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VIII. THE ANNUNCIATION
[On March 25th, 1821, Sister Emmerich said:] Last night I saw the Annunciation as a Feast of the Church, and was once more definitely informed that at this moment the Blessed Virgin had already been with child for four weeks. This was expressly told me because I had already seen the Annunciation on the 25th of February, but had rejected the vision and had not related it. Today I again saw the exterior circumstances of the whole event.
Soon after the Blessed Virgin’s marriage I saw her in Joseph’s house in Nazareth, where I was taken by my guide. Joseph had gone away with two donkeys—I think to fetch either his tools or something that he had inherited. He seemed to me to be on his way home. Anna’s second husband and some other men had been at the house in the morning, but had gone away again. Besides the Blessed Virgin and two girls of her own age (I think they were playfellows from the Temple), I saw in the house Anna and her widowed cousin, who worked for her as serving-maid and later went with her to Bethlehem after Christ’s birth. The whole house had been newly fitted out by Anna. I saw these four women going busily about the house and then walking at leisure together in the courtyard. Towards evening I saw them come back into the house and stand praying at a little round table. Then, after eating some vegetables set before them, they separated. Anna went to and fro in the house for some time still, busying herself with household matters. The two girls went to their separate room, and Mary, too, went into her bedchamber.
The Blessed Virgin’s bedchamber was in the back part of the house, near the hearth, which was here placed, not in the center as in Anna’s house, but rather on one side. The entrance to the bedchamber was beside the kitchen. Three steps, not level but sloping, led up to it, for the floor of this part of the house rested on a raised ledge of rock. The wall of the room facing the door was rounded, and in this rounded part (which was shut off by a high wicker screen) was the Blessed Virgin’s bed, rolled up. The walls of the room were covered up to a certain height with wickerwork, rather more roughly woven than the light movable screens. Different-colored woods had been used to make a little checkered pattern on them. The ceiling was formed by intersecting beams, the spaces between being filled with wickerwork decorated with star-patterns.
I was brought into this room by the shining youth who always accompanies me, and I will relate what I saw as well as such a poor miserable creature is able.
The Blessed Virgin came in and went behind the screen before her bed, where she put on a long white woolen praying-robe with a broad girdle, and covered her head with a yellowish white veil. Meanwhile the maid came in with a little lamp, lit a many-branched lamp hanging from the ceiling, and went away again. The Blessed Virgin then took a little low table which was leaning folded up against the wall and placed it in the middle of the room. As it leant against the wall it was just a movable table-leaf hanging straight down in front of two supports. Mary lifted up this leaf and pulled forward half of one of the supports (which was divided), so that the little table now stood on three legs. The table-leaf supported by this third leg was rounded. This little table was covered with a blue-and-red cloth, finished with a hanging fringe along the straight edge of the table. In the middle of the cloth there was a design, embroidered or quilted; I cannot remember whether it was a letter or an ornament. On the round side of the table was a white cloth rolled up, and a scroll of writing also lay on the table.
The Blessed Virgin put up this little table in the middle of the room, between her sleeping place and the door, rather to the left, in a place where the floor was covered by a carpet. Then she put in front of it a little round cushion and knelt down with both hands resting on the table. The door of the room was facing her on the right, and she had her back to her sleeping place.
Mary let the veil fall over her face and crossed her hands (but, not her fingers) before her breast. I saw her fervently praying thus for a long time, with her face raised to heaven. She was imploring God for redemption, for the promised King, and beseeching Him that her prayer might have some share in sending Him. She knelt long in an ecstasy of prayer; then she bowed her head onto her breast.
But now at her right hand there poured down such a mass of light in a slanting line from the ceiling of the room that I felt myself pressed back by it against the wall near the door. [See Figure 10.] I saw in this light a shining white youth, with flowing yellow hair, floating down before her. It was the Angel Gabriel. He gently moved his arms away from his body as he spoke to her. I saw the words issuing from his mouth like shining letters; I read them and I heard them. Mary turned her veiled head slightly towards the right, but she was shy and did not look up. But the angel went on speaking, and as if at his command Mary turned her face a little towards him, raised her veil slightly, and answered. The angel again spoke, and Mary lifted her veil, looked at him, and answered with the holy words: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.’
The Blessed Virgin was wrapped in ecstasy. The room was filled with light 8080 The tradition about the light at the Annunciation is preserved in the liturgy (Mar. 25th, Resp. ii): ‘ Et expavescit Virgo de lumine.’ (SB) ; I no longer saw the glimmer of the burning lamp, I no longer saw the ceiling of the room. Heaven seemed to open, a path of light made me look up above the angel, and at the source of this stream of light I saw a figure of the Holy Trinity in the form of a triangular radiance streaming in upon itself. In this I recognized—what can only be adored and never expressed—Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and yet only God Almighty.
