The Work of God Apostolate

Virgin Mary Mystical City of God - Book 2 chapter 9 verses 533-552 Index

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

Virgin Mary Mystical City of God - Book 2 chapter 9 verses 533-552OF THE VIRTUE OF PRUDENCE AS PRACTICED BY THE MOST HOLY QUEEN OF HEAVEN.

  INDEX            Book 2  Chapter  9    Verses:  533-552

533. As the acts of the understanding go before the
acts of the will and direct them on the way, the virtues
pertaining to the exercise of the understanding also pre
cede those of the will. Although the proper sphere of the
intellect is to recognize the truth and comprehend it,
thereby perhaps causing a doubt whether it can be classed
as a virtue (for virtue of its very nature consists in tend
ing toward and practicing the good) ; yet it is certain that
there are also intellectual virtues, the practice of which
is praiseworthy in proportion as they conform to reason
and truth ; for these are the proper good of the intellect.
When therefore it proposes truth to the will and instructs
the will to follow its guidance, then this act of the intel
lect is theologically good, when matters of faith are con
cerned, and morally good when, as for instance in the
exercise of prudence, the operations of the appetites are
regulated. On this account the virtue of prudence comes
first as pertaining to the proper use of the understanding.
It is as it were the root of the other cardinal and moral
virtues; for these others are praiseworthy when accom
panied by prudence, and faulty and reprehensible when
devoid of it.
534. The sovereign Queen Mary possessed this vir
tue of prudence in supreme excellence and in proportion
to the height of her other virtues already described and
yet to be described. On account of her wonderful pru-
dence the Church calls her the "Virgin most pru
dent." As this virtue governs all the others and as this
whole history treats of the exercise of these virtues in the
most holy Mary, all of what little I can say and manifest
of this sea of prudence will be nothing else than a con
tinual implied reference to her prudence, and all her
works will show the splendor of this virtue. Therefore
I will speak here more in general of the prudence of the
sovereign Queen, exhibiting the different parts and qual
ities of prudence as taught us by teachers and saints, in
order that we may thereby obtain a better understanding
of it in her regard.
535. Of the three kinds of prudence called political,
purgative and that of a soul already purified or perfect,
none was wanting in our Queen and they were hers in the
highest degree. For, although all her faculties were most
pure and perfect, or in other words, had no need of being
purified from any faultiness or opposition to virtue, yet
they could be improved as regards the natural knowledge
and in as far as the progress from goodness and holiness
to greatest goodness and holiness was concerned. This
must be understood of course only of her own works, as
far as they are compared with each other, and not in as
far as they are brought into comparison with the works
of others. For in comparison with the works of other
saints there was no great or small in this City of God,
whose foundations are above the holy mountains. But
in her own works, since they grew in charity and grace
from the first moment of her Conception, some of them,
though in themselves most perfect and superior to all
the works of the saints, were less perfect in comparison
with other acts of a later period in her life.
536. Political prudence in general is that which pon
ders and weighs all that is to be done and reduces it to
the dictates of reason, eschewing all that is not just and
good. The purgative or purifying prudence is that which
disposes and selects all things in such a way as to rectify
the heart by divine contemplation toward all celestial
things. The prudence of the purified or perfect soul is
that which directs and centres all the affections upon the
highest Good, as if no other object existed. All these
kinds of prudence existed in most holy Mary in order
that She might distinguish and know without fail, direct
and accomplish without remissness or tardiness, what
ever is most perfect and excellent in the fulfillment of her
works. Never did the judgment of this sovereign Lady
in the whole range of her activity, dictate or attach itself
to anything which was not the best and most proper. No
one ever equaled Her in disposing and directing all visi
ble or worldly matters so as to make them useful for di
vine contemplation. Therefore having perceived them so
intimately and in so many different lights of knowledge,
She was united in such a manner to the highest Good by
divine love that no preoccupation or hindrance ever pre
vented Her from resting completely in the centre of her
537. It is manifest also that all the component parts
of prudence existed in their entirety in our Queen. The
first is memory, which retains in the mind things already
experienced in the past From past experiences are drawn
many rules for proceeding and acting in the present and
in the future ; because prudence concerns itself with par
ticular actions, and as there cannot be a general rule for
all of them, it is necessary to draw special rules from
many past examples and experiences stored up in the
memory. Our Sovereign was so endowed with it that
She never experienced the natural defect of forgetfulness
; for that which once She had understood and learnt,
was ever present and immovable in her memory. In re
gard to this blessing most pure Mary transcended the
whole human and even the angelic order, because God
made Her a summary of all that was most perfect in both
of them. She contained in Herself all the essential good
ness of the human nature and all that was most perfect
and the farthest removed from blemish in the accidental
qualities of man; and many of the natural and many of
the supernatural gifts of the angelic nature She possessed
by special privilege and in a higher degree than the an
gels themselves. One of these gifts was a fixed and con
stant memory, incapable of forgetting what She had
learnt. In regard to her memory She excelled the angels
in the same proportion as She excelled them in the virtue
of prudence.
