Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda


  INDEX   Book 8  Chapter  8    Verses:  533-556

533. In the measure in which the mysteries of the in
finite and eternal Wisdom were being fulfilled, so the
great Lady was raised in the sphere of holiness beyond
all human thought above the rest of the creatures. As
her triumphs over the infernal dragon were gained un
der the conditions and circumstances I have described,
and resulted in the rewards I have mentioned; and as
all these events of her life were the sequel of the mys
teries of the Incarnation and Redemption and of all the
rest, in which She had associated with her divine Son, it
is impossible that our lowly human faculties should even
faintly comprehend the effects of these mysteries upon
the purest heart of the heavenly Mother. She conferred
within Herself upon these works of the Lord and weighed
them by the scales of her most exalted wisdom. The
devouring flame of her celestial love grew into a con
flagration, which excited the astonishment of all the
angels and courtiers of heaven; and* her natural powers
of life could not have withstood the impetuous onsets
of her desire to annihilate Herself entirely in the essence
of the Divinity, if they had not been sustained by miracu
lous influence. At the same time She was drawn toward
men by her most sweet and maternal charity; for they
all depended upon Her, just as the plants upon the sun
that vivifies and nourishes them. She therefore lived in
a state of violent longing to unite both the objects of
her love in her bosom.
534. In such a state the most blessed Mother found
Herself after the victories over the dragon. Notwith
standing her having, through the whole course of her life
from its first instant, at all times done what was most
pure, most holy and exalted, without ever being em
barrassed by her travels, labors and cares in the service
of her divine Son; yet at this juncture there arose as it
were a contest in her heart between her love of God and
of the souls. In all her works of charity She felt the force
of her aspirations drawing Her to the higher and new
gifts and workings of grace. On the one hand She was
impelled to withdraw Herself from all the sensible things
in order to wing her flight to the continual and supreme
union with the Divinity, and, in imitation of comprehensors
and especially of the state of her divine Son on
earth, free Herself from all hindrance of creatures in
order to enjoy all that He enjoyed outside of what be
longed to Him in virtue of the hypostatic union. This
latter was indeed not possible in the blessed Mother;
yet the height of her sanctity and love seemed to demand
all that was next below the state of comprehensors. On
the other hand She was drawn by her love of the Church
to hasten the relief of the faithful in all the necessities;
for without thus being engaged in these duties of a
Mother of the family, She could scarcely rest satisfied
with the favors and delights of the Most High. As each
of these activities- of Martha required time, She con
tinued to study how She might adjust her life so as to
be wanting neither in the active nor the contemplative
535. The Most High permitted this sort of solicitude
to arise in his most blessed Mother in order that the
favor of her new state, held in readiness for Her by his
omnipotence, might come to Her so much the more
opportunely. Therefore He spoke to Her and said : "My
Spouse and my Beloved, the anxious aspirations of thy
most ardent love have wounded my heart and by the
power of my right hand I wish to operate in thee what
I have done to none of the creatures, nor ever shall do;
for thou art chosen as none other of my creatures for
my delights. For thee alone have I prepared a state
and condition, in which I shall nourish thee with my
Divinity as one of the blessed, yet in a different manner ;
in it thou shalt continually enjoy my sight and my em
braces, my peace and tranquillity, without being embar
rassed by created things or by thy condition as a pilgrim.
In this habitation thou shalt wing thy flight freely and
without bonds through the infinite regions required by
thy love ; and from it thou shalt also fly to the aid of the
holy Church, of which thou art Mother. Charged with
my treasures, thou shalt distribute them among thy
brethren according to thy pleasure in their necessities and
labors, so that through thee they all may be relieved."
536. This is the favor which I pointed out in the last
chapter and which the Evangelist clothes in these words :
"And the Woman fled into the wilderness, where She
had a place prepared by God, that there they should feed
Her a thousand two hundred and sixty days," and a
little farther on : "And there were given to the Woman
two wings of a great eagle, that She might fly into the
desert unto her place, where She was nourished" (Apoc.
