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XI. CHRIST’S BIRTH 9999 Matt. 2 .1 ; Birth, Adoration of the Shepherds, Circumcision: Luke 2.7-21. (SB)
I saw the radiance round the Blessed Virgin ever growing greater. The light of the lamps which Joseph had lit was no longer visible. The Blessed Virgin knelt on her rug in an ample ungirt robe spread out round her, her face turned towards the east.
At midnight she was rapt in an ecstasy of prayer. I saw her lifted from the earth, so that I saw the ground beneath her. Her hands were crossed on her breast. The radiance about her increased; everything, even things without life, were in a joyful inner motion, the stones of the roof, of the walls, and of the floor of the cave became as it were alive in the light. Then I no longer saw the roof of the cave; a pathway of light opened above Mary, rising with ever-increasing glory towards the height of heaven.
In this pathway of light there was a wonderful movement of glories interpenetrating each other, and, as they approached, appearing more clearly in the form of choirs of heavenly spirits. Meanwhile the Blessed Virgin, borne up in ecstasy, was now gazing downwards, adoring her God, whose Mother she had become and who lay on the earth before her in the form of a helpless newborn child. 100100 AC’s delicate description of the painless, miraculous birth of Christ finds parallels (especially in the cave being filled with light) in Protev. 19 and Ps-Matt. 13, though both these apocryphal sources introduce a midwife, whose services are not required. (SB)
I saw our Redeemer as a tiny child, shining with a light that overpowered all the surrounding radiance, and lying on the carpet at the Blessed Virgin’s knees. It seemed to me as if He were at first quite small and then grew before my eyes. But the movement of the intense radiance was such that I cannot say for certain how I saw it.
The Blessed Virgin remained for some time rapt in ecstasy. I saw her laying a cloth over the Child, but at first she did not touch Him or take Him up. After some time I saw the Child Jesus move and heard Him cry. Then Mary seemed to come to herself, and she took the Child up from the carpet, wrapping Him in the cloth which covered Him, and held Him in her arms to her breast. She sat there enveloping herself and the Child completely in her veil, and I think Mary suckled the Redeemer. I saw angels round her in human forms, lying on their faces and adoring the Child.
It might have been an hour after His Birth when Mary called St. Joseph, who was still lying in prayer. When he came near, he threw himself down on his face in devout joy and humility. It was only when Mary begged him to take to his heart, in joy and thankfulness, the holy present of the Most High God, that he stood up, took the Child Jesus in his arms, and praised God with tears of joy.
The Blessed Virgin then wrapped the Child Jesus in swaddling-bands. I cannot now remember how these bands were wound round; I only know that the Child was wrapped to His armpits first in red and then white bands, and that His head and shoulders were wrapped in another little cloth. Mary had only four sets of swaddling-bands with her. Then I saw Mary and Joseph sitting side by side on the bare earth with their feet under them. They did not speak, and seemed both to be sunk in meditation. On the carpet before Mary lay the newborn Jesus in swaddling clothes, a little Child, beautiful and radiant as lightning. Ah, I thought, this place enshrines the salvation of the whole world, and no one guesses it. Then they laid the Child in the manger, which was filled with rushes and delicate plants and covered with a cloth hanging over the sides. It stood above the stone trough lying on the ground, to the right of the entrance, where the cave makes a big curve towards the south. This part of the cave was at a lower level than the place where Our Lord was born: the floor slanted downwards in a step-like formation. After laying the Child in the crib, they both stood beside Him giving praise to God with tears of joy. Joseph then arranged the Blessed Virgin’s resting-place and her seat beside the Crib. [See Figure 13.] Both before and after the Birth of Jesus, I saw her dressed in white and veiled. I saw her there in the first days after the Nativity, sitting, kneeling, standing, and sleeping on her side, wrapped up but in no way ill or exhausted. When people came to see her, she wrapped herself up more closely and sat upright on her lying-in coverlet.
Figure 13. Mary's resting place beside the crib.
