The Work of God Apostolate

Virgin Mary Mystical City of God - Book 8 chapter 4 verses 431-455 Index

 Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary By Sor Marķa of Agreda


  INDEX            Book 8  Chapter  4    Verses:  431-455

431. Most celebrated is the history of the city of
Ephesus, situated on the western confines of Asia; for
many renowned events of past ages made that city famous
and illustrious throughout the globe. But its greatest
privilege and excellence consists in having entertained
and harbored within its walls the supreme Queen of
heaven and earth for the space of some months, the
number of which I will state later on. This privilege
was a most fortunate one for Ephesus; since the other
things which are mentioned for its renown made it truly
unhappy and infamous, because through them the prince
of darkness had permanently set up his throne in that
city. But as our great Lady and Mother of grace found
Herself hospitably entertained and thus considered Her
self under obligation to its inhabitants, who received Her
liberally and offered her gifts, it naturally followed, that
She, in accordance with her most perfectly ordered and
burning charity deeming Herself brought nearer to these
her benefactors, should repay their hospitality with great
er blessings. For if She was liberal to all, even strangers,
She would certainly be much more free with her gifts
and favors to the inhabitants of Ephesus. Her own
gratitude moved Her to this, since She considered Herself
indebted to the whole commonwealth. She offered up
for it special prayers, asking her divine Son to pour out
over its inhabitants his blessings and as a kind Father
to illumine and bring it to the knowledge of the true
432. The Lady received answer that, as the Mistress
and Queen of the whole Church, She was free to do as
She pleased; that, however, She should take notice of
the obstacles, which this city placed in the way of the
divine clemency by its ancient and still existing abomina
tions; that its inhabitants had thereby locked the gates
of mercy and merited the rigors of justice, which would
have already been executed upon them, if the Lord had
not ordained Her to live among them just at the time,
when their wickedness had reached the highest point and
called the loudest for punishment. Together with this
answer the most blessed Mother perceived, that the
divine Justice, as it were, asked her permission and con
sent to the destruction of that idolatrous people of
Ephesus and its neighborhood. At this answer and what
it implied the kind heart of the sweetest Mother was much
afflicted; but her immense charity was not intimidated,
and multiplying her prayers, She answered the Lord :
433. "Most High, just and merciful King! I know
well that the rigor of thy justice will be executed, if thy
mercy is excluded; but for thy mercy any motive found
by thy wisdom is sufficient, although small may be the
inducement presented on the part of sinners. Consider
therefore, O Lord, how this city has afforded me a dwell
ing according to thy will and how its inhabitants have
helped me and offered me and thy servant John their
goods. Temper thy rigor, my God, and let it be exer
cised on me, for I am willing to suffer for the salvation of
these unfortunates. Thou, O Allpowerful, whose infinite
goodness and mercy forever conquers in good or evil,
canst take away the obstacle, which prevents their profit
ing of thy blessings; let not my eyes behold the destruc
tion of so many souls, the works of thy hands, purchased
by thy blood." The Lord replied: "My Mother, I
desire that thou see for thyself the cause of my just in
dignation and how much these men, for whom thou
pleadest, have merited it. Attend, and thou shalt see."
And immediately, by a most clear vision, She saw what
434. She perceived that many centuries before the in
carnation of the Word in her virginal womb, among the
many councils held by Lucifer for the destruction of
men, one was held in which he thus spoke to his demons :
"From the delights of my former state in heaven, from
the prophecies made by God to man and from the favors
shown to many of his friends, I conjecture how much
God shall be beholden to men and women for abstaining
from certain vices, which I desire to maintain upon the
world. These vices are especially those connected with
the delights of the flesh and with the pleasures of posses
sion or avarice ; in these He seeks to induce them to re
nounce even what is allowed. In order that they may
be so induced, He shall furnish them with many helps,
so that they may be chaste and poor of their own accord,
and subject their free will to that of others. If through
these virtues they overcome us, they will merit great
reward before God, as I have spied out in some who
were chaste, poor and obedient. My plans will be seriously
frustrated, if we do not take measures to counteract this
damage and seek to compensate for it in all the ways
open to our astuteness. I take into consideration also,
that, if the divine Word is to assume human flesh, as I
have been given to understand, He will be very chaste
and pure, and that He will teach chastity to others, not
only men, but women, who, though they are weaker, yet
usually are more tenacious. If they, whom I overcame
in the first woman, shall thus vanquish me, it will be so
much the more tormenting to me. Besides all this, the
Scriptures of the ancients speak much of the favors,
which men shall enjoy through the incarnate Word. For
the human nature of the Son of God is to enrich and
raise up earthborn men by his power."
