Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda


  INDEX   Book 6  Chapter  3    Verses:  342-354

342. The principal lesson to be learned from the
history of the most holy Mary (if it is attentively
studied), is a clear demonstration of the profound
humility of the Queen and Mistress of the humble. This
virtue in Her is so ineffable, that it can never be suffi
ciently extolled or duly appreciated; for it will never be
understood in all its perfection either by angels or
men. But just as the sweetness of sugar is added to
confections and medicines in order to relieve the bitter
ness of taste, thus humility was mingled in all the virtues
and doings of the most holy Mary, perfecting them and
rendering them agreeable to the wishes of the Most
High and pleasing to men; so that on account of her
humility the Almighty looked upon Her with pleasure
and all the nations call Her blessed (Luke 1, 48). The
most prudent Lady lost not a single chance, occasion,
time or place during her whole life for performing all
the acts of virtue possible to Her; but it is a greater
marvel that none of her actions or virtues ever was
found wanting in the least point of humility. This
virtue raised Her above all that was not God; and just
as by humility Mary conquered all creatures, so, in a
certain sense, by the same virtue, She also overcame God
himself, causing Him to find such complaisance in Her,
that no grace which She chose to ask either for Her
self or for others was ever denied Her. She subdued
all creatures to her wishes by her humility : for in the
house of her parents, as I have related in the first part,
She won over her mother, saint Anne, and the servants
to permit Her to practice humility; in the temple, the
maiden and her companions at last yielded to her selfabasement;
in matrimony, saint Joseph allowed Her to
perform the humblest services; the angels gave way to
her desire for lowly occupations; and the Apostles and
Evangelists obeyed Her in not proclaiming her praises
to the world. By her humility She moved the Father
and the Holy Spirit, and even her most holy Son, to
ordain that her dignity should remain concealed to the
world, and that She should be treated in such a way as
not to cause men to praise Her for being the Mother
of Him who wrought such great miracles and holy
343. Such profound and exquisite humility could be
practiced only by the most Humble among the humble;
for neither the other children of Adam, nor the angels
themselves could ever be placed in similar positions for
practicing it, even if they should not fall short on ac
count of the inferiority of nature. We will understand
this better when we consider how the poison has so
deeply entered the rest of the mortals by the first bite
of the ancient serpent, that, in order to counteract it,
the divine Wisdom has appointed the bad effects of sin
itself as a remedy. For our own and proper defects,
brought home to each one s consciousness, are intended
to make sensible of the inherent degradation of our
present state of existence, which we would otherwise
continue to ignore. It is manifest that we have a spir
itual soul, but it belongs to the lowest order of spiritual
beings, while God occupies the highest and the angels an
intermediate degree; and as regards the body, we are
made not only of the lowest elements, that is of earth,
but also of its most unclean constituents, that is of its
slime (Gen. 2, 7). All this was arranged not in vain by
the eternal Wisdom and Power, but with a great pur
pose, intending that the slime of the earth should al
ways take its proper place and be satisfied with the
lowest position, no matter how much it might find itself
embellished and adorned with grace. For it must bear
all these graces in a vessel of clay and dust (II Cor. 4,
7). We all lose sight of this truth and of our lowliness,
so inherent in our human nature; and in order to keep
alive the sense of our vileness and degradation, it is
necessary that we experience the attacks of our pas
sions and the disorder of our doings. And even our
daily experience in this regard is sufficient to bring
us to our senses and to make us confess our perversity :
we still lay claim to the full excellence and distinction of
a noble humanity, while we are but dust and slime of
the earth, and, moreover, by our actions prove our
selves unworthy even of this lowly and earthly exist
344. The most holy Mary alone not having on Her
the touch of Adam s guilt nor experiencing any of its
foul and dangerous consequences, was proficient in the
art of true humility and carried it to its highest per
fection; and just because She understood to its fullest
extent the position occupied by a mere creature, She
humiliated Herself more than all the children of Adam,
though they are burdened not only with terrestrial ori
gin, but with their own sins. Other men, if they be
come humble, were first humiliated and must confess with
David: "Before I was humbled, I offended;" and "It
is good for me that thou hast humbled me, that I may
learn thy justification" (Ps. 118, 67, 71). But the
Mother of humility did not enter into her humility by
being humbled; She was humble without ever being
humiliated. She was never degraded by guilt or pas
sion, but always generously humble of her own accord.
