as a wonderful half-angelic being, who dwells in the north on a mountain known as Kaf, celebrated in many religious and poetical writings, and there watches over secrets at the source of the river of life. The Indians called their holy mountain Meru, while to the Chinese it was Kuen-lun, both connected with representations of a state of paradise and both situated on the heights of Central Asia, where Catherine Emmerich saw the Mountain of the Prophet. The ancient Persians also believed in such a place and called it Elbors or Albordsch. According to Isa. 14.13 (‘I will sit in the mountain of the covenant, in the sides of the north ’), the Babylonians would seem to have held a similar belief. That they, like the Persians and Moslems, placed this mountain in the north is explained by their geographical position as regards the mountains of Central Asia. (CB) Thence she journeyed to Abyssinia, where she came to a strange Jewish city on a high mountain rock and visited its ruler Judith, 4747 When the writer copied down the very detailed account of her dealings with this Judith and her description of the place, he only knew (from the direction taken by her journey) that she was in Abyssinia; several years after her death he found in the journeys of Bruce and Salt an account of a Jewish settlement on the high mountains of Samen in Abyssinia. The ruler of this settlement was always called Gideon and, if it was a woman, Judith—the name which Catherine Emmerich herself mentioned. (CB)
James Bruce, Travels and Adventures in Abyssinia. He was one of the first Europeans to go there, and his journey was in 1769. Henry Salt, A Voyage to Abyssinia. An account of a journey made on behalf of His Majesty’s Government in 1809-1810. (SB) with whom she spoke of the Messiah, of that day’s feast of the Conception of His Mother, of the holy Advent time, and of the approaching Feast of His Birth. During the whole of this journey she did all that a conscientious missionary would have done on a similar journey to carry out his task and make use of his opportunities; she prayed, taught, helped, comforted, and learnt. But in order to make plain to the reader, in her own words, what she perceived on this journey regarding the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we must refer him to the note on page 46, in which that part of Jesus’ ministry to which she here alludes is described in detail.]
When in my great dream-journey I came into the Promised Land, I saw all those things which I have related about the Conception of the Blessed Virgin. Thereupon I entered into the daily visions of Our Lord’s ministry and had today reached the 8 th of December of the third year of His teaching. I found Jesus not in the Promised Land, but was brought by my guide eastwards over the Jordan to Arabia, where the Lord, accompanied by three young men, was in a tent city of the three holy kings in which they had settled after their return from Bethlehem.
2.13 THE HOLY KINGS CELEBRATE A FEAST HONORING MARY’S CONCEPTION.
I saw that the two holy kings who were still alive were celebrating with their tribe a three-day feast starting from today, December 8 th. On this night, fifteen years before Christ’s birth, they had seen for the first time the star promised by Balaam rise in the sky [ Num. 24.17: ‘A star shall rise out of Jacob’]—the star for which they and their forefathers had waited so long, scanning the heavens in patient watchfulness. They discerned in it the picture of a virgin, bearing in one hand a scepter and in the other a balance. The scales were held even by a perfect ear of wheat in the one and by a cluster of grapes in the other. Therefore every year since their return from Bethlehem they kept a three-day feast beginning with this day.
2.14 ELIMINATION OF HUMAN SACRIFICE BY THE STAR-WORSHIPPERS.
I saw, too, that as a result of this vision on the day of the conception of Mary, fifteen years before the birth of Christ,
these star-worshippers did away with a terrible religious custom of theirs—a cruel sacrifice of children, long practiced among
them as the result of revelations which had been misunderstood by them and confused by evil influences. They had carried out
at different times and in different manners sacrifices of both children and grown people. I saw that before Mary’s conception
they had the following custom. They took a child of one of the purest and most devout mothers amongst the followers of their
religion, and she esteemed herself very fortunate to offer up her child in this way. The child was flayed and strewn with
flour to absorb the blood. They ate this blood-soaked flour as a holy repast, and continued strewing the flour and eating
until there was no blood left in the child’s body. Finally the child’s flesh was cut up into small pieces, which were distributed
among them and eaten.
In this connection it seems remarkable that among the writers of the first centuries of the Christian era who reproduce the
accusations made by the heathens against the Christians, Minutius Felix mentions this reproach among others that when the
Christians initiated anyone into their religion, they laid before him a child completely covered with flour, so as to hide
the murder which they were about to make him commit. He was then obliged to stab the child over and over again with a knife.
They greedily sucked up the streaming blood, cut the child into small pieces and devoured them all. This crime, committed
in common, was a mutual pledge of silence and secrecy in regard to other shameful excesses with which they ended their assemblies.
