Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda


  INDEX   Book 3  Chapter  17    Verses:  215-230

215. When the most holy Mother Mary arrived at the
house of Zacharias, the Precursor of Christ had com
pleted the sixth month of his conception in the womb
of saint Elisabeth. The body of the child John had
already attained a state of great natural perfection ;
much greater than that of other children, on account of
the miracle of his conception by a sterile mother and
on account of the intention of the Most High to make
him the depositary of greater sanctity than other men
(Matth. 11, 11). Yet at that time his soul was yet filled
with the darkness of sin, which he had contracted in
the same way as the other children of Adam, the first
and common father of the human race; and as, accord
ing to the universal and general law, mortals cannot
receive the light of grace before they have issued forth
to the light of the sun (Rom. 5, 7) ; so, after the first,
the original sin contracted by our nature, the womb of
the mother must serve as a dungeon or prison for all of
us, who have laden upon ourselves this guilt of our
father and head, Adam. Christ our Lord resolved to
anticipate this great blessing in his Prophet and Pre
cursor by conferring the light of his grace and justifi
cation upon him six months after his conception by
saint Elisabeth, in order that he might be distinguished
as well in holiness, as he was in his office of Precursor
and Baptist.
216. After the first salutation of Elisabeth by the
most holy Mary, the two cousins retired, as I have said
at the end of the preceding chapter. And immediately
the Mother of grace saluted anew her cousin saying:
"May God save thee, my dearest cousin, and may his
divine light communicate to thee grace and life" (Luke
1, 40). At the sound of most holy Mary s voice, saint
Elisabeth was filled by the Holy Ghost and so enlight
ened interiorly, that in one instant she perceived the
most exalted mysteries and sacraments. These emo
tions, and those that at the same time were felt by the
child John in the womb of his mother, were caused by
the presence of the Word made flesh in the bridal cham
ber of Mary s womb, for, making use of the voice of
Mary as his instrument, He, as Redeemer, began from
that place to use the power given to Him by the eternal
Father for the salvation and justification of the souls.
And since He now operated as man, though as yet of
the diminutive size of one conceived eight days before,
He assumed, in admirable humility, the form and pos
ture of one praying and beseeching the Father. He
asked in earnest prayer for the justification of his future
Precursor and obtained it at the hands of the blessed
217. Saint John was the third one for whom our
Redeemer made special petition since his presence in
the womb of his mother. His Mother was the first
for whom He gave thanks and prayed to the Father;
next in order was her spouse, saint Joseph, for whom the
incarnate Word offered up his prayers, as we have said
in the twelfth chapter; and the third one was the Pre
cursor saint John, whom the Lord mentioned by name in
his prayers to the Father. Such was the great good for
tune and privilege of saint John, that Christ our Lord
presented to the eternal Father the merits of his Passion
and Death to be endured for men; and in view thereof
He requested the sanctification of this soul. He ap
pointed and set apart this child as one who is to be born
holy as his Precursor and as a witness of his coming into
the world (John 1, 7) ; as one who was to prepare the
hearts of his people in order that they might recognize
and receive Him as the Messias. He ordained that for
such an exalted ministry the Precursor should receive
all the graces, gifts and favors which are befitting and
proportionate to his office. All this the Father granted
just as the Onlybegotten had requested it of Him.
218. This happened before the most holy Mary had
put her salutation into words. At the pronunciation of
the words mentioned above, God looked upon the child
in the womb of saint Elisabeth, and gave it perfect use
of reason, enlightening it with his divine light, in order
that he might prepare himself by foreknowledge for the
blessings which he was to receive. Together with this
preparation he was sanctified from original sin, made an
adopted son of God, and filled with the most abundant
graces of the Holy Ghost and with the plenitude of all
his gifts; his faculties were sanctified, subjected and sub
ordinated to reason, thus verifying in himself what the
archangel Gabriel had said to Zacharias; that His son
would be filled with the Holy Ghost from the womb of
his mother (Luke 1, 17). At the same time the for
tunate child, looking through the walls of the maternal
womb as through clear glass upon the incarnate Word,
and assuming a kneeling posture, adored his Redeemer
and Creator, whom he beheld in most holy Mary as if
enclosed in a chamber made of the purest crystal. This
was the movement of jubilation, which was felt by his
mother Elisabeth as coming from the infant in her
womb (Luke 1, 44). Many other acts of virtue the
child John performed during this interview, exercising
faith, hope, charity, worship, gratitude, humility, devo
tion and all the other virtues possible to him there. From
that moment he began to merit and grow in sanctity,
without ever losing it and without ever ceasing to exer
cise it with all the vigor of grace.
