Catholic Encyclopedia
Church Fathers
Classics Library
Church Documents
Prayer Requests
Ray of Hope
Social Doctrine

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


[November 25 ^th :] I have already related on Christmas Day how I saw the Birth of Christ being announced to the kings on Christmas night. I saw Mensor and the dark-skinned Seir gazing at the stars from a field in Mensor's country. [114] Everything was prepared for their departure. They were on a pyramid-shaped tower looking through long tubes at the Star of Jacob, which had a tail. The star split asunder before their eyes, and I saw a great shining virgin appear therein, before whom a radiant child hovered in the air. At his right hand a branch grew forth, bearing, like a flower, a little tower with several entrances. This tower was finally transformed into a city. I cannot remember the picture completely. Immediately after seeing this picture they both started off. Theokeno, the third king, lived a few days' journey farther to the east. He saw the same star-picture in the same hour, and set off at once in great haste in order to overtake his two friends quickly, which he succeeded in doing.

[November 26 ^th:] I went to sleep with a great longing to be with the Mother of God in the Cave of the Nativity, and to be given by her the Infant Jesus to hold in my arms for a little and to press Him to my heart. I did come there, at night. Joseph was asleep behind his partition to the right of the entrance, his head resting on his right arm. Mary sat at her usual place beside the Crib; she was awake, and held the Infant Jesus to her breast under her veil. When she sat watching in the daytime, a piece of her coverlet was rolled up to make a pillow behind her back as a support; now, at night, she lay back on her couch so that her head was lower. I fell on my knees and prayed with great longing that I might hold the Child for a little. Ah, she knew well what I wanted: she knows everything and accepts everything with such loving, touching sympathy if one prays with real faith; but she was so still, so quiet and so full of adoring mother-love, and she did not give me the Child--I think because she was suckling Him. I would not have either. But my longing increased continually, and joined in the stream of longing of all the souls who yearn for the Infant Jesus. This burning desire for Our Savior was, however, nowhere so pure, innocent, child-like, and true as in the hearts of the beloved holy kings from the East, all of whose ancestors had for centuries waited for Him, in faith, hope, and love. So my longing drew me then to them, and when I had finished my adoration, I crept softly and reverently out of the cave, so as to make no disturbance, and was taken on a long journey, in the train of the three holy kings. On this journey I saw many things--many strange countries and dwellings and many different peoples, their clothes and their manners and customs as well as many idolatrous ceremonies that they performed; but I have forgotten most of it. I will relate as well as I can what still remains clear in my memory.

I was taken eastwards to a region where I had never been before. It was mostly sand and desert. On some of the hills lived people in groups of five to eight, like families, inhabiting huts made of brushwood. The brushwood roof was built against the hill out of which the living-rooms were hollowed. On going in, I saw that the huts were divided into rooms by partitions. The front and back rooms were larger than the central ones. Nothing at all grew in that region but low bushes, and here and there a little tree bearing buds out of which the people pulled white wool. Besides these I saw a few larger trees under which they had placed their idols. These men must have been still in a very wild state, for they seemed to me to eat little but meat, and even the raw flesh of birds. They seemed to live partly by robbery. They were as dark as copper and had foxy yellow hair. They were small, thick-set, and rather fat, but very skilful, agile, and active. They seemed to have no domestic animals and no flocks or herds. They wore, I saw, but little clothing. [Please refer to Figure 17.] The men had short aprons hanging in folds under their girdle before and behind, and wore on their breast a sort of narrow diagonally ribbed scapulary, fastened across the shoulders and round the neck. This narrow breast-covering seemed to be elastic and could be pulled out longer. Their whole back down to the girdle was uncovered except for the strap across the shoulders. On their heads they wore hoods tied round with a band, and having a sort of rosette or knot on the forehead. The women wore short skirts half-way down to the knee; the breast and the lower part of the body was covered with what looked like the front of a jacket, the edge of which came down to the girdle. This garment was closed at the neck with a strip of stuff of the shape and size of a stole; it was scalloped round the shoulders, but plain over the breast. Their head-covering was a cap crowned by a button shaped like a truncated goblet. This cap was drawn down to make a point over the forehead, and covered the ears and part of the cheek. Behind the ears and at the back of the head this cap had loose flaps of stuff between which cushions of hair could be seen. The breast-covering of the women was colored, and was quilted or embroidered with yellow and green designs. It was decorated in front down the middle with buttons and scalloped on the shoulders. The embroidery was rather coarse, as on old vestments. Their upper arms were covered with bracelets.

Figure 17. An Eastern man and woman making wool cords.

These people made blankets or something like them out of the white wool, which they took from the buds of the little trees. Two of them tied a wad of this wool round their bodies, and each walked backwards away from the other, spinning from the wool round the other one's body a very long cord as thick as a finger. These cords they then plaited together to make broad strips. When they had prepared a great number of them, they went in troops, bearing great rolls of these blankets on their heads, to sell them in a town.

Here and there in this region I saw their idols under great trees. They had heads of horned oxen with wide-open mouths, and lower down in their body was a wider opening where fire was lit, to burn the offerings placed in the smaller openings. Round these idol-trees stood little stone pillars on each of which were small figures of other animals, such as birds, dragons, and a figure with three dogs' heads and a coiled snake's tail.