Should the origin of this accusation perhaps be sought in the above-mentioned sacrifice of children by the star-worshippers, who were among the first followers of Christianity? In any case, it may well be supposed that ideas of this kind (which, as we see in the case of the Magi, arise from superstition and from misinterpretation of messages of salvation) may be the hidden cause lying at the root of the murder of Christian children by Jews. If this be so, these dark and cruel deeds must be added to the many motives for which we have to pity the unfortunate people of Israel rather than to despise them; for it conceals a distorted longing for the Savior. This constantly recurring phenomenon has so far as we know never been thoroughly investigated and elucidated in a completely unprejudiced spirit. Of late years it has generally been treated (like all historical riddles whose source is obscure) in a complacent and condescending manner as being nothing but a fanatical accusation. (CB)
Minutius Felix, Octavius , IX, 5, and cf. XXX, 1 . (SB) I saw them performing this gruesome ceremony with the greatest simplicity and devoutness, and I was told that they had adopted this dreadful practice as a result of misunderstanding and distorting certain prophetic and symbolical indications which they had received regarding the Holy Eucharist. I saw that this terrible sacrifice was carried on in Chaldea, in the country of Mensor, one of the three holy kings, until he put an end to its horrors on receiving enlightenment in a vision from heaven on the day of Mary’s conception. I saw him on a high wooden pyramidal edifice, engaged in studying the stars, as his people had done for centuries in accordance with their ancient traditions. I saw King Mensor lying in an ecstasy as he contemplated the stars; his limbs were rigid and he had lost consciousness. His companions came to him and brought him back to himself, but at first he seemed not to know them at all. He had seen the picture in the star with the Virgin, the scales, the ear of corn, and the cluster of grapes, and had received an inner admonition, after which that cruel ceremony was abolished.
2.15 A PARALLEL VISION OF CHILD SACRIFICE.
After seeing at night in my sleep the fearful picture of the murdered child on my right hand, I turned over in horror in my bed, but saw it again on my left hand. I begged God most earnestly to free me from this dreadful sight. I woke up and heard the clock strike. My heavenly Bridegroom said to me, pointing round Him as He spoke: ‘See far more evil that befalls Me every day at the hands of many throughout the whole world.’ And as I looked about me into the distance, many things came before my soul which were indeed still more dreadful than that sacrifice of children; for I saw Jesus Himself cruelly sacrificed on the Altar by unworthy and sinful celebrations of the Holy Mysteries. I saw how the blessed Host lay on the altar before unworthy degenerate priests like a living Child Jesus, whom they cut and terribly mutilated with the paten. Their sacrifice, though an efficacious celebration of the Holy Mysteries, appeared like a cruel murder. 4949 Just as the sacrifice on Calvary was accomplished by the cruelty of ungodly priests and by the bloodthirsty hands of brutal executioners, so is the sacrifice of the Mass, even when unworthily celebrated, a true sacrifice; but the guilty and unworthy priest who celebrates it plays the part not only of the Jewish priests who condemned Our Lord but also of the soldiers who crucified Him. (CB)
The same cruelty was shown to me in the heartless treatment of the members of Christ, His followers, and God’s adopted children. I saw at the present time countless good, unhappy men being everywhere oppressed, tormented, and persecuted; and I always saw that it was Jesus who suffered this ill-treatment. The times are terrible; a refuge is no longer anywhere to be found; a dense cloud of sin lies over the whole world, and I see men giving way to the worst crimes with complete indifference and unconcern. I saw all this in many visions while my soul was being led through many lands over the whole earth. At last I came back to the visions of the Feast of Mary’s Conception.
2.16 HISTORY OF THE CELEBRATIONS OF THE CONCEPTION OF MARY.
I am quite unable to tell in what a wonderful way I journeyed last night in dream. I was in the most different parts of the world and in the most different ages, and very often saw the Feast of Mary’s Conception being celebrated in the most different places. I was in Ephesus, and saw this feast being celebrated in the house of the Mother of God, which was still standing there as a church. It must have been at a very early time, for I saw the Way of the Cross set up by Mary herself still in perfect preservation. [The second Way of the Cross was set up in Jerusalem and the third in Rome.]
The Greeks kept this feast long before the schism. I still remember something of this, but am not quite sure what led up to
it. I saw how a saint, Sabbas, I think, had a vision relating to the Immaculate Conception. He saw the picture of the Blessed
Virgin on the globe, crushing the head of the serpent under her feet, and recognized that the Blessed Virgin alone was conceived
unwounded and unstained by the serpent.
On July 5th, 1835, the writer discovered from Cardinal Baronius’ notes on the
of December 8th that in the Sforza Library there is a Codex (No. 65) containing a speech by the Emperor Leo, who ascended
the throne in 886, about this feast in Constantinople. It appears from this speech that the celebration of the feast was much
anterior to this date. According to Canisius
(De beatissima virgine Maria,
lib. I, c. 7) and Galatinus
(De arcanis catholicae veritatis,
5), the feast is included in the Martyrology of St. John Damascene (d.
A.D. 749). St. Sabbas, Abbot, mentioned by Catherine Emmerich, is known for his devotion to Our Lady. He died c. A.D. 500.
The year of the death of St. Sabbas is given in Ramsgate’s Book of Saints (1947) as A.D. 532. (SB) I saw, too, that one of the Greek churches or one of the Greek bishops refused to accept this truth unless the picture came to them across the sea. Then I saw the appearance of the picture float over the sea to their church and appear on the altar, whereupon they began to keep the feast. That church possessed a life-size picture of the Blessed Virgin painted by St. Luke just as she was in her earthly life, in a white robe and veil. (I have an idea that this picture had been sent from Rome, where they have only a half-length portrait.) They had placed the picture above the altar in the place where the vision of the Immaculate Conception had appeared. I think it was in Constantinople, or perhaps I have seen it venerated there in earlier times.
