HOME CHAT NAB PRAYERS FORUMS COMMUNITY RCIA MAGAZINE CATECHISM LINKS CONTACT
 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC DICTIONARY  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Home
 
Bible
 
Catechism
 
Chat
 
Catholic Encyclopedia
 
Church Fathers
 
Classics Library
 
Church Documents
 
Discussion
 
Mysticism
 
Prayer
 
Prayer Requests
 
RCIA
 
Vocations
 
Ray of Hope
 
Saints
 
Social Doctrine
 
Links
 
Contact
 







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

8. DESCRIPTION OF THE CAVE OF THE NATIVITY AND ITS SURROUNDINGS.




[From the following description, we have constructed a floor plan of the room of the Cave of the Nativity. Please refer to Figure 12.]

Among many other different grottoes or cave-dwellings there was, at the south end of this hill, round which the road wound its way to the Shepherd's Valley, the cave in which Joseph sought shelter for the Blessed Virgin. From the west the entrance [Figure 12, part 1] led eastwards into the hill through a narrow passage into a larger chamber, half semicircular and half triangular. The walls of the cave were of the natural rock, and only on the south side, which was encircled by the road to the shepherd's valley, was it completed by a little rough masonry. On this south side was another entrance [Figure 12, part 5] into the cave, but this was generally blocked up, and Joseph had to clear it before he could use it. If you came out of this entrance and turned to the left, you came upon a wider entrance into a lower vault [Figure 12, part 11], narrow and inconvenient, which stretched under the Cave of the Nativity. From the ordinary entrance to the cave, which faced westwards, one could see nothing but a few roofs and towers of Bethlehem. If you turned to the right upon exiting this entrance, you came to the entrance of a lower cave [Figure 12, part 12], which was dark and was at one time the hiding-place of the Blessed Virgin. In front of the main entrance, supported on posts, there was a light roof of reeds [Figure12, part 13], extending round the south of the cave to the entrance on that side, so that one could sit in front of the cave in shade. On the south side there were, high up, three openings for light and air, closed by gratings fixed in masonry. There was a similar opening in the roof of the cave. This roof, which was covered with turf, formed the extremity of the ridge on which Bethlehem stood.

Figure 12. The Cave of the Nativity. 1. Cave entrance. 2. Sectioned-off bedroom of Saint Joseph. 3. A side cave. 4. Fireplace. 5. Southern side-entrance. 6. Location of the donkey. 7. Fodder storage. 8. Birthplace of Our Redeemer Jesus. 9. Where the three holy kings worshipped Jesus. 10. Location of the crib. 11. Entrance to an adjacent cave. 12. Another cave. 13. Reed roof on posts.

From the west one came through a light wickerwork door into a moderately broad passage opening into a chamber which was partly angular and partly semicircular. Towards the south it broadened out considerably, so that the ground-plan of the whole can be compared to a head resting on its neck. As you came out of the neck of the cave, whose roof was lower, into the higher part of the cave with its natural vaulting, you stepped down to a lower level. The floor of the whole cave was, however, higher at the sides, round which ran a low stone bench of varying breadth. The walls of the cave, as nature had made them, were, though not quite smooth, clean and pleasant and had something attractive about them. I liked them better than the rough, clumsy masonry which had been added on, for instance on the upper part of the south wall of the entrance, where three openings for light and air had been made. In the center of the roof of the cave there was another opening, and, if I remember rightly, I saw besides this three slanting holes piercing the upper part of the cave at intervals from south to east. From the north side of the passage an entrance led into a smaller side-cave [Figure 12, part 3]. Passing this entrance you came upon the place where Joseph lit his fire [Figure 12, part 4]. After that the wall turned northeast into the higher and bigger cave, and it was here that Joseph's pack-donkey stood [Figure 12, part 6], by the broad part of the stone bench which ran round its walls. Behind this, in the thickness of the rock wall to the north, was a small chamber [Figure 12, part 7] just big enough to hold the donkey and containing fodder. The wall of the cave then turned south-east, encircling the chamber (which grew broader towards the south) and finally turned north to end at the main entrance.

The Blessed Virgin was in the eastern part of this cave [Figure 12, part 8], exactly opposite the entrance, when she gave birth to the Light of the World. The crib [Figure 12, part 10] in which the child Jesus was laid stood on the west side of the southern and more roomy part of the cave. This crib was a hollowed-out stone trough lying on the ground and used for cattle to drink from. Over it stood a longish, rectangular manger or rack, narrower below, and broader above, made of wooden lattice-work, and raised on four feet, so that the beasts could comfortably eat the hay or grass in the rack and lower their heads to drink the water in the trough beneath. When the three holy kings presented their gifts, the Blessed Virgin was sitting with the child Jesus opposite the crib on the eastern side of this part of the cave [Figure 12, part 9]. From the place where the crib is, if you go out of the cave in a westerly direction into the so-called neck of the cave, you come first of all, following the southern wall, to the southern entrance mentioned above and later opened by Joseph, and then arrive at St. Joseph's own room [Figure 12, part 2], which he later partitioned off on the south side by wicker screens in this passage. On this side there was a hollow in the wall where he put away all kinds of things.

The road to the Shepherds' Valley ran past the south side of the cave. Here and there were little houses standing on hills, and scattered about in the fields were sheds thatched with reeds on four, six, or eight posts, with wicker walls. Towards the east of the cave the ground fell into a closed valley shut off on the north side and about a quarter of an hour's journey wide. Its slopes were covered with bushes, trees, and gardens. If one walked through the tall luxuriant grass in the meadow, watered by a spring, and through the trees planted in rows, one came to the eastern ridge of this valley. By following this very pleasant path in a south-easterly direction from the Cave of the Nativity, one came to a projecting spur of the ridge containing the rock-tomb of Maraha, [98] the nurse of Abraham, which was called the Milk Cave or the Sucklings' Cave. The Blessed Virgin came here several times with the child Jesus. Above this cave was a great tree with seats in it, and from here one had a much better view of Bethlehem than from the Cave of the Nativity.

I was told much that had happened in the Cave of the Nativity of symbolical and prophetical significance in Old Testament times, but can only remember that Seth, the child of promise, was here conceived and born by Eve after a seven years' penance. She was told here by an angel that this seed was given by God in place of Abel. Seth was hidden and suckled by his mother in this cave and in Maraha's cave, for his brothers were hostile to him just as Jacob's sons were to Joseph. In these caves, inhabited by men in earlier times, I have often seen places hollowed out by them in the rock in which they and their children could sleep in comfort on skins or grass. So perhaps the hollow in the stone bench beneath the crib may have been a sleeping place of Seth's or of a later inmate. But I cannot say this for certain now.

I also remember from my visions of the ministry of Jesus that the Lord, on October 6 ^th, after His Baptism, was keeping the Sabbath in the Cave of the Nativity, which had been made into a place of prayer by the shepherds, and that He told the shepherds that His Heavenly Father had appointed this as the place of His Birth as soon as Mary had conceived.











<|CONTENTS| |NEXT|>    | FOOTNOTES|














Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com