The Divine Life of the Most Holy Virgin
by Ven. Mary of Agreda
An Abridgment of THE MYSTICAL CITY OF GOD
TO THE DIVINE HEART OF JESUS, TO MARY IMMACULATE, AND TO THE GLORIOUS ST. JOSEPH.
O Jesus! Only Son of the Eternal Father! Divine Redeemer of our
souls! By choosing the august Mary from all eternity to be Thy Mother, Thou
hast exalted her far above the Angels, and she has thus become the cause of
our hope. Word of God, Who hast loved men to excess, to Whom, if not to Thy
Divine Heart, can I worthily present the offering of The Divine Life of the
Blessed Virgin Mary? This book has been the source of great blessings to the
humble translator; for this reason I dare, although unworthy, supplicate Thee
to bless it anew, so that it may bear abundant fruits of benediction in the
souls of its readers. Master of Eternal Wisdom! make it, as it has already been,
a source of grace in the houses which it shall enter: by it may the sinner be
converted and the just become more holy. Thus Thou wilt show how pleasing to
Thee are the perfect love and fidelity ever entertained by the Queen of Heaven,
for Thee her perfect Model. O Mother of the Divine Jesus! Immaculate Virgin
and Reparatrix! In thy merciful designs on men, thou hast deigned to communicate
to us, by means of thy loving daughter and servant, Mary of Jesus of Agreda,
The Mystical City, of which I offer thee this faithful abridgment; then, O Queen
of Heaven, refuse not to bless it. Thou knowest that, overwhelmed by the infirmities
and miseries of my soul, I have turned towards thee by the impulse of grace.
Obtain that the trials which the publication of this book has caused me may,
by thy powerful intercession, be changed into sources of great benedictions.
In fine, it is to this Mystical Life that I owe the grace of being
numbered among those who are dear to the Heart of thy Divine Son. Glorious St.
Joseph, whom the august Mary has permitted me to address as Father, thou knowest
that to thee I owe my life and honor; to thy intercession, also, I am indebted
for remaining faithful to God. Allow me then to place this work in thy hands.
O thou who hast so worthily appreciated the Queen of Heaven, deign to obtain
that the reading of her admirable life may serve as an instrument for the conversion
of sinners and the sanctification of the just. St. Ann and St. Joachim, worthy
parents of the Queen of Heaven, deign to present to her the humble offering
of this book. Obtain also that by your efficacious intercession, I may receive
the grace of persevering until death in the vocation to which the Divine Jesus,
by the mediation of Mary, has so gratuitously predestined and called me. To
Mary of Jesus of Agreda, to the seraph, M. Olier, to St. Teresa, to St. Margaret
of Cortona, to St. Catherine of Siena and to St. Gertrude. Live Jesus, Mary,
The Abbé J. A. Boullan
The volume which we offer to the public under the title of The Divine Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a faithful abridgment, without change, alteration, or modification of the facts, taken entirely and literally from the celebrated work, The Mystical City, by Mary of Jesus of Agreda. Therefore, all the approbations granted to that admirable book may and ought to be applicable to this. We append a summary of these divers approbations of which we can warrant the authenticity, having copied them from the acts of the process of the beatification and canonization of the above-mentioned servant of God, Mary of Agreda.
1st. Approbation of the Ordinary of the diocese wherein the servant of God died in the odor of sanctity, and also of the bishop of the place where the work was printed. The bishops are, as we all know, according to the canon law, the first judges of books published within their jurisdiction.
2nd. Approbation of the learned tribunal of the Inquisition in Spain, which, having examined the book word for word, authorized its publication and
diffusion among the faithful.
3rd. Approbation of theologians of all religious bodies, Benedictines, Carmelites, Dominicans and Jesuits, called upon to examine the work. They have
eulogized it in the highest terms and recommended it as the fruit of the Spirit of God.
4th. Approbation of the most celebrated universities of foreign lands, Salamanca, Louvain, Toulouse, etc., which after the most minute examinations have declared that the book contains nothing against faith or morals; they have exalted it immeasurably, as Pope Benedict XIV expresses it in his decree of 1748. The University of Paris alone is an exception, because it was, at that time, tainted with Jansenism, to which this work is so adverse.
5th. In fine, Pope Innocent XI, after having placed this work on the Index, August 4th, 1681, because, said the postulator of the cause of canonization, of the contests which it had raised, withdrew it himself three months later, November 9, 1681. This last decree has the force of a universal law of the Church, for in 1713, a bishop having forbidden the reading of this work, the Holy Office declared his prohibition null and obliged him to retract it, as being contrary to the decree of November 9, 1681, which decree, said the Sacred Congregation, has the power of a law throughout the universal Church. We know it is the same in our days. Alexander VIII authorized the reading of this work oraculo vivae vocis. In 1704 Clement IX forbade it to be placed on the Index, and it would be vain to seek for it among the forbidden books. And in fine, in 1729, with the approbation of Benedict XIII of happy memory, the Sacred Congregation of Rites published a decree which permits the faithful to read and retain it without any other examination. Therefore he who, whatever may be his title, honor, or dignity, presumes to forbid the reading of this work, authorized by the Holy See, would be obliged to retract, even publicly, if necessary. Thus the cause is decided; pious Reader, accept the book and read it without fear, for Rome, which cannot fail in its examination of doctrine, has spoken.
