Sunday, November 6, 2011



Besides the infused virtues, She possessed all the acquired ones, which She augmented by practice and exercise. In other souls, one single act cannot be called virtue, because many repeated acts are necessary to constitute virtue; but in the most holy Mary each act was so efficacious, intense and consummate, that each one was superior to the virtues of all the other creatures. Accordingly, as her acts of virtue were so frequent and did not fall short in the least point of the highest degree of perfection, how incomparably excellent were not the habits of virtue, which the heavenly Mistress attained by her personal exertion? The end for which something is done is that which makes an act virtuous as being well done. In Mary, our Mistress, this end was God himself, highest possible end of all activity; for she did nothing through which she was not certain to advance the greater glory and pleasure of the Lord and she looked upon this as the motive and ultimate end of all her actions.

The infused virtues are divided into two classes. To the first belong only those, that have God himself for their immediate object; therefore they are called theological virtues, being faith, hope, and charity. To the second class belong all those other virtues, which have as their proximate object some means or some honorable good, which advances the soul toward its last end, namely God. These are called the moral virtues, because they are intimately connected with established customs, and, although they are many in number, they can be reduced to four, which are called the cardinal virtues: prudence justice, fortitude and temperance.

Of all these virtues and their different species I will say farther on as much as I can in order that I may make clear, how all of them and each one in particular adorned the faculties of the most holy Mary. At present I only mention in general, that none of them was wanting in her and that she possessed all in the most perfect manner; moreover they were supplemented by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, the fruits of the Spirit, and the Beatitudes. God did not fail to infuse into her from the first moment of her Conception, all of the graces and gifts conducive to the highest beauty of the human soul and faculties; and this was true of the will as well as of the understanding, so that she had as well the knowledge as the habit of the sciences.

In order to say it all in one word all the good, which the Most High could give her as the Mother of his Son and as a mere creature, He conferred upon her in the most exalted degree. In addition to all this her virtues continually augmented: the infused virtues, because She added to them by her own merits, and the acquired virtues, because She nurtured and multiplied them by the intensity of her meritorious acts.

In few words the holy Elizabeth described the greatness of the faith of most holy Mary, when, as reported to us by the evangelist Luke, She exclaimed: "Blessed art thou for having believed, because the words and promises of the Lord shall be fulfilled in Thee" (Luke 1, 45). The faith of this great Lady must be estimated from the greatness of her good fortune and beatitude, and from her ineffable dignity.

The faith of the most holy Mary was an image of the whole creation and an open prodigy of the divine power, for in Her the virtue of faith existed in the highest and the most perfect degree possible; in a certain manner and to a great extent, it made up for the want of faith in men. The Most High has given this excellent virtue to mortals so that, in spite of the carnal and mortal nature, they might have the knowledge of the Divinity and of his mysteries and admirable works: a knowledge so certain and infallibly secure, that it is like seeing Him face to face, and like the vision of the blessed angels in heaven. The same object and the same truth, which they see openly, we perceive obscured under the veil of faith.

One glance at the world will make us understand, how many nations, reigns and provinces, since the beginning of the world, have lost their claims to this great blessing of the faith, so little understood by the thankless mortals: how many have unhappily flung it aside, after the Lord had conferred it on them in his generous mercy, and how many of the faithful, having without their merit received the gift of faith, neglect and despise it, letting it lie idle and unproductive for the last end to which it is to direct and guide them. It was befitting therefore, that the divine equity should have some recompense for such lamentable loss, and that such an incomparable benefit should find an adequate and proportionate return, as far as is possible from creatures; it was befitting that there should be found at least one Creature, in whom the virtue of faith should come to its fullest perfection, as an example and rule for the rest.
All this was found in the great faith of the most holy Mary and on account of Her and for Her alone, if there had been no other creature in the world, it would have been most proper, that God should contrive and create the excellent virtue of faith; for according to our way of understanding, Mary by Herself was a sufficient pledge to the divine Providence, that He would find a proper return on the part of man, and that the object of this faith would not be frustrated by the want of correspondence among mortals. The faith of this sovereign Queen was to make recompense for their default and She was to copy the divine prototype of this virtue in its highest perfection. All the other faithful can measure and gauge themselves by the faith of this Mistress; for they will be more or less faithful, the more or less they approach the perfection of her incomparable faith.

Therefore she was set as Teacher and example of all the believing, including the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs and all that have believed or will believe in the Christian doctrines to the end of the world.

The intelligent love, with which she explicitly believed all the divine truths, cannot be expressed in words, without misrepresenting its intensity. The most holy Mary knew all that She believed and believed all that She knew; for the infused theological knowledge of the credibility of faith's mysteries, and the understanding of this credibility, existed in the wisest Virgin Mother in the highest degree possible in a mere creature. Her knowledge was kept in a constant actuality, and by means of her memory, like that of an angel, she never forgot, that which once she had learnt. This gift and faculty of the understanding she kept in constant operation in order to exercise her deep faith; only at times, as already said, God suspended faith by other acts of the mind. Except that she was not yet a comprehensor, nothing was wanting in regard to her intelligence of the matters of faith and in regard to the clear knowledge of the Divinity. In this regard she held a position far above that of all the wayfarers and she by herself constituted a class of such high degrees, as cannot be attained by any other wayfarer to heaven.

And if the most holy Mary, while She exercised the acts of faith and hope was in what might be called her most ordinary and therefore the lowest degree of activity, and if in that state She excelled all the angels and saints in merits by her faith and love, what must we say of the excellence of her acts, her merits and her affections, during the time in which She was exalted by the divine power to the blessed state of highest intuitive vision and clear knowledge of the Divinity? If this is beyond the comprehension of the angelic mind, how can an earthly creature ever hope to find words to describe it? I therefore can only express the mere wish, that all mortals might come to a knowledge of the precious value of faith, by leaving it from this heavenly Original, in whom faith attained its ultimate perfection and where it completely fulfilled the end for which it was created. Let the infidels, the heretics, the pagans and idolaters approach this Mistress of faith, most holy Mary, in order to be enlightened in their falsehoods and darksome errors and in Order to find the sure way toward the last end of their being. Let also Catholics approach and learn to understand the copious rewards of this virtue; let them ask the Lord with the Apostles to, increase their faith (Luke 7, 5). Not that they ever can reach the faith of most holy Mary, but let them ask for the desire to imitate Her and follow Her, for by her faith She teaches us, and by her merits She helps us to obtain this virtue.

