Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda


  INDEX   Book 5  Chapter  14    Verses:  153-161

153. A common defect in all of us that are called to
the light and to the profession of holy faith in the school
of Christ, our Lord, is that of looking upon Him too
much as our Redeemer and not sufficiently as our
Teacher in our sufferings (Luke 24, 26). We all desire
to reap the fruit of salvation and enter the portals of
grace and glory; but we do not with like zeal seek to
follow Him on the way of the Cross by which He entered
and upon which He invites us to attain eternal glory
(Matth. 16, 24). Although, as Catholics, we do not
fall into such insane errors as the heretics ; for we know
and profess that without exertion and labor there can be
no reward or crown (II Tim. 2, 5) ; and that it is a sacreligious
blasphemy to avail oneself of the salvation of
Christ in order to sin without remorse or restraint.
Nevertheless, as far as really practicing the works incul
cated by faith, some of the children of the Church differ
little from the children of darkness; for they look upon
difficult and painful works as unnecessary for the follow
ing of Christ and for participation in his glory.
154. Let us throw off this error in our practice and
let us understand well that suffering was not only for
Christ, our Lord, but also for us; that if He suffered
labors and death as the Redeemer of the World, He
suffered them also as our Teacher, thereby inviting us
as his friends to enter upon the way of his Cross; so
much so, that his nearest friends receive the greatest
share of suffering, and no one can merit heaven without
the price of personal exertions. In imitation of his most
holy Mother, the Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors and
Virgins and all his followers have won their crown by
labors and those that have been most prepared for suf
fering have obtained so much the more abundant
reward and the higher crown. It might be objected that
our Lord was at the same time God and man, and that if
He has given us the most conspicuous and wonderful
example of suffering, He did it more in order to be
admired than to be imitated. But this is only a bold and
daring pretense on our part; for He can meet this objec
tion with the example of his Mother, our most pure
and innocent Queen, with that of her blessed spouse, and
of so many men and women, weak and deficient as we
ourselves, who were less guilty, but who have imitated
Him and followed Him on the way of the Cross. The
Lord did not suffer only in order to excite our admira
tion, but in order that we imitate his example, and He
did not let even his Divinity stand in the way of labor
and suffering, but allowed sorrow and suffering to over
whelm Him in proportion to his innocence and sinlessness.
155. Along this royal highway of the Cross the Lord
led the spouse of his blessed Mother, saint Joseph, whom
He loved above all the sons of men. In order to increase
his merits and crown before the time of his meriting
should come to an end, He visited him in the last years
of his life with certain sicknesses, such as fever, violent
headaches and very painful rheumatisms, which greatly
afflicted and weakened him. In the midst of these infirm
ities, he was suffering from another source, more
sweet, but extremely painful, namely, from the fire of
his ardent love which was so vehement, that the flights
and ecstasies of his most pure soul would often have
burst the bounds of his body if the Lord, who vouch
safed them, had not strengthened and comforted him
against these agonies of love. In these sweet excesses
the Lord allowed him to suffer until his death and on
account of the natural weakness of his extenuated body,
this exercise was the source of ineffable merits for the
fortunate saint, not only because of the sufferings
occasioned, but because of the love by which
these sufferings were brought about.
156. Our great Queen, his Spouse, was a witness to
all these mysteries; and, as I have already stated (Vol. II
368, 381, 394, 404), She knew the whole interior of the
soul of saint Joseph, being thus rejoiced by the knowl
edge of having for her spouse a man so holy and so
beloved of the Lord. She beheld and comprehended the
sincerity and purity of his soul; his burning love; his
exalted and heavenly thoughts; his dove-like patience
and meekness in his grievous ailments and exquisite suf
ferings. She knew that he never complained either of
these nor of any of the other trials, nor ever asked for
any relief in his wants and necessities; for he bore all
with incomparable equanimity and greatness of soul. As
his most prudent Spouse contemplated and weighed all
these heroic virtues of saint Joseph, She grew to look
upon him with such a veneration as cannot ever be
properly estimated by any one. She labored with
incredible joy for his support and comfort; and the
greatest of his comforts was that She should prepare
and administer his victuals with her own virginal hands.