12, 14). It is not easy to make myself understood re
garding this mystery; for it contains many supernatural
effects, which have no counterpart in any other creature
and are wonders reserved by God exclusively to the
faculties of the most blessed Mary ; and since faith teaches
us, that we cannot measure or comprehend the power
of the Almighty, it is proper to confess, that He can
operate in Her much more than we can understand and
that we need only deny such excellence in Her, as would
imply an evident and manifest contradiction. In that
which has been shown me for the purpose of recording
it in this history, supposing that I understand it, I do not
see any contradiction in the way I see it; although the
proper terms for recording it fail me in what I write.
537. I say then, that after Mary our Leader and
Mistress had triumphed in her battles over the dragon
and his demons, God raised Her to a state in which He
manifested to Her the Divinity, not by an intuitive vision
like that of the blessed, but by another clear vision
through created species, which in this history I have al
ways called abstractive vision; because it depends not
upon the actual presence of the object seen, nor moves
the understanding by the object itself; but by other
species, which present the object as it is in itself, although
absent ; namely in the same manner as God can show me
the city of Rome as it is in itself by infusing into my
mind all the images and likenesses of that city. This
kind of vision of the Divinity the most blessed Virgin
had enjoyed before during her life, as I have often
demonstrated in this history. Although it was thus not
altogether new to Her, since She enjoyed abstractive
vision at the moment of her Conception (as said at the
time), yet it was new now in two respects. First, from
this time on it was permanent and continual, enduring
till her death and till She passed into the beatific vision ;
while before that time it had been occasional and passing.
Secondly, from this time it continued to increase in in
tensity day by day, and thus reached a degree more
exalted, more admirable and excellent than before, and
beyond all created thought and measure.
538. For this purpose all her faculties were touched by
the fire of the sanctuary, causing new effects of the
Divinity, illuminating and exalting Her above Herself;
for this state was to be a participation of that held by
the comprehensors and the blessed, yet at the same time
different from theirs. Hence it is important to note
wherein it was like and wherein it was unlike to theirs.
The likeness consisted in Her seeing the same object of
the Divinity and the same attributes which they enjoyed
by secure possession, only She understood them more
deeply than they. The differences consisted in three
points: first the blessed see God face to face and by in
tuitive vision, whereas the most blessed Mary saw Him
by an abstractive vision as described; secondly, the bea
tific vision of the saints in the Fatherland and their
essential fruition, in which the glory of the understanding
and the will consists, cannot increase ; whereas the ab
stractive vision of Mary in her pilgrimage had no limit
or restriction, but her knowledge of the infinite attributes
and the divine essence increased day by day; and for
this were given to Her two wings of an eagle, by which
She was to soar continually in this limitless ocean of
the Divinity, comprehending ever more and more of its
539. The third difference was, that the saints can
neither suffer nor merit, this being incompatible with
their state; whereas our Queen could well accumulate
suffering and merit in her state of vision, as being still a
wayfarer. And without this possibility this state would
not have been so great and valuable in her eyes, nor for
the Church ; for the meritorious works of so great a Lady,
in this state of so great grace and holiness, were of the
most inestimable value and price to all men. She pre
sented a new and wonderful spectacle to the angels and
saints, a sort of portrait of her divine Son; for as the
Queen and Mistress She had the power to dispense and
distribute the treasures of grace, and at the same time,
to add to them by her own ineffable merits. And though
She was not a comprehensor, as the saints in heaven ; yet
in her state of pilgrimage She held a place so near to
Christ and so like to his on earth, that, if compared with
Him, She was indeed a pilgrim in body and soul ; but
if compared to the other pilgrims on earth, She seemed
a comprehensor and one of the blessed.
540. This her state required that all the armory of her
senses and other faculties should be of another order and
capable of operations proportionate to her condition.
Hence the manner of her activity experienced an entire
change, and in the following way: all the species or im
pressions of creatures, which through her senses had
acted upon her understanding, were now at an end or
blotted out from her mind ; though, as I have said above
in this third part (No. 126), the great Lady had not
admitted any images or species except only those that
were necessary for the exercise of charity and other
virtues. Now even these, in as far as they were ter
restrial and in as far as they partook of the sensitive
in entering her understanding, the Lord abolished, purg
ing and distilling them of all that they yet contained of
their origin in the senses. In place of the images and im
pressions, which thenceforward She could receive through
the natural activity of her sensitive and intellectual
faculties, the Lord infused into her mind other species,
more pure and immaterial, and by means of these her
perception and understanding was raised to a more ex
alted level.