I was in England, too, and saw the feast being introduced and celebrated there in olden times. In this connection I saw the
day before yesterday, on the Feast of St. Nicholas, the following miracle. I saw an abbot, coming from England, in great danger
in a ship in a storm. They prayed very fervently for the protection of the Mother of God, and I saw an apparition of the holy
bishop Nicholas of Myra floating over the sea to the ship and telling the abbot that he had been sent by Mary to announce
to him that he was to cause the Feast of the Immaculate Conception to be kept in England on December 8
th, and that then the ship would arrive safely. In reply to the abbot’s question as to what prayers should be used for this
feast, he answered, the same as those for Mary’s nativity. The name of Anselm
It is remarkable that Catherine Emmerich does not give the name (if Anselm) to the abbot who had the vision, since Petrus
de Natal in
c. 42, does so, as the writer discovered in July
Her account seems to be supported by Baronius in his notes to the Roman Martyrology for Dec. 4th, where he states that the
announcement was made, not to Anselm, but at an earlier date in 1070 in exactly similar circumstances to Elsinus or Elpinus,
a Benedictine abbot. This is said to be stated also in J. Carthagena in his homilies
De Arcanis Deiparae,
hom. 19, on the authority of a letter from St. Anselm to the bishops of England. It was this holy Bishop of Canterbury who
first introduced the feast into England. (CB)
Petrus de Natalibus’ Catalogus Sanctorum was published in Venice in 1506. As the subsequent work of Baronius (1586, 1589) shows, AC is right in not attributing the event to Anselm. The source of the Helsin legend, a letter ascribed to Anselm, is now, however, considered to be spurious, though this need not impugn the truth of the legend itself. The Anselm mentioned by AC (with no title) is wrongly identified by CB with the Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1109). It was his nephew, also called Anselm, who introduced the feast into England when he became Abbot of Bury, St. Edmund’s in 1121, having doubtless become acquainted with the feast as observed at the Greek abbey of St. Sabbas in Rome, where he was abbot 1109-1121. Cf. Cath. Encyc., art. ‘Immaculate’ (Holweck), pp. 677b-678a. (SB) was also associated with the introduction of this feast, but I have forgotten the details.
I also saw the introduction of this feast into France, and how St. Bernard wrote in opposition to it because its introduction
had not come from Rome.
It was introduced in 1245 by the Chapter of the Cathedral of Lyons, to which Bernard wrote to oppose it. (CB)
The date should read 1140-1145. The reference is to St. Bernard’s letter, ‘To the Canons of the Church of Lyons’, traditionally numbered 174, and numbered chronologically 215 (between 1140 and 1145) by Fr. Bruno Scott-James in his recent (1953) translation. (SB)
3. THE ACTUAL SEASON OF MARY’S CONCEPTION (NOTE BY THE WRITER).
All that has so far been recorded of the blessing given to Joachim and Anna is compiled from visions and reminiscences of Catherine Emmerich during the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 th. She explained, however, on that day in the year 1821 that the meeting of Joachim and Anna under the Golden Gate did not occur in December but in the autumn, at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles (which lasted from the 15 th to 23 rd of the month Tisri, i.e. in September or October). 5353 The Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated, according to Lev. 23.34-36, for the seven days 15th to 21st Tisri, with an eighth day of festival on the 22nd. The Hebrew lunar months do not correspond exactly to our months, and Tisri falls in Sept./Oct. CB quite correctly distinguishes the Dedication Feast of Solomon’s Temple in the month Tisri, celebrated in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles (3 Kings 8.2-66; 2 Chronicles 7.10), from the Dedication Feast on the 25th Kislev, which commemorated the cleansing of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus in 164 B.C. ( I Macc.4.52). This feast was also called Hanukkah and the ‘Feast of Lights’ by Josephus (Ant. XII, vii, 7), and Encaenia or ‘Dedication’ in the Gospel ( John 10.22). (SB) Thus she saw Joachim building tabernacles with his shepherds (see p. 22 ) before going to the Temple, and Anna receiving the promise of fruitfulness while she was praying under a tree which formed a tabernacle. In the previous year, 1820, she had, however, stated that she remembered Joachim having gone up to Jerusalem with his offerings on the occasion of a dedication festival. This cannot be the usual Jewish dedication feast in the winter (the 25 th day of the month, Kislev), but must doubtless be a memorial festival of Solomon’s dedication of the Temple. According to Catherine Emmerich’s daily accounts of the three years of Jesus’ ministry, Our Lord was in Aruma (a few hours’ distant from Salem) at the close of the Feast of Tabernacles in the second year of His ministry, and taught there about the approaching destruction of the Temple.
