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The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary
by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich


I had a detailed vision of the ancestors of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin. They lived at Mara in the region of Mount Horeb, and were connected spiritually with a kind of very devout Israelites of whom I have seen a great deal. I will relate as much as I can recall about them. I was with these people almost the whole of yesterday, and if I had not been oppressed by so many visits, I should not have forgotten nearly all of what I saw.

These devout Israelites who were connected with the ancestors of St. Anne were called Essenes or Essaees. They have, however, changed their name three times, for they were first called Eskarenes, then Chasidaees, and finally Essenes. Their first name, Eskarenes, came from the word Eskara or Azkara, which is the name for the part of the sacrifice belonging to God, and also for the sweet-smelling incense at the offering of wheaten flour. [6] The second name, Chasidaees, means merciful. [7] I cannot remember what the name Essenes comes from. [8] The way of life of these devout people is an inheritance from the time of Moses and Aaron and in particular from the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant; but it was not until the period between Isaiah and Jeremiah that their way of life was regularly established. At the beginning there were not many of them; later on, however, their settlements in the Promised Land occupied a space twenty-four hours' journey long and thirty-six hours' journey broad. They did not come to the region of the Jordan until later; they lived mostly on the slopes of Mount Horeb and Mount Carmel, the home of Elijah.

In the lifetime of St. Anne's grandparents, the Essenes had a spiritual head who lived on Mount Horeb. He was an aged prophet called Archos or Arkas. [9] Their organization was very like that of a religious order. All who wished to enter it had to undergo a year's tests, and the length of time for which they were accepted was decided by prophetic inspirations from above. The real members of the Order, who lived in a community, did not marry but lived in chastity; but there were others (who had formerly been in the Order or were attached to it) who married and carried out in their families, and with their children and household, something similar in many ways to the traditional discipline of the real Essenes. Their relation ship with these was like that between the lay members of a Catholic Third Order, or Tertiaries, and the professed priests of the Order. In all important matters, especially as to the marriages of their relations, these married Essenes always sought instruction and counsel from the aged prophet on Mount Horeb. St. Anne's grandparents belonged to this kind of married Essenes.

Later there arose a third kind of Essenes who exaggerated everything and fell into great errors, and I saw that the others would have no dealings with them.

The real Essenes were specially concerned with prophetic matters, and their head on Mount Horeb was often vouchsafed divine revelations in the cave of Elijah respecting the coming of the Messiah. He had knowledge of the family from which the mother of the Messiah was to come, and at the time that he gave prophetic advice to the grandparents of St. Anne in matters of marriage, he saw that the day of the Lord was approaching. He did not, however, know how long the birth of the Savior's mother might still be prevented or delayed by sin, and so he was always preaching penance, mortification, prayer, and inner sacrifice for this intention--pious exercises of which all Essenes had ever given the example.

Until Isaiah assembled these people together and gave them a more regular organization, they were scattered about the land of Israel, leading lives of piety and intent on mortification They wore their clothes without mending them till they fell off their bodies. They fought particularly against sexual immorality, and often by mutual consent lived in continence for long periods, living in huts far removed from their wives. When they lived together as husband and wife, it was only with the intention of producing a holy offspring which might bring nearer the coming of the Savior. I saw them eating apart from their wives; the wife came to take her meal after the husband had left the table. There were ancestors of St. Anne and of other holy people among these early Essenes.

Jeremiah too was connected with them, and the men called Sons of the Prophet' came from them. They often lived in the desert and round Mount Horeb and Carmel, and later I saw many of them in Egypt. I also saw that for a time they were driven away from Mount Horeb by war and were reassembled by new leaders. The Maccabees also belonged to them. They had a great devotion to Moses, and possessed a sacred piece of his clothing given by him to Aaron, from whom it had come down to them. This was their most precious relic, and I had a vision of some fifteen of them being killed in defending it. Their prophet leaders had knowledge of the secret mysteries of the Ark of the Covenant.

The real Essenes who lived in chastity were indescribably pure and devout. They adopted children and brought them up to lead a very holy life. To be accepted as a member of the regular Order, a boy had to have reached the age of fourteen. Those who had been already tested had to undergo a year's novitiate, others two years. They did not carry on any form of trade, but exchanged the produce of their agriculture for whatever else they needed. If one of them had committed a grave sin, he was expelled from among them and excommunicated by their head. This excommunication had the force of that pronounced by Peter against Ananias, who was struck dead by it. Their head knew by prophetic inspiration who had committed sin. I also saw some Essenes undergoing penitential punishment; they were obliged to stand in a stiff robe with their arms extended immovably in sleeves lined with thorns.