INTRODUCTION TO THE SECOND EDITION
Among the pious faithful of the present day there is a holy desire to know everything that may concern the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom God predestined to be the Mother of the Eternal Word, who was to become incarnate for the salvation of men. It seems to us that many souls having an ardent devotion to the august Queen of Heaven will rejoice to read a work which contains a faithful, minute and complete relation of her marvelous life. Therefore, we are well assured of the welcome which this Life will receive from pious Catholics, who justly glory in living in the age of Mary. What a sweet joy shall it be for children devoted to the august Mother to know that which constitutes the glory and grandeur of the incomparable Queen of Angels and men! According to the designs of His divine providence, God did not manifest all the ineffable mysteries of the life of the august Mary during the first ages of the Church. In fact, it was but right that the law of grace should be established and the Gospel of Christ promulgated before the faithful should learn the grandeur, glory, titles and prerogatives of her who was raised above the Angels. The holy Evangelists themselves were compelled to be silent concerning many of these ineffable mysteries. The human mind is so weak and ignorant that the manifestation of those mysteries, at a time when the faith and doctrine of the Incarnation were not fully established, would have occasioned much trouble and difficulty. The august Queen of Heaven made this known to her beloved daughter, Mary of Jesus of Agreda, in order to explain to her why she had been chosen by God to make known to the faithful the secret mysteries communicated to her. We will quote the words addressed by the Blessed Virgin to the seraphic servant of God. It is important that they should be read with the utmost attention.
I see, my daughter, that thou art astonished that the Evangelists have not written the wonderful things which the Most High operated in my regard. I answer (and desire that my words be engraven on the hearts of all men) that I myself ordered the Evangelists to write of me only that which was necessary to establish the articles of faith, and the precepts of the law of grace. As Mistress of the Church and from the inspirations of the Most High, I knew it was not proper to reveal more at the first foundation of the Church. All my prerogatives were included in my dignity of Mother of God, and in what had been said of me, that I was full of grace. But the manifestation of all that remained hidden was reserved by Divine Providence for a suitable time, when the faith would be more firmly established. It is true that, even from the beginning, the Church has announced some of the mysteries which concern me, but the revelation in its fullness has been made to thee, although a vile creature, because of the wants of the world in its present unhappy state. For this reason, the Divine Mercy has willed to give to men so efficacious a means (as this work) that they may seek their remedy and eternal salvation through my intercession. (Mystical City, II., p. 5-6, chap. 28).
Before His glorious Ascension, the Divine Jesus spoke to the one hundred and twenty persons assembled by Divine Providence to be witnesses of that sacred mystery. They were, in one sense, the entire Church, to whom the Divine Master left His last instructions regarding His Blessed Mother.
My dear children, said He, I return to My Father, from whom I came to save and redeem men. In My stead, I leave you My Mother, who will be your protectress, your advocate, your consoler and your mother. Listen to her counsels, and obey her. As I have already told you, whoever will see Me will also see My Father, and whoever will know Me will also know Him. In the same manner I assure you that he who will know My Mother will also know Me; he who will hear her will hear Me; he who will obey her will obey Me; he who will offend her will offend Me, and he that will honor her will honor Me. You and all those who will come after you shall acknowledge her for your Mother, and when you seek Me, you shall find Me in her. (Part II, book 6, chap. 18).
As He thus spoke, He looked at His most holy Mother and revealed to her that He was about to command all those there assembled to honor her by the worship due to her as Mother of God, and even to make it a precept of the Church. But the humble Queen begged her Divine Son to allow the sacred worship to be addressed to Himself alone, that it might serve for the propagation of the Gospel and the exaltation of His name. Our Saviour granted her prudent prayer, but reserved to Himself the right of making her known at the proper time. Who among faithful Catholics can doubt that this is clearly the chosen time reserved by God for the manifestation of Marys glory? It is of the greatest importance that we who live in this happy time should listen to the words of our Divine Saviour, addressed to the children of His Church. It is our duty to have recourse to the august Queen of Heaven and to glorify her, that we may fulfill the designs of the Most High and save our souls. It seems to us incontestable and it is an opinion widely spread and universally admitted, that the epoch is near at hand when the Church will be extended over the entire earth. But all those who believe this are also convinced that it will be granted only through Mary. She is the Mediatrix near the Sovereign Mediator, and her powerful intercession shall be experienced by all the children of men. If this be true, who does not perceive the necessity of making known her titles, her grandeur, her perfections, in a word, all the hidden mysteries of the Queen of Heaven? The Divine Life is the only work calculated to effect this; hence it is important that it be read with attention, and diffused as widely as possible, in order to correspond to the designs of God and His Church.
We take the liberty of speaking thus, because the book is not the fruit of our labor, but was communicated by the Blessed Virgin herself to her faithful daughter and servant, the Ven. Mary of Jesus of Agreda. Our eulogiums are then addressed to the true author of this Divine Lifeto the august Mary herself, who has deigned to give it to her children. The success which attended the first edition is to us a certain proof that this work has been appreciated and has been productive of good among souls. Six thousand copies of any work could not have been sold in so short a space of time, unless it was valued, esteemed and truly sought after. In order to respond to the confidence reposed in us, we have scrupulously revised our first translation, so that our words might be the faithful expression of the authentic text. We cannot cite the number of letters we have received, felicitating us on the happy idea communicated to us of publishing the Mystical Life. They have been the sources of great consolation to us, for, at the first appearance of the book, Hell found means to raise strong opposition against it, from persons little enlightened with regard to the designs of Satan, who sought to have this work discredited: qui non cognoverunt altitudines satanaewho have not known the depths of Satan (Apoc. 2:24). The publication of the documents and authentic decrees of the Holy See in favor of the work of Mary of Jesus of Agreda, which may be read in the notice preceding this work, will no doubt contribute to the dissipation of all doubts. We must also say that if Satan has found accomplices so blind as to seek to bring discredit on this life, the Queen of Heaven has also raised devoted souls to defend and propagate it. We most cordially testify our gratitude to the Delegate of the Holy Apostolic See in France, who has encouraged us both by word and authority.
