Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda


  INDEX   Book 5  Chapter  4    Verses:  35-46

35. As I have said, Mary and Joseph repeated their
visit to the temple at the feast of the unleavened Bread
every year. Also when the divine Child was twelve
years old and when it was time to allow the splendors
of his inaccessible and divine light to shine forth, They
went to the temple for this feast (Luke 2, 42). This
festival of the unleavened Bread lasted seven days, ac
cording to the command of the divine law; and the more
solemn days were the first and the last. On this account
our heavenly Pilgrims remained in Jerusalem during the
whole week, spending their time in acts of worship and
devotion as the rest of the Jews, although on account
of the sacraments connected with each of Them their
worship and devotion was entirely different and greatly
exalted above that of the others. The blessed Mother
and holy Joseph received during these days favors and
blessings beyond the conception of the human mind.
36. Having thus spent all the seven days of the feast
They betook themselves on their way home to Nazareth.
When his parents departed from Jerusalem and were
pursuing their way homeward, the Child Jesus withdrew
from them without their knowledge. For this purpose
the Lord availed Himself of the separation of the men
and women, which had become customary among the
pilgrims for reasons of decency as well as for greater
recollection during their return homeward. The chil
dren which accompanied their parents were taken in
charge promiscuously either by the men or the women,
since their company with either was a matter of indif
ference. Thus it happened that saint Joseph could easily
suppose that the Child Jesus had remained with his most
holy Mother, with whom He generally remained. The
thought that She would go without Him was far from
his mind, since the heavenly Queen loved and delighted
in Him more than any other creature human or angelic.
The great Lady did not have so many reasons for sup
posing that her most holy Son was in the company of
saint Joseph: but the Lord himself so diverted her
thoughts by holy and divine contemplations, that She
did not notice his absence at first. When afterwards
She became aware of her not being accompanied by her
sweetest and beloved Son, She supposed that the blessed
Joseph had taken Him along and that the Lord accom
panied his foster-father for his consolation.
37. Thus assured, holy Mary and Joseph pursued
their home journey for an entire day, as saint Luke
tells us. As the pilgrims proceeded onwards they gradu
ally thinned out, each taking his own direction and join
ing again with his wife or family. The most holy Mary
and saint Joseph found themselves at length in the place
where they had agreed to meet on the first evening after
leaving Jerusalem. When the great Lady saw that the
Child was not with saint Joseph and when the holy
Patriarch found that He was not with his Mother, the
two were struck dumb with amazement and surprise for
quite a while. Both, governed in their judgment by
their most profound humility, felt overwhelmed with
self-reproach at their remissness in watching over their
most holy Son and thus blamed themselves for his ab
sence; for neither of them had any suspicion of the mys
terious manner in which He had been able to elude their
vigilance. After a time they recovered somewhat from
their astonishment and with deepest sorrow took counsel
with each other as to what was to be done (Luke 2, 45).
The loving Mother said to saint Joseph : "My spouse
and my master, my heart cannot rest, unless we return
with all haste to Jerusalem in order to seek my most
holy Son." This they proceeded to do, beginning their
search among their relations and friends, of whom, how
ever, none could give them any information or any com
fort in their sorrow ; on the contrary their answers only
increased their anxiety, since none of them had so much
as seen their Son since their departure from Jerusalem.
38. The afflicted Mother turned to her holy angels.
Those that carried the escutcheons inscribed with the
most holy name of Jesus (of which I spoke at the Cir
cumcision), had accompanied the Lord, while the other
angels still remained with the purest Mother; this was
the order maintained whenever the Son separated from
the Mother. These, who numbered ten thousand, She
asked, saying: "My friends and companions, you well
know the cause of my sorrow: in this bitter affliction
be my consolation and give me some information con
cerning my Beloved, so that I may seek and find Him
(Cant. 3, 2). Give some relief to my wounded heart,
which, torn from its happiness and life, bounds from
its place in search of Him." The holy angels, who,
though they never lost sight of the Creator and Re
deemer, were aware that the Lord wished to furnish
his Mother this occasion of great merit, and that it was
not yet time to reveal the secret to Her, answered by
speaking to her words of consolation without manifest
ing to Her the whereabouts and the doings of their Lord.