Mount Horeb was full of little caves, which formed the cells where they lived. An assembly hall of light wattlework had been built onto the mouth of one of the large caves. Here they came together at eleven o'clock in the morning and ate. Each had a small loaf of bread in front of him with a goblet. The head went from place to place and blessed each one's bread. After the meal they returned to their separate cells. In this assembly hall there was an altar on which stood little blessed loaves covered up; they were in some way sacred, and were, I think, distributed among the poor.

The Essenes had a great number of doves, which were tame and ate out of their hands. They ate doves, but also used them in their ritual ceremonies. They said something over them and let them fly away. I saw, too, that they released lambs in the desert after saying something over them, as if they were to take their sins on them. [10]

I saw them go three times a year to the Temple in Jerusalem. They had also priests among them whose special duty was the care of the sacred vestments; they cleaned them, contributed money for them, and also made new ones. I saw them engaged in cattle breeding and agriculture, but specially in gardening. Mount Horeb was full of gardens and fruit trees in the spaces between their huts. I saw many of them weaving and plaiting, and also embroidering priests' vestments. I did not see them producing silk; that came in bundles to be sold to them, and they exchanged other produce for it.

In Jerusalem they had a quarter of their own to live in and a separate place in the Temple as well. The other Jews rather disliked them because of their austerity. I saw, too, that they sent presents to the Temple; for example, great bunches of grapes, carried by two people on a pole. They also sent lambs, but not to be slaughtered; I think they just let them run into a garden. I did not see the real Essenes offering bloody sacrifices in these later times. I saw that before they journeyed to the Temple they made a very rigorous preparation by prayer, fasting, and penance, including even scourgings. If one laden with sins went to the Temple and to the Holy of Holies without having made atonement by penance, he usually died on the spot. If on their journey, or in Jerusalem itself, they found anyone who was ill or in any way helpless, they did not go to the Temple until they had given him all the aid in their power.

I saw that, in general, they employed themselves in healing. They gathered herbs and prepared potions. I saw also that those holy people whom I had seen some time before laying sick folk down on a bed of healing plants were Essenes. [11] I saw, too, that the Essenes healed the sick by the laying on of hands, or by stretching themselves on them with arms extended. I saw them also healing at a distance in a wonderful way, for the sick who could not come themselves sent a representative to whom everything was done as it would have been to the sick person. The time was noted, and the distant sick person was cured at that very hour.

I saw that the Essenes on Horeb had in their caves recesses in the walls where bones, carefully wrapped in cotton and silk, were kept as sacred relics behind gratings. They were bones of prophets who had lived here, and also of the children of Israel who had died near here. There were little pots of green plants standing beside them. The Essenes used to light lamps and pray before the bones in veneration of them.

ll the unmarried Essenes who lived together in communities on Mount Horeb and elsewhere observed the greatest cleanliness. They wore long white robes. The head of the Essenes on Horeb wore wonderful priestly vestments during solemn religious services, after the manner of the high priest in Jerusalem, only shorter and not so magnificent. When he prayed and prophesied in the cave of Elijah on Mount Horeb, he always wore these sacred vestments, which consisted of about eight pieces. Amongst them was a very sacred relic, a sort of dalmatic or scapular, covering the breast and shoulders, which Moses had worn next to his body and had given to Aaron, from whom it had later descended to the Essenes. The prophet Archos, their head on Mount Horeb, always wore this dalmatic next his body when he was clothed in all his vestments and was praying for prophetic enlightenment. The lower part of his body was wrapped in a loincloth, while breast and shoulders were covered with this sacred garment, which I will describe as exactly as I can remember. It will probably be clearer if I cut out a sort of pattern of it in paper. [She then quickly cut the shape, shown in Figure 1, out of paper put together, saying:] This sacred scapulary had more or less this shape when spread out. Its stuff was woven as stiff as haircloth. On the middle of the breast and back was a triangular place of double thickness and as it were quilted. I cannot now say for certain what was between the layers. At the neck hole, part I, of the scapulary, a triangular piece was cut from A to B, and a ribbon or little strap ran across the top of the opening. Its lower point, B, was still attached to the scapulary, and the triangle could be let down to hide completely another opening over the breast. This other opening was cut from C to D, and below triangle E, was the place of the double thickness mentioned above. It was ribbed or quilted, and letters were fastened into it with little pins and on the inside with sharp little hooks sticking out and pricking the breast. On the cut-out triangle (which was also of double thickness) at the neck there was also something like letters. I do not now know what was inside these triangles. When the priest put on this sacred vestment, the upper triangle exactly covered the lower one. In the middle of the back there was another place, F, where the stuff was quilted and of two thicknesses, and here, too, there were letters and sharp pins.

