Finding Jesus with the mystics
the mystics altogether, however, deprives us of their considerable gifts.
They represent the praying church. They model the full attention, mind
and heart, that believers should bring to what Jesus said and did. They
are ardent, restless believers, searching into the mystery of God. And
so we can learn from them.
too, we can learn to keep the Passion of Jesus in mind. Christian mystics
of the past saw the Passion of Jesus as their great book, a fount of
wisdom, and they kept it constantly in their minds and hearts. True,
they did not have the scholarly tools to understand it that we have
today. Their search into this mystery was incompleteas ours will
be, too. But they call the church to keep remembering and learning from
There are not enough books or movies in this world to contain it.
Bridget of Sweden
century Pieta, Sweden: Mystics like St. Bridget of Sweden, who recalls
Mary's response to her son's death, often inspired renderings of Jesus'
passion like the above.
was opened and when the lance was taken out, dark blood was seen on
the point, and I knew it pierced his heart. It was as if my own heart
had been pierced, and still, like his, it did not break. Others left
but I could not leave, and I found comfort that his body was lowered
from the cross and I could touch it and lay it on my lap and find
the wounds and dry the blood. Then, with my fingers I closed his mouth
and then his eyes. But I could not bend his rigid arms. They could
not be crossed over his breast but over his stomach. I could not straighten
his knees either, and they were bent as they had stiffened on the
Book 4, Revelation
Catherine Anne Emmerick
Anne Emmerick, rumored to be one of Gibson's sources for his screenplay,
had extensive visions of the Passion of Jesus. Poor and unhealthy from
childhood, she entered an Augustinian convent in Westphalia, Germany
in 1802, but left in 1811 when the convent was closed by the government.
About a year later she showed signs of the stigmata on her body, which
drew the curious to her. Among them was the German Romantic poet, Clemens
Brentano, who had recently been reconciled to the church after a period
Catherine, Brentano wrote down the experiences she communicated to him
in two books, one of which was entitled "The Dolorous Passion of
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." The book became popular among
religious readers, but it presents certain difficulties. Some scholars
say that it is not easy to separate what material comes from Catherine
and what from him. The poet reports that he listened to Catherine and
then went home and wrote down later what he remembered.
the book's weaknesses is its lack of a solid scriptural basis. Her biographer
says that Catherine "never considered her visions to have any reference
to her exterior Christian life, nor did she regard them as being of
any historical value. Exteriorly she knew and believed nothing but the
catechism, the common history of the Bible, the gospels for Sundays
and festivals, and the Christian almanac
She had never read the
Old or the New Testaments, and when she was tired of relating her visions,
she would sometimes say: 'Read that in the Bible,' and then be astonished
to learn that it was not there..."
were Catherine's visions so popular? Perhaps because she lived during
the Age of Reason, when human reason questioned everything, especially
religion. Enlightenment scholars like David Frederich Strauss and Hermann
Reimarus, were creating a climate of doubt about the fundamental beliefs
of Christianity as they embarked on their quest of the "historical
Jesus." In an age whose patron saint was "Doubting Thomas,"
Catherine's visions of Jesus, so concrete, immediate and definite, provided
large numbers of believers with the assurance they sought.
beginning of article
also in this issue:
Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ"
| "Seeing" the Passion of Jesus
Christian Mystics and the Passion
| Dramatizing the Passion
home page for this issue
directory of past issues
questions or comments
2003 - all rights reserved - Passionist Missionaries of Union City,