Life of Jesus Christ by Anne Catherine Emmerich
Vol 4

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The Apostles Gather for Mary's Death


 Ephesus, however, and the country around. Bartholo­mew was in Asia east of the Red Sea. He was hand­some and very active, his complexion fair and his forehead high. He had large eyes, black curly hair, and a short, crisp beard, black and parted on the chin. He had already converted a king and all the royal family. Paul was not summoned. Those only were called that were related or acquainted with the Holy Family. Peter, Andrew, and John were the first to reach the Blessed Virgin's house. She was already near death. She was lying calmly on her couch in her sleeping place. I saw the maidservant looking very sorrowful in this and that corner of the house, also outdoors, where she prayed prostrate with outstretched arms. I saw also two of Mary's sisters and five disciples coming together to the house. All looked tired and exhausted. They carried staves of various kinds, each according to his rank. They wore, under their hooded mantles of white wool, long albs of the same material fastened all the way down the front with little leather straps slit in the middle over little rolls like buttons. Both mantle and alb were girded high when travelling. Some had a pouch hanging from their girdle at the side. They embraced each other tenderly when they met. Many wept from mingled feelings of joy and sorrow at meeting on such an occasion. On entering the house, they laid aside their mantles, staves, pouches, and girdles; allowed their white robes to fall in broad folds down to their feet, and each put on a wide gir­dle inscribed with letters, which he had brought with him. Then with deep emotion they drew near Mary's couch to salute her, though she could now say only a few words. I did not see the travelers taking any­thing on their arrival, excepting some kind of bev­erage from a little flask, with which each one came provided. They did not sleep in the house, but out­side under light awnings, which were put up on posts against the walls, and which were divided off and


Life of Jesus Christ

 enclosed by movable screens and wickerwork.

I saw that the first to arrive prepared in the front apartment of the house a place suitable for prayer and offering the Holy Sacrifice. There was an altar covered with a red and over that a white cloth, and on it stood a Crucifix, white like mother-of-pearl, and in shape like a Maltese cross. The cross could be opened. It contained five compartments, likewise cross-shaped. The middle one held the Most Blessed Sacrament, while the others were intended respec­tively for chrism, oil, cotton, and salt. It was not quite a span, or nine inches, in length. Each of the Apostles when travelling carried one like it on his breast. It was in this cross that Peter took to Mary the Holy Communion, during the reception of which the Apostles stood bowing low, ranged in two rows from the altar down to her couch. The altar, before which was a stand with rolls of Scripture hanging over it, was not in the center of the front apart­ment, where the fireplace stood, for that was still in use. It was placed near the wall on the right, and was put up and taken down every day.

When the Apostles went all together into Mary's little sleeping chamber in order to take leave of her, they wore their long white albs and broad mantles. The screens that separated the front from the back of the house had been removed. The disciples and holy women remained standing in the front apart­ment. I saw that Mary sat upright, that the Apos­tles knelt in turn at the side of her couch, and that she prayed over each and blessed him with her hands laid upon him crosswise. She did the same to the disciples and to the women. One of the latter, who stood quite bent in two over Mary, received an embrace from her. When Peter stepped up to the couch, I saw that he had a roll of Scriptures in his hand. Mary then addressed them in a body, and did all that Jesus had in Bethania directed her to do, I saw also that she told John what was to be done

The Benediction of the Blessed Virgin


 with her remains, and that he should see that her clothes were divided between her own maidservant and a maiden of the neighborhood who came some­times to render her service. As she spoke, she pointed to the press, or partition, and I saw the maid going to it, opening and closing it.

4. Death, Burial, and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin

And now the altar with its covers, one red, the other white, was placed in front of the Crucifix of the Blessed Virgin's own oratory. Peter here cele­brated the Holy Mass with the same ceremonies as I had seen him first observe in the church at the Pool of Bethsaida. Tapers, not lamps, were burning on the altar. Mary was in a sitting posture on her couch during the whole celebration. Peter was vested in the large mantle and the pallium, whose colors glanced from white to red. These he wore over the white robe. The four Apostles assisting him were also vested in festal mantles. After the Communion, Peter gave the Blessed Sacrament to all present. During this Holy Mass, Philip arrived from Egypt. Weeping bitterly, he received the benediction of the Blessed Virgin, and after the others the Blessed Sacrament.