Saint Paul calls the patriarch Abraham the father of all the faithful (Rom. 6, 11), because he first received the promise, hoping against hope (Rom. 4, 18); He wishes to extol the excellence of the Patriarch's faith because he believed the promise of the Lord, that Sarah, his wife, would bear him a son though she was sterile, and, according to the laws of nature, incapable of conception; moreover, in offering his son as a sacrifice at God's command, he relinquished at the same time the prospect of the countless offspring, which the Lord had promised to him. This all, and many other sayings and promises of the Lord were made impossible of fulfillment according to the laws of nature, yet Abraham believed, that the divine power could execute them in a supernatural manner. Therefore he merited to be called the Father of all the believers and to receive the seal of his faith which justified him, namely circumcision.

But our supereminent Lady, Mary, possesses much greater rights and titles to be called the Mother of faith and of all the faithful. In her hand is hoisted the standard and ensign of faith for all the believers in the law of grace. First indeed, according to the order of time, was the Patriarch and consequently he was ordained to be the father and head of the Hebrew people: great was his belief in the promises concerning Christ our Lord and in the works of the Most High. Nevertheless incomparably more admirable was the faith of Mary in all these regards and She excels him in dignity. Greater difficulty and incongruity was there that a virgin should Conceive and bring forth, than that an aged and sterile woman should bear fruit; and the patriarch Abraham was not so certain of the sacrifice of Isaac, as Mary was of the inevitable sacrifice of her most holy Son. She is the One, who perfectly believed and hoped in all the mysteries, and she shows to the whole Church, how it must believe in the Most High and in the works of his Redemption. Having thus understood the faith of Mary our Queen, we must admit her to be the Mother of the faithful and the prototype of the Catholic faith and of holy hope. And in order to conclude this chapter, I will add, that Christ, our Redeemer and Teacher, as He was a comprehensor and as his most holy soul enjoyed the highest glory and the beatific vision, had no necessity or occasion for faith, nor could He in his own actions give us an example of this virtue. But what the Lord could not do in his own Person, He did in the person of his most holy Mother, constituting her as the Foundress, the Mother and the example of faith in his evangelical Church. And thus on the day of universal accounting this sovereign Mistress and Queen shall in an especial manner assist her most holy Son in the judgment of those, who, in spite of such an example, have not believed during their stay on earth.OF THE VIRTUE OF HOPE, AND HOW THE VIRGIN OUR LADY EXERCISED IT

The virtue of hope naturally follows upon that of faith, since it is ordained as its complement. For if the Most High instills in us the divine light of faith, and if He wishes us, without regard to differences of position and of age, to come into the infallible knowledge of the Godhead and of his mysteries and promises, it is for no other reason than that each one of us, knowing Him as our last end and object, and learning of the means of arriving at it, may engender within himself the vehement desire to reach that goal. This desire, which naturally carries with it the inclination to attain this highest Good, is called hope and is infused into our will or natural appetite in Baptism. For it belongs to the proper activity of the will to strive after eternal felicity as its greatest good and blessing, to make use of divine grace for obtaining it and for overcoming the difficulties which will occur in its pursuit.

How excellent the virtue of hope is, may be learned from the fact that its ultimate object is God himself, our highest Good. Although it perceives and seeks Him as something that is absent, yet at the same time it seeks Him also as something that is attainable through the merits of Christ and through the proper activity of the one that hopes for it. The acts and operations of this virtue are regulated by the light of divine faith and by the prudent reliance on the infallible promise of the Lord.

Thus hope, by means of the reasoning powers, maintains the middle road between despair and presumption, not permitting man to presume on his own powers for the attainment of eternal glory or to set aside meritorious activity on his own part, nor allowing fear or despondency to hinder Him from exerting himself toward it on account of the Lord's promises and assurances of final success. In this security, guaranteed by divine faith in all that pertains to these things and applied in prudent and sound reasoning, man hopes without fear of being deceived and yet also without presumption.
From this it can be seen that despair may arise both from a want of believing what faith promises and also from a failure to apply to one's own self the security of the divine promises, in which one believes, but which one falsely supposes unattainable in one's own regard. Between these two dangerous extremes hope directs us in the safe way, maintaining us in the confident belief on the one hand that God will not deny to our-selves what He has promised to all, and on the other, that the promise was not made unconditionally and absolutely, but requires our exertion and effort to merit its fulfillment as far as it is possible with the help of divine grace.

For if God has made man capable of the vision of eternal glory, it was not just that any one should attain to such felicity by sinful abuse of the very faculties with which he is to enjoy it; but that he use them in such a way as to befit the end for which he received them. This proper use of the faculties consists in the exercise of the virtues, which prepare man for the enjoyment of his highest good, and in seeking it already in this life by the knowledge and love of God.

Now, in most holy Mary this virtue of hope reached the highest degree possible both in regard to itself and in regard to all its effects, circumstances and qualities; for the desire and the striving after the last end, which is the vision and the fruition of God, was in Her more active than in all other creatures; moreover this most faithful and prudent Lady did nothing to impede these aspirations, but followed them up with all the perfection possible in a creature. Not only did she possess the infused virtue of faith in the promises of our Lord and its concomitant intensity of hope; but over and above all this she enjoyed beatific vision, in which she learnt to know by experience the infinite truth and fidelity of the Most High.

And although she did not have occasion to make use of hope, while enjoying the vision and possession of the Divinity; nevertheless, after again resuming her ordinary state, she was impelled by the memory of what she had enjoyed, to hope and strive after it with so much the greater force and avidity. Thus the longings of the Queen of all virtues constituted a certain kind of new and particular kind of hope.

There was another reason why the hope of the most holy Mary excelled the hope of all the other faithful joined together: namely the greatness of the prospective reward and glory due to this sovereign Queen, for reward is after all the real object of hope and in Her it was to be far above all the glory of the angels and saints; that is, proportionate to the knowledge of this glory assured to Her in God was also her expectation and desire to acquire it.

Moreover in order that she might attain the highest summit of this virtue, and that she might worthily hope for all that the powerful arm of God would work in Her, She was befittingly furnished with the light of a supreme faith and all the helps and gifts pertaining thereto, and with an especial assistance of the Holy Ghost. What we have said of the virtue of hope in the blessed Virgin in regard to its principal object must also be affirmed in regard to its secondary objects, for the gifts and mysterious blessings enjoyed by this Queen of Heaven were so great that they could not be amplified even by the arm of the Almighty God in a mere creature. Now as the great Lady was to receive these favors through the medium of faith and hope, these virtues were proportionately great, and therefore the greatest that could possibly fall to the lot of a handiwork of God.

