The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) [NOOK Book]

Overview


If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be a spectator in the crowd at the Crucifixion of Christ, read this book. The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ provided the inspiration for Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ, and has been a strong influence on modern Christian spirituality. For over a century, it has attracted devout Christian readers who want to have a more concrete and explicit narrative of Jesus' suffering and death on the Cross. ...
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The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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Overview


If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be a spectator in the crowd at the Crucifixion of Christ, read this book. The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ provided the inspiration for Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ, and has been a strong influence on modern Christian spirituality. For over a century, it has attracted devout Christian readers who want to have a more concrete and explicit narrative of Jesus' suffering and death on the Cross.
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Product Details

Meet the Author


Anne Catherine Emmerich was born on September 8, 1774, in a hamlet outside of Coesfeld, Germany. Her parents were peasants, and her family was very poor. Her biographer and amanuensis, the Romantic poet Clemens Brentano, tells us that she was gifted with a deep religious sensibility and heavenly apparitions marked her childhood. In 1798, she had a vision in which Christ offered her a choice between a crown of flowers or a crown of thorns. She chose the crown of thorns, and the next day began to suffer the physical marks of the passion of Christ that marked her for the rest of her life.
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Introduction


The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ has been enormously influential for modern Christian spirituality, Catholic and Protestant alike, despite the fact the nineteenth-century German visionary Anne Catherine Emmerich is a relatively minor author of the Roman Catholic tradition. This work is essentially the transcription of a series of visions Emmerich experienced in the last year of her life; visions that allowed her to observe and in some ways participate in the life of Jesus, particularly in the Passion of Christ, that is, his suffering and death on the cross. Emmerich's spiritual disciple, the Romantic poet Clemens Brentano, copied down the visions and arranged them in the order of the events as told in the New Testament. For over a century, The Dolorous Passion has attracted devout Christian readers who want to know more about the death of Jesus, to have a more concrete and explicit narrative of his suffering, and, through an active spirituality of reading and contemplation, to place themselves in the crowd at the events of the death of Jesus. This immaginative spiritual journey has been the inspiration for some very recent expressions of Christian art, such as the Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ, but no one could claim that Emmerich started something new; in fact, the mimetic quality of her visions, and the way The Dolorous Passion lends itself to participatory reading are well-established forms of the western Christian spiritual tradition.

Devotion to the life of Jesus is one of the most venerable forms of Christian spirituality. From the twelfth century on, the Imitatio Christi, the imitation of Christ, was the most important devotional tradition of Western Christianity, a focus of prayer for religious and lay, men and women, the educated and the simple, from England to Italy. At the turn of the twelfth century, Anselm of Canterbury had insisted that redemption of Adam's sin was intrinsically linked to the boundless love of God in becoming man. In the thirteenth century, Francis of Assisi created the first Christmas manger scene, a tableaux that allows individual Christians to be present at the birth of Christ, to hold the baby Jesus, to meditate on the miracle of God taking human form. A Franciscan work entitled Meditations on the Life of Christ that gives step-by-step instructions for making the life of Jesus a model for one's own life was widely circulated in the later Middle Ages, and available in many vernacular languages as well as in Latin.

But the Christian faith does not only teach that God was born a human being, but also that God died a human death, a cruel and painful death on the cross, and that this suffering and death were key for the redemption of the sins of mankind. Over the course of the Middle Ages, the Imitatio Christi increasingly focused on the Passion, the events at the end of the life of Jesus, including his prophetic words at the Last Supper; his agony in the Garden of Gethsemene; his arrest and trials before Pilate, Caiaphas, and Herod; the way of the cross; and Jesus's crucifixion, death, and burial. From the thirteenth to the seventeenth century, meditation on the Passion of Christ reached a cultural climax. This was a widespread tradition, evident in late medieval material objects, paintings, and crucifixes that portray Christ bathed in blood. They were especially popular in Germany and the Netherlands and were used by all types of Christians. There was also a sort of professional class of devotee who made use of traditions of prayer and physical deprivation, including mimetic imitation of the Passion, to literally suffer with Christ. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, based his Spiritual Exercises on an elaborate and dramatic imitation of the sufferings of Christ. Sometimes this imitation reached an explicitly literal level: Francis of Assisi was widely admired as the first famous stigmatist (one who miraculously bears the wounds of Jesus in his or her body), and by the sixteenth century many Christians known for spiritual virtuosity, such as religious leaders, visionaries, and mystics, were also stigmatists. This tradition was especially vigorous among women in religious communities, and this is the tradition in which we should understand the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich.

