Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda


  INDEX   Book 4  Chapter  1    Verses:  375-377

375. The divine pregnancy of the Princess of heaven
had advanced to its fifth month when the most chaste
Joseph, her husband, commenced to notice the condition
of the Virgin ; for on account of the natural elegance and
perfection of her virginal body, as I have already re
marked (No. 115), any change could not long remain
concealed and would so much the sooner be discovered.
One day, when saint Joseph was full of anxious doubts
and saw Her coming out of her oratory, he noticed more
particularly this evident change, without being able to
explain away what he saw so clearly with his eyes. The
man of God was wounded to his inmost heart by an
arrow of grief, unable to ward off the force of evidence,
which at the same time wounded his soul. The principal
cause of his grief was the most chaste, and therefore the
most intense love with which he cherished his most faith-
ful Spouse, and in which he had from the beginning
given over to Her his whole heart. Moreover, her
charming graces and incomparable holiness had captured
and bound to Her his inmost soul. As She was so per
fect and accomplished in her modesty and humble
reticence, saint Joseph, besides his anxious solicitude to
serve Her, naturally entertained the loving desire of
meeting a response of his love from his Spouse. This
was so ordained by the Lord, in order that by the desire
for this interchange of affection he might be incited to
love and serve Her more faithfully.
376. Saint Joseph fulfilled triis obligation as a most
faithful spouse and as the guardian of the sacrament,
which as yet was concealed from him. In proportion as
he was solicitous in serving and venerating his Spouse,
and loving Her with a most pure, chaste, holy and just
love, in so far also increased his desire of finding a re
sponse to his affection and service. He never manifested
or spoke of this desire, as well on account of the rever
ence elicited by the humble majesty of his Spouse as also
because the more than angelic purity, conversation and
intercourse of the Virgin with him had given him no
apprehension in this regard. But when he found him
self thus unexpectedly in the face of this disclosure,
where the clear evidence of his senses allowed no denial,
his soul was torn asunder by sorrowful surprise. Yet,
though overwhelmed by the evidence of this change in
his Spouse, he gave his thoughts no greater liberty than
to admit what his eyes could not fail to perceive. For,
being a holy and just man (Matth. 1, 19), although he
saw the effect, he withheld his judgment as to the cause.
Without doubt, if the saint had believed that his Spouse
had any guilt in causing this condition, he would have
died of sorrow.
377. Besides all this was the certainty of his not having
any part in this pregnancy, the effects of which were
before his eyes; and there was the inevitable dishonor
which would follow as soon as it would become public.
This thought caused so much the greater anxiety in him,
as he was of a most noble and honorable disposition, and
in his great foresight he knew how to weigh the dis
grace and shame of himself and his Spouse in each cir
cumstances. The third and most intimate cause of his
sorrow, and which gave him the deepest pain, was the
dread of being obliged to deliver over his Spouse to the
authorities to be stoned (Lev. 20, 10), for this was the
punishment of an adulteress convicted of the crime. The
heart of saint Joseph, filled with these painful consider
ations, found itself as it were exposed to the thrusts of
many sharp-edged swords, without any other refuge than
the full confidence which he had in his Spouse. But as
all outward signs confirmed the correctness of his ob
servations, there was no escape from these tormenting
thoughts, and as he did not dare to communicate about
his grievous affliction with anybody, he found himself
surrounded by the sorrows of death (Ps. 17, 5), and he
experienced in himself the saying of the Scriptures, that :
"Jealousy is hard as hell" (Cant. 8, 6).
