Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda

Virgin Mary Mystical City of God - Book 2 chapter 13 verses 599-614

  INDEX   Book 2  Chapter  13    Verses:  599-614

599. The seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to the light given to me on this subject, seem to me to add something to the virtues to which they refer ; and because they superadd to them, they must also differ from them, al though they pursue the same object. Every benefit conferred by the Lord can be called a gift flowing from his hand, although it may only be a natural benefit ; but here we do not speak of the gifts of God included in this wide sense of the word, not even of the infused virtues and gifts; for not all persons, who possess one or more virtues, have the gifts pertaining to those virtues, or at least they do not reach that degree of virtue that they can be called perfect gifts, such as those mentioned by Isaias and referred to by the doctors of the Church. Isaias says the Holy Ghost rested upon Christ our Lord (Is. 11, 2), enumerating seven graces, which commonly are called gifts of the Holy Ghost, namely: the spirit of wisdom and intellect, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of science and piety, and the fear of God. These gifts were in the most holy soul of Christ, overflowing from the Divinity to which it was hypostatically united, just as the water is in the fountain, flowing from it and communicating itself to other places. For we all partake of the waters of the Savior (Is. 12, 3), grace for grace, gift for gift (John 1, 16) ; and in Him are hidden the treasures of divine wisdom and science (Coloss. 2, 1).
600. The gifts of the Holy Ghost correspond to the virtues to which they are related. And although not all teachers agree in their doctrines about their correspondence, there can be no difference of opinion in regard to the end or purpose of these gifts, which is none else than to give a special kind of perfection to the faculties for the performance of exalted and heroic acts of virtue. The excellence of these gifts must principally include and con sist of some specially strong inspiration or influence of the Holy Ghost, which overcomes with greater efficacy the impediments and moves the free will with greater force, so that man be not remiss in his actions, but may proceed with great fortitude and with all perfection in those things to which that particular gift pertains. All this the free will cannot attain without being illumined and sustained by a specially efficacious and powerful influence of the Holy Ghost, which impels him, sweetly and pleasingly (Sap. Wisdom 8, 1) to follow the enlightenment, and freely to execute and accomplish what the will under the efficacious influence of the Holy Ghost, under takes (Rom. 8). Therefore this impulse is called instinct of the Holy Ghost; for although the will acts freely and without compulsion, yet in these operations it is much like a voluntary instrument and seems to be one, because it acts less under the guidance of common prudence, as in other virtues, although it does not act with less intelligence or liberty.
601. I will try to make myself understood to a certain degree by referring to two different faculties of the will that are called into action in drawing the will to pursue virtue. The one is its own inclination or attraction to ward the good, moving or stirring it in the same way as gravity causes the stone to fall or lightness makes the fire ascend toward its centre. This inclination of the will is increased more or less by the custom or habits of virtue (and the same is to be said in their degree about the habits of vice), for being drawn by love, the will moves freely and of its own accord. The other faculty is that of the intellect, which is an enlightenment in regard to virtue by which the will directs itself in determining its course of action, and this enlightenment is proportionate with the habits and the operations of the will. For the ordinary acts, prudence and whatever deliberation it in spires, are sufficient ; but for the more exalted operations it requires a higher and a superior enlightenment and incitement, that of the Holy Ghost, such as is given by the seven gifts. Since charity and grace is a supernatural habit, which depends on the divine Will in the same way as the ray depends upon the sun, therefore charity is ac companied by a particular influence of the Divinity, by which it is moved to pursue the rest of the virtues and good habits of the will, and much more so, when this charity is re-enforced by the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
602. Therefore it seems to me that I perceive in the gifts of the Holy Ghost a certain special enlightenment in which the intellect remains to a large extent merely passive as far as moving the will is concerned. In the will at the same time there is a certain perfection of its habits, which inclines it to most heroic acts in a manner far above the ordinary forces of virtuousness. As the movements of a stone, if another impulse beside gravity is added, are much accelerated, so the impulse of the will toward virtue is stronger and more excellent, if it is acted upon by the gifts. The gift of wisdom communicates to the soul a certain kind of taste by which it can distinguish the divine from the human without error, throwing all its influence and weight in all things against those inclinations which arise from human ignorance and folly; this gift is related to charity. The gift of intellect serves to penetrate into the understanding of divine things and gives a knowledge of them overwhelmingly superior to the ignorance and slowness of the natural intellect ; while that of science searches the most obscure mysteries and creates perfect teachers to oppose human ignorance ; these two gifts are related to faith. The gift of counsel guides, directs and restrains man within the rules of prudence in his inconsiderate activity. It is closely related to this its own virtue. That of fortitude expels disorderly fear and gives strength to human weakness ; it is superadded to the cardinal virtue of that name. Piety makes the heart kind, takes away its hardness and softens it against its own impiety and stubborness; it is related to religion. The fear of God lovingly humiliates the soul in opposition to pride, and is allied to humility.
