The Work of God Apostolate

Virgin Mary Mystical City of God - Book 2 chapter 12 verses 583-598 Index

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

Virgin Mary Mystical City of God - Book 2 chapter 12 verses 583-598THE VIRTUE OF TEMPERANCE AS PRACTICED BY THE MOST HOLY MARY.

  INDEX            Book 2  Chapter  12    Verses:  583-598

583. In regard to good and evil man possesses two
tendencies: namely that of striving after the good and
of repelling the evil; the latter is regulated by fortitude,
which, as already demonstrated, serves to strengthen the
will against the immoderate exercise of the irascible facul
ties and inspires it with bold daring rather to suffer all
possible afflictions of the senses than to desist from the
attainment of the good. The other tendency, founded on
the concupiscible faculties, is regulated by temperance,
and this is the last and the least of the cardinal virtues;
for the good which it procures is not so universal as that
attained by the practice of other virtues, since temperance
directly is concerned only with the particular advantage
of its possessor. The doctors and teachers treat of tem
perance in another aspect: namely in so far as it can
regulate the action of all the natural appetites of man ;
in this respect temperance is a general and universal vir
tue which comprises within its scope the proper exercise
of all the virtues according to reason. We do not at
present speak of this general virtue of temperance, but
only of that temperance which serves to regulate the con
cupiscence of touch and other pleasurable concupiscences
indirectly related to the touch, but not presenting such
powerful attractions as the concupiscence of the flesh.
584. In this regard temperance holds the last place
among the virtues, its aim being less noble than that of
others ; yet in other regards it may be said to have greater
excellence, namely in as far as it preserves man from viler
and more contemptible transgressions, namely from the
immoderate indulgence of those pleasures which are com
mon to men and the irrational brutes. Referring to this
David says that man has become like unto the beast
(Psalm 48, 13, 21), allowing himself to be carried away
by the pleasure of the senses. Intemperance is rightly
called a puerile vice ; for, just as a child is not guided by
reason, but by the spur of fancy, and does not restrain
itself, except through fear of chastisement, so also con
cupiscence cannot otherwise be checked in the indulgence
of its desires. From this dishonor and vileness man is
freed by the virtue of temperance, which teaches him to
govern himself not by his desires, but by reason. There
fore a certain decorous honorableness and comeliness dis
tinguish this virtue, by which the reason is enabled to
preserve its rule, although the indomitable passions are
hardly ever inclined to listen or yield to it willingly. On
the other hand, the subjection of man to beastly pleasures
is a great dishonor, degrading him to the position of an
irrational animal or of an unreasoning child.
585. Temperance includes the two virtues of absti
nence and sobriety ; the former being opposed to gluttony
and the latter to drunkenness. Abstinence also includes
fasting. These virtues take the first place in treating of
temperance; for nourishment, being necessary for the
preservation of life, is among the principal objects cov
eted by the appetites. After these follow others which
regulate the use of the faculties for reproduction of the
species, such as chastity and susceptibility to shame, with
their concomitant virginity and continence, opposed to
the vices of lust and incontinence and their species. Be
sides these virtues, which are the principal ones belonging
to temperance, there are others that regulate the appetite
in the less important desires. Those that regulate the
sensations of smell, hearing and sight, may be classed un
der those referring to the proper use of the sense of
touch. But there are still other kinds of virtues which
resemble some of the above, though their object is en
tirely different, such as clemency and meekness, which
are set to govern anger and wrath in the administration
of punishment, lest they turn into bestial and inhuman
cruelty. Then there is modesty, which includes four vir
tues; the first one is humility, which keeps down pride,
lest man seek in a disorderly manner his own exaltation
and honor before men; the second is studiousness, by
which one preserves the proper measure in seeking infor
mation, being opposed to vain curiosity. The third is
moderation or frugality, by which one avoids superfluous
expense and ostentation in regard to clothing and exterior
living; the fourth is the restraint of overindulgence in
pleasurable entertainment, such as playing, bodily exer
cise, dancing, jesting and the like. Although this virtue
seems to have no special name, it is of the greatest impor
tance. It goes under the generic name of modesty or
586. It always seems to me when I describe the excel
lence of these and of the other virtues when applied to
the corresponding virtues of the Queen of heaven, that
the terms at my disposal and commonly used in order to
describe these virtues in other creatures, fall far below
the truth. The graces and gifts of the most holy Mary
were in closer correspondence with those of the divine
perfections, than all the virtues and the holiness of the
saints are with those of the sovereign Queen of virtues.