435. "In order to oppose all this" Lucifer continued,
"I desire your counsel and your diligent help; and we
must begin even now to hinder mien from attaining such
great benefits." Thus the hateful plotting of hell
against evangelical perfection was far in advance of its
profession in the religious orders. This matter was
thoroughly considered by the demons and the result of
their deliberations was, that a great many demons should
be appointed as heads of hellish legions, who were to
tempt those desirous of living a life of chastity, poverty
and obedience. In derision of chastity especially, they
were to institute a sort of false and apparent state of
virginity, in which counterfeit and hypocritical virgins
were to consecrate themselves to Lucifer and all the
demons. The enemies hoped thereby to gain over these
persons to themselves not only for their own triumph,
but also to cast discredit upon the chaste life of religious
orders, which they presumed would be instituted by the
incarnate Word and his Mother in the world. In order
that this false religion might be propagated so much the
better in the world, they resolved to found it upon worldly
abundance and on whatever is most pleasing to nature,
as in reality it was ; for in secret those interested agreed
to live licentiously under the name of chastity in honor
of false gods.
436. But immediately the question arose, whether this
religion was to be for men or for women. Some of the
demons wanted it to be for men only, in order that
through their greater constancy those religious orders
might be more permanent ; others again thought that men
are not so easily deceived as women, since they reason
more deeply and could more easily detect error; while
there was not so much of this risk in women, who were
of weak judgment, ready to believe earnestly in what they
like and have once settled upon, and inclined to persevere
in their error. This argument prevailed and was ap
proved by Lucifer, although he did not entirely exclude
men; for he judged, that some would be found, who
would embrace the fallacy on account of the influence
they would thereby gain over others. This could be ex
pected especially if the demons would help along by
nourishing their fear of losing the estimation of their
fellowmen and by astutely making use of public opinion
to keep alive the fallacies in those who would engage in
this service.
437. Following up their infernal schemes the demons
set about instituting a counterfeit and false religious
order or congregation of virgins ; for Lucifer said to the
other demons: "Although it would be a great pleasure
to me to have real virgins consecrated and dedicated to
my worship and adoration in the same way as God wishes
them for Himself; yet chastity and purity of the body
so offends me, that I cannot endure this virtue, even if
practiced entirely in honor of my greatness. Therefore
we must see to it, that these virgins be the object of our
basest attempts. If any of them should remain chaste
in body, we shall fill her with bad thoughts and desires,
so that in reality none of them will be chaste, though
they may strive to contain themselves out of vain pride ;
and as they are to be impure in their thoughts, we will
seek to maintain them in the vainglorious conceit of their
438. In order to start these false religious orders the
demons scoured through the whole earth, and it seemed
to them, that among all the nations, certain women called
Amazons were best suited for the execution of their
devilish plans. These Amazons had come from Scythia
to Asia Minor where they now lived. They were warlike,
covering up by their arrogance and pride the weakness
of their sex. By force of arms they had possessed them
selves of extended provinces, and had constituted Ephesus
as the centre of their power. For a long time they gov
erned themselves, disdaining subjection to men and life
in their company, for such a life, they in their presump
tuous pride, called slavery or servitude. Since much is
said of them in histories, though with many contradic
tions, I will not dilate upon this matter. For my purpose
it is sufficient to state, that, since these Amazons were
proud, vainglorious and averse to mien, Lucifer found
them predisposed toward his counterfeit virginity. He
filled them with vain hopes of gaining great veneration
and renown in the world by being known as pledged to
virginity and stirred them with the desire of becoming
famous and admired of men and perhaps of one of them
reaching the position and worship of a goddess. In their
unbridled desire of this worldy honor they gathered
around them many Amazons, both true and counterfeit
virgins, and instituted their spurious congregation of
virgins at Ephesus, the place of their origin.
