Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda


  INDEX   Book 7  Chapter  11    Verses:  179-201

179. The office of Mother and Teacher of the holy
Church, which the Lord had conferred upon most holy
Mary, was necessarily accompanied by a knowledge and
light proportionate to those high offices. For she was to
know all the members of this mystical body which She
governed, so that She might apply her teachings and her
ministrations according to each one s station, condition
and necessity. This blessing our Queen received with
the plenitude and abundance of wisdom and knowledge
as is clear from all that I am writing. She knew all the
faithful that joined the Church, was informed of the
natural inclinations, of the degree of virtue and grace
they possessed, the merit of their works, their beginning
and end. She was ignorant of nothing pertaining to the
Church, except when sometimes the Lord concealed from
Her some affair, which afterwards was made known
to Her at its conclusion. Her knowledge was not bar
ren or profitless, but was inspired with the charity of her
divine Son toward all She saw and knew. As She at
the same time was aware of the sacraments of divine
Providence, She used all her wisdom according to the
measure and weight of her interior charity ; for She gave
neither more nor less than was proper according to the
deserts of love and estimation due to each one; and this is
a defect which we children of Adam ordinarily incur,
even if we think we have used the nicest equity.
180. But the Mother of beautiful love and knowledge
did not pervert the order of distributive justice, mixing
up her affections; She dispensed it by the light of the
Lamb, who enlightened and governed Her, dealing out
her heartfelt love to each according to his merits, neither
more nor less. Nevertheless She conducted Herself as
a most loving Mother, without niggardliness or forgetfulness.
But in her exterior manifestations of this love
She governed Herself according to other rules of highest
prudence, carefully avoiding special predilections in her
intercourse with others and the slightest grounds of envy
or emulation. For these are very apt to disrupt commu
nities and families, where many eyes are always watch
ing the public proceedings. It is a common and natural
passion in men to seek estimation and distinction,
especially in the eyes of those who are powerful; and
there is scarcely any one, who does not presume on pos
sessing equal merits with all the rest and deserving equal,
or even greater favors. This kind of emulation is not
wanting even among those who are in the highest po
sition, or have attained high virtue, as is seen in the
apostolic college, where, on account of some distinction
shown to one, the question of precedence and dignity was
immediately raised and broached before the Lord (Matth.
18, 1)..
181. In order to prevent and forestall these heartburn
ings the great Queen was most solicitous to show un
biased and uniform favor to all the members of the
Church in public. This conduct was not only worthy of
such a Mistress, but most necessary in the beginnings of
her government. For the principles upon which her be
havior was founded, were to be well established for the
guidance of prelates in the future government of the
Church. Moreover in those happy beginnings all the
Apostles and disciples, and others of the faithful, ex
celled in the working of miracles and in divine gifts, while
in the latter times many were to signalize themselves in
holy science and learning. It was proper to teach all,
that neither on account of great gifts, nor for lesser ones,
should any one exalt himself in vain presumption, or
deem himself worthy of great honors, or of being favored
more highly, especially by God or by his most holy Moth
er, as far as outward appearances are concerned. Let
the just be satisfied with being loved by the Lord and
favored by his friendship; and whoever is not satisfied
with this, will not be benefited by exterior honor and es
182. Butthe great Queen did not, on account of this
restraint, fail in the veneration and honor which She
knew to be due to the dignity or office of the Apostles or
the other faithful. For just as She taught moderation in
all that was to be rendered to each one freely and gra
tuitously, so She was also an example in all that was due
under obligation to each one. Our admirable Queen was
so prudent in all her intercourse, that not one of the
faithful ever left Her dissatisfied, nor could any one with
any show of reason, even if it were only apparent, deny
Her esteem and respect; all of them loved and blessed
Her, and were filled with joy and gratitude for her loving
and maternal kindness. No one ever suspected Her of
forsaking Him in his necessity, or denying him her con
solation. No one perceived himself to be less esteemed,
or that She favored or loved some more than others;
nor did She give any one an occasion of making a com
parison in this regard. Moreover She did not wish to
assign, on her own responsibility, any of the offices or
dignities, which were to be filled among the faithful;
nor would She use her influence in favor of any one in
this matter. All such appointments She left to the wellseeming
and the wishes of the Apostles, and relied upon
her secret prayer for guiding them aright.