Figure 1. Pattern of a sacred Essene scapular which Moses had once worn.

Over his scapulary the head of the Essenes wore a gray woolen tunic, and on this again a large full tunic made of white twisted silk, girt with a broad belt inscribed with letters. He had a kind of stole round the neck, crossed over the breast, and it was held fast under the girdle and hung down below his knees. The stole was fastened with three straps above and below the place where it was crossed. On this he put a vestment not unlike a chasuble, which was also made of white twisted silk. [She cut out a pattern of this vestment, shown in Figure 2, as it looked when spread out. Please refer to Figure 2, part II.] The back side, A, was narrow and came down to the ground; it had two bells attached to the lower hem, which tinkled with the priest's movements and called the people to the service. The front side, B, was shorter and broader and open from the neck hole, C, downwards. This front part had large openings, E, on the breast and below it, through which the stole and undergarment could be seen. These openings were held together in places by fastenings ornamented with letters and precious stones, D. The front and back of this vestment were held together by strips of stuff under the arms. [These were not shown in the pattern which she cut out.] Round the neck was an upright collar, hooked together in front. The priest's beard, divided in the middle of the chin, fell down over this collar.

Figure 2. Patterns of an Essene sacred silk vestment and cloak.

Over all this he finally put on a little cloak [Figure 2, part III] of white twisted silk. [Please refer to Figure 3 for a depiction of the full outfit.] It shimmered and shone and was fastened in front with three clasps ornamented with precious stones on which something was engraved. From both shoulders of his cloak there were fringes, tassels, and fruits hanging. Besides all this, he wore a short maniple on one arm. The headdress was, as far as I can remember, also of white silk, twisted into a round shape and padded, like a turban, yet resembling our priests' birettas to a certain extent, for at the top it had ridges like theirs and also a tuft of silk. A little plate of gold set with precious stones was fastened over the forehead.

The Essenes were very austere and frugal in their way of living. They generally ate only fruit, which they often cultivated in their gardens. I saw that Archos usually ate a bitter yellow fruit. About 200 years before Christ's birth I saw near Jericho a very devout Essene called Chariot.

Archos or Arkas, the old prophet on Mount Horeb, ruled over the Essenes for ninety years. I saw how St. Anne's grandmother questioned him about her own marriage. It is remarkable that it was always about female children that these prophets made predictions, and that Anna's ancestors and Anna herself had mostly daughters. It was as if the object of all their devotion and prayers was to obtain from God a blessing on pious mothers from whose descendants the Blessed Virgin, the mother of the Savior Himself, should spring, as well as the families of His precursor and of His servants and disciples.

Figure 3. Head of the Essenes in sacred vestments.

The place where the head of the Essenes on Mount Horeb prayed and prophesied was the cave where Elijah had dwelt. Many steps led to it up the mountain-side, and one entered the cave through a small cramped opening and down a few steps. The prophet Archos went in alone. For the Essenes this was as if the high priest in the Temple went into the Sanctissimum, for here was their Holy of Holies. Within there were several mysterious holy things, difficult to describe. I will tell what I can remember of them. I saw Anna's grandmother seeking counsel from the prophet Archos.

