Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda

Virgin Mary Mystical City of God - Book 2 chapter 9 verses 533-552OF THE VIRTUE OF PRUDENCE AS PRACTICED BY THE MOST HOLY QUEEN OF HEAVEN.

  INDEX   Book 2  Chapter  9    Verses:  533-552

533. As the acts of the understanding go before the acts of the will and direct them on the way, the virtues pertaining to the exercise of the understanding also pre cede those of the will. Although the proper sphere of the intellect is to recognize the truth and comprehend it, thereby perhaps causing a doubt whether it can be classed as a virtue (for virtue of its very nature consists in tend ing toward and practicing the good) ; yet it is certain that there are also intellectual virtues, the practice of which is praiseworthy in proportion as they conform to reason and truth ; for these are the proper good of the intellect. When therefore it proposes truth to the will and instructs the will to follow its guidance, then this act of the intellect is theologically good, when matters of faith are concerned, and morally good when, as for instance in the exercise of prudence, the operations of the appetites are regulated. On this account the virtue of prudence comes first as pertaining to the proper use of the understanding. It is as it were the root of the other cardinal and moral virtues; for these others are praiseworthy when accompanied by prudence, and faulty and reprehensible when devoid of it.
534. The sovereign Queen Mary possessed this virtue of prudence in supreme excellence and in proportion to the height of her other virtues already described and yet to be described. On account of her wonderful prudence the Church calls her the "Virgin most prudent." As this virtue governs all the others and as this whole history treats of the exercise of these virtues in the most holy Mary, all of what little I can say and manifest of this sea of prudence will be nothing else than a continual implied reference to her prudence, and all her works will show the splendor of this virtue. Therefore I will speak here more in general of the prudence of the sovereign Queen, exhibiting the different parts and qualities of prudence as taught us by teachers and saints, in order that we may thereby obtain a better understanding of it in her regard.
535. Of the three kinds of prudence called political, purgative and that of a soul already purified or perfect, none was wanting in our Queen and they were hers in the highest degree. For, although all her faculties were most pure and perfect, or in other words, had no need of being purified from any faultiness or opposition to virtue, yet they could be improved as regards the natural knowledge and in as far as the progress from goodness and holiness to greatest goodness and holiness was concerned. This must be understood of course only of her own works, as far as they are compared with each other, and not in as far as they are brought into comparison with the works of others. For in comparison with the works of other saints there was no great or small in this City of God, whose foundations are above the holy mountains. But in her own works, since they grew in charity and grace from the first moment of her Conception, some of them, though in themselves most perfect and superior to all the works of the saints, were less perfect in comparison with other acts of a later period in her life.
536. Political prudence in general is that which ponders and weighs all that is to be done and reduces it to the dictates of reason, eschewing all that is not just and good. The purgative or purifying prudence is that which disposes and selects all things in such a way as to rectify the heart by divine contemplation toward all celestial things. The prudence of the purified or perfect soul is that which directs and centres all the affections upon the highest Good, as if no other object existed. All these kinds of prudence existed in most holy Mary in order that She might distinguish and know without fail, direct and accomplish without remissness or tardiness, what ever is most perfect and excellent in the fulfillment of her works. Never did the judgment of this sovereign Lady in the whole range of her activity, dictate or attach itself to anything which was not the best and most proper. No one ever equalled Her in disposing and directing all visible or worldly matters so as to make them useful for divine contemplation. Therefore having perceived them so intimately and in so many different lights of knowledge, She was united in such a manner to the highest Good by divine love that no preoccupation or hindrance ever pre vented Her from resting completely in the centre of her love.