183. She was led also to this wise disposition of her
actions by her profoundest humility. In this She was
an example to all, since they knew that She was the Moth
er of wisdom, who knew all things and could not err
in her conduct. She wished to leave this shining example
in the Church, in order that no one may presume on his
own knowledge, prudence or virtue, especially not in
serious matters; but that all may understand, that true
insight is conditioned by humility and good counsel, and
that, in all matters that are not to be decided merely by
private judgment, such private judgment implies pre
sumption. She likewise took into consideration, that to
intercede and favor others in temporal matters, has the
appearance of superiority, and still more does it expose
one to desire thankful returns from those so favored. All
these inequalities and defects in the practice of virtue
were far removed from the supreme sanctity of our
heavenly Queen ; and therefore She taught us by her liv
ing example the rules of our exterior conduct, which ex
clude as well the loss of merit as the hindrance of the
greatest perfection. Thus in her modesty She never re
fused to give counsel to the Apostles when they so fre
quently applied to Her for direction in the exercise of
their office and in their undertakings; and the same line
of conduct She observed with the other disciples and
faithful of the Church, because She conducted Herself in
all things according to the plenitude of wisdom and
184. Among the saints who were especially fortunate
in meriting the greater love of the Queen of heaven, there
was one by the name of Stephen, who belonged to the
seventy-two disciples; for from the very beginning of
his following Christ our Savior, She looked upon him
with an especial love, placing him first, or among the first,
in her estimation. She immediately saw, that this saint
was chosen by the Master of life for the defense of his
honor and his holy name, and that he was to give up his
life for him. Moreover this courageous saint was of a
sweet and peaceful disposition; and he was rendered
much more amiable and docile to all holiness by the work
ings of grace. Such dispositions made him very pleas
ing to the sweetest Mother ; and whenever She found any
persons naturally of a peaceful and meek character, She
was wont to say, that they resembled her divine Son.
On this account and on account of many heroic virtues
of saint Stephen She loved him tenderly, procured him
many blessings, and thanked the Lord for having created,
called and chosen such a one for the first-fruits of his
martyrs. In consideration of his coming martyrdom, re
vealed to Her by her divine Son, her heart was filled
with additional affection for this great saint.
185. The blessed saint corresponded in most faithful
attention and deepest reverence with the benefits con
ferred upon him by Christ our Savior and his heavenly
Mother; for he was not only of a peaceful, but of an
humble heart, and those that are so disposed in truth, are
thankful for all benefits, even though they may not be
so great as those conferred on saint Stephen. He always
entertained the highest conceptions concerning the Mother
of mercy, and in his high esteem and fervent devotion he
continued to seek her favor. He asked information on
many mysterious matters; for he was very wise, full of
the Holy Spirit and of faith, as is told us by saint Luke.
The great Lady answered all his inquiries, encouraged
and exhorted him zealously to work for the honor of
Christ. In order to confirm him more in his strong faith,
Mary forewarned him of his coming martyrdom and
said : "Thou, Stephen, shalt be the first-born of the
martyrs, engendered by my divine Son and Lord by the
example of his death; thou shalt follow his footsteps,
like a privileged disciple his master, and like a courageous
soldier his captain; and at the head of the army of
martyrs, thou shalt carry his banner of the Cross. Hence
it is meet thou arm thyself with fortitude under the
shield of faith, and be assured, that the strength of the
Most High shall be with thee in the conflict."
186. This warning of the Queen of the angels inflamed
the heart of saint Stephen with the desire of martyrdom.
As is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, he was filled
with grace and fortitude and wrought great wonders in
Jerusalem. Besides the Apostles saint Peter and saint
John, no one except he dared to dispute with the Jews.
