With the Birth of Our Lord nigh, here is the recounting of His conception at the Annunciation, seen by Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich. Taken from “The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“On the 25th of March, 1821, the Sister said,
I saw the Blessed Virgin soon after her marriage, in the house of Joseph at Nazareth, to which my guide conducted me. Joseph had departed with two asses. I think it was to fetch something that he had inherited, or to bring the tools of his trade. He seemed to me still on his journey.
Besides the Blessed Virgin and two young women of her own age, who had been, I believe, her companions in the Temple, I saw in the house Saint Anne with the widow, her relative, who was in her service, and who later on followed her to Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus. Saint Anne had renewed everything in the house.
I saw the four women walking about in the house, and then walk together in the court. Towards evening I saw them re-enter and pray standing round a little round table, after which they ate some herbs which had been brought there. They separated afterwards. Saint Anne still went about here and there in the house, like the mother of a family engaged in her duties. The two young persons went into their separate chambers, and Mary also retired into her own.
The chamber of the Blessed Virgin was at the back of the house, near the fireplace; it was reached by three steps, for the ground at this part of the house was higher than the rest, and on a rocky foundation. Opposite the door the chamber was round, and in this circular part, which was separated by a partition of the height of a man, was the bed of the Blessed Virgin, rolled up. The walls of the chamber were covered to a certain height with a kind of inlaid work, made of pieces of wood, of different colours. The ceiling was formed by parallel joists, the spaces between which were filled with wicker work, ornamented with figures of stars.
I was conducted into this chamber by the young man of shining appearance who always accompanies me,* and I will relate what I saw as well as such a wretched person as I am can do.
* Her guardian angel.
The Blessed Virgin on entering dressed herself, behind the screen of her bed, in a long robe of white wool, with a large belt, and covered her head with a veil of light yellow. In the meantime the servant entered with a light, lighted a lamp with several branches which hung from the ceiling, and retired. The Blessed Virgin then took a little low table which stood against the wall, and placed it in the middle of her chamber. It was covered with a red and blue cloth, in the middle of which a figure was embroidered. I cannot say whether it was a letter or an ornament. A roll of parchment, written upon, was on the table.
The Blessed Virgin having arranged it, between the place of her bed and the door, on a spot where the floor was covered with a carpet, placed before it a small round cushion on which to kneel. She then knelt down, her two hands leaning upon the table. The door of the chamber was in front of her, to the right. She turned her back to her couch.
Mary let down the veil over her face, and joined her hands before her breast, but without crossing the fingers. I saw her pray for a long time with great ardour, her face turned towards heaven. She invoked the redemption, the coming of the King promised to the people of Israel, and she asked also to have some part in this coming. She remained a long time on her knees transported in ecstasy. She then bent her head over her breast.
Then from the ceiling of the chamber descended, on her right side, in a slightly oblique direction, such a mass of light that I was obliged to turn myself towards the court, where the door was placed. I saw then in this light a resplendent young man, with white flowing hair, descend before her, through the air. It was the Angel Gabriel. He spoke to her, and I saw the words come from his mouth like letters of fire. I read them and understood them. Mary slightly turned her veiled head to the right side. Notwithstanding, in her modesty she did not look at him. The angel continued to speak. Mary turned her face on one side, as if in obedience to an order, slightly raised her veil, and replied. The angel spoke again. Mary completely raised her veil, looked at the angel, and pronounced the sacred words: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.”
The Blessed Virgin was in a profound ecstasy; the chamber was full of light. I saw no more the light of the lamp which was burning, neither did I see the ceiling of the room. Heaven appeared to be open; my observation followed the luminous way above the angel. I saw at the extremity of this river of light the Holy Trinity. It was like a luminous triangle whose rays reciprocally penetrated each ether. I then recognised what we must adore, but can never express the omnipotent God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and yet one only God Almighty.
When the Holy Virgin had said, “Be it done to me according to thy word,” I saw a winged apparition of the Holy Spirit, which, however, had not completely the ordinary representation under the form of a dove. The head had something like the human face; the light spread out on both sides like wings, and I saw come from it as it were three luminous streams towards the right side of the Blessed Virgin, where they were reunited; then this light penetrated her right side, the Blessed Virgin herself became luminous, and as if transparent: it seemed as if everything that was opaque in her retired before this light, as night before the day. She was at this moment so inundated with light that nothing in her appeared obscure or opaque; she was resplendent and as if completely illuminated.
