463. Let us now return to our heavenly narrative.
After the most holy Child had begun to consecrate the temple by her holy presence and daily life, She grew from day to day in wisdom and grace, before God and before men. The understanding which was given me of that, which the powerful hand of God proceeded to work in the heavenly Princess during these years, place me as it were at the shore of a vast and unmeasured sea, leaving me lost in astonishment and doubt as to how I am to embark on such an immense ocean for the destined port. For I am forced to leave much unsaid, and it is difficult to describe even the smallest part. I will relate that, which the Most High explained to me on one occasion in his own words:
464. “The works of Her, who was to be the Mother of the God-man, were altogether and in every way most perfect, and even to understand them exceeds the capacity of all human creatures and of the angels. Her interior acts of the virtues were so precious and of such great merit and favor, that they surpass all that the seraphim can do ; and thou, my soul, wilt much better understand, than be able to explain them with words of thy tongue. But it is my will, that during thy pilgrimage in thy mortal body thou place most holy Mary as the beginning of thy joy, and that thou follow Her through the desert of renunciation and abnegation of all that is human and visible. Follow Her by a perfect imitation according to the measure of thy strength and of the light which thou receivest. Let Her be thy guiding star and thy Directress : She will manifest to thee my will and will let thee find my holy law which is written in Her by the power of my right hand : meditate upon it day and night. She by her inter cession will strike the rock of Christ s humanity (Num. 20, 11), in order that in this desert may abound the waters of divine grace and light, so that thy thirst may be quenched, thy understanding enlightened, and thy will inflamed. She will be a pillar of light to illuminate thy path (Exod. 13, 21) and a cloud to afford thee shade and refreshment against the ardors of thy passions and the fierceness of thy enemies.”
465. “Thou wilt have in Her an angel, who will guard and guide thee, and (Exod. 23, 21) lead thee away from the dangers of Babylon and of Sodom, so that my punishment shall not reach thee. Thou wilt have in Her a Mother to love thee, a Friend to counsel thee, a Mistress to direct thee, a Protectress to shield thee and a Queen whom thou canst serve and obey as a handmaid. In the virtues, which this Mother of the Only-begotten exercised in the temple, thou wilt find a summary of all the highest perfections according to which thou shouldst arrange thy life ; an exact and reliable copy of all her sanctity ; the beauty of virginity, the loveliness of humility, the utmost promptness in devotion and obedience, the stead fastness of faith, the certitude of hope, the fire of love and the most complete outline map of all the wonders of my right hand. According to this rule thou must regulate thy life, by this mirror thou must arrange and adorn it, adding to the beauty and grace of a bride that wishes to enter into the chamber of her Spouse and Lord.”
466. “If the nobility and condition of the teacher are a spur to the disciple and tend to make his doctrine more acceptable, who can attract thee more powerfully than thy Instructress, who is the Mother of thy Spouse, chosen as the most pure and holy among women, and without blemish of sin, being at the same time a Virgin and the Mother of the Only-begotten of the eternal Father, the splendor of his Divinity in his own essence? Hear then this sovereign Mistress; follow Her in close imitation, and meditate without ceasing upon her admirable excellence and virtues. Remember, that the life and conversation She led in the temple is the original, which all the souls, that consecrate themselves after Her as spouses of Christ, must copy within themselves.” The above is the explanation and instruction, which the Most High gave me in outline concerning the life and conduct of the most holy Mary in the temple.
467. But let us proceed now to a more particular description of her actions. After the vision of the Divinity, described in the second chapter, after She had offered Herself entirely to the Lord and delivered up to her in structress all that She possessed, being thus deprived of all, entirely bound over to obedience, and hiding, beneath the veil of these virtues, treasures of grace and wisdom greater than that of the seraphim, She requested the priest and her teacher to prescribe for Her an order of life and to direct Her in the occupations, which She was to assume. The priest and her instructress, having together considered her petition with the aid of a special enlightenment from on high and desiring to regulate from now on the exercises of this heavenly Child of only three years, called Her to their presence. The Princess of heaven remained kneeling before them during this interview and, although they bade Her rise, She begged most humbly to be allowed to remain in this reverent position in the presence of the minister and priest of the Most High and of her teacher, on account of their office and dignity.