538. Only in one respect this blessing was limited in a
mysterious manner by the humble purity of the most holy
Mary : if the images of all things were to be fixed in the
memory, it was unavoidable, that also much that springs
from the vileness and sinfulness of creatures, should fill
its sacred precincts. Therefore the most humble and
pure Princess besought the Lord that the full gift of
memory should not extend itself toward the preservation
of these images, but only in so far as was necessary for
the exercise of fraternal charity towards her neighbor
and for the practice of other virtues. The Most High
granted this petition more in testimony of her most hum
ble purity than on account of any danger, to which these
images could expose Her; for the sun is not harmed by
the impurities which it may shine upon, nor are the an
gels disturbed by our vileness, since to the pure all things
are pure (Tit. 1, 15). But in this regard the Lord of the
angels wished to privilege his Mother more than them;
He wished to tolerate in her memory only those images
which pertain to the highest sanctity, honesty, cleanliness
and the most amiable purity, and what was most pleasing
to Himself. Thus her most holy soul, in regard to these
things, was without blemish, and her memory was
adorned with the representations of all that is most pure
and desirable.
539. Another component part of the virtue of pru
dence is the intelligence which principally concerns itself
with what is to be done in the present moment. It is a
correct and profound understanding of the reasons and
the principles, according to which virtuous actions are to
be performed. It reduces this understanding into action,
not only in so far as to give a comprehensive knowledge
of the excellence of virtue in general, but also in so far
as to direct our activity in the proper channel for per
forming there and then each particular work in a vir
tuous and perfect manner. Thus when I have a deep un
derstanding of the precept: "Do nothing unto others
what thou wishest not to be done unto thyself," I will at
once know that I shall not do this or that particular in
jury, because it would seem a wrong if done to me or
some one else. This kind of intelligence most holy Mary
possessed in so much the higher degree than all the rest
of creatures, as She exceeded them in knowledge of the
moral virtues, in profound penetration regarding infal
lible rectitude, and in participation of the divine right
eousness. In the light of this intelligence, derived from
the splendors of the Divinity itself, there could be no de
ceit, no ignorance, no doubt, no mere opinions, as is the
case with other creatures. For She understood and pene
trated all the truths, both in their general and their par
ticular bearings, and especially as far as their practical
application in the matter of virtue is concerned, seeing
them as they are in themselves. Thus it must be held
that this part of prudence was hers in an unequalled full
ness and plenitude.
540. The third component part of prudence is called
providence. It is the most important of all the parts of
prudence, for in human actions it is most important that
the present be well ordered toward the future, so that all
things may be rightly adjusted. This is effected by provi
dence. Our Lady and Queen practiced this part of pru
dence in a degree even more excellent (if possible) than
all the other parts of prudence; for besides the vivid
memory of the past and the profound understanding of
things present, She had an unerring knowledge and un
derstanding of things to come, to which her providence
extended itself. With this knowledge and infused science
She so arranged all happenings that they were a prepara
tion for the future and nothing could come upon Her un
awares or by surprise. All things were by Her foreseen,
considered and weighed beforehand in the sanctuary of
her mind, illumined by infused light. Thus without a
shade of doubt or uncertainty, such as is the lot of other
men, She awaited the events before their arrival with
unerring certitude, so that for all things She found a
place, a time and opportune circumstances directing them
all toward the Good.