Peter bore the Blessed Sacrament to Mary in the cross hanging on his breast, and John carried on a shallow dish the chalice containing the Most Sacred Blood. This chalice was white, small as if for pour­ing, and of the same shape as that used at the Last Supper. Its stem was so short that it could be held with two fingers only. Thaddeus now brought for­ward a little incense basin. Peter first gave the Blessed Virgin the last anointing, just as that Sacra­ment is administered at the present day. Next he administered Holy Communion, which she received sitting up without support. Then she sank back again


Life of Jesus Christ

 on her pillow, and after the Apostles had offered a short prayer, she received the chalice from John, but not now in so upright a posture.

After Communion, Mary spoke no more. Her coun­tenance, blooming and smiling as in youth, was raised above. I no longer saw the roof of her chamber, and the lamp appeared to be suspended in the open air. A pathway of light arose from Mary up to the heav­enly Jerusalem, up to the throne of the Most Holy Trinity. On either side of this pathway I saw clouds of light out of which gazed angelic faces. Mary raised her arms to the Heavenly Jerusalem. Her body with all its wrappings was floating so high above the couch that I could see under it. A figure of light, also with upraised arms, appeared to issue from Mary. The two choirs of angels united under this figure and soared up with it, as if separating it from the body, which now sank back upon the couch, the hands crossed upon the breast. Many holy souls, among whom I recognized Joseph, Anne, Joachim, John the Baptist, Zachary, and Elizabeth, came to meet her. But up she soared, followed by them, to her Son, whose Wounds were flashing light far more brilliant than that which surrounded Him. He received her and placed in her hand a scepter, point­ing at the same time over the whole circumference of the earth. At last I saw, and the sight filled me with joy, a multitude of souls released from Purga­tory and soaring up to Heaven, and I received the surety that every year, on the feast of Mary's Assump­tion, many of her devout clients are freed from Pur­gatory. The hour of Mary's death was made known to me as that of None, at which time also Jesus had died on the cross. Peter and John likewise must have seen the glory of Mary's blessed soul, for their faces were turned upward, but the other Apostles were kneeling bowed to the ground. The body of the Blessed Virgin lay radiant with light upon the couch, the eyes closed, the hands crossed upon the breast. All

Preparations for Mary's Burial


 present knelt, adoring God.

At last the women covered the blessed remains with a sheet, put all the furniture of the house aside and covered it, even covering the fireplace. Then they veiled themselves and prayed together in a space in the front of the house, sometimes kneeling, sometimes sitting. The Apostles too enveloped their head with the scarf they wore about their shoul­ders, and ranged in order for prayer. They took turns, two at a time, to kneel and pray at the head and feet of the blessed remains. I saw them exchanging places with one another four times in the day, and I likewise saw them making the Way of the Cross.

Andrew and Matthias were busy preparing the place of burial, which was the little grotto that Mary and John had arranged at the end of the Way of the Cross, to represent the Holy Sepulcher of Christ. It was not so large as Jesus' tomb, being scarcely as high as a man, and was surrounded by a little gar­den hedged in by stakes. A pathway ran obliquely down into it, and the stone couch, which was like a narrow altar, was hollowed on top to the shape of a body enveloped in its winding sheet, the head being a trifle higher than the foot. The Station of Mount Calvary (the Crucifixion) was on a hill nearby. No cross was erected on it, but there was one cut out on the stone. Andrew was especially active in prepar­ing the grotto, and setting up a door firmly in front of the tomb proper.

The blessed body was prepared by the women for burial. Among them I remember having seen a daugh­ter of Veronica and John Mark's mother. They brought spices and pots of fresh herbs, in order to embalm it according to the Jewish custom. They closed the house, and worked by the light of lamps. They opened up the apartment back of the fireplace and removed the screens that enclosed the little alcove used by the Blessed Virgin as a sleeping place, in order to have more room for their work of embalming. The


Life of Jesus Christ

 wicker screens of the alcove were not again replaced, for immediately after the obsequies they, along with those of the clothes press, were put out of sight by the maidservant. Only the altar was allowed to remain standing before the Crucifix in Mary's sleeping apart­ment. The whole house had now become like a lit­tle chapel in which the Apostles prayed and celebrated the most holy and unbloody Sacrifice. While the women were preparing the holy body for burial, the Apostles prayed, choir and choir, sometimes in the front apartment, sometimes outside the house. The women went about their task most devoutly and rev­erently, just as had been done when preparing the most Sacred Body of Jesus for burial. The body of the Blessed Virgin was lifted in the linen of the deathbed and laid in a long basket, which had a lid and which was filled with covers, so that when lying on them, it rose above the edge. The body was of a dry, indescribable whiteness as if shining with light, and of so little weight that, like a mere husk, it could be raised quite easily on the hands. The face was fresh and blooming. The women cut off some locks of hair to keep as relics. They laid bunches of herbs around the neck and throat, under the arms, and in the armpits.