603. In the most holy Mary were all the gifts of the Holy Ghost as in one who was undoubtedly capable of and entitled to them ; for She was the Mother of the divine Word, from whom the Holy Ghost, the Giver of them, proceeds. Moreover, since these gifts were to correspond to her dignity of Mother of God, it follows, that they were in Her in a measure proportionate to that dignity, and as different from that of all the rest of the creatures as her position of Mother of God excels that of ordinary creatures. This was necessary also because She enjoyed at the same time impeccability, while the other creatures stand in such a distant relation to the Holy Spirit, not only on account of their common sin, but on account of their place in creation, having no such proximity to the Holy Ghost. If these gifts existed in Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, as in their fountainhead, they were in Mary as in a lake or ocean, from whence they are distributed over all creation : for from her superabundance they overflow into the whole Church. This is referred to by Solomon in the book of Proverbs, when Wisdom is made to say : that She builds for Herself a house on seven pillars, etc., and in it She prepares the table, mixes the wine, and invites the little ones and the uninstructed ones drawing and raising them up from their childhood to teach them prudence (Prov. 9, 1, 2). I will not stop to expatiate on this, but every Catholic knows, that most holy Mary was this magnificent mansion of the Most High, built up in strength and beauty on these seven pillars of the gifts, so that in this mystic palace might be held the banquet of the whole Church. In Mary was prepared the table, at which all we uninstructed little ones, children of Adam, may become satiated with the activities and gifts of the Holy Ghost.
604. When speaking of these gifts as acquired by the discipline in the exercise of virtue and the conquest of the contrary vices, the first place must be assigned to fear of God. In regard to Christ, Isaias begins by mentioning the gift of wisdom, the highest one, because Christ received them as the Master and as the Head, and not as a disciple. In the same order we are to consider them in the most holy Mary, for in gifts She was made more similar to her most holy Son, than other creatures. The gift of wisdom confers a certain enlightenment, like a second taste, by which the intellect as it were tastes the hidden truth and searches into the highest and ultimate causes of things, while the will, with this same taste of truth in the highest good, distinguishes the real good from the apparent good without fail. For he is truly wise, who perceives without mistake the true good in order to taste of it, and who tastes it in perceiving it. This taste of wisdom consists in rejoicing in the highest good by an intimate union of love, upon which follows the savouring and relishing of the particular good gained and realized by the exercise of the virtues inferior to love. Therefore he is not called wise, who merely perceives truth in a speculative manner, although he may find his delight in that pursuit: nor is he called wise, who practices virtue merely for the sake of obtaining a knowledge of it, and still less he who practices it for other reasons. But he, that perceives the highest and the true good, and in it and for it also the minor truths, and who, on account of the relish of this truth, acts with a sincere and unitive love of that good, is the one who will be truly wise. This perception or knowledge is supplied to wisdom by the gift of intellect, which precedes and accompanies it, and which consists in an intimate penetration into the divine truths, and in the perception of all that can be reduced and pave the way toward them; for the Spirit searches the pro found things of God, as the Apostle says (I Cor. 2, 10).
