Seer Who Inspired Gibson 'Passion' Movie Said
Christ's Chalice Still In Jerusalem
By Michael H. Brown
Next year at this time actor Mel Gibson plans to release what portends to be the most publicized movie about the Passion of Jesus ever. The film -- aptly entitled The Passion, and starring Jim Caviezel -- is based at least in part on revelations to Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich, a stigmatic nun who was born in Germany on the birthday of the Blessed Mother (September 8, 1774) and who reported a lifetime of remarkable mysticism, starting with apparitions as a child of her guardian angel. As a youngster she also experienced visions of Jesus and Mary. She died in 1824.
It was after entering an order of nuns that the key events of Sister Emmerich's life began, including the wounds of Jesus and stunning visions of the Passion -- so vivid they fairly pulse on the page like an eyewitness account. Could it be true? Did Sister Emmerich -- declared "venerable" -- actually see the way Jesus suffered? Did she "see" the Pasch, the Agony, the scene before Pilate? Did she see the actual, history-shattering event at Calvary?
We'll be exploring this. We don't know how much to take literally. Like any revelation, the receiver's own views often enter. It is not to be taken as Gospel. It is certainly not to alter a thing in the New Testament.
But it is a powerful document -- one of the most potent we have seen, one that virtually transports you to the time of Christ -- and it is contained in a book, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that details scene after incredible scene, greatly accenting our appreciation of what Christ went through from the Last Supper to the Resurrection.
Imaginings? Or true insight? "It is difficult to know the truth about many of these, since the main source of information in this regard is the writings of the poet Clemente Brentano, who exaggerated and embellished the facts," notes an Augustinian website, http://www.midwestaugustinians.org/saintsc_annemmerich.html, devoted to her.
But if only a fraction is true, the writings grant us an extraordinary insight into what Jesus endured -- and how He won our salvation.
Let's start with the Last Supper (and take this with you on Holy Thursday): It was Emmerich's claim that the Paschal feast occurred in the home of a man named Heli and that the Ark of the Covenant had once been kept in the same building. Heli was the brother-in-law of Zachary from Hebron, and his structure was on the southern side of Mount Zion -- not far from the ruined castle of David, an ancient, solid building between rows of thick trees in the midst of a spacious court surrounded by strong walls. "The supper room was nearly in the center of the court," claimed the revelation of Emmerich. "Its length was greater than its width; it was surrounded by a row of low pillars. The walls were ornamented for the festival, half way up, with beautiful matting or tapestry, and an aperture had been made in the roof, and covered over with transparent blue gauze."
In the niche in the wall, said this nun "were three cupboards that resembled what we now know as tabernacles." A number of vessels for the Pasch were kept in them. Later they would hold the Blessed Sacrament, claimed Sister Emmerich -- as she began to describe a scene that stunningly parallels the Mass.
What was the cup like? What did the rest of the first Eucharist entail?
"The great chalice stood upon a plate, out of which a species of tablet could be drawn," wrote Emmerich, "and around it there were six little glasses. The great chalice contained another smaller vase; above it there was a small plate, and then came a round cover. A spoon was inserted in the foot of the chalice, and could be easily drawn out for use. All these vessels were covered with fine linen."
The cup itself, noted Emmerich, "was pear-shaped, massive, dark-colored, and highly polished, with gold ornaments, and two small handles by which it could be lifted. The foot was virgin gold, elaborately worked, ornamented with a serpent and a small bunch of grapes, and enriched with precious stone."
According to the book, the chalice was left in the hands of St. James the Less at the Church of Jerusalem -- and is still somewhere to be found in that city. "It will reappear some day, in the same manner as before," asserted the holy mystic. "Other Churches took the little cups which surrounded it; one was taken to Antioch, and another to Ephesus. They belonged to the patriarchs, who drank some mysterious beverage out of them when they received or gave a benediction, as I have seen many times."
What can we say to confirm this? We can say that Emmerich was often seen to lapse for hours into a deep, comatose-like meditation. At such times, at least one witness glimpsed the outbreak of stigmata on her hands, though it first began as the thorn pricks on her forehead -- resembling the crown of thorns and granting her visions a certain credibility. Such is necessary when such extraordinary events are described. It was Emmerich's claim that the chalice was precious even before Christ used it -- that it had been handed down for generations from the time of Abraham. Such assertions, of course, are difficult to believe and impossible to verify. She said the same chalice had also been preserved on Noah's Ark. But there is no denying the power behind many of her snippets -- the sense that a number of insights may well be true to what actually happened. The Last Supper? "The son of Simeon had completed the preparation of the lamb," she said. "He passed a stake through its body, fastening the front legs on a cross piece of wood, and stretching the hind ones along the stake. It bore a strong resemblance to Jesus on the cross, and was placed into the oven, to be there roasted with the three other lambs brought from the Temple."
How did the disciples dress? In white robes and a cloak. The table? It was narrow, she saw, in the shape of a horseshoe, "and opposite Jesus, in the inner part of the half circle, there was a space left vacant, that the attendants might be able to set down the dishes," wrote Emmerich -- or those who recorded her visions (which often occurred as her stigmata flared). "As far as I can remember, John, James the Greater, and James the Less sat on the right hand of Jesus; after them Bartholomew, and then, round the corner, Thomas and Judas Iscariot. Peter, Andrew, and Thaddeus sat on the left of Jesus; next came Simon, and then (round the corner) Matthew and Philip."
This was the Paschal meat, served with a plate of green vegetables and another plate of bundled herbs. There was also a "brown-colored sauce or beverage." The guest had round loaves instead of plates before them, and they used ivory notes -- she said.
In the coming days we will look at the way this fascinating nun described other aspects of the Passion, but the Pasch itself is enough to focus upon right now --the Last Supper -- and as Emmerich teleports us into the past, she describes the way Jesus prayed and taught at this first Mass; the way they washed their hands; the way they sang hymns.
"The countenance of our Divine Savior bore an indescribable expression of serenity and recollection, greater than I had ever before seen," wrote Venerable Catherine. "He bade His apostles forget all their cares. The Blessed Virgin also, as she sat at table [in another room] with the other woman, looked most placid and calm. When the other women came up, and took hold of her veil to make her turn around and speak to them, her every movement expressed the sweetest self control and placidity of spirit."
At that critical juncture that defined the Eucharist, Sister Emmerich envisioned a scene that was all but a literal progenitor of the liturgy. The Lord, she said, "then drew a species of shelf with grooves from the board on which the jars stood, and taking a piece of white linen with which the chalice was covered, spread it over the board and shelf. I then saw Him lift a round plate, which He placed on this same shelf, off the top of the chalice. He next took the azymous [unfermented] loaves from beneath the linen with which they were covered, and placed them before Him on the board; then He took out of the chalice a smaller vase, and ranged the six glasses on each side of it. Then He blessed the bread and also the oil, to the best of my belief, after which He lifted up the paten with the loaves upon it, in His two hands, raised His eyes, prayed, offered, and replaced the paten on the table, covering it again."
Could this be true? Could it actually have been so close to the way we celebrate Mass 2,000 years later? At the least, the revelation causes us to hunger for the Eucharist. The mood is set. There is a transcendence. As He broke the bread -- claimed Emmerich -- Jesus looked nearly transparent, like a "luminous shadow," taking a corner of the bread and dropping it into the chalice. This was all recorded on scrolls the disciples carried, she asserted. "At the moment when He was doing this, I seemed to see the Blessed Virgin receiving the Blessed Sacrament in a spiritual manner. I do not know how it was done, but I thought I saw her enter without touching the ground, and come before our Lord to receive the Holy Eucharist; after which I saw her no more."
When Jesus uttered the words, "Take and eat; this is My Body," in Emmerich's rendition, "He stretched forth His right Hand as if to bless, and, while He did so, a brilliant light came from Him."
It was like the bread was luminous.
Don't we hear of this today: those who claim luminous Eucharistic miracles?
First to receive, said Emmerich, was Peter, and then John (although on another occasion she said she saw John as last to receive). These are the imperfections of revelation. But the sense is there: that 2,000 years ago, Christ presented Himself and instituted the Church in an incredible, unending way.
It was not only the beginning of the Eucharist, but also the first ordination, she said. According to Emmerich, Jesus spoke about the priesthood, the sacred unction, and the preparation of holy oils. This coincides with what Pope Fabian once wrote: that Jesus taught His disciples how to prepare the holy chrism.
"I do not remember seeing our Lord Himself eat and drink of the consecrated elements," said Emmerich. Afterward came the ordinations. "I then saw Jesus anoint Peter and John, on whose hands He had already poured the water which had flowed on His own, and two of whom He had given to drink out of the chalice. Then He laid His hands on their shoulders and heads, while they, on their part, joined their hands and crossed their thumbs, bowing down profoundly before Him -- I am not sure whether they did not even kneel. He anointed the thumb and fore-finger of each of their hands, and marked a cross on their heads with chrism. He said also that this would remain with them unto the end of the world."