This feast is, it is true, not mentioned in the works about Jewish antiquities which we commonly consult, but its existence cannot, I think, be doubted, apart from Catherine Emmerich’s statements, if it is remembered that Solomon celebrated the consecration of his Temple in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles (3 Kings 8.2-66, and 2 Chronicles 7.10), and that the Masora on 3 Kings 8.2 and 54 appoints the account of the consecration of Solomon’s Temple as festival lessons for the second and eighth days of the Feast of Tabernacles. Although Catherine Emmerich saw the meeting of Joachim and Anna happening at the close of the Feast of Tabernacles, and thus two months earlier than the Church’s celebration of Mary’s conception, it was always on the occasion of that feast on December 8 th that she was impelled to communicate visions about the Blessed Virgin’s conception. She said, too, that it was on that day, not at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn, that the remembrance of this grace-bringing event was already being celebrated by the three holy kings when Christ visited them in Arabia after the raising of Lazarus.
Here end the additional communications by Catherine Emmerich about the conception of Mary: the story of the Blessed Virgin’s life is now resumed.
4. THE INFUSING OF MARY’S SOUL AND HER BIRTH.
4.1 THE UNITING OF MARY’S SOUL AND BODY.
I had a vision of the creation of Mary’s most holy soul and of its being united to her most pure body. In the glory by which the Most Holy Trinity is usually represented in my visions I saw a movement like a great shining mountain, and yet also like a human figure; and I saw something rise out of the midst of this figure towards its mouth and go forth from it like a shining brightness. Then I saw this brightness standing separate before the Face of God, turning and shaping itself— or rather being shaped, for I saw that while this brightness took human form, yet it was by the Will of God that it received a form so unspeakably beautiful. I saw, too, that God showed the beauty of this soul to the angels, and that they had unspeakable joy in its beauty. I am unable to describe in words all that I saw and understood.
When seventeen weeks and five days after the conception of the Blessed Virgin had gone by (that is to say, five days before Anna’s pregnancy was half accomplished), I saw the Blessed Virgin’s holy mother lying asleep in her bed in her house near Nazareth. Then there came a shining light above her, and a ray from this light fell upon the middle of her side, and the light passed into her in the shape of a little shining human figure. In the same instant I saw the Blessed Virgin’s holy mother raise herself on her couch surrounded by light. She was in ecstasy, and had a vision of her womb opening like a tabernacle to enclose a shining little virgin from whom man’s whole salvation was to spring. I saw that this was the instant in which for the first time the child moved within her. Anna then rose from her couch, dressed herself, and announced her joy to the holy Joachim. They both thanked God, and I saw them praying under the tree in the garden where the angel had comforted Anna. It was made known to me that the Blessed Virgin’s soul was united to her body five days earlier than with other children, and that her birth was twelve days earlier.
4.2 MARY’S BIRTH.
Several days before the Blessed Virgin’s birth Anna had told Joachim that the time was approaching for her to be delivered. She sent messengers to Sephoris, where her younger sister Maraha lived; to the widow Enue (sister of Elizabeth) in the valley of Zabulon; and to her niece Mary Salome at Bethsaida, asking these three women to come to her. I saw them on their journeys. The widow Enue had a serving lad with her; the other two women were accompanied by their husbands who, however, went back on approaching Nazareth. I saw that on the day before Anna was delivered Joachim sent his many menservants out to the herds, and among Anna’s new maidservants he kept in the house only those who were needed. He, too, went out into his nearest pasture. I saw that Anna’s firstborn daughter, Mary Heli, looked after the house. She was then about nineteen years old and was married to Cleophas, one of Joachim’s chief shepherds, by whom she had a little daughter, Mary Cleophas, now about four years old. After praying, Joachim chose out his finest lambs, kids, and cattle, sending shepherds to take them to the Temple as a thank-offering. He did not return home until nightfall.
I saw the three cousins arriving at Anna’s house in the evening. They went to her in her room behind the hearth and embraced her. After Anna had told them that the time was near for her to be delivered, they stood up and sang a hymn together: ‘Praise the Lord God; He has shown mercy to His people, and has redeemed Israel, and has fulfilled the promise which He gave to Adam in Paradise that the seed of the woman should crush the head of the serpent,’ and so on. I can no longer recite it all by heart. Anna prayed as though in ecstasy. She introduced into the hymn all the prophetic symbols of Mary. She said: ‘The seed given by God to Abraham has ripened in me.’ She spoke of the promise to Sarah of Isaac’s birth and said: ‘The blossoming of Aaron’s rod is perfected in me.’ At that moment I saw her as though suffused with light; I saw the room full of radiance, and Jacob’s ladder appearing above it. The women were overcome with astonishment and joy, and I think that they also saw the vision. When the prayer of welcome was over, the travelers were refreshed with a slight meal of bread and fruit, and water mixed with balsam. They ate and drank standing up, and then lay down till midnight to rest from their journey. Anna did not go to bed, but prayed, and at midnight woke the other women to pray with her. They followed her to her praying-place behind a curtain.