605. This same spirit will be necessary in order to understand and in order to explain to a certain extent the gifts of wisdom and intellect possessed by Mary, the Empress of heaven. The impetus of the river, which was withheld by the highest Goodness for so many eternal ages, rejoiced this City of God by its flow, and through inhabitation of the Only-begotten of the Father and Her self, completely filled her most holy soul; so that it seemed, (according to our way of speaking), as if the infinite oceans of the Divinity were drained into this sea of wisdom as soon as She was capable of invoking the Spirit of wisdom. And in order that She might invoke Him, He came to Her, that She might learn wisdom with out guile and communicate it without envy (Wisdom 7, 13). This She also did; for by means of her wisdom, the light of the world, the eternal incarnate Word manifested Itself to the world, This most wise Virgin knew in her wisdom the arrangement of the whole world and the powers of the elements (Wisdom 7, 17), the beginning, the middle, and the end of time with its mutations, the course of the stars, the natures of the animals, the fury of the wild beasts, the powers of the winds, the dispositions and thoughts of men, the virtues of plants, herbs, trees, fruits and roots, the hidden and occult things beyond all thoughts of men, the mysterious ways of the Most High : all this Mary, our Queen, knew and She de lighted in it through the wisdom, which She drew from its original fountain and which was embodied in all her thoughts.
606. Thence did She receive that vapor of the power of God and the bright emanation of his pure charity, which made Her immaculate and preserved Her from the pollution, which stains the soul ; and on this account She remained a mirror without blur reflecting the Majesty of God. Thence did She draw the spirit of intelligence, be longing to wisdom, a spirit holy, single, manifold, subtle, eloquent, active, undefiled, sure, sweet, loving the good without impediment, beneficent, gentle, kind, steadfast, assured, secure, having all power, overseeing all things and understanding all things with clearness and with a subtlety reaching from one end to the other (Wisdom 7, 22). All these qualities, which the wise man mentions as belonging to the Spirit of Wisdom, were in a singularly perfect manner the property of Mary most holy, secondary only to the manner in which they were possessed by her Only-begotten. Together with wisdom came to Her all good (Wisdom 7, 11) and in all her works She was led on by these high gifts of wisdom and intellect. By them She was governed in the exercise of all the rest of her virtues, being as it were saturated with this incomparable wisdom.
607. Something has already been said of Her other gifts, when speaking of the gifts in general; but since all that we can understand and say is so far beneath that which is really to be found in this mystical city of Mary, there always remains much to add. The gift of counsel, in the order given by Isaias, follows that of the intellect ; it consists in a supernatural illumination, by which the Holy Ghost touches the interior, enlightening it beyond all human and ordinary intelligence and thereby inclining the soul to choose all that is most profitable, most decent and just, and to reject all that is of the contrary kind. It leads back the will by the immaculate and eternal laws of God to the standard of one single love, conforming it to perfect desire of the highest Good. Thus divinely instructed, the creature lays aside the multitude of the diverse inclinations, and the foreign and the inferior affections and movements that may retard or hinder the human heart from listening to or following the divine impulses and counsels, or that may prevent man from conforming to the living example of Christ our Lord, who in highest council has said to the eternal Father: "Not my will be done, but thine" (Matth. 26, 39).
