Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda


  INDEX   Book 3  Chapter  13    Verses:  158-179

158. The deeper I begin to understand the divine ef
fects and conditions which were caused by the concep
tion of the eternal Word in the Queen of heaven, the
more am I involved in the difficulties of describing this
event. For I find myself immersed in exalted and com
plicated mysteries, while my intellect and my power of
expression are entirely insufficient for encompassing what
is presented to me. Nevertheless my soul experiences
such great sweetness and such delight in spite of this
deficiency, that I cannot bring myself to repent entirely
of my undertaking ; at the same time obedience animates
me and also compels me to overcome the hardships,
which in a weak and womanly mind would be insuper
able, if the assurance and encouragement coming from
this source would not assist me. This is true especially
of this chapter, in which I am to treat of the gifts of
glory enjoyed by the blessed in heaven. Taking their
prerogatives as models I will try to describe the state of
the heavenly Empress Mary after becoming the Mother
of God.
159. For this purpose I will speak of the blessed from
two points of view : of their own perfection and of their
relation to God. As regards the latter, the Divinity is
made clear and manifest to them with all its perfections
and attributes. This is called the object of their beati-
tude, their glory, the substantial joy, the ultimate
end, wherein the whole creature finds its adequate end
and rest. On the part of the saints there are the beatific
operations of vision and love, and of others necessarily
connected with that most happy state, which neither the
eyes have seen, nor ears have heard, nor can enter into
the thoughts of men (Is. 64, 4; I Cor. 2, 29). Among
the gifts and prerogatives of this glory of the saints,
some are called endowments freely given as to a spouse
entering upon the spiritual matrimony, which is con
summated in the joys of the eternal felicity. Just as
the earthly spouse acquires possession and dominion of
her endowments and enjoys in common with her hus
band the use of them, so also in glory these gifts are
made to the saints as their own, while their use is com
mon both to them, in as far as they themselves rejoice
in them, and to God, in as far as He is glorified in them
by the saints. And these ineffable gifts are more or
less excellent according to the merits and the dignities of
each. But they are not given to those, who are not of the
same nature as the Spouse, namely Christ our Lord;
hence only to men, not to angels. For the incarnate
Word has not entered into any espousals with the angels,
(Heb. 2, 16) as He has done with men, by uniting Him
self with them in that great sacrament mentioned by the
Apostle, (Eph. 5, 32), in Christ and in the Church. Since,
however, the Bridegroom Christ, as man, is composed
of body and soul, just like the rest of men, therefore
both body and soul are to be glorified in his presence
and the gifts of glory are both for the body and the
soul. Three of these gifts pertain to the soul and they
are called vision, comprehension and fruition; and four
pertain to the body: clearness, impassibility, subtility
and agility, and these are properly the effects of intuitive
vision overflowing from the glory of the soul.
160. In all these gifts our Queen Mary participated
to a certain extent already in this life; especially after
the Incarnation of the Word in her virginal womb. It
is true that these gifts are given to the saints as comprehensors,
being pledges and dowries of the eternal and
imperishable felicity, and as it were securities for
the unchangeableness of their state. On that account
they are not conferred upon those still on the way to
heaven. But upon holy Mary these gifts were conferred
as a viator; hence not as on a comprehensor, not per
manently, but from time to time and step by step, and
with a certain difference, as we shall explain. In order
that the appropriateness of this rare blessing in the
sovereign Queen may be the better understood, let that,
which I have said in the seventh and following chapters
before the Incarnation, be remembered; for there the
preparation and espousal with which the Most High
favored his most blessed Mother in accordance with
her dignity, are explained. On the day in which the
divine Lord assumed human nature in her virginal womb,
this spiritual marriage, as far as the heavenly Lady is
concerned, was consummated by that most exalted and
exquisite beatific vision, which, as we have said, was
then vouchsafed to Her. But for the other faithful the
Incarnation was as it were an espousal, which is to be
consummated in their heavenly fatherland (Osea 2, 19).