His wisdom and spirit they could not resist, because he
preached to them with an intrepid heart, refuted and
accused them oftener and more courageously than the
other disciples (Acts 6, 9). All this saint Stephen did
with burning desire of attaining the martyrdom of which
he had been assured by the great Lady. As if he were
afraid of any one gaining this crown in advance of him,
he offered himself before all others to engage in the dis
putes with the rabbis and teachers of the law of Moses,
so eager was he to defend the honor of Christ, for whom
he knew he would lay down his life. The infernal dragon,
gradually becoming observant of the ambitions of saint
Stephen, directed his malignant attention toward him and
strove to hinder his attaining public martyrdom in testi
mony of the faith of Christ. In order to destroy him, he
incited the most incredulous of the Jews to kill sainl
Stephen in secret. Lucifer was tormented by the virtue
and courage of saint Stephen and he feared lest great
things should be accomplished by him alive or in dying
for the confirmation of the faith and teachings of his
Master. On account of the hatred of the Jews against
this disciple, the devils easily persuaded them to make
away with him in secret.
187. They attempted it often during the short time,
which intervened between the coming of the Holy Ghost
and his martyrdom. But the great Mistress of the world,
who knew the cunning and malicious attempts of Lucifer
and of the Jews, protected the saint from all their as
saults, until the proper time for his being stoned to death
should have arrived. Three times the Queen sent one of
her angels to lead him from a house, in which his enemies
had made arrangements to choke him to death. The holy
angel, while remaining invisible to the assassins, was seen
by saint Stephen, when he was delivered from their hands
and carried to the Cenacle into the presence of his Queen.
At other times She warned him by the same angel not to
go to a certain street or house, where his enemies were
lying in ambush ; and sometimes She detained him in the
Cenacle, because She knew they were waylaying to kill
him. They not only surrounded the Cenacle to murder
him on his way to his lodging, but they made the same
attempts at other houses. For saint Stephen, as I have
mentioned, in his ardent zeal hastened about to bring
help and consolation to many of the faithful, and not
only was without fear in all these mortal dangers, but
sought them out and welcomed them. As he did not
know how long the Lord would let him wait for this
happiness and saw how many times the blessed Mother
freed him from dangers, he was wont lovingly to com
plain to Her, saying: "My Lady and Protectress, when
shall the day arrive, in which I shall pay to my God and
Master the debt of my life, by sacrificing it for the honor
and glory of his holy name ?"
188. To the heavenly Mother these loving complaints
of her servant Stephen afforded incomparable joy; and
with maternal and sweetest affection She would answer :
"My son and most faithful servant of the Lord, the time
appointed by his infinite wisdom is drawing near and thy
hopes shall not be frustrated. Do thou at present fulfill
the rest of thy task in the holy Church, so that thou mayest
secure for thyself thy crown; give thanks continually
to the Lord, who has it in store for thee." The purity
and holiness of saint Stephen were most exalted and per
fect, so that the demons could not approach within a
great distance of him ; and he was much beloved by Christ
and his blessed Mother. The Apostles ordained him a dea
con. Even before he was martyred, his virtues reached
a heroic degree, meriting for him the distinction of being
the first one after the Passion to receive the palm of
martyrdom. I will add here what was made known to
me in explanation of what saint Luke wrote in the sixth
chapter of the Acts.
189. A difference arose among the newly converted in
Jerusalem. The Greek complained of the Hebrew con
verts, that in the daily service and work of relief, the
widows of the Greeks were not admitted in the same
way to office as those of the Jews (Acts 6, 1). Both the
ones as well as the others were Israelites, though the
Jews born in Greece were called Greeks, and those born
in Palestine, Hebrews ; and in this distinction was found
ed the complaint of the Greeks. The daily administra
tion consisted in the distribution of the alms and offerings
for the support of the faithful, as has been described in
the seventh chapter. This duty had been assigned to six
approved men with the consent of all, according to the
direction of the blessed Mary. But as the number of
the faithful increased it became necessary to appoint also
some widows of a mature age, to help along in the same
work of providing for the wants of the faithful, espe
cially of the women and the sick ; these widows were to
distribute, whatever they received from the six almoners.
