In the early dawn after the birth of Jesus, the three oldest of the shepherds came to the Crib Cave with the gifts they had gathered together. These consisted of little animals bearing some resemblance to deer. They were very lightly built and nimble, had long necks and clear, beautiful eyes. They followed or ran along beside the shepherds who led them with fine, guiding cords. The shepherds carried also large, live birds under their arms, and dead ones slung over their shoulders.
They told Joseph at the entrance of the cave what the angel had announced to them, and that they had come to do homage to the Child of Promise and to offer Him gifts. Joseph accepted their presents and allowed them to lead the animals into the space that formed a kind of cellar near the side entrance of the cave. Then he conducted them to the Blessed Virgin, who was sitting on the ground near the Crib, a rug under her, the Infant Jesus on her lap. The shepherds, their staves resting on their arms, fell on their knees and wept with joy. They knelt long, tasting great interior sweetness, and then entoned the angelic canticle of praise, and a Psalm that I have forgotten. When they were about to take leave, Mary placed the Child in their arms.
Some of the other shepherds came in the evening, accompanied by women and children, and bringing gifts. They sang most sweetly before the Crib the Gloria, some Psalms, and short refrains of which I remember the words: “O Child, blooming as a rose art Thou! As a herald Thou comest forth!” They brought gifts of birds, eggs, honey, woven stuffs of various colors, bundles of raw silk, and ears of corn, also several bundles of a corn with heavy grains growing on a stalk with large leaves like those of rushes.
The three oldest shepherds came back in turn and helped Joseph to make the Crib Cave and its surroundings more comfortable. I saw also several pious women with the Blessed Virgin, performing some services for her. They were Essenians, and lived in the valley, not far from the Crib Cave, in little rocky cells adjoining one another. They owned little gardens near their cells, and they taught the children of their community. St. Joseph had invited them to come, for he was acquainted with them even in early youth. When he was hiding in the Crib Cave, from his brethren, he visited these pious women who dwelt in the side of the rock. They now came in turn to the Blessed Virgin, bringing little necessaries and bundles of wood. They cooked and washed for the Holy Family.
Some days after the birth of Jesus, I saw a touching scene in the Crib Cave. Joseph and Mary were standing by the Crib and gazing with emotion upon the Infant Jesus, when suddenly the ass fell upon its knees and lowered its head to the ground. Mary and Joseph shed tears. I saw Mary at another time standing by the Crib. As she gazed upon the Child, the deep conviction stole upon her that It had come upon earth to suffer. That re minded me of a vision I had had at an earlier period in which I had been shown how Jesus, while still in His Mother’s womb and from the moment of His birth, had suffered. I saw under the heart of Mary a glory and in it a bright shining Child. As I gazed upon It, it seemed as if Mary were hovering over It and surrounding It. I beheld the Child growing and all the torments of the Crucifixion inflicted upon It. It was a sad, a fearful sight! I wept and sobbed aloud. I saw other forms around It beating and pushing, scourging and crowning It. Then they laid the Cross upon It, next nailed It to the same, and pierced It in the side. I saw the whole Passion of Christ in the Child. It was a frightful sight! As the Child hung on the Cross, It said to me: “All this did I suffer from My conception until My thirty-fourth year, when My Passion was outwardly consummated.” (The Lord died when He was thirty-three years and three months old.) “Go and announce it to men!” But how can I announce it to men?
This article is taken from a chapter in The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations: From the Visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich which is available from TAN Books.