THE NATIVITY OF JESUS

(From the mystical visions of Blessed Anna Maria Emmerich)
*Blessed Anna Maria Emmerich (1774-1824), an Augustinian nun and mystic who carried the stigmata, the Wounds of Christ, spent her entire life in a small area in Germany. She was privileged to behold innumerable events of biblical times; going back all the way to the creation of the world. She witnessed the fall of the Angels; the sin of Adam; Noe and the Flood; the lives of St. John the Baptist; St. Anne; St. Joseph; the Blessed Virgin Mary; and St. Mary Magdalen. Also includes the birth; life; public ministry; Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; as well as the founding of His Church. Besides describing persons; places; events and traditions in intimate detail; Anne Catherine Emmerich also sets forth the mystical significance of these visible realities. Pope John Paul II has declared her Blessed in October 2004. The critically acclaimed movie "THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST" by Mel Gibson was based on her vision)
The Holy Family Enter Into the Grotto of the Crib
Friday, the 23rd of November. It was already late when they arrived at the entrance to the grotto. The young ass which, since they had entered into the paternal house of Joseph, had run about all round the city, came there to meet them, and began joyfully to leap about near them. The Blessed Virgin then said to Joseph: “See, it is certainly the will of God that we go in here.” Joseph placed the ass under a kind of roof which there was before the entrance of the grotto: he prepared a seat for the Blessed Virgin and she sat down upon it whilst he went to procure a light at the entrance of the grotto. The entrance was partially obstructed by bundles of straw and mats placed against the walls. There were also in the grotto many things which were in the way, and Joseph cleared them away so as to prepare a convenient place for the Blessed Virgin on the eastern side of the grotto. He fastened a lighted lamp to the wall and brought Mary in, who placed herself on a couch of rest which he had prepared for her with coverlets and some bundles. He excused himself very humbly for only being able to procure her such a poor lodging, but Mary inwardly was contented and joyful.
When she was properly settled Joseph went out with a leathern bottle, which he carried with him, behind the hill, into the meadow where a small brook was flowing. He filled the bottle with water and brought it into the grotto. He then went into the city and procured some small dishes and some charcoal. The Sabbath was near, and in consequence of the numerous strangers who required a number of indispensable articles, they had set up tables at the corners of the streets on which there were provisions that might be required. I believe there were there people who were not Jews.
Joseph returned carrying the lighted charcoal in a kind of grated box. He placed them at the entrance of the grotto, lighted the fire with a small piece of dry wood, and then brought the repast, which consisted of small cakes and some dry fruits. When they had eaten and prayed Joseph prepared a couch for the Blessed Virgin. He spread over a litter of rushes a coverlet similar to those which I had seen in the house of Saint Anne, and placed another rolled-up coverlet to support her head. After having brought in the ass and fastened it to a spot where it would be out of the way, he stopped up the openings of the grotto by which the air came in, and arranged a place to sleep for himself in the entrance of the grotto.
When the Sabbath commenced he remained with the Blessed Virgin under a lamp and recited with her the prayers of the Sabbath: he then quitted the grotto and went into the city. Mary wrapped herself up to take some rest. During the absence of Joseph, I saw the Blessed Virgin pray on her knees: then she stretched herself on the coverlet reposing on her side; her head reposed upon her arm which was placed upon the pillow. Joseph re turned later on: he prayed again and humbly placed himself on his bed at the entrance of the grotto.
Saturday, the 24th of November. Today the Sister was very unwell and could only say very little. She communicated, however, as follows:
The Blessed Virgin passed the Sabbath in the Grotto of the Crib praying and meditating with great fervour. Joseph went out sometimes: he probably went to the synagogue of Bethlehem. I saw them eat the food prepared on the preceding day and pray together. In the afternoon, at which time the Jews generally take a walk on the Sabbath-day, Joseph led the Blessed Virgin to the Grotto of the tomb of Maraha, the nurse of Abraham. She remained some time in this grotto which was more spacious than that of the crib; and where Joseph arranged a seat for her. She stayed also under the tree which stood near, always praying and meditating until the close of the Sabbath. Joseph then brought her back. Mary had told her husband that the birth of the child would take place on this day at midnight, for at that hour would terminate the nine months which had passed since the salutation of the angel of the Lord: she had prayed him to do all they could to honour in the best manner the entrance into the world of the child promised by God and supernaturally conceived. She had asked him also to pray with her for those hard-hearted people who had refused to give him hospitality. Joseph offered the Blessed Virgin to get some pious women of Bethlehem whom he knew to come and assist her. She did not wish it, and she told him she should have no need of help from any one.
Joseph went to Bethlehem before the close of the Sabbath, and as soon as the sun was set he bought some things which he required: a dish, a small low table, some fruits and dried grapes, which he brought to the Grotto of the Crib: he went from thence to the Grotto of Maraha and led back the Blessed Virgin to that of the crib, where she sat upon the coverlet. Joseph prepared some food: they ate and prayed together. He put up a division between the place which he had chosen to sleep in and the rest of the grotto by means of some poles, on which he hung some mats which he found there. He gave the ass which was fastened to the wall of the grotto something to eat: he then filled the manger of the crib with reeds and grass and moss and spread a coverlet over it.
As the Blessed Virgin had then told him that her time was at hand, and wished him to pray in his chamber, he suspended several lighted lamps from the roof and went out from the grotto as he had heard a noise near the entrance. He there found the young ass, which till then had been running about in the valley of the shepherds. It appeared very joyful and played and jumped about him: he fastened it under the shed, which was be fore the grotto, and gave it some food.
When he returned to the grotto, and before entering his retreat, he cast his eyes upon the Blessed Virgin. He saw her praying on her knees before the couch: her back was turned towards him and she was looking towards the east. She seemed to him as if surrounded by flames, and all the grotto seemed to shine with a super natural light. He looked at it as Moses when he saw the burning bush: then seized with a holy fear, he entered into his cell and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.
The Birth of Christ

The light which surrounded the Blessed Virgin became more and more brilliant: the light of the lamp prepared by Joseph could not be seen. When the hour of midnight arrived Mary was transported in an ecstasy. I saw her raised a certain height from the ground; she had her hands crossed upon her breast. The light kept increasing around her; everything seemed to feel a joyful emotion, even things inanimate. The rock which formed the floor and the wall of the grotto were, as it were, alive with light. But soon I saw no more of the roof; a luminous path, whose bright ness continually increased, went from Mary to the highest heaven. Then was there a marvellous movement of the celestial glories, which, approaching nearer and nearer, appeared distinctly under the form of the angelic choirs. The Blessed Virgin, raised from the earth in her ecstasy, prayed and turned her eyes to her God, of whom she had become the mother, and who, a feeble new-born infant, was lying on the ground before her.
I saw Our Saviour like a little shining infant, whose brilliance eclipsed all the surrounding splendour, lying upon the rug before the knees of the Blessed Virgin. He seemed to me very small, and to grow larger before my eyes; but this was only the radiance of a light so dazzling that I can scarcely say how I could see it.
The Blessed Virgin remained some time in ecstasy. Then I saw her place a linen cloth over the child; but she did not touch Him nor take Him yet into her arms. After a short time I saw the Infant Jesus move, and I heard Him cry. It was then that the Blessed Virgin recovered the use of her senses. She took the child, wrapped it in the linen cloth with which she had covered it, and took it in her arms against her breast. I believe that she suckled it. I then saw angels around her in human form prostrate themselves before the new-born and adore Him.
About an hour had elapsed since the birth of the child, when Mary called Saint Joseph, who was still praying with his face to the ground. Approaching, he prostrated himself, full of joy, humility, and fervour. It was only when Mary had induced him to press to his heart the sacred gift of the Most High, that he rose, received the Infant Jesus in his arms, and returned thanks to God with tears of joy.
Then the Blessed Virgin swathed the Infant Jesus. Mary had only four linen cloths with her. I then saw Mary and Joseph sitting on the ground near each other. They did not speak, but seemed absorbed in contemplation. Before Mary, swathed as an ordinary child, was laid the new-born Jesus, beautiful and bright as lightning. “Ah!” I exclaimed, “this place contains the Salvation of the whole world, and no one can doubt it.”