How many pious servants of Mary have become ardent propagators of this Divine Life, being undeterred by any human consideration! They have merited a large share of the great blessings of which this book is the fruitful source. We entertain the sweet confidence that all those also, who glory in loving Mary, will zealously contribute to the propagation of this book, so useful for the good of souls. Our age, which so justly glories in the name of the Age of Mary, should be anxious to learn the hidden mysteries of the august Queen of Heaven, which God has been pleased to reveal to us, after having reserved them for our time. Let us then cease to occupy ourselves inordinately with the inventions of modern science, in order to lend an attentive ear to the marvels of grace which God has operated in Mary. In them we will find the way of salvation, and the means of escaping the cruel ravages which pride works among men.
This work, we must say, is better suited to persons of great piety and consecrated by the vows of religion than to persons of the world. Nevertheless, these last will not read it without fruit; its perusal always awakens in the soul a greater confidence and love towards Mary. This is the unanimous testimony of all those who have read it impartially and under the guidance of the Spirit of God. We believe we may affirm that by the doctrine of the works of Mary of Agreda are to be formed the great Saints who are soon to appear in the Church. Thus, with good authority, the venerable Grignon De Montfort says: The happy time and age of Mary will soon arrive, when souls, losing themselves in the abyss of the interior of the Queen of Heaven, will become living copies of Mary, in loving and glorifying Jesus Christ. Then shall be verified the following words: Ut adveniat regnum tuum, adveniat regnum MariaeMay the reign of Mary arrive, that the reign of Jesus Christ may also arrive. Here we must quote the words of the pious and learned M. Emery, with regard to the works of Mary of Agreda. Towards the end of his long life, speaking of the works of this seraphic servant of God, he said: It was only after having read and meditated on them, that I understood the wise recommendation of our founder, M. Olier, Study the interior of Jesus in Mary.
The solemn definition of the Immaculate Conception as a dogma of Faith, has, besides, answered every pretext that could be alleged against the Divine Life. If we were not confined within the circumscribed limits of a preface, we would demonstrate to our readers how the Bull, Ineffabilis Deus, is but the solemn and authentic echo of the doctrine contained in the incomparable works of Mary of Jesus of Agreda. But the incontestable proof in favor of those writings is the sanctity of their author. Therefore it is a great consolation to us to be able to announce that the cause of the beatification and canonization of the Venerable Mother Mary of Agreda is to be resumed and continued. We shall then, we fondly trust, have the happiness of venerating on our altars her whom the Church has already declared Venerable. Before concluding, we feel it our duty to make known in a few words the pious author of this abridgment of The Mystical City by Mary of Jesus of Agreda, under the title of The Divine Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Rev. P. Bartholomew of Caesarea was an eminent theologian, and his writings, so highly esteemed by scientific men, are evident proofs of his great learning. He was Consulter of the Sacred Roman Congregation of the Index, which title is granted only to men of profound learning and welltried faith in doctrine. The Divine Life is considered in Rome to be a true masterpiece. (Many abridgments of the The Mystical City have already been published. We have before us that of the learned Franciscan, Ximenes Samaniego, which is also a masterpiece. We have used it to establish the authenticity of the text which we have translated. That which we now give to the public seems the best of all; for this reason, we have chosen it.)
Our readers are now acquainted with the motives which have led us to publish this work. Our wish is to aid as much as in our power, in making the august Mary, our divine Mother, known, loved, blessed and glorified. May this object be accomplished according to the desire of our hearts! To prevent all objections, we declare, in conclusion, that the words to adore, divine, and similar expressions to be found in this work are to be taken in a relative sense, and not in that in which they are applied to God. St. Thomas teaches that we may use them in this sense, and after the Angel of the Schools, we have not hesitated to employ them. We submit our writings to the judgment of the Holy Apostolic See, for we are submissive children of the Holy Roman Church, to which we have vowed obedience and love.
NOTICE ON THE WORKS OF THE VENERABLE MARY OF JESUS OF AGREDA
By The Abbé J. A. Boullan, D.D.
Among the holy souls of past centuries who have been loaded with signal favors
and privileges by the Queen of Heaven, we must, without doubt, place in the
first rank Mary of Jesus, often styled of Agreda, from the name of the place
in Spain where she passed her life. The celebrated J. Goerres, in his monumental
work, Mysticism, fears not to cite as an example the life of Mary of Agreda,
in a chapter entitled, The Culminating Point of Christian Mysticism.
Indeed, there could be found no more perfect model of the highest mystic ways.
Her life is a striking example, in which it is important to study attentively
the progress of a soul which, according to the words of the prophet, ascends
by degrees to the height of perfection: ibunt de virtute in virtutemgoes
from virtue to virtue. A powerful motive makes it a duty for us to publish a
rather lengthy notice on Mary of Agreda. We wish to call the attention of our
readers to so important a work as The Mystical City, of which The Divine Life,
which we publish, is a faithful abridgment. We hesitate not to acknowledge that
there is in France much prejudice against the venerable Mary of Agreda and her
works. Men, swayed by the power of unfounded prejudice, have assailed this pure
memoir and forbidden the reading of her works. For more than seven years we
have pursued our researches on this subject and have been successful in finding
irrefutable documents regarding it. In one of the libraries of Paris we have
discovered the acts of the process of canonization of this servant of God. It
is on the authority of these incontestable writings that we will proceed; thus
we hope to close the debate upon this question.