This evasive answer raised new doubts in the most pru
dent Lady. Her anxiety of heart caused Her to break
out in tears and sighs of inmost grief, and urged Her
onward in search, not of the lost drachm, like the woman
in the Gospel, but of the whole treasure of heaven and
earth (Luke 15, 8).
39. The Mother of wisdom then began to discuss
within her heart the different possibilities. The first
thought which presented itself to Her, was the fear lest
Archelaus, imitating the cruelty of his father Herod,
should have obtained notice of the presence of Jesus and
have taken Him prisoner. Although She knew from the
holy Scriptures and revelations, and by her conversa
tions with her most holy Son and Teacher, that the time
for his Passion and Death had not yet come and that
the king would not take away his life, yet She was filled
with dread at the thought, that they should have taken
Him prisoner and might illtreat Him. In her profoundest
humility She also had misgivings, lest per
chance She had in any way displeased Him by her con
duct and therefore deserved that He should leave Her
and take up his abode in the desert with his precursor
saint John. At other times, addressing her absent Love,
She exclaimed: "Sweet Love and Delight of my soul!
Thou art impelled by thy desire of suffering for men
and by thy immense charity to avoid no labor or pain;
but on the contrary, I fear, O Lord and Master, that
Thou seekest it on purpose (Is. 53, 7). Whither shall
I go and whither shall I find Thee, Light of my eyes?
(Tob. 10, 4). Dost Thou wish to deprive me of life
by the sword of severance from thy presence? But I
do not wonder, O my highest Good: Thou chastisest
by thy absence her who did not know how to profit by
thy company. Why, O my Lord, hast Thou enriched
me with the delights of thy infancy, if I am so soon to
lose the assistance of thy loving instruction? But, woe
is me! since, not being worthy to retain and enjoy Thee
as my Son, I must confess, that I am obliged to thank
Thee even for the favor of condescending to accept
me as thy slave ! If the privilege of being thy unworthy
Mother can be of any avail in finding Thee, my God
and my highest Good, do Thou, O Lord, permit it, and
make me worthy of again finding Thee, so that I may
go with Thee in the desert, to sufferings, labors, tribula
tions, or whatever Thou wilt. My Lord, my soul desires
to merit at least in part to share thy sorrows and tor
ments, to die, if I do not find Thee, or to live in thy
service and presence. When thy Divinity hid Itself from
my gaze, thy amiable humanity at least remained; and,
although Thou wast austere and less kind to me than
Thou hadst been, I could throw myself at thy feet; but
now this happiness is taken away from me and I have
lost sight entirely of the Sun which enlightens me, left
only to groans and sighs. Ah Love of my soul! What
sighs from the inmost of my heart can I send Thee as
messengers? But I am not worthy of thy clemency,
since my eyes find no traces of Thee."
40. Thus this sincerest Dove persevered in her tears
and groans without cessation or rest, without sleeping
or eating anything for three whole days. Although the
ten thousand angels accompanied Her in corporeal forms
and witnessed her affliction and sorrow, yet they gave
Her no clue to find her lost Child. On the third day
the great Queen resolved to seek Him in the desert
where saint John was ; for since She saw no indications
that Archelaus had taken Him prisoner, She began to
believe more firmly, that her most holy Son was with
saint John. When She was about to execute her resolve
and was on the point of departing for the desert, the
holy angels detained Her, urging Her not to undertake
the journey, since the divine Word was not there. She
wanted also to go to Bethlehem, in the hope of finding
Him in the cave of the Nativity ; but this the holy angels
likewise prevented, telling Her that He was not so far
off. Although the blessed Mother heard these answers
and well perceived that the holy angels knew the where
abouts of the Child Jesus, She was so considerate and
reserved in her humility and prudence, that She gave
no response, nor asked where She could find Him; for
She understood that they withheld this information by
command of the Lord. With such magnanimous rev
erence did the Queen of the angels treat the sacraments
of the Most High and of his ministers and ambassadors
(II Mach. 2, 9). This was one of the occasions in
which the greatness of her queenly and magnanimous
heart was made manifest.
