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

2. THE DEPARTURE OF THE CHILD MARY FOR THE TEMPLE.




I came into the house of Mary's parents at nighttime, and saw several of their relations asleep there. The family themselves were busy with preparations for departure. The hanging lamp with many branches was burning before the hearth. Little by little I saw the whole house astir.

Joachim had sent menservants the morning before to the Temple with beasts for sacrifice; five of each kind, the best he had. They made a very fine herd. I saw him now busy loading the luggage on a pack animal standing before the house. Mary's clothes were neatly arranged in separate packages and tied onto the animal, together with presents for the priests. It made quite a heavy load. A broad package was arranged to make a comfortable seat in the middle of the animal's back. Anna and the other women had packed everything in bundles which were easy to load. I also saw several kinds of baskets hanging at the donkey's sides. In one of these baskets, rounded like the tureens that rich people have for their soup, with a lid opening in the middle, there were birds of the size of partridges. Other baskets, like the ones used for carrying grapes, contained different kinds of fruit. When the loading was quite finished, a big cover with heavy hanging tassels was put over everything. In the house I saw all the stir and agitation of departure. I saw a young woman, Mary's elder sister, moving about with a lamp. I saw her daughter Mary Cleophas following her about most of the time. I noticed yet another woman whom I took to be a maidservant. I also now saw two priests there. One was a very old man wearing a hood which hung down in a point on his forehead and had flaps over his ears. His upper garment was shorter than the under one and had straps like a stole hanging on it. It was he who had taken the chief part in Mary's examination yesterday and blessed her. I saw him continuing to talk to the child and teaching her different things. Mary was a little more than three years old, very delicately and finely made, and was as developed as a child of five with us. She had reddish-fair hair, smooth, but curly at the ends; it was longer than the seven-year old Mary Cleophas' fair hair, which was short and curly. Most of the children and grown-up people wore long robes of brownish undyed wool.

I was particularly struck by two boys among this company who did not seem to belong to the family at all and held no converse with any of them. It seemed as if no one even saw them, though they spoke to me, and were very charming and attractive with their fair curly hair. They had books which seemed to be for learning from. (Little Mary had no book, though she could read already.) Their books were not like ours, but strips some two feet wide rolled round a stick with a projecting knob at each end. The taller of the two boys opened his scroll and came up to me, and read something out of it which he explained to me. The golden letters, each one of which stood alone, were quite strange to me; they were written the wrong way round, and each letter seemed to signify a whole word. The language was completely strange to my ears, yet I understood it. Unfortunately I have now forgotten what he explained to me, but I think it had to do with Moses; perhaps it will come back to me. The younger of the boys held his scroll in his hands as if it were a toy; he jumped about like a child and played with his scroll, swinging it in the air. I cannot at all express how much I was attracted by these children; they were different from all the people there, who seemed not to notice them at all.

[Catherine Emmerich spoke for a long time with childlike delight of these two boys but could not clearly say who they really were. After, however, having eaten and then slept for a few minutes, she recollected herself and said:] It was the spiritual meaning of these boys that I saw; their presence there was not a natural one. They were only the symbolic representations of prophets. The taller of the two, the one who carried his scroll so solemnly, showed me in it the passage in the third chapter of the book of Exodus where Moses sees the Lord in the burning bush and is told to put off his shoes from his feet. He explained this to me; as the bush was on fire without being burnt, so now the fire of the Holy Spirit was burning in the child Mary, who, all unconscious of it, was bearing this holy flame within her. [61] This passage also, he said, foreshadowed the union, now approaching, of the Godhead with humanity. The fire signified God, the thorn bush mankind. The boy also explained to me the meaning of the putting off of the shoes, but I have no clear recollection of what he said; I think it signified the removal of the outer covering to disclose the reality within; and foreshadowed the fulfillment of the law and the coming of One greater than Moses and the prophets. The other boy carried his scroll at the end of a thin stick, blowing in the wind like a flag; this signified the joyous entry of Mary on the path which was leading her to her destiny as the Mother of the Redeemer. The childish behavior of this boy as he played with his scroll showed how Mary, though overshadowed by so great a Promise and called to so holy a destiny, kept all the innocent playfulness of a child. Actually these boys explained to me seven passages out of their scrolls, but in the interruptions and troubles of daily life I have forgotten everything except what I have now told. O my God [she here exclaimed], all that I see is so beautiful and so deep, so simple and so clear, and yet I cannot tell it properly and cannot help forgetting so much because of the miserable, detestable happenings of this wretched earthly life. [62]

[A year earlier, in the middle of November 1820, Catherine Emmerich, while communicating her visions of the Presentation, referred to the appearance of these boy-prophets in the following connection. On the evening of November 16 ^th a penitential girdle was brought near Catherine Emmerich when she was asleep. It had been made by a man who was striving to mortify himself but was without any spiritual advice or direction. He had made it with much exaggerated austerity out of leather straps pierced with nails, but he had been able to wear it for hardly an hour. Though it was two feet away from her, the sleeping Catherine Emmerich quickly drew her hands away from this girdle, saying:] O that is quite impossible and senseless! I, too, once wore a girdle like this for a long time, in accordance with an inner warning. It was a means of mortification and self-conquest, but was made of quite short spikes of brass wire set close together. This is a really murderous girdle; the man has taken great pains in making it, but could only wear it for a few minutes. One should never do anything like this without the approval of a wise director of souls: he did not know that, of course, because he had no director at hand. Such exaggeration does more harm than good!

[Next morning she recounted the visions of the night in the form of a dream-journey. She said, among other things:]

Hereupon I came to Jerusalem, at what period I am not sure, but it was in the time of the old Jewish kings. I have forgotten what I saw. Then I was made to go towards Nazareth to the house of Anna, the Blessed Virgin's holy mother. Before the city of Jerusalem two boys joined me who were going the same way: one held a scroll very solemnly in his hand, while the younger had tied his scroll to a little stick and was merrily playing with it in the wind as if it were a little flag. They spoke to me joyfully about the fulfillment of the time in their prophecies, for they were figures of prophets. I had with me that man's exaggerated penitential girdle which had been brought me, and showed it, by I know not what impulse, to the prophet boy who was Elijah. He said to me, That is a belt of torture not allowed to be worn. But on Mount Carmel I made and wore a girdle and have bequeathed it to all the children of my order, the Carmelites. That man should wear this girdle, it will profit him far more'. Thereupon he showed me a girdle of a hand's breadth on which all kinds of letters and lines were inscribed, signifying various conquests and struggles, and he indicated various parts of it, saying, That man could wear this for eight days and this for one day', and so on. O, how I wish the good man could know that!

When we came near to Anna's house and I wanted to go in, I could not do so, and my leader, my guardian angel, said to me: You must first of all lay much aside, you must be nine years old.' I did not know how this was to be done, but he helped me, I cannot remember how. Three years of my life had to disappear altogether, those three years when I was so vain about my clothes and always wanted to be a smart young girl. Well, I was suddenly nine years old, and now I was able to go into the house with the prophet boys. As I did so, the three-year-old child Mary came up to me and measured herself against me; she was just the same height as me when she stood up by me. How kind and friendly she was, and at the same time so serious!











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