According to Emmerich, James the Less, Andrew, James the Greater, and Bartholomew were also consecrated. What was communicated to them supernaturally, said the mystic, is impossible to describe. Later, on the day of Pentecost, Peter and John imposed their hands upon the other apostles, and a week later on the disciples. After the Resurrection, it was said, John gave the sacrament to the Blessed Virgin.
But we're getting ahead of the story. Our Lord proceeded to bless fire in a brass vessel, claimed the nun, and care was taken that it should not go out, but instead be kept near the spot where He deposited the Blessed Sacrament. We note today the precise same rituals. Could they actually have been instituted right from the start?
Let the experts hash that over. What we'll do next is explore the remarkable scene of the Agony -- when Venerable Emmerich goes beyond even the details of the Last Supper and claims Jesus was assaulted by evil spirits -- that even before Calvary, He was crucified spiritually.
Nun Who Inspired Movie Saw Huge Battle Between Jesus And Devils At Gethsemane
In her book called The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich asserted that what Jesus suffered at Gethsemane, in the famous instance the night before His Crucifixion, was far greater than what's described in Scripture -- that beyond mere anticipation of His own death, the Lord was forced to enter into fierce spiritual combat with the devil.
According to Emmerich, whose revelations reportedly play a significant role in a new Mel Gibson movie about Christ's Passion, the scene in the Garden -- widely known as the Agony -- involved "frightful figures borne on clouds" and temptation by Satan himself.
"Jesus went a few steps to the left, down a hill, and concealed himself beneath a rock, in a grotto about six-feet deep, while the apostles remained in a kind of hollow above," wrote the seer, a stigmatic who claimed to see Jesus' entire Passion in excruciating detail. "The place called Gethsemane was a large garden, surrounded by a hedge and containing only some fruit trees and flowers, while outside stood a few deserted unclosed buildings. When Jesus left His disciples, I saw a number of frightful figures surrounding Him in an ever-narrowing circle. His sorrow and anguish of soul continued to increase, and He was trembling all over when He entered the grotto to pray, like a way-worn traveler hurriedly seeking shelter from a sudden storm, but the awful visions pursued Him even there, and became more and more distinct.
"Alas! This small cavern appeared to contain the awful picture of all the sins which had been or were to be committed from the fall of Adam to the end of the world, and of the punishment which they deserved," the mystic added. It was a sight, said Emmerich, that caused the Lord to fall on His face -- overwhelmed by an unspeakable sorrow that many thought was not fully suffered until the next day, until His Crucifixion -- when in fact, if Emmerich's visions bear merit, the Gethesmane scene was more than just anxiety at the thought of what would soon happen; it was a spiritual Crucifixion. It was an aspect of His suffering to which we have hitherto not been privy, save for this alleged revelation.
According to the holy nun (whom the Vatican declared "venerable" in 2001), Satan let loose his full fury against Jesus and displayed the horrid visions before the Lord's eyes at the same time that he taunted Him about suffering for an "unworthy" race and failing at His mission. If true, it would have been the second major appearance of the devil to Jesus that we know of (after the far better known confrontation in the desert). "Takest thou even this sin upon thyself?" Emmerich heard the devil ask as the images of mankind's sins were shown.
It was at that point, claimed this mystic, that "a long ray of light, like a luminous path in the air, descended from Heaven; it was a procession of angels who came to Jesus and strengthened and reinvigorated Him. The remainder of the grotto was filled with frightful visions of our crime; Jesus took them all upon Himself." And all the while, demons tempted Jesus with thoughts of despair and failure -- in Emmerich's view.
At a spiritual level, it was misery to match what He would shortly endure physically.
Every crime that man had ever committed and ever would was portrayed to Him. And made to seem hopeless. At first the Lord appeared calm as He knelt down and prayed, claimed the mystic -- "but after a time His soul became terrified at the sight of the innumerable crimes of men," as well as their ingratitude towards God, and it was at this point, claimed the nun, that the Lord exclaimed, "Father, if it is possible, let this chalice pass from me!"
That's what the German mystic -- who died in 1824 -- imagined as the way Christ prepared for His Crucifixion. They are scenes that Emmerich envisioned while in a semi-comatose state -- sometimes while suffering the stigmata. The Gibson movie, which has created controversy because it promises to be the most vivid, graphic portrayal of the Agony ever filmed, is said to draw heavily from such scenes and stars Jim Caviezel, whose conversion came through Medjugorje.
Among the horrid scenes to which Jesus was subjected was the sight of men dragged away by the devil -- men who had been redeemed by His Blood and sanctified by the unction of His sacrament. As described by Emmerich, it was a bitter anguish, and so violent was the struggle between His human will and His repugnance to suffering for such ungrateful men that His pores burst forth.
