The Immaculate Conception - The blessed Virgin Mary
This reflection is based on excerpts from the Mystical City of God, revelations of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Sr. Maria of Agreda, a beatified Spanish nun.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the daughter of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, a married couple who loved God in an exemplary way. From the fruit of their income they gave one part to the Church, another to the poor and they lived with the third part. In their twenty-year marriage they had no offspring and felt the humiliation of having no descendants. They prayed to the Lord daily for this purpose until the Lord heard their prayers.
To Saint Joachim, God sent the Archangel Saint Gabriel during his prayer and said: “Just and upright man, the Almighty from his sovereign throne has taken notice of your desires and has heard your sighs and prayers, and has made you fortunate on earth. Your spouse Anne will conceive and bear a Daughter, who will be blessed among women (Luc. 1:42-48). The nations will know Her as the Blessed One. He who is the eternal God, uncreated, and the Creator of all, most upright in his judgments, powerful and strong, sends me to you, because your works and alms have been acceptable. Love has softened the heart of the Almighty, and has hastened his mercies, and in his liberality He wishes to enrich your house and your family with a Daughter, whom Anne will conceive; the Lord himself has chosen for Her the name of MARY.
From her childhood let Her be consecrated to the temple, and in it to God, as you have promised. She will be elect, exalted, powerful and full of the Holy Ghost; on account of the sterility of Anne her conception will be miraculous; She will be a wonderful Daughter in all her doings and in all her life. Praise the Lord, Joachim; for this benefit and magnify Him, for in no other nation has He wrought the like. You will go to give thanks in the temple of Jerusalem and in testimony of the truth of this joyful message, you will meet, in the Golden Gate, your sister Anne, who is coming to the temple for the same purpose. Remember that this message is marvelous, for the Conception of this Child will rejoice heaven and earth.”
184 To Saint Anne The holy archangel Gabriel appeared to her in human form more resplendent than the sun, and said to her: “Anne, servant of God, I am an angel sent from the council of the Most High, who in divine condescension looks upon the humble of the earth (Psalm 137:6). Good is incessant prayer and humble confidence. The Lord has heard your petitions, for He is nigh to those who call upon Him with living faith and hope, and who expect his salvation (Ps. 144:18). If He delays hearing their clamors and defers the fulfillment of their prayers, it is in order to dispose them to receive and to oblige Himself to give much more than they ask and desire. Prayer and almsgiving open the treasures of the Lord, the omnipotent King, and incline Him to be lavish in mercy toward those, who ask (Tob. 11: 8).
You and Joachim have prayed for the Fruit of benediction and the Most High has resolved to give you holy and wonderful Fruit; and by it He will enrich you with heavenly gifts, granting to you much more than you have asked. For having humiliated yourselves in prayer, the Lord wishes to magnify Himself in conceding your petitions: because those, who in humble confidence pray to Him without belittling his infinite power, are most agreeable to the Lord. Persevere in prayer and ask without ceasing for the Redemption of the human race in order to constrain the Most High. Moses by unceasing prayer brought victory to the people (Exod. 17: 11); Esther by prayer obtained liberation from the death sentence ( Esther 4: 11); Judith by the same means was filled with fortitude to execute a most arduous task for the salvation of Israel: She fulfilled it, though a weak and frail woman (Judith 9: 1). David came forth victorious in his combat with the giant, because he prayed, invoking the name of the Lord (I Kings 17: 45; III Kings 18: 36). Elias drew fire from heaven by his sacrifice and by his prayer opened and closed the heavens. The humility, faith and the alms of Joachim and of yourself have come before the throne of the Most High and now He sends me, his angel, in order to give you news full of joy for your heart: His Majesty wishes, that you be most fortunate and blessed. He chooses you to be the mother of Her who is to conceive and bring forth the Only begotten of the Father. You will bring forth a Daughter, who by divine disposition will be called MARY. She will be blessed among women and full of the Holy Ghost. She will be the cloud that will drop the dew of heaven for the refreshment of mortals (III Kings 18: 44): and in Her will be fulfilled the prophecies of your ancestors. She will be the portal of life and salvation for the sons of Adam. Know also that I have announced to Joachim, that he will have a Daughter who will be blessed and fortunate: but the full knowledge of the mystery is not given him by the Lord, for he does not know, that She is to be the Mother of the Messiah. Therefore you must guard this secret; and go now to the temple to give thanks to the Most High for having been so highly favored by his powerful right hand. In the Golden Gate you will meet Joachim, where you will confer with him about this tiding. You are the one, who are especially blessed of the Lord and whom He wishes to visit and enrich with more singular blessings. In solitude He will speak to your heart and will give a beginning to the law of grace, since in your womb He will give being to Her, who is to vest the Immortal with mortal flesh and human form. In this humanity, united with the Word, will be written, as with his own blood, the true law of Mercy.
