312. The most holy Mary, being conceived without sin as described above, was entirely absorbed in spirit and entranced by her first vision of the Divinity. At the first instant, and in the narrow dwelling of the maternal womb, began the love of God in her most blessed soul, never to be interrupted, but to continue through all the eternities of that high glory, which She now enjoys at the right hand of her divine Son. In order that She might grow in the contemplation and love of God not only by the infused knowledge of created things, but also by the direct vision of the Trinity itself, and in order that She might exercise Herself in many acts of virtue befitting her present state, the Lord repeated the wonderful vision and manifestation of his Divinity on two other occasions; so that, the blessed Trinity manifested Itself to Her in abstract vision three times before her birth : first at the instant of her Conception, then in the fourth or fifth month, and the third time, on the day be fore her birth This vision was not continual, but it must not be inferred, that She did not enjoy another kind of vision, very exalted and superior to the one by which She perceived the essence of God in the light of faith. For in most holy Mary these kinds of visions were incessant and continual, and superior to all visions of the saints during their earthly pilgrimage.
313. This abstract vision of the Divinity, though not incompatible with her present condition on earth, was nevertheless so high and immediate, that it could not well be continuous in her mortal state, where She was to merit the glory of intuitive vision by other acts. It was a special favor to assist Her in attaining thereto; for it left in her soul the impress of the Lord s image, and raised and consumed her whole being with a burning love of God. These affections were renewed continually during these visions in the most holy soul of Mary while She remained in the womb of holy Anne. Thus it happened, that, being in full possession of her intellectual faculties and occupying Herself without intermission in prayer for the human race, in heroic acts of adoration, in reverence and love of God in company with the angels, She did not feel the narrowness and confinement of her natural prison, nor the restriction of her senses, nor the other restraints, inseparable from such a state. To all this She gave no heed, living more in her Be loved than in the womb of her mother or in Herself.
314. The last of the three visions was accompanied by new and more wonderful favors of the Lord; it was to prepare Her for the entrance into the world and for intercourse with mortals. In accordance with the di vine will the Princess of heaven said to the Lord:
“Most high God, Lord of my being, Soul of my life and Life of my soul, infinite in thy attributes and perfections, incomprehensible, mighty and rich in mercies, my King and Sovereign : out of nothing hast Thou given me existence; without any merits of mine Thou hast enriched me with the treasures of thy divine light and grace, in order that by them I may instantly perceive thy im mutable Being and divine perfections, and that thus Thou mightst be the first Object of my vision and love, not permitting me to seek any other than Thee, the highest Good and all my joy. Thou commandest me, my Lord, to issue forth and enter into the material light and con verse with creatures. In thy own Being, whence all things are reflected as in a most perfect mirror, I have discerned the dangerous state and the miseries of mortal life. If, on account of my natural weakness and debility, there is danger lest even in the least point I fail in thy love and service, and if it is possible that I die here, let me die now, before I pass into a state where I may lose Thee. But if thy holy Will, my Lord and Master, is to be fulfilled, and I am to embark on the tempestuous sea of this world, I beseech Thee, most high and mighty God of my soul, to govern my life, direct my steps and all my actions toward pleasing Thee. Order in me holy love (Cant. 2, 4) that in the new use, which I am to make of creatures, and by thy aid, it may continue to grow. I have perceived in Thee the ingratitude of many souls, and as I am of their nature, I fear with good reason, that perhaps I may become guilty of the same fault. In this narrow cavity of my mother s womb I have enjoyed the infinite vastness of thy Divinity: here I possessed all Good, Thee thyself, my Beloved; and since here Thou alone art my portion and possession (Ps. 72), I know not, whether outside of this enclosure I may not lose it at the sight of the created light and in the use of my senses. If it were possible and appropriate to renounce the intercourse of approaching life, I would gladly renounce and lose the experience of it; but let not my will, but Thine be done. Therefore since Thou wishest it, confer upon me thy blessing and good will at my entrance into the world, and do not deprive me of thy divine protection during the earthly course in which Thou placest me.” Having thus poured forth her prayer, the most sweet child Mary received the benediction of the Most High and the command to issue forth into the light of the visible sun, at the same time being enlightened for the fulfillment of all his desires.
315. The most happy mother, holy Anne, passed the days of her pregnancy altogether spiritualized by the divine operations and by the sweet workings of the Holy Ghost in all her faculties. Divine Providence, however, in order to direct her course to greater merit and reward, ordained, that the ballast of trouble be not wanting, for without it the cargo of grace and love is scarcely ever secure. In order to understand better, what happened to this holy woman, it must be remembered, that satan, after he was hurled with the other bad angels from heaven into the infernal torments, never ceased, during the reign of the old Law, to search through the earth hovering with lurking vigilance above the women of distinguished holiness, in order to find Her, whose sign he had seen (Gen. 3, 15) and whose heel was to bruise and crush his head. Lucifer s wrath against men was so fierce, that he would not trust this investigation to his inferiors alone; but leaving them to operate against the virtuous women in general, he himself attended to this matter and assiduously hovered around those, who signalized themselves more particularly in the exercise of virtue and in the grace of the Most High.