Before the holy body was shrouded in its white garments and enveloped in the winding sheets, Peter celebrated the Unbloody Sacrifice on the altar of the oratory and gave Holy Communion to the other Apos­tles. After that Peter and John approached the body in their mantles of ceremony. John carried a vessel of oil, with which Peter anointed, in the form of a cross and with accompanying prayers, the forehead, hands, and feet of the holy body, which was after­ward entirely enveloped in linens by the women. They placed on the head a wreath of flowers, white, red, and sky-blue, as a symbol of Mary's virginity, and over the face a transparent veil, through which it could be seen encircled by the wreath. The feet

The Blessed Virgin's Burial


 also, which were bound up in aromatic herbs, could be traced through the linens that enveloped them. The arms and hands were bound crosswise on the breast. Thus prepared, the holy body was laid in a coffin of snow-white wood with a tightly fitting, arched cover, which was fastened down at the head, the foot, and in the middle, with gray straps. The coffin was then laid on a litter. Everything was done with the utmost solemnity, and all were penetrated with deep emotion. The sorrow of the mourners was more human and more openly expressed than at Jesus' burial, at which holy awe and reverence pre­dominated.

When it was time to bear the coffin to the grotto, one half-hour distant, Peter and John raised it from the litter and carried it in their hands to the door of the house, outside of which it was again laid on the litter, which Peter and John then raised upon their shoulders. Six of the Apostles thus carried it in turn. The coffin hung between the bearers as in a cradle, for the poles of the litter were run through leathern straps, or matting. Some of the Apostles walked before the coffin praying, and after it came the women. Lamps, or lanterns on poles, were carried.

Before reaching the grotto, the litter was set down. Four of the Apostles bore the coffin in, and placed it in the hollow of the tomb. All went, one by one, into the grotto, where they knelt in prayer before the holy body, honoring it and taking leave of it. Then the tomb was shut in by a wicker screen that extended from the front edge of the tomb to the top of the vaulted wall above. Before the entrance of the grotto they made a trench, which they planted so thickly with blooming flowers and bushes covered with berries that one could gain access to it only from the side, and that only by making his way through the underwood.

On the night following the burial took place the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into Heaven.


Life of Jesus Christ

 I saw on this night several of the Apostles and holy women in the little garden, praying and singing Psalms before the grotto. I saw a broad pathway of light descend from Heaven and rest upon the tomb. In it were circles of glory full of angels, in the midst of whom the resplendent soul of the Blessed Virgin came floating down. Before her went her Divine Son, the marks of His Wounds flashing with light. In the innermost circle, that which surrounded the holy soul of Mary, the angels appeared like the faces of very young children; in the second circle, they were like those of children from six to eight years old; and in the outermost, like the faces of youths, I could clearly distinguish only the face, the rest of the fig­ure consisting of perfectly transparent light. Encir­cling the head of the Blessed Virgin like a crown, was a choir of blessed spirits. I know not what those present saw of all this. But I saw that some gazed up in amazement and adoration, while others cast themselves prostrate in fright upon the earth. These apparitions, becoming more and more distinct as they approached nearer, floated over the grotto, and another pathway of light issued from it and arose to the heavenly Jerusalem. The blessed soul of Mary, floating before Jesus, penetrated through the rock and into the tomb, out of which she again arose radi­ant with light in her glorified body and, escorted by the entire multitude of celestial spirits, returned in triumph to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Next day, when the Apostles were engaged in choir service, Thomas made his appearance with two com­panions. One was a disciple named Jonathan Eleasar, and the other a servant from the most remote coun­try of the Three Holy Kings. Thomas was greatly grieved when he heard that the Blessed Virgin was already buried. He wept with an abundance of tears quite astonishing to behold, for he could not forgive himself for coming so late. Weeping bitterly he threw himself, with Jonathan at his side, on the spot upon