541. This wonder will present no difficulty to the un
derstanding of the learned. In order to explain myself
more thoroughly, I wish to say, that,, when we call to
action the five bodily senses by which we hear, see and
taste, we receive certain impressions of the objects pre
sented to them; these impressions are passed on to an
other interior and corporeal faculty, called the general
or common sense, the imaginative, or estimative phantasy,
in which all the impressions of the exterior senses are
united and perceived or felt and are deposited and kept
in reserve, as in a storehouse of the five senses. Up to
this point our perception is like that of the animals, al
though with some difference. After these impressions
of the common sense or phantasy have thus been stored
within us, who are rational animals, our mind, by means
of the natural workings of its faculties, co-operates with
them and enables the intellect to become active, distilling
from them other spiritual or immaterial images; and by
means of these spiritual images, which it produces within
itself, it naturally comes to know and understand what
first entered through the senses. Hence philosophers say,
that, in understanding our mind speculates upon the
phantasy in order to draw from it the images of what it
is to understand according to the natural routine of our
acting faculties. This routine is maintained, because
the soul is united to the body and depends upon it in its
542. But in the most blessed Mary, after entering the
new state, this mode of procedure was not entirely pre
served; for the Lord had miraculously supplied for her
intellect another mode of action, independent of the
phantasy and the general sense. In place of the species,
which her understanding was naturally to draw from the
impressions of exterior objects through the senses, He had
infused into Her other kinds of images, which repre
sented exterior objects in a more exalted manner; where
as those which She acquired by the senses, remained in
the storehouse of the phantasy without being used by the
active understanding, which was instead furnished with
and illustrated by the supernatural species. These her
understanding made use of in its activity, while at the
same time those received and stored in the general
phantasy served Her for the feeling of pain and sensible
afflictions. Thus in this temple of the most blessed Mary
was fulfilled what happened in its figure long before : the
stones were shaped and wrought outside the temple,
whereas within, the strokes of the hammer or other
noise were not heard (III Reg. VI 7) ; likewise the
animals were killed and sacrificed upon the altar outside
the precincts of the sanctuary (Ex. 40, 27) ; and in it
were offered only the holocaust of the incense and spices
burned in the sacred fire.
543. Through the workings of this miracle in our
great Queen and Lady the stones of her virtues for her
adornment were hewn and polished in the lower sensitive
faculties of her soul, \vhile in the forehall of the common
senses were offered up the hardships, sorrows and pains,
which She bore for the faithful in her labors for the
Church. But in the holy of holies of her intellect and her
will were offered up only the perfume of her contempla
tion and vision of the Divinity and the fire of her incom
parable love. For this purpose the species of the senses,
representing objects in a more earthly manner and with
the turmoil natural to them, were not appropriate. There
fore the divine power excluded them altogether and
replaced them with other images of the same objects,
infused, supernatural and purer, capable of nourishing
the abstractive contemplation of the Divinity and more
appropriate to her knowledge of God, whom She un
ceasingly looked upon and loved in the inviolable peace,
tranquillity and serenity of her soul.
544. These infused species in the most blessed Mary
were founded upon the essence of God himself, because
they represented all things to her understanding in the
same way as a mirror represents objects to our eyes and
make themselves known to us without obliging us to in
spect them directly. In this manner She was aware in
all things of whatever was for the good of the children
of the Church ; of what She was to do for them in their
labors and difficulties and of the manner in which She
was to promote the fulfillment of the divine will in heaven
and on earth. Favored by this kind of vision, She was
enabled to make her petitions in such a way as to have
them all granted by the Lord. From this kind of in
sight the Lord exempted in Her the works which She
was to perform in obedience to the commands of saint
Peter and saint John, and sometimes requested by some
of the other Apostles. The heavenly Mother herself had
asked for this exemption, because She did not wish to
interrupt her practice of obedience, which She loved so
much; and also because She wished to make it plain,
that through obedience the will of God is known with
such certainty, that the obedient person needs no other
means or byways of finding the will of God than this
obedience to the commands of superiors ; for this is with
out a doubt what God wishes and commands, and there
fore is right.