As soon as the Blessed Virgin had spoken the words, ‘Be it done to me according to your word’, I saw the Holy Ghost in the appearance of a winged figure, but not in the form of a dove as usually represented. The head was like the face of a man, and light was spread like wings beside the figure, from whose breast and hands I saw three streams of light pouring down towards the right side of the Blessed Virgin and meeting as they reached her. This light streaming in upon her right side caused the Blessed Virgin to become completely transfused with radiance and as though transparent; all that was opaque seemed to vanish like darkness before this light. In this moment she was so penetrated with light that nothing dark or concealing remained in her; her whole form was shining and transfused with light. After this penetrating radiance I saw the angel disappear, with the path of light out of which he had come. It was as if the stream of light had been drawn back into heaven, and I saw how there fell from it onto the Blessed Virgin, as it was drawn back, a shower of white rosebuds each with its little green leaf.
Figure 10. The Annunciation.
While I was seeing all this in Mary’s chamber, I had a strange personal sensation. I was in a state of constant fear, as if I was being pursued, and I suddenly saw a hideous serpent crawling through the house and up the steps to the door by which I was standing. The horrible creature had made its way as far as the third step when the light poured down on the Blessed Virgin. The serpent was three or four feet long, had a broad flat head and under its breast were two short skinny paws, clawed like bat’s wings, on which it pushed itself forward. It was spotted with all kinds of hideous colors, and reminded me of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, only fearfully deformed. When the angel disappeared from the Blessed Virgin’s room, he trod on this monster’s head as it lay before the door, and it screamed in so ghastly a way that I shuddered. Then I saw three spirits appear who drove the monster out in front of the house with blows and kicks.
After the angel had disappeared, I saw the Blessed Virgin wrapped in the deepest ecstasy. I saw that she recognized the Incarnation of the promised Redeemer within herself in the form of a tiny human figure of light, perfectly formed in all its parts down to its tiny fingers.
Here in Nazareth it is otherwise than in Jerusalem, where the women must remain in the outer court and may not enter the Temple, where only the priests may go into the Holy Place. Here in Nazareth, here in this church, a virgin is herself the Temple, and the Most Holy is within her, and the high priest is within her, and she alone is with Him. O, how lovely and wonderful that is, and yet so simple and natural! The words of David in the 45 th Psalm were fulfilled: ‘The Most High has sanctified His own tabernacle; God is in the midst thereof, it shall not be moved.’
It was at midnight that I saw this mystery happen. After a little while Anna with the other women came into Mary’s room. They had been wakened by a strange commotion in nature. A cloud of light had appeared above the house. When they saw the Blessed Virgin kneeling under the lamp in an ecstasy of prayer, they respectfully withdrew. After some time I saw the Blessed Virgin rise from her knees and go to her little altar against the wall. She unrolled the picture hanging on the wall which represented a veiled human form—the same picture that I had seen in Anna’s house when she was making ready for the Blessed Virgin’s journey to the Temple [see p. 43 ]. She lit the lamp on the wall and stood praying before it. Scrolls lay before her on a high desk. Towards morning I saw her go to bed.
My guide now led me away; but when I came into the little court before the house, I was seized with terror, for that fearful snake was lurking there in hiding. It crept towards me and tried to shelter in the folds of my dress. I was in dreadful fear; but my guide snatched me hurriedly away, and those three spirits reappeared and smote the monster. I still seem to hear with a shudder its appalling shrieks.
That night, as I contemplated the Mystery of the Incarnation, I was taught many things. Mary was given the grace of interior knowledge. The Blessed Virgin knew that she had conceived the Messiah, the Son of the Most High. All that was within her was open to the eyes of her spirit. But she did not then know that the Throne of David His father, which was to be given Him by the Lord God, was a supernatural one; nor did she then know that the House of Jacob, over which He was, as Gabriel declared, to rule for all eternity, was the Church, the congregation of regenerated mankind. She thought that the Redeemer would be a holy king, who would purify His people and give them victory over Hell. She did not then know that this King, in order to redeem mankind, must suffer a bitter death.
It was made known to me why the Redeemer deigned to remain nine months in His Mother’s womb and to be born as a little child, and why it was not His will to appear as perfect and beautiful as the newly-created Adam; but I can no longer explain this clearly. I can, however, remember this much—that it was His will to reconsecrate man’s conception and birth which had been so sadly degraded by the Fall. The reason why Mary became His Mother and why He did not come sooner was that she alone, and no creature before her or after her, was the pure Vessel of Grace, promised by God to mankind as the Mother of the Incarnate Word, by the merits of whose Passion mankind was to be redeemed from its guilt. The Blessed Virgin was the one and only pure blossom of the human race, flowering in the fullness of time. All the children of God from the beginning of time who have striven after salvation contributed to her coming. She was the only pure gold of the whole earth. She alone was the pure immaculate flesh and blood of the whole human race, prepared and purified and ordained and consecrated through all the generations of her ancestors, guided, guarded, and fortified by the Law until she came forth as the fullness of Grace. She was pre-ordained in eternity and passed through time as the Mother of the Eternal. [See Prov. 8.22-35.]
At the Incarnation of Christ the Blessed Virgin was a little over fourteen years old. Christ reached the age of thirty-three years and three times six weeks. I say three times six, because that figure was in that moment shown to me three times one after the other.
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