Moreover if, as has already been said of the virtue of faith, the Queen of heaven was endowed with an explicit knowledge and faith of all the revealed truths and of all the mysteries and operations of the Most High, and if the acts of hope corresponded to these acts of faith, who, except the Lord himself could ever comprehend how many and how excellent were the acts of hope, which the Mistress of virtues elicited, since She was aware of her own eternal glory and felicity and of that, which was to be wrought in the rest of the evangelical Church by the merits of her most holy Son? For the sole sake of Mary, as we have before said of her faith, God would have created this virtue, and for her sake He would have conferred it, as He really did, on the whole human race.

On this account the holy Spirit calls Her the Mother of beautiful love and holy hope (Eccli. 25, 24); for just as She became the Mother of Christ because She furnished Him with the flesh of his body, so the holy Spirit made Her the Mother of hope, because by her especial concurrence and cooperation She conceived and brought forth this virtue for the faithful of the Church. Her prerogative of being the Mother of holy hope was connected with and consequent upon her being the Mother of Jesus Christ our Lord, for she knew that in her Son She would lay the foundation of all the security of our hope.
On account of these conceptions and births of the most holy Queen, She obtained a certain dominion and sovereignty over those graces and the promises of the Most High, which depended upon the death of Christ, her Son, for their fulfillment. When she of her own free will gave conception and birth to the incarnate Word She turned them all over to us and thereby gave birth to our hope. Thus was accomplished in its legitimate sense that which the Holy Ghost said to Her: "Thy plants are a paradise" (Cant. 4, 13); for all that came forth from Mary, the Mother of grace, was to constitute our happiness, our paradise, and our certain hope of being able to attain them.

The Church has a celestial and true father in Jesus Christ, for He engendered and founded it by his merits and labors, and enriched it with his graces, his example and his doctrines, as was to be expected from the Father and Author of such an admirable work Therefore it was befitting that the Church should have also a loving and kind Mother, who with sweet regalement and caresses, and with maternal solicitude and assistance, should nurse the little children at her breast (I. Cor. 3, 12), nourish them with tender and delicious food as long as they cannot in their infancy bear the food of the robust and strong. This sweet Mother was most holy Mary, who since the beginning of the Church, when the law of grace was born in her yet tender children, began to give forth the sweet milk of her enlightened teaching as a merciful Mother; and who will continue to the end of the world thus to assist and intercede for the new children, which Christ our Lord engenders every day by his merits and at the petitions of this Mother of mercy. She it is for whom they are born, who raises and nourishes them. She is our sweet Mother, our life and our hope, the original of the blessings, which are ours, she is the example which we are to imitate, she is our assurance in the pursuit of the eternal happiness, merited by her most holy Son, and she furnishes the assistance necessary for its final attainment.OF THE VIRTUE OF CHARITY IN THE MOST HOLY MARY, OUR LADY

The most excellent virtue of charity is the mistress, the queen, the mother, the life and beauty of all the other virtues; charity governs, moves and directs them to their ultimate and true end, charity leads them on to their ultimate perfection, preserves them and makes them grow, enlightens them and beautifies them, gives them life and efficacy. If the other virtues confer each their measure of perfection on creatures, charity gives them perfection itself and brings them to their full complement.

Without charity all is of small value, obscure, languid, lifeless and unprofitable, not being endowed either with the essence or the appurtenances of true vitality. Charity is kind, patient, meek, without emulation, without envy, without offensiveness, desires not to acquire, but readily distributes all, is the cause of all good and consents not to evil; as far as it is concerned (I Cor. 13, 4) it is the fullest participation in the true and ultimate Good. 0 Virtue of virtues and greatest treasure of heaven! Thou alone hast the key of paradise! Thou art the dawn of eternal light, the sun of eternity's day, the fire which purifies, the wine which inebriates with new delights, the nectar which rejoices, the sweetness which satiates without surceasing, the chamber of rest for the soul, a bond so intimate that it makes us one with God (John 17, 21), with the same bond that unites the eternal Father to the Son, and Both to the holy Spirit.

On account of the nobility of this most excellent of all virtues, our God and Lord, according to the Gospel of St. John, wished to honor Himself or wished to honor it, by calling Himself Charity (I John 4, 15). There are many reasons why the Catholic Church attributes the divine perfections of omnipotence to the Father; of wisdom to the Son, and of love to the Holy Ghost. For the Father is the beginning, the Son is engendered of the Father through the divine intelligence, and the Holy Ghost proceeds from Both through the will. But the name of Charity and the perfection which it implies is attributed to the Lord himself without distinction of Persons, since the Evangelist says indiscriminately: "God is charity." This virtue in the Lord has the distinction of being the terminus or end of all his operations ad intra and ad extra. For on the one hand all the divine processions (which are the operations of the Godhead with Himself or ad intra), terminate in the reciprocal union and love of the three divine Persons, and thus they constitute an indissoluble bond of unity over and above the indivisibility of the divine Essence, proper to it as being one and the same God. On the other hand the works ad extra, namely the creatures, are an off-spring of divine charity and are ordained towards it, so that, issuing from that immense sea of divine bounty, they also return by charity and love to the source from whence they sprang.

 It is peculiar to the virtue of charity in opposition to all the other virtues and gifts, that it is a perfect participation of a divine virtue; it is born of one source, is directed back to the same, and is more adapted to that eternal source than all other virtues. If we call God our hope, our patience, or our wisdom, it is because we receive them from his hand, and not because these perfections are in God as they exist in ourselves. But we call God our charity, not only because we receive it from the Lord, and because He communicates it to us, but because He himself is essential charity, and the overflow of this divine perfection, which we represent to ourselves as a form and attribute of his Divinity, redounds in our souls, transforming it more perfectly and abundantly than any other virtue.

This is in part the nature of Charity in its divine original, God. Outside of God himself, however, we will find it in the fullest perfection possible to a mere creature in none other than most holy Mary, and in her we find the model after which we are more immediately to copy our own charity. It is evident that the light proceeding from the uncreated Sun of charity, where it is contained without limit or circumscription, communicates itself to all creatures even the most remote according to an order and measurement adjusted in proportion to the proximity or distance of each from the divine source. And this order manifests the fullness and perfection of the divine Providence; for without it, this Providence would show a certain defect, confusedness and discord in the creatures as far as the participation of his goodness and love is concerned.