161. Our great Queen possessed another prerequisite
for these privileges: She was exempt from all stain of
original and actual sin and was confirmed in grace by
actual impeccability. Thus She was capable of celebrat
ing this marriage in the name of the Church militant
and to make promises in the name of all its members
(Eph. 5, 32) ; for in this matter, as She was the Mother
of the Savior, his foreseen merits found their applica
tion through Her. By her transient vision of the glory
of the Divinity, She became the accepted surety for all
the children of Adam, that this same reward will not
be denied to any of those, who shall use the grace of
their Redeemer to merit it. The divine incarnate Word
certainly was highly pleased to find, that his most burn
ing love and his infinite merits should immediately bear
fruit in Her, who at the same time was his Mother, his
first Spouse and the bridal chamber of his Divinity;
and that his rewards should fall upon One, in whom
there was no hindrance. By conferring these privileges
and favors upon his most holy Mother, Christ our Salva
tion, indulged and partly satiated his love for Her and
in Her, for all the mortals ; too long a delay did it seem
to the divine love, to wait thirty-three years until He
should manifest his Divinity to his own Mother. Al
though He had shown Her this favor at other times,
as related in the first part (No. 382, 429), yet on this
occasion of his Incarnation He did it in a more excel
lent manner; one which corresponded with the glory,
of his most holy soul. However, all this in Her was
not permanent, but renewed from moment to moment
with the flow of time, in as far as was compatible with
the ordinary state of pilgrimage.
162. Conformably to this, God, on the day in which
most holy Mary assumed the position of Mother of the
eternal Word by conceiving Him in Her womb, invested
us with a right to our Redemption, founded upon the
espousal of the human nature with Himself. In the
consummation of this spiritual marriage by the beatifica
tion of the most holy Mary and the conferring upon
Her the gifts of glory, the same reward was also prom
ised to us, if we should make ourselves worthy of it
through the merits of his most holy Son, our Redeemer.
But so far did the Lord raise his Mother above all the
glory of the saints in the blessings of this day, that all
the angels and men, even in their highest reaches of
beatific vision and love, cannot attain to that which the
heavenly Queen then attained; the same must also be
said of the gifts of glory, which overflowed from the
soul to her body ; for all of them corresponded with her
innocence, holiness and merits, and these again corre
spond with that highest of all dignities possible to a crea
ture: that of being the Mother of her Creator.
163. Coming now to these gifts in particular, the first
gift to her soul was the clear and beatific vision, which
corresponds to the obscure knowledge of faith in the
viators. This vision was given to the most holy Mary
at the times and in the manner already explained and
to be explained later. Besides these intuitive visions,
She had many other abstractive ones of the Divinity,
of the kind mentioned above. Although all these were
transient, yet they left in her mind most exquisite and
various images furnishing Her with such a clear and
exalted knowledge of the Divinity, that no words can
be found to express it. In this our Lady was singularly
privileged before all other creatures, and thus She pos
sessed the permanent effects of the gifts of glory as far
as compatible with her position as viator. When at
times the Lord hid himself from Her, suspending the
use of these images for certain high ends, She made use
of infused faith, which in Her was superexcellent and
most efficacious. In such manner, one way or the other,
her soul never lost sight of that divine Object, nor wan
dered from It even for a moment. However, during
the nine months in which She bore in her -womb the
incarnate Word, She enjoyed even greater visions arid
gifts of the Divinity.
164. The second of these gifts is comprehension, pos
session or apprehension. This consists in the attainment
of the end, corresponding to the virtue of hope, whereby
we seek after the final Object in order to possess It
without danger of ever losing It. This possession and
comprehension in most holy Mary corresponded to the
visions mentioned ; because seeing the Divinity, She pos
sessed It. Whenever She depended on faith alone, hope
was in Her more firm and secure than in any other
creature ; and more than this ; for, as the security of
possession in the creature is founded to a great extent
upon sanctity and impeccability, our heavenly Lady on
this account was so privileged, that the firmness and
security of her possession of God, although She was a
pilgrim, equaled in certain respects the firmness and
security of the blessed. For on account of her stainless
and unimpeachable sanctity She was assured of never
losing God; although the cause of this security in Her
as Viatrix was not the same as in the glorified saints.
