Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda


  INDEX   Book 4  Chapter  3    Verses:  397-406

397. The sorrow of jealousy keeps such vigilant watch
in those that are beset by it, that very often it not only
awakens them from sleep, but drives away altogether the
refreshment of slumber. Nobody ever suffered this sor
row in the same degree as saint Joseph, although, if he
had known the truth, nobody ever had less occasion. He
was endowed with exalted light and knowledge, so that
he could penetrate to the abyss of the incalculable sanc
tity and perfection of his heavenly Spouse. As the rea
sons which urged him to resign the possession of such
great blessing were inexorable, it naturally followed that
the knowledge of what he was to lose should add to the
sorrow of parting therefrom. Hence, what saint Joseph
suffered in this regard exceeds all that ever was endured
by any man ; for no one ever equalled him in the loss, and
no one could so value and estimate it. Besides, there was
a great difference in the zeal and jealousy of this faithful
servant of God and the jealousies of others in like trou
bles. For jealousies create in the vehement and ardent
lover a great anxiety to preserve and prevent loss of the
loved object; and to this anxiety is naturally added the
pain caused by the fear lest the loved one be alienated by
others. This kind of feeling or sorrow is commonly
called jealousy. In those who have disorderly passions,
and who, for want of prudence or other virtues, yield to
them, it usually causes the different feelings of wrath,
fury, envy toward the person loved, or against the rival
who impedes the return of love, be it a well-ordered love
or not. Then arise the storms of suspicion and conjec
ture in the imagination, engendered by these passions;
the tempests of alternate desire and abhorrence; of lov
ing affection and vain regret. Thus the irascible and
concupiscent faculties are in perpetual strife, without any
regard for the demands of reason or prudence; for this
kind of sorrow confounds the understanding, perverts
reason, and rejects prudence.
398. In saint Joseph this disorder was not infected
with all these faults, nor could they find room in him, on
account both of his own exalted holiness and that of his
Spouse; for in Her he could find no fault to exasperate
him, nor had he any suspicion that her love had been
captured by any one else, against whom or toward whom
his envy might be aroused in defense. The jealousy of
saint Joseph was founded entirely in his own great love
for Her, in a certain conditional doubt or suspicion lest
his Spouse had not entirely responded to his own love ;
for he found no such strong reasons against, as he did
for his mistrust. A greater uncertainty was not neces
sary in his case in order to cause such vehement sorrows ;
for in the possession of a spouse, no rival can be toler
ated. Hence, the chaste marital love of our saint, which
filled his whole heart, was sufficient to cause in him the
most vehement grief at the least appearance of infidelity,
or danger of losing this most perfect, most beautiful and
delightful object of all his desires and thoughts. For if
love is in possession of such just motives, strong and
unbreakable are the bonds and chains with which it cap
tivates the heart and most powerful is the dominion which
it exercises ; especially when there are no imperfections to
weaken it. Our Queen exhibited nothing which either
in the spiritual or in the natural order was calculated to
diminish or moderate this love in her holy spouse, but
only what tended to blow it into greater flame on many
occasions and for many reasons.
399. Full of this sorrow, which had now become an
intolerable pain, saint Joseph, after saying the prayer
above mentioned, composed himself for a short sleep,
assured that he would wake up at the right time to leave
his home at midnight, and, as he thought, without the
knowledge of his Spouse. The heavenly Lady awaited
the intervention of God, asking it of Him in most humble
prayer. For She knew that the tribulation of her
troubled spouse had reached such a high point, that the
time of God s merciful assistance must have arrived.
The Most High sent his archangel Gabriel, in order to
reveal to him during his sleep the mystery of the Incarna
tion and Redemption in the words recorded in the gospel.
It might cause some wonder, (and such was caused in
me), why the archangel spoke to saint Joseph in his
sleep and not while awake; since the mystery was so
high, and so difficult to comprehend, especially in the
present afflicted and troubled state of his mind; while
this same mystery was made known to others, not while
they were asleep, but awake.
400. In these operations of course, the last reason is
always the divine will itself, just, holy and perfect.
However, as far as I have understood, I will partly men
tion some other reasons in explanation. The first reason
is, that saint Joseph was so prudent, filled with such
heavenly light, and had such high conception of our
most holy Lady, the blessed Mary, that it was not neces
sary to convince him by strong evidence, in order to
assure him of her dignity and of the mysteries of the
Incarnation; for in hearts well-disposed the divine in
spirations find easy entrance. The second reason is,
because his trouble had its beginning in the senses, namely
in seeing with his eyes the pregnancy of his Spouse ; hence
it was a just retribution, that they, having given occa
sion for deception or suspicion, should as it were be dead
ened or repressed by the privation of the angelic vision.
The third reason is as it were a sequence of this last
one: saint Joseph, although he was guilty of no fault,
was under the influence of his affliction and his senses
were so to say deadened and incapacitated for the sensi
ble perception and intercourse of the angel. Therefore
it was befitting, that the angel deliver this message to
him at a time, when the senses, which had been scandal
ized, were inactive and suspended in their operations.