Anna opened the doors of a little cupboard in the wall which contained a casket with holy objects. On each side were lights—perhaps lamps, but I am not sure. They had to be pushed up in their holders, and then little bits of shavings put underneath to prevent them from sinking down. After this the lights were lit. There was a cushioned stool at the foot of this sort of little altar. The casket contained some of Sarah’s hair (Anna had a great veneration for her), some of Joseph’s bones (brought by Moses from Egypt), and something belonging to Tobias, I think a relic of his clothing; also the little shining, white, pear-shaped goblet from which Abraham had drunk when blessed by the angel. (This had been given to Joachim from the Ark of the Covenant when he was blessed in the Temple. I now know that this blessing took the form of wine and bread and was a strengthening and sacramental food.)
Anna knelt before the little cupboard with one of the women on each side and the third behind her. She recited another hymn; I think it mentioned the burning bush of Moses. Then I saw the room filled with supernatural light which became more intense as it wove itself round Anna. The women sank to the ground as though stunned. The light round Anna took the exact form of the burning bush of Moses on Horeb, and I could no longer see her. The whole flame streamed inwards; and then I suddenly saw that Anna received the shining child Mary in her hands, wrapped her in her mantle, pressed her to her heart, and laid her naked on the stool in front of the holy relics, still continuing her prayer. Then I heard the child cry, and saw that Anna brought out wrappings from under the great veil which enveloped her. She wrapped the child first in gray and then in red swaddling bands up to her arms; her breast, arms, and head were bare. The appearance of the burning bush around Anna had now vanished.
The women stood up and received the newborn child in their arms with great astonishment. They shed tears of joy. They all joined in a hymn of praise, and Anna lifted her child up on high as though making an offering. I saw at that moment the room full of light, and beheld several angels singing Gloria and Alleluia. I heard all their words. They announced that on the twentieth day the child was to be called Mary.
Anna now went into her bedroom and lay down on her couch. The women in the meantime unwrapped the child, bathed it, and wrapped it up again, and then laid it beside its mother. There was a little woven wicker basket which could be fastened beside the bed or against the wall or at the foot of the bed, whichever was wanted, so that the child could always have its place near its mother and yet separate.
The women now called Joachim, the father. He came to Anna’s couch and knelt down weeping, his tears falling on the child; then he lifted it up in his arms and uttered his song of praise, like Zechariah at John’s birth. He spoke in this hymn of the holy seed, implanted by God in Abraham, which had continued amongst God’s people by means of the covenant ratified by circumcision, but had now reached its highest blossoming in this child and was, in the flesh, completed. I also heard how this song of praise declared that now was fulfilled the word of the prophet: ‘There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse.’ He said, too, in great humility and devoutness, that he would now gladly die.
It was only then that I noticed that Mary Heli, Anna’s elder daughter, did not have sight of the child until later. Although she had become the mother of Mary Cleophas several years before, she was not present at the Blessed Virgin’s birth—perhaps because, according to Jewish rules, it was not considered seemly for a daughter to be with her mother at such a time.
Next morning I saw the serving men and maids and many people from nearby gathered round the house. They were allowed to enter in groups, and the child was shown by the women to them all. Many were greatly moved, and some led better lives thereafter. The neighbors had come because they had seen in the night a glowing light above the house, and because the birth of Anna’s child after long unfruitfulness was looked upon as a great favor from heaven.
4.3 JOY AT MARY’S BIRTH IN HEAVEN.
In the moment when the newborn child lay in the arms of her holy mother Anna, I saw that at the same time the child was presented in heaven in the sight of the Most Holy Trinity, and greeted with unspeakable joy by all the heavenly host. Then I understood, that there was made known to her in a supernatural manner her whole future with all her joys and sorrows. Mary was taught infinite mysteries, and yet was and remained a child. This knowledge of hers we cannot understand, because our knowledge grows on the tree of good and evil. She knew everything in the same way as a child knows its mother’s breast and that it is to drink from it. As the vision faded in which I saw the child Mary being thus taught in heaven through grace, I heard her weep for the first time.
I often see pictures like this, but for me they are inexpressible and probably for most people not quite comprehensible; therefore I do not relate them.
4.4 THE PROCLAIMING OF MARY’S BIRTH IN LIMBO.
In the moment of Mary’s birth I saw the tidings brought to the patriarchs in limbo. I saw them all, especially Adam and Eve, filled with inexpressible joy at the fulfillment of the promise given in Paradise. I also perceived that the patriarchs advanced in their state of grace, that the place of their sojourn became brighter and more spacious, and that it was given to them to have more influence on earth. It was as if all their labor and penance, all the struggling, crying and yearning of their lives had matured into its destined fruit.
4.5 AGITATION IN NATURE AND MANKIND AT MARY’S BIRTH.
At the time of Mary’s birth I saw a great and joyful agitation in nature, in the animal world, in the hearts of all good men, and I heard the sound of sweet singing. Sinners, however, were overwhelmed by fear and sorrow. I saw, specially near Nazareth, but also in the rest of the Promised Land, many who were possessed break out at that time into violent ravings. They were hurled from side to side with loud cries, and the devils shrieked from within them, ‘We must surrender, we must go out!’