Or so Sister Emmerich tells us.
"Amid all these apparitions, Satan held a conspicuous place, under various forms, which represented different kinds of sins," she maintained. "Sometimes he appeared under the form of a gigantic black figure, sometimes under those of a tiger, a fox, a wolf, a dragon, or a serpent."
None of them actually resembled a real creature, said the mystic; there were aspects of the creatures in the forms. It was just a diabolical onslaught. Hell was unleashed. There was an "odious reptile" of gigantic size -- and possessed of "unbounded strength." The creatures cursed, struck, wounded, and tore at the Savior.
Emmerich saw Jesus stagger.
"Thus exposed to the fury of these hellish bands, some of which appeared to me wholly composed of blind men, Jesus was as much wounded and bruised as if their blows had been real," described the seer, who said that if she were to speak for an entire year, she still would not be able to adequately convey the horror.
She saw irreverent Christians; she saw what would be sacrilegious priests. She saw wicked soldiers profaning the sacred vessels -- as if to foreshadow the persecutions of the early centuries (or the later French Revolution). She saw theologians teaching heresy. She saw servants of the devil making use of the Holy Eucharist in hellish rituals.
This preview -- this foretaste of mankind's sins -- is what she believed Christ was subjected to before He endured the nails in His hands and feet and the crown of thorns -- which Venerable Emmerich also suffered stigmatically.
Where was Mary? Where was His mother?
"I saw the Blessed Virgin also overwhelmed with sorrow and anguish of soul, in the house of Mary, the mother of Mark," claimed Sister Emmerich. "She was with Magdalen and Mary in the garden belonging to the house, and almost prostrate from grief, with her whole body bowed down as she knelt. She fainted several times, for she beheld in spirit different portions of the agony of Jesus."
Could it be true? Did a 19th-century nun actually view accurate renditions of the Passion? Were these details too voluminous to be contained in biblical acounts?
As with any revelation, we take from it what is good, with the recognition that all prophecy, and all such revelation, is imperfect [1 Corinthians 13:9]. There is imagining. There are subjective views. And these often insert themselves into mysticism. Additionally, there have been claims that a poet who helped take down the revelations may have embellished and added details.
We know only that this is transcendental prose taking one right to the New Testament scenes in a way we have not seen before. We also know that by decree of April 24, 2001, Anne Catherine Emmerich was awarded the degree of "heroic virtue" (Decretum super virtutibus), and thus the title "Venerable" -- the first step to potential canonization. Indeed, her cause is now in Rome.
And her book is now sure to be a popular read as Gibson completes a movie that has already garnered publicity everywhere from the Fox News Network to The New York Times.
Devils, yes, but Jesus overcame them. He defeated them. They didn't win at Gethsemane; and they certainly didn't win at Calvary. After His trial in the Garden, according to Emmerich, came heavenly visions -- all the angels and bands of future saints who joined their labor to His Passion!
"The apostles, disciples, virgins, and holy women, the martyrs, confessors, hermits, popes, and bishops, and large bands of religious of both sexes -- in one word, the entire army of the blessed -- appeared before Him," wrote the remarkable mystic.
Next week: the Crucifixion
Dragged And Tossed Into A Torrent: Was This The True Extent Of Jesus' Suffering?
How extensive were the wounds of Jesus? How was He arrested? How much did He really suffer?
According to mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich, the German stigmatic whose revelations are partly behind a major new movie about the Crucifixion and whose visions are chronicled in a mystical classic called The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the suffering was far more than most imagine -- so severe even before He reached Calvary, she says, that only supernatural ministering kept Him from expiring previous to making His way to the Cross.
That miraculous power was evident at His arrest, wrote Emmerich, when the leaders of the soldiers asked Christ Who He was and He affirmatively replied that He was Jesus of Nazareth. Says the account (written from visions in comatose-like ecstasies, with Emmerich suffering many of the pains) those words caused the soldiers to go into a fit. "Scarcely had He pronounced these words than they all fell to the ground, as if struck with apoplexy," claimed Emmerich. "Judas, who stood by them, was much alarmed."
It was at this point that Jesus confronted his betrayer and at the same time stopped Peter from striking the men (Emmerich describes them as "archers") who were apprehending Him. "Put up again thy sword into its place," said Jesus. "For all that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot ask My Father, and He will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be done?"