1. GREAT JOY IN NATURE. “GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST”.
In these pictures of Christ’s Birth, which I see as an historical event and not as a Feast of the Church, I do not see such radiant and ecstatic joy in nature as I do on Christmas night when the vision that I see expresses an interior significance. Yet I saw in this vision an unwonted joy and an extraordinary movement at midnight in many places even to the uttermost parts of the earth. I saw the hearts of many good men filled with joyful yearning, while all the wicked were overcome by great fear. I saw many animals filled with joy; in some places I saw flowers, herbs, and shrubs shooting up, and trees drinking in refreshment and scattering sweet scents. I saw many springs of water gush forth and increase. In the night of the Savior’s Birth, an abundant spring welled up in the cave in the hill to the north of the Cave of the Nativity. Next day St. Joseph captured it and made an outlet for it. The sky was dull over Bethlehem and had a dull reddish glow; but over the Cave of the Nativity and over the valley by Martha’s tomb and the Shepherd’s Valley lay a shining mist of dew. In the Shepherd’s Valley there was a hill about an hour and a half’s journey from the Cave of the Nativity, where the vineyards begin which stretch from there towards Gaza. On this hill were the huts of three shepherds who were the rulers of the shepherds’ families in this region just as the three holy kings were rulers of the tribes belonging to them. About twice as far away from the Cave of the Nativity as this hill was the so-called Shepherds’ Tower. [Please refer to Figure 14]. This was a very high pyramid-shaped erection of wooden beams, built among green trees on a base of big stones on a hill in the midst of the fields. It was surrounded by stairs and galleries, and in places there were little covered stands like watchtowers. It was all hung with mats. It resembled those tower-like edifices which were used in the land of the three holy kings to observe the stars at night; from the distance it looked like a tall many-masted ship under sail. One had from it a very wide view of the whole region; one saw Jerusalem, and also the Mount of Temptation in the desert of Jericho. The shepherds stationed men up there to watch the flocks as they moved about and to give warning of danger by blowing horns if they saw in the distance robbers or armed bands. The families of the various shepherds lived round the tower within a circle of some five hours in circumference; their farms were separate and surrounded by fields and gardens. The tower was their general meeting-place, as it was also for the watchers, who kept their belongings here and got their food from here. There were huts built on the slopes of the hill on which the tower stood, and separate from these there was a large shed, divided into many partitions, where the wives of the watchers lived and prepared food for them. Here by the tower I saw tonight some of the flocks and herds out in the open, but by the hill of the three shepherds I saw them in a shed. When Jesus was born, I saw the three shepherds standing together before their hut, marveling at the wonderful night. They looked about them, and were astonished to see a wonderful radiance over the place where the Cave of the Nativity was. I also saw the shepherds at the more distant tower in great commotion. I saw some of them climbing the tower and gazing at the strange radiance over the cave. As the three shepherds thus gazed up into the sky, I saw a cloud of light sinking down towards them. As it drew near, I perceived a movement in it, a changing and transformation into figures and forms, and I heard a song which gradually grew louder. It was sweet and gentle and yet clear and joyful. The shepherds were at first afraid, but forthwith an angel stood before them and spoke to them: ‘Fear not,’ he said, ‘for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people; for this day is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign to you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.’ While the angel was announcing this, the radiance round him increased, and I now saw five or seven beautiful great shining forms of angels standing before the shepherds. They were holding in their hands a long scroll on which was written something in letters as big as one’s hand, and I heard them praising God and singing ‘Glory be to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of goodwill’. The shepherds at the tower saw the same vision, but somewhat later. The angels also appeared to a third party of shepherds near a spring three hours from Bethlehem and to the east of the shepherd’s tower. I did not see the shepherds hasten at once to the Cave of the Nativity, which was about an hour and a half distant from the three shepherds and twice as far from the tower. But, I saw them at once consulting together as to what they should bring as a present to the newborn Child and getting their gifts together with all speed. They did not arrive at the Crib until early in the morning.
Figure 14. The Shepherds’ Tower.
2. OCCURRENCES DURING THE BIRTH OF CHRIST IN DIFFERENT LOCATIONS.
At the time that the Child Jesus was born my soul made countless journeys to all parts of the world, to see the wonderful happenings at the birth of Our Savior. As, however, I was very ill and tired, it often seemed to me as if the pictures came to me instead of I to them. I have seen countless events, but have forgotten most of them because of much suffering and many disturbances; all that I can remember are the following fragments.
3. REVELATIONS OF THE BIRTH TO THE KINSWOMEN AND FRIENDS OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN.
I saw last night that Noemi, the teacher of the Blessed Virgin, and the prophetess Anna, and the aged Simeon in the Temple, and the Blessed Virgin’s mother, Anna, in Nazareth, and Elizabeth in Juttah, all had visions and revelations about the birth of the Savior. I saw the child John, in Elizabeth’s house, moved by wonderful joy. Though they all saw and recognized Mary in these visions, they did not know where the miracle had taken place, not even Elizabeth. Anna alone knew that Bethlehem was the place of salvation.
4. OCCURRENCES DURING THE BIRTH OF CHRIST IN JERUSALEM.
Last night I saw a wonderful happening in the Temple. All the written scrolls of the Sadducees were several times hurled out of their shelves and strewn about the floor. This caused great alarm; they ascribed it to sorcery and paid much money to keep it secret.
[She here recounted some obscure story about two sons of Herod’s who were Sadducees and had been placed in the Temple by him 101101 Herod’s two sons, placed in the Temple, are mentioned by AC (infra, p. 102 ) as natural sons. History is, however, silent in their regard. (SB) ; and how he was always engaged in some dispute or other with the Pharisees and was always trying by underhand means to obtain more power in the Temple.]
