Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda


  INDEX   Book 8  Chapter  13    Verses:  625-641

625. Gratitude for the benefits received at the hands of
the Lord is a virtue so noble, that by means of it we may
preserve our intercourse and correspondence with God
himself : He, as rich, generous and powerful conferring
upon us his gifts; we, as poor, humble and aware of our
needs, returning for them our thanks. It is natural that
he who gives liberally and generously should be content
with the thanks of him who, as the needy one, is receiv
ing the benefit ; and this thankfulness is a short, easy and
delightful return, which satisfies the liberal giver and
induces him to continue his liberality. If this ordinarily
happens among men of generous and magnanimous
heart, how much more in the dealings of God with men;
for we are misery and poverty itself, while He is rich,
most liberal, and if we could imagine any constraint in
Him, it would be that of receiving and not that of giving.
As this great Lord is so wise, just and equitous, He will
never reject us on account of our poverty, but only on
account of our ingratitude. He desires to give us plenti
fully, but at the same time He wishes us to be grateful,
rendering Him the glory, honor and praise contained in
gratitude. Such a return for small benefits, obliges Him
to confer other greater ones; if we are grateful for all,
He multiplies them. However it is only the humble that
secure them, since they are at the same time thankful.
626. The great Teacher of this science was the most
blessed Mary; for, though She alone had received the
plenitude of highest blessings possible to be communi
cated to a mere creature by the Almighty, She forgot
none of them, nor ever ceased to acknowledge them by
the most perfect thankfulness within the powers of a
creature. For each one of the gifts of nature or grace,
none of which She failed to recognize and acknowledge,
She composed special songs of praise and thanksgiving
and instituted admirable exercises in special commemora
tion and acknowledgment. In view of this She had
assigned the days of the whole year, and special hours
of each day, in which She sought to renew the memory
of these graces and give thanks for them. But in the
midst of all these observances and solicitudes She forgot
not those of the government of the Church, the instruc
tion of the Apostles and disciples, the counsel and advice
to be given to the innumerable persons, who came to
Her; for She denied Herself to no one who came, nor
failed to respond to the needs of any of the faithful.
627. Hence, if due thankfulness obliges God so much
and inclines Him to renew and increase his blessings,
what human thought can ever conceive how much his
beneficence was called into action by the gratitude shown
by his most prudent Mother for his many and exalted
blessings and rendered to Him with all the fullness of
humble love and praise due to each ? All we other chil
dren of Adam in comparison with Her are slow, ungrate
ful and so dull of heart, that the little we do (if we do
anything at all), does not appear worthy of considera
tion; but the great things, which the faithful and thank
ful Queen performed, seemed little to Her, and even when
She did all in her power, She held Herself to be remiss
and failing in diligence. In another place I said that
the activity of the most blessed Mary resembled that of
God himself, who is a pure act, operative by his very
being or essence, which cannot cease in its infinite activ
ity. Of this quality and excellence of the Divinity our
great Queen had acquired a certain ineffable participa
tion, so that She seemed in Herself to be one continued
and untiring act. If grace is impatient of rest in others,
no one must be surprised, if in Mary, in whom grace
was without measure and, according to our way of
thinking, without known limits, it should partake in such
an exalted degree of God and his activity.
628. I cannot show or elucidate this mystery better
than by referring to the admiration it caused in the
angels, who were witnesses of it. Many times it hap
pened, in their wonder at what they saw in their Queen
and Lady, that they spoke to Her or to each other : "Pow
erful, great and admirable is God in this Creature more
than in all his works. Vastly does human nature in Her
rise above us. Eternally be blessed and magnified thy
Maker, O Mary; Thou art the ornament and beauty of
all the human race. Thou stirrest to holy emulation all
the angelic spirits, and to admiration all the inhabitants
of heaven. Thou art the wonder of God s omnipotence
and of the power of his right hand, the summary of the
works of the incarnate Word, the exact copy of his per
fections, the reproduction of all his actions, assimilating
Thyself entirely to the One Thou hast given form in thy
womb. Thou art a worthy Teacher of the militant
Church, the special glory of the triumphant, the honor of
our people, the restorer of thy own. Let all the nations
know thy virtue and greatness, and let all generations
praise and bless Thee. Amen."
629. With these heavenly princes the most blessed
Mary celebrated the memory of God s blessings and gifts.
She invited them to accompany Her in rendering proper
thanks, not only because of her most ardent and fervent
love, which, on account of the insatiable thirst caused
by the fire of her charity, demanded such a return as of
justice; but also because of her profound humility,
which caused Her to acknowledge her obligations beyond
all other creatures. Hence She asked all creation to
help Her in paying her debt, although no one but She
could ever pay it worthily. Filled with this wisdom, She
drew down to her oratory on earth the court of the su
preme King and changed the world into a new heaven.
