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Thursday, December 1, 2022

The Mystery and Meaning of the Eucharist, as seen in the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich

By:   Silvia Ruth Tomlinson
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The Mystery and Meaning of the Eucharist, as seen in the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich

Details of the Holy Gospels

WHEN ONE READS the Gospels, one cannot help but praise God for the details with which the writers recounted their stories. They included facts like the age of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:42), the presence of grass in the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:10), and Our Lord breaking the bread at the Last Supper (Mark 26:26).

However, some of us wonder about other unknown details of Sacred Scripture. What was the purpose of Jacob’s blessing? Why did Jacob wrestle with the angel?  How was the Virgin Mary immaculately conceived? How did Jesus consecrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? A few saints have received visions of the life of Christ. Venerable Mary Agreda recounted the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa experienced visions of Our Lord’s Passion. Another individual who received numerous detailed visions of this nature is Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich.

Who was Anne Catherine Emmerich?

Anne Catherine Emmerich, the daughter of poor farmers, lived in present-day Germany during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  A professed Augustinian nun, after the suppression of her convent, she lived in the home of a poor widow for most of her life. Emmerich became bedridden and died in 1824. She received many visions, in which she talked to Jesus, saw the souls in purgatory, received the stigmata, and conversed intimately with the saints. Although she recounted these visions to her confessors and advisors, as an illiterate invalid, she was not able to recount them in written form. In 1819 the poet Clemens Brentano, much impressed with her life, began to take notes on her revelations over a five-year period, and published them after her death. The Vatican claimed that the beatification of Emmerich in 2004 was solely based on her personal piety, since the authorship of the recorded visions could not be attributed to her written hand. Yet, some of her visions have proved to be legitimate, based on their corresponding proofs on earth (Thavis, 2004). For example, her description of the location of Mary’s house in Ephesus proved to be the correct one, when, in 1881, a priest used the writings to search for, and subsequently discover the house. Not only that, but also, her visions are consistent with the New Testament and other texts (Anne Catherine Emmerich, (n.d.)). 

This shining globe of light was henceforth preserved in a tower-like building in Heaven, for the future salvation of the world.

The Gospels, as written by those who walked with Our Lord, will always remain the source of truth. Yet, the writings of this holy, illiterate invalid, cannot be completely disregarded. They could be read, not as a replacement to Sacred Scripture, but rather as a supplement. With the light of God’s truth, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, the faithful can gain new insights into the life of Our Lord Jesus, thus growing closer to the God-Man.

“The Holy Thing” in the Old Testament

One aspect of the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich (which has helped increase my own personal devotion to the Holy Eucharist), is her explanation of the background of Our Blessed Savior’s birth and incarnation—which she refers to as the “Mystery,” a “Holy Thing.”

In her Old Testament visions, Emmerich saw that Adam was bestowed with a luminous globe of light within his right side. This “germ of God’s blessing,” was, in some mysterious way, emblematic of God’s original design for humankind to multiply without the stains of lust, impurity, and sensuality, according to Emmerich’s descriptions. On the instant of Adam joining Eve in their sin of disobedience, Emmerich saw God physically remove this “blessing” from Adam’s side. This shining globe of light was henceforth preserved in a tower-like building in Heaven, for the future salvation of the world.

When Abraham met with the three angels and shared a meal with them (Genesis 18), they told him that God would bring forth from his posterity a sinless virgin, which would be the mother of the Redeemer. One of the angels then drew his right hand in a straight line down from Abraham’s forehead, and then from the right and the left shoulder under the breast (quite similar to our Sign of the Cross). Then, Emmerich saw the angel place a little luminous cloud inside Abraham’s right side/hip. From then on, his right side/hip had a swelling fullness. He was ordered to impart this Blessing to Sara’s firstborn, through that triple blessing of the head, shoulder, and breast.

Thus, Isaac received this Blessing, and was to transfer it to his firstborn. However, as the story of Genesis recounts, Esau forfeited this birthright. So, Jacob received this mysterious Blessing within his own flesh (Genesis 27:27). We then read in the Scriptures how Jacob wrestled with the angel, who touched his hip joint, which subsequently shrank (Genesis 32:55). This event, according to Emmerich’s visions, recounts how God physically removed the Blessing from him. Jacob was conscious of the Blessing’s removal, and thus would not let the angel go until he had blessed/strengthened him.

