SeeStan ChapLee

Monday, December 15, 2014

Anna and Her Sisters

Anna Katharina Emmerick (1774-1824) was at the peak of her controversial success ten years ago, when Mel Gibson used her visions as a source for his 'scary movie' The Passion of the Christ and Pope John Paul II declared her "Blessed," just one step before becoming "St."

Her visions, more or less contemporary to William Blake's, are very different from her Medieval colleagues': the latter are concise and theologically pertinent, whereas Emmerick's are full of descriptive and psychological details, and changes in the landscape constantly echo the feelings of the personages. Briefly, it is a clear product of German Romanticism. At the same time, the Seer's mind (in the Medieval sense of mens) 'desperately' tries to get a consistent picture out of all kinds of materials she may have access to, directly or indirectly: Medieval and Renaissance art, apocryphal books, modern archaeological researches (e.g. the Essenes) and devotions (e.g. the Holy Shroud now in Turin), etc. And, is it possible that her descriptions of Eden, setting the supernaturally beautiful Adam and Eve in a gorgeous paradise, depended -- at least in part -- on Milton's Paradise Lost? After all, the notes of Haydn's oratorio Die Schöpfung were still fresh in the German world's air.

The most original and interesting side of her "updated Gospel" is the role played by Lazarus as a sponsor, and especially by a whole team of women as healing helpers in the public ministry of Jesus. Significantly, his enemies accuse him of being a wizard, rather than a blasphemer. The Messiah's personality itself is not always the one we would expect.

A. K. Emmerick, Visioni bibliche e contemplazioni mistiche, an anthology perceptively edited and very well translated by Vincenzo Noja, Milan: Paoline, 2009, pages 326, euros 14.50