630. On the anniversary of her Presentation in the
temple in commemorating this benefit, She commenced
the evening before and spent the whole night in exercises
of thanksgiving as described for the feast of her Concep
tion and Nativity. She acknowledged the blessing of
having been called to his temple by the Lord, and to
the house of prayer at such an early age, and of having
received so many favors while residing there. But the
most remarkable feature of her celebration was, that the
great Mistress of virtue, full of divine wisdom, re
newed in her memory the teachings and instructions
given to Her in the temple by the priest and her teacher
at that early age. With the same loving solicitude She
preserved in her memory the teachings of her holy par
ents Joachim and Anne, and those of the Apostles. All
of them She rehearsed and practiced with greater and
greater perfection according as the advancing years of
her life demanded. Although the teaching of her di
vine Son were eminently sufficient for all her doings ; yet
She recalled those received from all the others ; She per
mitted Herself no cessation in the practice of humility
and obedience, nor ever overlooked the least point or per
mitted any of the ingenious secrets of these virtues to
be obscured and remain idle. O how highly did She
esteem the sayings of the wise ! "Lean not upon thy own
prudence; be not wise in thy own conceit" (Prov. 3,
5, 7). "Despise not the discourse and the teaching of
the presbyters, and live always according to their say
ings" (Eccli. 8, 9). "Do not enter into high speculation
with yourselves, but conform to the lowly" (Rom.
12, 16).
631. In celebrating this feast the great Lady felt some
certain natural regret for the quiet retirement of the
temple in her youth, notwithstanding that She had so
promptly obeyed the Lord in forsaking it and in resign
ing Herself to the exalted ends for which He had with
drawn Her. But He did not fail to requite Her by
some special favors on this feast. On this day the Lord
descended from heaven in great magnificence and in the
company of the angels as on other occasions, and ad
dressing his most blessed Mother in her oratory, He
said : "My Mother and Dove, come to Me, thy God
and thy Son. I wish to afford thee a temple and a habi
tation more exalted, more secure and godlike, one that is
within my own being: come, my most Beloved, to thy
legitimate dwelling." At these most sweet words the
seraphim raised their Queen from the ground, where She
always lay prostrate at his visits until He bade Her rise,
and with heavenly music placed Her at the right hand
of the Lord. She perceived or felt Herself at once filled
with the Divinity as a temple with his glory, and bathed,
surrounded and contained as a fish is in the sea, experi
encing by this union or contact with the Divinity new
and unspeakable effects. For She thereby attained a
possession of the Divinity, which I cannot describe and
which afforded the heavenly Mother a great delight and
joy, additional to that of seeing God face to face.
632. This great favor the prudent Mother called "My
exalted refuge and dwelling," and the feast itself She
called "The feast of the Being of God" ; and She com
posed wonderful canticles to express its significance and
give thanks. At the end of this day She thanked the
Almighty for having created the ancient Patriarchs and
Prophets, including all from Adam to her natural par
ents in whom her lineage ended. She thankfully re
hearsed all the gifts of grace and nature conferred upon
them by the divine power, and for all their prophecies,
and for what is recorded of them in the holy Scriptures.
Then She turned to her parents Joachim and Anne, and
thanked them for having presented Her so young to God
in the temple. At the same time, as they were now en
joying the beatific vision in the heavenly Jerusalem, She
besought them to thank God in her stead and to ask Him
to teach Her how to be thankful and to be governed by
Him in all her doings. Above all, She besought them to
give thanks to the omnipotent Lord for having exempted
Her from original sin and chosen Her as his Mother.
These two blessings She always considered inseparable.
633. The feast days of saint Joachim and saint Anne
She celebrated almost with the same ceremonies as that
of her Presentation. Both of those saints descended
with the Lord to her oratory with an innumerable multi
tude of angels; with them She gave thanks to God for
having provided Her with parents so holy and conform
able to the divine will, and for the glory which He had
conferred upon them. In acknowledgment of all these
works of the Lord She composed new hymns with the
angels, which they sang to sweet and harmonious music.
Besides this, another marvel took place on these festal
days of her parents : the angels of the Queen and others
who came from on high, divided into choirs, some ex
plaining to the Queen the attributes or perfections of the
Divinity and others those of the incarnate Word. This
colloquy afforded Her incomparable joy and new incen
tive to her loving and inflamed affections. Saint Joachim
and Anne derived therefrom also a great additional de
light. Before they returned to heaven the great Lady
asked their blessing and then remained prostrate upon
the ground in thanksgiving for these favors.