41. Not all the sorrows suffered by all the martyrs
ever reached the height of the sorrows of most holy
Mary in this trial ; nor will the patience, resignation and
tolerance of this Lady ever be equalled, nor can they;
for the loss of Jesus was greater to Her than the loss
of anything created, while her love and appreciation of
Him exceeded all that can be conceived by any other
creature. Since She did not know the cause of the loss,
her anxiety was beyond all measure, as I have already
said. Moreover, during these three days the Lord left
Her to her natural resources of nature and of grace,
deprived of special privileges and favors; for, with the
exception of the company and intercourse of the angels,
He suspended all the other consolations and blessings
so constantly vouchsafed to her most holy soul. From
all this we can surmise what sorrow filled the loving heart
of the heavenly Mother. But, O prodigy of holiness,
prudence, fortitude and perfection! in such unheard of
affliction and sorrow She was not disturbed, nor lost her
interior or exterior peace, nor did She entertain a
thought of anger or indignation, nor allowed Herself
any improper movement or expression, nor fell into any
excess of grief or annoyance, as is so common in great
affliction with other children of Adam, who allow all
their passions and faculties to be disarranged, yea even
in small difficulties! The Mistress of all virtue held all
her powers in heavenly order and harmony; though her
sorrow was without comparison great and had pierced
her inmost heart, She failed not in reverence and in the
praise of the Lord, nor ceased in her prayers and peti
tions for the human race, and for the finding of her
most holy Son.
42. With this heavenly wisdom and with greatest dili
gence She sought Him for three successive days, roam
ing through the streets of the city, asking different per
sons and describing to the daughters of Jerusalem the
marks of her Beloved, searching the byways and the
open squares of the city and thereby fulfilling what
was recorded in the Canticles of Solomon (Cant. 5, 10).
Some of the women asked Her what were the distinctive
marks of her lost and only Son; and She answered in
the words of the Spouse: "My Beloved is white and
ruddy, chosen out of thousands." One of the women,
hearing Her thus describing Him, said: "This Child,
with those same marks, came yesterday to my door
to ask for alms, and I gave some to Him ; and his grace
and beauty have ravished my heart. And when I gave
Him alms, I felt myself overcome by compassion to see
a Child so gracious in poverty and want." These were
the first news the sorrowful Mother heard of her Only
begotten in Jerusalem. A little respited in her sorrow,
She pursued her quest and met other persons, who spoke
of Him in like manner. Guided by this information
She directed her steps to the hospital of the city, think
ing that among the afflicted She would find the Spouse
and the Originator of patient poverty among his own le
gitimate brethren and friends (Matth. 5, 40). Inquiring
at that place, She was informed that a Child of that
description had paid his visits to the inmates, leaving
some alms and speaking words of much consolation to
the afflicted.
43. The report of these doings of her Beloved caused
sentiments of sweetest and most tender affection in the
heart of the heavenly Lady, which She sent forth from
her inmost heart as messengers to her lost and absent
Son. Then the thought struck Her, that, since He was
not with the poor, He no doubt tarried in the temple, as
in the house of God and of prayer. The holy angels
encouraged Her and said: "Our Queen and Lady, the
hour of thy consolation is at hand: soon wilt Thou see
the Light of thy eyes; hasten thy footsteps and go to
the temple." The glorious patriarch saint Joseph at
this moment again met his Spouse, for, in order to in
crease their chance of finding the divine Child, they had
separated in different directions. By another angel he
had now been likewise ordered to proceed to the temple.