Discovery of Mary's Assumption


 which the blessed soul of Mary had left her body, and afterward knelt long before the altar. The Apos­tles, who had not interrupted their choir-chanting on account of his coming, now gathered around him, raised him up, embraced him, and set before him and his companions bread, honey, and some kind of beverage in little jugs. After that they accompanied him with lights to the tomb. Two disciples bent the shrubbery to one side. Thomas, Eleasar, and John went in and prayed before the coffin. Then John loosened the three straps that bound it, for it rose high enough above the trough like couch to admit of being opened. They stood the lid of the coffin on one side and, to their intense astonishment, beheld only the empty winding sheets lying like a husk, or shell, and in perfect order. Only over the face was it drawn apart, and over the breast slightly opened. The swathing bands of the arms and hands lay separate, as if gently drawn off, but in perfect order. The Apos­tles gazed in amazement, their hands raised. John cried out: "She is no longer here!" The others came in quickly, wept, prayed, looking upward with raised arms, and finally cast themselves on the ground, remembering the radiant cloud of the preceding night. Then rising, they took the winding sheet just as it was, all the grave linens, and the coffin to keep as relics, and returned to the house by the Holy Way, praying and singing Psalms.

When they entered the house, John laid the folded linens on a little flap-table before the altar. Thomas and the others were in prayer, but Peter went a lit­tle apart, as if pondering some mystery. After that I saw him celebrating divine service at the altar before Mary's Crucifix, and the Apostles standing in order behind him, praying and singing. The women were standing in the doorways and by the walls of the fireplace.

The young servant that had come with Thomas looked quite unlike any of those present. He had


Life of Jesus Christ

 small eyes, high cheekbones, forehead and nose remarkably flat, and his complexion was brownish. He was already baptized. He was perfectly innocent, and obeyed orders simply. He did all that he was told, remained standing or sitting wherever they told him to do so, turned his eyes in any direction indicated to see whatever was pointed out to him, and smiled upon everyone. When Thomas wept, he wept also. He always remained with Thomas, and I saw him dragging immense stones when Thomas was building a chapel.

I often saw the Apostles and disciples standing together in circles and relating where they had been and giving their experience.

Before the Apostles left Mary's house to journey again into distant parts, they rendered the grotto of the tomb wholly inaccessible by raising an embank­ment of earth before the entrance. At the rear, how­ever, they made a low passage to the back wall of the tomb proper and an opening in the wall, by which one could look down upon it. This passage was known only to the holy women. Above the grotto they built a chapel of wood and wickerwork, and hung it with mats and tapestry. The little altar con­sisted of a stone slab; the step, too, was of stone. Behind the altar hung a strip of stuff on which was sewed or embroidered quite simply, in the colors of her festal robes, a picture of Mary. The little gar­den in front of the tomb, and especially the whole of Mary's Way of the Cross, was beautified by them. While engaged in this task of love, they prayed con­tinually and chanted Psalms. The apartment of the house in which Mary had had her oratory and sleep­ing alcove was converted into a little church. Mary's maid continued her abode in the front part of the house, and two of the disciples were left there by Peter for the benefit of the Faithful dwelling in that section of the country.

The Apostles, with tears and embraces, took leave

Feast of Mary's Assumption


 of one another after they had once more celebrated solemn service in Mary's house. An Apostle or dis­ciple often returned at different times to pray there. I saw also that here and there, out of devotion and in reverence for the Blessed Virgin, churches were built by the Faithful in the same style as her house, and that her Way of the Cross and her tomb were for a long time devoutly visited by the Christians. I had a vision of those early times, just after Mary's Assumption into Heaven: A woman living near Eph­esus, who entertained great love for Mary, visited her house. On her return she caused an altar like that she had seen there to be made, and covered it with a very costly cloth of tapestry. The woman was very poor, and had to defray the debt she thereby incurred by the sale of a piece of her property. Find­ing herself after some time in dire distress, she went, though very sorrowfully, to a married Christian and sold to her the beautiful altar cloth. But when the feast of Mary's Assumption came round, I saw the poor woman very much troubled at no longer hav­ing the cloth with which to adorn her little altar. She went very humbly to the house of the purchaser, who meanwhile had given birth to twins, and begged her to lend her for the feast the cloth she had sold her, that she might adorn with it the altar of the Blessed Virgin. But the present owner would not hear to lending it, and her husband repulsed the poor woman with the words: "Mary is dead and needs not the cloth; but my wife who bought it needs it." The poor woman went away sad, and complained to Mary of her want. Next night, I saw the Blessed Virgin appear to the sleeping couple. She looked dis­pleased and told them that, as a punishment of their hard and unchristian sentiments toward the poor devout woman, their children would die and they themselves become poorer than the one whose request they had spurned. The couple awoke, and looked upon it at first as an empty dream. But on


Life of Jesus Christ

 finding the twins dead, they recognized their offense with bitter lamentations. With many tears the hus­band took the cloth to the poor woman for the feast. Both husband and wife did penance. They received forgiveness from Mary, and the punishment in store for them was averted.