The first place after God himself, in the distribution of divine Charity, was due to that Soul and that Person, who was at the same time uncreated God and created man; for the highest grace and participation of love naturally was to be found where existed the closest and most intimate union with God, as it existed and as it will exist forever in Christ our Lord.

The second place is due to his most holy Mother Mary, in whom charity and divine love found its resting place in an especial manner. For, according to our way of apprehending, the uncreated Charity could not be quieted until It should find a creature to which It could communicate Itself in such great plenitude, that the love and affection of the whole human race should in its entirety be reproduced in that Creature alone. It was intended that this chosen Creature should in herself be endowed with the gifts of charity, without the shortcomings and defects common to the rest of mortals infected with sin, so that she by herself would be able to supply the balance of creation and make for it the greatest possible return of love.

 Mary alone was chosen among all creatures to imitate the Sun of justice in charity (I Cant. 4, 9), and faithfully to copy this virtue from its Original. She by Herself knew how to love more ardently and perfectly than all the rest of creatures combined, to love God entirely for his own sake, purely, intensely and without defect, and also loving creatures for God's sake and in a manner similar to Him. She alone adequately followed the impulse of charity and her generous inclination of loving the highest Good as highest Good, without any side intentions; and of loving the creatures on account of their participation in God, without the thought of a return or reward of her love. And in perfect imitation of the uncreated Charity, Mary by her charity was able and knew how to love in such a way as to make better that which is loved; for by her love she made better heaven and earth and all things that exist outside of God.

If the charity of this great Lady were put in the balance with that of all the men and angels, hers would outweigh theirs by far; for She by Herself exceeded them all in her knowledge of the essence and qualities of the divine Charity and consequently only Mary knew how to imitate It with adequate perfection and above all the powers of intellectual creatures. In this excess of love and charity she repaid and satisfied the debt of infinite love due to the Lord from creatures, as far as He could demand a return of them, for their return was not to he infinite in value, that being impossible. Just as the love and the charity of the most holy soul of Jesus Christ was in its greatness proportionate to the hypostatic union, so the love of Mary was great in proportion to the excellence conferred upon Her by the eternal Father, when He appointed Her as the one, who as Mother was to conceive and bear his Son for the salvation of the world.
Thence we understand that all the gifts and the blessings of creatures depend in some manner on the love and charity of the blessed Virgin toward God. In Her alone it was possible that divine Charity could exist in this world in its highest and ultimate perfection. She paid the whole debt of charity at a time when all men were unable to pay or even to understand the greatness of their debt. She, by her most perfect charity, obliged the eternal Father to sacrifice his most holy Son for herself and in Redemption of the whole world; for if Mary had loved less and if her charity had been defective, the proper preparation for his Incarnation would have been wanting. But as soon as any creature was found, which resembled God so closely as She, it was, so to say, but a natural consequence that He should descend to her as He did.

All this is the meaning of the words of the Holy Ghost when He calls Mary the mother of beautiful love (Eccli. 24, 24), as has already been explained correspondingly in regard to hope. These words to Mary signify: Mary is the Mother of Him, who is our sweetest love, Jesus, our Lord and Redeemer, who became the most beautiful among men by a divine, infinite and uncreated beauty, and by a human nature which was to be without guilt or blemish and to which no beauty of grace that could be communicated by the Divinity, was wanting (I Pet. 2, 22). She is also the Mother of beautiful love, for she alone engendered in her soul the perfect love and charity and the most beautiful affection. All the rest of the creatures combined could not attain the beauty and faultlessness of her Charity for theirs was not worthy to be called absolutely beautiful. She is the Mother of our love; for she drew it toward the earth for us; she cultivated it for us; she taught us to know and practice it; there is no other creature in heaven or on earth that could be such a teacher of this beautiful love for men or angels. Therefore all the saints are but rays of this Sun. and streamlets flowing from this ocean; so much the better will they know how to love, the more they participate in this love and charity of most holy Mary, and in as far as they succeed in imitating and copying it more exactly.
The sources of this charity and love of our princess Mary were her profound knowledge and wisdom, derived as well from her infused faith and hope, as also from the gifts of science, intellect and wisdom given to Her by the Holy Ghost; but the greatest of all the sources of her love were the intuitive and abstractive visions of the Divinity. Through all these mediums She reached the highest knowledge of the uncreated Charity drank of it at its very fountain, and as She thus learned, how God was to be loved for his own sake and the creature for the sake of God, also how to practice and execute this love with the most intense and fervent desire. Moreover, as the power of God found no impediment or hindrance, no inadvertence, ignorance or imperfection, nor any tardiness of the will in this Queen, it could operate in her according to his pleasure. This was not possible in other creatures, since in none of them it found the same disposition as in most holy Mary.

In her was the fulfillment of that great natural and divine precept: "Thou shalt love thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength." Mary alone satisfied this obligation and debt for all men, which in this life and before seeing God they neither knew nor could ever fulfill entirely. This Lady fulfilled it more perfectly during her pilgrimage than the saints even in the state of beatitude. Moreover She also satisfied the intentions of God in regard to this precept, namely that it remain not unfruitful and as it were frustrated on the part of wayfaring men; for most holy Mary by Herself sanctified and fulfilled it entirely for all of them, supplying by her charity all that was wanting in the fulfillment of this precept among men. And probably if God had not foreknown that Mary our Queen would be among the number of the mortals, He would not have given this command in this form. But on Her account He was pleased to give it; to her we owe not only this command of perfect charity, but also the adequate fulfillment of it among men.