To this, Anne replied: “Lord, God eternal, it is the essence of your immense bounty and the work of your powerful arm, to raise from the dust those that are poor and despised (Psalm 112:7). I acknowledge myself, O Lord, a creature unworthy of such mercies and benefits. What will this lowly worm do in your presence? Your own Being and your own magnificence alone can I offer in thanksgiving, and my soul and all its faculties in sacrifice. Use me, O Lord, according to your will, since I resign myself entirely to it. I wish to be as completely your own as such a favor requires; but what will I do, who am not worthy to be the slave of Her who is to be the Mother of the Only begotten and my Daughter? This I know, and will confess always: that I am a poor creature; but at the feet of your greatness I await the course of your mercy, who are a kind Father and the all-powerful God. Make me, O Lord, worthy in your eyes of the dignity You bestowed upon me.”
209. The divine wisdom had now prepared all things for drawing forth the spotless image of the Mother of grace from the corruption of nature. The number and congregation of ancient Patriarchs and Prophets had been completed and gathered, and the mountains had been raised, on which this mystical City of God was to be built (Ps. 86: 2). By the power of his right hand He had already selected incomparable treasures of the Divinity to enrich and endow Her. A thousand angels were equipped for her guard and custody, so that they might serve as most faithful vassals of their Queen and Lady. He had provided a noble and kingly ancestry from whom She should descend and had selected for Her most holy and perfect parents, than whom none holier or more perfect could be found in the world. For there is no doubt that if better and more apt parents existed, the Almighty would have selected them for Her, who was to be chosen by God as his Mother.
210. He endowed these parents with abundant graces and blessings of his right hand, and enriched them with all virtues, with enlightenments of divine science and with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. After having announced to the two saints, Joachim and Anne, that He would grant them a Daughter, admirable and blessed among women, He permitted the work of the first Conception to take place, namely, that of the most pure body of Mary. The age of Anne, when She married Joachim, was twenty-four, and that of Joachim, forty-six. Twenty years they lived in married life without having an issue, and thus Anne, at the same time of the Conception of her Daughter, was forty-four years old, and saint Joachim sixty-six. Although the conception happened according to the ordinary course of nature, yet the Most High freed it from imperfections and disorders, permitting only what was strictly required according to nature, in order that the proper material might be furnished for the formation of the most perfect substance within the limits of a mere creature.
211. God limited the natural activity in the two parents and by his grace prevented any fault or imperfection, substituting for them virtue and merit, and entire propriety in the manner of conception, which though natural and according to the common order, was nevertheless directed, supplemented and perfected by the action of divine grace, without disturbing the proper effect due to the law of nature. As regards the holy matron Anne, the divine power was more manifest on account of her natural sterility; in her the Conception was miraculous, not only in regard to the manner, but in regard to its very substance. In regard to the conceptions which happen entirely according to the natural order and in virtue of the natural powers, there is no necessity of recurring to or of depending on any supernatural cause. The parents in concurring are sufficient causes of the propagation, even in case they furnish the material and the concurrent acts of generation with imperfection and without proper measure.
212. But in this Conception, although the father was not naturally sterile, yet on account of his age and moderation, his natural powers were in a measure suppressed and weakened; and therefore he was enlivened, restored and enabled to act on his part with entire perfection and with the plenitude of his faculties, proportionately to the sterility of the mother. In both of them nature and grace concurred; the former briefly, with measure, and in that which was necessary; the latter overflowingly, powerfully and generously; absorbing, yet not confounding nature, exalting it and perfecting it in a miraculous manner. Thus grace was the origin of this Conception, while it called into its service the activity of nature in so far as was necessary for the birth of that ineffable Daughter from her natural parents.
213. The mode of repairing the sterility of the most holy mother Anne did not consist in the restitution of that condition, which was wanting in her natural faculties of conception; for thus restored, she would have conceived in no way different from the rest of women; the Lord concurred with her sterile faculties in a more miraculous manner for the formation of the body from natural material. Thus the faculties and the material were of the natural order, but the manner of moving them happened by the miraculous power of the Divinity. As soon as the miracle of this Conception had ceased, the mother was left in her former sterility never to conceive again, since no new quality was taken from or added to the natural temperament. This wonder, it seems to me, can be made intelligible by that which our Savior wrought, when Saint Peter walked over the water (Matthew 14:29). In order to sustain him, the water was not necessarily changed into crystal or ice, over which he and others could have walked without requiring any miraculous intervention except that of thus suddenly changing it into ice; but without thus changing the water, the Lord gave it the power to sustain the body of the Apostle. It remained in a liquid state both during and after the miracle; for when saint Peter ran over it, he began to sink and was about to drown. The miracle therefore was performed without changing the water by the addition of a new quality.
214. Much like to this, though much more wonderful, was the miracle of the Conception of Mary most holy in her mother Anne. The parents were so entirely governed by grace and withdrawn from concupiscence and delectation, that the accidental imperfections, which ordinarily are the material or the instruments of conception, and which induce original sin, were altogether wanting. Thus was furnished a material exempt from imperfection and furnished in such a manner that the act itself was meritorious. Hence in so far as this act was concerned it could easily be free from sin or imperfection, even if divine Providence had not previously arranged every particular of this event. This miracle the Almighty reserved solely for Her, who was to be a Mother worthy of Himself. For if it was proper that the material part of his being should have its origin according to the order maintained in the conception of the other children of Adam, it was likewise eminently proper that, without destroying nature, grace should concur in it with all its efficacy and power, and that it should excel in Her and act in Her more efficaciously than in all the children of Adam; yea, be greater than even in Adam and Eve, who gave origin to the corruption of nature and to its disorderly concupiscence.
215. In the formation of the body of the most holy Mary the wisdom and power of the Almighty proceeded so cautiously that the quantities and qualities of the four natural elements of the human body, the sanguine, melancholic, phlegmatic and choleric, were compounded in exact proportion and measure; in order that by this most perfect proportion in its mixture and composition it might assist the operations of that holy Soul with which it was to be endowed and animated. This wonderfully composed temperament was afterwards the source and the cause, which in its own way made possible the serenity and peace that reigned in the powers and faculties of the Queen of heaven during all her life. Never did any of these elements oppose or contradict nor seek to predominate over the others, but each one of them supplemented and served the others, continuing in this well ordered fabric without corruption or decay. Never did the body of the most Holy Mary suffer from the taint of corruption, nor was there anything wanting or any thing excessive found in it; but all the conditions and proportions of the different elements were continuously adjusted, without any want or excess in what was necessary for her perfect existence and without excess or default in dryness or moisture. Neither was there more warmth than was necessary for maintenance of life or digestion; nor colder than was necessary for the right temperature and for the maintenance of the bodily humors.
216. Nor was this body on account of its admirable composition, less sensible to the influence of heat and cold and the other inclemencies of the weather, but rather, as it was more delicately and perfectly constituted, so it was more acutely affected by any extremes, not being able to furnish a defense against the excess of temperature in those parts, which were more subject to them. Certainly, on the one hand, these extremes would find in such a harmoniously constituted frame much less material in which they could work their changes; nevertheless, on the other hand, the delicacy of its composition made even ordinary influences much more penetrating than greater ones in other bodies. This admirable body, thus formed in the womb of holy Anne, was not capable of spiritual gifts before it was animated by the soul; but it was capable of receiving the natural ones. These were given to this body in supernatural degree and by supernatural power, so as to accord with the high purpose and the singular gifts for which it was formed; and in this it surpassed all others in the order of nature and grace Thus were given to it a complexion and faculties so excellent that all nature would never of itself be able to produce one similar to it.
217. Just as the hand of our Lord formed the first parents Adam and Eve in such a way as to befit original justice and the state of innocence and therefore also more excellently than their descendants (for the works coming directly from the Lord must be more perfect than those of secondary causes), so his Omnipotence, in a more excellent and superior manner, operated in the formation of the virginal body of the most holy Mary. And this He did with so much the greater solicitude and abundance of grace, as this Creature was to exceed in perfection not only the first parents, who were to sin so soon, but all the other creatures, corporal and spiritual. According to our way of speaking, God exerted more care in composing this body of his most holy Mother, than in creating all the celestial orbs and the whole universe. In accordance with this rule are to be me asured the gifts and privileges of this City of God from its first beginnings and foundations to its highest pinnacle next to the infinity of the Most High.
218. Such was also the measure of the distance between her miraculous Conception and sin and its cause, concupiscence; for not only was She, as the dawn of grace, entirely free from sin, and always so exhibited and treated by the Lord; but also in her parents, sin and concupiscence were restrained and withheld in view of her Conception, in order that nature might not be disturbed or made imperfect in this work. For nature was to be subject to grace and served merely as an instrument to the supreme Artificer, who is superior to the laws of nature and of grace It was here that He commenced to destroy sin, and to lay the foundations, building up the castle of the strong armed One (Luke 11: 22) ho was to undermine evil and deprive it of the possessions which it tyrannically held.
219. The day on which the first Conception of the body of the most holy Mary happened, was a Sunday, corresponding to the day of the week on which the angels were created, whose exalted Queen and Lady She was to be. For the formation and growth of other human bodies, according to the natural order, many days are necessary in order to organize and fit them for the reception of the rational soul. Thus for a man-child are required forty and for females eighty days, more or less, according to the natural heat and disposition of the mothers. In the formation of the virginal body of Mary the Almighty accelerated the natural time and that, which according to the natural rule required eighty days, was accomplished in Her within seven days. Within these seven days, by accelerated growth, was organized and prepared in the womb of holy Anne that wonderful body which was to receive the most holy soul of her Daughter and of our Lady and Queen.
220. On the Saturday next following this first Conception, the Almighty wrought the second Conception by creating the soul of his Mother and infusing it into the body; and thus entered into the world that pure Creature, more holy, perfect and agreeable to His eyes than all those He had created, or will create to the end of the world, or through the eternities. God maintained a mysterious correspondence in the execution of this work with that of creating all the rest of the world in seven days, as is related in the book of Genesis. Then no doubt He rested in truth, according to the figurative language of Scripture, since He has now created the most perfect Creature of all, giving through it a beginning to the work of the divine Word and to the Redemption of the human race. Thus was this day a paschal feast for God and also for all creatures.
221. On account of this Immaculate Conception of most holy Mary the holy Spirit has provided, that Saturday be consecrated to the Virgin in the holy Church, since that was the day on which She received the greatest benefit through the of her soul and its union with its body without entailing sin or its effects. The day of the Immaculate Conception, which the Church now celebrates, is not the day of her first conception, when the body alone was conceived, but it is the day of her second Conception or the infusion of her soul. Body and soul, therefore, remained for nine months in the womb of holy Anne, which are the days that intervene between the Conception to the Nativity of that Queen. During the other seven days preceding the vivification of the inanimate body, it was disposed and organized by the divine power, in order that this work might correspond with the account that Moses gives of the Creation of all things, comprising the formation of the whole world at its beginning. At the instant of the creation and infusion of the soul in the most holy Mother, the most blessed Trinity, repeated with greater affection of love the words, recorded by Moses at that time concerning man: “Let us make Mary to our image and likeness to be our true Daughter and Spouse and a Mother to the Only-begotten of the Father.”
222. By the force of this divine pronouncement and through the love with which it issued from the mouth of the Almighty, was created and infused into the body of most holy Mary her most blessed Soul. At the same time She was filled with grace and gifts above those of the highest seraphim of heaven, and there was not a single instant in which She was found wanting or deprived of the light, the friendship and love of the Creator, or in which She was touched by the stain or darkness of original sin. On the contrary she was possessed of the most perfect justice, superior to that of Adam and Eve in their first formation. To Her was also conceded the most perfect use of light of reason, corresponding to the gifts of grace, which She had received. Not for one instant was She to remain idle, but to engage in works most admirable and pleasing to her Maker. In the perception of this great mystery I confess myself overcome, (says Sister María of Agreda) so that my heart, unable to express itself in words, is dumbfounded in sentiments of admiration and of praise. I see the Ark of the Testament joined together, enriched and placed in the temple of a sterile mother with greater glory than the figurative one in the house of Obededon, and of David, or in the temple of Solomon. I see the altar of the Holy of holies (Isaiah 65:17), whence is to be offered the first sacrifice that is to overcome and prove acceptable to God ; I see the order of nature break from its laws to be rearranged; I see new laws established against sin, disregarding those of the common order, overpowering those of guilt, conquering those of nature and supervening even those of grace itself; I see the formation of a new earth, and of a new heaven (Isaiah 65:17) being the womb of a most humble woman, where the eyes of the most holy Trinity are directed, where the Divinity presides, where the courtiers of the ancient heavens gather, and where a thousand angels are delegated to form a guard over a tiny, animated body not larger than that of a little bee.
223. In this new creation is heard with a greater force the voice of its Maker, who, pleased with the work of his Omnipotence, says that it is very good (Génesis 1:31). Let human frailty with humble piety approach this wonder, confessing the grandeur of the Creator, and let it rejoice at this new benefit conceded to all the human race in this its Reparatrix or Repairer. Let the heat of disputation cease, by your divine light; for if the divine Bounty, as was shown to me, in the Conception of the most holy Mother, looked upon Her with such pleasure and upon original sin with such hostility that He gloried in the occasion and just cause of restraining and withholding its baneful currents, how can that appear proper to human wisdom, which was so abhorrent to God?
224. At the time of the infusion of the soul into the body of this heavenly Lady, the Almighty desired that her mother, holy Anne, should feel and recognize the presence of the Divinity in a most exalted manner. She was filled with the Holy Ghost and was moved interiorly with a joy and devotion altogether above the ordinary. She was wrapped in exalted ecstasy, in which she was enlightened with deep intelligences of the most hidden mysteries and praised the Lord with new canticles of Joy. These effects lasted during all the rest of her life; but they were greater during the nine months in which she bore in her womb the Treasure of heaven. For during that time these benefits were more constantly renewed and repeated with continual intelligences of the holy Scriptures and of their most profound sacraments. O most fortunate woman! Let all the nations and generations of the world extol you and call you blessed!
Oh Holy Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us sinners who have recourse to Thee.
The Immaculate Conception - The blessed Virgin Mary - Story revealed