537. It is manifest also that all the component parts of prudence existed in their entirety in our Queen. The first is memory, which retains in the mind things already experienced in the past From past experiences are drawn many rules for proceeding and acting in the present and in the future ; because prudence concerns itself with particular actions, and as there cannot be a general rule for all of them, it is necessary to draw special rules from many past examples and experiences stored up in the memory. Our Sovereign was so endowed with it that She never experienced the natural defect of forgetfulness ; for that which once She had understood and learnt, was ever present and immovable in her memory. In regard to this blessing most pure Mary transcended the whole human and even the angelic order, because God made Her a summary of all that was most perfect in both of them. She contained in Herself all the essential goodness of the human nature and all that was most perfect and the farthest removed from blemish in the accidental qualities of man; and many of the natural and many of the supernatural gifts of the angelic nature She possessed by special privilege and in a higher degree than the an gels themselves. One of these gifts was a fixed and constant memory, incapable of forgetting what She had learnt. In regard to her memory She excelled the angels in the same proportion as She excelled them in the virtue of prudence.
538. Only in one respect this blessing was limited in a mysterious manner by the humble purity of the most holy Mary : if the images of all things were to be fixed in the memory, it was unavoidable, that also much that springs from the vileness and sinfulness of creatures, should fill its sacred precincts. Therefore the most humble and pure Princess besought the Lord that the full gift of memory should not extend itself toward the preservation of these images, but only in so far as was necessary for the exercise of fraternal charity towards her neighbor and for the practice of other virtues. The Most High granted this petition more in testimony of her most humble purity than on account of any danger, to which these images could expose Her; for the sun is not harmed by the impurities which it may shine upon, nor are the an gels disturbed by our vileness, since to the pure all things are pure (Tit. 1, 15). But in this regard the Lord of the angels wished to privilege his Mother more than them;
He wished to tolerate in her memory only those images which pertain to the highest sanctity, honesty, cleanliness and the most amiable purity, and what was most pleasing to Himself. Thus her most holy soul, in regard to these things, was without blemish, and her memory was adorned with the representations of all that is most pure and desirable.
539. Another component part of the virtue of prudence is the intelligence which principally concerns itself with what is to be done in the present moment. It is a correct and profound understanding of the reasons and the principles, according to which virtuous actions are to be performed. It reduces this understanding into action, not only in so far as to give a comprehensive knowledge of the excellence of virtue in general, but also in so far as to direct our activity in the proper channel for per forming there and then each particular work in a virtuous and perfect manner. Thus when I have a deep understanding of the precept: "Do nothing unto others what thou wishest not to be done unto thyself," I will at once know that I shall not do this or that particular in jury, because it would seem a wrong if done to me or some one else. This kind of intelligence most holy Mary possessed in so much the higher degree than all the rest of creatures, as She exceeded them in knowledge of the moral virtues, in profound penetration regarding infallible rectitude, and in participation of the divine righteousness. In the light of this intelligence, derived from the splendors of the Divinity itself, there could be no deceit, no ignorance, no doubt, no mere opinions, as is the case with other creatures. For She understood and penetrated all the truths, both in their general and their particular bearings, and especially as far as their practical application in the matter of virtue is concerned, seeing them as they are in themselves. Thus it must be held that this part of prudence was hers in an unequalled fullness and plenitude.
540. The third component part of prudence is called providence. It is the most important of all the parts of prudence, for in human actions it is most important that the present be well ordered toward the future, so that all things may be rightly adjusted. This is effected by providence. Our Lady and Queen practiced this part of prudence in a degree even more excellent (if possible) than all the other parts of prudence; for besides the vivid memory of the past and the profound understanding of things present, She had an unerring knowledge and understanding of things to come, to which her providence extended itself. With this knowledge and infused science She so arranged all happenings that they were a preparation for the future and nothing could come upon Her unawares or by surprise. All things were by Her foreseen, considered and weighed beforehand in the sanctuary of her mind, illumined by infused light. Thus without a shade of doubt or uncertainty, such as is the lot of other men, She awaited the events before their arrival with unerring certitude, so that for all things She found a place, a time and opportune circumstances directing them all toward the Good.
