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XVI. THE PURIFICATION OF MARY 142142     Luke 2.22-39. (SB)

The days being nearly fulfilled when the Blessed Virgin must, according to the Law, present and redeem her firstborn in the Temple, 143143     The laws about ‘Purification’ and offerings after childbirth are in Lev. 12.4-8, and the ‘sanctification’ of the first-born is directed in Exod. 13.2 and Num. 3.13. (SB) all was prepared for the Holy Family’s journey first to the Temple and then to their home in Nazareth. On the evening of Sunday, December 30 th, the shepherds had been given everything left behind by Anna’s servants. The Cave of the Nativity, the side-cave, and Maraha’s grave were all completely swept out and emptied. Joseph left them all quite clean. In the night of Sunday, December 30 th, to Monday, December 31 st, I saw Joseph and Mary with the Child visiting the Cave of the Nativity once more and taking leave of that holy place. They spread out the kings’ carpet on Jesus’ birthplace, laid the Child on it and prayed, and finally laid it on the place where He had been circumcised, kneeling down in prayer there, too. At dawn on Monday, December 31 st, I saw the Blessed Virgin mount the donkey, which the old shepherds had brought to the cave all equipped for the journey. Joseph held the Child while she settled herself comfortably; then he laid Him in her lap. She sat sideways on the saddle with her feet on a rather high support, facing backwards. She held the Child on her lap wrapped in her big veil and looked down on Him with an expression of great happiness. There were only a few rugs and small bundles on the donkey. Mary sat between them. The shepherds accompanied them part of their way before taking a moving farewell of them. They did not take the way by which they had come, but went between the Cave of the Nativity and the grave of Maraha, round the east side of Bethlehem. Nobody noticed them.

[January 30 th:] This morning I saw them going very slowly on the short journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem: they must have made many halts. At midday I saw them resting on benches round a fountain with a roof over it. I saw some women coming to the Blessed Virgin and bringing her jugs with balsam and small loaves of bread. The Blessed Virgin’s sacrifice for the Temple hung in a basket at the side of the donkey. This basket had three compartments, two of which were lined with something. These contained fruit. The third was of open wickerwork and a couple of doves could be seen in it. Towards evening I saw them enter a small house beside a large inn about a quarter of an hour from Jerusalem. This was kept by an old childless couple who welcomed them with particular affection. I now know why I mistook Anna’s companions yesterday for the people from an inn in Jerusalem: I had seen them stopping here with these good old people on their way to Bethlehem, when they had no doubt arranged about a lodging for the Blessed Virgin. The old couple were Essenes and related to Joanna Chuza. The husband was a gardener by trade, trimmed hedges, and was employed in work on the road.

[February 1 st:] I saw the Holy Family with these old innkeepers near Jerusalem during the whole of today. The Blessed Virgin was generally alone in her room with the Child, who lay on a rug on a low ledge projecting from the wall. She was praying all the time, and seemed to be preparing herself for the coming ceremony. It was revealed to me at the same time how one should prepare oneself for receiving Holy Communion.

I saw the appearance of a number of holy angels in her room, worshipping the Infant Jesus. I do not know whether the Blessed Virgin also saw these angels, but I think so, because I saw her rapt in contemplation. The good people of the inn did everything possible to please the Blessed Virgin: they must have been aware of the holiness of the Infant Jesus.

About seven o’clock in the evening I had a vision of the aged Simeon. He was a thin, very old man with a short beard. He was an ordinary priest, was married, and had three grown-up sons, the youngest of whom might have been about twenty. I saw Simeon, who lived close to the Temple, going through a narrow dark passage in the Temple walls into a small vaulted cell, built in the thickness of the wall. I saw nothing in this room but an opening through which one could look down into the Temple. I saw the aged Simeon kneeling here rapt in prayer. Then the appearance of an angel stood before him and warned him to take heed of the little child who should be first presented early next morning, for this was the Messiah for whom he had so long yearned. After he had seen Him, he would soon die. I saw this so plainly; the room was illuminated, and the holy old man was radiant with joy. Then I saw him going to his house and telling his wife with great joy what had been announced to him. After his wife had gone to bed, I saw Simeon betake himself to prayer again.

I never saw devout Israelites and their priests praying with such exaggerated gestures as the Jews today. I did, however, see them scourging themselves. I saw the prophetess Anna praying in her cell and having a vision about the Presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple.