219. Saint Elisabeth was instructed at the same time
in the mystery of the Incarnation, the sanctification of
her own son and the sacramental purpose of this new
wonder. She also became aware of the virginal purity
and of the dignity of the most holy Mary. On this oc
casion, the heavenly Queen, being absorbed in the vision
of the Divinity and of the mysteries operated by it
through her most holy Son, became entirely godlike,
filled with the clear light of the divine gifts which She
participated; and thus filled with majesty saint Elisabeth
saw Her. She saw the Word made man as through a
most pure and clear glass in the virginal chamber, lying
as it were on a couch of burning and enlivened crystal.
The efficacious instrument of all these wonderful ef
fects was the voice of most holy Mary, as powerful as
it was sweet in the hearing of the Lord. All this force
was as it were only an outflow of that which was con
tained in those powerful words: "Fiat mihi secundum
verbum tuum," by which She had drawn the eternal
Word from the bosom of the Father down to her soul
and into her womb.
220. Filled with admiration at what She saw and
heard in regard to these divine mysteries, saint Elisa
beth was wrapt in the joy of the Holy Ghost; and,
looking upon the Queen of the world and what was
contained in Her, she burst forth in loud voice of praise,
pronouncing the words reported to us by saint L,uke :
"Blessed are Thou among women and blessed is the
fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the
Mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold
as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my
ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy, and blessed
art Thou, that has believed, because those things shall
be accomplished, that were spoken to Thee by the Lord."
In these prophetic words saint Elisabeth rehearsed the
noble privileges of most holy Mary, perceiving by the
divine light what the power of the Lord had done in
Her, what He now performed, and what He was to ac
complish through Her in time to come. All this also
the child John perceived and understood, while listen
ing to the words of his mother; for she was enlight
ened for the purpose of his sanctification, and since he
could not from his place in the womb bless and thank
her by word of mouth, she, both for herself and for
her son, extolled the most holy Mary as being the in
strument of their good fortune.
221. These words of praise, pronounced by saint
Elisabeth were referred by the Mother of wisdom and
humility to the Creator; and in the sweetest and softest
voice She intoned the Magnificat as recorded by saint
Luke (Ch. 1, 46-55).
46. My soul doth magnify the Lord;
47. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48. Because He hath regarded the humility of his
handmaid ; for behold from henceforth all genera
tions shall call me blessed.
49. Because He that is mighty hath done great
things to me; and holy is his name.
50. And his mercy is from generation unto gen
eration to them that fear Him.
51. He hath shewed might in his arm; He hath
scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
52. He hath put down the mighty from their seat
and hath exalted the humble.
53. He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He hath sent empty away.
54. He hath received Israel, his servant, being
mindful of his mercy;
55. As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and
his seed forever/
222. Just as saint Elisabeth was the first one who
heard this sweet canticle from the mouth of most holy
Mary, so she was also the first one who understood it
and, by means of her infused knowledge, commented
upon it. She penetrated some of the great mysteries,
which its Authoress expressed therein in so few sen
tences. The soul of most holy Mary magnified the
Lord for the excellence of his infinite Essence; to Him
She referred and yielded all glory and praise (I Tim. 1,
17), both for the beginning and the accomplishment of
her works. She knew and confessed that in God alone
every creature should glory and rejoice, since He alone
is their entire happiness and salvation (II Cor. 10, 17).
She confessed also the equity and magnificence of the
Most High in attending to the humble and in confer
ring upon them his abundant spirit of divine love (Ps.
137, 6). She saw how worthy of mortals it is to per
ceive, understand and ponder the gifts that were con
ferred on the humility of Her, whom all nations were
to call blessed, and how all the humble ones, each one
according to his degree, could share the same good for
tune. By one word also She expressed all the mercies,
benefits and blessings, which the Almighty showered
upon Her in his holy and wonderful name ; for She calls
them altogether "great things" since there was nothing
small about anything that referred to this great Queen
and Lady.