Though the angels cannot be properly compared with
men, being of a superior hierarchy and nature, and free
from passions or guilt of sin; yet these sovereign spirits
could not attain the humility of most holy Mary, even
if they did humble themselves before their Creator as
his creatures. That the blessed Lady was of terrestrial
and human make was for Her a motive and a means of
excelling the angels in self-abasement, since they could
not make their higher spiritual nature serve as a reason
for abasing themselves as much as the blessed Queen.
Moreover, She possessed the dignity of being the
Mother of God and the Mistress of the angels and of
all creation, and none of them could ever claim such a
dignity and excellence, which enhanced any act of humil
ity on the part of the blessed Virgin and made her
humility surpass all perfection of this virtue ever at
tained by any other created being.
345. There was in Mary an excellence of humility
altogether singular and peculiar to Her; for neither the
full knowledge that She was the Mother of God, nor the
consideration of all the wonders that She wrought, or
that were wrought by her divine Son, nor her position
as the Keeper and Dispenser of all the divine treasures,
as the most immaculate among all creatures and as the
most powerful and most favored of all God s creatures,
could ever cause her heart to forsake the place She had
chosen in estimating Herself as the lowest of all the
handiwork of the Most High. O rare humility!
fidelity never experienced among mortals! O wisdom
which even the angels themselves cannot aspire to!
Who that is acknowledged by all as the most highly
exalted of all creation, can ever in his own mind belittle
himself and count himself as the most insignificant?
Who, like She, can conceal from himself the praise
which all unite in giving? Who, in imitation of Her,
can be so contemptible in his own eyes, while for the
rest he is so admirable? Who, singled out for high
distinction, does not lose sight of lowliness, and who,
invited to a like position, can thus select the most lowly,
not by necessity or in sadness, nor with impatient pro
test, but with all his heart and with the sincerest content !
O children of Adam, how slow and dull we all are in
this divine science! How necessary it is that the Lord
conceal from us our own blessings, or accompany them
with some burden or counterweight, lest we frustrate
all his goodness toward us and lest we be prevented from
scheming some robbery of the glory due to Him as
the Author of all good in us! Let us then understand
what a dastardly humility ours is, and how precarious,
if we ever have it at all; for the Lord (let us so express
it), must use much circumspection and care in entrusting
us with any advantage or virtue on account of the weak
ness of our humility and seldom does our ignorance fail
to indulge itself with some petty theft on such occasions,
or at least with a vain complacency or inconsiderate
346. The humility in the conduct of the most holy
Mary in regard to the miracles of Christ our Lord was
a source of great admiration to her holy angels ; for they
were not accustomed to behold in the children of Adam,
and not even among themselves, such self-abasement
united to such great perfection and magnificence of
activity. Nor did the miracles of the Savior, in whom
the holy angels expected and had already experienced
proofs of his Omnipotence, excite their admiration so
much as the peerless fidelity with which the most
blessed Virgin referred all miraculous works to the glory
of God and by which She esteemed Herself so unworthy
of them, that She deemed his not omitting them on ac
count of her demerits, an especial favor of her divine
Son. Such humility She practiced in spite of the fact
that She, by her constant prayer, was precisely the
instrumental cause of nearly all the miracles wrought
by the Lord; not to mention this other fact that if the
heavenly Mother had not intervened between Christ
and the human race, the world would never have come
into the possession of the Gospel, nor ever merited to ex
perience any of its effects.