During the months of her pregnancy She enjoyed this
possession of God in various ways by special and won
derful graces, through which the Most High manifested
Himself and united Himself to her most pure Soul.
165. The third gift is fruition, which corresponds to
charity, since charity does not cease but is perfected in
glory (I Cor. 13, 8) ; for fruition consists in loving the
highest Good possessed by us. This is the charity of
heaven, that, just as God is known and possessed as He
is in Himself, so also He is loved for his own sake. True,
even now, while we are yet viators, we love Him for his
own sake ; but there is a great difference. Now we love
him in desire and we know Him not as He is in Himself,
but as He is represented to us by incongruous images
or by enigmas (I Cor. 13, 12; John 3, 2) ; therefore our
love is not perfected, nor do we rest in it, or find the
plenitude of delight therein, though there is much to in
cite us. But in the clear vision and possession we shall
see Him as He is in Himself and we shall see Him
through Himself, not through enigmas ; thus we shall
love Him as He should be loved and as far as we can
love Him respectively; our love will be perfected and
the fruition of Him will be satiated, without leaving any
thing to be desired.
166. Most holy Mary participated in this fruition more
abundantly than in any other; for even though her most
ardent love might, in a certain respect, have been inferior
to that of the blessed whenever She was without the
clear vision of the Divinity, yet it was superior in many
other points of excellence, even while remaining in the
lower state. No one ever possessed the divine science
in the same degree as this Lady, and by it She under
stood how God is to be loved for Himself. This science
was perfected by the memory of what She had seen and
enjoyed higher in degree than the angels. And as her
love was nourished by this knowledge of God, it neces
sarily exceeded that of the blessed in all that did not
pertain to immediate fruition and unchangeableness as
to increase or augmentation. On account of her pro
found humility the Lord condescended to an arrange
ment, whereby She could act as a Viatrix remaining
in a holy fear of displeasing her Beloved. This burning
love was of the most perfect kind and tended entirely to
ward God himself; it caused in Her ineffable joy and
delight, proportioned to the excellence of her love.
167. In regard to the gifts of the body, redounding
from the gifts of glory, and other gifts of the soul con
stituting the accidental part of the glory of the blessed,
I will say, that they serve for the perfection of the
glorious bodies in the activity of their senses and motive
powers. By them the bodies are assimilated to the soul
and throw off the impediments of their earthly grossness,
enabling them to obey the wishes of the souls,
which in that most happy state cannot be imperfect or
opposed to the will of God. The senses require two gifts :
one to refine the reception of sensible images, and this
is perfected by the gift of clearness ; the other, to repel
all activity or passivity hurtful and destructive of the
body, and this is done by the gift of impassibility. Two
other gifts are required in order to perfect the power
of motion: one, in order to overcome the resistance or
impediment of gravity, furnished by the gift of agility;
the other, in order to overcome the resistance of other
bodies, furnished by the gift of subtlety. With these
gifts the body becomes glorious, clear, incorruptible,
agile and subtle.
168. In all these privileges our great Queen and Lady
participated during her mortal life. The gift of clear
ness disposes the body to receive the light and at the
same time to give it forth, doing away with earthly
opaqueness and obscurity and making it more transparent
than clearest crystal. Whenever most holy Mary enjoyed
the clear and beatific vision, her virginal body partic
ipated in this privilege in a measure beyond all human
calculation. The after-effects of this purity and clear
ness would have been most wonderful and astounding,
if they could have been made perceptible to the senses.
Sometimes they were noticeable in her most beautiful face,
as I will say later on, especially in the third part; yet
they were not known or perceived by all who conversed
with Her, for the Lord interposed a curtain or veil, in
order that they might not always or indiscriminately be
manifested. But in many respects She herself enjoyed
the advantages of this gift, though it was disguised, sus
pended or hidden to the gaze of others ; She for instance
was not inconvenienced by earthly opaqueness, as the
rest of men.