Later on, Joseph, when in the Egyptian prison, received this Blessing from an angel. (“They humbled his feet with fetters: the iron pierced his soul, until His word came. The word of the Lord inflamed him,” Psalms 105:18-19). Before Joseph died, he requested that his bones be taken with the Israelites when they left Egypt (Genesis 50:24), since this Blessing would still be present in his body after death, according to Emmerich’s account.  After Joseph’s death, the Egyptians began to oppress the Israelites, mainly because of their jealousy of their special Blessing. Therefore, the Egyptians hid the remains of Joseph in a secret grave, knowing that the Hebrews would not leave the country without them.

In truth, the Eucharist is the “source and summit of our Christian life,” (CCC 1324), because it not only contains Our Lord’s Body and Blood, which was shed as the debt for our sin, but also because it contains the essence of this Mysterious Blessing.

Moses, by virtue of his mission from God, and through the assistance of the daughter of Pharaoh, who was also a visionary, was able to retrieve Joseph’s bones on the night of the Passover. Moses took the Mystery out of the hollow body of Joseph, and wrapped it in cloths, along with the remaining bones (Genesis 13:19). It was for this Sacred Thing that the Ark of the Covenant was first built (Exodus 26). Emmerich recounted how Moses would veil it, carry it before his breast, and raise it up as both a blessing, much like the monstrance of the Blessed Sacrament. Moses doubted the power of the Holy Thing when the Israelites fell into idolatry, which was partly why he was denied entrance into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 32:52). Later, during the Babylonian captivity, Jeremias entrusted the Mystery to the prophet Malachias. Through him, it was entrusted to the Essenians, and was later placed by a priest in the Temple.

Many generations later, Emmerich saw Joachim praying in the Temple. An angel appeared to him and said, “Anne will conceive an immaculate child from whom the Redeemer of the world will be born.” The angel said that what Anne would conceive would be the culminating point of the Blessing given to Abraham. Then the angel led him behind the curtain that concealed the Holy of Holies. He removed the Mystery of the Ark, the Sacrament of the Incarnation, from the Holy of Holies. The angel slipped the shining body under Joachim’s garment, and it entered into him. That same day, when Joachim and Anne embraced each other, the Blessed Virgin Mary was immaculately conceived. As such, she was the first human to be conceived through the germ of the Blessing, as God had originally designed. Mary was the true embodiment of the Ark of the Covenant's contents, which had been preserved, first in the physical bodies of the Patriarchs, and then in the Temple. Thus, when Jesus Christ was conceived and born of her, He was the most perfect manifestation of the Mystery Itself, containing God’s Blessing in His Person.

We read in the Gospels how Our Lord established the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. By giving Himself in an unbloody manner, in our tabernacles, and in our churches, today, we, the faithful, are actually eating His Body and Blood, which is not only special because it is Our Lord's Soul and Divinity, but also because it contains the fullness of this Mystery, preserved throughout the Old Testament and to our days. He not only embodied this Blessing, as the God made Man, but also established His presence in perpetuity through the Sacrament of the Altar, the unbloody representation of His Bloody Sacrifice.

In truth, the Eucharist is the “source and summit of our Christian life,” (CCC 1324), because it not only contains Our Lord’s Body and Blood, which was shed as the debt for our sin, but also because it contains the essence of this Mysterious Blessing. It is thus no wonder that the saints, like Blessed Carlo Acutis, praised and venerated the Holy Eucharist, saying, “the more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on earth we will have a foretaste of Heaven.” The words of St. Paul are also no surprise: “he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:29). Thus, the Eucharist, established from the beginning of Creation in the form of a Holy Thing, and given to sinful mankind in the Person of Christ, is not to be treated in a light or callous manner.

This reminds one of the angel at Fatima, who told the three children to repeat the prayer: “Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the sacrileges, outrages and indifferences by which He Himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners” (Horgan, 2018). The angel then gave the Sacred Host to Lucia, and the Precious Blood to Jacinta and Francisco, saying as he did so: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men! Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.” Clearly, as evidenced by the prayers of the Angel, God is much offended by mankind’s ingratitude in the presence of so great a Gift. As stated by Our Blessed Mother at Fatima, “People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend our Lord anymore, for He is already too much offended!”  By receiving the Sacraments in the state of grace, by practicing reverence before His Presence in the tabernacle, by praying for the true consecration of Russia to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, and by uniting our suffering to His immeasurable Sacrifice, we can assist in providing honor and glory to this Sacrament, which God, in His incomprehensible mercy, went through such great lengths to preserve and fulfill.  

Clearly, Anne Catherine Emmerich's visions can assist in understanding the importance and meaning behind the Most Precious Sacrament, as they lead us to a greater devotion to this Salvific Mystery.

“May the Heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored, and loved, with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time. Amen.”

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Last modified on Thursday, December 1, 2022