They then placed the infant in the crib. They had re-filled it with rushes and beautiful plants, on which they had spread a coverlet. It was above the trough, hollowed in the rock to the right of the entrance to the grotto, which became larger there in a southerly direction. When they had placed the infant in the crib they both stood at the side, shedding tears of joy and chanting songs of praise. Joseph then arranged the sleeping couch and seat of the Blessed Virgin by the side of the crib. I saw her, both before and after the birth of Jesus, dressed in a white garment, which completely covered her. I saw her during the first days sitting, kneeling, standing, or even lying on her side, and sleeping; but neither ill nor fatigued.
The “Gloria in Excelsis” – The Birth of Christ Announced to the Shepherds

I saw in many places, even in the most distant countries, an unusual joy and an extraordinary movement during this night. I saw the hearts of many good men animated with a joyous desire, and those of the wicked full of anguish and trouble. I saw many animals show their joy by their movements, the flowers raise their heads, plants and trees receive as it were new life and spread far and wide their perfumes. I saw also springs burst out of the ground. Thus at the moment that the Saviour was born an abundant spring burst forth in the grotto which is on the hill to the north of the Grotto of the Crib. Joseph saw it on the following day and prepared a place for it to run off. Over Bethlehem the sky was of a sombre red, whilst over the Grotto of the Crib, in the valley near the Grotto of Maraha, and over the Valley of the Shepherds there was a shining vapour.
In the Valley of the Shepherds, about a league and a half from the Grotto of the Crib, there was a hill at which vineyards commenced which extended from thence as far as Gaza. The cottages of three shepherds, who were the heads of the families of shepherds who lived in the neighbourhood, stood on the side of this hill. At a distance twice that from the Grotto of the Crib, was a tower called the Shepherd s Tower: it was a large pyramid shaped scaffolding of woodwork, having for its base blocks of stone placed in the midst of green trees, and built upon an isolated hill standing in the midst of the plain. It was surrounded with staircases and galleries, with a kind of small round towers, the whole being as it were hung round with matting. It had some resemblance to those towers of wood from the top of which they observed the stars in the country of the three Magi kings, and which had in the distance the appearance of a large ship with many masts and sails. There was a very extensive view from this tower over the surrounding country. Jerusalem, and even the Mountain of the Temptation in the Desert of Jericho could be seen from here. The shepherds had watchers there to look after the movements of their flocks, and to warn them by sounding a horn, in case of an incursion of robbers or soldiers, and whom they could see for a long distance from this spot.
The families of the shepherds lived all about here within a radius of more than two leagues; they occupied small isolated farms surrounded with gardens and fields. The place where they assembled together was near this tower. The guardians appointed to watch over the common property dwelt here on the side of the hill where the tower stood; there were cottages, and separate from these a large shed with many apartments, where the wives of the guardians lived and prepared the food. On this night I saw the flocks near the tower; a part were in the open air, another part were under a shed near the hill of the three shepherds.
When Jesus was born I saw the three shepherds struck with the unusual aspect of this marvellous night. Standing near their cottages, they looked round and observed with wonder an extraordinary light above the Grotto of the Crib. I saw also that the shepherds who were near the tower were excited. I saw them mount the scaffolding and look towards the side of the Grotto of the Crib. While the three shepherds had their eyes turned towards heaven, I saw a luminous cloud descend before them. As it came near I observed a movement. I saw forms and figures become visible, and I heard harmonious songs of a joyful kind, and which became more and more distinct. The shepherds were at first afraid; but an angel appeared before them and said: “Fear not; I come to announce to you great joy for all the people of Israel: for today is born for you in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign by which you shall know Him: you shall find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.” Whilst the angel announced this the splendour increased all around him, and I saw six or seven large figures of angels, beautiful and shining. They had in their hands something like a long streamer, whereon was written something in large letters of the size of a hand, and I heard them praise God and sing: “Glory to God in the highest heavens, and on earth peace to men of good will.”
The shepherds of the town had the same apparition, but a little later. The angels also appeared to a third group of shepherds near a fountain, situated three leagues from Bethlehem to the east of the Shepherd s Tower. I did not see the shepherds go immediately to the Grotto of the Crib, from which one part of them were a league and a half distant, and the others double that distance.
The Sister saw during the night of the Nativity many things touching the precise determination of the time of the birth of Christ; but her state of sickness and the visits which were paid to her on the day following, which was the festival of Saint Catherine, her patron Saint, caused her to forget a good deal. However, a short time afterwards, being in an ecstasy, she communicated some fragments of her visions, when it is remarkable that she always saw the numbers written in Roman letters, and that she had often difficulty in reading them; but she explained them, repeating the name of the letters in the order in which she saw them, or she traced them with her fingers: this time, however, she told the numbers.