0 most sweet and most beautiful Mother of beautiful love and charity! Let all the nations know Thee, let all generations bless Thee, and let all the creatures magnify and praise Thee! Thou alone art the perfect One, the beloved One, the chosen Mother of uncreated Charity. It formed Thee and selected Thee to shine like the sun in thy most beautiful and most perfect love (Cant. 6, 9)! Let all us miserable children of Eve approach this sun in order to be enlightened and inflamed. Let us approach this Mother in order to be born again in love. Let us approach this Teacher in order to be taught the love, affection and charity which is without defect. Love is a disposition which is pleased and satisfied with the thing loved. Affection is a selection and separation of the beloved from other of the same kind, and charity implied in addition to these, a high appreciation and esteem for the goodness of the beloved. All this we will learn from the Mother of true love, who is called by that name precisely because her love possesses all these qualities. In her we learn to love God for his own sake, resting satisfied in Him with all our heart; to give Him a separate place in all our love from all that is not God, for loving Him, together with other things, only diminishes our love of God. We learn to appreciate Him and esteem Him above gold and above all precious things, for in comparison with Him all precious things are of no value, all beauty is ugliness, and all that is great and estimable in carnal eyes, becomes contemptible and valueless. Of the effects of this love of the most holy Mary, this whole history treats and of them heaven and earth are full. Therefore I will not stay to describe more particularly what no human tongue, nor words of men or angels can convey.

On account of this beauty and harmony regarding the habits of virtue, the soul of the most holy Mary was so enlightened, ennobled and entirely bent on the highest Good and last End of all creation; so alert, prompt, efficient and joyful in the practice of virtue, that, if it were possible for our weak insight to penetrate into the interior of her sacred soul, we would there find a more wonderful beauty than that of all creatures combined and inferior only to that of God himself. All the perfection of creatures were in purest Mary as if in their own sphere and center, and all virtues reached in Her the highest perfection, so that in no manner could it ever be said of Her this or that is wanting in order to make Her altogether beautiful and perfect.

Our Blessed Mother dictated the following --regarding her early childhood practices--to the Author of her life, Sister Mary of Agreda, Spain:
My admonition to thee, whom in spite of thy weakness and poverty I have chosen with such generous kindness as my disciple and companion, is this: that thou strive with all thy powers to imitate me in an exercise, in which I persevered during my whole life from the very first moment of my birth, omitting it on not a single day, however full of cares and labors it might have been.

This exercise was the following: every day at the beginning of dawn, I prostrated myself in the presence of the Most High, and gave Him thanks and praise for his immutable Being, his infinite perfections, and for having created me out of nothing; acknowledging myself as his creature and the work of his hands, I blessed Him and adored Him, giving Him honor, magnificence and Divinity, as the supreme Lord and Creator of myself and of all that exists. I raised up my spirit to place it into his hands, offering myself with profound humility and resignation to Him and asking Him to dispose of me according to his will during that day and during all the days of my life, and to teach me to fulfill whatever would be to his greater pleasure. This I repeated many times during the external works of the day, and in the internal ones I first consulted his Majesty, asking his advice, permission and benediction for all my actions.

Be very devout toward my most sweet name. I wish that thou be convinced of the great prerogatives and privileges, which the Almighty concedes to it, so that I myself, when I saw them in the Divinity, felt most deeply obliged and solicitous to make a proper return; and whenever the name MARY occurred to my mind (which happened often) and whenever I heard myself called by that name, I was aroused to thankfulness and urged to new fervor in the service of the Lord, who gave it to me. Thou hast the same name and I wish, that in proportion it should cause the same effects in thee and that thou imitate me faithfully by following the lesson given thee in this chapter, without failing in the least point from this day onward. And if in thy weakness thou should fail, rouse thyself immediately, and in the presence of thy Lord and mine, acknowledge thy fault, confessing it in sorrow. Repeating these holy exercises over and again with solicitous care, thou shalt find forgiveness for imperfections and grow accustomed to strive after what is highest in all virtues and most pleasing and agreeable to thy own tastes and mine, thou shalt not be denied the grace of employing thyself entirely in listening, attending to and obeying in all things thy Spouse and Lord, who seeks in thee only what is most pure, most holy and perfect, and a will prompt and eager to put the same into practice.

The sovereign Child was treated like other children of her age. Her nourishment was of the usual kind, though less in quantity; and so was her sleep, although her parents were solicitous that she take more sleep. She was not troublesome, nor did she ever cry for mere annoyance, as is done by other children, but she was most amiable and caused no trouble to anybody. That she did not act in this regard as other children caused no wonder; for she often wept and sighed (as far as her age and her dignity of Queen and Mistress would permit) for the sins of the world and for its Redemption through the coming of the Savior.

Ordinarily she maintained, even in her infancy, a pleasant countenance, yet mixed with gravity and a peculiar Majesty, never showing any childishness. She sometimes permitted herself to be caressed, though, by a secret influence and a certain outward austerity, she knew how to repress the imperfections connected with such endearments. Her prudent mother Anne treated her Child with incomparable solicitude and caressing tenderness; also her father Joachim loved her as a father and as a saint, although he was ignorant of the mystery at that time. The Child on its part showed a special love toward him, as one whom she knew for her father and one much beloved of God. Although she permitted more tender caresses from her father than from others, yet God inspired the father as well as all others, with such an extraordinary reverence and modesty towards her whom He had chosen for his Mother, that even his pure and fatherly affection was outwardly manifested only with the greatest moderation and reserve.

In all things the infant Queen was most gracious, perfect and admirable. Though she passed her infancy subject to the common laws of nature, yet did this not hinder the influx of grace. During her sleep her interior acts of love, and all other exercises of her faculties which were not dependent on the exterior senses, were never interrupted. This special privilege is possible also in other creatures, if the divine power confers it on them; but it is certain that in regard to Her whom He had chosen as his Mother and the Queen of all creation, He extended this special favor beyond all previous or subsequent measure in other creatures and beyond the conception of any created mind.

The enforced silence of other children in their first years, and the slow evolution of their intellect and of their power of speech arising from natural weakness, was heroic virtue in the infant Queen. For if speech is the product of the intellect and as it were the result of its activity, and if She was in perfect possession of all her faculties since her Conception, then the fact of her not speaking as soon as She was born, did not arise from the want of ability, but because She did not wish to make use of her power. Other children are not furnished with the natural forces, which are required to open their mouth and move their tender tongue as required for speech, but in the child Mary there was no defect; for as far as her natural powers were concerned She was stronger than other children, and as She exercised sovereignty and dominion over all creation, She certainly could exercise it in regard to her own powers and faculties, if She had chosen to do so. Her not speaking therefore was virtue and great perfection, which opportunely concealed her science and grace, and evaded the astonishment naturally caused by one speaking in infancy. Besides, if it is wonderful that one should speak, who according to the natural course ought to be incapable of speech, I do not know, whether it is not more wonderful, that one, who is able to speak from her birth should be silent for one year and a half.