Thence it no doubt happens that whatever we can say of
her virtues by using the terms fit for describing the vir
tues of the saints, seems to fall far short of the truth;
for the latter, as great as they may have been, existed in
persons disordered and subject to imperfections and the
distempers of sin. When therefore Ecclesiasticus says
(Eccli. 26, 20), that we can have no true conception of
the excellence of the continent man, what shall we say
of the virtue of temperance in the Mistress of all vir
tues, and what of the beauty of that soul which con
tained the perfection of all virtues? All the do
mestics of this strong Woman were doubly clothed
(Prov. 31, 21) because all her faculties were clothed in
two vestments or perfections of incomparable beauty and
strength; the one, that of original justice, which sub
jected all the appetites to reason and grace; the other
that of the infused habits, which supplied new beauty
and strength for the attainment of highest perfection in
her works.
587. All the saints that have signalized themselves in
the beauty of temperance, obtained the full conquest over
the indomitable concupiscences by subjecting them in
such a manner to the rule of reason, as not to allow their
desires to reach out after anything that might afterwards
occasion them sorrow for having desired it. They ad
vanced so far, that they denied themselves all indulgence
in those concupiscences, which could be withdrawn with
out destroying human nature. Nevertheless in all these
exercises of the virtue of temperance they felt a certain
opposition within themselves, which retarded the perfect
assent of the will, or at least a certain resistance prevent
ing them from reaching the plenitude of perfection in
their actions. They complained with the Apostle of the
unhappy burden of this body of sin (Rom. 7, 24). In
most holy Mary no such dissonance could be traced ; for
without a murmur of the appetites and without a shadow
of repugnance of the dictates of her will, all her powers
acted in such harmony and concert that, like armies
marching in well ordered squadrons (Cant. 6, 3), they
moved on in heavenly unison. As She had no rebellious
passions to overcome, She exercised such great temper
ance in all her actions, that not even the suggestion of
disorder ever entered her mind. On the contrary her
activity so closely imitated the divine operations that they
seemed originated and drawn directly from this supreme
Source, turning toward it as the only rule and ultimate
end of all her perfections.
588. The abstinence and sobriety of most holy Mary
was the admiration of the angels; for though being the
Queen of all creation and experiencing the natural affec
tions of hunger and thirst, She never sought after the
delicacies that would have suited her high estate, nor ever
indulged in nourishment merely for the sake of the pleas
ures of taste, but only in order to supply her natural
wants. Even these She satisfied with such moderation
as never to exceed, or ever being capable of exceeding,
the exact measure necessary to preserve the radical hu
mors of life. Moreover She partook of nourishment in
such a way as to allow room for hunger and thirst and
so as to make allowance for the effects of grace on the
natural process of bodily nourishment. She never ex
perienced the changes of corruption arising from super
fluous eating or drinking; nor did her needs in this regard
grow greater on one day than on others; nor was She
more subject to these changes on account of the want of
food; for if at any time She detracted from the food
necessary to keep up the natural warmth, She was sup
plemented in her activity by divine grace, in which the
creature lives, not in bread alone (Matth. 4, 4). The
Lord could have sustained Her without food or drink,
but He did not do it ; for it was not right that She should
lose the merit of virtuously using these things, thus af
fording us the benefit of her example and merits. As to
the kind of food and the time in which She partook of it,
we will mention these circumstances in different parts of
this history (Part II, 196, 424, 898). Of Her own
choice She never ate meat, nor did She eat more than
once a day, except when She lived with her husband
Joseph, or when She accompanied her most holy Son in
his travels; for in such circumstances, in order to con
form Herself to others, She imitated the mode of living
followed by the Lord, although at all times She was won
derful in her temperance.