169. Saint Elisabeth perceived something of this clear
ness, when at the sight of Mary she exclaimed: "And
whence is this to me, that the Mother of my Lord should
come to me ?" (Luke 1, 43) . The world was not capable
of perceiving this sacrament of the King (Tob. 12, 7),
nor was it opportune to manifest it at that time. Yet to
a certain extent her face was always more bright and
lustrous than that of other creatures. Also in other re
spects it exhibited qualities altogether above the natural
order of other bodies, which produced in Her a most
delicate and spiritualized complexion, like that of an
animated crystal. This presented to the touch not the
asperity natural to the flesh, but the softness as it were
of the purest and the finest silk, so that I cannot find
any other comparison to make myself understood. Yet
all this should not appear strange in the Mother of God;
for She bore Him in her womb and She had seen Him
often, even face to face. For the Israelites could not look
upon Moses face to face, nor bear the splendor, which
shone forth from him after his communication with the
Lord upon the mountain (Exod. 34, 29), though it was
much inferior to that vouchsafed to most holy Mary.
There is no doubt, that if God had not by a special provi
dence withheld and hidden the splendor in reality due to
the countenance and the body of his most pure Mother,
it would have brightened the world more than a thousand
suns combined. None of the mortals could, by natural
power, have sustained its brilliancy; since, even thus
restrained and concealed, it was sufficient to cause in
them the same effects, which saint Dionysius the Areopagite
experienced in looking upon Her and which he
describes in his letter to Paul.
170. Impassibility produces in the glorified body such
a condition, that no agent, except God himself, can by
any activity or influence, change or disturb it, no matter
how powerful this activity may be. Our Queen par
ticipated in this gift in two ways : first, in regard to the
temperament and humors of the body. She possessed
these in such a delicate measure and proportion, that She
could not contract or suffer any infirmities, nor was
She subject to .any other human hardships which arise
from the inequality of the four humors, being in this
regard as it were almost impassible. Secondly, in re
gard to the dominion and commanding power, which
She had over all the creatures, as mentioned above,
(No. 13, 18, 43, 56, 60) ; for none of them had power to
act contrary to her will and consent. We can add still
another participation of impassibility: the assistance of
the divine power in proportion to her innocence. For, if
it is said, that the first parents in paradise could not
suffer a violent death as long as they persevered in orig
inal justice, it must not be understood to mean that they
enjoyed this privilege by intrinsic or inherent powers
(for if a lance would have wounded them they could
die), but they enjoyed it through the assistance of
the Lord, who would always prevent them from being
wounded. If then the first parents possessed this priv
ilege and could transmit it to their descendants as their
servants and vassals, it was due, by a much better title,
to the innocence of the sovereign Mary; and so in truth
was She endowed with it.
171. Our most humble Queen made no use of these
privileges, for She renounced them in imitation of her
most holy Son and in order to labor and gain merits
for our benefit; in spite of them She wished to suffer
and She really suffered more than the martyrs. Human
intellect cannot weigh correctly the greatness of these
labors. We shall speak of them throughout this heavenly
history, leaving much more untold, for common language
and words cannot encompass them. But I must advert
to two things : first, that the sufferings of our Queen
bore no relation to any sins of her own, for She had
none to atone for; and therefore She suffered none of
the bitterness, which is mixed with pains endured in
the memory and consciousness of our own guilt of sins
committed. Secondly : that in her sufferings She was
divinely sustained in accordance with the ardors of her
love, for She could not naturally endure so much suf
ferings, as her love called for, or as much as, on ac
count of this very love, the Lord allowed Her to endure.
