-Exploring the differences in the dates and circumstances of the Assumption of Mary and the Crucifixion of Jesus in the visions of various mystics
Differences in the various visions of the Assumption of Mary
For those who study the lives of visionaries and mystics it is something that comes to mind occasionally: How is it that visionaries at times seem to have different details concerning the same events and vision? For example, what about the timing of the Virgin Mary's passing from this life and Her Assumption into heaven? Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich stated that it occurred 13 years after Jesus died, while St Bridget saw it as being 14 years after Jesus died, and then Venerable Mary of Agreda saw the Virgin Mary's passing occurring 21 years after Jesus died. Why the difference?
Differences in the various visions of the crucifixion of Jesus
In the various visions of Our Lord's crucifixion, we have mystics once again seeing the same events, but with different visual details. Both Ven. Mary of Agreda and Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich saw that the pre-drilled holes in the Cross were too far apart to nail the hands of Jesus into them. So to resolve this problem, Ven. Mary of Agreda said that the roman soldiers used a chain tied to one of Jesus arms to pull His arm out of socket, stretching it to reach the pre-drilled hole, while Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich saw the soldiers use a rope.
Or again, St Bridget of Sweden said that Jesus was nailed to the cross which was already upright and in place. However both Ven. Mary of Agreda and Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich saw Jesus nailed to the cross when it was lying on the ground. Or again, St Bridget said that a total of 4 nails were used to nail the hands and feet of Jesus, while Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich said 3 nails were used. Or again, while the majority of visionaries have seen Jesus nailed to the Cross through the hands, a few have seen Him nailed through the wrists, or, as in the case of the purported mystic Maria Valtorta who allegedly saw Jesus nailed in the left hand and in the right wrist. Yet, contrary to the majority of the mystics who saw Jesus nailed through the hands, the image on the Shroud has Jesus nailed on the one wrist visible in the image.
Why the apparent differences?
So, should one be troubled by such apparent differences? The answer is a resounding NO, and for the very same reason that one should not be troubled by the apparent differences in certain stories in the four Gospels. And here is why: The primary purpose of the Scriptures is to impart Divine revelation, that is, the revelation of God to mankind, and this too is also the primary purpose of private revelation. But we must note that there is a very important and significant difference between Public and private revelation. Scripture and Tradition form the Public revelation of God, and together they are the foundation of the Church, and as such it is binding for all Catholics. Private revelation however is not binding, and Catholics are not bound to believe in any private revelations--even those like Fatima and Lourdes that have been approved by the Church.
The primary purpose of private revelation is to highlight and deepen the understanding of Divine revelation given to the Church through the deposit of Faith, as revealed in and through Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Like the Scriptures, private revelation is primarily not meant to impart knowledge of science, geography, history etc, nor is it meant to reveal specific temporal (ie.- scientific, historical etc) physical details of the biblical events, such as the specifics concerning Jesus' passion and death, but it is meant to reveal a deeper spiritual meaning behind these historical events. Likewise, while matters such as scientific, geographic and historical events are contained within the Scriptures, it is not the primary purpose of Scripture to reveal or clarify such things.
|Our Lady of Kibeho|
As I was writing the last sentence above, in a flash I was reminded of the various appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout the world over the centuries. In Tepeyac hill in Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego as an Aztec woman; in Lourdes, She appeared to St Bernadette as a Caucasian woman, even speaking to her in the local French dialect (Patois). In Kibeho, Rwanda She appeared to a group of visionaries as a dark skinned woman, similar to the local African people.
Thus, the Virgin Mary appeared to these various individuals in a way most natural and suitable to them, solely and simply to impart a spiritual lesson and message, and not to reveal Herself specifically as one race or another, and a such we can readily see Her different physical appearances in these visions have no real bearing or significance, other than to show that She is the spiritual Mother of all of humanity. And likewise it is with the majority of the temporal details within the various visions of the mystics and visionaries, and as such are really just ancillary to the spiritual significance and message meant to be imparted through the visions themselves. In short, the physical visual details seen within private revelations are simply attendant to the spiritual realities which are the primary emphasis and purpose of the visions themselves.
Thus, the ecstasies and visions that mystics receive are first and foremost intended to convey a spiritual message and meaning. They are NOT meant to instruct us on historical matters, but normally the only thing that is intended by them is the spiritual significance and meaning behind the events, and how they can be applied to one's own spiritual life, devotion and love for God. If you look at each of these visions this way, it does not matter for example whether St Anne died when Mary was in the temple, or many years later. The spiritual lesson connected to the various visions of her life is what would be the sole meaning and purpose of such visions, and this is what God intends by revealing them.
"My daughter," He [Jesus] said, "Behold these wounds. They have all been opened because of your sins. But now, be consoled, for they have all been closed by your sorrow. Do not offend Me any more. Love Me as I have always loved you. Love Me." This He repeated several times. The vision vanished and I returned to my senses. From that time on I began to have a great horror for sin, which was the greatest grace Jesus has given me. The wounds of Jesus remained so vividly impressed in my mind that they have never been effaced."
-From one of the visions of St Gemma Galgani