But as all her service seemed little in the eyes of the
heavenly Lady compared to the necessities of her spouse,
She sometimes, in her love for him, made use of her
power as Queen and Mistress of all creation and com
manded that the food which She administered to him
impart special strength and supply new life to this holy
and just man of God.
157. This command of the great Lady, whom all
creatures obeyed, was fulfilled; and when saint Joseph
tasted of the victuals, which bore these blessings of
sweetness, and when he perceived their effects, he was
wont to say to the Queen : "My Lady and Spouse, what
celestial food is this which vivifies me, rejoices my
senses, restores my strength and fills my soul and spirit
with new delight?" The Empress of heaven served him
his meals on bended knees; and when he was much dis
abled and suffering, She took off his shoes in the same
posture. At other times She supported him in her arms.
Although the humble saint sought to rouse himself in
order to forestall some of these ministrations of his
Spouse, he could not altogether prevent them, for She was
intimately aware of all his sufferings and weaknesses and
of the circumstances and occasions when he needed her
assistance. At such times the heavenly Nurse always
hastened to assist him in his wants. Often also, as the
Mistress of wisdom and of virtue, She comforted him
by words of sweetest consolation. In the last three years
of his life, when his infirmities increased, our Queen
attended upon him day and night and her only other
employment was the service and ministration due to her
most holy Son. Jesus sometimes joined and assisted
Her in the care of her holy spouse whenever he was not
engaged in other necessary works. There was never a
sick person, nor will there ever be one, who was so well
nursed and comforted. Great was the happiness and
worth of this man of God, saint Joseph, for he alone
deserved to have for his Spouse Her, who was the
Spouse of the Holy Ghost.
158. But the heavenly Lady was not satisfied with
these proofs of her devotion toward holy Joseph: She
made use of other means for his relief and comfort.
Several times She asked the Lord in her ardent charity
to impose upon Her the pains suffered by her spouse
and release him therefrom. To gain her point, She, the
Mother and Mistress of all sanctity, pleaded before the
Most High, alleging that her debt was greater than that
of all the earthborn and that since She had not given
the proper return, She was inferior to them, deserving
all their sufferings and offered her heart for all manner
of pain and suffering. She pleaded also the sanctity of
saint Joseph, his purity, innocence, and the delight of
the Lord in this heart made according to that of his
Son. She asked for many blessings for him and gave
most heartfelt thanks for having created a man so
worthy of his favors, so full of justice and holiness. She
invited the holy angels to give thanks to God for him;
and in contemplating the glory and wisdom of the Lord
as shown in this man, She sang new hymns of praise. For
on the one hand She saw the pains and sufferings of her
beloved spouse, which excited her pity and condolence,
and on the other hand She was aware of his merits and
the delight of the Lord in this man, and how the saint
pleased and glorified his God by his patience. The
heavenly Lady exercised different virtues suitable to
the occasion, and of so exalted a degree, that She
excited the admiration of the angelic spirits. Yet greater
should be the admiration of us ignorant men to see that
a mere Creature so perfectly fulfilled so many different
duties and that in Her the anxiety of Martha should
not interfere with the contemplation of Mary. She imi
tated in this the activity of the supernal spirits, who
guard and assist us without losing sight of the Most
High (Matth. 18, 10). But Mary far excelled them in
her attention to God, while engaged in bodily labor,
of which they were incapable. Though She was a child
of Adam, She lived like a heavenly spirit, occupying
the superior part of her being in the exalted exercises
of her divine love and employing her inferior faculties
in works of charity toward her spouse.