5. OCCURRENCES DURING THE BIRTH OF CHRIST IN ROME.
I saw much in Rome last night, but of all the pictures I saw I have forgotten many and may easily have confused some of them. I will tell them as I remember them.
When Jesus was born, I saw that in Rome, on the other side of the river, where many Jews lived [she here described not very
clearly a place like a hill surrounded by water, forming a kind of peninsula], a spring as of oil burst forth and caused general
astonishment. A magnificent idol of Jupiter also broke in pieces in a temple of which the whole roof fell in. They made sacrifices
in great alarm, and asked another idol—of Venus, I think—what this signified, and received the answer (which must have been
spoken by the devil out of the mouth of the idol): ‘This befell because a virgin without a husband conceived a son and has
now given birth to him.’ This idol spoke also of the fountain of oil that had sprung forth. Where it sprang forth, there now
stands a church dedicated to the Mother of God.
The tradition about strange portents in Rome at the birth of Christ is very ancient. Its first appearance in a document seems
to be in the
of Orosius (A.D. 418), the friend of St. Augustine. We find here the fountain of oil, the idol speaking, the vision of Augustus,
and so forth. The story was elaborated by the time of the fourteenth-century Byzantine historian Nicephorus Callistus. The
matter is fully studied in Graf,
Roma nella memoria e nelle immaginazioni del medio evo,
Turin, 1882, Vol. 1, pp. 308-331, where the texts are reproduced.
The Church of Our Lady in question is Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, on the Capitol Hill, where Augustus is said to have put up a new altar (infra, p. 94 ).
The mention (infra, p. 94 ) of the consul Lentulus need not be associated with the fictitious letter of Lentulus (a supposed Roman official in Judea) about the appearance of Christ. But there was a consul Lucius Lentulus after the death of Julius Caesar (44 B.C.), mentioned by Josephus (Ant., XIV, x, 13). Lentulus the friend of Peter in Rome is unknown, and is not likely to be Lentulus Getulicus who was involved in a plot against Caligula in A.D. 41 and was executed, since Peter probably did not come to Rome until A.D. 42. The priest Moses was one of the first martyrs under Decius, and died in 251 (Ramsgate Book of Saints). (SB)
I saw the heathen priests consulting their records in great alarm. Seventy years before, when that idol was being magnificently adorned with gold and precious stones, and was being honored with solemn sacrifices, there lived in Rome a very good and pious woman (I am not sure whether she was a Jewess or not) whose name sounded like Serena or Cyrena. She had enough money to live on, saw visions, and was impelled to prophesy. I have forgotten a great deal about her, but I think she used often to tell people the cause of their unfruitfulness. This woman had openly proclaimed that such costly honors should not be paid to the idol, for one day it would burst asunder. The priests called her to account because of this declaration, and demanded that she should say when this would happen; and as she could not at once reply, she was imprisoned and tortured until she obtained by her prayers to God the reply that the idol would break in pieces when a pure virgin should bear a son. This announcement was received with derision, and she was released as being out of her senses. Now, when the collapse of the temple did indeed shatter the idol, they recognized that she had prophesied truly, and were astonished at her having fixed a time for this event. They knew of course nothing of Christ having been born of the Blessed Virgin.
I saw that both the Roman consuls called for reports about this event and about the appearance of the fountain of oil. One of the consuls was called Lentulus and was an ancestor of the martyred priest Moses and of the Lentulus who was a friend of St. Peter in Rome.
I also saw something connected with the Emperor Augustus, but can no longer remember it distinctly. I saw the Emperor with some other men on a hill in Rome, on the other side of which was the temple that had fallen in. There were steps leading up the hill, which had a golden gate on it. Business matters were settled there. When the Emperor descended the hill, he saw on the right-hand side, over the top of the hill, an apparition in the sky. [Please refer to Figure 15.] It was a vision of a virgin above a rainbow, and a child was soaring up from her. I think that only he saw it. He asked for an explanation of this apparition from an oracle that had long been dumb, and it gave an answer about a newborn child before whom all must give way. Thereupon he caused an altar to be set up on the hill over which he had seen the appearance, and dedicated it with many sacrifices to the Firstborn of God. I have forgotten much of all this.
6. OCCURRENCES DURING THE BIRTH OF CHRIST IN EGYPT.
I saw also in Egypt an event which proclaimed the birth of Christ. Far away in the country beyond Matarea, Heliopolis, and Memphis a great idol, which until then had uttered oracles of many kinds, fell suddenly silent. The king then ordered that great sacrifices should be offered throughout the country in order that the idol might explain its silence. The idol was thereupon obliged by God to say that it was silent and must give way because a virgin had given birth to a son, to whom a temple would here be erected. On hearing this, the king of that country decided to build a temple in his honor near the temple of the idol. I cannot clearly remember what happened, but I know that the idol was taken away and a temple was built here in honor of the virgin with the Child whom it had proclaimed, and that she was there honored after their heathen fashion.
