24 March 2010

Ecce Ancilla Domini

Blessed Anna Katharina Emmerick, a visionary, who for years was nourished alone by the Eucharist, and whose visions of the Annunciation, the solemnity we celebrate tomorrow, are in the book, ‘The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary’. Today on the Traditional Calendar is the Commemoration of Saint Gabriel the Archangel, our Blessed Lady’s messenger from God. Anna Katharina Emmerick was beatified by Pope John Paul II in the year 2004. Here’s what she saw at the Annunciation:

I was brought into this room by the shining youth who always accompanies me, and I will relate what I saw as well as such a poor miserable creature is able.

The Blessed Virgin came in and went behind the screen before her bed, where she put on a long white-woollen praying-robe with a broad girdle, and covered her head with a yellowish white veil. Meanwhile the maid came in with a little lamp, lit a many-branched lamp hanging from the ceiling, and went away again. The Blessed Virgin then took a little low table which was leaning folded up against the wall and placed it in the middle of the room. As it leaned against the wall it was just a movable table-leaf hanging straight down in front of two supports. Mary lifted up this leaf and pulled forward half of one of the supports, which was divided, so that the little table now stood on three legs. The table-leaf supported by this third leg was rounded. This little table was covered with a blue and red cloth, finished with a hanging fringe along the straight edge of the table. In the middle of the cloth there was a design, embroidered or quilted; I cannot remember whether it was a letter or an ornament. On the round side of the table was a white cloth rolled up, and a scroll of writing also lay on the table.

The Blessed Virgin put up this little table in the middle of the room, between her sleeping place and the door, rather to the left, in a place where the floor was covered by a carpet. Then she put in front of it a little round cushion and knelt down with both hands resting on the table. The door of the room was facing her on the right, and she had her back to her sleeping place.

Mary let the veil fall over her face and crossed her hands but, not her fingers, before her breast. I saw her fervently praying thus for a long time, with her face raised to heaven. She was imploring God for redemption, for the promised King, and beseeching Him that her prayer might have some share in sending Him. She knelt long in an ecstasy of prayer; then she bowed her head onto her breast.

But now at her right hand there poured down such a mass of light in a slanting line from the ceiling of the room that I felt myself pressed back by it against the wall near the door. I saw in this light a shining white youth, with flowing yellow hair, floating down before her. It was the Angel Gabriel. He gently moved his arms away from his body as he spoke to her. I saw the words issuing from his mouth like shining letters; I read them and I heard them. Mary turned her veiled head slightly towards the right, but she was shy and did not look up. But the angel went on speaking, and as if at his command Mary turned her face a little towards him, raised her veil slightly, and answered. The angel again spoke, and Mary lifted her veil, looked at him, and answered with the holy words: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word’.

The Blessed Virgin was wrapped in ecstasy. The room was filled with light; I no longer saw the glimmer of the burning lamp, I no longer saw the ceiling of the room. Heaven seemed to open, a path of light made me look up above the angel, and at the source of this stream of light I saw a figure of the Holy Trinity in the form of a triangular radiance streaming in upon itself. In this I recognized -- what can only be adored and never expressed -- Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- and yet only God Almighty.

As soon as the Blessed Virgin had spoken the words, ‘Be it done to me according to your word’, I saw the Holy Spirit in the appearance of a winged Figure, but not in the form of a Dove as usually represented. The Head was like the face of a man, and light was spread like wings beside the Figure, from Whose Breast and Hands I saw three streams of light pouring down towards the right side of the Blessed Virgin and meeting as they reached her. This light streaming in upon her right side caused the Blessed Virgin to become completely transfused with radiance and as though transparent; all that was opaque seemed to vanish like darkness before this light. In this moment she was so penetrated with light that nothing dark or concealing remained in her; her whole form was shining and transfused with light. After this penetrating radiance I saw the angel disappear, with the path of light out of which he had come. It was as if the stream of light had been drawn back into heaven, and I saw how there fell from it onto the Blessed Virgin, as it was drawn back, a shower of white rosebuds each with its little green leaf.