[February 2 nd:] This morning, while it was still dark, I saw the Holy Family, accompanied by the people of the inn, leaving the inn and going to Jerusalem to the Temple with the baskets of offerings and with the donkey laden for the journey. They went into a walled courtyard in the Temple. While Joseph and the innkeeper stabled the donkey in a shed, the Blessed Virgin and her Child were kindly received by an aged woman and led into the Temple by a covered passage. A light was carried, for it was still dark. No sooner had they entered this passage than the aged priest Simeon came, full of expectation, towards the Blessed Virgin. After addressing a few friendly words to her, he took the Child Jesus in his arms, pressed Him to his heart, and then hurried back to the Temple by another way. Yesterday’s message from the angel had so filled him with longing to see the Child of the Promise, for whom he had sighed so long, that he had come out here to the place where the women arrived. He was dressed in long garments such as the priests wear when not officiating. I often saw him in the Temple, and always as an aged priest of no elevated rank. His great devoutness, simplicity, and enlightenment alone distinguished him.

The Blessed Virgin was led by her guide to the outer courts of the Temple where the ceremony took place, and she was here received by Noemi, her former teacher, and Anna, who both lived on this side of the Temple. Simeon, who now once more came out of the Temple to meet the Blessed Virgin, led her, with her Child in her arms, to the customary place for the redemption of the firstborn. Anna, to whom Joseph gave the basket with the offerings, followed her with Noemi. The doves were in the lower part of the basket; above them was a compartment with fruit. Joseph went by another door into the place set apart for men.

It must have been known in the Temple that several women were coming for the presentation ceremony, for everything was arranged. The room where the ceremony took place was as big as the parish church here in Dülmen. Many lamps were burning on its walls, forming pyramids of light. The little flames are at the end of a bent tube projecting from a golden disc which shines almost as brightly as the flame. Hanging from this disc by a woven cord is a little extinguisher which is used to put out the light without making any smell and removed again when the lamps are lit.

An oblong chest had been brought out by several priests and set before a kind of altar with what looked like horns at each corner. The doors of this chest were opened to form a stand on which a large tray was laid. This was covered first with a red cloth, and then with a transparent white one, which hung down to the ground on each side. Burning lamps with several branches were placed at the four corners of this table, in the middle of which was an oblong cradle flanked by two oval bowls containing two baskets. All these things had been brought out of drawers in the chest, with priests’ vestments, which were laid on the other permanent altar. The table which had been set up for the offering was surrounded by a railing. On each side of this room were seats, raised one above the other, in which were priests saying prayers.

Simeon now approached the Blessed Virgin, in whose arms the Infant Jesus lay wrapped in a sky-blue covering, and led her through the railing to the table, where she laid the Child in the cradle. From this moment I saw an indescribable light filling the Temple. I saw that God Himself was in it, and above the Child I saw the heavens opening to disclose the Throne of the Holy Trinity. Simeon then led the Blessed Virgin back to the women’s place. Mary wore a pale sky-blue dress, with a white veil, and was completely enveloped in a long yellow cloak. Simeon then went to the permanent altar on which the vestments had been laid out, and he and three other priests vested each other for the ceremony. They had a kind of little shield on their arms, and on their heads were caps divided like miters. One went behind and the other in front of the table of offering, while two others stood at the narrow ends of it praying over the Child. Anna now came up to Mary and handed her the basket of offerings, which contained fruit and doves in two separate compartments, one above the other. She led her to the railing in front of the table, and there both remained standing. Simeon, who was standing before the table, opened the railing, led Mary up to the table, and placed her offering on it. Fruit was placed in one of the oval dishes and coins in the other: the doves remained in the basket. 144144     In 1823, when recounting Jesus’ stay in Hebron during the third year of His ministry, some ten days after the death of the Baptist, Catherine Emmerich said that she saw Our Lord teaching, on Friday the 29th day of the month of Thebet (i.e. Jan. 17th), from the Sabbath reading taken from Exodus, Chapter 10 to Chapter 13.17. He taught about the Egyptian plague of darkness and about the redemption of the first-born. In connection with the latter she recounted once more the whole ceremony of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, including the following, omitted from the description given in the text:‘The Blessed Virgin did not present Our Lord in the Temple until the forty-third day after His birth. Because of the feast, she waited for three days with the good people of the inn outside the Bethlehem gate of Jerusalem. Besides the customary offering of doves, she presented to the Temple five triangular pieces of gold from the kings’ gifts, as well as several pieces of beautiful stuff for embroidery. Before leaving Bethlehem, Joseph sold to his cousin the young she-ass which he had given him in pledge on Nov. 30th. I have always thought that the she-ass, on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, was a descendant of hers.’ (CB) Simeon remained standing with Mary before the table of offering, and the priest who stood behind it lifted the Infant Jesus from the cradle and held Him up towards the different sides of the Temple, making a long prayer the while. He then gave the Child to Simeon, who laid Him once more in Mary’s arms and prayed over her and the Child from a scroll hanging on a stand beside him. Simeon then led the Blessed Virgin back to where Anna was waiting for her in front of the railing, after which Anna took her back to the railed-off women’s enclosure. Here some twenty women were waiting to present their firstborn. Joseph and the other men were standing farther back in the place for men.