589. Of the virginal purity and modesty of this Vir
gin of virgins not even the seraphim could speak worthily,
for in this virtue, though to them it is co-natural, they
were inferior to their Queen and Mistress. By the privi
lege and power of the Most High She was more free
from the contrary vice than the angels themselves, who
by their very nature could not be touched by impurity.
Mortals will never in this life be able to form a proper
idea of this virtue as it existed in the Queen of heaven;
for we are much weighed down by the earthliness, and the
pure and crystalline light of chastity is much obscured in
our souls. Our great Queen possessed this virtue in such
a degree that She might justly have preferred it even to
the dignity of being the Mother of God, if this dignity
had not been the very source of her great purity.
Measuring this virginal purity of Mary by the esteem
in which She held it, and by the dignity to which
it raised Her, we can partly estimate how great
was that virtue in her virginal body and soul. She re
solved upon this purity from the moment of her Immacu
late Conception, She vowed it at her nativity, and She
guarded it in such a manner that vShe never offended
against it, or against the utmost modesty in any of her
actions or movements, nor in any attitude of her body or
soul. Accordingly She never spoke to any man except at
the command of God ; nor did She ever look into the face
of a man, and not even in the face of a woman ; and this
not on account of any danger to Her, but for the sake of
gaining merit, and for our example, and in order to exer
cise the superabundance of her heavenly prudence, wis
dom and charity.
590. Of her clemency and meekness Solomon says that
the law of clemency is on her tongue (Prov. 31, 26).
She never moved it except in order to let flow the grace
poured out on her lips (Psalm 44, 3). Meekness regu
lates wrath, and clemency moderates punishment. There
was no anger in our most mild Queen, nor did She use
the faculty of it except, as we have said above, in order
to lend fortitude to her activity against sin and the devil
or the like. But against men and the angels She made no
use of anger for the purpose of punishing them, nor was
She moved to anger by any event, nor did She ever on any
account interrupt her most perfect practice of meekness,
preserving inimitable and imperturbable equanimity both
interiorly and exteriorly ; neither did She ever show out
ward signs of inward anger in her countenance, in her
voice or in her movements. Her mildness and clemency
the Lord made use of as/ an instrument peculiarly his own,
and through it He wished to scatter all his benefits of his
ancient and everlasting mercies; on this account it was
necessary that the clemency of Mary should imitate so
closely his own as to make it a fit channel for the over
flow of his divine clemency toward the creatures. When
we consider attentively and once have understood well
the works of the divine mercy toward sinners and when
we see that the most holy Mary was a fit instrument of
their distribution and application, we will then partly un
derstand the clemency of this Lady. All her corrections
were undertaken more by pleading, teaching and admon
ishing than by chastisement; She herself besought the
Lord, and He ordained that this be her course of action ;
for this incomparable Creature was to be the fountain of
clemency and the depositary of the law of clemency, of
which his Majesty should avail Himself, and from which
mortals should draw this virtue as well as all the others.
591. To discourse worthily of the other virtues, es
pecially of the humility and of the frugality and of the
poverty of most holy Mary, many books and the tongues
of angels would be required. Of these ineffable virtues
of Mary this history is replete, for in all the actions of the
Queen of heaven her incomparable humility shines forth
beyond everything else. I fear extremely to understate
the greatness of this singular virtue in the blessed Virgin
by trying to encompass in the limited terms at my dis
posal, that ocean of humility which was able to contain
and embrace the Incomprehensible and the Immense him
self. All that the angels and the saints themselves could
comprehend and practice of the virtue of humility, cannot
equal even the least part of that which our Queen attained
therein. Which of the saints or angels could ever merit
the title of Mother of God? And who, beside Mary and
the eternal Father, could ever address the incarnate Word
as Son? If then She, who in this regard attained to a dig
nity like that of the eternal Father and possessed the
graces and gifts befitting such a state, reputed Herself as
the last of all creatures and all the rest as her superiors,
what fragrance and odor of virtue did this humble spike
nard exhale for the delight of God, while She bore in
her womb the King of kings ? ( Cant. 1 , 11).
