Monday, August 06, 2018

New Light on the Visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824) is without a doubt one of the most fascinating and complex mystics in a Catholic Church that already boasts a very large number of fascinating and complex mystics.

From the time she was a tiny child, Anne Catherine experienced constant, vivid, often disconnected visions of faraway places, times, and individuals. Scrutiny of her descriptions indicates an uncannily detailed and accurate knowledge of countless things that she could never have directly experienced or even heard about, considering where she grew up and subsequently lived, her low level of education, and her limited circle of friends. To take an example, her descriptions of early Christian liturgical practices (such as wearing the Blessed Sacrament in a sort of pyx, receiving It in the hand on a cloth, receiving under both kinds) are striking, matching the scholarship of a later period, and utterly unlike the Church worship she was familiar with in her time.

Unfortunately, Anne Catherine has been ill-served in English. Until quite recently, the available translations represented but a tiny sliver of her marvelous range of visions, edited with pious intentions and rendered in a stiff style. It would be like having only one Book of the Confessions, The Imitation of Christ, or the Showings of Julian of Norwich, each expurgated and translated by Edward Pusey.

I say "until quite recently" because Angelico Press began to fill the void in 2015 with the release of a handsome set of 3 volumes, The Visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich (vol 1, vol 2, vol 3) which include extensive maps and hundreds of illustrations, and significantly improved translations of the texts.

Angelico has just announced the publication of an even more impressive series: New Light on the Visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich, 11 matching volumes of the mystic's visions, plus a biography, all in both paper and cloth. These volumes, containing huge amounts of text never before published in English, represent the fruit of more than a decade of research and translation by James Wetmore. In 2009, the original notes of Anne Catherine’s visions, in 38 notebooks, became available for reference for the first time, and the present series incorporates much new material from them.

With regard to individuals and themes, every reference thus far located in the notes and in prior translations have been woven together so that the reader can easily find in one place almost all of what Anne Catherine had to say on any topic.

The volumes in this new series include:

1. First Beginnings: Creation to the Patriarchs

2. Mysteries of the Old Testament: From Joseph to Malachi

3. People of the New Testament, Book I: St. Joseph, the Magi, St. John the Baptist, Four Apostles

4. People of the New Testament, Book II: Nine Apostles, St. Paul, Lazarus, Secret Disciples

5. People of the New Testament, Book III: Major Disciples and Other Friends of Jesus

6. People of the New Testament, Book IV: Early Friends and Minor Disciples and Persecutors

7. People of the New Testament, Book V: Holy Women, Female Disciples, Relatives

8. The Life of the Virgin Mary (including her Essene ancestry)

9. Scenes from the Lives of the Saints (treating of 59 saints)

10. Inner Life and Worlds of Soul & Spirit: Prayer, Parables, Purgatory, Heavenly Jerusalem, Revelations, Holy Places, Gospels, etc.

11. Spiritual Works and Journeys: The Nuptial House, Vineyard, Sufferings for Others, the Church, and the Neighbor

12. The Life of Anne Catherine Emmerich by Carl Schmöger and Helmut Fahsel, with additional material

Just to give two examples of the riches to be found in these volumes:

First Beginnings commences with the visionary’s account of Creation, the Fall of the Angels, the formation of the Earth and Paradise, and the mysterious Mountain of the Prophets. The second part presents Adam and Eve, the Trees of Life and Knowledge, the Fall of Humankind, the Promise of the Redeemer, Cain and Abel, the Children of God, the Giants, Enoch, Noah, the Tower of Babel, and such ancient figures as Hom, Jamshid, Nimrod, Derketo, Semiramis, and Melchizedek, concluding with Job. The third part offers fascinating new insights into the lives and missions of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Mysteries of the Old Testament commences with an account of Joseph and his wife Asenath in Egypt, with special focus on “The Mystery of the Promise”—perhaps the most unique and powerful theme running through all these volumes. Fresh perspectives are offered on Moses, Samson and Delilah, the Nazirites, Elijah and Elisha, Tobias, Ezra, Zoroaster, the Holy Book of Ctesiphon, and the final prophet, Malachi. The second part is thrilling, passing through several stages of the Ark of the Covenant, which reaches its consummation, in its fourth and final form, in the Virgin Mary herself.

Christopher Ferrara says of this set: “Angelico Press has established a landmark in publishing definitive, revised editions (in many cases supplemented with material never translated before) of the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich, who was beatified by John Paul II in 2004. This multi-volume work will be the authoritative English-language reference for her testimony.”

Kevin Vost reacts: “To call Angelico’s new, definitive editions based upon the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich a stunning, moving, and beautiful epic is an exercise in understatement. Their multi-volume editions detail not only the fascinating story of the stigmatist and visionary of the turn of the 19th century, but the even more enthralling stories of just what those visions contained, depicted both in words and images, supplemented and made complete by previously untranslated material from the original notes of Clemens Brentano, maps, chronologies, genealogies, and everything readers need to immerse themselves in the totally gripping world of the life of Jesus Christ as God revealed it to her, as well as stories from the Old Testament and the lives of the saints, teachings on the spiritual life, heaven, hell, purgatory, and more.”

As time permits, I hope to share with NLM readers extracts from these volumes that pertain to the sacred liturgy. There are many such passages.

I have been edified, dazzled, perplexed, nourished, and moved by what I have read in these new volumes, and can give them my unqualified recommendation.

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