7. VISIONS APPEAR DURING THE BIRTH OF CHRIST TO THE THREE HOLY KINGS.
At the hour when the Child Jesus was born I saw a wonderful vision which appeared to the three holy kings. These kings were star-worshippers and had a tower shaped like a pyramid with steps. It was made partly of timber and was on the top of a hill; one of them was always there, with several priests, to observe the stars. They always wrote down what they saw and communicated it to each other. On this night I think I saw two of the kings on this tower. The third, who lived to the east of the Caspian Sea, was not with them. They always observed one particular star, in which they saw various changes; they also saw visions in the sky. Last night I saw the picture which appeared to them; there were several variations of it. They did not see it in one star, but in a figure composed of several stars, and these stars were in motion. They saw a beautiful rainbow over the moon, which was in one of its quarters. Upon the rainbow a Virgin was enthroned; her right foot was resting on the moon. To the left of the Virgin, on the rainbow, was a vine, and on the right a sheaf of wheat. In front of the Virgin I saw the form of a chalice, shaped like the one used by Our Lord at the institution of the Blessed Sacrament. It seemed to rise up or to issue more clearly out of the radiance surrounding it. I saw a little child coming forth out of this chalice, and above the child a transparent disc, like an empty monstrance, from which rays like ears of wheat proceeded. It made me think of the Blessed Sacrament. On the right-hand side of the child issuing from the chalice, a branch grew forth on which an octagonal church blossomed like a flower. It had a great golden gate and two small side-doors. The Virgin moved the chalice, the child, and the host with her right hand, guiding them into the church before her. I saw into it, and as I did so it seemed to become quite big. I saw an appearance of the Holy Trinity in the back of the church. The tower of the church rose above this appearance, which at last turned into a city radiant with light, like the heavenly Jerusalem. In this picture I saw many things developing out of each other as I looked into this church; but I can no longer remember in what order I saw them, nor can I recollect in what manner the kings were informed that the child had been born in Judea. The third king who lived farther away saw the same picture in his own home in the same hour. The kings were filled with inexpressible joy at this vision, and immediately gathered together their treasures and presents and began their journey. It was only after several days that all three met. Already in the days just before the birth of Christ I noticed that they were in a state of great activity on their observatory tower and saw visions of many kinds.
Figure 15. Vision of the Emperor Augustus on the day of Jesus’ birth.
How great was God’s compassion towards the heathen! Shall I tell you from whence this prophecy came to the kings? I will recount now only just the end of it, for at this moment I cannot remember the whole. The ancestors of the three kings, from whom they descended in an unbroken line from father to son, lived as long ago as five hundred years before Christ’s birth. (Elijah 103103 Elijah makes his appearance in 3 Kings 17.1 in the reign of King Ahab, 874-853 B.C. (SB) must have lived eight hundred years before Christ.) Their ancestors were richer and more powerful than the three kings, for their possessions and inheritances had not been so much divided up as later on. Even in those times they lived in cities of tents—except the ancestor to the east of the Caspian Sea, whose city I now see; its foundations are of stone and the tents are set up on these, for it lies beside the sea, which often overflows. (Here on the mountains one is so high up; I see a sea to my right and one to my left; it is like looking into a black hole.) These chieftains were already at that time star-worshippers; but besides that they practiced dreadfully evil ceremonies; they sacrificed old men and cripples and slaughtered children as well. The most cruel of all their practices was to put the children, dressed in white, into cauldrons, and to boil them alive. But at last all this was changed for the better, and in spite of it God allowed these blind heathens to know of the birth of the Redeemer so long beforehand. In those days three daughters of these early chieftains were living at the same time. They were learned in the science of the stars, and all received at the same time the spirit of prophecy.
They all three saw at the same time in a vision that a star should rise out of Jacob and that a virgin should give birth to
the Savior without knowing man. They wore long cloaks, and went about the whole country preaching amendment of life and announcing
that the messengers of the Redeemer would one day come to them and bring them the ceremonies of the true religion. They also
prophesied many things about our own and even later times. The fathers of these three virgins then built a temple in honor
of the future Mother of God to the south of the sea, where their three countries met, and made sacrifices to her—some of them
in that cruel manner of which I have spoken. The prophecies of the three virgins included something definite about a picture
in the stars and various transformations in it: whereupon they began to look for this picture from a hill near the temple
to the future Mother of God. They took note of everything and according to what they observed they kept on making various
alterations on and in their temples, in their ceremonies and in their decorations. They varied the color of the tent-roof
of the temple, which was sometimes blue, sometimes red, and sometimes yellow or still another color. They transferred (and
this seemed to me remarkable) their weekly feast day to the Sabbath. Before it used to be Thursday, and I still remember its
name. [Here she stammered something which sounded like Tanna or Tanada, but was not clearly audible.]