378. When he attempted to follow out these thoughts
in solitude, grief suspended his faculties. If his thoughts
touched upon the wrong, which his senses led him to sus
pect, they melted away as the ice before the sun, or van
ished like the dust before the wind, as soon as he remem
bered the well-tried holiness of his modest and circum
spect Spouse. If he tried to suspend the workings of
his chaste love, he could not ; for She continued to present
Herself to his thoughts as the most worthy object of his
love, and the hidden truth of her fidelity had more power
of attracting his love than the deceitful appearances of
infidelity to destroy it. The strong and sure bond which
truth, reason and justice had woven about her fidelity
could not be broken. He found no suitable occasion of
opening his mind to his heavenly Spouse, nor did her
serene and heavenly equanimity seem to invite him to
such an explanation. Although he could not but admit
the change in her shape, yet he could not conceive how
her purity and holiness could be compatible with any
failing such as this change might indicate. For it seemed
impossible to him to connect such a sin with One who
manifested such chastity, tranquillity and holy discretion,
and such united harmony of all graces and virtues in her
daily life.
379. In the midst of these tormenting anxieties the
holy Spouse Joseph appealed to the tribunal of the Lord
in prayer and placing himself in his presence, he said:
"Most high Lord and God, my desires and sighs are not
unknown to Thee. I find myself cast about by the vio
lent waves of sorrow (Ps. 31. 10) which through my
senses have come to afflict my heart. I have given my
self over with entire confidence to the Spouse whom thou
hast given me. I have confided entirely in her holiness;
and the signs of this unexpected change in Her are
giving rise to tormenting and fearful doubts lest my con
fidence be misplaced. Nothing have I until now seen
in Her which could give occasion for any doubt in her
modesty and her extraordinary virtue; yet at the same
time I cannot deny that She is pregnant. To think that
She has been unfaithful to me, and has offended Thee,
would be temerity in view of such rare purity and holi
ness : to deny what my own eyes perceive is impossible.
But it is not impossible that I die of grief, unless there
is some mystery hidden beneath it which I cannot yet
fathom. Reason proclaims Her as blameless, while the
senses accuse Her. She conceals from me the cause of
her pregnancy, while I have it before my eyes. What
shall I do? We both have come to an agreement con
cerning our vows of chastity, and we have both prom
ised to keep them for thy glory; if it could be possible
that She has violated her fidelity toward Thee and toward
me, I would defend thy honor and would forget mine for
love of Thee. Yet how could She preserve such purity
and holiness in all other things if She had committed so
grave a crime in this? And on the other hand, why
does She, who is so holy and prudent, conceal this matter
from me? I withhold and defer my judgment. Not be
ing able to penetrate to the cause of what I see, I pour
out in thy presence my afflicted soul (Ps. 141, 3), God
of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Receive my tears as an
acceptable sacrifice; and if my sins merit thy indig
nation, let thy own clemency and kindness move Thee
not to despise my excruciating sorrow. I do not believe
that Mary has offended Thee; yet much less can I pre
sume that there is a mystery of which I, as her Spouse,
am not to be informed. Govern Thou my mind and
heart by thy divine light, in order that I may know and
fulfill that which is most pleasing to Thee."
380. Saint Joseph persevered in this kind of prayer,
adding many more affectionate petitions ; for even though
he conjectured that there must be some mystery in the
pregnancy of the most holy Mary hidden from him, he
could not find assurance therein. This thought had no
greater force to exculpate most holy Mary than the other
reasons founded upon her holiness ; and therefore the
idea that the most holy Queen might be the Mother of
the Messias did not come to his mind. If at times he
drove away his conjectures, they would return in greater
number and with more urgent force of evidence. Thus
he was cast about on the turbulent waves of doubt.
From sheer exhaustion he would at times fall into a con
dition of mind wherein he could find neither an anchor
of certainty for his doubts, nor tranquillity for his heart,
nor any standard by which he could direct his course.
Yet his forebearance under this torment was so great
that it is an evident proof of his great discretion and
holiness, and that it made him worthy of the singular
blessing which awaited him.
381. All that passed in the heart of saint Joseph was
known to the Princess of heaven, who penetrated into its
interior by the light of her divine science. Although her
soul was full of tenderness and compassion for the suffer
ings of her spouse, She said not a word in the matter;
but She continued to serve him with all devotion and
solicitude. The man of God watched Her without out
ward demonstration, yet with a greater anxiety than that
of any man that ever lived. The pregnancy of most
holy Mary was not burdensome or painful to Her; but
as the great L-ady in serving him at table or any other
domestic occupations, necessarily disclosed her state more
and more openly, saint Joseph noticed all these actions
and movements and with deep affliction of soul verified
all his observations. Notwithstanding his being a holy
and just man, he permitted himself to be respected and
served by the most holy Virgin after their espousal,
claiming in all things the position of head and husband
of the family, though with rare humility and prudence.