Anna's grandmother came from Mara in the desert, where her family, which belonged to the married Essenes, owned property. Her name sounded to me like Moruni or Emorun. It was told me that this means something like good mother' or noble mother'. [12] When the time came for her to be married, she had several suitors, and I saw her go to the prophet Archos on Horeb for him to decide whom she was to accept. She went into a separate part of the large assembly hall and spoke to Archos, who was in the hall, through a grating, as if she were making her confession to him. It was Only in this way that women approached the place. I then saw Archos put on his ceremonial vestments, and ascend thus arrayed the many steps to the top of Mount Horeb, where he entered the cave of Elijah by the little door and down the steps. He shut the little door of the cave behind him, and opened a hole in the vaulting dimly illuminating the cave, the interior of which had been carefully hollowed out. Against the wall I saw a little altar carved out of the rock, and noticed, though not quite clearly, several sacred objects on it. On the altar were several pots with low-growing bushes of herbs. They were the herbs which grow as high as the hem of Jesus' garment. [13] I know this herb; it grows with us but less vigorously. The plants gave Archos some sort of indication in his prophetic knowledge according to whether they faded or flourished. In the middle between these little bushes of herbs I saw something like a little tree, taller than them, with leaves that looked yellowish and were twisted like snail shells. There seemed to me to be little figures on this tree. I cannot now say for certain whether this tree was living or was artificial, like the Tree of Jesse. [On the next day she said:] On this little tree with the twisted leaves could be seen, as on a tree of Jesse or genealogical table, how soon the coming of the Blessed Virgin was to be expected. It looked to me as if it were living and yet it seemed also to be a receptacle, for I saw that a blossoming branch was kept inside it. I think it was Aaron's rod, which had once been in the Ark of the Covenant. When Archos prayed in the cave of Elijah for a revelation on the occasion of a marriage among the Blessed Virgin's ancestors, he took this rod of Aaron into his hand. If the marriage was destined to take its place in the Blessed Virgin's ancestry, the rod put forth a bud which produced one or more flowers, among which single flowers were sometimes marked with the sign of the elect. Certain buds represented particular ancestors of Anna, and when these came to be married, Archos observed the buds in question and uttered his prophecies according to the manner in which they unfolded.

The Essenes of Mount Horeb had, however, another holy relic in the cave of Elijah; nothing less than a part of the most holy mystery of the Ark of the Covenant which came into their possession when the Ark fell into the hands of enemies. [She spoke here uncertainly of a quarrel and of a schism among the Levites.] This holy thing, concealed in the Ark of the Covenant in the fear of God, was known only to the holiest of the high priests and to a few prophets, but I think that I learnt that it is in some way mentioned in the little-known secret books of the old Jewish thinkers. [14] It was no longer complete in the new Ark of the Covenant in the Temple as restored by Herod. It was no work of man's hands, it was a mystery, a most holy secret of the divine blessing on the coming of the Blessed Virgin full of grace, in whom by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost the Word became Flesh and God became Man. Before the Babylonian captivity this holy thing had been whole in the Ark of the Covenant; I now saw part of it here in the possession of the Essenes. It was kept in a chalice of shining brown, which seemed to me to be made of a precious stone. They prophesied, too, with the help of this holy thing, which seemed sometimes to put forth as it were little buds.

Archos, after entering the cave of Elijah, shut the door and knelt down in prayer. He looked up to the opening in the vaulting and threw himself face downwards on the ground. I then saw the prophetic knowledge that was given to him. He saw that from under the heart of Emorun, who was seeking his counsel, there grew as it were a rose tree with three branches, with a rose on each of them. The rose on the second branch was marked with a letter, I think an M. He saw still more. An angel wrote letters on the wall; I saw Archos rise up as if awaking and read these letters. I forget the details. He then went down from the cave, and announced to the maiden who was awaiting his answer that she was to marry and that her sixth suitor was to be her husband. She would bear a child, marked with a sign, who was chosen out as a vessel of election in preparation for the coming of the Savior.

Hereupon Emorun married her sixth suitor, an Essene called Stolanus; he did not come from Mara, and as a result of his marriage and of his wife's possessions he was given another name, which I can no longer remember distinctly; it was pronounced in different ways and sounded like Garescha or Sarziri. [15] Stolanus and Emorun had three daughters, called, I remember, Ismeria and Emerentia, and a younger one whose name, I think, was Enue. They did not remain long at Mara, but moved later to Ephron. I saw that their daughters Ismeria and Emerentia both married in accordance with the prophetic counsels of the prophet on Horeb. (I can never understand why I have so often heard that Emerentia was the mother of Anna, for I always saw that it was Ismeria.) I will tell in God's name what I still have in my mind about these daughters of Stolanus and Emorun. [16]

Emerentia married one Aphras or Ophras, a Levite. Of this marriage was born Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. A second daughter was named Enue like her mother's sister. At the time of Mary's birth she was already a widow. There was a third daughter, Rhoda, one of whose daughters was Mara, whom I saw present at the death of the Blessed Virgin.