541. These three parts of prudence comprehend the
activity of the intellect in the practice of this virtue, for
they secure the good order of our actions in regard to
past, the present and the future. However, when we con
sider this virtue under another aspect, namely in so far
as it perceives the proper means for the practice of virtue
and directs the will to employ them rightly, the teachers
and philosophers mention five other points or different
kind of activities of prudence, namely ; docility, reason
ableness, cleverness, circumspection and caution. Docil
ity is the good judgment and readiness of the creature
to be taught by others better informed than itself, and a
disposition not inflated by its own knowledge, and not
resting unduly on its own insight and wisdom. Reason
ableness, or the power of drawing correct inferences,
consists in reasoning without error from generally un
derstood principles to the particular course of action in
each single case. Cleverness is a diligent attention and
practical application of our activity to that which hap
pens, enabling us to judge rightly and follow the best
course of action, just as docility is attention to the teach
ings of others. Circumspection is a just consideration of
the circumstances connected with each good work; for it
is not sufficient that the end of our actions be good, but it
is necessary to consider the opportuneness of the circum
stances. Cautiousness is a discreet attention to the dan
gers or impediments, so that when they occur under cover
of virtue or unexpectedly, we may not be found rash or
542. All these complements of prudence existed in the
Queen of heaven without any faultiness and in their full
est perfection. Docility belonged to Mary as the legiti
mate daughter of her incomparable humility; for though
She had received the plenitude of science from the mo
ment of her Immaculate Conception, and though She was
the teacher and the mother of true wisdom, She neverthe
less allowed Herself to be taught by her elders, by her
equals and by those below Her, esteeming Herself as
lower than all of them and seeking to be a disciple of
those who in comparison to Her were most ignorant.
This docility She exhibited during all her life like a most
simple dove, disguising her wisdom with a greater pru
dence than that of the serpent (Matth. 10, 16). As a
Child She accepted instruction from her parents, from
Vol. 127
her teacher in the temple, from her companions, and later
on from her spouse saint Joseph, from the Apostles ; from
all creatures She wished to learn, being a prodigy of hu
mility, as I have said in another place (No. 406, 472).
543. The reasonableness or prudent judgment of most
holy Mary can be easily inferred from what saint Luke
says of Her: that She kept and pondered in her heart
the mysterious events in the life of her most holy Son.
This pondering was the reasoning which She employed,
comparing cause with cause in the order in which they
occurred and happened, and by this comparison She
formed for Herself most prudent counsels, which enabled
Her to act with the perfection peculiar to Her. Although
She very often understood many things without the dis
course of reasoning by a simple intuition and in
telligence which exceeded all human understanding; yet,
as far as the actual exercise of the virtues was concerned,
She applied this process of reasoning from the abstract
principles of virtue to her own practice of them.
544. In regard to cleverness and diligent application
of the rules of prudence the sovereign Lady also was
highly privileged ; for She was not weighed down by the
heavy load of human passion and corruption, and thus
She felt not our languors and tardiness in her faculties,
but She was always alert, ready and very skillful in no
ticing and attending to all that was necessary to come to
a correct and wholesome conclusion in the performance
of virtuous actions, and in striking, readily and quickly,
the happy medium of virtue in her doings. Equally ad
mirable was most holy Mary in her circumspection; for
all her works were so accomplished that no point of per
fection was missing, and all of them stand forth in the
highest perfection possible. And as the greater part of
her actions were works of charity towards the neighbor,
and all of them most opportune; therefore in all her
teaching, admonishing, consoling, beseeching and correct
ing of her neighbor, the efficacious sweetness of her rea
sonable and pleasing manners met with its full success.
545. The last complement of prudence, called cautious
ness, which meets and evades the impediments of virtue,
was necessarily also possessed by the Queen of angels in
a greater perfection than by these spirits ; for her exalted
wisdom and the love which accompanied it, incited Her
to such caution and foresight, that no event which might
be an impediment in the exercise of the most perfect vir
tue, found Her unprepared and unprovided with a coun
ter remedy. And since the enemy, as will be described
later on, not being able to find any hold in her passions,
exerted himself so much in placing elaborate and unheard
of obstacles in her way, the most prudent Virgin had oc
casion to practice this caution many times, thereby excit
ing the wonder of the Apostles. On account of the cau
tious discretion of the most holy Mary the demon pur
sued Her with a terrified wrath and envy, burning with
a desire to know by what power She foiled such power
ful machinations and cunning snares as he devised in
order to hinder or draw Her away. For in every instance
he was vanquished and had to be witness of the most
perfect exercise of all that is virtuous in all her under
takings and works.