541. These three parts of prudence comprehend the activity of the intellect in the practice of this virtue, for they secure the good order of our actions in regard to past, the present and the future. However, when we consider this virtue under another aspect, namely in so far as it perceives the proper means for the practice of virtue and directs the will to employ them rightly, the teachers and philosophers mention five other points or different kind of activities of prudence, namely ; docility, reasonableness, cleverness, circumspection and caution. Docility is the good judgment and readiness of the creature to be taught by others better informed than itself, and a disposition not inflated by its own knowledge, and not resting unduly on its own insight and wisdom. Reasonableness, or the power of drawing correct inferences, consists in reasoning without error from generally understood principles to the particular course of action in each single case. Cleverness is a diligent attention and practical application of our activity to that which hap pens, enabling us to judge rightly and follow the best course of action, just as docility is attention to the teachings of others. Circumspection is a just consideration of the circumstances connected with each good work; for it is not sufficient that the end of our actions be good, but it is necessary to consider the opportuneness of the circum stances. Cautiousness is a discreet attention to the dangers or impediments, so that when they occur under cover of virtue or unexpectedly, we may not be found rash or unprepared.
542. All these complements of prudence existed in the Queen of heaven without any faultiness and in their fullest perfection. Docility belonged to Mary as the legitimate daughter of her incomparable humility; for though She had received the plenitude of science from the moment of her Immaculate Conception, and though She was the teacher and the mother of true wisdom, She nevertheless allowed Herself to be taught by her elders, by her equals and by those below Her, esteeming Herself as lower than all of them and seeking to be a disciple of those who in comparison to Her were most ignorant. This docility She exhibited during all her life like a most simple dove, disguising her wisdom with a greater prudence than that of the serpent (Matth. 10, 16). As a Child She accepted instruction from her parents, from Vol. 127 her teacher in the temple, from her companions, and later on from her spouse saint Joseph, from the Apostles ; from all creatures She wished to learn, being a prodigy of humility, as I have said in another place (No. 406, 472).
543. The reasonableness or prudent judgment of most holy Mary can be easily inferred from what saint Luke says of Her: that She kept and pondered in her heart the mysterious events in the life of her most holy Son. This pondering was the reasoning which She employed, comparing cause with cause in the order in which they occurred and happened, and by this comparison She formed for Herself most prudent counsels, which enabled Her to act with the perfection peculiar to Her. Although She very often understood many things without the discourse of reasoning by a simple intuition and intelligence which exceeded all human understanding; yet, as far as the actual exercise of the virtues was concerned, She applied this process of reasoning from the abstract principles of virtue to her own practice of them.
544. In regard to cleverness and diligent application of the rules of prudence the sovereign Lady also was highly privileged ; for She was not weighed down by the heavy load of human passion and corruption, and thus She felt not our languors and tardiness in her faculties, but She was always alert, ready and very skillful in no ticing and attending to all that was necessary to come to a correct and wholesome conclusion in the performance of virtuous actions, and in striking, readily and quickly, the happy medium of virtue in her doings. Equally admirable was most holy Mary in her circumspection; for all her works were so accomplished that no point of perfection was missing, and all of them stand forth in the highest perfection possible. And as the greater part of her actions were works of charity towards the neighbor, and all of them most opportune; therefore in all her teaching, admonishing, consoling, beseeching and correcting of her neighbor, the efficacious sweetness of her reasonable and pleasing manners met with its full success.
545. The last complement of prudence, called cautiousness, which meets and evades the impediments of virtue, was necessarily also possessed by the Queen of angels in a greater perfection than by these spirits ; for her exalted wisdom and the love which accompanied it, incited Her to such caution and foresight, that no event which might be an impediment in the exercise of the most perfect virtue, found Her unprepared and unprovided with a counter remedy. And since the enemy, as will be described later on, not being able to find any hold in her passions, exerted himself so much in placing elaborate and unheard of obstacles in her way, the most prudent Virgin had occasion to practice this caution many times, thereby exciting the wonder of the Apostles. On account of the cautious discretion of the most holy Mary the demon pursued Her with a terrified wrath and envy, burning with a desire to know by what power She foiled such powerful machinations and cunning snares as he devised in order to hinder or draw Her away. For in every instance he was vanquished and had to be witness of the most perfect exercise of all that is virtuous in all her under takings and works.