There are divine and supernatural gifts so marvelous that, were it not for the authority of the Church and the holy Doctors, we would be tempted to doubt them. But doubt can only be the effect of ignorance or bad faith, and neither the one nor the other can justify man at the tribunal of his conscience, any more than at that of God. The God of mercy grants to some souls those privileges known under the name of clear, distinct and precise words, or supernatural expressions; that is, He deigns to speak to them either directly and immediately from Himself, or by the ministry of Angels, as is more generally the case. Sometimes it is God the Father, at others Our Lord, or the august Mother of God, or, as more rarely happens, some of the Saints, who consent to speak to souls raised to a particular degree of contemplation. St. Teresa, whose authority on these matters is indisputable, because of the approbation with which the Church has stamped her writings, treats of this question in The Interior Castle (sixth mansion, chap. 3). God, says she, makes the soul feel His presence by various means. He causes her to hear words in different ways; sometimes they seem to come from the exterior, sometimes from the interior. Some seem to proceed from the superior part of the soul, while others are so exterior, that we hear them with our ears. Alvarez de Paz adds that they sometimes seem to come from the center of the heartInterdum ex ipso penetrali cordis assurgere. (Vol. 3, Book 5, chap. 6). The seraphic Saint explains the means for distinguishing the origin of these words, for they may proceed from the imagination, from the devil or from God.
When God speaks to us, says she, He suddenly hushes all other thoughts that we may be attentive to what He says, and it is less in our power to be deaf to His voice than for a person of very acute hearing not to hear what is uttered in a loud tone. When God speaks, it is impossible for the soul to close her ears or think of anything but of what she hears. May my explanations, continues she, regarding the divine words, and the few admonitions which I have given, be useful to those souls whom the Divine Master may honor with these favors. Suarez, in whom we hear all the Doctors, explains the manner in which this is operated. Examining the manner in which the Angels communicate their thoughts to each other, he applies it to the souls to whom God grants this gift. (Suarez, Part 2d, Book 2, chap. 27).
Scaramelli, in his Directorio Mystico, treats of this sublime subject ex professo and, having for his basis the doctrine of the great Fathers, develops this matter under every point of view. (Tract 4, chap. 14- 15). We must add that all the servants of God who hear these supernatural and heavenly words sometimes behold under corporeal forms the heavenly personages who pronounce them; at other times, they hear without seeing. What we have said will suffice to draw the attention of clergymen and induce them to study these marvels of grace. In view of the phenomena of [animal] magnetism and neo-spiritualism which now inundate the world, they will be able the more readily to distinguish truth from error; they will clearly discern the snares which the enemy, the angel of darkness, has laid for men, even from the beginning of the world, by leading them to reject all that is supernatural or by plunging them in the gross deceits in which he involves the unfortunate adepts in his dark doctrines. Let us examine first whether anyone, no matter with what authority he may be vested, is allowed to forbid the reading of the works of Mary of Agreda. Secondly, whether it is true to say that the reading of them is permitted, and that we have nothing to fear from the doctrine taught in them. Regarding the first point, our task is very easy. Eleven years after the appearance of this work, after it had been translated into Italian, discussions concerning it were immediately raised. The tribunal of the Holy Office, on account of the state of the times, to quote the words of the postulator of the cause of the canonization of Mary of Agreda, passed a decree of prohibition on the 4th of August, 1681. But God, who knows how to draw good from evil, allowed this prohibition to serve for the greater triumph of these works. Three months afterwards, on November 9, 1681, the decree was revoked. Happily, we can give our readers the authentic text of the decree which declares the suspension of the first. It is extracted from the process of the cause for canonization.
INNOCENTIUS PAPA XII
In negotio librorum sanctimonialis Mariae a Jesus de Agreda supersedendum duximus, quamvis sacrae hujus inquisitionis ratio et stylus aliter suaderent. Datum Romae, sub annulo piscatoris, 9 Nov. 1681.
POPE INNOCENT XII
With regard to the books of the holy nun, Mary of Jesus of Agreda, we have thought best to suspend our judgment, although the custom and manner of the sacred Inquisition would suggest otherwise. Given in Rome, under the ring of the Fisherman, this ninth day of November, 1681.
The reader will, no doubt, ask what is the power of this last decree, and if it truly has the character of an obligatory law in the universal Church. In answer to this, we have only to refer to the general teachings of the Doctors. The sovereign authority has decided the question; on this matter the slightest doubt, the least discussion, is no longer allowed. In 1713 the Holy Office published a decree in which the Bishop of C is ordered to conform to the suspensive decree of Innocent XII, and not again to forbid to anyone the reading of the works of Mary of Agreda.
We subjoin it as follows:
DECREE OF THE HOLY OFFICE
In the congregation held Sept. 19th, 1713, at which were present their Eminences Cardinals Acciaioli, Spada, Fabroni, and Ottoboni, it was resolved that the letter of the Inquisitor of C should be withdrawn, and that the suspensive decree has the power of law throughout the universal Church.
The original is preserved in the Convent of Ara Coeli in Rome. 1st. Thus it is true to say that no one is allowed to forbid the reading of these works. 2d. By permission of Divine Providence, the Holy See has done more than protect the works of Mary of Agreda against her adversaries; it has formally permitted the reading of them. Pope Alexander VIII, of happy memory, was prevented by death from giving a decree, but he expressly authorized the reading of them, oracula vivae vocis. In fine, the Sacred Congregation of Rites, under Benedict XIII, passed a decree as follows:
It is ordered that the cause of the said servant of God shall be continued without any re-examination of The Mystical City, and her works may be kept and read. March 14th, 1729.