The scenarios set forth by Emmerich, who died in 1824 and was declared "venerable" in 2001, make for extraordinarily lucid visualizations of what Christ suffered. While like most private revelations they must be taken more as inspiration than totally accurate reportage -- and are never to replace the accounts in the New Testament -- it's no surprise that such a book has reportedly propelled scenes in the new movie, which is set for release next year and is directed by actor Mel Gibson. In one instance the Lord is quoted as saying, "I sat daily with you teaching in the Temple, and you laid not hands upon Me, but this is your hour and the power of darkness" -- strikingly similar to the Blessed Mother's words at Medjugorje (where she said that "this is the hour of the power of darkness").
"They tied His hands as tightly as possible with hard new cords, fastening the right-hand wrist under the left elbow, and the left-hand wrist under the right elbow," wrote the mystic. "They encircled His waist with a species of belt studded with iron points, and bound His hands to it with osier bands, while on His neck they put a collar covered with iron points, and to this collar were appended two leathern straps, which were crossed over His chest like a stole and fastened to the belt. Then they fastened four ropes to different parts of the belt, and by means of these ropes dragged Our Blessed Lord from side to side in the most cruel manner."
It is in this part of the revelation Emmerich makes another remarkable assertion: that after His arrest, between the Garden of Olives and Gethsemane, there was a bridge over the torrent of Cedron and Jesus was hurled into the water. "I saw Our Lord fall twice before He reached the bridge, and these falls were caused entirely by the barbarous manner in which the soldiers dragged Him," wrote the seer. "But when they were half over the bridge they gave full vent to their brutal inclinations, and struck Jesus with such violence that they threw Him off the bridge into the water, and scornfully recommended Him to quench His thirst there."
This is the night before His Crucifixion. This is the suffering previous to His appearance before the councils and tribunals the following morning. This is on the way to His subterranean imprisonment. And it is after what Emmerich described as a horrendous confrontation with demons and Satan at Gethsemane just previous to this scene. Could anyone actually have witnessed such detail mystically? And could the Passion actually have been worse than hitherto known? Critics point to the fact that a poet who helped compile Venerable Catherine's insights was known for "embellishment." Aspects may also seem improbable -- as when Emmerich (or the poet who helped compile the revelations) asserted that the chalice used at the Last Supper had once been on Noah's Ark.
But there is no denying the sense that one is getting a rare and precious insight into actual events at many powerful junctures. When He fell into the torrent, claimed Emmerich, Jesus' imprints were miraculously impressed into the rock; meanwhile, she relates this instance to a prophetic psalm that says "In his thirst he will drink water from the torrent." She could also have quoted 18:4: "The cords of death encompassed me, And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me."
He was struck with pointed sticks. His feet bled. He was not just spat upon, but covered with "filth and spittle." All the while, His mother suffered untold anguish -- as when spotting the soldiers' torches and hearing their tumultuous curses. "This sight quote overcame her," claimed Emmerich. "She became insensible, and John took her into the house of Mary, the mother of Mark."
The sky was dark, gloomy, the moon red and covered with livid spots, the majority of the apostles overcome with terror and wandering among the valleys or even seeking refuge in caverns beneath Mount Olivet, claimed Emmerich. Terror indeed: when Jesus appeared before Caiphas and once more identified Himself as Son of the Living God, "hell appeared to be shaken from one extremity to the other," wrote the stigmatic, "and then, as it were, to burst forth and inundate every person in the house of Caiphas. The despair and fury which these words produced in hell were shown to me under the appearance of a thousand terrific figures in different places. I remember seeing, among other frightful things, a number of little black objects, like dogs with claws, which walked on their hind legs; I knew at the time what kind of wickedness was indicated by this apparition. I saw these horrible phantoms enter into the bodies of the greatest part of the bystanders."
During such visions, Emmerich was said to suffer both the mental and bodily torments endured by the Lord -- weeping and groaning like one set before the executioner, shuddering, trembling, virtually unconscious, with such profuse perspiration -- sometimes bloody -- that her clothes were soaked. She described the council. She described the denial of Peter. She described what else Mary was suffering. And she described the subterranean prison. "The Jews, having quite exhausted their barbarity, shut Jesus up up in a little vaulted prison, the remains of which subsist to this day," the seer asserted. "Two of the archers alone remained with Him, and they were soon replaced by two others. He was still clothed in the old dirty mantle, and covered with the spittle and other filth which they had thrown over Him; for they had not allowed Him to put on His own clothes again, but kept His hands tightly bound together. When Our Lord entered this prison, He prayed most fervently that His heavenly Father would accept all that He had already suffered, and all that He was about to suffer, as an expiatory sacrifice, not only for His executioners, but likewise for all who in future ages might have to suffer torments such as He was about to endure."