You can read it, she said, it is marked there. Jesus Christ was born before the year of the world 3997 was ended; afterwards the four years, less a portion of a year, which elapsed between the Nativity and the end of the year 4000 were forgotten, for subsequently they have made our new era commence four years later.
One of the Consuls of Rome was then named Lentutus: he was the ancestor of Saint Moses, priest and martyr, of whom I have here a relic, and who lived in the time of Saint Cyprian. Also the Lentutus who became the friend of Saint Peter in Rome was descended from him. Herod had reigned forty years. During seven of those years he was not independent, but he already oppressed the country and practised great cruelty. He died, if I mistake not, in the sixth year of the life of Jesus. I believe that his death was kept secret for some time. He was sanguinary up to the time of his death, and in his last days did much evil. I saw him drag him self along into a large room all cushioned. He had a lance at hand and tried to strike those who came near him. Jesus was born a little before the thirty-fourth year of his reign. Two years before Mary entered the Temple, Herod made some erections in it. It was not a new Temple which he made, only changes and decorations. The flight into Egypt took place when Jesus was nine months old, and the Massacre of the Innocents when He was still in His second year. She mentioned also several circumstances and several facts from the life of Herod which show how she saw everything in detail; but it was impossible to put into order what she had related at broken intervals.
The birth of Jesus Christ took place in a year in which the Jews reckon thirteen months. It is an arrangement analogous to that of our bissextile years. I believe also that the Jews have twice in the year months of twenty and twenty-two days. I understood something of this in reference to their festival days, but of this I have only a confused recollection. I remarked also that several times they made changes in the calendar. This was at the time of their coming out of the captivity, when they were working at the Temple. I saw the man who changed the calendar and I have known his name.
Adoration of the Shepherds

Sunday, the 25th of November. At the first break of day the three principal shepherds came from their little hill to the Grotto of the Crib, with the presents which they had prepared. They were little animals very much resembling roe deer: if they were small goats they differed from those of our country. They had long necks and beautiful shining eyes; they were very graceful and nimble in their pace. The shepherds led them along attached to thin cords: they also carried on their shoulders birds which they had killed, and other birds under their arms of a larger size.
They knocked timidly at the door of the Grotto of the Crib and Joseph came to meet them. They repeated to him what the angels had announced to them, and told him that they were come to pay their homage to the infant of promise and to present Him with their offerings. Joseph accepted their presents with humble gratitude, and conducted them to the Blessed Virgin, who was sitting near the crib and holding the Infant Jesus on her knees. The three shepherds knelt down humbly and remained a long time in silence absorbed in feelings of indescribable joy. They afterwards sang the canticle which they had heard the angels sing and a psalm which I have forgotten. When they wished to retire the Blessed Virgin gave them the little Jesus, whom they held in their arms one after another. Then, weeping, they gave Him back to her and quitted the grotto.
Sunday, the 25th of November, in the evening. The Sister was during the whole of this day in great suffering, both physical and mental. This evening, being just asleep, she found herself transported to the Promised Land; as, independently of her contemplations of the Nativity, she had besides a series of visions on the first year of the ministry of Jesus, and precisely at the same time on the fast of forty days she exclaimed with naive astonishment: “Ah, how touching is this! I see on one side Jesus at the age of thirty years fasting and tempted by the devil in a cavern of the desert; and on the other side I saw Him a new-born babe, adored by the shepherds in the Grotto of the Crib.” After these words she rose from her bed with surprising rapidity, ran to the opened door of her chamber, and as if intoxicated with joy, called the friends who were in the anteroom, saying to them: “Come, come quickly, and adore the infant who is near me.” She then returned to her bed with the same rapidity, and began, whilst her face shone with enthusiasm and fervour, to sing in a clear and marvellously expressive voice the Magnificat, the Gloria in Excelsis, and other unknown canticles in a simple style of profound meaning and partly in rhyme. She sang the seconds also of one of these airs. There appeared in her an emotion of joy singularly touching. This is what she related on the following morning:
Yesterday evening many shepherds, with their wives and even their children, came from the Shepherd’s Tower, which is four leagues from the grotto. They brought birds, eggs, honey, skeins of thread of different colours, small packets resembling raw silk, and bouquets of a plant resembling the rush, and which had large leaves. This plant had ears full of large grains. When they had given their presents to Joseph they humbly approached the crib and, kneeling, they sang some very beautiful psalms the Gloria in Excelsis and some short canticles I sang with them. They sang in several parts, and in one of these I took the second. I remember very nearly the following words: “Oh, little infant, red as the rose, you appear as the messenger of peace.” When they took leave they bent over the crib, as if they embraced the little Jesus.