592. That the pillars of heaven, the angels (Job 26,
II), should quake and tremble in the presence of the in
accessible light of the infinite Majesty, is not to be won
dered at; for they had before their eyes the ruin of their
companions, while they themselves were confirmed in the
advantages and favors common to all. That the most
valiant and invincible of the saints should humiliate them
selves, embracing contempt and reproach, and acknowl
edging themselves unworthy of the least favors of grace,
and even of the service and succor of the creatures out
side themselves; all this was most just and only accord
ing to the natural order of things. For all of us have
sinned and infringe on the glory of God (Rom. 3, 23) ;
and no one is so holy that he cannot increase in sanctity ;
nor so perfect that some virtue is not wanting in him;
nor so innocent, that the eyes of God find nothing to rep
rehend. And if any one should be of consummate perfec
tion, he nevertheless would still remain within the sphere
of the common graces and benefits, since no one is su
perior to all in all things.
593. But just on this account the humility of the most
pure Mary was without example and without equal. For
though She was the dawn of grace, the pure beginning of
all creatures, the superior over them all, the prodigy of
the divine perfections, the centre of his love, the sphere of
the omnipotence of God, who called God her Son and was
called by Him his Mother, She nevertheless humbled Her
self to the lowest place in all creation. She, who enjoyed
the highest position, exalted above all the works of God,
so that no higher position was left for a mere creature,
humiliated Herself so far as to judge Herself unworthy
of the least estimation, distinction or honor, not even of
such as would befit the most insignificant of the rational
creatures. Not only did She deem Herself unworthy of
the dignity of being the Mother of God and of all the
graces connected therewith, but She did not esteem Her
self deserving of the air She breathed, of the support the
earth gave to her footsteps, of the sustenance derived
from it, or of any service or kindness at the hands of
creatures ; of all things She considered Herself unworthy
and She gave thanks for all, as if She were really so un
deserving. In order to say all in a few words: that a
creature should not seek the honor which does not belong
to it or which for some reason it does not merit, is not
such a great humility, although the Most High in his in
finite kindness accepts it and considers Himself under
obligation to one who practices it in that way. But She,
most admirably exceeding all this, while deserving all ex
altation and majesty, humiliated Herself more than all
other creatures and sought neither honor nor exaltation.
Thus Mary, holding worthily the dignity of Mother of
God, annihilated Herself, and by this very humility de
served anew and in justice to be raised to the dominion
and sovereignty of all creation.
594. In proportion to this incomparable humility most
holy Mary possessed also all the other virtues, which be
long to modesty. The desire of knowing more than is
necessary, ordinarily arises from the want of humility
and charity. This is a fault not only of no use, but of
great hindrance in the advancement of virtue, as hap
pened with Dina (Gen. 24, 1), who, going out to see
what was no benefit to her, suffered such great damage
to her honor. From the same root of proud presumption
usually also springs superfluous ostentation and finery in
outward dress, and also the disorderly behavior in ges
ture and carriage, which serves sensuality and vanity, tes
tifying to the levity of the heart according to the saying
of Ecclesiasticus (19, 27) : "The attire of the body and
the laughter of the teeth, and the gait of the man, show
what he is." All the virtues opposed to these vices were
in most holy Mary in their entirety, void of all disinclina
tion or feebleness in the exercise of them. They were
like companions of her profound humility, charity and
purity, that revealed the certain tokens of a nature more
heavenly than earthly.