439. In a short time these more than foolish virgins
grew very numerous and through the instigations of the
demons were much admired and applauded by the world.
Among them one signalized herself and became very cele
brated for her beauty, nobility, high intellect, chastity and
other allurements. She was called Diana and the fame
and admiration of her became widespread. The venera
tion of her and the multitude of her companions were
the occasion of the building of the renowned temple of
Ephesus, which the world estimated as one of its marvels
and which took many years to construct. As Diana
gradually gained the worship and title of goddess among
the blind multitude, this rich and sumptuous temple was
finally dedicated to her, and was called the temple of
Diana. In imitation of it and under the same title, many
others were built in other parts of the world. In order
to spread the renown of this counterfeit virgin during
her lifetime in Ephesus, the demon communicated with
her and filled her with diabolical illusions; many times
he surrounded her with a false splendor and manifested
to her secrets to be promulgated. He taught her also
some ceremonies and forms of worship similar to those
of the people of God ; by which she and the people might
worship the devil. The rest of the virgins venerated
her as a goddess ; which was also done by the other heath
ens, who were as prodigal as they were blind in attribut
ing divinity to all that seemed to them wonderful.
440. These diabolical frauds had thus been established
when the neighboring kings defeated the Amazons and
assumed the government of Ephesus. They preserved
this temple of Ephesus as something sacred and divine,
and they permitted the continuance of that gathering of
foolish virgins. Although some man of the people burned
this temple, the city and the government authorities re
built it, being especially helped by the contributions of
women. This was a little more or less than thirty years
before the Redemption of the human race. Hence at the
time when the most blessed Mother was in Ephesus not
the old temple stood, but the second one, built later. In
this temple the virgins occupied different apartments.
But as, during the time of the Incarnation and death of
Christ, idolatry was so firmly established in the world,
those diabolical women not only had not improved in
their customs, but deteriorated, and nearly all of them
held abominable intercourse with the demons. In connec
tion therewith they committed other most loathsome
crimes and deceived the world by their humbugging
prophecies, by which the devil filled both them and their
dupes with their insanities.
441. This and much more did the most blessed Mary
behold around Her in Ephesus and on account of it She
was struck with a sorrow certainly mortal, if She had
not been preserved by the Lord. But having seen that
Lucifer had appropriated the statute of Diana as a seat
or throne of his wickedness, She prostrated Herself upon
the ground before her divine Son and said: "Lord God
Most High, worthy of all reverence and praise! It is
proper that these abominations, which have lasted for so
many ages, should cease. My heart cannot bear to see that
an unhappy and abominable woman receive the worship
due to the true God, such as Thou alone as the Infinite deservest;
nor can I endure to see the name of chastity
so profaned and prostituted in honor of the demons. Thy
infinite condescension has made me the guide and the
mother of virgins, as a most noble part of thy Church,
the most precious fruit of thy Redemption, most pleasing
to Thee. The title of chastity must be consecrated to
Thee in the souls, which shall be my children, and I
cannot consent to leave it any longer to these adulterous
women. I make complaint against Lucifer and against
hell, for their presumption in unjustly appropriating
such a right. I beseech Thee, my Son, to chastise them
by rescuing these souls from his tyranny and conferring
on them the liberty of thy faith and true light."
442. The Lord answered: "My Mother, I grant thy
petition, for it is not just that, even were it only in name,
this virtue of chastity, which was so ennobled in Thee
and is so pleasing to Me, should be ascribed to my ene
mies. But many of those counterfeit virgins are fore
known as reprobates on account of their abominations
and their obstinacy, and all of them will not embrace
the way of eternal life. Some few of them will accept
the faith, which shall be taught them." At this juncture
saint John came to the oratory of the most blessed Moth
er ; but he did not then know of the mystery She was then
engaged in, nor of the presence of her divine Son. But
the true Mother of the humble wished to join to her
prayers those of his beloved disciple. She therefos-e
secretly asked permission of her Son to speak to
him and said to him : "John, my Son, my heart is
grieved on acount of the abominable crimes committed
against the Most High in the temple of Diana and my
soul desires to see them ended and atoned." The holy
Apostle answered : "My Lady, I have seen something
of what passes in that abominable place. I cannot re
strain my sorrow and my tears, that the demon should
be there venerated and worshipped as is due to God
alone ; and no one can put a stop to such great evils, unless
Thou, my Mother, wilt take this matter in hand."