It was ordained therefore by the Most High, that the sovereign Child should voluntarily keep this silence during the time in which ordinarily other children are unable to speak. The only exception made was in regard to the conversation held with the angels of her guard, or when she addressed herself in vocal prayer to the Lord. For in regard to interaction with God, the Author of speech, and with the holy angels, his messengers, when they treated in a visible manner with Her, this reason for maintaining silence did not hold good: on the contrary it was befitting, that, since there was no impediment, She should pray with her lips and her tongue; for it would not be proper to keep them unemployed for so long a time. But her mother never heard Her, nor did she know of her being able to speak during that period; and from this it can be better seen, what perfection it required in Her to pass that year and a half of her infancy in total silence. But during that time, whenever her mother freed her arms and hands, the child Mary immediately grasped the hands of her parents and kissed them with great submission and reverent humility, and in this practice she continued as long as her parents lived. She also sought to make them understand during that period of her age, that she desired their blessing, speaking more by the affection of her heart than by word of mouth. So great was her reverence for them, that never did She fail in the least point concerning the honor and obedience to them. Nor did She cause them any trouble or annoyance, since She knew beforehand all their thoughts and was anxious to fulfill them before they were made manifest.

When she reached the age of two years she began to exercise her special pity and charity toward the poor. She solicited alms for them of Saint Anne, and both the kind-hearted mother readily granted her petitions, both for the sake of the poor and to satisfy the tender charity of her most holy Daughter, at the same time encouraging her who was the Mistress of mercy and charity, to love and esteem the poor. Besides giving what she obtained expressly for distribution among the poor, she reserved part of her meals for the same purpose, in order that from her infancy it might be said of her more truly than of Job: from my infancy compassion grew with me (Job 31, 18). She gave to the poor not as if conferring a benefit upon them, but as paying a debt due in justice, saying in her heart: this my brother and master deserves what he needs and what I possess without desert. In giving alms she kissed the hands of the poor, and whenever she was alone, she kissed their feet, or, if this was impossible, She would kiss the ground over which they passed. Never did she give an alms to the poor without conferring still greater favors on their souls by interceding for them and thus dismissing them relieved in body and soul.

Not less admirable were the humility and obedience to the most holy Child in permitting herself to be taught to read and to do other things as other children in that time of life. She was instructed in reading and other arts by her parents and she submitted, though she had infused knowledge of all things created. The angels were filled with admiration at the unparalleled wisdom of this Child, who willingly listened to the teaching of all. Her holy mother Anne, as far as her intuition and love permitted, observed with rapture the heavenly Princess and blessed the Most High in Her. But with her love, as the time for presenting her in the temple approached, grew also the dread of the approaching end of the three years set by the Almighty and the consciousness, that the terms of her vow must punctually be fulfilled. Therefore the child Mary began to prepare and dispose her mother, manifesting to her, six months before, her ardent desire of living in the temple. She recounted the benefits, which they had received at the hands of the Lord, how much they were obliged to seek his greater pleasure, and how, when She should be dedicated to God in the temple, She would be more her Daughter than in their own house.

The holy Anne heard the discreet arguments of her child Mary; but though She was resigned to the divine will and wished to fulfill her promise of offering up her beloved Daughter, yet the natural force of her love toward such an unequalled and beloved Treasure, joined with the full understanding of its inestimable value, caused a mortal strife in her most faithful heart at the mere thought of her departure, which was closely at hand. There is no doubt, that she would have lost her life in this fierce and vivid sorrow, if the hand of the Almighty had not comforted her: for the grace and dignity of her heavenly Daughter was fully known to her and had entirely ravished her heart, making the presence of Mary more dear to her than life.

Full of this grief she said to the Child: "My beloved Daughter, for many years I have longed for Thee and only for a few years do I merit to have thy company; but thus let the will of God be fulfilled; I do not wish to be unfaithful to my promise of sending Thee to the temple, but there is yet time left for fulfilling it: have patience until the day arrives for the accomplishment of thy wishes."

A few days before most holy Mary reached the age of three years, She was favored with an abstract vision of the Divinity, in which it was made known to Her that the time of her departure for the temple ordained by God, had arrived, and that there She was to live dedicated and consecrated to his service. Her most pure soul was filled with new joy and gratitude at this prospect and speaking with the Lord, She gave Him thanks saying:
"Most high God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, my eternal and highest Good, since I cannot praise Thee worthily, let it be done in the name of this humble slave by the angelic spirits; since Thou, immense Lord, who hast need of none, dost look upon this lowly wormlet of the earth in thy unbounded mercy. Whence this great benefit to me, that Thou should receive me into thy house and service, since I do not even merit the most abject spot of the earth for my place of habitation? But as Thou art urged thereto by thy own greatness, I beseech Thee to inspire the hearts of my parents to fulfill thy holy will."

At the same time saint Anne had a vision, in which the Lord enjoined her to fulfill her promise by presenting her Daughter in the temple on the very day, on which the third year of her age should be complete. There is no doubt that this command caused more grief in Saint Anne, than that given to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. But the Lord consoled and comforted her, promising his grace and assistance in her loneliness during the absence of her beloved Daughter.

Saint Joachim also had a vision of the Lord at this time, receiving the same command as Anne. Having conferred with each other and taking account of the will of the Lord, they resolved to fulfill it with humble submission and appointed the day on which the Child was to be brought to the temple. Great was also the grief of this holy old man, though not quite as that of Saint Anne, for the high mystery of her being the future Mother of God was yet concealed from him.
 WORDS OF MARY TO AUTHOR Sister Mary of Agreda, Spain
My dearest daughter, keep in mind, that all the living are born destined for death, but ignorant of the time allowed them; this they know for certain however, that the term of life is short, that eternity is without end, and that in this life only they can harvest what will yield life or death eternal. In this dangerous pilgrimage of life God has ordained, that no one shall know for certain, whether he is worthy (Eccles. 9, 1) of his love or hate; for if he uses his reason rightly, this uncertainty will urge him to seek with all his powers the friendship of that same Lord. God justifies his cause as soon as the soul acquires the use of reason; for from that time onward He enlightens and urges and guides man toward virtue and draws him away from sin, teaching him to distinguish between water and fire, to approve of the good and reject evil, to choose virtue and repel vice. Moreover, God calls and rouses the soul by his holy inspirations and continual promptings, provides the help of the sacraments, doctrines and commandments, urges man onward through his angels, preachers, confessors, ministers and teachers, by special tribulations and favors, by the example of strangers, by trials, death and other happenings and dispositions of his Providence; He disposes the things of life so as to draw toward Him all men, for He wishes all to be saved. Thus he places at the disposal of the creature a vast field of benevolent help and assistance, which it can and should use for its own advancement. Opposing all this are the tendencies of the inferior and sensitive nature, infected with the fomes peccati, the foment of sin, tending toward sensible objects and by the lower appetites and repugnances, disturbing the reason and enthralling the will in the false liberty of ungoverned desires. The demon also, by his fascinations and his deceitful and iniquitous suggestions obscures the interior light, and hides the deathly poison beneath the pleasant exterior. But the Most High does not immediately forsake his creatures; He renews his mercy and his assistance, recalling them again and again, and if they respond to his first call, He adds others according to his equity, increasing and multiplying them in proportion as the soul corresponds. As a reward of the victory, which the soul wins over itself, the force of his passions and concupiscences is diminished, the spirit is made free to soar higher and rise above its own inclinations and above the demons.

