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

8. THE ANCESTORS OF THE KINGS. THEIR STAR OBSERVATIONS - JACOB'S LADDER AND ITS PROPHESIES.




The ancestors of the kings descended from Job, who once lived in the Caucasus and possessed other far-off lands [124] About 1,500 years before the birth of Christ only one tribe of them remained there. The prophet Balaam came from that region, [125] and one of his disciples spread abroad and expounded in that land his master's prophecy, A star shall rise out of Jacob [see Numbers 24.17]. He had many followers, and they built a high tower upon a mountain, where many wise men and those learned in the stars lived by turns. I have seen that tower; it was like a mountain itself, broad at the base and pointed at the top. I saw, too, the openings in it where they lived. All that they discovered in the stars was noted and handed down by word of mouth. There were times when this observation of the stars fell into disuse owing to various happenings, and later it degenerated into the idolatrous horror of sacrificing children in order to hasten the coming of the promised Child.

About 500 years before the birth of Christ the observation of the stars had lapsed. At this time the race consisted of three tribes, founded by three brothers who lived with their families apart from each other. They had three daughters to whom God had given the spirit of prophecy and who wandered about the land in long cloaks prophesying, and teaching about the star and the Child that was to come out of Jacob. In this way the observation of the stars and the longing for the Child was again revived in these three tribes. The three holy kings were descended from these three brothers in a direct line of fifteen generations, covering some 500 years. Their complexions had, however, become different from each other as the result of intermarriage with other races.

For 500 years the ancestors of the kings had met at a building which they shared in common for the observation of the stars. According to what they saw, various alterations were made in their temple and its services. Unfortunately, for a long time they continued to sacrifice children and other human beings. As they watched the stars, they were shown in wonderful visions all the special events and times connected with the coming of the Messiah. I saw many of these visions as they conversed, but can no longer describe them clearly. Since Mary's conception, fifteen years before, these visions had pointed ever more distinctly to the nearness of the Child. At last they had seen several indications of the Passion of Jesus.

They were able to calculate very exactly the coming of the star prophesied by Balaam, for they had seen Jacob's Ladder and were able to reckon precisely, as in a calendar, the approach of our salvation by the number of rungs in the ladder and by the pictures appearing on each. The end of the ladder led to the star, which was the uppermost picture on it. They saw Jacob's Ladder as a tree in the midst of which three rows of rungs were fastened, and on these appeared a series of pictures which they saw in the star as each was fulfilled, so they knew exactly which must be the next picture, and the intervals between the pictures told them how long they must wait for it. At the time of Mary's conception they had seen the Virgin holding a scepter and an evenly balanced scales with wheat and grapes. [Please refer to Figure 19.] A little below her they saw the Virgin with the Child. They saw Bethlehem as a beautiful palace, a house where much blessing was stored and distributed. In it they saw the Virgin and Child surrounded by a great glory of light, and many kings bowing before Him and making offerings to Him. They also saw the heavenly Jerusalem, but between it and Bethlehem was a dark street, full of thorns, strife, and blood.

All this was real to them. They thought that glory such as this surrounded the newborn King, and that all peoples were bowing before Him; that was why they came, bringing their gifts with them. They took the heavenly Jerusalem to be His earthly kingdom and thought they would come to it. The dark street they thought meant their own journey, or that some war was threatening the King; they did not know that it meant His Via Dolorosa. At the foot of the ladder they saw (as did I) an elaborate tower, like the one I saw on the mountain of the Prophet. They saw how the Virgin once took refuge in a storm under a projecting portion of this tower, which had many entrances. I cannot remember what this signified. (Perhaps the Flight into Egypt.) There was a whole series of pictures on this Jacob's Ladder, amongst others many prophetic symbols of the Blessed Virgin, such as the sealed fountain and the enclosed garden. There were also pictures of kings, some holding out scepters, and others, branches to each other.

All these pictures they saw appearing in their turn in the stars as they were fulfilled. In the last three nights they saw these pictures continuously. The chief one of the three sent messengers to the others, and when they saw the picture of the kings making offerings to the newborn Child, they hurried on their way with their rich gifts, not wishing to be the last to arrive. All the tribes of the star-gazers had seen the star, but these were the only ones who followed it. The star which went before them was not the comet, but a shining brilliance borne by an angel. By day they followed the angel.

Figure 19. Vision of the three kings at the time of Mary's conception.

Because of all this they were full of expectation as they journeyed, and were afterwards astonished to find nothing like it. They were dismayed by Herod's reception of them and by the ignorance of all men about these things. When they came to Bethlehem and saw a desolate cellar instead of the glorious palace they had seen in the star, great doubt assailed them; but they remained true to their faith, and at the sight of Jesus they realized that all they had seen in the stars was fulfilled.

These observations of the stars were accompanied by fasting, prayer, religious ceremonies, and various forms of self-denial and purification. The visions did not come from looking at one single star, but from a grouping of certain separate stars. This star-worship exercised an evil influence on those who had a tendency towards evil. Such people were seized with violent convulsions in their star-gazing, and it was they who were responsible for the misguided sacrifices of children. Others, like the three holy kings, saw the pictures clearly and calmly, in a spirit of inner piety, and grew ever better and more devout.











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