Ismeria married Eliud. They lived after the manner of the married Essenes in the region of Nazareth. They had inherited from their parents the tradition of discipline and continence in married life. Anna was one of their children. The firstborn of Ismeria and Eliud was a daughter called Sobe. Because this child did not bear the sign of the promise, they were much distressed and again went to the prophet on Mount Horeb to seek counsel. Archos exhorted them to betake themselves to prayer and sacrifice, and promised them consolation. After Sobe's birth, Ismeria remained barren for some eighteen years. When she again became pregnant by God's blessing, I saw that Ismeria was given a revelation at night. She saw an angel beside her bed writing a letter on the wall. It seems to me that it was again that letter M. Ismeria told her husband of it; he also had seen it in his sleep, but now, while awake, they both saw the sign on the wall. After three months Ismeria gave birth to St. Anne, who came into the world with that sign upon her body.

In her fifth year Anna was, like the Blessed Virgin, taken to the school in the Temple, where she remained twelve years. She was brought home again in her seventeenth year, to find two children there--her little sister Maraha, who had been born while she was away, and a little son of her elder sister Sobe called Eliud. A year after this Ismeria fell mortally ill. As she lay dying she spoke to all her relations and presented Anna to them as the future mistress of the house. Then she spoke once more with Anna alone, telling her that she was a chosen vessel of grace, that she must marry, and must seek counsel from the prophet on Mount Horeb. Then she died.

Sobe, Anna's elder sister, was married to Salomo. Besides her son Eliud she had a daughter, Mary Salome, who married Zebedee and was the mother of the apostles James and John. Sobe had a second daughter who was an aunt of the bridegroom of Cana and the mother of three disciples. Eliud, the son of Sobe and Salomo, was the second husband of the widow Maroni of Naim and the father of the boy raised by Jesus from the dead.

Maraha, Anna's younger sister, was given the homestead in Sephoris when her father Eliud moved to the valley of Zabulon. She married and had a daughter and two sons, Arastaria and Cocharia, who became disciples. Anna had yet a third sister who was very poor and was the wife of a shepherd on Anna's pastures. She was often in Anna's house.

Enue, the third daughter of Stolanus, married and lived between Bethlehem and Jericho. One of her descendants was with Jesus.

Anna's great grandfather was a prophet. Eliud, her father, was of the tribe of Levi; her mother Ismeria was of the tribe of Benjamin. [17] Anna was born at Bethlehem, but afterwards her parents moved to Sephoris, four hours from Nazareth, where they had a house and land. They also owned land in the beautiful valley of Zabulon, one and a half hours from Sephoris and three hours from Nazareth. In the fine season of the year Anna's father was often with his family in the valley of Zabulon, [18] and after his wife's death he moved there altogether. This led to the connection with the parents of Joachim, whom Anna married. Joachim's father was called Matthat [19] and was the stepbrother of Jacob (father of St. Joseph) and of Joses. Matthat had settled in the valley of Zabulon.

I saw Anna's ancestors helping to carry the Ark of the Covenant with great devotion and piety, and I saw also that they received from the holy thing therein rays of light which extended to their descendants, to Anna and the Blessed Virgin. Anna's parents were rich. This was clear to me because of their possessions; they had many oxen; but they kept nothing for themselves alone, they gave everything to the poor. I saw Anna as a child; she was not particularly beautiful, but yet more so than others. She was far less beautiful than Mary, but remarkably simple and childlike in her piety; I have always seen her like that, whether as girl, mother, or old, old woman. Indeed, whenever I saw a real childlike old peasant woman, it always made me think she is like Anna'. She had several other brothers and sisters, all married, but she did not wish to marry. She was particularly fond of her parents, and though she had at least six suitors, she rejected them all. After taking counsel, like her ancestors with the Essenes, she was directed to marry Joachim, whom she did not yet know, but who sought her in marriage when her father Eliud moved to the valley of Zabulon, the home of Joachim's father Matthat.


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