In addition to her revelations on the Passion, on the ancestry of Mary, and on the Virgin’s home in Turkey — which led investigators to the location — German mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich also recorded alleged insights into the death and Assumption of the Blessed Mother.
We must point out that her revelations were “meditations” from which may be gleaned a general tenor of an event and certain details, but that as such they are far from historical truths — a fact that Emmerich herself acknowledged. Nonetheless, her stunning accuracy in describing the house in Ephesus where Mary reputedly lived out her final days [see previous story] warrants a further look at other parts of her revelation, outlined in the book, The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary — especially the way in which history’s holiest woman died.
It was on August 13, 1822, that Emmerich — who will soon be beatified — said she had experienced a great vision of the Virgin’s death the night before. That death, of which so little is known, occurred, maintained Emmerich, 14 years after the Crucifixion and after Mary had lived on Mount Zion, in Bethany, and finally for nine years just outside of Ephesus — where she was also assumed into Heaven, according to Emmerich (whose revelations on Mary’s house have been accepted by the Vatican).
“I suspect that the news of her death, burial place, and Assumption into Heaven was permitted by God to be indefinite and only a matter of tradition in order that Christianity in its early days should not be in danger of heathen influences then so powerful,” said the mystic in pondering why there is so little actually known about Mary’s death. “The Blessed Virgin might easily have been adored as a goddess.”
Instead, Mary manifested as a force that led to the construction of Christ-centered altars, temples, and churches across Europe and Asia Minor after her death, which Emmerich describes in tremendous, almost mind-boggling detail.
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On the Blessed Mother’s death: “I saw her lying on a low, very narrow couch in her sleeping alcove all hung with white, in the room behind and to the right of the hearth place,” said Emmerich — whose revelation on the hearth was confirmed when excavators found burnt residue at the site. “Her head rested on a round cushion. She was very weak and pale, and seemed as though completely consumed with yearning. Her head and whole figure were wrapped in a long cloth; she was covered by a brown woolen blanket. I saw several women, I think five, going into her room one after the other, and coming out again as though they were saying farewell to her.”
Present also, claimed Emmerich, were the Apostles, who had been summoned from all parts of the region by means both natural and supernatural. Peter, Andrew, John, Thaddaeus, Batholomew, and Mathias were the first to arrive, “standing in prayer together on the right-hand side of the front part of the house.”
Others, summoned by visions, arrived in the following days, holding prayer services and representations of what we now call the Mass, alleged Emmerich. In her last days, Mary — who may have been 64 years of age — was fed spoonfuls of liquid from a bowl. Intriguingly, she is said to have had a Cross on her couch that was shaped like the letter “Y” — as Emmerich always envisioned the Cross.
Was 48 A.D. actually the year of Mary’s death?
There is always controversy over such dates. Other mystics — including at least one canonized saint — have given different years for the Virgin’s death, and if Mary was 18 at the time Jesus was born — an age discerned from her reported age at death — it appears to conflict with an earlier revelation in Emmerich’s diaries that seemed to put Mary’s age upon marriage at 14. “The matter is also confused by the historical problems of the date of the birth of Christ and the date of the Crucifixion and Ascension, and cannot be decided with any certainty,” warned one of her editors.
But remarkable is the fact that Emmerich was shown numbers in Roman numerals — which she was not familiar with. Equally remarkable is the vivid nature of her revelations, which reportedly have influenced an upcoming Mel Gibson movie and are so lucid one feels like an eyewitness to earth-shaking events.
What was the Virgin’s death actually like?
“Her maidservant was in the utmost distress, throwing herself on her knees and praying with outstretched arms, sometimes in corners of the house and sometimes outside in front of it,” asserted the German stigmatic — who experienced her vision from a sickbed to which she was confined for 12 years. “The Blessed Virgin lay still and as though near death in her little cell. She was completely enveloped in a white sleeping coverlet, even her arms being wrapped in it. In the last days of her life I never saw her take any nourishment except now and then a spoonful of juice which her maidservant pressed from a bunch of yellow berries like grapes into a bowl near her couch.
“Towards evening the Blessed Virgin realized that her end was approaching and therefore signified her desire, in accordance with Jesus’ Will, to bless and say farewell to the Apostles, disciples, and women who were present. Her sleeping cell was opened on all sides, and she sat upright on her couch, shining white as if suffused with light. The Blessed Virgin, after praying, blessed each one by laying her hands on their foreheads.
When the time came, said Venerable Emmerich, after a drawn-out process, “the Blessed Virgin lay back on her pillows pale and still. Her gaze directed intently upwards; she said no word to anyone and seemed in a state of perpetual ecstasy. She was radiant with longing; I could feel this longing, which was bearing her upwards — ah, my heart was longing to ascend with hers to God!” Once more the Apostles stood around her bed, praying after celebration of the Eucharist. When the actual moment arrived, said Emmerich, Mary’s eyes “were raised towards Heaven in holy joy. Then I saw a wonderfully moving vision. The ceiling of Our Lady’s room disappeared, the lamp hung in the open air, and I saw through the sky into the heavenly Jerusalem. Two radiant clouds of light sank down, out of which appeared the faces of many angels. Between these clouds a path of light poured down upon Mary, and I saw a shining mountain leading up from her into the heavenly Jerusalem.
The Blessed Mother then “stretched out her arms towards it in infinite longing,” said Emmerich, “and I saw her body, all wrapped up, rise so high above her couch that one could see right under it. I saw her soul leave her body like a little figure of infinitely pure light, souring with outstretched arms up the shining mountain to Heaven.
“The two angel choirs in the clouds met beneath her soul and separated it from her holy body, which in the moment of separation sank back on the couch with arms crossed on the breast.
“My gaze followed her soul and saw it enter the heavenly Jerusalem by that shining path and go up to the Throne of the Most Holy Trinity.”
There were many souls to greet her, said Emmerich, and the Virgin’s light was transcendent. She was buried in a tomb near the Ephesus house, a burial spot which Emmerich claimed was camouflaged by a spring the Apostles diverted toward the entrance.
Soon after came the Assumption, which the Church officially recognized in 1950.
“Those who were on their way home saw from the distance a strange radiance over Mary’s tomb,” stated Emmerich, in describing this event. “It was as if a shaft of light descended from Heaven towards the tomb, and in this shaft was a lovely form like the soul of the Blessed Virgin, accompanied by the form of Our Lord.
“Then the body of Our Lady, united to the shining soul, rose shining out of the grave and soared to Heaven with the figure of Our Lord.”
[Resources: The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary]