Mystical City of God - Virgin Mary

By Sor Maria of Agreda


  INDEX   Book 4  Chapter  9    Verses:  456-467

456. The most pure Mary and the glorious saint
Joseph departed from Nazareth for1 Bethlehem alone,
poor and humble in the eyes of the world. None of the
mortals thought more of them than what was warranted
by their poverty and humility. But O the wonderful
sacraments of the Most High, hidden to the proud, and
unpenetrated by the wisdom of the flesh ! They did not
walk alone, poor or despised, but prosperous, rich and in
magnificence. They were most worthy of the immense
love of the eternal Father and most estimable in his eyes.
They carried with them the Treasure of heaven, the Deity
itself. The whole court of the celestial ministers ven
erated them. All the inanimate beings recognized the
living and true Ark of the Testament ( Josue 3, 16) more
readily than the waters of the Jordan recognized its
type and shadow, when they courteously laid open and
free the path for its passage and for those that followed
it. They were accompanied by the ten thousand angels,
which as mentioned (No. 450), were appointed by God
himself as the servants of her Majesty during that whole
journey. These heavenly squadrons marched along as
their retinue in human forms visible to the heavenly Lady,
more refulgent than so many suns. She herself walked
in their midst better guarded and defended than the bed
of Solomon, surrounded by the sixty valiant ones of
Israel, girded with their swords (Cant. 3, 7). Besides
these ten thousand angels there were many others, who
descended from heaven as messengers of the eternal
Father to his Onlybegotten made man in his most holy
Mother, and who ascended from earth as their ambassa
dors with messages and treaties from them to the heavenly
457. In the midst of this royal retinue, hidden from
the gaze of men, most holy Mary and Joseph proceeded
on their way secure that their feet would not be bruised
by the stone of tribulation (Ps. 40, 12), since the Lord
had commanded his angels to be their defense and watch
fulness. This command the most faithful ministers, as
vassals of their great Queen, fulfilled with wonder and
delight, seeing centered in a mere Creature such great
sacraments, such perfections, and immense treasures of
the Divinity, and seeing in Her all this distinction united
to dignity and grace far exceeding their own angelic
capacity. They composed new songs in honor of the
Lord, whom they saw reclining as the highest King of
glory, on his throne of gold (Cant. 3, 9) ; and in honor
of the heavenly Mother, who was like his living and
incorruptible chariot, or like the fertile ear of corn of the
promised land, enclosing the living grain (Lev. 23, 10) ;
or like the rich merchant ship, which brings the grain to
the house of bread, in order that dying in the earth it
might be multiplied for heaven (John 12, 24). Their
journey lasted five days, for on account of the pregnancy
of his Spouse, saint Joseph shortened each day s journey.
The sovereign Queen experienced no darkness of night
on the way ; for a few times, when their travel extended
beyond nightfall the holy angels spread about such
effulgence as not all the lights of heaven in their noontide
splendor would have thrown forth in the clearest heavens.
This light and vision of the angels also saint Joseph
enjoyed at those times; then all of them together would
form celestial choirs, in which they and the two holy
travelers alternated in singing wonderful hymns and
canticles of praise, converting the fields into new heavens.
During this whole journey the Queen was rejoiced by
the sight of her resplendent ministers and vassals and by
the sweet interior conversation held with them.
458. With these wonderful favors and delights, how
ever, the Liord joined some hardships and inconveniences,
which the divine Mother encountered on the way. For
the concourse of people in the taverns, occasioned by the
imperial edict, was very disagreeable and annoying to the
modest and retiring Virgin-Mother and her spouse. On
account of their poverty and timid retirement they were
treated with less hospitality and consideration than others,
especially the well-to-do ; for the world judges and usually
confers its favors according to outward appearance and
according to personal influence. Our holy pilgrims were
obliged repeatedly to listen to sharp reprimands in the
taverns, at which they arrived tired out by their journey,
and in some of them they were refused admittance as
worthless and despicable people. Several times they as
signed to the Mistress of heaven and earth some corner
of the hallway ; while at others She did not fare even so
well, being obliged to retire with her husband to places
still more humble and unbecoming in the estimation of
the world. But in whatever places She tarried, how con
temptible soever it might be considered, the courtiers of
heaven established their court around their supreme King
and sovereign Queen. Immediately they surrounded and
enclosed them like an impenetrable wall, securing the
bridal chamber of Solomon against the terrors of the
night. Her most faithful spouse Joseph, seeing the
Mistress of heaven so well guarded by the angelic hosts,
betook himself to rest and sleep; for to this She urged
him on account of the hardships of travel. She, how
ever, continued her celestial colloquies with the ten
thousand angels of her retinue.
459. Solomon, in the Canticles, describes in diverse
metaphors and similitudes many great mysteries of the
Queen of heaven, but in the third chapter he refers more
particularly to what happened to the heavenly Mother in
her pregnancy and during this journey. During this
time was fulfilled to the letter all that is said of the couch
of Solomon (Cant. 3, 7), of his chariot and of his golden
bed, of the guard, which was stationed around it enjoying
the divine vision; also all the other sayings, which are
contained in those prophecies. What I have pointed out
will suffice to make them understood, and they should
excite our admiration of the wonderful sacraments of
God s activity for the good of man. Who is there among
mortals whose heart is not softened? Or who is so
proud as not to be abashed ? Or so careless as not to be
filled with wonder at such miraculous extremes? The
infinite and true God hidden and concealed in the virginal
womb of a tender Maiden, full of grace and beauty, inno
cent, pure, sweet, pleasing and amiable in the eyes of God
and of men, surpassing all that the Lord God has ever
or shall ever create ! To see this great Lady, bearing the
treasure of the Divinity, despised, persecuted, neglected,
and cast out by the blind ignorance and pride of the
world ! And on the other hand, while She is thus pushed
aside into the last places, to see Her loved and esteemed
by the triune God, regaled by his caresses, served by
his angels, revered, defended and assisted with the greatest
anxiety and watchfulness ! O children of men, slow and
hard of hearts ! ( Ps. 4, 3 ) . How deceitful are your ways
and how erroneous is your judgment in esteeming the rich
and despising the poor (James 2, 2), exalting the proud
and humiliating the lowly, applauding the braggarts and
casting out the just! Blind is your choice and full of
error your judgment, and you will find yourselves frus
trated in all your desires. Ambitiously you seek riches
and treasures, and you find yourself in poverty beating
the air; if you had received the true ark of God, you
would have been blessed by the hand of the Almighty,
like Obededom (II Kings, 6, 11) ; but because you have
treated it unworthily, many of you have experienced the
punishment of Oza.
460. The heavenly Lady observed and knew the
secrets of the different souls of those She met, penetrating
into the very thoughts and conditions of each, whether
of grace or of guilt in their different degrees. Concern
ing many souls She also knew whether they were pre
destined or reprobate, whether they would persevere, fall,
or again rise up. All this variety of insight moved Her
to the exercise of heroic virtues as well in regard to the
ones as to the others. For many of them She obtained
the grace of perseverance, for others efficacious help to
rise from their sin to grace ; for others again She prayed
to the Lord with affectionate tears, feeling intensest
sorrow for the reprobate, though She did not pray as
efficaciously for them. Many times, worn out by these
sorrows, much more than by the hardships of travel, the
strength of her body gave way; on such occasions the
holy angels, full of refulgent light and beauty, bore Her
up in their arms, in order that She might rest and
recuperate. The sick, afflicted and indigent whom She
met on the way, She consoled and assisted by asking her
most holy Son to come to their aid in their necessities
and adversities. She kept Herself silently aloof from the
multitude, preoccupied with the Fruit of her divine preg
nancy, which was already evident to all. Such was the
return which the Mother of mercy made for the inhospitality
of mortals.
461. For the greater reproach of human ingratitude, it
happened also that once during these wintry days they
reached a stopping-place in the midst of a cold rain and
snow storm (for the Lord did not spare them this in
convenience), and they were obliged to take shelter in
the stables of the animals, because the owners would not
furnish better accommodation. The irrational beasts
showed them the courtesy and kindness which was re
fused by their human fellow-beings; for they retreated
in reverence at the entrance of their Maker and of his
Mother, who carried Him in her virginal womb. It is
true the Queen of creation could command the winds, the
frost and the snow not to inconvenience Her; but She
would not give such a command in order not to deprive
Herself of suffering in imitation of her most holy Son,
even before He came forth into the world. Therefore
the inclemencies of the weather affected Her to a certain
extent. The faithful saint Joseph, however, did his
utmost to shield Her; and still more did the holy angels
seek to protect Her, especially the holy prince Michael,
who remained at the right side of his Queen without
leaving Her even for a moment ; several times, when She
became tired, He led Her by the arm along the way.
Whenever the Lord permitted, he also shielded Her
against the weather and performed many other services
for the heavenly Queen and the blessed Fruit of her
womb, Jesus.
462. Thus variously and wonderfully assisted, our
travelers arrived at the town of Bethlehem at four o clock
of the fifth day, a Saturday. As it was at the time of
the winter solstice, the sun was already sinking and the
night was falling. They entered the town, and wandered
through many streets in search of a lodging-house or inn
for staying over night. They knocked at the doors of
their acquaintances and nearer family relations ; but they
were admitted nowhere and in many places they met with
harsh words and insults. The most modest Queen fol
lowed her spouse through the crowds of people, while he
went from house to house and from door to door. Al
though She knew that the hearts and the houses of men
were to be closed to them, and although to expose her
state at her age to the public gaze was more painful to
her modesty than their failure to procure a nightlodging,
She nevertheless wished to obey saint Joseph
and suffer this indignity and unmerited shame. While
wandering through the streets they passed the office of
the public registry and they inscribed their names and
paid the fiscal tribute in order to comply with the edict
and not be obliged to return. They continued their
search, betaking themselves to other houses. But having
already applied at more than fifty different places, they
found themselves rejected and sent away from them all.
The heavenly spirits were filled with astonishment at
these exalted mysteries of the Most High, which mani
fested the patience and meekness of his Virgin Mother
and the unfeeling hardness of men. At the same time
they blessed the Almighty in his works and hidden sacra
ments, since from that day on He began to exalt and
honor poverty and humility among men.
463. It was nine o clock at night when the most
faithful Joseph, full of bitter and heartrending sorrow,
returned to his most prudent Spouse and said: "My
sweetest Lady, my heart is broken with sorrow at the
thought of not only not being able to shelter Thee as
Thou deservest and as I desire, but in not being able to
offer Thee even any kind of protection from the weather,
or a place of rest, a thing rarely or never denied to the
most poor and despised in the world. No doubt heaven,
in thus allowing the hearts of men to be so unmoved as
to refuse us a night-lodging, conceals some mystery. I
now remember, Lady, that outside the city walls there is
a cave, which serves as a shelter for shepherds and their
flocks. Let us seek it out ; perhaps it is unoccupied, and
we may there expect some assistance from heaven, since
we receive none from men on earth." The most prudent
Virgin answered: "My spouse and rny master, let not
thy kindest heart be afflicted because the ardent wishes
which the love of thy Lord excites in thee cannot be ful
filled. Since I bear Him in my womb, let us, I beseech
thee, give thanks for having disposed events in this way.
The place of which thou speakest shall be most satisfac
tory to me. Let thy tears of sorrow be turned into tears
of joy, and let us lovingly embrace poverty, which is the
inestimable and precious treasure of my most holy Son.
He came from heaven in order to seek it, let us then
afford Him an occasion to practice it in the joy of our
souls; certainly I cannot be better delighted than to see
thee procure it for me. Let us go gladly wherever the
Lord shall guide us." The holy angels accompanied the
heavenly pair, brilliantly lighting up the way, and when
they arrived at the city gate they saw that the cave was
forsaken and unoccupied. Full of heavenly consolation,
they thanked the Lord for this favor, and then happened
what I shall relate in the following chapter.
464. My dearest daughter, if thou art of a meek and
docile heart, these mysteries which thou hast written
about and hast understood, will stir within thee sweet
sentiments of love and affection toward the Author of
such great wonders. I wish that, bearing them in mind,
thou from this day on embrace with new and great esteem
the contempt and neglect of the world. And tell me,
dearest, if, in exchange for this forgetfulness and scorn
of the world, God look upon thee with eyes of sweetest
love, why shouldst thou not buy so cheaply what is worth
an infinite price? What can the world give thee, even
when it esteems thee and exalts thee most? And what
dost thou lose, if thou despise it? Is its favor not all
vanity and deceit (Ps. 4, 3) ? Is it not all a fleeting and
momentary shadow, which eludes the grasp of those that
haste after it? Hence, if thou hadst all worldly advan
tage in thy possession, what great feat would it be to
despise it as of no value? Consider how little thou dost
in rejecting all of it for the love of God, for mine and that
of the holy angels. And if the world does not neglect
thee as much as thou shouldst desire, do thou on thy own
behalf despise it, in order to remain free and unhampered
to enjoy to the full extent the highest Good with the
plenitude of his most delightful love and intercourse.
465. My most holy Son is such a faithful Lover of
souls that He hast set me as the teacher and living
example of the love of humility and true contempt of
worldly vanity and pride. He ordained also for his own
glory as well as for my sake that I, his Servant and
Mother, should be left without shelter and be turned
away by mortals, in order that afterwards his beloved
souls might be so much the more readily induced to offer
Him a welcome, thus obliging Him, by an artifice of love,
to come and remain with them. He also sought destitu
tion and poverty, not because He had any need of them
for bringing the practice of virtues to the highest per
fection, but in order to teach mortals the shortest and
surest way for reaching the heights of divine love and
union with God,
466. Thou knowest well, my dearest, that thou hast
been incessantly instructed and exhorted by divine en
lightenment to forget the terrestrial and visible and to
gird thyself with fortitude (Prov. 31, 17), to raise thy
self to the imitation of me, copying in thyself, according
to thy capacity, the works and virtues manifested to thee
in my life. This is the very first purpose of the knowl
edge which thou receivest in writing this history; for
thou hast in me a perfect model, and by it thou canst
arrange the converse and conduct of thy life in the same
manner as I arranged mine in imitation of my sweetest
Son. The dread with which this command to imitate
me has inspired thee as a being above thy strength, thou
must moderate and thou must encourage thyself by the
words of my most holy Son in the Gospel of saint Mat
thew : "Be ye perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect"
(Matth. 5, 48). This command of the Most High im
posed upon his holy Church is not impossible of fulfill
ment, and, if his faithful children on their part dispose
themselves properly, He will deny to none of them the
grace of attaining this resemblance to the heavenly
Father. All this my most holy Son has merited for them.
But the degrading forgetfulness and neglect of men hin
der them from maturing within themselves the fruits of
his Redemption.
467. Of thee particularly I expect this perfection, and
I invite thee to it by the sweet law of love which accom
panies my instruction. Ponder and scrutinize, by the
divine light, the obligation under which I place thee, and
labor to correspond with it like a faithful and anxious
child. Let no difficulty or hardship disturb thee, nor
deter thee from any virtuous exercise, no matter how
hard it may be. Nor be content with striving after the
love of God and salvation of thyself alone; if thou
wouldst be perfect in imitating me and fulfilling all that
the Gospel teaches, thou must work for the salvation of
other souls and the exaltation of the holy name of my
Son, making thyself an instrument in his powerful hands
for the accomplishment of mighty works to advance his
pleasure and glory.
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