During all these three days he had suffered unspeakable
sorrow and affliction, hastening from one place to an
other, sometimes without his heavenly Spouse, some
times with Her. He was in serious danger of losing his
life during this time, if the hand of the Lord had not
strengthened him and if the most prudent Lady had not
consoled him and forced him to take some food and
rest. His sincere and exquisite love for the divine Child
made him so anxious and solicitous to find Him, that
he would have allowed himself no time or care to take
nourishment for the support of nature. Following the
advice of the holy princes, the most pure Mary and
Joseph betook themselves to the temple, where hap
pened what I will relate in the next chapter.
44. My daughter, by oft-repeated experience mortals
know, that they do not lose without sorrow what once
they have possessed with delight. This truth, so well
established, should convince men what little love they
have for their God and Creator; since among the many
who lose Him, there are so few who heartily grieve at
this loss, and thereby show, that they have never pos
sessed or loved Him with a love flowing from grace.
Just as they fail to grieve at losing the highest Good,
which they do not hold in loving possession, so they also
fail to seek after their God when they have lost Him.
But there is a great difference in the manner in which
men lose sight of their highest Good; for it is not the
same to lose sight of God for the purpose of being tried
in virtue and love and to lose sight of Him in punish
ment for sins committed. The first is a contrivance
of divine love and a means of communicating itself more
abundantly to the one that longs for it and merits it.
The second is a just punishment for outrages committed
against the Divinity. In the first kind of absence the
Lord humiliates the soul by holy fear and filial love
leaving it uncertain, whether it has not given cause for
his withdrawal (Prov. 28, 13). Although its conscience
does not reprehend it, the loving and ingenuous heart
knows its danger, feels the loss and thus, as the wise man
says, is blessed (Eccli. 9, 1); for it then lives in con
stant fear and dread of such a loss, knowing that man,
until the end of this life, is uncertain, whether he de
serves love or hate in the sight of God. During their
mortal existence the just man and the sinner commonly
share the same good and evil lot without much
45. This is the great evil which the wise man mentions
as among the happenings under the sun ; that the impious
and the wicked harden their hearts in their malice and
false security, seeing that the same mishaps befall both
themselves and others, and that no one can tell with cer
tainty who are the chosen or the reprobate, the friends
or enemies, of God, the just or the sinners; who are
worthy of love and who of hatred. But if men would
dispassionately and without deceit appeal to their con
science, it would answer each one truthfully what he
should know (Luke 12, 58) ; for when it cries out
against sins committed, they would be foolish not to
attribute the evils and adversities to themselves, or to
fail to see themselves forsaken by grace and deprived of
the highest Good. If their reason were unbiased, the
greatest source of misgiving would be, to be unmoved by
the loss or by the cessation of the spiritual joys of grace.
For the want of this misgiving in a soul created and
destined for eternal happiness is a strong indication
that the soul neither desires nor loves this happiness,
and therefore it is a sign, that it does not seek it in
earnest, so as to enjoy a well-founded prospect of once
possessing the highest Good. For thou must remember,
that this well-founded assurance, of not having forfeited
it in this mortal life, can be attained by all faithful souls.
46. I was deprived of the bodily presence of my most
holy Son; but, although I was in hope of again rinding
Him, yet, in my great love, the uncertainty as to the
cause of his withdrawal gave me no rest until I found
Him. In this I wish that thou, my dearest, imitate me,
whether thou lose Him through thy own fault or by the
disposition of his own will. So great should be thy
dread of losing Him through thy fault, that neither trib
ulation, nor trouble, nor necessity, nor danger, nor per
secution, nor the sword, neither height nor depth should
ever withhold thee from seeking after thy God (Rom.
8, 35) ; for if thou art faithful as thou shouldst be, and
if thou dost not wish to lose Him, neither the angels,
nor the principalities, nor the powers, nor any other
creature can ever deprive thee of Him. So strong are
the bonds of his love and its chains, that no one can burst
them, except thy own free will.
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