Anna Katharina Emmerick, as her name is spelled in German, was born on September 8, 1774, in a hamlet outside of Coesfeld, a small town near Münster, Germany. Her parents were peasants, and her family was very poor. Her biographer and amanuensis, the Romantic poet Clemens Brentano, tells us that Emmerick was gifted with a deep religious sensibility and heavenly apparitions marked her childhood. Brentano also relates Emmerick's strong sense of the biblical narrative, something very evident in The Dolorous Passion. In 1798, while meditating before a crucifix in the Jesuit church of Coesfeld, Emmerick had a vision in which Christ offered her a choice between a crown of flowers or a crown of thorns. She chose the crown of thorns, and the next day began to suffer the physical marks of the Passion of Christ that marked her for the rest of her life.

From her adolescence on, Anne Catherine wanted to enter a religious community, but this form of life was not readily available to a young woman with no dowry. In 1802, Anne Catherine finally entered the novitiate of the Augustinian sisters of Dulmen, but only because one of her admirers would not give consent for his daughter to enter the house without her. In 1803, she made her final vows and became an Augustinian nun. Her life in the convent was difficult, especially because she was continually beset with physical sufferings. Brentano compares her to a sixteenth-century Italian Carmelite nun, Maria Maddalena de'Pazzi; but while Maria Maddalena was a source of fascination for her fellow nuns (up to four at a time were assigned to follow her around the monastery and record her mimetic raptures of Christ's Passion), Anne Catherine was not celebrated for piety. She was most often ill, sometimes at death's door, suffering, Brentano says, many illnesses for others. Near the end of 1811, the convent of the Augustinians of Dulmen was suppressed by Jerome Bonaparte, the King of Westphalia. Anne Catherine, too ill to return to her family, remained in the abandoned convent, cared for by a servant woman and a priest, until the spring of 1812, when she was moved to a miserable rented room in the house of a poor widow.

During this period of Anne Catherine's life, she began to display the full-blown signs of the stigmata, bleeding from her hands, feet, side, and head, and suffering great pain. In the spring of 1812, when this phenomenon became known, she was subjected to examination by the ecclesiastical, secular, and medical authorities of the region of Münster, but was never accused of false piety. As her fame spread, Anne Catherine was championed by Count Leopold de Stolberg (a noted convert from Protestantism), Dean Bernard Overberg from Münster, and the bishop of Regensburg (in French, Ratisbonne) Michael Sailer. These patrons moved her to a more pleasant lodging where she lived until her death on February 9, 1824. Throughout this final decade of her life, she continued to have visions of the life of Christ, especially of the Passion, and to be afflicted with the signs of Christ's suffering. Anne Catherine Emmerich may have lived out her life of mimetic devotion to the Passion in relative anonymity, as many other spiritual adepts have surely done, had she not, in September of 1818, received a visit from the Romantic poet Clemens Maria Brentano. This was the decisive event that made possible The Dolorous Pasison of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Brentano, whose Catholicism had been reawakened that year, was introduced to Anne Catherine by her powerful friends. There was an immediate rapport between Brentano and the visionary; she gave him every confidence right from the beginning. Perhaps this was because he recognized the ill woman as a suffering soul in the tradition of Christian redemptive suffering, and understood right away the role that he, a man of letters, could play in her story. For the next six years, Brentano spent as much time as he could at her side, keeping a chronicle of her sufferings and transcibing her visions. The Dolorous Passion in a result of that long association. It is often said that these visions were received by Anne Catherine on Holy Thursday and Good Friday of the last Easter season of her life, in 1823; but actually, as we read at the end of chapter 66, they occurred over a longer time, from February 18 to April 6, 1823. This text, then, is not simply a revelation to Anne Catherine, but also clearly the result of Brentano's editing. In the German edition, Brentano includes long footnotes with references to some of Anne Catherine's many other revelations. After Anne Catherine's death in 1824, Brentano spent the rest of his life editing her visions; The Dolorous Passion, published nine years later in 1833, is only the first fruit of his labors.

The relationship between Clemens Brentano and Anne Catherine Emmerich is also part of a long history of Christian visionary experience. A number of famous women mystics are known to us because their raptures were transcribed, and so saved and made known, by others. Maria Maddalena de'Pazzi is perhaps the most extreme example of this, since she never wrote nor even dictated a word of what she saw and experienced (indeed, she is said to have burned the transcriptions of her visions whenever she had a chance). We know about her extraordinary participation in Christ's Passion only because of fellow Carmelite nuns, who carried out a sort of sacred eavesdropping on her mystical experiences. Angela of Foligno, a Third Order (uncloistered) Franciscan of the thirteenth century, dictated her Revelations and Memorials to 'Brother A,' a Franciscan friar, perhaps a relative. In other words, the fact that The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ is both a transcription and a composite does not make it, according to this rich spiritual tradition, any less a work of Anne Catherine Emmerich.