As long as he was ignorant of the mystery of his Spouse
he judged it right, within befitting limits, to show his
authority in imitation of the ancient Fathers and Patri
archs. For he knew that they demanded subjection and
prompt obedience of their wives, and he did not wish to
recede from their example. He would have been right
in this course if most holy Mary, our Lady, had been
no more than other women. Yet although there was
such a great difference, no woman ever existed or will
exist who was or will be so obedient, humble and de
voted to her husband as the most exalted Queen was
toward her spouse. She served him with incomparable
respect and promptitude ; although She knew his troubled
thoughts and observations concerning her pregnancy, She
omitted no service due to him, nor did She try to conceal
or palliate her state. For such evasion or duplicity would
not have consorted with the angelic truthfulness and
openness, nor with the nobility and magnanimity of her
generous heart.
382. The grer.t Lady could easily have asserted her
entire innocence and referred to the testimony of saint
Elisabeth and Zacharias ; for, if saint Joseph had any sus
picion of guilt in Her, he could naturally have supposed
it to have been incurred during her stay with them.
Hence, through them and by other references, She could
have justified Herself and quieted the anxieties of saint
Joseph without disclosing the mystery. The Mistress of
prudence and humility did nothing of the kind ; for these
virtues did not allow Her to think of Herself, nor to
trust the justification of her mysterious condition to her
own explanation. With great wisdom She resigned the
whole matter into the hands of divine Providence. Al
though her compassion for her spouse and her love for
him made Her anxious to console and comfort him, She
would not do it by clearing Herself or by concealing her
pregnancy, but rather by serving him with more devoted
demonstrations of love, and by trying to cheer him up,
asking him what She could do for him and lovingly show
ing her devoted and submissive affection. Many times
She served him on her knees, and although this somewhat
consoled saint Joseph, yet on the other hand, it was also
a cause for new grief. For thus he only saw the motives
of love and esteem multiplied and still remained uncer
tain whether She had been untrue or not. The heavenly
Lady offered up continual prayers for him and besought
the Most High to look upon him and console him ; as for
the rest She submitted all to the will of his Majesty.
383. Saint Joseph could not entirely conceal his cruel
sorrow, and therefore he often appeared to be in doubt
and sad suspense. Sometimes, carried away by his grief,
he spoke to his heavenly Spouse with some degree of
severity, such as he had not shown before. This was
the natural effect of the affliction of his heart, not of
anger or vengeful feelings; for these never entered his
thoughts, as we shall see later. The most prudent Lady,
however, never lost the sweetness of her countenance, nor
showed any feeling; but merely redoubled her efforts to
relieve her husband. She served at table, offered him
a seat, administered food and drink, and if, after all these
services, which She performed with incomparable grace,
saint Joseph urged Her to sit down, he could convince
himself more and more of her pregnancy. There is no
doubt that all this was one of the greatest trials not only
of saint Joseph, but of the Princess of heaven, and that
it greatly manifested the most profound humility and
wisdom of her most holy soul. The Lord thereby gave
Her an opportunity of exercising and proving all Her
virtues; for He had not only not commanded Her to
conceal the sacrament of her pregnancy, but contrary to
his usual manner of proceeding, He had not even mani
fested to Her his pleasure in any way. It seemed as if
God had left this whole matter in her hands and en
trusted it all to the wisdom and virtue of his chosen
Spouse, without giving Her special enlightenment of
help. The divine Providence afforded the most holy
Mary and her most faithful Spouse an opportunity to
exercise in a heroic manner the gifts and graces which
He had infused into them, and delighted, (according to
our way of speaking), in the faith, hope and love, in the
humility, patience, peace and tranquillity of these two
hearts in the midst of their grievous affliction. In order
to increase their glory and furnish to the world an ex
ample of holiness and prudence, and in order to hear the
sweet cries of his most holy Mother and of her most
chaste spouse, He became as it were deaf to their pro
longed invocations and delayed answering them until his
own opportune and fitting time.