In Jerusalem I saw how the aged priest Simeon, who lived in the Temple, was startled at the moment of Mary’s birth by loud shrieks coming from the madmen and those possessed of the devil, of whom many were shut up in a building in one of the streets on the Temple Hill. Simeon lived near them and was partly responsible for looking after them. About midnight I saw him go to the open space before the house of those possessed and inquire of one of them who lived nearest as to the cause of the loud cries with which everyone had been roused from their sleep. The man cried still louder that he must go out. Simeon opened the door; the possessed one rushed out, and Satan cried from within him: ‘I must go out. We must all go out! A virgin has been born! There are so many angels on earth who torment us! We must now go out and may nevermore enter into men!’ I saw Simeon praying fervently; the wretched man was flung back and forth on the open space, and I saw the devil go out of him. It gave me great pleasure to see the aged Simeon. I also saw the prophetess Anna and Noemi wakened and informed by visions of the birth of a chosen child. [Noemi was the sister of Lazarus’ mother; she was in the Temple and later became Mary’s teacher.] They met and told each other of what they had seen. I think they knew Anna, the Blessed Virgin’s mother.
4.6 THE PROCLAIMING OF MARY’S BIRTH IN CHALDEA.
In the night of Mary’s birth I saw in a city of the Chaldeans that five sibyls, or virgin prophetesses, were granted visions. I saw them hastening to the priests, who then made known in many places that these prophetesses had seen that a virgin had been born and that many gods had come down to earth to greet her, while other spirits fled before her lamenting. I saw, too, that the picture of a Virgin holding scales evenly balanced with corn and grapes, which the watchers of the stars had seen since Mary’s conception, was no longer visible to them. In the hour of Mary’s birth it seemed to move out of the star, in which it left a gap, and to sink down and away from it in one particular direction. They now made and set up in their temple the great idol which I saw there in my visions of the life of Jesus; it had some connection with the Blessed Virgin. 5454 On Dec. 7th of the third year of Our Lord’s ministry she saw a temple of the Chaldeans about which she related the following: ‘On a neighboring hill they had a terraced pyramid with galleries, from which they zealously watched the stars. They prophesied from the manner in which animals moved and they interpreted dreams. They sacrificed animals, but had a horror of the blood and always let it run away into the earth. In their religious observances they had holy fire and holy water, holy juice from a plant and little holy loaves of bread. Their temple, oval in shape, was full of images very delicately wrought in metal. They had a strong presentiment about the Mother of God. The principal object in the Temple was a three-cornered pillar ending in a point. On one side of this was an image with many arms and with animals’ feet. It held in its hands, among other things, a globe, a diadem, a bunch of herbs, and a big ribbed apple held by its stalk. Its face was like a sun with rays, it was many-breasted, and represented the productive and preservative powers of nature. Its name sounded like Miter or Mitras. On the other side of the pillar was the figure of an animal with a horn. It was a unicorn, and its name sounded like Asphas or Aspax. It was thrusting with its horn against another evil beast which was on the third side. This had a head like an owl; it had a curved beak, four legs with claws, two wings, and a tail ending like a scorpion’s. I have forgotten its name; indeed, I find it very difficult to remember such outlandish names and often mix them up. I can only say that they sounded something like this or that. Over the two fighting beasts there was an image standing on the corner of the pillar which was intended to represent the mother of all the gods. Its name sounded like the Lady Aloa or Aloas. They also called her “corn granary ”. A cluster of high ears of corn grew out of its body: its head was pressed down on to its shoulders and bent forward, for on the nape of its neck it bore a vessel containing wine or about to do so. They had a saying: “The Corn shall become bread, the grape shall become wine, for the refreshment of all mankind.” Over this image was a sort of crown, and there were two letters on the pillar which looked to me like O and W [perhaps Alpha and Omega]. What, however, surprised me most in this temple was a little round garden, covered over with gold network and standing on a bronze altar. Above it was the picture of a virgin. In the middle of this garden was a fountain with several sealed basins one above the other, in front of which was a green vine with a beautiful red cluster of grapes which hung down into a dark-colored wine-press. Its form reminded me vividly of the Holy Cross, but it was a wine-press. Above in a hollow trunk was fixed a wide funnel with a bag hanging from its spout. Two movable arms, fixed to each side of the hollow trunk, were used as levers to press the grapes that were in the bag so that the juice ran out of the trunk through openings made in it lower down. The little round garden, which was about five to six feet in diameter, was full of delicate green shrubs, flowers, fruits and little trees which were all, like the vine, very lifelike and had the same significance as it.’ (See Canticle of Canticles 4.12.) (CB)
Later they set up in their temple another symbolic image of the Blessed Virgin, the closed garden. I saw live animals lying in this temple and being cared for. I am not sure whether they were dogs. They were fed with the flesh of other animals. Within the temple of the three holy kings I had till now always seen a wonderful illumination at night. It was as if one looked up into a starry sky set with all the constellations. They used to make alterations in this artificial sky in their temple according to the visions they saw in the heavens. Thus after the birth of Mary the illumination which had previously come from outside now came from within.
4.7 EVENTS IN EGYPT DURING MARY’S BIRTH.
When the Blessed Virgin was born, I saw that image of a winged woman with a balance in her hand (bending down over a child in a little ship lying in the top of a tree) cast into the sea from its place in the temple on an island in a river. I had seen the image placed there long ago, before the time of Elijah, in accordance with the forced utterance of an idol. The little tree on which lay the child in the ship, remained in its place. A church was built there later.