Thus the holy man might afterwards, regaining their full
use, purify and dispose himself by many acts of virtue
for entertaining the operation of the holy Spirit, which
had been entirely interrupted by his troubles.
401. Hence will be also understood, why God spoke
to the ancient Fathers oftener during sleep than happens
to the faithful ones of the evangelical law; for in the
new law revelation in sleep is less frequent than direct
intercourse with angels, which affords a more efficient
mode of communication. The explanation of this fact
is this: since according to the divine ordainment the
greatest impediment and obstacle of a more familiar in
tercourse and converse of the souls with God and his
angels is the commission of sins, even venial sins or even
only imperfections, it follows, that, after the divine Word
became man and conversed with mortals, the senses and
all our faculties are purified day by day by the sanctify
ing use of sensible Sacraments, by which men in some
degree are spiritualized and elevated, their torpid facul
ties aroused and made apt for participation in the divine
influences. This blessing we owe in a greater degree to
the blood of Christ our Lord than the ancients; for by
its efficiency we are made partakers of his holiness
through the Sacraments, wherein we receive the effects
of special graces, and in some of them even a spiritual
character, which destines and prepares us for Most High
ends. But whenever the Lord in our times spoke or
speaks in sleep, He excludes the operations of the senses,
as being unfit and unprepared to enter into the spiritual
nuptials of his communications and divine influences.
402. It will also appear from this doctrine, that, in
order to receive the hidden favor of the Lord, men must
not only be free from guilt and possess merits and grace,
but that they be also in peace and tranquillity of spirit ;
for if the republic of the faculties is in disturbance (as
it was in saint Joseph), the soul is not in a fit condition
to receive such exalted and delicate influences as are im
plied by the visits and the caresses of the Lord. It is
not at all uncommon, that, no matter how much tribula
tions and afflictions increase the merits of the soul (as
were those of saint Joseph, the spouse of the Queen),
they nevertheless hinder the divine operations. For in
suffering them the soul is involved in a conflict with the
powers of darkness, while this kind of blessing consists
in the possession of light; and therefore the vision of
darkness, even if only in order to ward it off, is not in
harmony with the vision of God or the angels. But in
the midst of the conflict and the battle of temptations,
which may be compared to a dream in the night, the
voice of the Lord is nevertheless wont to be heard and
perceived through the ministry of the angels, just as it
happened to saint Joseph. He heard and understood all
that saint Gabriel said: that he should not be afraid to
remain with his Spouse Mary (Matth. 1, 20, 21), because
what She bore in her womb, was the work of the holy
Spirit; that She would give birth to a Son, who should
be called Jesus and who was to be the Savior of his
people ; that in all this should be fulfilled the prophecy of
Isaias, who said (Is. 7, 14) : A Virgin shall conceive and
shall bring forth a Son, who was to be called Emmanuel,
God with us. Saint Joseph did not see the angel by
imaginary image, he heard only the interior voice and he
understood the mystery. The words of the angel imply,
that saint Joseph had in his mind already resolved to
sever his connection with most holy Mary; for he was
told to receive Her again without fear.
403. Saint Joseph awoke with the full consciousness,
that his Spouse was the true Mother of God. Full of
joy on account of his good fortune and of his inconceiva
ble happiness, and at the same time deeply moved by sud
den sorrow for what he had done, he prostrated himself
to the earth and with many other humble, reverential
and joyful tokens of his feelings, he performed heroic
acts of humiliation and of thanksgiving. He gave thanks
to the Lord for having revealed to him this mystery
and for having made him the husband of Her, whom God
had chosen for his Mother, notwithstanding that he was
not worthy to be even her slave. Amid these recogni
tions and these acts of virtue, the spirit of saint Joseph
remained tranquil and apt for the reception of new in
fluences of the holy Spirit. His doubts and anxieties of
the past few months had laid in him those deep founda
tions of humility, which were necessary for one who
should be entrusted with the highest mysteries of the
Lord; and the remembrance of his experiences was to
him a lesson which lasted all his life. The holy man
began to blame himself alone for all that had happened
and broke forth in the following prayer: "O my
heavenly Spouse and meekest Dove, chosen by the Most
High for his dwelling-place and for his Mother: how
could thy unworthy slave have dared to doubt thy
fidelity? How could dust and ashes ever permit itself
to be served by Her, who is the Queen of heaven and
earth and the Mistress of the universe ? How is it, that
I have not kissed the ground which was touched by
thy feet? Why have I not made it my most solicitous
care to serve Thee on my knees? How will I ever raise
my eyes in thy presence and dare to remain in thy com
pany or open my lips to speak to Thee? O my Lord and
God, give me grace and strength to ask her forgiveness;
and move her heart to mercy, that She do not despise
her sorrowful servant according to his guilt. Ah woe
is me! since She is full of light and grace and She bears
within Herself the Author of light, all my thoughts were
open to her sight, also that I had in my mind actually to
leave Her ; hence it will be temerity on my part to appear
in her presence. I now recognize my rude behavior and
my gross error; since even with such great holiness be
fore my eyes I gave way to unworthy thoughts and
doubts concerning her fidelity, which I did not deserve.