443. The most blessed Mary then ordered the Apostle
to join Her in prayer for a remedy of these evils. Saint
John betook himself to his chamber, while the most
blessed Lady remained with the Savior in hers. Prostrate
before the Lord and shedding copious tears, She resumed
her prayers and petitions. She persevered therein with
most burning fervor and as it were in agonizing sorrow.
Appealing to her divine Son for comfort and consolation,
She received the following response to her petitions and
prayers : "My Mother and my Dove, let what thou askest
be done without delay ; give thy orders and commands ac
cording to thy heart s wishes as the powerful Mistress."
By this favor the love of the most blessed Virgin was
inflamed with zeal for the honor of the Divinity. As
Queen She imperiously commanded all the demons in the
temple of Diana to descend immediately to the depths of
hell and to leave the place, which they had infested as
their own for so many years. Many legions of them
inhabited that temple, deceiving men by their supersti
tions and profaning the souls; but in the shortest twin
kling of an eye, in virtue of the powerful command of the
Queen, most holy Mary, all of them were hurled into
hell. So great was the terror by which She struck them
down, that as soon as She opened her lips to pronounce
the first word they waited not for the second; for they
were then already in hell and the swiftness of an angel,
proper to them as pure spirits, seemed to them tardy in
their flight from the Mother of the Omnipotent.
444. They were unable to leave the abyssmal caverns
until, as I shall soon relate, they received permission to
come forth with the great dragon to do battle with the
Queen of heaven; and in hell itself they sought the lo
calities farthest removed from the place where She
was upon earth, I must remark, that by these triumphs
the most holy Mary so vanquished the demon, that he
could not return to reassume the same position or juris
diction in those places of which he was dispossessed. But
this infernal serpent was and is so venomous, that new
heads grow upon him where the former are cut off, con
tinually evolving new schemes of malice and wickedness
against God and his Church. Following up her victory
the great Mistress of the world, with the consent of Christ
our Savior, immediately ordered one of her holy angels
to repair to the temple of Diana and destroy it without
leaving a stone upon a stone. Of all the women that
dwelt there he was to save only nine designated by Her,
while all the rest should die and be buried in the ruins
of the building. These were reprobates, whose souls,
before they could increase their punishment by more
sins, should be buried in hell with the demons, whom they
had obeyed and worshipped.
445. The angel of the Lord executed the mandate of
his Queen and Mistress, and in the shortest space of
time the rich and famous temple of Diana, the establish
ment of which had consumed many ages, was shattered to
the dust : so sudden was the destruction and ruin of it,
that it roused the astonishment and fear of the inhabi
tants of Ephesus. He saved the nine women designated
by the most holy Mary in pursuance of the command of
Christ our Savior ; for these alone accepted the faith, as
I shall relate. All the others perished in the ruins, not
leaving even a remembrance of themselves. Although the
inhabitants of Ephesus instituted an inquiry, they could
find no one upon whom to put the blame, as they had been
able to do in the burning of the first temple when, for
the sake of the fame attached to his crime, the incendiary
delivered himself up of his own accord. The evangelist
saint John took occasion from this event to preach with
still greater fervor the divine truth and to free the
Ephesians from the deceits and errors of the demons. The
Evangelist joined the Queen of heaven in giving thanks to
the Most High for this triumph over Lucifer and over
446. But it is necessary here to explain, that this event
must not be connected with that mentioned in the nine
teenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles concerning
the temple of Diana, which saint Luke relates, that a re
nowned artificer of Ephesus, called Demetrius, who man
ufactured silver images of the goddess Diana, conspired
with others, who were interested in his art or trade,
against saint Paul ; for the Apostle preached all through
Asia, that those were no gods, which were manufactured
by the hands of men. On account of this new doctrine
Demetrius persuaded his associates, that saint Paul was
not only ruining their trade, but causing the tempk of
Diana, so greatly venerated in Asia and the whole world,
to be despised. This conspiracy roused the artisans, and
they, the whole city, so that the cry went up : "Great is
the Diana of the Ephesians," bringing on what saint Luke
relates in that chapter. In order to make intelligible what
I have said above, I will add, that this temple, of which
saint Luke speaks, was another, less costly and more or
dinary temple, which the Ephesians began to build after
the most blessed Virgin had returned to Jerusalem. When
saint Paul came to preach in Ephesus this temple had
already been completed. From what saint Luke says,
we can gather how deeply ingrown idolatry and the cult
of Diana was in the Ephesians and in the whole of Asia.