172. Subtility is a gift, which takes away from the
glorified body the density or grossness natural to quanti
tative matter and which enables it to penetrate other
bodies and to occupy the same place with them. The
subtilized bodies of the blessed therefore are endowed
with qualities peculiar to the spirit and can without
difficulty penetrate the quantitative matter of other
bodies. Without dividing or separating them it can
occupy the same place. Thus our Lord s body, coming
forth from the grave (Matth. 28, 2) and entering the
closed doors (John 20, 19), penetrated the material en
closing these places. Most holy Mary participated in
this gift not only while She enjoyed the beatific visions,
but also otherwise according to her will and desire, as
happened many times in her life in her bodily appear
ances to some persons, of which we shall yet relate;
for in all these She made use of her gift of subtlety
penetrating other bodies.
173. The last gift of the body enables the glorified
body to move from place to place instantly and without
the impediment of terrene gravity, in the manner of pure
spirits, which move by their own volition. Mary most
holy possessed a continual and wonderful participation
in this agility, especially as a direct result of the divine
visions. She did not feel in her body the force of weight
and gravity; therefore She could walk without feeling
the inconvenience usual to that kind of exercise ; She could
move about with instantaneous speed, without feeling any
shock or fatigue as we would feel. All this belonged
naturally to the quality and condition of her body, so
spiritualized and well-formed. During the time of her
pregnancy She felt even less the weight of her body;
although, in order to bear her share of labors, She al
lowed hardships to produce their effect. She was so ad
mirable and perfect in the possession and use of these
privileges, that I find myself wanting in words to ex
press all that has been made manifest to me concerning
them; for it exceeds all that I have said or am able to
174. Queen of heaven and my Mistress, since Thou
hast condescended to adopt me as thy daughter, thy
word will remain a pledge, that Thou wilt be my Guide
and Teacher. Relying on this promise I presume to
propose a difficulty, in which I find myself : How does it
come, my Mother and Lady, that thy most blessed soul,
after it had enjoyed the clear intuition of God accord
ing to the disposition of his Majesty, did not remain in
the state of blessedness? And why can we not say,
thnt Thou didst remain in this state of beatitude, since
there was no sin nor any other obstacle to this state
in Thee, according- to the dignity and sanctity revealed
to me by the supernatural light?
175. My dearest daughter, thou doubtest as one that
loves me and askest as one not knowing. Consider then,
that the perpetuity and durability of blessedness and
felicity is destined for the saints, since their happiness is
to be entirely perfect; if it would last only for some
time, it would be wanting in the completeness and ade
quacy necessary for constituting it as the highest and
most perfect happiness. At the same time it is incom
patible with the common law and ordinary course, that
the creature be glorified and at the same time be subject
to sufferings, even though it be without sin. If this law
did not hold good with my most holy Son (John 1, 18),
it was became He was at the same time God and man
and it was not befitting that his most holy soul, being
hypostatically united with the Divinity, should be with
out the beatific vision ; and as He was at the same time
Redeemer of the human race, He could not suffer nor
pay the debt of sin, that is pain, if He had not possessed
a body capable of suffering. But I was a mere creature,
and therefore I could have no claim to the vision, which
to Him was due as a God. Moreover I could not be
said to have permanently enjoyed the state of blessedness,
because it was conceded to me from one time to another.
Under these conditions I was capable of suffering at one
time and enjoying blessedness at another; moreover it
was more usual for me to suffer and to gain merits, than
to be blessed, since I belonged to the viators and not to
the comprehensors.