Here her story was interrupted by so strange and sudden an occurrence that we feel bound to communicate it, so characteristic
is it of her condition. It was about six o’clock in the evening of Nov. 27th, 1821, when she spoke these last words in her
sleep. It must be remembered that for many years her feet had been paralyzed; she could not walk, and could with difficulty
raise herself to a sitting position, so that she was, as always, lying stretched out on her couch. The door stood open between
her room and the room adjoining it in which her confessor was at that moment sitting by the lamp reading his Breviary. She
had just said these words with such truth of expression that it was impossible to doubt that she was seeing it all actually
happening before her eyes. Hardly, however, had she stammered out the word ‘Tanada’ than the enfeebled and paralyzed sleeper
suddenly sprang up from her couch with lightning speed, hurried into the adjoining room, and rushed to the window, striking
out with hands and feet as if she were attacking and warding off something. Then, turning to her confessor, she said, ‘That
was a great big brute, but I gave him a kick and sent him off’. After these words she sank down as if fainting, and lay very
quietly and calmly on the floor of the room before the window. The priest at his Breviary was, like the writer, staggered
by this highly surprising incident, but without wasting words he said to her, ‘Sister Emmerich, under obedience, go back to
your bed’; whereupon she at once got up, returned to her room, and lay down again on her bed.
When the writer asked her, ‘What was that strange incident?’ she told him the following. She was wide awake and in full consciousness, and though she was tired, she was in the cheerful state of mind of someone who has won a victory. ‘Yes, it was indeed odd. I was so far, far away in the land of the three kings. I was standing on the high mountain ridge between the two seas, looking down into their tent-cities (just as one looks out of the window here into the poultry-yard), when I suddenly felt myself called home by my guardian angel. I turned round and saw here in Dülmen, passing in front of our little house, a poor old woman whom I knew. She had come out of a little grocer’s shop. She was in a very bad and evil-tempered mood, and was grumbling and cursing to herself in a quite abominable way. Then I saw that her guardian angel abandoned her and that a great black devil-shape laid itself across her path in the dark, to make her stumble over him and break her neck and so die in her sins. When I saw that, I let the three kings be (‘ liess ich drei Könige drei Könige sein’ ), prayed earnestly to God to help the poor woman, and was back here in my room. Then I saw that the devil was beating against the window in dreadful fury and was trying to break into the room; I saw that he had a whole bundle of nooses and knotted strings in his claws. He was trying, out of revenge, to start a great complication and annoyance here with all these; so I rushed at him and gave him a kick which made him stagger back. That will have given him something to remember! And then I lay down before the window across his path, to prevent him from coming in.’
It is indeed strange that while she is looking down from the Caucasus and seeing and recounting things that happened five hundred years before Christ’s birth as though they were before her eyes, she should at the same moment see the danger surrounding a poor little old woman close to her house at home and should hurry energetically to help her. It was an amazing spectacle to see her rushing in like a living skeleton and fighting with such violence, whereas in her waking state, she can, since Sept. 8th, hardly move forward a few steps on her crutches without fainting. (CB)
8. VISION FRAGMENTS WHICH DETERMINE THE EXACT DATE OF THE BIRTH OF CHRIST.
[In the course of her visions of Christmas night Catherine Emmerich saw much that indicated the exact date of Christ’s birth, but she forgot a great deal of it owing to illness and the disturbance of receiving visitors on the following day, which was her name-day, the feast of St. Catherine. That evening, however, shortly after these visits, she repeatedly gave utterance, in a state of trance, to the following fragments of these visions. It should be noted that she sees all dates written in Roman figures, i.e. with letters; and finds some difficulty in reading them; though she nearly always makes herself clear by repeating them several times in the order in which they appear or by showing them on her fingers. Today she did both. This is what she said:]
Now, you can read this: look, there it is: Christ was born when the year of the world 3997 was not yet quite completed. Afterwards
people forgot the period of three years and a portion of a year which intervened between His birth and the year 4000, and
then reckoned our new era as beginning four years later, so that Christ was born seven years and a portion of a year earlier
than according to our reckoning.
The date of Christ’s birth is usually fixed by modern scholars in 8 B.C. (e.g. Fr. T. Corbishley, S.J., in
676a), or at latest
749a), but the argument is from contemporary history (such as the death of Herod in 4 B.C.), and not, as AC suggests, from
the computation of the Annus Mundi. Yet it is interesting that AC’s date 7 B.C. is so near the conclusions of present-day
One of the consuls in Rome at that time was called Lentulus; he was an ancestor of the priest and martyr Moses, of whom I
possess a relic here, and who lived at the time of St. Cyprian. The Lentulus who was a friend of St. Peter in Rome also descended
from him. Christ was born in the forty-fifth year of the Emperor Augustus. Herod reigned forty years in all until his death.