At the moment of Mary’s birth I saw falling from the temple ceiling pieces of that winged female figure with three breasts which I had seen fixed to the ceiling of a temple when a messenger from Elijah announced his master’s prophecy of a coming Virgin. The face, the three breasts, and the lower part of the body all fell down and were broken to pieces. The bushel-shaped crown, the arms with the ears of corn, the upper part of the body and the wings did not fall down.
4.8 VISITS WITH THE NEWBORN BABY MARY.
On the 9 th of September, the day after Mary’s birth, I saw in the house several other relations from the neighborhood. I heard many names but have forgotten them again. I also saw many of Joachim’s menservants arriving from the more distant pastures. All were shown the newborn child, and all were filled with great joy. The meal in the house was accompanied by much rejoicing.
On the 10 th and 11 th of September I again saw many visiting the child Mary. Among them were relations of Joachim’s from the valley of Zabulon. On these occasions the child was brought into the front part of the house in its little cradle and put on a high stand (like a sawing bench) to be shown to the people. The child was wrapped in red, covered with transparent white stuff, up to its bare arms, and had a transparent little veil round its neck. The cradle was covered with red and white stuff.
I saw Mary Cleophas (the two- or three-year old child of Anna’s elder daughter and of Cleophas) playing with the child Mary and caressing her. Mary Cleophas was a fat, sturdy child, and wore a sleeveless white dress, with a red hem hung with red buttons like tiny apples. Round her bare arms she wore little white wreaths, which seemed to be made of feathers, silk, or wool.
4.9 THE CHILD RECEIVES THE NAME MARY.
[September 22 nd-23 rd] Today I saw great preparations for a feast in Anna’s house. All the furniture was moved aside, and in the front part of the house the dividing screens had been taken away to make one large hall instead of a number of small rooms. Along each side of this hall I saw a long, low table set out for a meal with many things that I had not noticed before. Fragile vases with openwork tops like baskets stood on the table; they may have been for flowers. On a side-table I saw many little white sticks, apparently made of bone, and spoons shaped like deep shells, with handles ending in a ring. There were also little curved tubes, perhaps for sucking up liquid.
In the center of the hall, a kind of altar table had been set up, covered in red and white. On it lay a little trough-shaped basket-cradle, of red and white wickerwork, covered with a sky-blue cloth. Beside this altar stood a lectern draped in a cloth on which lay parchment prayer scrolls. Five priests from Nazareth stood before the altar, one of them wearing grander vestments than the others; Joachim stood near them. In the background near the altar were several men and women belonging to the families of Anna and Joachim, all in festal attire. I remember seeing Anna’s sister Maraha from Sephoris, and Anna’s elder daughter and others. Anna herself, though no longer in bed, remained in her room behind the hearth and did not appear at the ceremony.
Enue, Elizabeth’s sister, brought out the child Mary, wrapped to the arms in red swaddling clothes covered with transparent white stuff, and laid her in Joachim’s arms. The priests approached the altar where the scrolls lay and prayed aloud. Two of them held up the train of the principal one. Joachim then laid the child in the hands of the high priest, who, lifting her up in offering as he prayed, laid her in the cradle on the altar. He then took a pair of scissors which, like our snuffers, had a little box at the end to hold what was cut off. With this he cut off three little tufts of hair from the child’s head (one from each side and one from the top) and burnt them in a brazier. Then he took a vase of oil and anointed the child’s five senses, touching with his thumb her ears, eyes, nose, mouth, and breast. He also wrote the name Mary on a parchment and laid it on the child’s breast. She was then returned to Joachim, who gave her to Enue to be taken back to Anna. Hymns were sung and after that the meal began, but I saw no more.
5. CAUSE OF THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF MARY.
[On the evening of September 7 th, the vigil of the Feast of Mary’s Nativity, Catherine Emmerich was unwontedly— as she said, supernaturally—gay, although she felt ill at the same time. She was in an unusually lively and confidential mood. She spoke of extraordinary joy in all nature because of Mary’s approaching birth, and said that she felt as if a great joy was awaiting her next day, if only this did not turn to sorrow. 5555 In a vision of the Blessed Virgin she had received the promise that on the next day, Sept. 8th (which was also her own birthday), she would be granted the favor of sitting up in bed for several weeks, leaving the bed and walking about the room several times, which she had been unable to do for some ten years. The fulfillment of this promise was attended by all the spiritual and bodily sufferings which had been announced to her at the time, as will be recounted in its proper place. (CB) ] There is such jubilation in nature: I hear birds singing, I see lambs and kids frolicking, and where Anna’s house once stood the doves are flying about in great flocks as if drunk with joy. Of the house and its surroundings nothing now remains; it is now a wilderness. I saw some pilgrims, holding long staffs and their garments girt about them, with cloths wrapped round their heads like caps. They are going through this part of the country on their way to Mount Carmel. A few hermits from Mount Carmel live here, and the pilgrims asked them in amazement what was the meaning of this joy in nature? They were told that it was ever thus in that country on the eve of Mary’s birth, and that it was probably there that Anna’s house had stood. A pilgrim who had passed that way before had, they said, told them that this was first noticed a long time ago by a devout man, and that this had led to the celebration of the feast of Mary’s Nativity.
