Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda


  INDEX   Book 5  Chapter  21    Verses:  231-239

231. I have already spoken of some of the favors con
ferred on saint John by the blessed Mary during her so
journ in Egypt; also of her solicitude for her cousin
Elisabeth and saint John, when Herod resolved to take
away the lives of the holy Innocents. I have also men
tioned, that the future Precursor of Christ, after the death
of his mother, remained altogether in the desert until the
time appointed by the divine wisdom, and that he lived
there more the life of a seraph than of a man. His con
versation was with the holy angels and with the Lord of
all creation; this was his sole occupation and never was
he idle in the exercise of his love and of the heroic virtues,
which he began in the womb of his mother. Not for one
moment was grace in him unprofitable, nor did he fail in
the least point of perfection possible. His senses, being al
together withdrawn from earthly things, did not in any
way hinder him ; for they did not serve him as windows,
through which the images of the deceitful vanities of the
creatures are wont to bring death to the souls. Since
this saint was so fortunate as to be visited by the divine
light before he saw the light of created sun of this
world, he overlooked all that is seen by eyes of flesh,
and fixed his interior gaze immovably upon the being
of God and his infinite perfections.
232. The divine favors received by saint John exceed
all human intelligence, capacity and thought ; his holiness
and exalted merits we shall understand in the beatific
vision and not before. As it does not pertain to the object
of this history to relate what I have seen of these mys
teries, and what the holy doctors and other authors have
written of his prerogatives, I must confine myself to re
late that which is necessary for my present purpose;
namely, what refers to the share of the heavenly Lady in
his exaltation ; for through Her saint John received most
inestimable favors. Among them not the least was her
sending food to him every day until he reached the age
of seven years, which She did by the ministry of the holy
angels, as I mentioned above. From his seventh
year until he reached the ninth, She sent him only bread ;
but after that year she ceased to send him any food. For
She understood that during the rest of his stay in the
desert, it was the will of heaven and of himself, that he
nourish himself by roots, wild honey and locusts,
which he accordingly did until he came forth to preach.
Yet, though Mary did not any more send him food, She
continued to send to him her holy angels in order to con
sole him and inform him of the doings and mysteries of
the incarnate Word ; but these visits happened no oftener
than once a week.
233. These great favors, besides serving other ends,
encouraged saint John to bear with his solitude: not
that the desolation of his abode and the severity of his
penance caused him any discouragement; to make these
desirable and sweet to him, his own wonderful holiness
and grace were sufficient. But these tokens of love served
to counteract the vehemence of his love, which drew him
toward Christ and his Mother and to make their absence
and the want of their intercourse bearable to him. For
there is no doubt, that restraining his desire for this
intercourse was a far greater pain and suffering to his
loving soul, than all the inclemencies of his habitation,
his fasting and penances, and the horrors of the lonely
mountains, and would have been impossible if his
heavenly Lady and aunt had not assisted him by contin
ually sending her holy angels to bring messages from his
Beloved. The great Hermit inquired into all the particu
lars of the Son and Mother with the anxious solicitude
of a loving bridegroom (Cant. 1, 6). He transmitted to
them the messages of his ardent love and of the sighs,
that came from his inmost heart wounded by the absence
of the Objects of his love. He besought the celestial
Princess through her messengers to send him their bless
ing and he asked the angels to adore and humbly reverence
the Lord in his name. He himself ceased not to adore
Him in spirit and in truth from his solitude. He asked
also the holy angels, who visited him and the others that
attended upon him, to do the same. These were the ordi
nary occupations of the Precursor until he arrived at the
perfect age of thirty years and in this manner he was
prepared by divine Providence for his appointed task.