The chronological data are fairly exact by modern conclusions. The forty-fifth year of Augustus is reckoned (as was the custom
among the older historians, e.g. Muratori in 1744-1749) from his assumption of power as a triumvir in 44 B.C., and corresponds
therefore to A.D. I (though AC had just said that Christ was born in 7 B.C.). Herod reigned 40-4 B.C. (thirty-six years—AC
says forty), and AC gives his thirty-fourth year for the birth of Christ, i.e. 6 B.C. There is therefore some confusion in
the correlation of the data.
For Herod’s madness, cf. Josephus Ant., XVII, vi, 5 to viii, 1. (SB) He was, it is true, only a vassal-king for seven years, but harassed the country grievously, and committed many cruelties. He died about the time of Christ’s sixth year. I think that his death was kept a secret for some time. His end was dreadful, and in the last days of his life he was responsible for many murders and much misery. I saw him crawling about in a room padded with cushions. He had a spear, and stabbed at anyone who came near him. Jesus must have been born about the thirty-fourth year of Herod’s reign. Two years before the entry of Mary into the Temple, just seventeen years before the Birth of Christ, Herod ordered that work should be done in the Temple. 107107 Josephus tells us (Ant., XV, xi, I) that Herod began the rebuilding of the Temple in his eighteenth year, i.e. 20-19 B.C., and that work continued for one and a half years (ib., 6). The Gospel ( John 2.20), referring to the beginning of Our Lord’s ministry, A.D. 29, mentions forty-six years of the Temple, which would give the date 17 B.C., perhaps, for its completion. Perhaps AC’s “seventeen years before the birth of Christ” can be understood as 17 B.C., but there is a slight confusion here. (SB) It was not a rebuilding of the Temple, but alterations and embellishments were made here and there. The Flight into Egypt took place when Christ was nine months old, and the Massacre of the Innocents was in His second year.
[She mentioned, in addition, many other things—incidents, features, and journeys—from Herod’s life, which showed how clearly she saw everything, but it was impossible to collect and arrange these very numerous communications, some of which she recounted only in fragments.]
The Birth of Christ occurred in a year which the Jews reckoned as having thirteen months. This must have been some such arrangement as our leap-years. 108108 The twelve Hebrew lunar months (of alternatively twenty-nine and thirty days) gave a year of 354 days, so that every few years an error accumulated which was corrected by the insertion after the twelfth month, Adar, of a thirteenth or intercalary month, called Second Adar. The need for this intercalation was, at the time of Christ, still determined empirically, in such a way that the celebration of the Pasch at the full moon or fourteenth day of the first month, Nisan, should always occur after the spring equinox (Mar. 21st). The intercalary month was of the same length as the other months, running from new moon to new moon. (Cf. Schürer, The Jewish People in the Time of Christ, I, ii, 369 sqq.) AC herself admitted the likelihood of confusion on her part about this technical matter. (SB) I think I have forgotten something about the Jews having months of twenty-one and twenty-two days twice a year. I heard something about feast-days connected with this, but have only a dim recollection of it all. I also saw how at different times something was altered in their calendar. It was after their coming out of a captivity, and the Temple was being added to at the same time. I saw the man who altered the calendar and I knew his name. [Here she tried to remember and said in her how German dialect with a smiling pretence of impatience, ‘I can’t remember the fellow’s name’.] I think Christ was born in the month Kislev. 109109 Kislev was the ninth month, corresponding approximately to our Nov./Dec., and according to AC (infra, p. 119 ) Christ was born on the 12th Kislev, which that year was Nov. 25th. (SB) The reason why the Church keeps the feast exactly a month later than the actual event is because at one time, when an alteration in the calendar was made, some days and seasons were completely omitted. 110110 The calendar was adjusted in 1582, when by order of Pope Gregory XIII ten days were omitted, so that the day following Oct. 4th in that year was Oct. 15th, and thus the spring equinox was restored to Mar. 21st. The ten days’ error was the accumulation since the previous adjustment at Nicaea in A.D. 325 (cf. Breviary, De Anno et ejus partibus). (SB) I once saw it very plainly, but can no longer recall it properly.
