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

XVI. THE PURIFICATION OF MARY [142]




The days being nearly fulfilled when the Blessed Virgin must, according to the Law, present and redeem her firstborn in the Temple, [143] 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 D?lmen. 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. [144] 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.











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