384. My dearest daughter, most exalted are the
thoughts and intentions of the Lord ; his Providence with
souls is sweet and powerful and He is admirable in the
government of them all, especially of his friends and
chosen ones. If mortals would strive to know the loving
care for their direction and advancement, as shown by this
Father of mercies (Matth. 6, 5), they would be relieved
and would not be involved in such irksome, useless and
dangerous anxieties, living in perpetual toils and vain
trust in the help of creatures. For they would resign them
selves without hesitation to the infinite wisdom and love,
which, with paternal sweetness and gentleness would
watch over all their thoughts, words and actions and all
things necessary for them. I do not wish thee to be
ignorant of this truth, but to understand how the Lord
from all eternity bears in his mind all the predestined of
the different times and ages; and that by the invincible
force of his infinite wisdom and goodness He continually
disposes and prepares all the blessings useful to them, so
that the end desired for them may be attained.
385. Hence it is very important for the rational crea
ture to allow itself to be led by the hand of the Lord and
leave all to the divine disposition; for mortal men are
ignorant of their ways and of the goal to which they
lead. In their ignorance they should not presume to
chose, lest they make themselves guilty of great temerity
and incur the danger of damnation. But if they resign
themselves with all their heart to the divine Providence
of God, acknowledging him as their Father and them
selves as his children and creatures, his Majesty will con
stitute Himself as their Protector, Helper and Director;
and He will assume these offices with such love that He
wishes to call heaven and earth to witness how much He
considers it his affair to govern his own and direct those
who trust and resign themselves into his hands. If God
were capable of grief, or of jealousy like men, it would
be aroused in Him at seeing creatures claiming a part in
the providing for the welfare of souls and that souls
should seek to supply their necessities from other quar
ters independently of Him (Wis. 12, 13). Mortals
would not be so ignorant of this truth if they would study
what happens between a father and his children, a hus
band and his wife, one friend and another, a prince and
his well-loved and honored subject. All that these do is
nothing in comparison with the love which God had for
his children, and that which He can do and will do for
386. Yet although men in general believe this truth,
no one can fully estimate the love of God and its effects
on those souls who resign themselves entirely to his will.
Nor canst thou, my daughter, manifest what thou knowest,
nor shouldst thou ; but thou must not lose sight of it
in the Lord. His Majesty says, that not a hair of his
elect shall perish, because He keeps account of them
(Luke 21, 18). He directs their footsteps toward
eternal life and keeps them from death. He observes
their labors, lovingly corrects their defects, favors their
desires, forestalls their anxieties, defends them in anger,
rejoices them in peace, strengthens them in battle, assists
them in tribulation. His wisdom is at their service
against deceit, his goodness for their sanctification. As
He is infinite, whom none can hinder or resist, He exe
cutes what He wishes, and He wishes to be entirely at
the service of the just, who are in his grace and trust
themselves wholly to Him. Who could ever measure the
number and greatness of the blessings which He would
shower upon a heart prepared to receive them !
387. If thou, my dearest, wishest to attain to gain this
good fortune, imitate me with true solicitude and apply
thyself from now on to establish in thee a true resigna
tion in the divine Providence. If He sends thee tribula
tions, sorrows and labors, accept and embrace them with
tranquillity of soul, with patience, lively faith and hope
in the goodness of the Most High, who always provides
that which is the most secure and profitable for thy salva
tion. Chose nothing for thyself, since God knows thy
ways; trust thyself to the heavenly Father and Spouse,
who will shield and assist thee with most faithful love.
Study also My works, since they are known to thee ; and
remember that, excepting the labors of my most holy
Son, the greatest suffering of my life was to see the tribu
lations of my spouse saint Joseph, and his grief in the
matter which thou hast described.
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