This was natural not only on account of the length of
the time in which this error had held sway, but also
because that city had made itself illustrious and famous
throughout the world by the worship of Diana and by
its great temple. The inhabitants of Ephesus having been
delivered from this deceit and vanity by the Blessed
Virgin, and their city being the seat and source of this
worldwide superstition, imagined that they could not
live without their goddess or without their building tem
ples in her honor. So ingrained was the ignorance of the
true God among the heathens, that many Apostles and
many years were required for making known the truth
and rooting out the cockle of idolatry, especially among
the Romans and the Greeks, who esteemed themselves the
most wise and civilized of all the nations of the earth.
447. Having destroyed the temple of Diana the most
holy Mary conceived still greater desires of laboring for
the exaltation of the name of Christ and for the spread
of the holy Church, in order that the triumph gained over
the enemies might bring its proper fruit. While She was
thus multiplying her prayers and petitions for this pur
pose, it happened one day that the holy angels manifested
themselves to Her in visible forms and said to Her:
"Our Queen and Mistress, the great God of celestial
hosts commands us to bring Thee to heaven before his
royal throne to which He calls Thee." The most holy
Mother answered: "Behold here the handmaid of the
Lord; let his holy will be done in me." Then the angels
received Her on a throne of light, such as I have described
on other occasions, and bore Her to the empyrean heavens
and to the presence of the most holy Trinity, which mani
fested Itself not by an intuitive, but by an abstractive vi
sion. She prostrated Herself before the sovereign throne,
adored the immutable being of God in profound hu
mility and reverence. Then the eternal Father spoke
to Her and said : "My Daughter and meekest Dove, the
cries of thy inflamed heart for the exaltation of my holy
name have come to my ears, and thy petitions for the holy
Church are acceptable in my eyes, inclining me to mercy
and clemency. In response to thy love I wish to renew
in thee my power, in order that thou mayest defend my
honor and glory, triumph over rny enemies and their
ancient pride, bind and crush their necks, and in order
that through thy victories thou mayest assist my Church
and acquire new blessings and favors for its members,
thy brethren."
448. The most holy Mary replied : "Behold, O Lord,
I am the least of thy creatures ; my heart is prepared for
all that shall be thy pleasure and for all that shall pro
mote the exaltation of thy ineffable name and thy greater
glory; let thy divine will be done in me." The eternal
Father added: "Let all my courtiers of heaven under
stand, that I appoint Mary as the chief and leader of all
my hosts, and as the conqueror of all my enemies glori
ously to triumph over them." The other two divine Per
sons, the Son and the Holy Ghost, added their approval ;
and all the blessed with the angels answered : "Thy holy
will be done, O Lord, in heaven and on earth." Thereupon
the Lord ordered eighteen of the highest seraphim to
adorn, strengthen, and arm their Queen for battle against
the infernal dragon. On that occasion were mysteriously
fulfilled the promise in the book of Wisdom: that the
Lord armed the creatures for vengeance upon his enemies,
and the other sayings there recorded (Wis. 5, 18). Six
of the seraphim first came forward to adorn the most
blessed Lady with a sort of light as with an impenetrable
armor, which at the same time manifested the holiness
and justice of the Queen, so invincible and impenetrable
to the demons, that in an ineffable manner She was made
godlike in strength. For this wonder the seraphim and
the saints gave thanks to God.
