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

23. THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS.




Towards the middle of Jesus' second year the Blessed Virgin was told of Herod's Massacre of the Innocents by an angel appearing to her in Heliopolis. She and Joseph were greatly distressed, and the Child Jesus wept that whole day. I saw what follows.

When the three kings did not return to Jerusalem, Herod's anxiety decreased to some extent; he was at that time much occupied with family affairs. His anxiety revived again, however, when various reports reached him about Simeon's and Anna's prophecies in the Temple at the Presentation of the Infant Jesus. At this moment the Holy Family had been some time in Nazareth.

Under various pretexts he dispatched soldiers to different places round Jerusalem, such as Gilgal, Bethlehem, and Hebron, and ordered a census of the children to be made. The soldiers remained, I think, about nine months in these places. Herod was in the meantime in Rome, [166] and it was not until soon after his return that the children were massacred. John the Baptist was two years old when it happened, and had again been for some time at home with his parents in secret. Before Herod issued the order that all mothers were to bring before the authorities their male children up to two years old, Elizabeth had been warned by the appearance of an angel and had once more fled into the wilderness with her little son. Jesus was nearly eighteen months old and could already run about. [167] The children were massacred in seven different places. The mothers had been promised rewards for their fruitfulness. They came from their homes in the surrounding country to the government offices in the various towns, bringing with them their little boys in holiday dress. The husbands were turned back, and the mothers were separated from their children. These were stabbed by the soldiers behind the walls of lonely courtyards; their bodies were heaped together and then buried in trenches.

[Catherine Emmerich communicated her vision of the Massacre of the Innocents on March 8 ^th, 1821, i.e. a year after her account of the Flight into Egypt, so that it may be presumed that the massacre took place a year later than the Flight.]

This afternoon I saw the mothers with their little sons up to two years of age come to Jerusalem from Hebron, Bethlehem, and a third place. Herod had sent soldiers there, and had later communicated his orders through the authorities of these towns. The women came to the city in separate groups. Some had two children with them and rode on donkeys. They came to the city in joyful expectation, for they thought they were to receive a reward for their fruitfulness. They were all taken into a large building, and the men accompanying them were sent home. This building was somewhat isolated; it was not far from the house where later Pilate lived. It was so enclosed that it was difficult to see from outside what was happening within it. It must once have been a place of execution, for I saw in its courtyard stone pillars and blocks with chains fastened to them, as well as trees which were tied together and then allowed to spring apart so as to tear in pieces the men fastened to them. It was a dark, strong building, and its courtyard was quite as big as the graveyard on one side of D?lmen parish church. A gate led through two walls into this courtyard, which was enclosed by buildings on three sides. To the right and left these were one story high; the center one had two stories and looked like an ancient deserted synagogue. There were gates opening into the courtyard from all three buildings.

The mothers were led through the courtyard into the two side-buildings and there imprisoned. At first I had the impression of their being in a kind of hospice or inn. They became alarmed when they saw themselves deprived of liberty and began to weep and moan, continuing their laments throughout the whole night.

[On the next day, March 9 ^th, she said:] This afternoon I saw a terrible picture. I saw the Massacre of the Innocents taking place in that house of execution. The big building at the back of the court was two stories high: the lower story consisted of a great deserted hall like a prison or a guard-room; above it was a large room with windows looking down into the courtyard. I saw a number of officials assembled there as if in a court of justice; before them was a table on which lay scrolls. I think Herod was there, too, for I saw a man in a red cloak lined with white fur with little black tails on it. He was wearing a crown. I saw him, surrounded by others, looking out of the window of the room.

The mothers were summoned one by one with their children from the side-buildings into the great hall below the building at the back of the courtyard. As they came in, their children were removed from them by soldiers and taken through the gate into the courtyard, where some twenty soldiers were at the murderous work of thrusting swords and spears into their throats and hearts. Some were children still at the breast, wrapped in swaddling-bands; others were tiny boys wearing long embroidered dresses. They did not trouble to take off their clothes, they ran their swords through their throats and hearts, and then seized their bodies by an arm or leg and flung them onto a heap. It was a ghastly sight. The mothers were thrust back one by one by the soldiers into the great hall. When they saw what was done to their children, they raised a terrible outcry, clinging to each other and tearing their hair. They were so closely packed at the end that they could hardly move. I think the massacre went on until towards evening.

The children's bodies were afterwards buried in a pit in the same courtyard. Their number was shown to me, but I have no clear recollection of it. I think it was 700, and another number with 7 or 17 in it. The number was explained to me by an expression in which I remember a sound like Ducen': I think I had to reckon two c's together several times. [168]

I was absolutely horrified by what I had seen, and did not know where it had happened: I thought it was here. It was only when I woke up that I was able gradually to recollect myself. The next night I saw the mothers being taken back by the soldiers to their homes, bound, and in separate groups. The place of the Massacre of the Innocents in Jerusalem was used later as a court of justice; it was not far from Pilate's judgment seat, but by his time it had been a good deal altered. At Christ's death I saw the grave of the massacred children fall in and saw their souls appear and depart from thence.











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