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

1. GREAT JOY IN NATURE. "GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST".




In these pictures of Christ's Birth, which I see as an historical event and not as a Feast of the Church, I do not see such radiant and ecstatic joy in nature as I do on Christmas night when the vision that I see expresses an interior significance. Yet I saw in this vision an unwonted joy and an extraordinary movement at midnight in many places even to the uttermost parts of the earth. I saw the hearts of many good men filled with joyful yearning, while all the wicked were overcome by great fear. I saw many animals filled with joy; in some places I saw flowers, herbs, and shrubs shooting up, and trees drinking in refreshment and scattering sweet scents. I saw many springs of water gush forth and increase. In the night of the Savior's Birth, an abundant spring welled up in the cave in the hill to the north of the Cave of the Nativity. Next day St. Joseph captured it and made an outlet for it. The sky was dull over Bethlehem and had a dull reddish glow; but over the Cave of the Nativity and over the valley by Martha's tomb and the Shepherd's Valley lay a shining mist of dew. In the Shepherd's Valley there was a hill about an hour and a half's journey from the Cave of the Nativity, where the vineyards begin which stretch from there towards Gaza. On this hill were the huts of three shepherds who were the rulers of the shepherds' families in this region just as the three holy kings were rulers of the tribes belonging to them. About twice as far away from the Cave of the Nativity as this hill was the so-called Shepherds' Tower. [Please refer to Figure 14]. This was a very high pyramid-shaped erection of wooden beams, built among green trees on a base of big stones on a hill in the midst of the fields. It was surrounded by stairs and galleries, and in places there were little covered stands like watchtowers. It was all hung with mats. It resembled those tower-like edifices which were used in the land of the three holy kings to observe the stars at night; from the distance it looked like a tall many-masted ship under sail. One had from it a very wide view of the whole region; one saw Jerusalem, and also the Mount of Temptation in the desert of Jericho. The shepherds stationed men up there to watch the flocks as they moved about and to give warning of danger by blowing horns if they saw in the distance robbers or armed bands. The families of the various shepherds lived round the tower within a circle of some five hours in circumference; their farms were separate and surrounded by fields and gardens. The tower was their general meeting-place, as it was also for the watchers, who kept their belongings here and got their food from here. There were huts built on the slopes of the hill on which the tower stood, and separate from these there was a large shed, divided into many partitions, where the wives of the watchers lived and prepared food for them. Here by the tower I saw tonight some of the flocks and herds out in the open, but by the hill of the three shepherds I saw them in a shed. When Jesus was born, I saw the three shepherds standing together before their hut, marveling at the wonderful night. They looked about them, and were astonished to see a wonderful radiance over the place where the Cave of the Nativity was. I also saw the shepherds at the more distant tower in great commotion. I saw some of them climbing the tower and gazing at the strange radiance over the cave. As the three shepherds thus gazed up into the sky, I saw a cloud of light sinking down towards them. As it drew near, I perceived a movement in it, a changing and transformation into figures and forms, and I heard a song which gradually grew louder. It was sweet and gentle and yet clear and joyful. The shepherds were at first afraid, but forthwith an angel stood before them and spoke to them: Fear not,' he said, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people; for this day is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign to you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.' While the angel was announcing this, the radiance round him increased, and I now saw five or seven beautiful great shining forms of angels standing before the shepherds. They were holding in their hands a long scroll on which was written something in letters as big as one's hand, and I heard them praising God and singing Glory be to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of goodwill'. The shepherds at the tower saw the same vision, but somewhat later. The angels also appeared to a third party of shepherds near a spring three hours from Bethlehem and to the east of the shepherd's tower. I did not see the shepherds hasten at once to the Cave of the Nativity, which was about an hour and a half distant from the three shepherds and twice as far from the tower. But, I saw them at once consulting together as to what they should bring as a present to the newborn Child and getting their gifts together with all speed. They did not arrive at the Crib until early in the morning.

Figure 14. The Shepherds' Tower.











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