468. The priest spoke to Her and said: “My Daughter, as a very young Child the Lord has drawn Thee to his house and holy temple; be thankful for this favor and seek to profit by it by striving hard to serve Him in truth and with an upright heart. Acquire all the virtues, in order that thou mayest return from this holy place pre pared and fortified against the troubles and the dangers of this world. Obey thy Mistress Anne and commence early to bear the sweet yoke of virtue, in order that thou mayest find it more easy to bear during the rest of thy life” (Thren. 3, 27). The sovereign Child answered: “Do thou, my master, who art the minister and priest of God and boldest his place, and thou my Mistress together with him, command and instruct me in whatever I am to do so that I may not commit any fault : this I beg of you, wishing to obey you in all things.”
469. The priest and her teacher Anne felt within them selves a great enlightenment and a divine impulse to at tend especially to this heavenly Child and to care for Her more than the other maidens. Conferring with themselves about this great esteem, with which they had been inspired, though ignorant of the mystery by which it came to them, they resolved to devote particular attention to her guidance and assistance. But as their care could ex tend only to the exterior and visible actions, they were far from suspecting the interior acts and inspirations of her heart, for over these the Most High watched with singular protection and favor. Thus the pure heart of the Princess of heaven remained free to advance and grow in interior vision, without losing one instant, in which She did not reach what is highest and most excellent in virtue.
470. The priest also gave Her a rule for her occupations and said : “My Daughter thou wilt assist at the exercises of divine praise and song in honor of the Lord with all reverence and devotion, and always pray to the Most High for the necessities of his holy temple and of his people, and for the coming of the Messias. At eight o clock thou wilt retire for sleep and at the beginning of dawn thou wilt arise in order to praise the Lord until the third hour (this hour corresponds to our nine o clock in the morning). From the third hour until evening thou wilt occupy thyself in some manual works, in order that thou mayest be instructed in all things. At meals, of which thou wilt partake after thy exercise, observe be fitting moderation. Then thou wilt go to hear the instructions of thy teacher; the rest of the day thou wilt en gage thyself in the reading of holy Scriptures, and in all things be humble, affable, and obedient to the commands of thy instructress.”
471. The most holy Child remained on her knees, while She listened to the words of the priest and then asked his blessing; having kissed his hand and the hand of her mis tress, She proposed in her heart to observe the order of life assigned Her during her stay in the temple and as long as they should not command her otherwise. And She, who was the Mistress of sanctity, fulfilled their orders as if She were the least of all the scholars. Her de sires and her most ardent love impelled Her to many other external exercises, which they had not included in their orders; but with regard to these She subjected Herself to the minister of the Lord, preferring the sacrifice of a perfect and holy obedience to the high dictates of her own fervor. She knew, as Mistress of all perfection, that the divine will is more surely fulfilled by the humble acquiescence of obedience, than in following the highest aspirations to other virtues. By this rare example let souls, and especially those in the religious state, learn not to follow their own effervescences and whims contrary to obedience and the will of their superiors ; for in the latter God makes known to us his desire and pleasure, whereas in the form er we seek only our own fancies; in the superiors God himself operates, in ourselves (if we work contrary to their orders), temptations, blind passion and deceit is active.
472. In the performance of works not commanded Her our Queen and Lady distinguished Herself from other maidens by asking her teacher to be allowed to serve them all and be engaged in the humble occupation of scrubbing and cleaning the rooms and of washing the dishes. Al though this seemed extraordinary, especially in one of the firstborn children, who were treated with greater consideration and respect, yet the incomparable humility of the heavenly Princess could not be restrained or confined by any consideration of what was due to her position, but reached out for the most humble occupations. With such an eager humility She knew how to gain time and opportunity for doing such work, that She was beforehand in assuming the tasks of others. By means of her infused science She understood all the mysteries and ceremonies of the temple; but She was anxious to learn them also by study and practice, as if She were ignorant of them, nor did She ever fail in any ceremony or duty, no matter how small. She was most eager for humiliation and most sub missive in her self-contempt; every morning and evening She asked the blessing of her teacher and kissed her hand, and the same She did whenever She was ordered or was permitted to perform works of humility. Sometimes, when it was allowed Her, She kissed her feet with pro found humility.