347. The miracles and doings of Christ our Lord and
Savior were so new and unheard of in the world that
great admiration and honor could not but have been
the result for his most holy Mother; for She was not
only known to the Apostles and disciples, who acknowl
edged Her as the true Mother of the Redeemer, but by
the new faithful, who all came to acknowledge Her as
the true Mother of the Messias and many times con
gratulated Her on account of the wonders wrought by
her Son. All this, however, was for Her a new occa
sion of humility; for She always humbled Herself to
the dust and debased Herself in her own mind beyond
all conception of created mind. Yet with all her humil
ity She did not show Herself slow and ungrateful in
the acknowledgment of all the favors lavished upon
Her ; for in humiliating Herself at sight of all the great
works of Christ, She rendered worthy thanks to the
eternal Father for each one of them and thus filled out
the great void of ingratitude of the human race. And
by means of the secret communication of her purest
soul with that of the Savior, She sought to divert toward
God, her Son, the honor attributed to Her by his hearers.
This happened on some occasions which even the
Evangelists mention. For instance, when the Jews
attributed the healing of the deafmute to the devil, the
Lord incited a woman to exclaim : Blessed is the womb
that bore Thee, and the paps that gave Thee suck," the
humble and attentive Mother, hearing these words of
praise, begged her divine Son to divert this praise from
Her, and the Lord acceded to her request in such a way,
that He turned these words into a still greater, yet, at
that time a hidden, praise. For the Lord answered:
"Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God
and keep it" (Luke 11, 27). By these words He neutral
ized the praise given to Her as Mother> but enhanced it
in application to Her as a saint; directing the attention
of his hearers to the essential of all virtue, in which his
Mother was distinguished above all others and most
wonderful, though at the same time none of his hearers
adverted to this hidden signification.
348. Another instance of this kind is mentioned by
saint Luke, when he says that some one interrupted the
preaching of the Lord by the message that his Mother
and his brethren had arrived, and that they could not
come near to Him on account of the press of the multi
tude. The most prudent Virgin, fearing lest those within
hearing would break out in applause at seeing the Mother
of the Savior, asked her Son to prevent such an event.
The Lord again yielded, and said : "My mother and my
brethren are they who hear the word of God and do
it" (Luke 8, 21). In these words likewise the Lord did
not deprive his Mother of the honor due to Her on ac
count of her holiness; but referred it to Her above all
others; yet in such a way that the attention of the by
standers was diverted from Her, and She, on her part,
gained her object of seeing the Lord alone praised and
acknowledged for his works. I wish to mention that
these events, as I have been made to understand,
happened on different occasions and at different places.
Accordingly saint Luke records them in two different
chapters, eight and nine, though saint Matthew refers
to the wonderful cure of the possessed mute in chapter
the twelfth, and immediately adds that the Savior was
notified of the presence of his Mother and his brethren,
who wished to speak to the Lord. On this account and
on account of what else is said there, some commentators
have thought that both the above-mentioned incidents
took place at one and the same time. But having again
been ordered to ask by my superiors, I was told that
they were separate events, happening at different times;
which can also be deduced from the balance of the con
text of these chapters; for saint Luke mentions the inci
dent of the exclaiming woman after having related the
healing of the possessed deafmute. The other incident
he relates in the eighth chapter, after the Lord had
preached the parable of the seed; and both of them
followed immediately after what the Evangelist had
said before that.
349. In order to understand more fully the perfect
accord of the Evangelists and the reason why the
blessed Queen came to her Son on those occasions, I
wish to state that the Virgin Mother frequented the
sermons of Christ our Savior for two reasons. Some
times She wished to hear Him, as I have stated above;
at other times She sought Him in order to ask some
favor for the souls, either regarding their conversion or
the cure of the sick or afflicted; for the kindest Lady
took the remedy of all such evils into her own hand,
just as She had done at the marriage-feast of Cana.
Being made aware of these and other pressing necessi
ties either by the angels or by her interior light, She
was accustomed to approach the Lord; and such was
also the object of seeking the Master on the occasions
mentioned by the Evangelists. As this happened not
only once but many times, and since the crowds attending
the sermon of the Lord were often very great, He was
notified on these and many other occasions not men
tioned, that his Mother and his brethren were seeking
Him, and on these two occasions He spoke the words
recorded by saint Luke and saint Matthew. There is
nothing strange in his having repeated the same words
on two different occasions ; for He also repeated on sev
eral occasions this other saying of his : "Because every
one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that
humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14, 11; 18,
14), which the Lord used in the parable of the publican
and the pharisee, as also in that of the guests invited
to the marriage, as can be seen in the fourteenth and
eighteenth chapters of saint Luke and the twenty-third
chapter of saint Matthew.