There was not a moment of respite. There was the dreariness. There was the fact that He was tied to a pillar. So exhausted was Jesus, so wounded, so burdened by chains, that He could scarcely stand. The sight of it made Emmerich physically ill. The Lord tottered rather than walked and was almost unrecognizable from the sufferings -- colorless, haggard. It was about eight the next morning, she asserted, when He reached the palace of Pilate. If there was reluctance on the part of Pilate, it may have been because his wife had experienced extraordinary dreams that caused her the greatest of anxiety and sympathy for Jesus.
Still, He was dragged to court, and according to Emmerich, at one point a large white sack with a hole cut out was put over His head with mockery. Mud was thrown at Jesus, and He was dragged through a gutter. "I saw blood streaming from His head, and three times did the blows prostrate Him, but angels were weeping at His side, and they anointed His head with heavenly balsam. It was revealed to me that had it not been for this miraculous assistance, He must have died from those wounds."
The scourging? This was conducted by six "dark, swarthy men" from Egypt, said the mystic -- cruel criminals who had been condemned to hard labor. They struck Jesus with their fists. They dragged Him again. He was pinioned. His mother saw some of this and was overcome with grief. At one point He looked toward her. The night had been dark and cold, and now the morning was cloudy and according to Emmerich, "a little hail had fallen, which surprised everyone."
But toward noon it became brighter, and the sun shone forth. Jesus was ready for His Crucifixion after a scourging marked by tremendous fury -- and assault by thorny sticks that tore into His flesh. At the conclusion of the scourging He wiped the blood from His eyes so that He could look again at His mother, who stretched her arm toward Him and who suffered almost as much as He did, as we will see next.
Famous Nun Said Visions Showed BVM Initiated Way of the Cross
German stigmatic Anne Catherine Emmerich, declared "venerable by the Church in 2001 and author of revelations concerning the Crucifixion of Christ (revelations that also figure into a major upcoming movie), asserted that it was the Blessed Mother who established devotion to the Way of the Cross and that the Virgin shared a supernatural communication as well as great suffering with Jesus during His Passion.
In reputed visions during the 1800s, Venerable Emmerich, a nun in Dulmen who experienced a wide array of mystical phenomena (including the stigmata, or wounds of Christ, on Fridays), said she saw the Holy Mother retrace her Son's steps during His judgment before Herod, joining John and Magdalen in praying on the route Jesus had taken -- spots that had been sanctified by His footsteps.
"They again looked at the house of Caiphas, that of Annas, Ophel, Gethsemane, and the Garden of Olives," claimed the mystic, whose revelations have come to special light since reports that they play a part in a movie directed by Mel Gibson. "They stopped and contemplated each spot where He had fallen, or where He had suffered particularly; and they wept silently at the thought of all He had undergone. The Blessed Virgin knelt down frequently and kissed the ground where her Son had fallen, while Magdalen wrung her hands in bitter grief and John, although he could not restrain his own tears, endeavored to console his companions."
Thus was the holy practice of the Way of the Cross first instituted, claimed the mystic, and the mysteries of the Passion, since incorporated into the Rosary, first accomplished. "At each station, marked by the suffering of her Son, did she lay up in her heart the inexhaustible merits of His Passion, and gather them up as precious stones or sweet-scented flowers to be presented as choice offering to the Eternal Father," said Emmerich, whose revelations were often obtained in deep ecstasies during which she appeared comatose. Recorded by poet Clemente Brentano, they are contained in a book called The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ -- one of the most powerful revelations on the Crucifixion.
According to the nun, who died in 1824, Mary was herself endowed with supernatural gifts, especially locutions. "The Blessed Virgin was ever united to her Divine Son by interior spiritual communications," wrote Emmerich. "She was therefore fully aware of all that happened to Him -- she suffered with Him, and joined in His continual prayer for His murderers. But her maternal feelings prompted her to supplicate Almighty God most ardently not to suffer the crime to be completed, and to save her Son from such dreadful torments."
Emmerich described the Blessed Mother as wan and pale, eyes red, but with great, simple dignity -- her appearance placid and meticulous, her way of observing the landscape majestic. "Her beauty was great, but indescribable," said the mystic, "for it was superhuman -- a mixture of majesty, sanctity, simplicity, and purity." According to Emmerich, who experienced apparitions as well as visions that allegedly took her back to the days of Jesus, the Blessed Mother suffered so much interiorly that "more than once she became totally unconscious." Before the scourging, Mary stood with John, Magdalen, and the "holy women" in a corner of the forum, said Emmerich -- filled with motherly anguish but knowing how crucial His suffering was for redemption.