They were of Hebrew birth, and as the Greek Jews saw,
that none of theirs were admitted to this office they com
plained to the Apostles of this want of confidence in
their own widows.
190. In order to compose this difference, the Apostles
called together the faithful and spoke to them: "It is
not meet, that we should leave the word of God and
serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among
you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy
Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this
business. But we ourselves will give all our time to
prayer and to the ministry of the word, while these men
may solve your doubts and difficulties in regard to the
support of the faithful" (Acts 6, 2). All approved of
this expedient, and without regard to nationality they
elected the seven men mentioned by saint Luke. The
first and principal one was saint Stephen, whose faith and
wisdom was universally known. These seven were su
perintendents over the six first ones and over the widows
without excluding the Greeks ; for they looked to virtue
rather than nationality. It was saint Stephen who by his
admirable wisdom and holiness extinguished the resent
ment of the Greeks and smoothed over their differences
with the Hebrews, so that at least during the months in
which he lived, all again united like children of Christ in
sincere charity without partiality or distinction of per
191. But saint Stephen did not on that account neg
lect preaching or arguing with the unbelieving Jews. As
these Jews could not murder him in secret, nor over
come his wisdom in public, they vented their mortal
hatred in seeking false testimony against him (Acts 6, 1).
They accused him of blasphemy against God and against
Moses, of inveighing continually against the holy tem
ple and the Law, and of asserting that Jesus would de
stroy as well the one, as the other. As the witnesses
loudly proclaimed their slander and the people were being
roused by their falsehoods, they brought him into the
hall where the priests were gathered as the judges of
these accusations. The presiding judge first took the
deposition of saint Stephen before the court. The saint
took occasion to prove with highest wisdom, that Christ
was the true Messiah promised to them in the holy
Scriptures; and in conclusion he reprehended them for
their unbelief and hardness of heart so strongly, that they
could find no answer and, gnashing their teeth, they
stopped their ears, in order not to be obliged to hear his
192. The Queen of heaven knew of the seizure of
saint Stephen ; and, in order to animate him in her name
for the approaching conflict, She immediately sent him
one of her angels, even before He entered into dispute
with the priests. Through the holy angel saint Stephen
sent Her answer, that he went with joy to confess his
Master and with unflinching heart to give his life for
Him, as he had always desired. Through the same mes
senger, he begged Her, as his kindest Teacher and
Mother, to assist him and, from her retirement, to send
him her blessing, since his not having been able to obtain
her parting benediction was the only regret he felt now,
when he was about to lay down his life according to Her
wishes. These last words of saint Stephen moved the
maternal bosom of Mary to even greater love and esteem
than hitherto; and She desired to attend upon him in
person, at this hour, when her beloved disciple was to
give up his life for the honor and defense of his God
and Redeemer. But the blessed Mother hesitated at the
difficulties, which would arise in her passing through the
streets of Jerusalem at a time of popular excitement and
also in finding an opportunity of speaking publicly to
saint Stephen.
193. She prostrated Herself in prayer, begging the
divine favor for her beloved disciple ; and She presented
to the Lord her desire of helping him in the last hour.
The clemency of the Most High, which is always at the
beck of his Spouse and Mother and which was anxious
to enhance the death of his faithful disciple and servant
Stephen, sent from heaven a multitude of angels, who,
with those of her guard, should carry their Queen to
the place where the saint then was. And immediately
the mandate of the Lord was executed : the angels placed
Her upon a refulgent cloud and bore Her to the tribunal,
where the highpriest was examining into the charges
against saint Stephen. The vision of the Queen of
heaven was hidden from all except the saint. He how
ever saw Her before him, supported in the air by the holy
angels in a cloud of heavenly splendor and glory. This
extraordinary favor inflamed anew the divine love and
the ardent zeal of this champion of the honor of God.
In addition to the joy of seeing Mary, the splendors of
the Queen shone from the countenance of saint Stephen,
so that it gleamed with wonderful beauty and light.
194. On account of this unwonted spectacle the Jews
listened with great attention to his words, as is evident
from the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
Those that were in that hall looked upon saint Stephen
and saw his countenance shining as that of an angei;
and without a doubt he seemed to them more than man.