546. After having mentioned and described the parts
and complements of prudence, let us also examine the dif
ferent species or kinds, into which it can be divided, ac
cording to the object or the ends to which it is applied.
Prudence can be used either in our own actions and af
fairs, or for the affairs of others, and thus arise two
kinds of prudence, directing the activity which concerns
ourselves, and that which concerns our neighbors. That
which governs one s own particular activity is called
enarchic prudence, and in reference to the Queen of
heaven, it is not necessary to say more in proof of her
having exercised this kind of prudence, than what has al
ready been said above about the manner in which She
regulated her own life. The prudence which regulates
the government of others is called pollyarchic ; this is sub
divided into four kinds, according to four different ways
of governing others. The first kind is that which facili
tates the government of countries by just and useful
laws ; it is proper to kings, princes and monarchs and of
all those whose authority is supreme. The second kind
is called the political prudence, which has its name from
the fact that it teaches the right government of cities or
republics. The third is called economical prudence,
which shows how to govern and manage domestic affairs
of the family or particular homes. The fourth is military
prudence, which is adapted to prosecution of wars and
management of armies.
547. None of these different kinds of prudence was
wanting in our great Queen. All were given to Her as
habits in the instant of her Conception and of her sanctification
so that no grace, no virtue, no perfection which
might exalt and beautify Her above all creatures, might
be wanting in Her. The Most High made Her an archive
and depositary of all his gifts, an example to all the rest
of creation thus giving an exhibition of his power and
greatness, so that in the whole heavenly Jerusalem it
might be known what He could and would do for a mere
creature. And in Mary these sublime habits of virtue did
not lie idle, for all of them She exercised in the course of
her life on many occasions as they offered themselves.
As regards economical prudence it is well known how in
comparable was the government of her domestic affairs,
when living with her spouse Joseph and with her most
holy Son ; for in his education and service She acted with
such prudence as was befitting the most occult mystery
which God entrusted to men, as I shall show in another
place, according to my understanding and ability.
548. She exercised also the governing or monarchical
prudence as the sole Empress of the Church, teaching, ad
vising and directing the sacred Apostles in the primitive
Church, thus helping to lay its foundation and to initiate
the laws, rites and ceremonies most necessary and use
ful for its propagation and establishment. Though She
obeyed the Apostles in particular matters, and consulted
especially saint Peter as the vicar of Christ and the head
of the Church, and saint John as her chaplain, yet they
and all the Christians asked her advice and followed it in
the general and particular matters relating to the govern
ment of the Church. She also taught the Christian kings
and princes who approached Her for counsel ; for many
of them sought to know Her after the Ascension of her
most holy Son into heaven. Among them especially can
be mentioned the three Kings of the East, when they
came to adore the Child. She explained and instructed
them in all that they must do for their states, with such
light and clearness that She was their star and guide on
the way to eternity. They returned to their country en
lightened, consoled and astonished at the wisdom, pru
dence and sweetness of the words which they had heard
from the mouth of a tender Maiden. In witness of all
the high praise which this Queen deserved in this regard,
it is enough to hear her own words : "By me, kings reign,
and law-givers decree just things, by me princes rule"
(Prov. 8, 13).
549. Neither was the political prudence wanting in
Her; for She taught the republics and nations, and the
primitive Christians in particular, how to proceed in pub
lic acts and government of their country, how they must
obey kings and secular princes, their prelates and bishops,
how they are to convoke councils, issue the definitions
and decrees resolved upon. Even military prudence found
a place in the sovereign Queen, for also in this direction
She was consulted by some of the faithful, and She in
structed and taught them what was required to carry on
a just war with their enemies, so as to conduct them ac
cording to the justice and pleasure of the Lord. Here
can also be mentioned the courage and prudence with
which this powerful Lady vanquished the prince of dark
ness, teaching us thereby how we must battle with him;
for She overcame him by an exalted wisdom and pru
dence, greater than that shown by David in his combat
with the giant, or by Judith with Holofernes, or by Es
ther with Aman (I Kings, 17, 50, Judith 13, 10, Esth.