9. THE ADORATION OF THE SHEPHERDS.
[Sunday, November 25 th (morning):] In the early dawn after Christ’s Birth the three chief shepherds came from their hill to the Cave of the Nativity with their presents, which they had gathered together beforehand. These presents were little animals not unlike roe-deer. If they were kids, those in that country look very different from ours here at home. They had long necks, very clear beautiful eyes, and were very swift and graceful. The shepherds led them behind and beside them on long, thin cords. The shepherds also had strings of dead birds hanging over their shoulders, and carried some bigger live birds under their arms. When they knocked shyly at the door of the cave, St. Joseph came towards them with a friendly greeting. They told him what the angel had announced to them that night, and how they were come to worship the Child of the Promise and to present their poor gifts to him. Joseph took their gifts with humble gratitude, and made them take the animals into the little chamber the entrance of which is by the southern door of the cave. Then he accompanied them into the cave itself, and led the three shepherds up to the Blessed Virgin, who was sitting on the coverlet on the ground by the Crib, holding the Child Jesus before her on her lap. The shepherds, holding their staffs in their hands, threw themselves humbly on their knees before Jesus, weeping for joy. They remained a long time speechless with bliss and then sang the angels’ hymn of praise which they had heard in the night, and a psalm which I have forgotten. When they got up to go away, the Blessed Virgin put the little Jesus into their arms one after the other. They gave Him back to her with tears and left the cave.
[Sunday, November 25 th (evening): During the whole day Catherine Emmerich was in great distress of body and mind. She had hardly fallen asleep in the evening when she at once felt herself transported to the Promised Land. During this year she had been also contemplating the first year of Christ’s ministry, and particularly His forty-days’ fast, and she exclaimed in childlike wonder: ‘What a moving sight! On one side I see Jesus as a man thirty years of age fasting and tempted in a cave in the wilderness, and on the other I see Him as a newborn child in the Cave of the Nativity, adored by the shepherds from the shepherds’ tower.’ After these words the visionary rose from her couch with astonishing rapidity, ran to the open door of her room and called in an ecstasy of joy to some friends who were in the outer room: ‘Come quickly, quickly to adore the Child, He is in my room.’ She returned as rapidly to her couch, and began, quivering with rapture and devotion, to sing in a clear, inexpressibly moving voice the Magnificat, Gloria in Excelsis, and some other unknown hymns of praise. These were simple but profound and were partly in rhyme. In one hymn she sang second. She was in an unusually joyful and excited mood and said next morning:]
Yesterday evening several shepherds and shepherdesses and children from the Shepherds’ Tower, which is four hours away, came to the Crib with presents. They brought eggs, birds, honey, woven stuffs of different colors, little bunches of what looked like raw silk, and bushes of a rush-like shrub with big leaves and ears full of thick grains. After handing their presents to St. Joseph, they came up humbly to the Crib, beside which the Blessed Virgin sat. They greeted her and the Child, and then, kneeling round her, they sang some lovely hymns, the Gloria in Excelsis, and a few short verses. I sang with them; they sang in parts. In one of the hymns I sang second. I remember the words more or less: ‘O little child, red as a rose, like a herald you come forth.’ When they made their farewell, they bent over the Crib as though they were kissing the Infant Jesus.
10. THE SHEPHERDS ASSIST ST. JOSEPH. ESSENE WOMEN RENDER SERVICE TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN.
[November 26 th:] Today I saw the three shepherds taking it in turns to help St. Joseph to arrange things more comfortably in the cave, round about it and in the side caves. I also saw several devout women with the Blessed Virgin, assisting her in various ways. These women were Essenes, and lived not far from the cave, as you went round to the east of the hill. They lived near each other in the deep part of the valley, in little chambers high up in the rock at a place where the hill had broken away. They had small gardens beside their dwellings and gave lessons to children belonging to their sect. St. Joseph had asked them to come; he knew this community since his childhood, for when as a boy he bid himself from his brothers in the Cave of the Nativity, he sometimes visited these pious women in their rock-dwellings. They took it in turns to come to the Blessed Virgin, bringing her bundles of wood and other small necessities, and cooking and washing for the Holy Family.
11. THE DONKEY KNEELS BEFORE JESUS. ST. ANNE’S MAID FROM NAZARETH COMES TO MARY.
[November 27 th:] Today I saw a very touching scene in the cave. Joseph and Mary were standing by the Crib, looking at the Infant Jesus with great devotion, when the donkey threw himself suddenly on his knees and bent his head down to the ground. Mary and Joseph wept. In the evening came messengers from Anna, the Blessed Virgin’s holy mother. An elderly man and Anna’s maidservant, a widow who was related to her, arrived from Nazareth. [Please see Figure 16.] They brought all kinds of little things which Mary needed. They were greatly moved at seeing the Infant, and the old manservant wept tears of joy. He soon started home again to bring Anna news. The maidservant remained with the Blessed Virgin.
Figure 16. Saint Anne's maid.