As is evident from his many references to holy women of past centuries whose experiences were echoed by those of Anne Catherine, Brentano knew the history of the medieval visionary tradition very well. When he gives the particular details of Anne Catherine's suffering, he lists those who are known to have had the stigmata: famous medieval and early modern holy people like Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Angela of Foligno, Maria Maddalena de'Pazzi, as well as more recent figures like Veronica Giuliani (d.1727) and several other, lesser-known "moderns." He thus gives Anne Catherine's visions and embodied experiences a strong theological basis in a long tradition. Brentano's fascination with this tradition can be explained in part by his participation (along with such authors as Novalis and Goethe) in a movement of German Romanticism that idealized the Middle Ages and found both Christian truth and the depth of Germanic spirit in medieval Christian aesthetic and religious sensibility. Brentano's Des Knaben Wunderhorn (1805-1808, poems based on German folk tales) and his retelling of Märchen, German fairy tales, are among his most popular writings. There is little doubt that Brentano conceived, and so portrayed, Anne Catherine as a medieval holy woman, and even as a German Gothic saint.

And yet, there is something about the literary quality of Anne Catherine's visionary life that Brentano transmitted but did not invent, and that he must have greatly admired. Even if the specific words are his, the biblical imagination is hers, and, surely, Anne Catherine's biblical imagination is the most compelling aspect of The Dolorous Passion. Some of Anne Catherine's visions seem to contradict the Gospels (for example, Jesus falls six times instead of three on the way to Golgotha), but much of the narrative is made up of details that fill in silences in the biblical accounts. For instance, her lengthy and detailed descriptions of Jesus's sufferings, far more than the Gospel accounts, are nothing short of gory. She follows this physical drama with a strange non-seqitur, a description of the geography of Jerusalem that appears as an excursus in chapter 49, directly following the death of Jesus. She also explains the relationships between the protagonists of the Passion story in great detail. Sometimes these additions can be traced through Christian apocryphal stories, hagiographical legends, and other traditional material, and perhaps her description of Jerusalem was influenced by pilgrim guides to the Holy Land. She does not always get everything right (in chapter 51 she sees the Shroud of Turin in an Asian city, and as Brentano notes, the distances of her imagined Jerusalem sometimes do not compute), but the verisimilitude of her descriptions is notable, whether it comes from traditional sources or divine inspiration.

Anne Catherine's ability to turn minor characters of the Gospel stories into protagonists makes for especially vivid reading. Three personalities in particular spring to life in her narrative. Two are Roman soldiers: Abenadar, the centurion in charge of the crucifixion, and Cassius, his assistant. Both are strongly moved by the death of Jesus and become Christians, taking new names in baptism. Cassius, who puts the spear through Jesus's side, becomes Longinus, a well-known figure of medieval legend. Abenadar becomes an apostle immediately from the moment in chapter 45 when he calls out, in an expansion of his words in the Gospels, "Blessed be the Most High God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; indeed this Man was the Son of God." When Abenadar is baptized, he takes the name Ctesiphon, and thus becomes associated with the medieval legend of the companion of Saint James, the evangelist of Spain.

Perhaps the most striking protagonist of The Dolorous Passion is the wife of Pontius Pilate; she is given the name Claudia Procles, and in chapter 23, has a dramatic meeting with the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene in which she gives them pieces of linen to wipe up the pools of blood left by the flagellation of Jesus. The Orthodox churches hold that the wife of Pilate became a Christian, and so celebrate her as a saint; the name Procla is associated with some of these traditions, but the addition of the name Claudia, and her particular actions during the Passion may have originated with Anne Catherine. The character of Claudia Procles has been further explored in many genres of modern Christian literature. Most recently, she is an important character in Mel Gibson's controversial adaptation of The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, his 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ. Much of the debate surrounding this film had to do with its violence and its portrait of first-century Jews and Judaism, but some insightful commentators also noted that much of Gibson's artistic vision, including a sharp focus on the physical sufferings of Jesus and an unfortunate tendency to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus, came not directly from the Gospels, but from a Christian devotional tradition filtered through The Dolorous Passion of Anne Catherine Emmerich.