223. And as the mercies of the Most High over
flowed from Mary s plenitude to the whole human race,
and as She was the portal of heaven, through which they
issued and continue to issue, and through which we are
to enter into the participation of the Divinity; therefore
She confessed, that the mercy of the Lord in regard to
Her is spread out over all the generations, communi
cating itself to them that fear Him. And just as the in
finite mercies raise up the humble and seek out those
that fear God; so also the powerful arm of divine jus
tice scatters and destroys those who are proud in the
mind of their heart, and hurls them from their thrones
in order to set in their place the poor and lowly. This
justice of the Lord was exercised in wonderful splendor
and glory upon the chief of all the proud, Lucifer and
his followers, when the almighty arm of God scattered
and hurled them (because they themselves precipitated
themselves) from their exalted seats which befitted their
angelic natures and their graces, and which they occu
pied according to the original (Isaias 14; Apoc. 12)
decree of the divine love. For by it He intended that
all should be blessed (I Tim. 2, 4) while they, in trying
to ascend in their vain pride to positions, which they
neither could attain nor should aspire to, on the con
trary cast themselves from those which they occupied
(Isaias 14, 13). In their arrogance they were found
opposed to the just and inscrutable judgments of the
Lprd, which scattered and cast down the proud angel
and all his followers (Apoc. 12, 8). In their place were
installed the humble of heart through the mediation of
most holy Mary, the Mother and the treasure house of
his ancient mercies.
224. For the same reason this divine Lady says and
proclaims that God enriches the needy, filling them with
the abundance of his treasures of grace and glory; and
those that are rich in their own estimation and pre
sumptuous arrogance, and those who satisfy their heart
with the false goods, which the world esteems as riches
and happiness, the Most High has banished and does
banish from his presence, because they are void of the
truth, which cannot enter into hearts filled and occupied
with falsehood and deceit. He received his servants and
his children, the people of Israel, remembering his mer
cies in order to teach them, wherein prudence, truth and
understanding (Bar. 3, 14), wherein free and abundant
life and nourishment, wherein the light of the eyes and
peace consists. He taught them the way of prudence
and the hidden paths of wisdom and discipline, which
is concealed from the princes of the gentiles, and is not
known to the powerful, who dominate over the beasts
of the earth and entertain themselves and play with the
birds of the air and heap up treasures of gold and silver.
Nor can the sons of Agar and the inhabitants of Teman,
who are the wise and the proudly prudent of this world,
ever attain this wisdom. But to those that are sons of
the light (Galat. 3, 7), and who are sons of Abraham by
faith, hope and obedience, the Most High distributes it;
for in this manner has it been promised to his posterity
and his spiritual children, made secure by the blessed
and happy Fruit of the virginal womb of the most holy
225. Saint Elisabeth looking upon Mary the Queen
of creation understood these hidden mysteries ; and not
only those, which I am able to express here, did this for
tunate matron understand, but many more and greater
sacraments, which my understanding cannot compre
hend ; nor do I wish to dilate upon all that have been
shown to me, lest I unduly extend this history. But the
sweet discourses and conversations, which these two holy
and discreet ladies held with each other, reminded me of
the two seraphim, which Isaias saw above the throne of
the Most High, repeating the divine and always new
canticle: Holy, holy, etc., while they covered their head
with one pair of wings, their feet with another, flew
with the third pair (Isaias 6, 2). It is certain that the
inflamed love of these two holy women exceeded that
of all the seraphim, and Mary by Herself loved more
than they all together. They were consumed in the flame
of divine love, extending the two wings of their hearts
in order to manifest to each other their love and in order
to soar into the most exalted intelligence of the mys
teries of the Most High. With two more wings of
rarest knowledge they covered their faces; because both
of them discussed and contemplated the sacrament of
the King (Tob. 12, 7), guarding its secrets within
themselves all their lives; also because they restrained
their discourse and subjected it to their devoted faith,
without giving scope to proud inquisitiveness. They also
covered the feet of the Lord and their own with the
third pair of seraphic wings, because they were lowered
and annihilated in their own humble estimation of them
selves at the sight of such great Majesty. Moreover
since most holy Mary enclosed within her virginal womb
the God of majesty himself, we can with reason and
with literal truth say, that She covered the seat where
the Lord sat enthroned.
226. When it was time to come forth from their re
tirement, saint Elisabeth offered herself and her whole
family and all her house for the service of the Queen
of heaven. She asked Her to accept, as a quiet retreat,
the room which she herself was accustomed to use for
her prayers, and which was much retired and accom
modated to that purpose. The heavenly Princess ac
cepted the chamber with humble thanks, and made use
of it for recollecting Herself and sleeping therein, and
no one ever entered it, except the two cousins. As for
the rest She offered to serve and assist Elisabeth as a
handmaid, for She said, that this was the purpose of
visiting her and consoling her. O what friendship is
so true, so sweet and inseparable, as that which is
formed by the great bond of the divine love! How ad
mirable is the Lord in manifesting this great sacrament
of the Incarnation to three women before He would
make it known to any one else in the human race! For
the first was saint Anne, as I have said in its place; the
second one was her Daughter and the Mother of the
Word, most holy Mary; the third one was saint Elisa
beth, and conjointly with Her, her son, for he being yet
in the womb of his mother, cannot be considered as dis
tinct from her. Thus "the foolishness of God is wiser
than men," as saint Paul says.