The priests at the permanent altar now began a service with incense and prayers. The priests in the seats took part in this service, making gestures, but not such violent ones as the Jews of today. At the close of this ceremony, Simeon came up to where Mary was standing, took the Infant Jesus from her into his arms, speaking long and loudly over Him in raptures of joy and thanking God that He had fulfilled His Promise. He ended with his Nunc Dimittis [ Luke 2.29-32]. After the Presentation Joseph came up, and he and Mary listened with great reverence to Simeon’s inspired words to the Blessed Virgin [ Luke 2.34]. When Simeon had finished speaking, the prophetess Anna was also filled with inspiration, and spoke long and loudly about the Infant Jesus, hailing His Mother as blessed. I saw that those who were present were greatly moved by all this, and the priests, too, seemed to hear something of what was happening; but no sort of disturbance was caused thereby. It seemed as if this loud inspired praying was nothing unusual, as if it often happened, and as if it must all be so. At the same time I saw that the hearts of all the bystanders were much moved, and all showed great reverence to the Child and His Mother. Mary was like a heavenly rose in radiance.

The Holy Family had, in appearance, made the most humble offering; but Joseph gave Anna and the aged Simeon many of the triangular yellow pieces in secret, to be used specially for poor girls who were being brought up in the Temple and could not afford the expense.

I saw the Blessed Virgin and her Child being accompanied by Anna and Noemi back to the outer court, whence they had fetched her, and there they took leave of each other. Joseph was there already with the two people from the inn; he had brought the donkey which carried Mary and the Child, and they started at once on their journey from the Temple through Jerusalem to Nazareth. I did not see the presentation of the other firstborn children that day, but I feel that they were all given a special grace, and that many of them were among the massacred Innocents.

The Presentation must have ended about nine o’clock this morning, for it was at this time that I saw the departure of the Holy Family. That day they traveled as far as Bethoron, where they spent the night at the house which had been the last stopping-place of the Blessed Virgin when she was brought to the Temple thirteen years before. The owner of this house seemed to me to be a schoolteacher. Servants sent by Anna were waiting here for them. They went to Nazareth by a much more direct road than on their way to Bethlehem, when they had avoided all towns and had only stopped at lonely houses. Joseph had left in pledge with his relations the young she ass which had shown him the way on their journey to Bethlehem, for he still intended to return to Bethlehem and build a house in the Shepherds’ Valley. He had spoken to the shepherds about it, and told them that he was taking Mary to her mother only for a time until she should have recovered from the discomfort of her lodging. With this plan in his mind, he had left a good many things with the shepherds. Joseph had a strange kind of money with him; I think he must have been given it by the three kings. Inside his robe he had a kind of pouch, in which he carried a quantity of little thin shining yellow leaves rolled up in each other. Their corners were rounded and something was scratched on them. Judas’ pieces of silver were thicker and tongue-shaped; the whole pieces were rounded at both ends and the half pieces at one end only.

1. A VIEW OF THE THREE HOLY KINGS ON THEIR JOURNEY HOME.

At this time I saw all three kings together again beyond a river. They had a day of rest and kept a feast. At this place there was one big house with several smaller ones. The direction taken by the kings on their way home lies between the road they followed on their journey to Bethlehem and that by which Jesus came out of Egypt in the third year of His ministry. At first they traveled very quickly, but after this resting-place their pace was much slower than when they came. I always saw a shining youth going before them and sometimes talking with them. They left Ur on the right.

2. SIMEON’S DEATH.

[February 3 rd:] Simeon had a wife and three sons, of whom the eldest was about forty and the youngest twenty years old. All three served in the Temple, and were later secret friends of Jesus and His followers. All became disciples of Our Lord, but at different times: before His death or after His ascension. At the Last Supper one of them prepared the Paschal Lamb for Jesus and the Apostles; but these were perhaps grandsons, not sons, of Simeon; I am not sure. Simeon’s sons did much to help the friends of Our Lord at the time of the first persecutions after the Ascension. Simeon was related to Seraphia, who was later given the name Veronica, and also, through her father, to Zechariah.