God did not wish to hide that much of the effects of the
presence of the great Queen, in order that the perfidious
Jews might be so much the more confounded for not ac
cepting the truth preached in such a miraculous way.
They did not know the cause of this supernatural beauty
of saint Stephen ; for they were not worthy to know it,
nor was it a proper occasion to make it known, and there
fore saint Luke did not speak of it at that time. The
most blessed Mary spoke to Stephen words of life and
of wonderful consolation; She assisted him with the
blessings of sweetness and asked the eternal Father to
fill him anew with the Holy Spirit. All happened accord
ing to the prayers of the Queen and he manifested his
invincible courage and wisdom to the princes of the Jews,
proving by the unanswerable testimony of all the ancient
Scriptures, from the calling of Abraham to the Kings
and Prophets, that Christ was their Messiah and Savior.
195. At the end of this discourse, through the inter
cession of the Queen and as a reward of the unconquered
zeal of saint Stephen, the heavens opened and the Savior
appeared to him standing at the right hand of the Father
in the act of assisting him in the conflict. Saint Stephen
raised his eyes and said: "Behold I see the heavens
opened and its glory, and in it I see Jesus at the right
hand of God himself" (Acts 7, 55). But the obdurate
perfidy of the Jews esteemed these words as blasphemy
and they stopped their ears in order not to hear them.
As the punishment of blasphemers according to the law,
was death by stoning, they passed upon him that sen
tence. Then they all surrounded him like wolves and
dragged him from the city with great haste and noise.
At this juncture the blessed Mother gave him her bene
diction; and speaking to him words of encouragement
and endearment, She left him in charge of her angels,
whom She ordered to accompany him and to remain
with him until they should present his soul to the Most
High. Only one of the guardian angels, in company
with those that had descended from heaven as her escort
to saint Stephen, now returned with Her to the Cenacle.
196. From her retirement the great Lady by an es
pecial vision saw all that happened in the martyrdom of
saint Stephen : how they led him forth from the city with
great haste and violence, shouting that he was a blas
phemer worthy of death; how Saul was among them,
more zealous than the rest, guarding the vestments of
those who had taken them off to stone saint Stephen;
how the shower of stones fell upon the saint and wounded
him, some of them remaining fixed in his head and
stained by his blood. Great and tender was the com
passion of our Queen at such cruel martyrdom ; but still
greater her joy in seeing saint Stephen meeting it so
gloriously. The kindest Mother failed him not in her
tearful prayers from her oratory. When the invincible
martyr saw himself near to death, he prayed : "Lord re
ceive my spirit !" Then, on his knees, he exclaimed with
a loud voice: "Lord lay not this sin to their charge!"
(Acts 7, 59). In these prayers he was supported by
those of the blessed Mary, who was filled with incredible
joy to see the faithful disciple imitating so closely his
divine Master by praying for his enemies and persecutors
and commending his spirit into the hands of his Creator
and Redeemer.