"At the termination of the scourging, Mary came to herself for a time, and saw her Divine Son all torn and mangled, being led away by the archers after the scourging," wrote the mystic. "He wiped His eyes, which were filled with blood, that He might look at His mother, and she stretched out he hands towards Him and continued to look at the bloody traces of His footsteps."
Like all revelations, these must be discerned and considered more inspiration than new gospel -- although at many junctures the manner of conversation all but perfectly complements what we know of the Crucifixion from Scripture. At one point in narrating what she was seeing, Sister Emmerich became extremely ill, oppressed with fever and so tormented by thirst that her tongue was parched and contracted. It was only with intervals of rest that she was able to relate the Crowning with Thorns, according to her biographers. She described a scene in which Pilate harangued the populace many times, but was interrupted by their loud cries for execution. So troubled was Pilate that he returned to the inner part of his palace to consult his gods and offer them incense.
There was the mob. There was the mockery, the laughing. The soldiers were spurred on by their applause and in the middle of the court, said Emmerich, Jesus was placed on a very low stool that was maliciously covered with bits of broken potsherds.
"Then they tore off the garments of Jesus, thereby reopening all His wounds, threw over His shoulders an old scarlet mantle which barely reached His knees, dragged Him to the seat prepared, and pushed Him roughly down upon it, having first placed the crown of thorns upon His head.
"The crown of thorns was made of three branches plaited together, the greatest part of the thorns being purposely turned inwards so as to pierce Our Lord's head. Having first placed these twisted branches on His forehead, they tied them tightly together at the back of His head, and no sooner was this accomplished to their satisfaction than they put a large reed into His hand, doing all with derisive gravity as if they were really crowning a king.
"They then seized the reed and struck His head so violently that His eyes were filled with blood; they knelt before Him, derided Him, spat in His face, and buffeted Him, saying at the same time, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' Then they threw down His stool, pulled Him up again from the ground on which He had fallen, and reseated Him with the greatest possible brutality."
This all took about half an hour, claimed Emmerich. The thirst was especially severe, brought on Jesus by a fever from His wounds. He trembled all over, she said; His tongue was contracted -- as was the mystic's when she described it; the only refreshment was the Blood that tricked from His head to His parched lips.
The sight of Him caused Pilate to shudder "with horror and compassion," claimed the mystic, but he was also cowed by the crowd and indecisive. The enemies of Jesus -- the High Priests, the Pharisees -- would have their way. Pilate left the matter up to his superstitious "gods" -- half frightened, half angry.
So was Christ prepared for the Cross.
Did Emmerich really see this? Was the mystic really transported backward in time?
"The Blessed Virgin, who had retired to some distance after the scourging of Jesus, again approached to hear the sentence of death pronounced upon her Son and her God," said Emmerich. "Jesus stood in the midst of the archers, at the foot of the staircase leading up to the tribunal. The trumpet was sounded to demand silence, and then the cowardly, the base judge, in a tremulous undecided voice, pronounced the sentence of death on the Just Man."
Emmerich Described Unnatural Dark And Phenomena That Occurred At Crucifixion
t is the Week of weeks, the time for the deep devotion, the time when we can really feel the power of Jesus and know His suffering -- the time during which we can plead His Blood.
The world changed when the first drop of that Blood touched the earth at Calvary. "On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed," says Isaiah 53:5 -- and when we're oppressed, when we're ill, when we're down, we can hide in His wounds, the wounds that defeated Satan, the wounds that stood against all the evil and oppression of a world that is one big temptation, a world that He overcame and that we too can transcend through devotions, especially the Stations of the Cross.
Mostly, it is a week for meditating on Scripture, for placing Jesus in context and recognizing what He did is not just history but something that's alive at every single moment as the Eucharist is celebrated somewhere around the world at every moment. We recommend Mass every day this week. We recommend prayer booklets like the Pieta Prayer Book. We urge heart-felt recitation -- slow, well-formed prayers -- on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary as we join our troubles with His, as we meet and overcome our own affliction.
It is a grand build-up to Friday and we can even rely on the mystics like Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich -- who so vividly imagined the sufferings of Christ and who asserted that the phenomena attendant to the Crucifixion sailed well beyond natural explanation in testimony to the power of that Blood.
Something happened at that moment, something beyond the natural. "At last they reached a spot where the pathway turned suddenly to the south. Here He stumbled and fell for the sixth time. The fall was a dreadful one, but the guards only struck Him harder to force Him to get up, and no sooner did He reach Calvary than He sank down again for the seventh time."