545. For all her other doings then (except what per
tained to obedience and holy Communion), the under
standing of the most blessed Mary did not depend upon
her intercourse with sensible creatures, nor on the images
of the senses. But of all of them She remained inde
pendent and undisturbed, enjoying the abstractive vision
of the Divinity without interruption, either awake or
asleep, working* or at rest, without need of forethought
or reasoning about what was most perfect, or more agree
able to the Lord, about the necessities of the Church, or
the time and manner coming to its aid. All this was
present to her mind in the vision of the Divinity, just like
to the blessed through the beatific vision. And just as
the least important of the knowledge of the blessed is
that concerning the creatures; so also (besides what our
great Queen knew concerning the state of the Church,
its government and of all the souls), the principal object
of her knowledge were the incomprehensible mysteries
of the Divinity, which She comprehended more deeply
than the highest seraphim and saints. With this heavenly
bread and nourishment She was sustained in that soli
tude prepared for Her by the Lord. In it She was
solicitous for the Church without being disturbed, busily
employed without inquietude, attentive without distrac
tion, and in all things She was full of God within and
without, clothed with the purest gold of the Divinity,
immersed and absorbed in this incomprehensible sea. Yet
at the same time She was attentive to all her children and
their welfare, finding no rest except in the ministrations
of her maternal charity.
546. This was the reason why the two wings of an
eagle were given to Her; for by them She raised Herself
to the solitude where the thoughts of neither angels or
men could ever soar; and by them She descended from
that unattainable height and flew to the aid of mortals,
not haltingly, but with the lightest and swiftest flight. O
prodigy of the omnipotence of God ! O unheard of
miracle, which so clearly manifests his infinite great
ness ! Our understanding fails us, our comprehension is
suspended and our powers are exhausted in the con
templation of such a hidden sacrament. Happy, golden
ages of the beginnings of the Church, when it held such
treasures within it, and fortunate we, if we could in our
own unhappy times, as far as is possible and as far as
our necessities and miseries require, see these signs and
wonders renewed through his most blessed Mother!
547. The happiness of that age, and the manner in
which the most holy Mother used her powers, will be
better understood, if we adduce some practical instances
of the assistance rendered by Her to the souls. One was
that of a man living in Jerusalem and well known in the
city, because he held a prominent position and was en
dowed with more than an ordinary mind and some moral
virtues. As for the rest, he was a zealous upholder of
the ancient law like saint Paul, and a bitter opponent of
the teachings and the law of Christ the Savior. The
blessed Mary knew this in the Lord, and through her
intercession God had prepared the way for his con
version. On account of his good standing in the opinion
of others, the blessed Lady desired very much to convert
and save him. This She asked of the Most High with
ardent love and fervor, and the Lord granted Her the
request. Before the most blessed Mother entered the
new state of being, She had applied her great prudence
and insight to find means of converting this soul; but
now this kind of study was no longer necessary ; for She
needed only to attend to the Lord, where, at her request,
all that She had to do for his conversion was made clearly
548. She saw that this man was to come to Her
through the preaching of saint John and that She need
only tell saint John to preach where this Jew would
hear him. The Evangelist obeyed her orders ; and at the
same time the guardian angel of that man inspired him
with the desire of seeing the Mother of the Crucified,
whom all praised as a loving, modest and pious Woman.
The Jew did not at that time foresee any spiritual good
possibfy to result from this visit, because he had not the
divine light for such knowledge; but without proposing
to himself any such ends, he desired to visit the great
Lady out of calculating curiosity, merely in order to see
who this Woman, so much spoken of by others, might
be. But when he came into the presence of most holy
Mary and looked upon Her, while with heavenly prudence
She spoke to him, He was entirely changed into a new
man. He immediately prostrated himself at the feet of
the great Queen, confessing Christ as the Savior of the
world and asking to be baptized. He received Baptism
then and there at the hands of saint John, and while the
words of Baptism were pronounced, the Holy Ghost came
in visible form upon this man, who thenceforward was
distinguished for his holy life. The heavenly Mother
sang a hymn of thanksgiving for this great and wonder
ful favor.