449. Immediately another six of the seraphim ap
proached and, in obedience to the command of the Lord,
they furnished Her with another new enlightenment. It
was a sort of reflection of the Divinity in her counte
nance, unbearable to the sight of the demons. In virtue
of this gift, the enemies, although, as we shall see, they
came to tempt Her, could not look upon her godlike face,
not being deemed worthy of this privilege by the Lord.
Then came also the last six seraphim and at the command
of the Lord they furnished Her with offensive weapons,
since She was to take upon Herself the defense of the
Divinity and its honor. In pursuance of their divine
commission the angels added to all the faculties of the
great Lady new qualities of divine virtue, corresponding
to the gifts with which the Most High had endowed Her.
In virtue of this privilege the great Mistress received the
power to impede, restrain and counteract at her will the
mst secret schemes and attempts of all the demons, so
that all of them became subject to the will and mandate
of the most holy Mary, without liberty to hinder her
decrees; and of this power She availed Herself frequently
in favor of the faithful and of her clients. All these
special powers, and whatever they implied, the three
divine Persons confirmed, each One separately conferring
upon her gifts corresponding to his divine attributes and
bidding Her return to the Church and by them triumph
over the enemies of the Lord.
450. In parting the three divine Persons gave their
blessing to the most blessed Mary and She adored Them
in deepest reverence. Then the angels, full of wonder
at the works of the Most High, brought Her back to her
oratory, exclaiming: "Who is She, that so godlike, rich
and prosperous, descends from the highest heaven to
the world to defend the honor of God s name? How
well appointed and how beautiful does She advance to
battle for the Lord? O Queen, O most exalted Lady,
proceed prosperous in thy beauty, go forth and reign
over all the creatures, and let all of them praise and mag
nify Thee; because He has shown Himself so liberal and
powerful in thy blessings. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord
God Sabbaoth, the Lord of the celestial hosts (Is. 6, 3)
and in Thee shall bless Him all the generations of men."
Arriving at her oratory the most blessed Mary
humblest thanks to the Almighty, prostrating Herself to
the dust as She was wont to do on such occasions.
451. The most prudent Mary conferred within Her
self for some time, in order to prepare for her conflict
with the demons. While thus meditating She saw issu
ing upon the earth, as from the abyss, a fearful red
dragon with seven heads, from each of which came
forth the smoke and fire of vast wrath and fury, while
many other demons followed him in similar shapes. This
vision was so horrible that no other living being could
have looked upon it without losing its life; and it was
indeed necessary, that the most blessed Mary should be
forewarned and made so invincible in order to enter into
battle with these blood-thirsty beasts of hell. They
gathered around the great Queen in furious howlings and
began to vaunt their threats, saying; "Come, come let
us destroy this our enemy; we have the permission of the
Almighty to tempt Her and make war upon Her. This
time we shall make an end of Her, we shall take ven
geance for the injuries She has continually inflicted on us
and for the destruction of our temple of Diana. Let
us destroy Her likewise; She is but a Woman, a mere
Creature, whereas we are knowing, astute and powerful
spirits ; we need not fear this earthly creature."
452. That entire host of infernal dragons advanced
upon the invincible Queen, Lucifer leading them on and
challenging Her to battle. As the most deadly poison of
this serpent is his pride, by which he usually instills his
vices for the destruction of innumerable souls, it seemed
to him proper to begin with this vice, outwardly con
cealing it in accordance with the state of sancity, which
he attributed to the most holy Mary. For this purpose
the dragon and his followers transformed themselves
into angels of light and thus manifested themselves to
Her, imagining that She had not yet seen and recognized
them as demons and dragons of hell. They began with
praise and flattery saying : "Powerful art Thou, Mary,
great and valorous among women; all the world honors
and celebrates Thee for the virtues it sees in Thee and
for the prodigies and wonders Thou performest through
them. Thou art worthy of glory, since no one equals
Thee in holiness. We know this better than all the rest,
and therefore we proclaim it and sing to Thee in festive
joy at thy doings." By these counterfeit acknowledg
ments Lucifer sought to excite in the mind of the humble
Queen, haughty thoughts of pride and presumption. But
instead of moving or persuading Her to any pleasure
or consent in them, he drew forth in Her living darts
of pain, that transfixed her sincerest heart. Not all the
torments of the martyrs were to Her so painful as these
diabolical flatteries. In order to confound them, She
excited acts of humility, annihilating Herself and debas
ing Herself in such an admirable and resistless a manner,
that hell could not bear it nor remain longer in her pres
ence; for the Lord had ordained that Lucifer and his
ministers should recognize and feel these acts of humil
ity. All the devils fled with dreadful howls, saying : "Let
us away to the abyss, for less painful to us is the confusion
of that place than the humility of this invincible Woman."