159. Sometimes, when the merciful Queen perceived
the bitterness and severity of the sufferings of saint
Joseph, She was moved to tender pity; and then She
would humbly ask permission of her most holy Son to
be allowed to command the natural sources and occa
sions of these pains to disappear and thus put a stop to
the sufferings of this just and beloved man of God. As
all creatures obeyed the command of their great Mistress,
her holy spouse was then immediately relieved and rested
from his pains, sometimes for a day, sometimes longer,
until his ailments, according to the decree of the
Almighty, again assumed sway for the increase of his
merits. At other times She ordered the holy angels, as
their Queen (though not in the form of a command, but
of a request), to console saint Joseph and comfort him
in his sorrows and labors, as the frail condition of his
body demanded. Thereupon the angelic spirits would
appear to saint Joseph in human forms, most beautiful
and shining, and begin to speak to him of the Divinity
and its infinite perfections. Then they would raise their
voices in sweetest harmony of celestial music, singing
hymns of divine canticles, by which they restored his
drooping strength and inflamed the love of his purest
soul. To rejoice him the more he was specially informed,
not only of the source of these blessings and divine
favors, but of the great holiness of his virginal Spouse,
of her singular love and charity in conversing with him
and serving him, and of many other excellences and
privileges of the great Mistress of the world. All this
together caused such effects in saint Joseph, and so
raised his merits before God, as no tongue can express,
nor any human understanding in this life can compre
160. My daughter, one of the virtuous works most
pleasing to the Lord and most fruitful for souls, is the
loving care of the sick. By it is fulfilled to a great
extent that natural law which requires us to do to our
neighbors what we wish them to do to us. In the Gospel
this is adduced as one of the works for which the Lord
shall give eternal reward to the just (Matth. 25, 34) ;
and the failure to exercise this duty is alleged as one of
the causes of the eternal damnation of the wicked. In
the same place the justice of this retribution is also
explained ; namely, as men are the children of the eternal
Father, the Lord accounts any good or ill done to
our neighbor as done to his own children, whose part
He takes; for so it is customary among human parents.
With regard to thyself thou must moreover consider
that thou art the mother of thy religious and that they,
just as thou thyself, are the spouses of my blessed Son.
The fact that they have received of Him less blessings
should so much the more oblige thee to serve and nurse
them in their sickness. On this account I have on
another occasion told thee that thou must consider thy
self the infirmarian of all of them, as being inferior
to them because of thy great obligations. I assign
to thee thereby an office which is great in the house of
the Lord. In order to fulfill its obligations do not charge
others with the work which thou canst do thyself in
the service of the sick; and whatever, on account of the
duties of thy office thou canst not compass, be thou care
ful in commending to the special care of those who are
appointed to discharge these duties by obedience.
Besides common charity, there are other reasons why the
religious should be attended to in their ailments with the
greatest care and solicitude; namely, in order that their
afflictions and necessities may not cause them to long
for return to their parental homes and to the world. Be
sure, that in this way much harm enters the cloister;
for human nature is so adverse to suffering, that, rather
than feel the want of necessities, it will again face the
greatest dangers of the soul.
161. In order to stir thee on toward proficiency in
the exercise of this doctrine, the charity which I showed
toward my spouse, Joseph, in his ailments should serve
thee as a spur and encouragement. Very tardy is that
charity (and even the politeness), which waits until the
needy one asks for help. I did not wait, but hastened
to assist before I was asked. My charity and attention
anticipated the requests of my spouse and thus I con
soled him not only by my services but by my loving
solicitude and attention. I shared his sufferings and
hardships with heartfelt compassion; but at the same
time I praised the Most High and thanked Him for the
blessings of affliction conferred on his servant. If some
times I sought to relieve his pains, it was not in order to
deprive him of the occasion of meriting, but that he
might by this aid excite himself to glorify so much the
more the Author of all goodness and holiness; and to
these virtues I exhorted and encouraged him. With
similar perfection shouldst thou exercise this noble vir
tue, providing for the needs of the sick and weak, com
forting them by thy compassion and words of advice,
doing them all kinds of good service, without wishing
them to lose the reward of suffering. Let not thy carnal
love disturb thee when thy sisters fall sick, although
they be those thou lovest or needest most; for thereby
many souls, both in the world and in religion, lose the
merit of their labors. The sorrow occasioned by the
sight of sickness or danger in their friends, disturbs
their equanimity and under the pretense of compassion,
they begin to complain and refuse to submit themselves
to the dispositions of divine Providence. In all these
things I have given thee an example and I demand of
thee to imitate it perfectly by following my footsteps.
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