549. Another inhabitant of Jerusalem, deceived by her
cousin versed in witchcraft, apostatized from the faith.
As the blessed Lady knew all things in the Lord, She
was aware of her fall. In great affliction the Lady ap
plied Herself to tearful prayers and exercises of atone
ment for the return of this woman, for She knew that
such wilful falling away in those who have once given
themselves to the pursuit of eternal life, always makes a
return much more difficult. The prayers of the most
blessed Mother readily paved the way for the salvation of
this soul deceived by the serpent. Immediately the
Queen saw that this Woman should be warned and ex
horted by saint John, in order to bring her to a sense
of her evil deed. Saint John spoke to her, she listened
and confessed her sin to him, thus being restored to grace.
The blessed Mary afterwards exhorted her to persevere
and resist the demon.
550. Lucifer and his demons dared not disturb the
Church in Jerusalem during the presence of the Queen,
whom they feared to approach ; for her power filled them
with fear and drove them to flight. Instead they sought
to make conquests among the baptized of those ports of
Asia where saint Paul and the other Apostles were
preaching ; they succeeded in perverting some to apostacy
and to cause disturbance or hindrance in the preaching
of the Gospel. The most zealous Princess knew of the
machinations of the dragon and asked the Lord for as
sistance, if it should be proper under the circumstances.
She received answer, that She might act as the Mother,
as the Queen and Mistress of all creation, and that She
had found grace in the eyes of the Most High. Thus
encouraged from on high She clothed Herself with in
vincible strength; and like the faithful spouse, who rises
from the couch, leaves the bridal chamber and the throne
of her bridegroom, and arms herself to defend him
against his assailants : so the valorous Lady, armed with
divine power, rose up against the dragon, snatched the
prey from his maw, wounding him by the power of her
virtues, and commanding him again to sink into the
abyss. And as She commanded, so it was fulfilled. Many
other innumerable wonders, wrought by our Queen, could
be cited; but these will suffice to indicate the state in
which She then was constituted and the way in which She
operated therein.
551. For greater perspicuity and in connection with
the reckonings given before, it remains to mention the
year in which the most blessed Lady received this favor
(Nos. 376, 465, 495, 435). When She betook Herself
from Jerusalem to Ephesus, She had attained the age of
fifty-four years, three months and twenty-six days; and
her voyage took place in year forty of the birth of Christ,
on the sixth of January. She remained in Ephesus two
and a half years, returning in the year forty-two on the
sixth of July; and in the year fifty-six and ten months
ef her age. The first council mentioned above was held
by the Apostles two months after the Queen returned
from Ephesus; so that during that council the most
blessed Mary completed her fifty-seventh year. Then
succeeded the battles and triumphs and her elevation to
the exalted state herein described, in the beginning of
her fifty-eighth year, and in the year of our Lord the
Savior, forty-two and nine months. This state lasted
twelve hundred and sixty days mentioned by saint John
in the twelfth chapter, and then She passed to another,
which I shall describe farther on.
552. My daughter, none of the mortals have any ex
cuse for not ordering their lives in imitation of the life
of my divine Son and of my own; for We were an ex
ample and model for all. No one can be without blame,
if in his own state he is not perfect, having before his
eyes the incarnate God, who became the Teacher of
holiness for all states of life. Some souls, however, are
by the divine will chosen and set apart from the common
order, in order that they may enjoy more of the fruit of
his blood, imitate more perfectly his life and mine, and
cause his divine goodness, omnipotence and mercy to shine
forth more resplendently. Whenever these chosen souls
faithfully and fervently correspond with the Lord, only
worldly ignorance will wonder, that He should show
Himself so liberal in exerting his power to overwhelm
them with favors and blessings beyond all human con
ception. Whoever places such wonders of his beneficence
in doubt, will only hinder the glory God seeks in his
works. Such unbelievers attempt to measure them by
the restricted and curtailed capacity of the human mind,
which in them is usually depraved and obscured by their
own sins.