546. After having mentioned and described the parts and complements of prudence, let us also examine the different species or kinds, into which it can be divided, ac cording to the object or the ends to which it is applied. Prudence can be used either in our own actions and affairs, or for the affairs of others, and thus arise two kinds of prudence, directing the activity which concerns ourselves, and that which concerns our neighbors. That which governs one s own particular activity is called enarchic prudence, and in reference to the Queen of heaven, it is not necessary to say more in proof of her having exercised this kind of prudence, than what has al ready been said above about the manner in which She regulated her own life. The prudence which regulates the government of others is called pollyarchic ; this is sub divided into four kinds, according to four different ways of governing others. The first kind is that which facilitates the government of countries by just and useful laws ; it is proper to kings, princes and monarchs and of all those whose authority is supreme. The second kind is called the political prudence, which has its name from the fact that it teaches the right government of cities or republics. The third is called economical prudence, which shows how to govern and manage domestic affairs of the family or particular homes. The fourth is military prudence, which is adapted to prosecution of wars and management of armies.
547. None of these different kinds of prudence was wanting in our great Queen. All were given to Her as habits in the instant of her Conception and of her sanctification so that no grace, no virtue, no perfection which might exalt and beautify Her above all creatures, might be wanting in Her. The Most High made Her an archive and depositary of all his gifts, an example to all the rest of creation thus giving an exhibition of his power and greatness, so that in the whole heavenly Jerusalem it might be known what He could and would do for a mere creature. And in Mary these sublime habits of virtue did not lie idle, for all of them She exercised in the course of her life on many occasions as they offered themselves. As regards economical prudence it is well known how in comparable was the government of her domestic affairs, when living with her spouse Joseph and with her most holy Son ; for in his education and service She acted with such prudence as was befitting the most occult mystery which God entrusted to men, as I shall show in another place, according to my understanding and ability.
548. She exercised also the governing or monarchical prudence as the sole Empress of the Church, teaching, advising and directing the sacred Apostles in the primitive Church, thus helping to lay its foundation and to initiate the laws, rites and ceremonies most necessary and useful for its propagation and establishment. Though She obeyed the Apostles in particular matters, and consulted especially saint Peter as the vicar of Christ and the head of the Church, and saint John as her chaplain, yet they and all the Christians asked her advice and followed it in the general and particular matters relating to the government of the Church. She also taught the Christian kings and princes who approached Her for counsel ; for many of them sought to know Her after the Ascension of her most holy Son into heaven. Among them especially can be mentioned the three Kings of the East, when they came to adore the Child. She explained and instructed them in all that they must do for their states, with such light and clearness that She was their star and guide on the way to eternity. They returned to their country en lightened, consoled and astonished at the wisdom, prudence and sweetness of the words which they had heard from the mouth of a tender Maiden. In witness of all the high praise which this Queen deserved in this regard, it is enough to hear her own words : "By me, kings reign, and law-givers decree just things, by me princes rule" (Prov. 8, 13).
549. Neither was the political prudence wanting in Her; for She taught the republics and nations, and the primitive Christians in particular, how to proceed in public acts and government of their country, how they must obey kings and secular princes, their prelates and bishops, how they are to convoke councils, issue the definitions and decrees resolved upon. Even military prudence found a place in the sovereign Queen, for also in this direction She was consulted by some of the faithful, and She instructed and taught them what was required to carry on a just war with their enemies, so as to conduct them ac cording to the justice and pleasure of the Lord. Here can also be mentioned the courage and prudence with which this powerful Lady vanquished the prince of darkness, teaching us thereby how we must battle with him; for She overcame him by an exalted wisdom and prudence, greater than that shown by David in his combat with the giant, or by Judith with Holofernes, or by Esther with Aman (I Kings, 17, 50, Judith 13, 10, Esth. 7, 6). Even if all these kinds of prudence had not been needed for the actions mentioned, yet it was proper, that this Mother of wisdom, aside of their being befitting ornaments of her most holy soul, should possess them on account of her being the Mediatrix and sole Advocate of this world. For as She was to procure by her intercession all the blessings, which God would bestow upon the human race, and since none of them were to be granted without her intercession, it was necessary, that She should know perfectly all the virtues, which She was to obtain for men, and that these blessings, next to God, their uncreated beginning, should flow from Her as from an original source.