This decree is signed by Benedict XIII. The tribunal of the Holy See having definitively judged the cause, the reader will no longer hesitate to edify himself by the doctrine of the works of this servant of God. We may pass over the clamor raised against this book by the partisans of Satan, as our cause has been judged. Having cited the authentic decrees of the court of Rome, we come now to the eulogiums given to these works. About a year ago, was found in the Imperial Library a collection of the correspondence of Mary of Agreda with Philip IV of Spain. These letters have been published in one volume by M. Vaton. M. Germond de Lavigne, speaking of The Mystical City, says: We have read this wonderful book, this treatise ex professo of the celebrated ascetic, and can only say with the Doctors who have edited it that the mysteries of the Christian religion, principles of the Catholic Church, the most abstruse texts of Holy Scripture, confused computations of evangelical history, the most hidden decrees of Divine Providence, of theology, sacred, dogmatic, expositive, scholastic, moral, deliberative, mystic, all are united in it.
We will now repeat briefly the words of the most competent judges of these
matters. F. Anthony, surnamed the Very Celebrated Doctor, says: This book
has delighted me. Every word of it is clear and full of life; in a word, the
reading of it raises the mind, inflames the heart and excites to great devotion.
F. Andreas Mendo, of the Society of Jesus, says: The whole work is a continuous light which illumines the intellect and a flame which kindles the will; it banishes tepidity, and incites to the practice of virtue. He who reads it carefully cannot fail to be instructed and feel an ardent desire of becoming a saint.
F. Dydace de Sylva, a Benedictine, says: The reading of this book is very profitable; it has an admirable and efficacious power to persuade. All that can be said of it falls far short of the truth. When we begin to read, we are filled with admiration. I feel with regret that it would require the wisdom of an Angel to adequately express my wishes, my thoughts and my veneration with regard to it.
F. John of the Mother of God says: I have been so happy as to receive this book; it fills me with admiration. All in it causes me to think that the author has been illumined with light from above. It will bring great consolation to the faithful.
The most renowned and celebrated universities have extolled this admirable work. We will omit the testimonies of the universities of Madrid, Alcala, Salamanca and Toulouse, which leave nothing to be desired, and will only cite that of Louvain, which says: The learned and the ignorant can gather admirable fruits from this book; the faithful may read it without fear of danger to faith or morals. There is nothing contained in it that tends to relaxation of virtue or to any indiscreet rigor. While reading it, we feel a special grace which is not experienced in reading others; the more we study it, the greater become our appreciation and pleasure. The Ordinary of the place in which Mary of Agreda dwelt says in his approbation: I conclude by saying that this work is truly good; that, without the least doubt, it contains a heavenly doctrine, which we find to be solid, strong, true and conformable to the Gospel, which leads to the true knowledge of God and the most pure Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and excites to the love of virtue and the horror of sin. In his beautiful introduction, Father Laurent speaks of Mary of Agreda as follows: At thirty-five years of age, in one of her ecstatic visions, she receives from Heaven the order to write the history of the Mother of God. Through humility she declines the honor, thinking herself unworthy; she seeks to avoid that mission which she judges herself incapable of accomplishing, but the will of the Lord being clearly manifested, she obeys as a submissive daughter, and writes that admirable book The Mystical City. Divine inspiration is impressed on every page. Reading it we become convinced that it was only in the heavenly regions into which she was ravished, that she could have acquired the knowledge of the most sublime mysteries, the revelation of the most adorable and ineffable designs of the Most High on the august Mary. It is under the direction of Mary that she retraces the history of the mortal life of the Queen of Heaven, so that this work, written by a poor girl, destitute of human or acquired science and living in the obscurity of the cloister, is, perhaps, the most extraordinary and astonishing which has ever come from the hand of a human creature. The author unhesitatingly touches on the highest mysteries of religion, and explains them with rare clearness. She develops without embarrassment, and with wonderful facility, Catholic dogma and the most difficult passages of the Scriptures; sacred chronology is as familiar to her as to the most eminent doctors; she reveals the most hidden ways of Providence; sacred theology, sublime philosophy, knowledge of natural sciences, persuasive eloquence, all are found there, even to neatness, correctness, sublimity, strength and elegance of style. (Introduction to the Life of the Ven. M. Mary of Agreda, p. 16, 17). We dwell purposely on the works of this servant of God. In our opinion, The Mystical City is, not only as F. Laurent says, the most extraordinary and astonishing book which has ever been written by a human creature, but it appears to us to be manifestly designed, in the views of Divine Providence, to produce great fruits for the sanctification and high perfection of souls in these latter times. But the servant of God, or rather God Himself and the august Queen of Heaven, by her organ, will reveal the designs of God with regard to this book and will manifest to us why it has been given to the world. It is in particular the priest, devoted to Mary, whom we ask to meditate on the following. The Most High, addressing the servant of God, said to her:
My daughter, when I sent My only Son into the world, men, except the small number who served Me, were in the most deplorable state they had ever been. And as in time of deepest misery I show My greatest mercy, so I will now grant to men a new favor, because the proper time has arrived. In order the more to confound them, this is the time when My mercy shall shine, and in which I desire that My love may not be idle, notwithstanding that this is the most unhappy age of the world since the Incarnation of the Word. I desire to give to men a sovereign remedy, by which, if they wish to use it, they may receive My grace; those who find it shall be happy, those who will know its value shall not be less so. I will that men should know the worth of the intercession of her who brought the remedy to their sins, when in her virginal womb she gave mortality to the Immortal. I will discover to them many of the marvels which My power has operated on Mary in her quality of Mother in My Incarnate Son; marvels which, by My secret judgment, have been hidden until now. I did not manifest them to the primitive Church, because they contain mysteries so high and sublime that the faithful would have paused to search and admire them, when it was necessary to establish the law of grace, and to publish the Gospel. And although this would not have been incompatible, nevertheless, men, so blind and ignorant, might have been perplexed at a time when faith in the Incarnation was yet feeble, and the precepts of the New Law as yet in their infancy. I present to them this Mystical City of refuge (the Mother of Mercy); describe and explain it as well as thy weakness will allow. I do not wish this to be considered as merely an opinion, or a simple vision, but as a constant and certain truth.