608. The gift of fortitude is the participation of influence of a divine virtue, which the Holy Ghost communicates to the created will, in order that it may be happily encouraged to raise itself above all that is passing and all that is wont to inspire human weakness with fear in temptations, sorrows, tribulations and adversities. Overcoming and vanquishing them all, the will acquires and maintains in itself all that is most arduous and excellent in virtue; it transcends and surpasses all the virtues, graces, spiritual and interior exaltations, revelations, sensible ecstasies of love ; no matter of what degree and excellence, it leaves all behind and soars upward in divine flight, until it reaches the highest and the most intimate union with the supreme Good after which it longed with the most ardent desire. Then in truth flows the sweetness from strength (Judges 14, 14), having conquered all things in Him that strengthened it (Philip. 4, 13). The gift of science is an intelligent and unerring knowledge of what must be believed and done in regard to the virtues, and it differs from counsel, in so far as science selects, while counsel decides; science forms a correct judgment and counsel makes the wise choice. Science differs also from intelligence, because intelligence penetrates into the divine truths of faith and virtues by means of a simple in tuition, while science knows authoritatively all that can be deduced from the principles of faith, conforming the outward operations of the faculties to the perfection of the virtues and being as it were the mother and the root of discretion.
609. The gift of piety is a divine virtue or influence by which the Holy Ghost softens, or as it were smoothens or melts the human will, moving it to embrace all that pertains to the service of the Most High and to the welfare of the neighbor. By means of this softening and sweet mildness of the mind, our will is ever ready, and our memory always attentive, so that in all times and places and circum stances we are ready to praise, bless, thank and honor the highest Good; and likewise we are moved to act with a tender and loving compassion toward creatures, without failing them in their troubles and necessities. This gift is not hindered, when it meets envy and it overlooks hate, avarice, and spurns weakness, or littleness of mind; for it causes in man a strong and delightful inclination by which it proceeds sweetly and lovingly to fulfill all the works of the love of God and the neighbor, making him benevolent, ready to do a service, kind and diligent. On that account the Apostle says, that the exercise of piety is useful for all things (I Tim. 4, 8) and that it has the promise of eternal life, being a most noble instrument of charity.
610. In the last place comes the gift of fear, so highly praised, exalted and recommended in many places of the holy Scriptures and by the holy teachers, as the foundation of Christian perfection and as the beginning of true wisdom; for the fear of God before all other things resists, banishes and destroys the arrogant foolishness of men. This important gift consists in a loving heedfulness and a most noble modesty and restraint, by which the soul withdraws within itself making it conscious of its own lowly condition, comparing its lowliness with the supreme majesty and greatness of God, not attending merely to its own sentiments, preventing it to be wise in its own conceit, and thus rilling it with awe, as the Apostle teaches (Rom. 11, 21). This gift of fear has its different degrees ; in the beginning it is called initial, and afterwards it becomes filial fear ; for first the soul commences to flee from guilt, as contrary to the highest Good ; and then it proceeds still farther in its self abasement and self contempt, comparing its own littleness with God s majesty, its ignorance with his wisdom, its poverty with his infinite riches. Thus, finding itself in all things dependent on God s divine will, it humiliates and subjects itself beneath all creatures for the sake of God, acting toward Him and towards them with a sincere love. It finally reaches the perfection of the sons of God and arrives at the intimate union of its powers with the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
611. If I should dilate still more in the explanation of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, I would far exceed the limits which I have set, and I would have to extend disproportionately this discourse: that which I have said of these gifts seems to me sufficient for the understanding of their nature and their qualities. This understanding will en able us properly to consider, how these gifts of the Holy Ghost were possessed by the sovereign Queen of heaven not only in an ordinarily sufficient degree, such as is commonly possessed by other saints ; but that they were in this Lady in such an excellent and privileged a degree, as would not fall to the lot of the saints, nor be proper to anyone inferior to Her in sanctity. Having then under stood, in what holy fear, piety, fortitude, science and counsel consist and in how far they are gifts of the Holy Ghost, let the human estimation and angelic understanding dilate, let them soar in thought to the noblest, the most excellent, the most perfect and the most divine: greater than all this, and above whatever else creatures in their entirety can conceive, will be the gifts of Mary, and the lowest of the perfections of Mary will scarcely be within reach of the highest that can enter the thoughts of man ; just as in the same manner the highest perfections of our Lady and Queen attain only in a certain sense the lowest of Christ and the Divinity.

Instructions vouchsafed by Mary the Most Holy Queen.