550. There are other helps, which are attached to the virtue of prudence and which are called potential parts, being as it were instruments with which prudence works. They are, synesis, or the aptitude and readiness to form sane judgments; eubulia, the faculty of giving and suggesting good counsel; gnome, which teaches what exceptions can justly be made to general rules; and this latter is necessary for the use of epikeia, which enables us to judge what particular cases are to be decided by rules higher than the ordinary. All these perfections and excellences adorned the prudence of most holy Mary, so that no one could give such unerring counsel in all possible contingencies, nor could any one, not even the most exalted angel, form such correct judgment in all things as She. Above all was our most prudent Queen skilled in the higher principles and rules of action, and such as were above the ordinary and common laws ; but it would re quire a long discourse even to mention the instances here : many of them will be understood in the sequel of this history of her most holy life. In order to conclude this chapter on the prudence of the blessed Virgin, it is only necessary to say, that the rule by which it is to be measured, is none else than the prudence of the soul of Christ, our Lord ; for it was conformed and assimilated entirely to his, since She was to be the Coadjutrix in all the works of wisdom and prudence, per formed by the Lord of all creation and Savior of the world.

Instruction vouchsafed by the Queen of Heaven.
551. My daughter, I wish, that all that thou hast written and that thou hast understood in this chapter, be to thee an instruction and a reminder of what, I have taught thee for the government of thy actions. Write in thy heart and fix in thy mind the memory of all that thou hast learnt of my prudence in all that I have thought, desired and executed. Let this light guide thee through the midst of the darkness of human ignorance, so that thou mayst not be disturbed or confounded by the luring passions, nor especially by the malice and snares laid thee by the watchful malice of thy enemies, seeking to infect thy understanding. Not to be endowed with all the perfections of prudence, is not culpable in the creature; but to be negligent in learning the rules of prudence after having been instructed how to attain this knowledge, is a serious fault and the cause of many mistakes and errors in the conduct of affairs. On account of this negligence the passions countermand, impede, and obstruct the dictates of prudence. This is especially the case with disorderly sorrow and excessive enjoyment, which are apt to pervert the just estimation of good or bad. Thence arise two dangerous vices: precipitation in our actions, impelling us to undertake things without considering the proper means of success, and inconstancy in our good resolutions and in the works once begun. Ungoverned anger or indiscreet fervor, both cause us to be precipitate or remiss in many of our exterior actions, because they are performed without proper moderation and counsel. Hasty judgment and want of firmness in pursuing the good, cause the soul imprudently to desist from its laudable enterprise ; for it gives easy admittance to that, which is opposed to the true good, and is highly pleased, now with the true goodness, then again with what is but apparent and deceitful or is presented by the passions or by the demon.
552. Against all these dangers I wish to see thee watchful and provident ; and thou wilt be so, if thou attend to the example, which I gave thee in my life, and if thou obey the instructions and counsels of thy spiritual guides; for without them thou must do nothing, if thou wishest to proceed with docile discretion. Be assured, that the Most High will give thee plentiful wisdom; for a pure submissive and docile heart will draw from Him superabundant aid. Keep in mind always the misfortune of the imprudent and foolish virgins, who, in their thoughtless negligence, rejected wise counsel and cast aside fear, instead of being solicitous; and when after wards they sought to make up for it, they found the portal of salvation closed against them (Matth. 25, 12). See to it, therefore, my daughter, that thou unite the simplicity of the dove with the prudence of the serpent, and then thy works shall be perfect.
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