In order to avoid unnecessary discussion, we will explain these last words. We know and acknowledge with all the Doctors that the Church never gives absolute authority to the particular revelations vouchsafed to some privileged souls. By her approbation she merely permits us to believe that, probably, they have been inspired by God. If, however, the faithful have sufficient motives to believe that they come from God, there is nothing to prevent them from admitting them, and giving in their adhesion. Those who have reason to doubt are not required to believe, on condition, however, that they neither blame nor condemn those who believe them according to the approbation of the Church, which is the supreme judge in these matters. One day, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, being in the choir for Matins, I heard a voice which demanded of me renewed attention for heavenly things. I was then raised from that state to another more sublime, wherein I beheld the throne of the Divinity radiant with immense glory and majesty. From it proceeded a voice, which, it seemed to me, could be heard throughout the entire universe, saying:
Poor, abandoned, ignorant sinners, great and small, sick and weak, and all the children of Adam, of whatever state, condition, or sex you may be; prelates, princes, and subjects, all over the entire world, come and seek a remedy from My liberality and infinite providence, through the intercession of her who gave humanity to the Word.
After having heard this voice from the throne, I saw four globes coming forth from the Divine Being, which diffused a brilliant light over the four quarters of the world. (1. We believe that by these symbols were designated four religious bodies which are to appear in the Age of Mary.) It was revealed to me that in these latter ages, the same Lord wished to exalt and spread the glory of His most holy Mother, and manifest to the world hidden miracles and mysteries reserved by Divine Providence for the time of greatest necessity, so that we may all avail ourselves of the help, the protection and the powerful intercession of our august Queen. I then saw, coming out of the abyss, a formidable dragon which had seven heads; accompanied by many others, it traveled over all the earth, seeking and perverting persons, by whose means it might oppose the intentions of the Lord and prevent the glory of Mary and the benefits which, by her means, were to be conferred on the world.
This vision of the infernal dragons caused in me the greatest sorrow. I understood that the victory would be strongly contested, but as reason, justice, and power are on the side of our Queen, there is nothing to fear. Nevertheless, men, by their malice, may hinder the great designs of God. (Mystical City, vol. 8, p. 377. Brussels edition). The servant of God continues: Let holy priests, who are devoted to the glory of the august Mary, deign to pay great attention to the following: On another occasion, I found myself in great affliction, as was but just, on account of my not knowing if I had written well this sacred history, the sublimity of which surpasses all comprehension, angelic as well as human. Whilst thinking thus, I was drawn into a higher state, in which I beheld the throne of the Most Holy Trinity, the three Divine Persons, and the Blessed Virgin at the right hand of her Divine Son; all were vested with immense glory. There was profound silence in Heaven. The Angels and Saints seemed attentive to what was transpiring at the throne of Supreme Majesty. I beheld the Person of the Father, taking as if from the bosom of His infinite and immutable Being, a book, beautiful and enriched beyond human imagination, but it was closed. Giving it to the Incarnate Word, He said: This book and its contents are Mine; it is very agreeable to Me. Our Lord received it with great complaisance; and the Divine Word and the Holy Ghost, having touched Their breasts with it, confirmed the same words and placed it in the hands of the most pure Mary, who received it with incomparable joy. Then this great Queen called me and said, Do you wish to know what this book is? Be attentive and look. The kind Mother opened and presented it to me, that I might read. I did so, and found it was the history of her most holy life, written in the same order, and with the same chapters as mine, under the title of The Mystical City. During the past six years we have had the joy and consolation of perusing and re-perusing this work, always with new increase of faith and edification to our soul. We know that some religious bodies make use of it for their spiritual reading. A Carmelite prioress, who had read it during twenty years, told us that, at the commencement of her religious life, she had not understood the doctrine contained in it, but it soon became as a heavenly manna, with which she could not be satiated. A superioress of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart has said that the book was really her treasure; she could not cease to read it, such abundant fruit had she drawn from it for the salvation of her soul. In fine, our readers will permit us to relate a fact which happened a short time ago. A sick man had received the last Sacraments with a fervor that edified all present. After the ceremony, raising himself in the bed, he called the priest and presented to him this book, saying, Keep this: it has edified me during life; I do not wish it to be lost. Give it to someone, that it may prove for him the same source of benediction.
We know the clergyman, the place, and the time of this occurrence, and to us it seems a most perfect eulogy on a book. In order to remove all that might embarrass the reader, we will say that the Historical Dictionary of Moreri, speaking of this book, says that it is filled with visions, fables and reveries which the author gives as revelations. This appreciation has been based on the censure of Paris in 1696, a censure which is declared by Amort, the greatest adversary of Mary of Agreda, to be without foundation. From the edition of this dictionary printed in 1712, this falsehood has passed into many other books, among the number, that of Feller, in which we pointed it out to the editors. Everyone knows that dictionaries are often copied from preceding ones. J. Goerres in his Mysticism does not value this work as it deserves, but as he was no theologian, his authority is of little account. We give below a succinct summary of the acts for the cause of the beatification and canonization in favor of Mary of Jesus of Agreda. The reader can see that God has been pleased to manifest the glory and sanctity of His servant, declared by the Church Venerable, and who will be, we hope, placed on our altars before many years.