234. The destined and acceptable time decreed by the
eternal wisdom for sending forth saint John, the Har
binger of the incarnate Word, the Voice resounding in
the desert, had now come (Is. 40, 3). As related by
the Evangelists, in the fifteenth year of the reign of
Tiberius Cassar, under the high priests Annas and
Caiphas, the command of God came to John, the son of
Zacharias in the desert (Luke 3, 1). And he came to
the banks of the Jordan, preaching the baptism of pen
ance for the remission of sins and preparing the hearts
for the reception of the promised Messias, pointing Him
out with his finger, who had been expected for so many
ages. This command of the Lord saint John heard
in an ecstasy, in which, by an especial operation of the
Divinity, he was enlightened and prepared by the pleni
tude of the light and grace of the holy Spirit. In this
rapture he obtained a deep insight into the mysteries of
the Redemption, and he was favored with an abstractive
vision of the Divinity, so wonderful that he was trans
formed and changed to a new existence of sanctity and
grace. The Lord commanded him to issue forth from
the desert in order to prepare the way for the preaching
of the incarnate Word by his own, thus exercising the
office of a Precursor and all that pertained to it; for he
was now instructed and filled with most abundant grace
for his work.
235. The new preacher saint John came from the
desert clothed in camel skin, girded with a cincture
or cord made likewise of leather. His feet were bare,
his features thin and emaciated, his appearance wonder
fully graceful, modest and humble, his soul was rilled
with invincible and magnanimous courage, his heart
inflamed with the love of God and man, his words rang
forth strong and forceful, piercing to the souls of his
hearers like the sparks from the immutable and divine
essence of the Almighty. He was gentle toward the
meek, loving toward the humble, wonderful in the sight
of angels and men, terrible to the proud, dreadful to the
sinners, and an object of horror to the demons. He was
a Preacher fit to be the instrument of the incarnate Word
and such as was needed for this people of the Hebrews,
who were so hard-hearted, thankless and stubborn,
and who were now cursed with heathen governors, avari
cious and proud priests, without enlightenment, without
prophets, without piety, without fear of God, though
they had been visited by so many calamities and chastise
ments for their sins. He was now sent to open the eyes
of his people to their miserable state and prepare their
hearts to know and receive their Savior and Teacher.
236. The anchoret John, many years before, had
made for himself a large cross, which he had placed at
the head of his couch : with it he performed some exer
cises of penance and he was accustomed to place himself
upon it in the form of one crucified, when he was en
gaged in prayer. He did not wish to leave this treasure
in the desert; therefore, before issuing forth, he sent it
by the hands of the holy angels to the Queen of heaven
and eirth and requested them to tell Her that the cross
had been his greatest and most beloved companion in
his long banishment ; that he sent it to Her as a precious
treasure, because he knew what was to be wrought upon
it by the Son of God, and also because the holy angels
had told him, that her most holy Son and Redeemer of
the world often made use of a cross like this, when per
forming his prayers in his oratory. The angels had made
this cross fashioning it from a tree in the desert at his
request; for the saint had neither the necessary strength
nor the instruments for this kind of work, whereas the
holy angels wanted not the skill and needed no instru
ments on account of the power they have over material
creation. With this present and message of saint John
the holy princes returned to their Queen, and She re
ceived this token from their hands with innermost emo
tions of sorrow and consolation, at the thought of what
mysteries were in so short a time to be enacted upon the
hard wood of the Cross. She addressed it in words of
tenderness and placed it in her oratory, where She kept
it ever afterwards together with the other cross which
had been used by her Son. At her death the most pru
dent Lady left these crosses, with other remembrances,
to the Apostles as a priceless heritage, and by them they
were carried through different countries where they
237. In regard to this matter I had some doubts, which
I proposed to the Mother of wisdom, saying to Her:
"Queen of heaven and my Mistress, most holy among
the saints and chosen among creatures as the Mother of
God himself: being an ignorant and dull woman, I find
a difficulty in what I have here written ; if Thou give me
permission, I would like to mention it to Thee, for Thou,
O Lady, art the Mistress of wisdom and hast deigned to
be my Teacher in the doctrine of eternal life and salva
tion. My difficulty is this: I see not only saint John
but also Thee, my Queen, reverence the Cross before thy
most holy Son had died upon it ; whereas I have always
believed, that until the hour in which He wrought our
salvation upon sacred wood of the Cross, it had served
as a gibbet of shame for the punishment of criminals
and that therefore it was considered as a token of con
tempt and ignominy; and even the holy Church teaches
us, that all its value and dignity came to the Cross by
its contact with the body of the Redeemer and through
its connection with mystery of man s Redemption."