It was not until the twentieth century that the Roman Catholic Church officially recognized Anne Catherine Emmerich as an orthodox visionary. She was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II in 2001, and beatified (declared Blessed, the last step before sainthood), again by John Paul II, on October 3, 2004. Some have suggested that the enormous international success of Mel Gibson's film contributed directly to her beatification. This may be, but it is also worth noting that the beatification took place in the last year of John Paul II's life, at a time when he, desperately ill, was stubbornly offering his sufferings for the sins of the world. It is not difficult to imagine that John Paul II saw some meaning for his own physical pain in the agonies of this German nun. In the end, this is what The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ has to offer: Anne Catherine Emmerich's vicarious Passion as a way of understanding and sharing Christ's suffering for humanity. This may be jarring to some modern sensibilities, but it is at the heart of the message of Christianity.
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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2008

    My favorite religious book

    Very Emotional. I'm reading it now for the third time. Written by a nun who was graced with the visions of Jesus' last days and crucifiction. You'll feel like you're there. I constantly have to stop and pause from reading and either pray for forgivness or take some deep breaths to go on reading. It's crushingly painful to read at times.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2008

    a good theology book

    It is a very great book. it contains many more details that fills up the empty spots that occurred during the last supper to the walk to caiphas judgement.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2004

    This is an excellent book!!

    I read this book a couple of years ago and simply could not put it down. Simply put, it fills in all the details that are left out of the 4 Gospels. Our Lord took Sister Emmerich back to the time of His Passion and she was able to witness it first hand. This book is the diary of these visions. I saw Mel Gibson's movie and was not surprised at all simply because this book prepared me for what I was to see. Actually, Mel Gibson sanitized the movie somewhat. The book goes into much greater detail than the movie. You will NOT regret purchasing this book, you may end up buying extras to give to others!!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2012

    Inspirational

    The book offers some interesting background to the events surrounding Christ's passion and death. Accuracy of clothing, customs, religious practices are vividly clear, as though you are there. This is not however, an orthodox, scriptural account but the purported visions of an elderly, ill nun who admits to only partial recall.
    Individual religious fervor and personal piety make this a wonderful inspirational piece. One can fully appreciate the blood lust of Roman torture and ultimate cruelty of crucifixion. Be careful not to substitute the Gospel of Gibson for the authentic scripture.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2004

    A must after the Movie or Before

    Indeed, without reading the book where the authors are able to take you to the hearts and mind of Jesus Christ, his mother, Magdalen and others, you cannot fully understand the horrific and necessary sacrifice the Lord did for mankind...after reading this book and seeing the movie, it will make you think 100 times about ever sinning again....Carol, Speech & Lang. student, Springfield, Massachusetts

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2004

    Poignant and Inspirational

    When you read this book, you will think that Mel Gibson had teamed up with Disney when he made his movie adaptation. This book is 100 times more graphically violent than the movie. Yet -unlike the movie- the violence does not overwhelm the message of love. There is a superb balance between the depictions of brutality and the immense compassion of Jesus for his persecuters and all mankind. And there is not even a hint of anti-semitism in this book - in fact Emmerich goes in great detail about the conversions of Jesus tormentors and of the Jews who opposed Jesus' exicution. I was struck that an uneducated nun like Emmerich knew so much about ancient Israel and it's customs. She illuminates and fills in gaps in the gospel accounts and beautifully harmonizes the supposed 'contradictory' elements for in gospels. She describes everything as though she were an eyewitness and her style is so simple and straight-forward that you cannot help but to believe it. I am not sure all of the historical and cultural details are correct, but she asserts many times that she doesn't remember every vision clearly and that it is hard for her to describe certain things. Regardless if you read this accout with faith or skepticism, you will fail to be deeply moved by Jesus' love for sinners.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2014

    Readable

    I was interested in something spiritual. I read the whole book but I have a few thoughts. First it is not 'endorsed' by the churc, which was ok until I googled and found the writer used some poetic license. then I wondered what he added to her story because it made a better story. There are many things she did not remember. Otherwise it is very readable and interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2012

    God given

    What a gift from her most precious spouse. To see, know, transport, suffer, share in so many intament moments that her spouses family went through to get to our Divine Christ. It is a marvelous recognition of humanity in spirit without saying the obvious i.e., that our bodies are just a host to something SO much more that we can't readily comprehend in physicality. God and His mysteries ... I can not get enough!!

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  • Posted March 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

    If you want to learn or know what happened in the last days of Jesus' life without reading The Bible, then this is the book to read. It gives a lot of information.
    The book is good even though I felt at some points that it was overly descriptive and tedious.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2004

    Powerful

    Having seen 'The Passion of the Christ' I wondered about the detail that Gibson placed in his movie. But reading this book you realize that Gibson actually softened the impact of this event. By reading the actual version of these events, you feel the anguish of the witnesses, and understand the impact this vision had on Sister Anne. This book is a visceral account of the sacrifice made, its reason, its cost, and its impact on Jesus, and everyone. It is not light reading, but impossible to put down.

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