12. THE BLESSED VIRGIN HIDES FROM EMISSARIES OF HEROD.
[November 28 th:] Today I saw the Blessed Virgin with the Infant Jesus and the maidservant leaving the cave for several hours. I saw that after coming out of the door she turned to the right under the projecting thatched roof, then took a few steps and hid herself in the side cave. This was the cave where the fountain of water sprang up at Christ’s birth and was captured by Joseph. She remained four hours in this cave, but later she spent a few days there. Joseph had been there at dawn to make a few arrangements for her comfort. They were given an inner warning to go there, for today there came to the cave from Bethlehem some men, emissaries of Herod, I think, because of the rumor, spread abroad by the shepherds’ talk, that some wonderful thing had happened there connected with a child. I saw these men exchanging a few remarks with St. Joseph, whom they met in front of the Cave of the Nativity in the company of the shepherds. When they saw how poor and simple he was, they left him with supercilious smiles. The Blessed Virgin remained with the Infant Jesus about four hours in the side-cave, and then returned to the Crib. The Cave of the Nativity is pleasantly situated and very quiet. No one comes here from Bethlehem, except the shepherds whose duties bring them here. In general no one in Bethlehem pays any attention to what happens out here, for owing to the many strangers there is a great press of people coming and going in the town. There is much buying and slaughtering of beasts, as many of the people present pay their taxes with beasts. There are also many heathen there, who work as servants.
[This evening Catherine Emmerich said suddenly in her sleep: ‘Herod has had a pious man murdered who had an important post in the Temple. He invited him most warmly to visit him at Jericho and had him murdered on the way. He was opposed to Herod’s pretensions regarding the Temple. In spite of Herod being accused of this murder, his power over the Temple increases.’ She again insisted that Herod had appointed two of his natural sons to high places in the Temple; that these were Sadducees and that they betrayed to him everything that went on there.]
13. THE ANGEL’S APPEARANCE TO THE SHEPHERDS HAS BECOME WIDESPREAD.
[November 29 th:] Early this morning the friendly innkeeper from the last inn, in which the Holy Family spent the night from November 22 nd-23 rd, sent a servant with presents to the cave, and in the course of the day he came himself to worship the Child. The appearance of the angels to the shepherds in the hour of Christ’s Birth has made the story of the wonderful Child of the Promise known to all good folk here in the valleys, and these people have come to worship the Child whom they had sheltered unknown to themselves.
14. MANY PEOPLE VISIT THE CHILD JESUS ON THE WAY TO BETHLEHEM. JOSEPH PAWNS THE SHE-ASS.
[November 30 th:] Today several shepherds and other good people came to the Cave of the Nativity and worshipped the Infant Jesus with great fervor. They were dressed in their best and were on their way to Bethlehem for the Sabbath. Among these people I saw the surly shepherd’s good wife, who had given shelter to the Holy Family on November 20 th. She might have taken a more direct road from her home to go to Jerusalem for the Sabbath, but she made a detour by Bethlehem in order to pay respect to the Holy Child and His dear parents. The good woman was full of happiness at having shown them loving-kindness. Today, I also saw St. Joseph’s relations, near whose dwelling the Holy Family had passed the night of November 22 nd, come to the cave and greet the Child. Among them was the father of that Jonadab who at the Crucifixion brought Jesus a cloth to cover His nakedness. He had heard from the innkeeper of his village about Joseph’s journey through the place and about the wonderful happenings at the birth of the Child, and had come here with presents for Him on his way to the Sabbath at Bethlehem. He greeted Mary and worshipped the Infant Jesus. Joseph was very friendly with him; he accepted nothing from him, but gave him the young she-ass (who had been running free with them) as a pledge, on condition that he could redeem her on repayment of the money. Joseph needed the money to pay for the presents and the meal at the circumcision ceremony. After Joseph had finished this business and everybody had gone to the synagogue in Bethlehem, he hung up in the cave the Sabbath lamp with seven wicks, lit it, and put beneath it a table covered with a red-and-white cloth on which lay prayer-scrolls. Here under the lamp he celebrated the eve of the Sabbath, reciting prayers with the Blessed Virgin and Anna’s maidservant. 111111 The ritual of lighting the Sabbath lamp on Friday evening is described in the Mishnah, Shabbath, II, 5-7; III, 6. The Mosaic prohibition of making fire on the Sabbath is in Exod. 35.3. (SB) Two shepherds stood farther back in the entrance of the cave. The Essene women were also present, and afterwards they prepared the meal. Today, the eve of the Sabbath, the Essene women and the maidservant prepared several dishes for the next day. I saw the plucked and cleaned birds being roasted on a spit over the glowing embers. While roasting them they rolled them in a kind of flour made by pounding grains which grew in the ears of a rush-like plant. This plant grows wild only in damp, marshy places in that country and on the sunny side. In some places it is cultivated. It grows wild near Bethlehem and Hebron, but I never saw it near Nazareth. The shepherds of the tower had brought some of it to Joseph. I saw them making the grains into a thick shiny white paste, and they also baked cakes with the flour. I saw open holes under the fireplace, very hot, where they baked cakes as well as birds and other things. They kept for themselves very little of the many provisions given by the shepherds to St. Joseph. Most of it went as presents and as food for others, especially for the poor. Tomorrow evening, during the meal at the circumcision ceremony, there will be a great distribution.
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