I saw that Simeon fell ill yesterday immediately on returning home after his prophecy at the Presentation of Jesus, but he spoke very joyfully with his wife and sons. Tonight I saw that today was to be the day of his death. Of the many things I saw I can only remember this much. Simeon, from the couch where he lay, spoke earnestly to his wife and children, telling them of the salvation that was come to Israel and of everything that the angel had announced to him. His joy was touching to behold. Then I saw him die peacefully and heard the quiet lamentation of his family. Many other old priests and Jews were praying round his bed. Then I saw them carry his body into another room. They placed it on a board pierced with holes, and washed it with sponges, holding a cloth over it so that its nakedness could not be seen. The water ran through the board into a copper basin placed beneath it. Then they covered the body with big green leaves, surrounded it with bunches of sweet herbs, and wrapped it in a great cloth in which it was tied up with long bandages like a child in swaddling bands. The body lay so straight and rigid that I thought the bands must have been tied right round the board.

In the evening Simeon was buried. His body was carried to the grave by six men bearing torches. It lay on a board more or less the shape of a body, but surrounded by an edge higher in the middle of its four sides and lower at the corners. The wrapped-up corpse lay on this board without any other covering. The bearers and those who followed them walked quicker than is usual at our burials. The grave was on a hill not very far from the Temple. The door of the sepulcher was set slanting against a little hill. It was walled inside with a strange kind of masonry like that which I saw St. Benedict working at in his first monastery. 145145     In a vision of the life of St. Benedict which Catherine Emmerich had on Feb. 10th, 1820, she saw amongst other things that as a boy he was shown by his teacher how to use colored stones to make all kinds of ornaments and arabesques in the sand of the garden in the manner of the old pavements. Later she saw him, when a hermit, decorating the roof of his cell or cave with a reproduction in rough mosaic of a vision of the Last Judgment. Still later she saw St. Benedict’s followers imitating and extending this form of decoration. After contemplating in its smallest details the whole history and development of his Order from its foundation, she said: ‘Because in the Benedictines the inner spirit became less active and alive than its outer shell, I saw their churches and monasteries becoming too much ornamented and decorated. I thought to myself, that comes from the picture Benedict made in his cell; it has shot up like a weed, and when once this superstructure collapses, it will strike many of them at the same time.’ (CB) The walls, like those in the Blessed Virgin’s cell in the Temple, were decorated with stars and other patterns in colored stones. The little cave in the middle of which they laid the corpse was just large enough to allow them to pass round the body. There were some other funeral customs such as laying various things beside the dead man—coins, little stones, and I think also food, but I am not sure.

3. THE ARRIVAL OF THE HOLY FAMILY AT ST. ANNE’S HOUSE.

In the evening I saw the Holy Family arrive at Anna’s house, which is about half an hour’s distance from Nazareth in the direction of the valley of Zabulon. There was a little family’ festival like the one when Mary left home for the Temple. A lamp was burning above the table. Joachim was dead, and I saw Anna’s second husband as master of the house. Anna’s eldest daughter, Mary Heli, was there on a visit. The donkey was unloaded, for Mary meant to stay here for some time. All were full of joy over the Infant Jesus, but it was a tranquil inner joy; I never saw any of these people giving way to very violent emotions. Some aged priests were there, and all present partook of a light meal. The women ate separately from the men, as is always the custom at meals.

I saw the Holy Family still in Anna’s house a few days later. There are several women there, Mary Heli, Anna’s eldest daughter, with her child Mary Cleophas, a woman from Elizabeth’s home, and the maidservant who was with Mary in Bethlehem. This maidservant did not wish to marry again after the death of her husband, who had not been a good man, and came to Elizabeth at Juttah, where the Blessed Virgin made her acquaintance when she visited Elizabeth before John’s birth. From here this widow came to Anna. Today I saw Joseph in Anna’s house packing many things on donkeys and going in front of the donkeys (of which there were two or three) towards Nazareth, accompanied by the maid.