634. On the feast of her most chaste and holy spouse
Joseph She celebrated her espousal, in which the Lord
had given her a most faithful companion to conceal the
mysteries of the Incarnation of the Word and to execute
with such high wisdom the secret works of the Re
demption of man. As all these dealings and eternal
counsels of the Most High were recorded in the purest
heart of Mary, and as She held them in so worthy con
templation, She commemorated them with ineffable joy
and thanksgiving. On this feast, saint Joseph came in
the splendor of glory and with myriads of angels, in
order to solemnize the feast with joyful music and to
sing the new hymns and canticles, which the heavenly
Mother composed in thanksgiving for the blessings re
ceived by her holy spouse and Herself at the hands of
the Most High.
635. After having consumed many hours in this cele
bration She spent others of that day in conversing with
her glorious spouse about the perfection and attributes
of God; for in the absence of her Lord the most loving
Mother delighted most in such discourses and confer
ences. On taking leave from her holy spouse, She
begged him to pray for Her in the presence of the Di
vinity and to praise Him in her name. She recommended
to his prayers also the necessities of the holy Church and
of the Apostles. Then, after asking his blessing, She
continued her acts of humility and thanksgiving as usual,
while the glorious saint Joseph returned to heaven. But
I wish here to mention two things: first, that on these
festivals, while her Son lived upon earth and happened
to be present, He was accustomed to show Himself trans
figured as He was on Tabor. This favor He showed
Her many times, and mostly on these occasions ; for by
them He repaid Her in a measure for Her devotion and
humility and renewed the divine effects consequent upon
these marvels. Secondly, that in order to celebrate these
favors and blessings, the great Queen, besides what has
already been mentioned, added other observances worthy
of her piety and of our attention. Namely, on the days
spoken of and on others of which I shall speak directly,
She gave food to many of the poor, preparing the victuals
Herself and serving them with her own hands and on
her own knees. For this purpose She directed the Evan
gelist to gather the most needy and destitute, which he
faithfully did according to her orders. Moreover She
had more costly food prepared to be sent to the poor
sick in the infirmaries whom She could not gather around
Her, and afterwards She went in person to console and
heal them by her presence. This was the manner in
which the most blessed Mary celebrated the festivals and
which She taught the faithful to imitate, showing them
how to be thankful for all things as far as possible,
both by making sacrifices and by good works.
636. My daughter, the sin of ingratitude is one of
the most heinous committed by men against God and by
it they make themselves most unworthy and abominable
in the sight of God and the saints. For both God and
the saints have a kind of horror of this vile conduct in
men. Yet in spite of its pernicious effects, there is none
which men, each one in particular, commit more fre
quently and thoughtlessly. It is true that in order to
lessen the debt accumulating by their most ungrateful
and universal forgetfulness of his benefits, God requires
from his Church a certain recompense for this want of
thankfulness in her children and in mankind. For in
recognition of his blessings, the Church as such offers
up so many prayers and sacrifices of praise and glory as
we see ordained in her. But as the favors and graces
of his liberal and watchful Providence are not only for
the common good of the faithful, but to the advantage
of each mortal in particular, the debt of gratitude is not
paid by this general thanksgiving of the Church; each
one for himself owes thanks for what he receives from
the divine liberality.
637. How many are there among the mortals, who
during the whole course of their lives have not excited
one sincere act of thanksgiving for the gift of life, for
its preservation, for health, food, honors, possessions
and all the other temporal and natural goods! Others
there are, who, if at any time they give thanks for these
benefits, do it not because they truly love God, the Giver,
but because they love themselves and delight in these
temporal and earthly blessings and in the possession of
them. This kind of vain deceit discovers itself in two
ways : first, in seeking these earthly and transitory goods,
men are full of dissatisfaction, haste and discomfort,
and they scarcely can think of, ask for, or desire other
more spiritual things, loving only what is apparent and
passing. Although many times their being deprived of
health, honor, possessions and other things is a blessing
of God, which prevents in them a blind and disorderly
attachment to such matters; yet they think it a misfor
tune and, as it were, an injury, and. they allow their
heart continually to verge on destruction by trespassing
upon what is finite and perishable.