612. My daughter, these most noble and excellent gifts of the Holy Ghost, which thou hast come to understand, are the emanations of the Divinity communicating them selves to and transforming the holy souls: on their own part they do not admit of any limitation but only on the part of the subject upon which they act. If the creatures would empty their hearts of earthly love and affections, although their heart is limited, they would participate without measure in the torrent of the infinite Godhead through the inestimable gifts of the Holy Ghost. The virtues purify the creature from the ugliness and guilt of its vices, and thereby they begin to restore the disconcert ed order of its faculties, which was first lost by original sin and afterwards increased by actual sins; they add beauty to the soul, strength and joy in doing good. But the gifts of the Holy Ghost raise these same virtues to a sublime perfection, adornment and beauty, by which they dispose, beautify and fill the soul with graces and introduce it to the chamber of its Spouse, where it remains united with the Divinity in a spiritual bond of eternal peace. From this most blessed condition it proceeds faithfully and truthfully to the practice of heroic virtues ; and laden with them it returns to the same source from which it issued forth, namely God himself. In his shadow it rests and is satiated, freed from the impetuous fury of the passions and their disorderly appetites. Such a happiness however is the lot of few, and only by experience can it actually be known, who does attain it.
613. Take heed therefore, my dearest, and study profoundly how thou canst ascend to the height of these gifts ; for it is the will of the Lord and mine, that thou ascend higher up as a guest in the feast (Luc. 14, 10) which is prepared for thee in all the sweetness of his blessed gifts (Ps. 20, 4) and to which thou hast been invited for this very purpose by this excess of liberality. Remember that there are only two ways to eternity : the one, which leads to eternal death by contempt of virtue and ignorance of the Divinity; the other, which leads to eternal life by the profitable knowledge of the Most High ; for this is eternal life (Joh. 17, 3), that men know the way to Him and to his Only-begotten, whom He sent into the world. The way of death is trodden by innumerable wicked ones (Eccles. 1, 14), who are unaware of their own ignorance, presumption and insipid pride. To those, whom his mercy calls to his admirable light (1 Pet. 2,9), and whom He engenders anew as sons of light, God gives by this regeneration a new being in faith, hope and charity, making them his own and heirs of an eternal and godlike fruition. Having been made sons they are endowed with the virtues accompanying the first justification, in order that as sons of light, they may perform corresponding works of light ; and over and above they receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost. And just as the material sun denies its light and warmth to nothing that is capable and fit for its influence, so also the divine Wisdom, emitting its voice on the high mountains, on the royal highway and in the most hidden paths, invites and calls out to all, and hides itself or denies itself to no one (Prov. 8,1). But the foolishness of men makes them stupid and deaf, their impious malice makes them scoffers, and their unbelieving perversity turns them away from God, whose Wisdom finds no place in the malevolent heart (Wisdom 1, 4), nor in a body subject to sin.
614. Thou however, my daughter, remember thy promises, thy vocation and thy aspirations; for the tongue which lies to God, is an abominable murderer of the soul (Wisdom 1, 11, 12) : see that thou do not pursue death in the error of this life, nor draw upon thyself ruin by the work of thy hands (Cant. 2, 4), as by divine light, thou hast seen the sons of darkness do. Fear the powerful God and Lord with an humble and a well-ordered fear, and in all thy works be governed by that Master. Make thy heart gentle, yielding and docile to discipline and works of piety. Judge of things according to the true value of virtue and vice. Animate thyself with an in vincible fortitude to strive after the most arduous and exalted, and to endure the most adverse and exacting labors. By discretion choose the means for attaining to these results. Give way to the force of the divine light, by which thou canst transcend all sensible things, rise to the highest knowledge of the hidden secrets of divine wisdom and distinguish between the things of the new and of the old man. Then wilt thou be made capable of partaking of this wisdom; for then thou wilt enter into the wine-cellar of thy Spouse and be inebriated with his love, and his eternal charity will be well ordered in thee.
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