316. Filled with malice and astuteness, he observed closely the exceeding great holiness of the excellent matron Anne and all the events of her life: and although he could not estimate the richness of the Treasure, which was enclosed in her blessed womb (since the Lord concealed this as well as many other mysteries from him), yet he felt a powerful influence proceeding from saint Anne. The fact that he could not penetrate into the source of this activity, threw him at times into great fury and rage. At other times he quieted himself with the thought, that this pregnancy arose from the same causes as others in the course of nature and that there was no special cause for alarm; for the Lord left him to his own hallucinations and to the vagaries of his own fury. Nevertheless the whole event was a source of great misgiving to this perverse spirit, when he saw how quietly her pregnancy took its course and especially, when he saw, that many angels stood in attendance. Above all he was enraged at his weakness in resisting the force, which proceeded from the blessed Anne and he suspected that it was not she alone, who was the cause of it.
317. Filled with this mistrust, the dragon determined, if possible, to take the life of the most felicitous Anne; or, if that was impossible, to see that she should obtain little satisfaction from her pregnancy. For the pride of Lucifer was so boundless as to persuade him of his abil ity to overcome or take away the life of Her, who was to be the Mother of the incarnate Word, or even the life of the Messias and Redeemer of the world, if only he could obtain knowledge of their whereabouts. His arrogance was founded upon the superiority of his angelic nature to the condition and power of mere human nature: as if both were not subject to grace and entirely dependent upon the will of their Creator. Audaciously therefore he set himself to tempt holy Anne, with many suggestions, misgivings, doubts and diffidences about the truth of her pregnancy, alleging her protracted years. All this the demon attempted in order to test the virtue of the saint, and to see, whether these temptations would not afford some opening for the perversion of her will.
318. But the invincible matron resisted these on slaughts with humble fortitude, patience, continued prayer and vivid faith in the Lord. She brought to naught the perplexing lies of the dragon and on account of them gained only additional grace and protection from on high. For besides the protection abundantly merited by her past life She was defended and freed from the demons by the great princes, who were guarding her most holy Daughter. Nevertheless in his in satiable malice the enemy did not desist on that account; and since his arrogance and pride far exceeds his powers, he sought human aid ; for with such help he always promises himself greater ease of victory. Having at first tried to overthrow the dwelling of saint Joachim and Anne, in order that she might be frightened and excited by the shock of its fall, but not being able to succeed on account of the resistance of the holy angels, he incited against saint Anne one of the foolish women of her acquaintance to quarrel with her. This the woman did with great fury, insolently attacking saint Anne with reproach and scorn; she did not hesitate to make mockery of her pregnancy, saying, that she was the sport of the demon in being thus found pregnant at the end of so many years and at so great an age.
319. The blessed Anne did not permit herself to be disturbed by this attack, but in all meekness and humility bore the injuries and treated her assailants with kindness. From that time on she looked with greater love upon these women and lavished upon them so much the greater benefits. But their wrath was not immediately pacified, for the demon had taken possession of them, filling them with hate against the saint ; and, as any concession to this cruel tyrant always increases his power over his victims, he incited these miserable dupes to plot even against the person and life of saint Anne. But they could not put their plots into execution, be cause divine power interfered to foil their natural womanly weakness. They were not only powerless against the saint, but they were overcome by her ad monitions and brought to the knowledge and amendment of their evil course by her prayers.
320. The dragon was repulsed, but not vanquished; for he immediately availed himself of a servant, who lived in the house with Joachim and Anne, and exasperated her against the holy matron. Through her he created even a greater annoyance than through the other women, for she was a domestic enemy and more stub born and dangerous than the others. I will not stay to describe, what the enemy attempted through this servant, since it was similar to that of the other woman, only more annoying and malicious. But with the help of God saint Anne won a more glorious victory than before; for the watcher of Israel slumbered not, but guarded his holy City (Ps. 120, 4) and furnished it so well with sentinels, chosen from the strongest of his hosts, that they put to ignominious flight Lucifer and his followers. No more were they allowed to molest the fortunate mother, who was already expecting the birth of the most blessed Princess of heaven, and who, enriched by heroic acts of virtue and many merits in these conflicts, had now arrived at the fulfillment of all her highest wishes. I too desire to come to an end with this chapter in order to hear the salutary instructions of my Mistress and Preceptress, who, besides assisting me in all that I write, also favors me with her maternal ad monitions, which I receive with highest joy and exultation of my spirit
321. Speak then, O Lady, and thy servant will listen (Gen. 18, 17). If Thou wilt permit, although I am dust and ashes, I will state a doubt, which has occurred to me, in this chapter. Yet in all things I will remit myself to thy sweet benevolence as of my Mother, Teacher and Mistress. The doubt in which I find myself is this:
How was it possible, that Thou, the Queen of all creation, conceived without sin and endowed with a soul exalted so high in the knowledge of all things by the visions of the Divinity, shouldst be filled in spite of all these graces, with so great a fear and anxiety of losing the friendship of God and of offending Him? If in the first instant of thy existence Thou wast prevented by grace, how couldst Thou at that very instant fear to lose it? If the Most High exempted Thee from original sin, how couldst Thou fall into others, or fear to offend Him, who had preserved Thee from the first offense ?