But if man neglects to rise above his low desires and his forgetfulness, he yields to the enemy of God and man. The more he alienates himself from the goodness of God, so much the more unworthy does he become of the secret callings of the Most High, and so much less does he appreciate his assistance, though it be great. For the demon and the passions have obtained a greater dominion and power over his intellect and have made him more unfit and more incapable of the grace of the Almighty. Thereon, my dear daughter, rests the whole salvation or condemnation of souls, that is, in commencing to admit or resist the advances of the Lord. I desire thee not to forget this doctrine, so that thou mayest respond to the many calls which thou receivest of the Most High. See thou be strong in resisting his enemies and punctually solicitous in fulfilling the pleasure of thy Lord, for thereby thou wilt gratify Him and attend to the commands made known to thee by divine light. I loved my parents dearly, and the tender words of my mother wounded my heart; but as I knew it to be the will of the Lord to leave them, I forgot her house and my people in order to follow my Spouse. The proper education and instruction of children will do much toward making them more free and habituated to the practice of virtue, since thus they will be accustomed to follow the sure and safe guiding star of reason from its first dawn.

The three years’ time decreed by the Lord having been completed, Joachim and Anne set out from Nazareth, accompanied by a few kindred and bringing with them the true living Ark of the covenant, the most holy Mary, borne on the arms of her mother in order to be deposited in the holy temple of Jerusalem.

The beautiful Child, by her fervent and loving aspirations, hastened after the ointments of her Beloved, seeking in the temple Him, whom she bore in her heart. This humble procession was scarcely noticed by earthly creatures, but it was invisibly accompanied by the angelic spirits, who, in order to celebrate this event, had hastened from heaven in greater numbers than ordinary as her bodyguard, and were singing in heavenly strains the glory and praise of the Most High. The Princess of heaven heard and saw them as she hastened her beautiful steps along in the sight of the highest and the true Solomon. Thus they pursued their journey from Nazareth to the holy city of Jerusalem, and also the parents of the holy child Mary felt in their hearts great joy and consolation of spirit.

They arrived at the holy temple, and the blessed Anne on entering took her Daughter and Mistress by the hand, accompanied and assisted by Saint Joachim. All three offered a devout and fervent prayer to the Lord; the parents offering to God their Daughter, and the most holy Child, in profound humility, adoration and worship, offering up herself. She alone perceived that the Most High received and accepted her, and, amid divine splendor which filled the temple, she heard a voice saying to her:

"Come, my Beloved, my Spouse, come to my temple, where I wish to hear thy voice of praise and worship." Having offered their prayers, they rose and betook themselves to the priest. The parents consigned their Child into his hands and he gave them his blessing. Together they conducted her to the portion of the temple buildings, where many young girls lived to be brought up in retirement and in virtuous habits, until old enough to assume the state of matrimony. It was a place of retirement especially selected for the first-born daughters of the royal tribe of Judah and the sacerdotal tribe of Levi.

Fifteen stairs led up to the entrance of these apartments. Other priests came down these stairs in order to welcome the blessed child Mary. The one that had received them, being according to the law one of a minor order, placed her on the first step. Mary, with his permission, turned and kneeling down before Joachim and Anne, asked their blessing and kissed their hands, recommending herself to their prayers before God. The holy parents in tenderest tears gave her their blessing; whereupon she ascended the fifteen stairs without any assistance. She hastened upward with incomparable fervor and joy, neither turning back, nor shedding tears, nor showing any childish regret at parting from her parents. To see her, in so tender an age, so full of strange majesty and firmness of mind, excited the admiration of all those present. The priests received her among the rest of the maidens, and Saint Simeon consigned her to the teachers, one of whom was the prophetess Anne. This holy matron had been prepared by the Lord by especial grace and enlightenment, so that she joyfully took charge of this Child of Joachim and Anne. She considered the charge a special favor of divine Providence and merited by her holiness and virtue to have Her as a disciple, who was to be the Mother of God and Mistress of all the creatures.

Sorrowfully her parents Joachim and Anne retraced their journey to Nazareth, now poor as deprived of the rich Treasure of their house. But the Most High consoled and comforted them in their affliction. The holy priest Simeon, although he did not at this time know of the mystery enshrined in the child Mary, obtained great light as to her sanctity and her special selection by the Lord; also the other priests looked upon her with great reverence and esteem. In ascending the fifteen stairs the Child brought to fulfillment, that, which Jacob saw happening in sleep; for here too were angels ascending and descending: the ones accompanying, the others meeting their Queen as She hastened up; whereas at the top God was waiting in order to welcome Her as his Daughter and Spouse. She also felt by the effects of the overflowing love, that this truly was the house of God and the portal of heaven.