553. And if the chosen souls themselves are so gross
as to doubt his benefits, or do not dispose themselves to
receive and use them prudently, or with the esteem and
appreciation due to the operations of God : then, no doubt,
they offend his Majesty much more than others, to whom
no such blessings or talents are vouchsafed. The Lord
does not wish the bread of the children to be cast to the
dogs (Matth. 15, 26) ; nor his pearls to those who tread
them under foot or despise them (Matth. 7, 7) ; for these
blessings of special grace are the reserves of his highest
Providence, and the capital of the price of the Redemp
tion. Reflect then, my dearest, that such faults are com
mitted by those souls, who are diffident in arduous or
adverse events, or who shrink from the Lord, or hinder
Him, when they are singled out as the instruments of
his power for his service. Their sin is still more repre
hensible, when they refuse to confess Christ in all such
works for fear of the difficulties connected with them and
of the gossip of the world concerning such new under
takings ; when they act in such a manner, that they serve
God and do his will only when it coincides with their
own ; or if they practice virtue only when it is accom
panied by such and such conveniences ; or love only when
it does not disturb their tranquillity; or if they believe or
acknowledge benefits only when sweetened by caresses.
As soon as adversity or labor is to be encountered for the
sake of God, they at once give way to discontent, sorrow,
discouragement and impatience, by which they frustrate
the designs of the Lord and make themselves incapable
of perfection in virtue.
554. All this arises from a deficiency of prudence,
knowledge and true love, which prevents these souls from
looking to their own and their neighbor s advance. For
they look to themselves, rather than to God; and are
governed more by selflove, than divine love and charity.
Tacitly they are guilty of great presumption, since they
attempt to direct God s will and even to reprehend it, pro
fessing their readiness for great labors in his service un
der such and such conditions and their inability under
other conditions. They are unwilling to risk their credit
and their comfort, even for the common good and for
the glory of God. They think that, as they do not openly
proclaim their refusal, they do not make themselves guilty
of this temerity ; yet it is the devil, who conceals it from
them, in order that they may incur guilt.
555. In order that thou, my daughter, mayest not fall
into this monstrous sin, thou shouldst discreetly ponder
what I give thee to understand and record, and how
much I desire thee to imitate me. I could not fall into
such sins, yet in continual watchfulness I prayed to the
Lord to govern me in all my actions according to his
will and pleasure only, and I gave myself no liberty of
doing anything that was not according to his greater
pleasure. Hence I sought for myself the forgetfulness
and the retirement from all creatures. Thou art subject
to sin, and thou knowest how many snares the dragon,
by himself and through the creatures, has laid in order
to lead thee into it: hence thou hast good reason for
ceaselessly beseeching the Almighty to govern thee in
all thy actions, and for closing the portals of thy senses
in such a way as to exclude from thy interior every
image or figure of mundane and earthly things. Renounce
therefore thy free will into the hands of thy God and
yield it to every pleasure of the Lord and mine. In what
thou must necessarily transact with creatures for the ful
fillment of the divine law and of charity, admit no image
except what is unavoidable; and immediately ask, that
the remembrance of what is not necessary be blotted out
of thy mind. Concerning all thy works, words and
thoughts consult with God, with thy angels and with
me, for we are always with thee; consult also with thy
confessor wherever possible. All that thou dost or resolvest
without this consultation, hold in suspicion and
as dangerous, and only by comparing it with my teach
ings, thou canst ascertain, whether it agrees or disagrees
with the will of God.
556. Above all never lose sight of the essence of God;
for the light of faith which thou hast received, is to
serve especially for this purpose. Since this is to be thy
last end, I wish that even in mortal life thou attain this
vision as far as is possible to thee with the divine grace.
It is indeed time that thou cast out those vain fears and
suggestions, by which the enemy has sought to hinder
and detain thee from giving constant credit to the bless
ings and favors of the Lord. Begin to be prudent and
strong in this confident faith and deliver thyself entirely
to the pleasure of his Majesty, in order that He may
do with thee and in thee what shall be best for his
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