227. The most holy Mary and Elisabeth came forth
from their retirement at nightfall, having passed a long
time together; and the Queen saw Zacharias standing
before Her in his muteness, and She asked him for his
blessing as from a priest of the Lord, which the saint
also gave to Her. Yet, although She tenderly pitied
him for his affliction, She did not exert her power to
cure him, because She knew the mysterious occasion of
his dumbness; yet She offered a prayer for him. Saint
Elisabeth, who already knew the good fortune of the
most chaste spouse Joseph, although he himself as yet
was not aware of it, entertained and served him with
great reverence and highest esteem. After staying three
days in the house of Zacharias, however, he asked per
mission of his heavenly Spouse Mary to return to Naza
reth and leave Her in the company of saint Elisabeth
in order to assist her in her pregnancy. The holy hus
band left them with the understanding that he was to
return in order to accompany the Queen home as soon
as they should give him notice; saint Elisabeth offered
him some presents to take home with him ; but he would
take only a small part of them, yielding only to their
earnest solicitations, for this man of God was not only a
lover of poverty, but was possessed of a magnanimous
and noble heart. Therewith he pursued his way back to
Nazareth, taking along with him the little beast of bur
den, which they had brought with them. At home, in
the absence of his Spouse, he was served by a neigh
boring woman and cousin of his, who, also when most
holy Mary was at home, was wont to come and go on
the necessary errands outside of the house.
228. My daughter, in order that thy heart may be
ever more and more inflamed with the desire of gaining
the grace and friendship of God, I wish very much
that thou grow in the knowledge of the dignity, excel
lence and happiness of a soul, that has been endowed
with this privilege; however, remember that it is so ad
mirable and of so great a value that thou canst not com
prehend it, even if I would explain it to thee ; and much
less canst thou express it in words. Look upon the
Lord and contemplate Him by means of the divine light,
which thou receivest, and then thou wilt understand that
the Lord performs a greater work in justifying a soul
than in having created all the orbs of heaven and the
whole earth with all the beauty and perfection contained
within them. And if on account of the wonders which
creatures are able in part to perceive in these works by
the senses, they are impressed with the greatness and
power of God, what would they say and think if they
could see with the eyes of their soul the preciousness and
beauty of grace in so many creatures, who are capable
of receiving them?
229. There are no terms of human language equal to
the task of expressing what participations and perfec
tions of God are contained in sanctifying grace. It is
little to say that it is more pure and spotless than the
snow; more refulgent than the sun; more precious than
gold or precious stones, more charming, more amiable
and pleasing than all the most delightful feasts and en
tertainments, and more beautiful than all that in its en
tirety can be imagined or desired by the creatures. Take
notice also of the ugliness of sin, in order that by the
opposite thou mayest come to so much the better under
standing of the beauty of grace; for neither darknesses,
nor rottenness, nor the most horrible, the most dreadful,
nor the foulest of creatures can ever be compared to sin
and to its ugliness. The martyrs and saints understood
much of this mystery (Heb. 11, 36), who in order to
secure the beauty of grace and preserve themselves
from the ruin of sin, did not fear fire, nor wild beasts,
nor the sword, nor torments, nor prisons, ignominies,
pains, afflictions, nor death itself, nor prolonged and per
petual suffering; for to escape all these must be counted
for little or nothing, and must scarcely be thought
of in comparison with one degree of grace, which souls
may attain, even though they be the most abject of the
whole world. All this the men, who esteem and seek
after the fugitive and apparent beauty of creatures, are
ignorant of; and whatever does not present to them
this deceitful beauty, is for them vile and contemptible.
230. Thou perceivest therefore something of the
greatness of the blessing, which the incarnate Word con
ferred upon his Precursor in the womb of his mother;
and because saint John recognized it, he leaped for joy
and exultation in the womb of his mother. Thou wilt
also see what thou thyself must do and suffer in order
to attain this happiness, and in order not to lose, or in
the least impair this most precious beauty by any fault,
nor retard its consummation by any imperfection, no
matter how small. I wish that in imitation of my cousin
Elisabeth, thou do not enter into any friendship with
any human creatures, except those, with whom thou
canst and shouldst converse about the works of the Most
High and of his mysteries, and with whom thou canst
learn to pursue the true path of his divine pleasure. Al
though thou art engaged in important undertakings and
works, do not forget or omit thy spiritual exercises and
the strictness of a perfect life; for this must not only be
preserved and watched over, when all things go
smoothly, but also under the greatest adversity, diffi
culty and labor; for imperfect human nature takes oc
casion of the slightest circumstance to relax its vigilance.
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