She died on the 24th of May, 1665, on the day of Pentecost. Shortly afterwards, the process of the Ordinary was drawn up on the virtues and miracles in general of the fama sanctitatis. The petition for her canonization was offered November 21, 1671. Clement X introduced the cause on the 24th of August, 1672. The commission of introduction was signed January 28, 1673. The decree of non-culte was carried on June 27, 1674. The apostolic process on the sanctity, the virtues and miracles in general was begun on September 2, 1679. The process was opened, the servant of God declared Venerable, and, in fine, on the 16th of December, 1689, a committee of consulters was named by Innocent XI for the examination of the works. In fine, Clement XIV declared that the book, The Mystical City, really was written by Mary of Agreda. At this time steps are being taken to reopen the cause, and we trust that in the Age of Mary the servant of God will receive the supreme honors of beatification and canonization, which will fill up the measure of her glory in this world.
THE MOST HOLY VIRGIN IN THE DIVINE COUNSELSHER HOLY PARENTS
Before we begin to write the admirable life of the Mother of God, it is necessary to make known the sublime rank which, from all eternity, she held in the divine counsels. Although the Divine Intelligence, one, indivisible and very simple, conceives and decides on an act in an infinitely simple manner, without relation to time, either past or future, nevertheless, according to our manner of understanding, we distinguish different moments.
1. From all eternity God knew His attributes and perfections, with an
infinite inclination to communicate Himself exteriorly, as the infinite, sovereign
2. He decreed to make this exterior communication of Himself by the participation and manifestation of His grandeurs.
3. He determined the order, manner and disposition of this communication, decreeing that the Divine Word should become visible in His Sacred Humanity.
4. He decreed the gifts and graces to be conferred on the Divine Humanity of Christ, the Chief of all creatures. Then, regulating the perfect economy
of the Incarnation, He included the Virgin Mother, before all other decrees relating to the creation of all other creatures. God also determined to create a place where the Incarnate Word could dwell with His Mother, and first, for them alone, He willed to create Heaven and earth, with the stars, the elements, and all that they contain; and, secondly, for men, who were to be the vassals of this great King and Queen.
5. He decreed the creation of the Angels, who were to dwell in the presence of the Divine Majesty, to honor and to love Him; they were also to serve the Eternal Word, made man, and His most holy Mother, their Queen. To this moment belongs the creation of the empyreal Heaven, where the glory of God is unveiled and the good are rewarded; as also the predestination of the good Angels, and the reprobation of the bad; the creation of the earth for other creatures, and Hell in its center, for the chastisement of the rebellious angels.
6. He decreed to create a people and a society of men like unto Christ, who were to be His brethren. God determined on the favors and graces He would grant to this people, through the merits of Christ, and on giving original justice to man, if he would persevere in it. He foresaw the prevarication and fall of Adam and, through him, that of all his posterity, excepting only the Blessed Mother, who was not included in this posterior decree. He decreed that this misfortune should be repaired, and that the humanity of Christ should be passible. For the execution of His designs, in time God created Heaven and earth, and the light, not only material, but also intellectual light, that is to say, the Angels. At the division of light from darkness occurred also the separation of the good Angels from the bad. The Angels remained for some time in a state of trial, which may be divided into three moments.
In the first, they were created and endowed with gifts of nature and grace; in the second, the will of their Creator was proposed for them to follow, and obtain the end for which they had been created. He gave them abundant lights with regard to good and evil, and eternal rewards and chastisements. Some were obedient, others rebellious; the good were confirmed in grace, and rewarded with eternal glory; the obstinate were chastised and precipitated into Hell, there to be tormented for all eternity. The cause of this rebellion and disgrace was that the Angels, having a very clear knowledge of the Divine Being with the Unity of Essence and Trinity of Persons, received the command to adore God as their Creator. All obeyed this precept, yet with some difference. Lucifer submitted because he thought it would be impossible to do otherwise, yet he did not obey with perfect charity. Although this baseness in this first act did not deprive him of grace, nevertheless it was the cause of his evil disposition, for it weakened his virtues and his mind. God made known to the Angels that He would create human nature, and that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity would become incarnate, and the human nature be thus raised to the Hypostatic Union. They received the command to adore the God-man, and acknowledge Him as the Chief of all creatures.
Lucifer resisted this mandate, and urged his adherents to do the same, persuading them that he would be their chief, and would found a kingdom independent of Christ. But his evil dispositions were increased when he was ordered to acknowledge as his queen and sovereign, a Virgin, the Mother of Christ, who was to be enriched with such gifts of grace and glory that she would surpass all other creatures, angelic as well as human. He resisted with horrible blasphemies, and condemned these divine decrees as unjust and injurious to his greatness. This extreme presumption irritated Our Lord in such a manner that He told the serpent, as He did later in the terrestrial Paradise, that she (Mary) should crush his headIpsa conteret caput tuum. After having precipitated from Heaven the rebellious angels, with Lucifer their chief, God created other creatures, modeled after Christ and His Blessed Mother as their divine exemplars, but He formed Adam and Eve, alike, above all and in all things to these divine originals. He gave them the power of motion and an entire perfection, and blessed them in consideration of their perfect resemblance to their Models. The Lord concealed from Lucifer the creation of Adam and Eve, during a part of the time that they lived together. He did so, that the demon might be in doubt whether Eve were she who was to crush his head, or whether Adam were the Incarnate Word. The implacable enemy of mankind, filled with rage, began to lay his snares. Having succeeded in causing the fall of the woman, and, through her, of the man, he with his demons proudly rejoiced over his triumph. But his satisfaction was of short duration. He saw how merciful God was with the two criminals, and that He would restore them to His grace and friendship by means of penance, and it was an additional torment to him to hear again that a woman should crush his head. By the divine benediction, mankind multiplied. God chose for Himself an elect people, and from out of this people an illustrious and holy line to which He was to belong, according to the flesh. He granted signal favors to this people, and revealed to it profound mysteries; He raised up holy patriarchs and prophets who were to point out figuratively the Incarnate Word, and foretell His coming, so much desired. In fine, the appointed time approaching, God sent into the world two brilliant flambeaux, to announce the coming dawn of the Sun of Justice, Jesus, our Saviour.