197. Covered with wounds from the shower of stones
thrown by the Jews, saint Stephen expired, while they
became still more hardened in their perfidy. Imme
diately the angels of the Queen bore his pure soul to the
presence of God in order to be crowned with eternal
honor and glory. Christ our Savior received him with
those words of the Gospel : "Friend, ascend higher ; come
to Me, thou faithful servant; for, since thou hast been
faithful in small things and for a short time, I shall re
ward thee with abundance, and I shall confess thee before
my Father as my faithful servant and friend, just as thou
hast confessed Me before men." All the Angels, Pa
triarchs, Prophets and all the Saints were filled with an
especial accidental joy on that day and welcomed the
invincible martyr as the first fruits of the Passion of
the Lord and as the captain of all those that should follow
him in martyrdom. This most fortunate soul was placed
very high in glory and close to the most sacred humanity
of Christ our Savior. The most blessed Mother partici
pated in the joy through a vision granted to Her; and
in praise of the Most High, She composed hymns and
canticles with her angels. Those that returned after
leaving saint Stephen in heaven, gave thanks to Her for
the favor shown to the saint in securing him his eternal
198. Saint Stephen died about nine months after the
passion and death of Christ, our Redeemer, on the
twenty-sixth of December, the same date on which the
Church celebrates his feast. On that day he had com
pleted his thirty-fourth year, which, with the addition
of one day, was also the thirty-fourth year of the birth
of the Savior. Hence saint Stephen was born one day
later than Jesus, being only twelve months older, and his
birth and death happened on the same day of the year,
as was clearly shown to me. The prayer of the blessed
Virgin and of saint Stephen merited the conversion of
Saul, as we will see later on. In order that this con
version might be so much the more glorious the Lord
permitted Saul, from that day on, to take upon himself
the task of persecuting and destroying the Church of
God; for he began to signalize himself above all other
Jews in the persecution, which the wrath of the Jews,
highly inflamed by the death of saint Stephen, now began
to stir up against the new believers. The desciples
secured the body of the invincible martyr and buried it
with great mourning, because they had now lost such a
wise and strong defender of the law of grace. I have
dilated upon his history, because I have been shown the
great holiness of this first martyr, and because he was
such a devout and highly favored disciple of the most
holy Mary.
199. My daughter, the divine mysteries, when they are
presented and explained to such men as are accustomed
only to the perception of earthly and sensible things, ap
pear to be insignificant, especially if at the same time
their souls are not purified from sin and cleared of the
darkness of guilt. For the human faculties, which, be
sides being of limited capacity, are embarrassed by their
attention and affection to what is apparent, draw away
from the truth, and, being accustomed to obscurity, are
dazzled by the light. On this account the earthly and
animal men conceive such distorted and low ideas of the
wonderful works of the Most High (1 Cor. 2, 14), and
also of the works which I do for them day after day.
They tread under foot the gems, and they do not dis
tinguish the bread of the children from the gross food
of irrational brutes. All that is heavenly and divine
seems to them insipid, because they fail to perceive the
savor of the senses; thus they become incapable of at
tending to the high things and of profiting from the
science of life and the understanding contained in them.
200. But the Most High, my dearest, has sought to
preserve thee from this danger and has given thee knowl
edge and light, improving thy senses and faculties, in
order that thou, being made capable and enlivened by
the force of divine grace, mayest perceive and distinguish
without error the mysteries and sacraments, which I
manifest to thee. Although I have many times told
thee, that in this mortal life, thou shalt never penetrate or
value them in their entirety, yet thou canst and thou must,
according to thy powers, show thy appreciation of them
by learning and imitating my works. From the variety
and bitterness of my pains and sorrows, with which my
whole life was interwoven, even after I had returned from
the right hand of my Son in heaven to the earth, thou
wilt understand, that thy own life must be of the same
texture, if thou wishest to follow me as my faithful dis
ciple. In the prudent and impartial humility, with which
I governed the Apostles and all the faithful, thou hast
an example of how thou must proceed in the government
of thy subjects, in meekness, in modesty, with humble
dignity, and especially without acceptation of persons and
without making a distinction in favor of any person in
those things that can and ought to be common to all.
This facilitates the true charity and humility of those
that govern; for if they show these virtues, they will not
be so dictatory in their commands, nor so presumptuous
in their own opinion, nor will they pervert the order of
justice, as is nowadays done with so much damage
throughout Christianity. Pride, vanity, self-interest, selflove
and the love of their own relations have infected
nearly all the course and conduct of government; and
hence all has gone wrong, and all the governments have
been filled with injustice and thrown into frightful con
201. In the most ardent zeal, which I had for the
honor of my Son and true God and for the preaching
and defense of his holy name; in my joy at seeing the
divine will fulfilled and at seeing the fruit of the passion
and death of Christ spreading with the Church among
souls in the favors which I procured for the glorious
martyr Stephen as the first who offered his life for that
object; in all this, my daughter, thou wilt find great
motives for praising the Most High in his divine works,
so worthy of veneration and glory; and thou wilt like
wise find cause for imitating me, and blessing his im
mense goodness for the wisdom He gave me, in order to
fulfill all his holy will and pleasure.
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