I afterwards saw the angel disappear; the luminous ray from which he had emerged retired; it was as if heaven drew it in and caused to re-enter into itself this flood of light.
After the disappearance of the angel I saw the Blessed Virgin in a profound ecstasy and altogether recollected in herself. I saw that she knew and adored the Incarnation of the Saviour in herself, where He was as a small luminous human body, completely formed, and provided with all His members. Here at Nazareth everything is completely otherwise than at Jerusalem. At Jerusalem the women have to remain in the vestibule, they cannot enter into the Temple priests only have access to the sanctuary but at Nazareth it is a virgin, who is herself the Temple. The Holy of Holies is with in her, the High Priest is within her, and she is alone with Him. How touching and wonderful is this, and yet how simple and natural. The words of David in the 45th Psalm are accomplished: “God is in the midst thereof (His tabernacle), and it shall not be moved.” It was a little past midnight when I saw this mystery. After some time Saint Anne entered into Mary s room with the other women: a marvellous movement in nature had awakened them, a luminous cloud had passed over the house. When they saw the Blessed Virgin on her knees under the lamp transported in ecstasy in prayer, they respectfully retired.
In contemplating this night the mystery of the Incarnation I was also instructed in many other things. Anne received an interior knowledge of what had been accomplished.
I learned why the Redeemer would remain nine months in the womb of His mother and become an infant; why He had not desired to come into the world a man, like our first father, and show Himself in all His beauty, like Adam coming from the hands of his Creator but I cannot clearly explain this. That which I now understand is that He wished to sanctify again the conception and the birth of men, which had been so much degraded by original sin. If Mary became His mother, and that He did not come sooner, was that she alone was what no creature was before or after her, the pure vessel of grace which God had promised to men, and in whom He would become man, to pay the debt of human nature by means of the superabundant merits of His passion. The Blessed Virgin was the perfectly pure flower of the human race unfolded in the fullness of time. All the children of God amongst men, all those who since the beginning had laboured in the work of their sanctification had contributed to His coming. She was the only pure gold of the earth. She alone was the pure and spotless portion of the flesh and blood of the whole human race, who, prepared, purified, gathered, and consecrated through all the generations of her ancestors, conducted, protected, and fortified under the regulations of the law of Moses, was finally produced as the fullness of grace. She was predestined in eternity and she has appeared in time as the Mother of the Eternal.
The Blessed Virgin was a little more than fourteen at the time of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ arrived at the age of thirty-three years and three times six weeks. I say three times six because the figure six was shown to me at this instant, but repeated three times.
When Joseph returned to Nazareth with the Blessed Virgin after her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, he saw by her figure that she was enceinte. He was then assailed with all sorts of troubles and doubts, for he knew nothing of the visit of the angel to Mary. Soon after his marriage he had gone to Bethlehem on some family affairs. Mary in the meantime had returned to Nazareth with her parents and some companions. The angelical salutation had taken place before the return of Joseph to Nazareth. Mary in her timid humility had kept to herself the secret of God.
Joseph, full of trouble and anxiety, did not attempt to learn anything from without, but struggled in silence against his doubts. The Blessed Virgin, who had perceived this, at once was grave and pensive, which increased still more the anxiety of Joseph.
When they had arrived at Nazareth I saw that the Blessed Virgin did not go at once into the house with Saint Joseph. She remained two days with a family connected with her own. They were the parents of the disciple Parmenas, who was not then born, and who afterwards became one of the seven deacons in the first community of Christians at Jerusalem.
These people were allied to the Holy Family; the mother was the sister of the third husband of Mary Cleophas, who was the father of Simeon, Bishop of Jerusalem. They had a house and garden at Nazareth. They were also allied to the Holy Family on the side of Elizabeth. I saw the Blessed Virgin remain some time with them before returning to Joseph’s house; but his trouble increased to such an extent, that when Mary desired to return to his house, he had formed the intention of leaving it and going away secretly. Whilst he was meditating on this project an angel appeared to him in a dream and consoled him.”