473. The sovereign Princess was so docile, so sweet and friendly in her actions, so ready to serve and so eager and diligent in humbling Herself, so anxious to show kindness and esteem toward all the maidens in the temple, obeying them as if each had been Her Mistress, that She ravished all the hearts. By Her ineffable and heavenly prudence She proceeded in all her actions in such a manner, that She never lost an occasion for engaging in lowly work, in humble service of her companions, and in the fulfillment of the divine pleasure.
474. But what shall I, most vile creature, and what shall all faithful children of the Catholic Church think, when describing and considering such a vivid example of humility ? It seems to us great virtue, when the inferior obeys the superior, the lowly yields to the exalted ; and we esteem it a great humility, that the equal submit to his equal. But when the inferior commands and the superior obeys, when the Queen humbles Herself before her slave, when the most holy and the most perfect of all creatures submits to a mere wormlet, the Queen of heaven and earth to the least of women, and when this is done with all her heart and in all sincerity: who is not astonished and confounded in his vapid pride? W-ho will not see, as in a clear mirror, his unhappy presumption? Who can convince himself, that he knows what true humility is, much less exercise it, when he sees it exhibited, in its real ity and in its own element, the most holy Mary? Let us souls, who live under the vow of obedience, approach this light in order to perceive and correct the disorders, which show themselves, whenever obedience to our god-given superiors requires renouncement of our whims and therefore becomes hard and troublesome. Here let our hardness be crushed, let the proudest humiliate her self and be confounded in her shameful pride ; let her banish all presumption and let her not account herself obedient and humble, because on certain occasions she has yielded to the superiors, for she is yet far from thinking herself inferior and beneath her companion, as Mary did, who is superior to all.
475. The beauty, grace, elegance and courteousness of our Queen were incomparable ; for all the natural graces and gifts, which were hers in a most perfect degree, were re-enforced by the splendor of supernatural or divine grace, and effected a marvellous union of grace and beauty in all her being and activity, enthralling all in love and admiration of Her. Divine Providence moderated the out ward demonstrations of this affection, which those who conversed with Her, would have shown, if they had been left to the natural force of their spontaneous love of the Queen. In eating and in sleep, as in all other virtues, She was most perfect : She observed the measure dictated by temperance ; never did She exceed, nor could She, rather She deducted from the necessary. Although her curtailed sleep did not interrupt her high contemplation, as I have said before (No. 352), yet She would have gladly omitted it altogether ; in virtue of obedience however, She retired to rest at the time appointed, and on her humble and poor couch, strewn with the flowers of virtue (Cant. 1, 15) and surrounded by the seraphim and the angelic host who guarded and assisted Her, She enjoyed more exalted contemplation (outside of beatific vision), and more ardent ecstasies of love, than all of them together.
476. She divided her time and applied it with rare prudence so as to give to each of her actions and occupations its proper share. She read much in the sacred writings of the ancients and, by means of her infused science, She was so well versed in them and in all their profound mysteries, that none of them was unfamiliar to Her; for the Most High made known to Her all their mysteries and sacraments ; She treated and conversed about them in her conferences with the holy angels of her guard, familiarizing Herself with them and asking about them with in comparable intelligence and great acuteness. If this sovereign Mistress had written what She understood, we would have many other additions to the sacred Scriptures ; and we would be able to draw out of them a perfect under standing of those writings and the deep meanings and mysteries of all those preserved in the Church. All the plenitude of this science She utilized for the worship, praise and love of God : to this She applied all knowledge without allowing one ray of her divine enlightenment to remain sterile or idle. She was most subtle in discourse, most profound in her intelligence, most exalted and loving in her thoughts, most prudent in her choice and arrangement, most efficacious and sweet in her operations, and in all things She was a most perfect example and an object of admiration for men and angels, and even, in a way, for the Lord himself, who had formed Her altogether according to his heart and pleasure.