The Blessed Virgin's House At Ephesus by Robert Larson

On October 18, 1881, a French priest, the Abbé Julien Gouyet of Paris, discovered a small stone build­ing on a mountain overlooking the Aegean Sea and the ruins of ancient Ephesus in Turkey. He believed it was the house where the Virgin Mary had lived in the final years of her life on earth as described in the visions of Sister Emmerich. His discovery was at first ridiculed and ignored, but ten years later, in 1891, two Lazarist missionaries from Izmir redis­covered the building, using the same source as a guide. It was then learned that the little ruin had been venerated from time immemorial by the mem­bers of a distant mountain village who were descended from the former Christians of Ephesus. They called it Panaya Kapulu, the House of the Holy Virgin, believed it was there that Our Lady had died, and every year made a pilgrimage to it on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption.

The discovery revived an early Christian belief called the Tradition of Ephesus, which has had many learned supporters in the Church. Briefly, it is based on the statement that Jesus, from the Cross, placed His Mother in the care of St. John the Evangelist, His beloved disciple ("and from that hour, the dis­ciple took her to his own"-John 19:27), plus the fact that St. John lived in his last years and died at Ephesus. There are also indications in Acts 8:1, 9:26-30,11:19 and 12:1-2 that he (and therefore Mary with him) may have left Jerusalem because of the persecution in A.D. 35, when many Christians fled




 from the Holy City and the Holy Land. These texts also show that he was not there for the next four­teen years, during which time it may be presumed that Mary was still alive.

Ephesus also is the site of the ancient Church of St. Mary, one of the oldest churches in the world dedicated to the Virgin. It was built in the time of the Emperor Constantine, about A.D. 330, when Christians were first permitted to worship publicly in the Roman empire. At this time it was unusual—and some scholars think not permitted—for churches to be named in honor of saints except in places made sacred by their residence or deaths.

The Tradition of Ephesus is referred to in the writings of St. Epiphanius of Salamis (A.D. 315-403) and, as such, is the oldest known early Christian belief of which there is record concerning Our Lady's last earthly home. In spite of its antiquity, however, it remained little known, and in time was almost completely eclipsed by another more popular, though later, belief, i.e., that Jerusalem was the site of the Blessed Virgin's death and Assumption. The Tradi­tion of Ephesus was never completely forgotten, how­ever. In the seventeenth century the eminent church historian, Tillemont, adopted it; and in the eigh­teenth century the learned Pope Benedict XIV (pon­tificate 1740-1758) wrote in a treatise on Christ's Last Words from the Cross that "St. John, depart­ing for Ephesus, took Mary with him, and it was there that the Blessed Mother took her flight to Heaven."

Following the discovery of the House of the Vir­gin, Pope Leo XIII blessed the first international pilgrimage to it, and in 1896 discontinued indul­gences formerly attached to the "Tomb of the Vir­gin" at Jerusalem. His successor, St. Pius X, greatly encouraged devotion to the shrine. And in 1951 Pope Pius XII, the pope who defined the dogma of the Blessed Virgin Mary's Assumption into Heaven,


Life of Jesus Christ

 removed a text from the Breviary which referred to the tradition of Jerusalem. He also elevated the Tomb of St. John, the Church of St. Mary and the House of the Virgin to the status of Holy Places, a privilege later made permanent by Pope John XXIII—thus making of Ephesus, as it were, a new Holy City for the modern world.

By that time interest in the House of the Virgin had been aroused to such an extent that a road was built up to it and the isolated ruin on the mountain was restored. Since then it has been visited by increasing numbers of pilgrims from all over the world, including Pope Paul VI, who was there on July 26, 1967, and Pope John Paul II, who visited it on November 30, 1979.

Life of Jesus Christ by Anne Catherine Emmerich
Vol 4

This document is: ACE_4_0461

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Table of Contents for this Volume
Cover page with links to All Volumes (1 to 4)