I now saw this institution of the feast myself. 5656 The main feature of the story, the holy man who heard music in the air and, on asking what it was, received a revelation about Mary’s birthday, which then led to its general observance, is found in the Legenda Aurea of B. James of Voragine, O.P. (c. 1255) for Sept. 8th. The oldest documentary evidence for the feast is from the sixth century, and its general acceptance not until the eighth or ninth (Cath. Encyc., art. ‘Nativity’ (Holweck), p. 712d). (SB) Two hundred and fifty years after the death of the Blessed Virgin I saw a very devout man journeying through the Holy Land in order to seek out and venerate all the places connected with the life of Jesus upon earth. I saw that this holy man was given guidance from above, and often remained for several days in prayer and contemplation at different places, enjoying many visions and full of interior delight. He had for many years felt, in the night of the 7 th to the 8 th of September, a great joyfulness in nature and heard a lovely singing in the air; and at last, in answer to his earnest prayer, he was told by an angel in a dream that this was the birthnight of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He received this revelation on his journey to Mount Sinai or Horeb. It was told him at the same time that in a cave of the Prophet Elijah on that mountain was a walled-up chapel in honor of the Mother of the Messiah, and that he was to inform the hermits living there of both these things. Thereupon I saw him arriving at Mount Sinai. The place where the monastery now stands was already at that time inhabited by isolated hermits, and just as precipitous on the side facing the valley as it is now, when people have to be hoisted up by means of a pulley. I saw now that upon his announcement the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin was first celebrated here by the hermits on September 8 th about A.D. 250, and that its celebration spread later to the Universal Church. I saw, too, how he and the hermits looked for the cave of Elijah and the chapel in honor of the Blessed Virgin. These were, however, very difficult to find among the many caves of the Essenes and of other hermits. I saw many deserted gardens here and there near these caves, with magnificent fruit trees in them. After praying, the devout man was inspired to take a Jew with them when they visited these caves, and was told that they might recognize as the cave of Elijah the one that he was unable to enter. I saw thereupon how they sent an aged Jew into the caves, and how he felt himself thrust out of the narrow entrance of one of them, however much he tried to force his way in. In this way they recognized it as the cave of Elijah. They found in it a second cave, walled-up, which they opened; and this was the place where Elijah had prayed in veneration of the future mother of the Savior. The big, beautifully patterned stones which made the wall were used later for building the church. They also found in the cave many holy bones of patriarchs and prophets, as well as many woven screens and objects of earlier worship. All these were preserved in the church. I saw much of Mount Horeb on this occasion, but have forgotten it again. I still remember that the place where Moses saw the burning bush is called in the language of the place ‘The Shadow of God’, and that one may walk on it only with bare feet. I also saw a mountain there entirely of red sand, on which, however, very fine fruit trees grew.
6. THE EFFECT OF PRAYING ON THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF MARY.
I saw much of St. Bridget, and was given much knowledge of what had been revealed to this saint about Mary’s conception and birth. I remember that the Blessed Virgin said to her that if women with child celebrated the vigil of her Nativity by fasting and by the pious recitation of nine Ave Marias in honor of her nine-months’ sojourn in her Mother’s womb; and if they renewed this devotion frequently during their pregnancy and the day before they expected their confinement, at the same time receiving with devotion the Holy Sacrament, she would bring their prayer before God and beg for a happy delivery even in difficult and dangerous conditions.
I myself had today a vision of the Blessed Virgin who came to me and told me, among other things, that whoever recited with love and devotion on the afternoon of this day nine Ave Marias in honor of her nine months’ sojourn in her mother’s womb and of her birth, continuing this devotion for nine days, would give the angels nine flowers each day for a bouquet which they would receive in heaven and present to the Blessed Trinity, to obtain favor for the suppliant. Later I felt myself transported to a height between heaven and earth. The earth lay below, dark and troubled; above in heaven I saw the Blessed Virgin before the Throne of God, between the choirs of angels and the ordered hosts of the saints. I saw, built for her out of devotions and prayers on earth, two portals, or thrones of honor, which grew at last into palaces like churches, and even into whole cities. It was strange to see how these buildings were made entirely of herbs, flowers, and garlands all intertwined, their different species expressing the different kinds and different merits of the prayers of individual human beings and of whole communities. I saw all being taken by angels or saints from the hands of the suppliants and being carried up to heaven.
7. THE PURIFICATION OF ST. ANNE.
Some weeks after Mary’s birth I saw Joachim and Anna journeying to the Temple with the child to make sacrifice. They presented the child here in the Temple in devotion and gratitude to God, who had taken from them their long unfruitfulness, just as later the Blessed Virgin according to the Law offered and ransomed the Child Jesus in the Temple. 5757 See Lev. 12. The day after their arrival they made sacrifice, and already then made a vow to dedicate their child completely to the Temple in a few years time. Then they traveled back to Nazareth with the child.
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