238. My daughter, gladly will I satisfy thy desire and
answer thy doubt. What thou sayest is true : the Cross
was ignominious before my Son and Lord honored and
sanctified it by his Passion and Death and solely on ac
count of this Passion and Death the adoration and
reverence shown to it by the Church is now due to it.
If any one, who was ignorant of the mysteries, which
were connected with it and which were so well known
to me and saint John, would have given it such worship
and honor as I have before the Redemption, he would
have been guilty of error and idolatry ; for he would have
worshipped a creature of which he did not know that it
was worthy of such honor. But we showed this venera
tion to the Cross for several reasons : We knew for cer
tain, that the Redeemer was to accomplish his work upon
the Cross; we knew also that, before dying upon it, He
had begun to sanctify this sacred emblem by his contact
in placing Himself upon it during his prayers and in
offering Himself freely to die upon it. The eternal
Father moreover had accepted these foreseen works of
the Cross from his divine Son by an unalterable decree.
All the actions and the contacts of the incarnate Word
were of infinite value and thus sanctified the sacred wood,
making it worthy of the highest veneration. Whenever
I or saint John showed this reverence to the Cross, we
had before our minds these mysteries and truths : we did
not adore the Cross in itself, nor the material of which
it was made; for the divine worship was not due to it
until the works of the Redemption should have been
completed upon it; but we waited for the formal exe
cution of the work intended to be performed upon it
by the incarnate Word. This was the real object of
our reverence and worship of the Cross. And this is
also now the meaning and intent of the practice of the
adoration of the Cross in the holy Church.
239. Accordingly thou must ponder well thy obligation
and that of all the mortals in regard to the reverence and
esteem due to the holy Cross; for if I and the holy Pre
cursor, even before the Death of my divine Son upon it,
so eagerly imitated Him in his love and reverence of it
and in the exercises which He performed in connection
therewith, what should not the faithful children of the
Church do after they have seen their Creator and their
Redeemer crucified upon it, and when they have the image
of the Crucified before their very eyes? I desire, then,
my daughter, that thou embrace the Cross with bound
less esteem, that thou use it as the priceless jewel of thy
Spouse, and that thou accustom thyself to perform those
exercises upon it, which are known and practiced by thee,
without ever of thy own will forgetting or neglecting
them as long as obedience will permit thee. Whenever
thou approachest such sacred exercises, let it be with a
profound reverence and with a deep pondering of the
Passion and Death of the Lord, thy Beloved. Try to in
troduce the same custom among thy religious, zealously
exhorting them thereto; for no exercise is more proper
to the spouses of Christ, and if performed with devotion
and reverence, it will be most pleasing to their Lord. In
addition to this, I wish that thou, in imitation of saint
John the Baptist prepare thy heart for all that the holy
Spirit wishes to work in thee for his own glory and for
the benefit of souls. As far as depends upon thee, love
solitude and withdraw thy soul from the confusion of
created things. Whenever thy duty to God forces thee
to deal with creatures, seek always thy own sanctification
and the edification of thy neighbor, so that in thy outward
conversation and intercourse the zeal of thy spirit may
shine forth. His exalted virtues now known to thee
and those resplendent in the lives of other saints, should
serve thee as a spur and as an example : seek, like a busy
bee, to build up the sweet honeycomb of sanctity and
innocence so much desired in thee by my divine Son.
Distinguish well between the labors of the bee and of the
spider : the one converts her nourishment into sweetness
useful for the living and the dead, while the other
changes it into snare and venom. Do thou gather the
flowers of virtue from the saints in the garden of the
Church, as far as thy weak endeavors with the aid of
grace will permit ; imitate them eagerly and incite others
by thy eloquence, thus drawing blessings upon the living
and the dead while thou anxiously flyest from the harm
and damage of sinful deeds.
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