350. The blessed Mary practiced humility not only
Herself, but She was the great Teacher of humility for
the Apostles and disciples ; for it was necessary that they
be well founded and rooted in this virtue in order to
receive the gifts and to work the wonders, not only later
on in the foundation of the Church, but even now, in the
first beginnings of their duties as preachers of the word
(Mark 3, 14). The holy Evangelists tell us that the
Lord sent before Him the Apostles (Luke 9, 2), and
afterwards, the seventy-two- disciples, and that He gave
them power to expel the demons from the possessed and
to cure the sick. The great Mistress of the humble coun
seled and exhorted them with words of eternal life,
how they were to govern themselves in performing these
miracles. By her teaching and intercession the spirit
of wisdom and humility was deeply planted into their
hearts, so that they well understood how entirely these
miracles are wrought by divine power and that all the
glory of these works belonged to the Lord alone. They
understood that they themselves were merely the instru
ments; that, just as the brush does not deserve the glory
attached to a work of art, nor the sword that of vic
tory, but all belongs to the artist or to the wielder of the
sword ; so all the honor and praise due to their miracles
belonged to the Lord and Master, in whose name they
performed them. It is worthy of notice that none of
these lessons given to the Apostles before being sent to
preach are mentioned in the holy Gospels; but this was
intentional, because all these instructions were given to
them by the blessed Lady. Yet when the disciples re
turned to their Master, and full of exultation told Him
that they had subjected to themselves the demons in his
name (Luke 10, 17), He reminded them that He had
given them this power and that they should not be
elated except in having their names recorded in heaven.
So feeble is our humility, that the Savior was obliged to
apply such corrections and antidotes in order to preserve
it in his own disciples.
351. But afterwards, in order that they might be
worthy founders of the holy Church, the science of
humility, taught them by Christ the Lord and his holy
Mother, was still more necessary; for then they were to
perform still greater miracles in the name of Christ and
in confirmation of the faith and of their evangelical
preaching. The heathens, being accustomed blindly to
give divine honors to anything great or strange, and
seeing the miracles wrought by the Apostles, were only
too ready to adore them as gods. Thus when they saw
saint Paul and saint Barnaby in Lycaonia cure the man
crippled from his birth (Acts 14, 9), they proclaimed the
one as Mercury and the other as Jupiter. Later on, when
saint Paul survived the bite of a viper while all the
others had been bitten and died thereof, he was called
a god (Acts 28, 6). All these miraculous events and
occasions most holy Mary foresaw in the fullness of her
knowledge and as the Assistant of her divine Son in the
establishment of the law of grace. During the time of
his preaching, which lasted three years, Christ went to
celebrate the Pash three times, and the blessed Lady ac
companied Him each time, being present when in the
first year He used the whip to drive the sellers of sheep,
pigeons and cattle from the house of God. In all the
doings of the Savior in the city and in his sufferings,
the great Lady accompanied Him with admirable affec
tion and heroic acts of virtue according to her condition
and circumstances; and She conducted Herself with
sublime perfection, especially in regard to the practice
of her most ardent charity, which She derived from the
Lord Himself. Since She lived only in God, and God
in Her, the charity of Christ burned in her bosom and
left Her to seek the good of her fellow-men with all
the powers of her body and soul.