595. She was most studious without being curious;
for though She was replete with a wisdom far above that
of the cherubim, She studied and allowed Herself to be
taught as if ignorant of all things. Whenever She made
use of her divine science or sought to learn the will of
God, She was so prudent and attended so carefully and
exactly to all circumstances that her efforts always
wounded the heart of God and drew and inclined Him to
fulfill her most well-ordered wishes. In poverty and fru
gality She was most admirable ; for being the Mistress of
all creation and having full right to dispose of it, She
yielded all right of possession to the Lord in imitation of
her most holy Son; namely, just as the Father gave all
things into the hands of the incarnate Word, so the Word
put all into the hands of his Mother, and She, similarly
offered all things, as well in desire as in fact, for the
glory of her Son and Lord. Of the modesty of her be
havior and sweetness of her intercourse, and of all her
exterior actions, it is sufficient to repeat what is asserted
by the wise man of Athens, saint Dionysius, that She
would have deserved to be looked upon as more than
human, if faith did not teach that She is a mere creature.
596. My daughter, thou hast said something of the
virtue of temperance and of my practice of it, so far as
thou hast understood its dignity and excellence. Yet thou
hast omitted much that belongs to a full understanding
of the necessity of temperance in human actions. It was
a punishment of the first sin that man lost the perfect use
of reason, and that the passions should rise in rebellion
against him, because he rose up against God in contempt
of his most just command. In order to repair this dam
age, temperance became necessary; by it man restrains
his concupiscences within proper bounds ; he perceives the
perfect medium in that which is desirable and he is taught
to follow once more the dictates of reason, bringing him
near to the Divinity and declining to follow his concu
piscences like irrational beasts. Without this virtue it is
not possible for man to divest himself of the spoiled hu
man nature, nor to dispose himself for the graces and
wisdom of God; for they will not enter into a soul sub
ject to the body of sin (Wisdom 1, 4). He that knows
how to moderate his passions by denying them their im
moderate and bestial desires, will be able to say and ex
perience in truth, what is said of the Canticles (2, 4) :
that the King has introduced him into the cellars of his
delicious wine, and into the treasurehouse of his wisdom
and spiritual gifts; for this virtue is a storehouse of most
beautiful and fragrant virtues for the delight of the Al
597. Although of course I wish thee to labor much
in acquiring all virtues pertaining to temperance, I desire
nevertheless that thou consider especially the beauty and
fragrance of chastity, the strength which abstinence and
sobriety in eating and drinking will give, the sweet influence
of modesty in words and actions, the exalted no
bility of poverty in the use of created things. With the
help of these virtues, thou wilt attain the divine enlight
enment, the peace and tranquillity of thy soul, the serenity
of thy faculties, the right government of thy inclinations ;
thou wilt be entirely illumined with the splendors of the
divine graces and gifts; from an animal and sensual way
of living thou wilt be raised to a heavenly intercourse and
an angelic life ; and that is what I seek in thee and what
thou thyself by divine assistance art striving after. Be
careful therefore, my dearest, and watch for the divine
light in all thy actions, and let not any of thy powers be
induced to activity merely by pleasure and inclination;
but always act according to reason and for the glory of the
Most High in all things necessary for the conduct of thy
life; in eating, in sleeping, in dressing, in speaking, in
hearing, in desiring, in correcting, in commanding, in
speaking : let all be governed in thee by the light and the
pleasure of the Lord God, and not by thy own.
598. And in order that thou mayest so much the more
be captivated by the beauty and loveliness of the virtue of
temperance, consider the vileness of its contrary vices and
let thyself be deeply impressed according to the divine
light given thee; consider assiduously how ugly, abom
inable, horrible and monstrous the world is in the sight
of God and the saints on account of the enormous abom
inations, which men commit against this lovable virtue.
Look how some follow like brutes after the horrors of
sensuality, how gluttony degrades others, how some fol
low after pleasures of play and vanity, how others are
dominated by pride and presumption, how many are en
tangled in avarice and the desire of gain, how they all fol
low the impulse of passions, seeking in this life only
pleasure, while in the life to come they pile up for them
selves eternal torments and incur the loss of the beatific
vision of their God and Lord.
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