These were St. Joachim and St. Ann, whom the Divine Will had prepared and created to be the parents of the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God. Joachim, with his parents and friends, lived in Nazareth, a small town of Galilee. He was a just and holy man, enlightened in a special manner with regard to the mysteries of the Holy Scriptures and the meaning of the prophecies. St. Ann dwelt in Bethlehem; she was humble, chaste and beautiful, and had also received great infused lights as to the meaning of the prophecies. The Archangel Gabriel was sent in corporeal form to bid her accept Joachim for her spouse. A short time afterwards, he was sent to Joachim, to command him in a dream to choose St. Ann for his wife. The marriage was solemnized without their having revealed this command to each other. The holy spouses dwelt in Nazareth, following the ways of the Lord, and performing their actions with all possible perfection. Every year they divided their revenue into three parts: the first, they offered to the Temple; the second, they distributed among the poor; the third, they reserved for the moderate support of the family. The holy spouses lived together for twenty years without having any children. This drew upon them the contempt of their neighbors, for it was a belief among the Jews that those who had no children would have no share in the future Messias. Even the priests rebuked them, and once, when Joachim had entered the Temple to pray, a priest named Issachar sent him away, reproaching him as being sterile, and therefore unworthy to offer sacrifice. Much afflicted, the holy man retired to his house and prayed with tears that the Lord would give him a child, which, at the same time, he vowed to consecrate to the Temple. The Angel of the Lord appeared to St. Ann and declared to her the will of the Lord that she should ask for offspring. She obeyed, and promised that the fruit of her womb should be consecrated to the service of the Most High.
The prayers of these holy spouses ascended before the throne of the Divine Majesty, and the Archangel Gabriel was sent to St. Joachim. The Most High, said he, has heard thy prayer. Ann, thy wife, shall conceive and bring forth a daughter, who shall be blessed among women, and whom all nations shall acknowledge to be blessed. The Lord wills that she shall be consecrated to Him in the Temple, even from her infancy. At the same time, St. Ann, being raised into sublime contemplation and absorbed in the mystery of the Incarnation, prayed most fervently that she might be permitted to behold and serve the holy woman destined to be the Mother of the promised Messias. Then it was that the Archangel Gabriel announced to her that she herself was to be the Mother of the most holy Mother of the Divine Word. Filled with inexpressible joy and surprise, she hastened to the Temple to offer her thanksgiving to the Lord. She met St. Joachim and told him of the Angels promise; both entered the Temple to renew their vows and give thanks to the Author of all these wonders. They returned to their house, conversing on the signal favors they had received from the Most High, and they communicated to each other the first visit of the Angel, as also the order they had received to espouse each other, which they had hitherto concealed. The prudent Ann did not discover to her husband that the promised child was destined to be the Mother of the Messias, because the Archangel had forbidden her to reveal it.
The fullness of the time being arrived, the three Divine Persons, according to our manner of thinking, spoke thus among Themselves: It is time that We commence the accomplishment of Our good pleasure, and create that pure creature who is dearer to Us than all others; she must be exempt from the ordinary laws of the generation of mortals, so that the seed of the infernal serpent shall have no part in her. It is fitting that the Divinity should clothe her in very pure matter, never sullied by sin; Our justice and providence demand that which is most fit, most perfect, and most holy; all this shall be accomplished, because nothing can resist Our will. The Word, who is to become man and the Master of all creatures, will teach them more effectually to honor her whom He has chosen for His Mother; among the dignities which He will confer on her, the first shall be that of never being subdued by her enemies. As He is to be the Redeemer of mankind, it is fit that He should exercise that office first in regard of His own Mother. She must have a particular redemption, and by this, be preserved beforehand from all sin; thus she shall be always pure and immaculate, and the Son of God will rejoice at beholding between His terrestrial Mother and His Heavenly Father, the closest resemblance possible between God and His creature. Such was the decree manifested to the blessed spirits by the three Divine Persons. Prostrate before the divine throne, with great humility, they praised God, and rendered most fervent thanks because He was pleased to grant the prayer they had made before the great battle with Lucifer, when they had begged for the accomplishment of the mystery of the Incarnation, which had been revealed to them. With a holy emulation, each desired to be employed in the court of the Son of God and His most pure and holy Mother.
Twenty years had passed by since the marriage of St. Joachim and St. Ann: Joachim
was then sixty years old, and Ann forty-four. According to the divine promise,
they engendered, in a manner truly wonderful, a child who was to be the Mother
of God. Everything happened as in other conceptions; nevertheless, the virtue
of the Most High removed everything imperfect or inordinate, in order that,
according to the laws of nature, the most perfect body ever created should be
formed free from the least imperfection. The divine virtue is revealed principally
in the miraculous operations which removed from St. Ann her
natural sterility, yet it was still more marvelous in removing from her holy parents all trace of sin, that the sting of Original Sin should have no share in her. The wisdom and power of the Most High were particularly exercised in the formation of the most pure body of Mary, so that by its perfect and just proportions it might aid the operations of the holy soul which was to animate it. It was endowed with a temperament so equal, and faculties so perfect, that it would be impossible for nature to have formed anything equal to it. According to our manner of expression, we may say that God took more care in the formation of this most pure body than in the creation of the heavens and the entire universe.
Taken from The Divine Life of the Most Holy Virgin by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.
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