She "saw" Jesus beaten, scourged, beaten again, now putting Himself on the Cross as they measured for His feet and hands. There was a board at the bottom to support Christ's feet, said Emmerich (something that has long been portrayed on crucifixes), and the Blessed Mother fainted at one point before the Crucifixion, after meeting with Him -- though she recovered and remained near her Son. According to Emmerich, the nails were pounded into the palms of Jesus (not the wrists, as some assert); He faced the northwest as He hung on the Cross; and it took 36 hammer blows to nail the feet.
There were five entrances to Calvary, wrote Emmerich -- who believed the number five, representing the number of His wounds, bore great mystical significance. And there was the array of unusual natural phenomena. Towards noon, a thick red fog began to obscure the vicinity, a scene rendered more frightful to her by the sight of demons. "I saw large bodies of evil spirits under the forms of toads, serpents, sharp-clawed dragons, and venomous insects, urging these wicked men to still greater cruelty, and perfectly darkening the air," wrote the mystic.
"The sky grew darker and the stars appeared to cast a red and lurid light," said Emmerich. "The Pharisees endeavored to give philosophical reasons for what was taking place, but they failed in their attempt, and were reduced to silence. Many were seized with remorse, struck their breasts, and cried out, 'May His Blood fall upon His murderers!' Numbers of others, whether near the Cross or at a distance, fell on their knees and entreated forgiveness of Jesus, Who turned His eyes compassionately upon them in the midst of His sufferings.
"However, the darkness continued to increase, and everyone excepting Mary and the most faithful among the friends of Jesus left the Cross. When the darkness increased to such a degree that it was impossible to distinguish the countenance of one from that of the other, they were seized with fear, horror, and dread. The High Priests endeavored to maintain order and quiet. All the lamps were lighted; but the confusion became greater every moment, and Annas appeared perfectly paralyzed with terror.
There was what seemed like an eclipse. The birds flew low and other animals hid themselves or uttered mournful cries; Pilate remarked that the events were "not common in the course of nature."
"As the darkness continued to grow more and more dense, the silence became perfectly astounding," contended Emmerich. "Everyone appeared terror-struck. Some looked at the sky, while others, filled with remorse, turned toward the Cross, smote their breasts, and were converted.
"The disc of the sun was of a dark-yellow tint, rather resembling a mountain when viewed by moonlight, and it was surrounded by a bright fiery ring; the stars appeared, but the light they cast was red and lurid; the birds were so terrified as to drop to the ground; the beasts trembled and moaned. Stillness reigned around the Cross. Jesus hung upon it alone: forsaken by all -- disciples, followers, friends, His Mother was even removed from His side [for a short time]; not one person of the thousands upon whom He had lavished benefits was near to offer Him the slightest alleviation of His bitter agony."
Was it really how it happened? Was there such phenomena in nature? We know from the Bible that besides the preternatural darkness, there was a quake. There were also apparitions of the dead. Obviously, it was an extraordinary moment, one that has not been repeated since -- though a coming darkness is in many prophecies.
Was the phenomenon of the sun similar to the supernatural way the sun has reacted at places like Fatima?
The most important point is the feeling. It is something we too need to feel, to glimpse, to taste as the week approaches a crescendo.
"I beheld Him motionless, and almost lifeless," wrote Emmerich. "I felt as if I myself must expire; my heart was overwhelmed between grief, love, and horror; my mind was half wandering, my hands and feet burning with a feverish heat; each vein, nerve, and limb was racked with inexpressible pain; I saw nothing distinctly, excepting my beloved Spouse hanging on the Cross. I contemplated His disfigured countenance, His head encircled with that terrible crown of thorns, which prevented His raising it even for a moment without the most intense suffering, His mouth parched and half open from exhaustion, and His hair and beard clotted with Blood.
"His chest was torn with stripes and wounds, and His elbows, wrists, and shoulders so violently distended as to be almost dislocated.
"Blood constantly trickled down from His gaping wounds in His hands, and the flesh was so torn from His ribs that you might almost count them. His legs and thighs, as also His arms, were stretched out almost to dislocation, the flesh and muscles so completely laid bare that every bone was visible...
"The Blood which flowed from His wounds was at first red, but it became by degrees light and watery, and the whole appearance of His Body was that of a corpse ready for interment.
"And yet, notwithstanding the state of ignominy to which He was reduced, there still remained that inexpressible look of dignity and goodness which had ever filled all beholders with awe."
[Resources: The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ]
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