Monday, the 26th of November. I saw today the three shepherds assist in turn Saint Joseph to arrange everything conveniently in the Grotto of the Crib and in the side grottos. I saw also near the Blessed Virgin several pious women, who rendered her different services. They were Esseniens, who lived a short distance from the Grotto of the Crib, in a hollow situated to the south of the hill. They occupied near together a sort of chambers hollowed in the rock, some distance from the ground. They had small gardens near their houses, and instructed the children of their sect. It was Saint Joseph who had induced them to come. He knew this society ever since his youth; for when he fled from his brothers to the Grotto of the Crib he had more than once visited these pious women. They came one after another to the Blessed Virgin, bringing small quantities of provisions, and busied themselves with the cares of the household for the Holy Family.
Tuesday, the 27th of November. This day I saw a very touching scene in the Grotto of the Crib. Joseph and Mary were standing near the crib, and looking on the Infant Jesus with deep tenderness. All at once the ass threw himself on his knees and bent his head to the ground. Mary and Joseph shed tears. This evening a message came from Saint Anne. An old man came from Nazareth with a widow relative of Saint Anne, and who was her servant. They brought several little things for Mary. They were very much moved at the sight of the infant; the old servant man shed tears of joy. They soon set out on their way to carry the news to Saint Anne. The female servant remained with the Blessed Virgin.
Wednesday, the 28th of November. Today I saw the Blessed Virgin with the Infant Jesus and the servant leave the Grotto of the Crib for several hours. I saw her conceal herself in the side grotto, where a spring of water had burst forth after the birth of Jesus Christ. She remained nearly four hours in this grotto, where subsequently she spent two days. Joseph, at the break of day, had so arranged it that she could stay there without great inconvenience. They went there in consequence of an inward admonition that several persons would come today from Bethlehem to the Grotto of the Crib. I believe they were emissaries of Herod. In consequence of the shepherds conversation, the report had spread about that something miraculous had taken place at this spot at the time of the birth of a child. I saw these men exchange words with Saint Joseph, whom they found before the grotto with the shepherds; and they left him sneeringly when they had seen his poverty and simplicity. The Blessed Virgin, after having remained about four hours in this side grotto, returned to the crib with the Infant Jesus.
The Grotto of the Crib enjoyed a sweet tranquillity. Nobody came from Bethlehem; the shepherds alone were in communication with it. The apparition to the shepherds at the hour of the birth of Jesus had caused that all the good people of the valleys had heard speak of the marvellous child of promise. They came now to honour the infant.
Friday, the 30th of November. Today many shepherds and other good people came to the Grotto of the Crib and honoured the Infant Jesus with great emotion.
When everybody was gone away for the synagogue of Bethlehem, Joseph got ready in the grotto the lamp for the Sabbath, which had seven wicks, lighted it, and placed it on a little table on which were scrolls containing prayers, and under this lamp he celebrated the Sabbath with the Blessed Virgin and the servant of Saint Anne.
Monday, the 3rd of December. This evening I saw Elizabeth come from Juttah to the Grotto of the Crib, riding on an ass, which was led by an old servant. Mary and she embraced with feelings of in expressible joy. She pressed the Infant Jesus to her heart, shedding tears. The Blessed Virgin related to her cousin everything which had happened to her up to the present time, and when she spoke of what she had suffered in seeking for a lodging at Bethlehem Elizabeth wept with all her heart.
During the preceding days I have often seen Mary show her child to some visitors covered with a veil and quite naked, with the exception of the cloth round His body. At other times I have seen Him completely swathed.
Nihil Obstat: Charles Poyer
Imprimatur: Herbert Vaughn, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, England
12 November 1899

photo:Adoration of the Shepherds (Caravaggio) 1609
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