They left Her, and the most prudent Lady gave thanks
to the Almighty for this first victory.
453. My daughter, the pride of the demon includes a
desire which the devil himself knows is absurd : namely,
his desire that the saints serve and obey him as god, and
thus make him like to God in this respect. But the ful
fillment of this desire is impossible, since it implies in
itself a contradiction. The essence of holiness consists in
the creature s conforming itself to the divine will, loving
God above all things in obedience, whereas sin consists
in deviating from this rule by the love of some other
object and obedience to the demon. But the uprightness
of true virtue is so conformable to reason, that even
the devil cannot ignore it. On this account he seeks, if
possible, to cause the good to fall in order to satisfy his
wrath and envy at not being able to draw them to his
service, and satiate his intense desire of preventing the
glory of God in his saints, which he cannot appropriate
for himself. Hence also his violent efforts to fell to
the earth some cedar of Lebanon in sanctity and to enslave
those who have been the servants of the Most High.
With this in view he exerts all his ingenuity and care, and
often he seeks to induce his devotees to practice some of
the moral virtues, even if only in appearance, as is done
by hypocrites and as we have seen in the virgins of Diana.
He hopes thereby to have his share in what God loves
and desires, and to sully and pervert what the Lord
wishes to use as a channel for his purity.
454. Remember, my daughter, that the byways, snares
and schemes of this serpent for the fall of the just are
so numerous, that without the special favor of the Most
High the souls could never know them,, much less over
come them or escape his treacherous plots. In order to
deserve this protection of the Lord, God wishes the
creature on its part never to relax in vigilance, nor trust
in its own strength, nor ever be remiss in asking and de
siring this help ; for without it, man can do nothing and
will soon perish. What especially draws down the divine
clemency is fervor of the heart and promptness in divine
worship, and above all, persevering obedience and hu
mility, which give stability and fortitude against the
assaults of the enemy, I wish to impress upon thy mind,
not for thy discouragement, but for thy advice and warn
ing, that the works of the just, to which this serpent does
not impart some of its poison, are very rare. For usually
he tries with utmost subtlety to excite some terrestrial
passion or inclination, by which he secretly deflects or
perverts the intentions, preventing man from acting pure
ly for God and for the legitimate ends of true virtue.
Since the cockle of some foreign affection, either in part
or the whole, is thus sown with the wheat, it is difficult
to detect, unless souls strip themselves of all earthly in
clinations and examine their works in the divine light.
455. Thou art well warned, my daughter, against this
peril and against the ceaseless efforts of the demons,
which are more violent against thee than against other
souls. Let not thy vigilance be less than his, and do
not trust in the mere appearance of good intention in
thy works; for, though appearances must always be
good and upright, yet this is not sufficient, nor can the
creature always discern them. The demon often deceives
the soul under the cloak of a good intention, proposing
some apparently or remotely good end, in order to lead
them into proximate danger; and thus it happens, that,
enmeshed in this danger, the men never attain the good
which drew them into action. At other times he pre
vents the soul, under cloak of this good intention, from
examining into circumstances, which vitiate the act by
imprudence in the performance. Then again, under the
outwardly good intention, are often hidden the earthly
passions and inclinations, which dominate the heart.
Hence, amid so many dangers, thou canst find safety
only in scrutinizing thy actions by the light which the
Lord infuses into the superior part of thy soul; by it
thou wilt know how to distinguish the good from the evil,
the truth from the falsehood, the bitter from the sweet,
passions from right reason (Jer. 15, 19). Then the di
vine light in thee will not be obscured by darkness, the eye
will be single and will purify the body of thy actions
(Matth. 6, 22), and thou wilt be entirely and in all things
pleasing to thy Lord and to Me.
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