352. In his malice and astuteness, the ancient serpent
strains all his powers to destroy in the human heart
the science of humility, sowed by the Redeemer as a
seed of holiness in the human heart; and in its place
he seeks to sow the cockle of pride (Matth. 13, 25). In
order to root out these and allow free growth to the
blessing of humility, it is necessary that the soul consent
and seek to be humiliated by its fellow-creatures and that
it ask the Lord incessantly and in all sincerity of heart
for this virtue and for the means to attain it. Very
scarce are the souls that apply themselves to this science
and reach the perfection of this virtue; for it requires
entire conquest of one s whole self to which few at
tain, even among those who profess to be virtuous. This
contagion of pride has so deeply penetrated into the
human faculties, that it is communicated to nearly all
of men s doings and there is scarcely one among men
who is without pride, just as the rose never grows with
out thorns or the grain without husks. On this account
the Most High makes so much of the truly humble;
and those who entirely triumph over pride, He exalts
and places with the princes of his people, esteeming them
as his favored children and exempting them from the
jurisdiction of the demon. Thus it comes that the
devil dares scarcely approach them, because he fears
the humble and their victories over him more than the
fires of hell.
353. I desire, my dearest, that thou attain the inestim
able treasure of humility in all its fulness, and that thou
offer to the Most High a docile and yielding heart, in
order that He may impress upon it, like on soft wax,
the image of my own most humble activity. As thou
hast been informed of such deeply hidden secrets con
cerning this sacrament, thou art under great obligations
to correspond to my wishes, not losing the least occa
sion of humiliation and advancing in this virtue. Neg
lect none of them, since thou knowest how much I
sought after them, who was the Mother of God himself,
most pure and full of grace. The greater my preroga
tives, so much the greater was my humility, because in
my estimation they far exceeded my merits and only
increased my obligations. All you children of Adam
(Ps. 50, 7), were conceived in sin, and there is none
who has not sinned on his own account. If none can
deny this infection of his nature, why should not all
humiliate themselves before God and before men?
Lowering themselves to the very dust and placing them
selves in the last place is not such a great humiliation
for those who have sinned, for even then they will always
be more honored than they deserve. The truly humble
must lower themselves beneath that which they have
deserved. If all the creatures would despise and abhor
them, or offend them ; if they would consider themselves
worthy of hell-fire, they would only fulfill justice, but
not the requirement of humility, since that would only
be admitting their deserts. But real, deep humility goes
to the length of desiring a greater humiliation than
that due to one s self in justice. On this account there
is no mortal who can attain to the kind of humility
which I practiced, such as thou hast understood and
described; but the Most High will be satisfied with and
ready to reward the efforts of those who humble them
selves as far as they can and as they deserve in justice.
354. Let then the sinners admit their baseness and
understand how they make of themselves monsters of
hell by imitating Lucifer in his pride. For pride found
him beauteous and endowed with great gifts of grace
and nature; and although he dissipated these blessings,
he had nevertheless possessed them as his own. But
man, who is mere slime, and moreover has sinned and
is full of ugliness and baseness, is a monster, if he
bloats himself up in vain pride. By such absurdity he
surpasses even the demon; since man possesses a nature
neither so noble, nor was ever gifted with such grace
and beauty as Lucifer. He and his hellish followers
despise and laugh over men, who in such inferiority
swell up in pride; for they can well understand this
vain and contemptible madness and delirium. Mind well
therefore, my daughter, this lesson, and humiliate thyself
lower than the earth, showing just as little sense of in
jury as the dust, whenever the Lord, either himself or
through others, sends thee humiliation. Never judge
thyself injured by any one nor consider thyself offended;
if thou abhor pretense and lying, remember, that the
greatest offense is to aspire after honor or high position.
Do not attribute to creatures that which God brings
about in order to humiliate thee or others by affliction
and tribulations; for this is protesting against mere in
struments, while it is divine mercy which inflicts punish
ment on men for their humiliation. This, if they would
only understand, is really what is happening by the
disposition of the Lord to the kingdoms of our day.
Humiliate thyself in the divine presence for thyself and
for all thy fellow-men, in order to placate his wrath,
just as if thou alone wert guilty; and as if thou never
hadst made any satisfaction; since during mortal life
no one can ever know whether he has satisfied for his
transgressions. Seek to appease Him as if thou alone
hadst offended Him; and in regard to the gifts and
favors which thou hast received and dost receive, show
thyself grateful as one who deserves much less and owes
much more. By these considerations humiliate thyself
more than all others, and labor without ceasing to cor
respond to the divine clemency, which has shown itself
so liberal toward thee.
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