Instruction and answer of the Queen of Heaven.
322. My daughter, hear the solution of thy difficulty.
In the vision of the Divinity I instantaneously recognized my innocence and the stainlessness of my Conception. These favors and benefits of the Almighty are of such a nature, that the more they are understood and made secure, so much the more will they excite care and solicitude for their preservation and for the avoidance of any offense of their Author. They are given to his creatures out of pure goodness and are accompanied with such clear intuition regarding their dependence on the merits of my most holy Son, that the soul immediately centers its attention only on its own unworthiness and insufficiency, convinced that it cannot merit them and that it cannot appropriate them to itself as being foreign to its nature. As they are seen to belong to such a high Master, to whom they can revert to be distributed according to his pleasure, a most deep-felt solicitude fills the soul lest it lose again, what is thus freely given. The soul therefore begins to work with great diligence in order to preserve them and to multiply the talent (Matth. 25, 15), since it understands that to be the only means of keeping the deposit and of fulfilling the object for which they were given, namely, to make them bear fruit and to contribute to the glory of the Creator. This care is precisely the condition necessary for the preservation of the benefits and graces received.
323. Besides this the soul is made to understand the human frailty and the freedom of the will for good or evil. Of this knowledge the Almighty did not deprive me, nor does He deprive any one of it, as long as he wanders through this life ; but He gives it to all according to measure, in order that by its guidance they may be filled with holy fear of falling into any fault, even the smallest. In me this light was greater and I clearly saw that a small fault prepares the way for another, and that the second is only a punishment of the first. It is true that on account of the blessings and graces of the Lord sin was impossible in me. But his Providence so disposed of this knowledge, that my absolute security from sin was hidden to me ; I saw that as far as depended on me alone I could fall, and that it was the divine will that preserved me. Thus He reserved to Himself his knowledge of my security, and left me in solicitude and holy fear of sinning during my pilgrimage. From the instant of my Conception until my death I never lost this fear, but on the contrary grew in it as life flowed on.
324. The Most High also gave me humility and discretion, not to ask or to examine too closely this mystery, but solely to direct my attention toward increasing my confidence in his goodness with a view to obtain his assistance against sin. Thence resulted those two necessary dispositions of a Christian life ; the one a quiet preservation of tranquillity in the soul, the other the constant presence of a holy fear and watchfulness, lest the treasure be lost. As this latter was a filial fear, it did not diminish love, but inflamed and increased it more and more. These two dispositions of love and fear produced in my soul a perfect harmony with the divine will, governing all my actions, so as to draw me away from evil and unite me with the highest Good.
325. This, my dear friend, is the great test of spiritual things : that they come with true enlightenment and sound doctrine ; that they teach greater perfection of virtues and excite a strong impulse toward seeking it. This is the excellence of the benefits which descend from the Father of lights, that they give assurance and confidence while making the soul humble, and that they encourage while exciting solicitude and watchfulness, though still preserving tranquillity and peace in this solicitude; for all these effects are not incompatible in fulfilling the will of God. Do thou, O soul, offer humble and fervent thanks to the Lord, because with so little deserving of thine He has been so liberal with thee and has so greatly enlightened thee with divine light, breaking for thee the seal of his secret archives and yet filling thee with holy fear of his displeasure. Nevertheless make use of this fear with measure and strive instead to excel in love. Thus with these two wings raising thyself above the earth and above thyself, try to rid thyself of the inordinate disturbance of excessive fear, and leave thy cause with the Lord and make his cause thy own. Let fear be with thee until thou art purified and cleansed of thy sins and of thy ignorance, but also love the Lord in order that thou mayest be transformed in Him, and set Him as the Master and the Arbiter of thy actions without desiring to be above any person. Do not trust thy own judgment, and be not wise in thy own conceit (Prov. 3, 7), for the judgments of men are only too easily blinded by their passions, throwing them out of their course and drawing after them the will as their captive. Thus it comes, that men fear what is not to be feared, and rejoice in that which is not profitable. Take heed lest thou be dissipated by every slight interior consolation, but hesitate and re strain thyself until thou findest with tranquil solicitude the proper measure in all things. This happy medium thou wilt always find, if thou remain subject to thy superiors and willingly accept that, which the Most High works in thee and teaches thee. Although thy undertakings may be good as regards the intentions, they must nevertheless also conform to the requirements of obedience and of prudence, for without this guidance they are usually deformed and without any profitable result. Be thou therefore in all things solicitous about that, which is most holy and perfect.