7, 6). Even if all these kinds of prudence had not been
needed for the actions mentioned, yet it was proper, that
this Mother of wisdom, aside of their being befitting
ornaments of her most holy soul, should possess them on
account of her being the Mediatrix and sole Advocate
of this world. For as She was to procure by her interces
sion all the blessings, which God would bestow upon
the human race, and since none of them were to be
granted without her intercession, it was necessary, that
She should know perfectly all the virtues, which She was
to obtain for men, and that these blessings, next to God,
their uncreated beginning, should flow from Her as from
an original source.
550. There are other helps, which are attached to the
virtue of prudence and which are called potential parts,
being as it were instruments with which prudence works.
They are, synesis, or the aptitude and readiness to form
sane judgments; eubulia, the faculty of giving and sug
gesting good counsel; gnome, which teaches what ex
ceptions can justly be made to general rules; and this
latter is necessary for the use of epikeia, which enables
us to judge what particular cases are to be decided by
rules higher than the ordinary. All these perfections and
excellences adorned the prudence of most holy Mary, so
that no one could give such unerring counsel in all pos
sible contingencies, nor could any one, not even the most
exalted angel, form such correct judgment in all things as
She. Above all was our most prudent Queen skilled in the
higher principles and rules of action, and such as were
above the ordinary and common laws ; but it would re
quire a long discourse even to mention the instances
here : many of them will be understood in the sequel of
this history of her most holy life. In order to conclude
this chapter on the prudence of the blessed Virgin, it is
only necessary to say, that the rule by which it is
to be measured, is none else than the prudence of the
soul of Christ, our Lord ; for it was conformed and as
similated entirely to his, since She was to be the Coadjutrix
in all the works of wisdom and prudence, per
formed by the Lord of all creation and Savior of the
551. My daughter, I wish, that all that thou hast
written and that thou hast understood in this chapter,
be to thee an instruction and a reminder of what, I have
taught thee for the government of thy actions. Write
in thy heart and fix in thy mind the memory of all that
thou hast learnt of my prudence in all that I have
thought, desired and executed. Let this light guide thee
through the midst of the darkness of human ignorance,
so that thou mayst not be disturbed or confounded by
the luring passions, nor especially by the malice and
snares laid thee by the watchful malice of thy enemies,
seeking to infect thy understanding. Not to be endowed
with all the perfections of prudence, is not culpable in the
creature; but to be negligent in learning the rules of
prudence after having been instructed how to attain this
knowledge, is a serious fault and the cause of many mis
takes and errors in the conduct of affairs. On account of
this negligence the passions countermand, impede, and
obstruct the dictates of prudence. This is especially the
case with disorderly sorrow and excessive enjoyment,
which are apt to pervert the just estimation of good or
bad. Thence arise two dangerous vices: precipitation
in our actions, impelling us to undertake things without
considering the proper means of success, and incon
stancy in our good resolutions and in the works once
begun. Ungoverned anger or indiscreet fervor, both
cause us to be precipitate or remiss in many of our
exterior actions, because they are performed without
proper moderation and counsel. Hasty judgment and
want of firmness in pursuing the good, cause the soul im
prudently to desist from its laudable enterprise ; for it
gives easy admittance to that, which is opposed to the
true good, and is highly pleased, now with the true good
ness, then again with what is but apparent and deceitful
or is presented by the passions or by the demon.
552. Against all these dangers I wish to see thee
watchful and provident ; and thou wilt be so, if thou
attend to the example, which I gave thee in my life, and
if thou obey the instructions and counsels of thy spiritual
guides; for without them thou must do nothing, if thou
wishest to proceed with docile discretion. Be assured,
that the Most High will give thee plentiful wisdom; for
a pure submissive and docile heart will draw from Him
superabundant aid. Keep in mind always the misfor
tune of the imprudent and foolish virgins, who, in their
thoughtless negligence, rejected wise counsel and cast
aside fear, instead of being solicitous; and when after
wards they sought to make up for it, they found the
portal of salvation closed against them (Matth. 25, 12).
See to it, therefore, my daughter, that thou unite the
simplicity of the dove with the prudence of the serpent,
and then thy works shall be perfect.
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