176. Justly the Most High has ordained, that the
blessedness of eternal life should not be enjoyed in this
mortal existence (Exod. 33, 20), and that immortality
should be reached by passing through existence in a mor
tal body and by gaining merits in a state of suffering,
such as is the present life of men (Rom. 6, 23). Al
though death in all the sons of Adam was the stipend
and punishment of sin (Rom. 6, 23), and therefore
death and all the other effects and chastisements had no
rights in me, who had not sinned; yet the Most High
ordained, that I also, in imitation of my most holy
Son, should enter into felicity and eternal life by the death
of the body (Luke 24, 26). There was nothing in
congruous in this for me, but it afforded me many ad
vantages, allowing me to follow the royal way of all
men and gain many merits and great glory by suffering
and dying. Another advantage resulted therefrom for
men, for they saw that my most holy Son and I myself,
who was his Mother, were truly human as they them
selves, since we proved to them our mortality. Thereby
the example, which we left them became much more
efficacious and they would be induced to imitate the
life, which we led and which redounded so much to the
greater glory and exaltation of my Son and Lord, and
of myself. All this would have come to nought, if the
visions of the Divinity had been continuous in me. How
ever, after I conceived the eternal Word, the benefits
and favors were more frequent and greater, since I was
then brought into close connection with Him. This is
my answer to thy questions. No matter how much thou
hast meditated and labored in manifesting the privileges
and their effects enjoyed by me in mortal life, thou
wilt never be able to comprehend all that the powerful
arm of the Omnipotent wrought in me. And much less
canst thou describe in human words what thou hast un
177. Now attend to the instruction, which I will give
thee regarding the preceding chapters. If I was the
model to be imitated in the way I responded to the
coming of God into the soul and into the world by show
ing due reverence, worship, humility, and thankful love,
it follows, that if thou, (and in the same way the rest
of the souls), art solicitous in imitating me, the Most
High will come and produce the same effects in thee
as in myself; though they may be not so great and
efficacious. For if the creature, as soon as it obtains the
use of reason, begins to advance toward the Lord as it
should, directing its footsteps in the path of life and sal
vation, his Most High Majesty will issue forth to meet it,
(Wis. 6, 15), being beforehand with his favors and
communications; for to Him it seems a long time to
wait for the end of the pilgrimage in order to manifest
Himself to his friends.
178. Thus it happens, that by means of faith, hope
and charity, and by the worthy reception of the Sacra
ments, many divine effects, wrought by his condescen
sion, are communicated to the souls. Some are com
municated according to the ordinary course of grace and
others according to a more supernatural and wonderful
order; and each one will be more or less conformable
to the disposition of the soul and to the ends intended
by the Lord, which are not known at present. And if
the souls do not place any obstacle on their part, He
will be just as liberal with them as with those who dis
pose themselves, giving them greater light and knowledge
of his immutable being, and by a divine and exceedingly
sweet infusion of grace, transforming them into a like
ness of Himself and communicating to them many of
the privileges of the beatified. For after He is found
He allows Himself to be taken possession of and enjoyed
by that hidden embrace, which the Spouse felt, when
She said: "I will hold Him and not dismiss Him"
(Cant. 3, 4). Of this possession and of his presence the
Lord himself will give many token and pledges, in order
that the soul may possess Him in peace like the blessed,
although always only for a limited time. So liberal as
this will God, our Master and Lord, be in rewarding the
objects of his love for the labors accepted by them for
his sake and fearlessly undertaken to gain possession of
179. In this sweet violence of love the creature begins
to withdraw from and die to all earthly things; and
that is why love is called strong as death. From this
death arises a new spiritual life, which makes the soul
capable of receiving new participations of the blessed
and their gifts ; for it enjoys more frequently the over
shadowing of the Most High and the fruits of the high
est Good, which it loves. These mysterious influences
cause a sort of overflow into the interior and animal
parts of the creature, producing a certain transparency
and purifying it from the effects of the spiritual dark
nesses; it makes it courageous and as it were indifferent
to suffering, ready to meet and endure all that is adverse
to the inclinations of the flesh. With a certain subtle
thirst it begins to seek after all the difficulty and violence
incident to the attainment of the kingdom of heaven
(Matth. 11, 12); it becomes alert and unhindered by
earthly grossness, so that many times the body itself be
gins to feel this lightness in regard to its own self; the
labors, which before seemed burdensome, become easy.
Of all these effects thou hast knowledge and experience,
my daughter, and I have described and rehearsed them
for thee, in order that thou mayest dispose thyself and
labor so much the more earnestly; so that the divine
activity and power of the Most High, in working out
his pleasure in thee, may find thee well disposed and free
from resistance and hindrance.
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