At the beginning of my journey I had the feeling of there being a great piece of water to my right from which I was, however, always going farther away. After I had left the region inhabited by these people, my path continually ascended, and I had to cross a mountain ridge of white sand, covered in many places with all kinds of little broken black stones, like broken pots and dishes. On the farther side of this ridge I came down a valley into a region covered with many trees growing in almost regular rows. There were trees there with scaly trunks and enormous leaves, also pyramid-shaped ones with very big, beautiful flowers; these last had yellowish-green leaves and branches with buds. I also saw trees with quite smooth heart-shaped leaves.

Thereafter I came into a region consisting of wide endless pasture-lands between hills, where there were countless flocks and herds of different kinds. Vines grew on the slopes of the hills, and were cultivated, for there were rows of them on terraces, protected by little wattle fences. The owners of the herds lived in tents with flat roofs; the entrance was closed by a door of light wickerwork. These tents were made of the white woolen stuff woven by the wild people I had seen, but they were covered over with pieces of brownish stuff overlapping each other like scales and hanging down in a shaggy edge. They looked as if they were made of moss or fur. One big tent stood in the middle, and many smaller ones in a wide circle round it. The flocks and herds, divided according to their kind, went out into the wide pastures, interspersed here and there in the distance with expanses of bushes, like low woods. I was able to distinguish herds of very different kinds of animals. I saw sheep with fleeces of long twisted wool and long woolly tails, and also very agile animals with horns like he-goats: these were as big as calves; others were the size of the horses which run wild on our moors at home. I also saw droves of camels and animals like them only with two humps. In one place I saw some elephants in an enclosure, white ones and spotted ones; they were quite tame and were used only for domestic work.

In this vision I was thrice interrupted by having my attention turned in other directions, but I always came back-- though at another time of day--to this picture of pastoral activity. These herds and pasturages seemed to me to belong to one of the kings now on their travels: I think it was Mensor and his family. They were tended by under-shepherds wearing coats reaching to the knee, rather like the coats worn by our peasants, only that they fitted tight round the body. I think that now that their chief was going away for some long time, all the herds were being examined and counted by overseers, and the under-shepherds had to render account, for from time to time I saw more important people arriving in long cloaks and inspecting everything. They went into the big central tent, and the herds were then driven past between it and the small tents to be counted and looked at. The persons who received the reckonings had in their hands tablets, I do not know of what material, on which they wrote something. I thought as I watched them: How I wish our bishops would examine as diligently the flocks in the care of their under-shepherds.'

When I again returned to the pasturages after the last interruption, it was night. A deep stillness rested on the place. Most of the shepherds were asleep under the small tents, only a few crept about, watching over the sleeping herds. These lay at rest in great enclosures, divided according to their kind, some crowded together and some less so. It was for me a deeply moving and edifying sight--this great pasture full of peacefully sleeping herds, the servants of mankind, and above them the immeasurable expanse of the deep-blue pastures of heaven, filled with countless stars--stars which had come forth at the bidding of their almighty Creator. They follow the voice of their shepherd like true sheep with greater obedience than the sheep of earth give to their mortal shepherds. And, when I saw the waking shepherds wandering to and fro and turning their eyes more to the starry flocks above than to the earthly ones below who were entrusted to their care, I thought within myself: they are right to look up in astonishment and gratitude to where their ancestors have for centuries turned their expectant gaze in longing and prayer. The good shepherd seeks for the lost sheep and rests not till he has found it and brought it home; so does the Heavenly Father, the true Shepherd of all these countless flocks of stars in immeasurable space. When man, whom He had made lord of the earth, sinned, and as a punishment the earth became cursed to him, God sought out fallen man and his home the earth like the lost sheep. He even sent down His only-begotten Son to become man, to bring the lost sheep home, to take upon Himself as the Lamb of God, the sins of mankind, and, by dying Himself, to make satisfaction for those sins to the divine justice. And now the coming of the promised Redeemer was at hand, and the kings of these shepherds, led by a star, had set forth the night before to pay homage to the newborn Redeemer. That was why the watchers of the flocks looked up in awe and adoration to the heavenly pastures, for the Shepherd of the shepherds came down from above, and His coming was announced first of all to the shepherds.

While I was meditating on all this in the wide pasture-land, I was aware of the stillness of the night being broken by the sound of hoofs hurriedly approaching: it was a troop of men riding on camels. They passed quickly by the sleeping herds to the main tent of the shepherds' encampment. Woken by the noise, some of the camels got up from their sleeping position and stretched their long necks towards the riders, and lambs woke up bleating. Some of the new-corners alighted from their beasts and woke the sleeping shepherds in the tents, while the nearest herdsmen came up to greet the riders. Soon all were awake and gathered round the new arrivals; there was much talking, and all looked and pointed at the stars. They were speaking of a star or of some apparition in the heavens, which must have already disappeared, for I did not see it. These newcomers were Theokeno and his train. He was the third king and the one who lived farthest away. He had seen in his home the same picture in the skies, and had at once set forth and journeyed to this place. He asked how far ahead of him Mensor and Seir might be, and whether the star whose guidance they had followed could still be seen. After receiving the news for which he asked, Theokeno and his followers went on their way quickly without any delay. This was the place where the three kings, coming from their separate homes, used generally to meet to observe the stars. The pyramidal tower, from which they looked at the stars through long tubes, was close by. Theokeno lived farther away than the others, beyond the region which was Abraham's first dwelling-place. They all lived near that region.


Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com