638. Secondly, this deceit is known by the forgetfulness
of spiritual benefits in the blind pursuit of what is
transitory, so that men neither recognize or acknowledge
what is beyond. This fault among the children of the
Church is most vile and dreadful, since, without any ob
ligation on the part of God and without any of their
merit, the divine mercy seeks to draw them to the secure
path of eternal life, signally applying to them the merits
of the passion and death of my divine Son. Every one
who is now in a state of holiness in the Church, could
have been born in other times and ages, before God came
into the world ; moreover he could have been born among
pagans, idolaters, heretics or other infidels, where his
eternal damnation would be unavoidable. Without their
merit God called such persons to his holy faith, giving
them knowledge of the certain truth; justifying them
in Baptism, putting at their disposal the Sacraments, the
ministers, the teachings and enlightenments of eternal
life. He placed them upon the sure path, granted them
his assistance, pardoned them their sins, raised them
from their falls, waited for their repentance, invited them
by his mercy, and rewarded them with a liberal hand.
He defended them through his holy angels, gave them
Himself as a pledge and as a nourishment of eternal life;
and thus He accumulated so many blessings upon them,
that they are without measure or number, and that not
a day nor an hour passes without increasing their indebt
639. Tell me then, daughter, what thanks are due to
his so liberal and fatherly kindness ? And how many
men deserve to experience it? The greatest blessing of
all is that in punishment for this ingratitude the portals
of his mercy have not been closed, and the fountains of
his goodness have not dried up; for it is infinite.
The root of this most dreadful ingratitude in men is the
boundless desire and covetousness for the temporal, ap
parent and transitory goods. From this insatiable thirst
grows their unthankfulness ; for as they hanker so much
after the temporal goods, they undervalue what they
receive and give thanks neither for them nor for the
spiritual goods; and thus they are most ungrateful as
well for the ones as the others. In addition to this un
bearable foolishness they are guilty of a still greater one,
namely, they ask God not for what is necessary to them,
but for things which are injurious and will bring about
their eternal perdition. Among men it is considered
mean to ask a favor from the one they have offended ; and
still more outrageous to ask a favor for the purpose of
committing a still greater offense. What must we then
say of a vile earthly being, an enemy of God, when he
petitions his Creator for life, health, honor, possessions
and other things, for which he will never give thanks,
and which he does not intend to use for any other purpose
than to offend the divine Giver ?
640. If, in addition to this, such men never thank God
for having created them, redeemed them, called them,
borne them with patience and justified them, prepared for
them the same glory which He enjoys: and if, while
expecting this glory, they do not even ask for the grace
of acknowledging and repenting of their sins, they cer
tainly show nothing but the utmost temerity and pre
sumption. I assure thee, my dearest, that this so fre
quent ingratitude toward God is one of the most certain
signs of reprobation in those who are guilty of such forgetfulness
and carelessness. It is also a bad sign, when
the just Judge confers temporal blessings upon those
who ask for them in forgetfulness of the blessings of the
Redemption and Justification; for all such, oblivious of
the means of their eternal salvation, demand but the in
struments of their death, and to yield to their demands
is no blessing, but a chastisement of their blindness.
641. All these evils I manifest to thee in order that
thou mayest fear them and avoid their causes. But re
member that thy gratitude must not be of the ordinary
or common kind; for the blessings thou hast received
go far beyond thy knowledge and power of appreciation.
Do not allow thyself to be deceived into shrinking from
proper acknowledgment of graces on the plea of humil
ity. Thou knowest the efforts of the demon to make
thee forget the works and the favors of the Lord by
drawing thy attention toward thy faults and miseries
and making thee believe that the blessings of truth, which
thou hast received, are incompatible with these thy short
comings. Begin in earnest to cast off this deception and
know, that the more thou ascribest the goods thou receivest
from his bounty to Him alone, the more dost thou
annihilate and humiliate thyself ; and that the more thou
owest to Him, the less able thou art to pay thy debts,
since thou canst not pay even for the least of his favors.
To be convinced of this truth is not presumption, but
prudence; and not to acknowledge this indebtedness is
not humility, but most reprehensible foolishness; for
thou canst not be thankful for what thou dost not know ;
nor will thy love be stirred to action readily without
being incited by the blessings and favors of God. Thou
art full of fear of losing the grace and friendship of the
Lord; and with good reason dost thou fear, if thou dost
not make them fruitful; for He has done as much for
thee, as would suffice to justify many souls. But to have
a prudent fear of losing his grace is quite a different
thing from doubting it for the purpose of escaping ac
knowledgment for it; and this is the kind of doubt into
which the enemy labors to cast thee, seeking to substitute
a stubborn incredulity for holy fear of God, by clothing*
it in the mantle of a good intention and humility. Thy
fear must exert itself in watching over thy treasure and
in striving to imitate me with the purity of an angel and
practicing all the teachings which I give thee in this his
tory for this very purpose.
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