I cannot remember the details of all that I saw today in Anna’s house, but I must have had a very vivid impression of it all, for while I was there I was in an intense activity of prayer, which is now hardly comprehensible to me. Before I came to Anna’s house I had been in spirit with a young married couple who supported their old mother; they are both mortally ill, and if they do not recover, the mother will perish. I know this poor family, but have had no news of them for a long time. In desperate cases like this I always invoke St. Anne, and when I was in her house today in my vision, I saw, in spite of the season of the year, and though the leaves had all fallen, many pears, plums, and other fruit hanging on the trees in her garden. When I went away I was allowed to pick these, and I took the pears to the young couple who were ill and so cured them. After that I was made to give some to many other poor people, known and unknown to me, who were restored to health by them. No doubt these fruits signified graces obtained through the intercession of St. Anne. I fear that these fruits mean much pain and suffering for me, which always comes after visions in which I pick fruit in the gardens of the saints—this has always to be paid for. Perhaps these souls are under the protection of St. Anne, and are thus entitled to fruit from the garden; or perhaps it happened because, as I have always recognized, she is a patroness in desperate cases.

4. THE WEATHER IN PALESTINE.

[When asked what sort of weather she saw in Palestine at this time of the year, she answered:] I always forget to mention that, because it seems to me all so natural that I always think everyone knows about it. I often see rain and mist, and sometimes a little snow, but this melts at once. I often see leafless trees with fruit still hanging on them. I see several crops in the year, and I see them beginning to harvest in our spring. Now that it is winter I see people going along the roads wrapped up, with their cloaks over their heads.

[February 6 th:] This afternoon I saw the Blessed Virgin going from Anna’s house to Joseph’s house in Nazareth. She was accompanied by her mother, who carried the Infant Jesus. It is a very pleasant walk of half an hour among hills and gardens. Anna sends provisions from her own house to Joseph and Mary in Nazareth. How beautiful is the life of the Holy Family! Mary is at once the mother and the humblest handmaid of the Holy Child and at the same time she is Joseph’s servant. Joseph is her faithful friend and humblest servant. When the Blessed Virgin rocks the Infant Jesus to and fro in her arms, how marvelous to see the all-merciful God, who made the world, allowing Himself out of His great love to be treated like a helpless little child! How dreadful in comparison the coldness and self-will of deceitful and hard-hearted men!

5. CANDLEMAS.

The Feast of Candlemas was represented to me in a great picture, but one very difficult to describe, although I recollect much of what I saw.

I saw a feast being celebrated in the Church, transparent and floating above the earth, as I always am shown the Catholic Church when I am to contemplate it, not as some particular local church, but as the Universal Church itself. I saw this Church filled with choirs of angels surrounding the Most Holy Trinity. Since, however, I saw the Second Person of that Most Holy Trinity being presented and redeemed in the Temple, incarnate in the form of the Infant Jesus and yet present in the Most Holy Trinity, it seemed to me, as it did a short time ago, that the Child Jesus was sitting near me and comforting me at the same time that I saw a vision of the Holy Trinity. I saw the appearance of the Word become Flesh, the Infant Jesus, at my side, connected with the vision of the Trinity as it were by a path of light. I could not say, ‘He is not there, since He is with me’, nor could I say, ‘He is not with me, since He is there’. And yet, in the instant when I had a vivid sensation of the Child Jesus being near me, the representation of the Most Holy Trinity was shown to me, but in a different form from that in which I see it when it is a picture of the Godhead alone.

I saw an altar appear in the center of the Church—not an altar like those in our churches today, but just an altar. On this altar stood a little tree of the same kind as the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden, with broad hanging leaves. Then I saw the Blessed Virgin rise before the altar with the Infant Jesus in her arms as if she had come up out of the earth; and I saw the tree on the altar bow before her and then wither away. And I saw a great angel in priest’s vestments, with only a ring round his head, approach Mary. She gave him the Child, whom he placed on the altar, and in the same moment I saw the Child thus offered up pass into the picture of the Holy Trinity, which I now saw once more in its usual form. I saw, too, that the angel gave the Mother of God a little bright globe surmounted by the figure of a child in swaddling-bands, and that Mary floated with this gift towards the altar. I saw crowds of poor people coming to her from all sides bearing lights: she handed all these lights to the Child on the globe, into whom they passed. And I saw a light and a radiance being thrown by these lights on Mary and the Child, illuminating everything. Mary had a flowing mantle which spread over the whole earth. The picture was then transformed into a festal ceremony.

I think that the withering of the Tree of Knowledge at Mary’s appearance, and the passing of the Child on the altar into the Holy Trinity signified the reunion of mankind with God. That is why I saw all the scattered individual lights handed to the Mother of God and given by her to the Child Jesus: for He was the light enlightening all mankind, in whom alone all the scattered lights became one light to enlighten the whole world, symbolized by the globe, the orb of a king. The lights presented to the Blessed Virgin signified the Blessing of the Candles at today’s feast.


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