Instruction of the Sovereign Mistress
477. My daughter, human nature is imperfect and re miss in practicing virtue, and easily weakens in its exercise ; for it continually seeks rest and evades labor with all its might. When the soul listens to and extemporizes with the animal and carnal part of its nature this latter will en gross and overcome the forces of reason and of the spirit, and will reduce them to a dangerous and shameful slavery. This disorder is abominable and much to be feared by all ; but God abhors it without comparison more in his ministers and in religious : they, as a matter of course, are sup posed to be perfect, and therefore are injured so much the more seriously, if they do not come out victorious in the conflict of the passions. By remissness in battle and by their frequent defeats they live themselves into a paralysing and self-satisfied conviction of false security, content with the performance of certain easy outward practices of virtue, at the same time imagining (without the least real advancement) that they are moving mountains. The demon then introduces other distractions and temptations, and on account of their small appreciation of the rules and practices of religion, they begin to weaken in all of them, esteem them as light and unimportant matter, and, living on in their false security, come to lose the very perception of true virtue.
478. I desire that thou, my daughter, guard against this error. Remember, that a voluntary remissness in regard to one imperfection prepares and opens the way for others : these facilitate the commission of venial sins, these again of mortal sins. Thus the descent is from one abyss to another, until the bottom is found in the disregard of all evil. In order to prevent such a misfortune it is necessary to intercept from afar the current of sin, for the practice or ceremony, which seems but small, is an outwork which keeps the enemy at a distance, while the precepts and laws concerning more important matters are the for tress walls of conscience. If the demon can break through and gain the outer defenses, he is in better position to gain the inner ones. If then an opening is made in the bulwarks by the commission of sin, although it may not be a very grievous one, he already has a better opportunity to make an assault on the interior reign of a soul. As the soul finds herself weakened by vicious acts and habits and without strength of grace, she does not resist the attack with fortitude, and the devil, acquiring more and more power over her, begins to subject and oppress her with out opposition.
479. Consider therefore now, my dearest, how great must be thy watchfulness, and how great is the necessity of not falling asleep in the midst of so many dangers. Re member that thou art a religious, a spouse of Christ, a superior, taught and enlightened, favored with so many singular blessings. By these privileges and many others, which thou wilt find connected with them, thou shouldst gage thy solicitude, for thou owest a return and correspondence in all of them to the Lord. Exert thyself to be punctual in the fulfillment of all the rules and practices of religion ; let there be no rule, no command, and no exercise of perfection, which ever will seem small to thee; despise or forget none of them ; observe them all with rig or, for in the eyes of God all is precious and of great import when practiced according to his pleasure. It is certain, that He finds pleasure in seeing his commands fulfilled, and is offended in seeing them set aside. Therefore in all things consider, that thou hast a Spouse, whom thou must please, a God, whom thou must serve, a Father, whom thou must obey, a Judge, whom thou must fear, and a Mistress, whom thou shouldst imitate and follow.
480. In order that thou mayest fulfill all this, thou must renew in thy soul the strong resolution not to listen to thy inclinations, not to yield to the negligence and weakness of thy nature ; do not omit any practice or exercise on account of its difficulty, as for instance kissing the ground, as thou has been accustomed to do according to the custom of the religious. Both small and great per form with a loving constancy and thus thou wilt be pleas ing in the eyes of my Son and myself. In the works of supererogation, after praying for a holy alacrity, ask ad vice of thy confessor and superior, and perform them with a spirit entirely free of any predilection or self-love. That which they direct, accept and write in thy heart, never resting in its punctual fulfillment. If it is possible to avail thyself of obedience and counsel, never decide for thyself on anything, how good soever it may appear to thee ; for the true will of God is always manifest in holy obedience.