And if in punishment thy justice had permitted me to
execute my presumptuous resolve, what would now be
my misfortune? Eternally be thanked, Most High Lord
for such great blessing ! Assist me, most powerful King,
to make some kind of reparation. I will go to my Spouse
and Lady, confiding in her sweetness and clemency;
prostrate at her feet I will ask her pardon, so that for
her sake, Thou, my eternal Lord and God, mayest look
upon me with the eyes of a Father and mayest pardon my
gross error."
404. The holy spouse now left his little room, finding
himself so happily changed in sentiments since the time
he had composed himself for sleep. As the Queen of
heaven always had kept Herself in retirement, he did not
wish to disturb her sweet contemplation, until She her
self desired. In the meantime the man of God un
wrapped the small bundle, which he had prepared, shed
ding many tears with feelings quite different from those
with which he had made it up. Weeping, he began to
show his reverence for his heavenly Spouse, by setting
the rooms in order, scrubbing the floors, which were to
be touched by the sacred feet of most holy Mary. He
also performed other chores which he had been accus
tomed to leave to the heavenly Lady before he knew her
dignity. He resolved to change entirely his relation
toward Her, assume for himself the position of servant
and leave to Her the dignity of Mistress. From that
day on arose a wonderful contention between the two,
which of them should be allowed to show most eagerness
to serve and most humility. All that happened with
saint Joseph the Queen of heaven saw, and not a thought
or movement escaped her attention. When the time
arrived, the saint approached the oratory of her High
ness, and She awaited him with sweetest kindness and
mildness, as I will describe in the following chapter.
405. My daughter, in what thou hast understood of
this chapter, thou hast a sweet motive for praising the
wonderful ways of God s wisdom in afflicting and again
consoling his servants and chosen ones; from both the
one and the other, He most wisely and kindly draws for
them increase of merit and glory. Besides this doctrine,
I wish that thou receive another one, most important for
thy direction, and for the narrow pathway, which the
Most High has assigned to thee. It is this, that thou
strive with all thy might to preserve thyself in tran
quillity and interior peace, without allowing thyself to be
deprived of it by any troublesome event of this life what
ever, and by always keeping in mind the example and
instruction contained in this part of the life of my spouse
saint Joseph. The Most High does not wish to see the
creatures disturbed by afflictions, but that they gain
merit; not that they lose courage, but that they test
their own power when aided by grace. Although the
more violent temptations are wont to close the haven of
exalted peace and knowledge of God, and although they
ground the creature more firmly in the knowledge of its
own lowliness; yet if the soul loses its interior tran
quillity and equilibrium, it will make itself unfit for the
visit of the Lord, for hearing his voice, and for being
raised up to his embraces. The Majesty of God does not
come in a stormcloud (III. Reg. 19, 12), nor will the rays
of this supreme Sun of justice shine, when calm is not
reigning in the soul.
406. If then the want of this tranquillity so hinders the
pure intercourse of the Most High, it is clear that sins
are a still greater hindrance to this great blessing. I
desire that thou be very attentive to this doctrine and that
thou do not presume to allow any disregard of it in any
operation of thy faculties. Since thou hast so often
offended the Lord, call upon his mercy, weep and wash
thyself from thy sins with copious tears; remember that,
under pain of being condemned as unfaithful, thou art
obliged to watch over thy soul and preserve it for an
eternal resting-place of the Almighty, pure, clean and
undisturbed; so that thy God may possess it and find
in it a worthy habitation (I Cor. 2, 16). The harmony
of thy faculties and feelings is to be like that of the
music of soft and delicate instruments ; in which the more
delicate the harmony, so much the greater is the danger
of discord and so much the greater must be the care to
preserve the instruments from all gross contact. For
even the atmosphere infected by earthly tendencies is
sufficient to disturb and spoil the powers of the soul thus
consecrated to God. Labor therefore to live a careful life
and to keep full command over thy faculties and opera
tions. If at any time thou art disturbed or disconcerted
in maintaining this order, strive to attend the divine
light, making use of it without fear or hesitation and
working with it whatever is most perfect and pure. In
this I point out to thee the example of my spouse saint
Joseph, who believed the angel without a moment s hesita
tion and immediately with prompt obedience executed his
commands ; and thereby he merited to be raised to great
reward and dignity. If he humiliated himself so deeply
after having had such great, though only apparent rea
sons for anxiety and without even having sinned in what
he did, how must thou, a mere worm of the earth,
acknowledge thy littleness and humble thyself to the dust,
weeping over thy negligences and sins, in order that the
Most High may look upon thee as a Father and as a
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