The child Mary, when brought to her teacher, knelt in profound humility before her and asked her blessing. She begged to be admitted among those under her direction, obedience and counsel, and asked her kind forbearance in the labor and trouble, which She would occasion. The prophetess Anne, her teacher, received her with pleasure, and said to her: "My Daughter, Thou shalt find in me a helpful mother and I will take care of Thee and of thy education with all possible solicitude." Then the holy Child proceeded to address Herself with the same humility to all the maidens which were then present; each one She greeted and embraced, offering Herself as their servant and requesting them, as older and more advanced than She in the duties of their position, to instruct and command Her. She also gave them thanks, that without her merit they admitted her to their company.
When the heavenly child Mary had dismissed her parents and entered upon her life in the temple, her teacher assigned to her a place among the rest of the maidens, each of whom occupied a large alcove or little room. The Princess of heaven prostrated herself on the pavement, and, remembering that it was holy ground and part of the temple, she kissed it. In humble adoration she gave thanks to the Lord for this new benefit, and she thanked even the earth for supporting her and allowing her to stand in this holy place; for she held herself unworthy of treading and remaining upon it. Then She turned toward her holy angels and said to them: "Celestial princes, messengers of the Almighty, most faithful friends and companions, I beseech you with all the powers of my soul to remain with me in this holy temple of my Lord and as my vigilant sentinels, reminding me of all that I should do; instructing me and directing me as the teachers and guides of my actions, so that I may fulfill in all things the perfect will of the Most High, give pleasure to the holy priests and obey my teacher and my companions." And addressing in particular those whom I mentioned above as the twelve angels of the Apocalypse, She said: "And I beseech you, my ambassadors, if the Almighty permit you, go and console my holy parents in their affliction and solitude."

While the twelve angels executed her command, Mary remained with the others in heavenly conversation. She began to feel a supernal influence of great power and sweetness, spiritualizing Her and elevating Her in burning ecstasy, and immediately the Most High commanded the seraphim to assist in illumining and preparing her most holy soul. Instantly she was filled with a divine light and force, which perfected and proportioned her faculties in accordance with the mysteries now to be manifested to her. Thus prepared and accompanied by her holy angels and many others, in the midst of a refulgent host, the celestial Child was raised body and soul to the empyrean heaven, where she was received by the holy Trinity with befitting benevolence and pleasure. She prostrated herself in the presence of the most mighty and high Lord, as she was wont to do in all her visions, and adored Him in profound reverence and humility. Then she was further transformed by new workings of divine light, so that she saw, intuitively and face to face, the Divinity itself. This was the second time that It manifested Itself to her in this intuitive manner during the first three years of her life.
By no human tongue or any sensible faculty could the effects of this vision and participation of the divine Essence ever be described. The Person of the Father spoke to the future Mother of his Son, and said:

"My Dove, my beloved One, I desire thee to see the treasures of my immutable being and of my infinite perfections, and also to perceive the hidden gifts destined for the souls, whom I have chosen as heirs of my glory and who are rescued by the life-blood of the Lamb. Behold, my Daughter, how liberal I am toward my creatures, that know and love Me; how true in my words, how faithful in my promises, how powerful and admirable in my works. Take notice, my Spouse, how ineffably true it is, that he who follows Me does not walk in darkness. I desire that thou, as my chosen One, be an eye-witness of the treasures which I hold in reserve for raising up the humble, enriching the poor, exalting the downtrodden, and for rewarding all that the mortals shall do and suffer for my name."

Other great mysteries were shown to the holy child in this vision of the Divinity, for as the object presented to the soul in such repeated intuitive visions is infinite, that which remains to be seen will always remain infinite and will excite greater and greater wonder and love in the one thus favored. The most holy Mary answered the Lord and said:

"Most high, supreme and eternal God, incomprehensible Thou art in thy magnificence, overflowing in thy riches, unspeakable in thy mysteries, most faithful in thy promises, true in thy words, most perfect in thy works, for Thou art the Lord, infinite and eternal in thy essence and perfections. But, most high Lord, what shall my littleness begin to do at the sight of thy magnificence? I acknowledge myself unworthy to look upon thy greatness, yet I am in great need of being regarded by it. In thy presence, Lord, all creation is as nothing. What shall I thy servant do, who am but dust? Fulfill in me all thy desire and thy pleasure; and if trouble and persecutions suffered by mortals in patience, if humility and meekness are so precious in thy eyes, do not consent, O my Beloved, that I be deprived of such a rich treasure and pledge of thy love. But as the rewards of these tribulations, give them to thy servants and friends, who deserve them better than I, for I have not yet labored in thy service and pleasure."

The Most High was much pleased with the petition of the heavenly Child and He gave Her to understand that He would admit Her to suffering and labor for his love in the course of her life, without at the time revealing to Her the order and the manner in which He was to dispense them. The Princess of heaven gave thanks for this blessing and favor of being chosen to labor and suffer for the glory of God’s name. Burning with desire of securing such favor, she asked of his Majesty to be allowed to make four vows in his presence: of chastity, of poverty, of obedience, and of perpetual enclosure in the temple whither He had called her. To this petition the Lord answered and said to Her:

"My Spouse, my thoughts rise above all that is created, and thou, my chosen one, dost not yet know what is to happen to thee in the course of thy life, and thou dost not yet understand why it is impossible to fulfill thy fervent desires altogether in the manner in which thou now dost imagine. The vow of chastity I permit and I desire that thou make it; I wish that from this moment thou renounce earthly riches. It is also my will that as far as possible thou observe whatever pertains to the other vows, just as if thou hadst made them all. Thy desire shall be fulfilled through many other virgins in the coming law of grace; for, in order to imitate thee and to serve Me, they will make these same vows and live together in community and thou shalt be the Mother of many daughters."

The most holy Child then, in the presence of the Lord, made the vow of chastity and as for the rest without binding herself; she renounced all affection for terrestrial and created things. She moreover resolved to obey all creatures for the sake of God. In the fulfillment of these promises she was more punctual, fervent and faithful than any who have ever made these vows or ever will make them. Forthwith the clear and intuitive vision of the Divinity ceased, but she was not immediately restored to the earth. For, remaining in the empyrean heaven, she enjoyed another, an imaginary vision of the Lord in a lower state of ecstasy, so that in connection with it, she saw other mysteries.
In this secondary and imaginary vision some of the seraphim closest to the Lord approached her and by his command adorned and clothed her in the following manner. First all her senses were illumined with an effulgent light, which filled them with grace and beauty. Then they robed her in a mantle or tunic of most exquisite splendor, and girded her with a cincture of vary-colored and transparent stones, of flashing brilliancy, which adorned her beyond human comprehension. They signified the immaculate purity and the various heroic virtues of her soul. They placed on her also a necklace or collar of inestimable and entrancing beauty, which contained three large stones, symbolic of the three great virtues of faith, hope and charity; this they hung around her neck letting it fall to her breast as if indicating the seat of these precious virtues. They also adorned her hands with seven rings of rare beauty whereby the Holy Ghost wished to proclaim that He had enriched her with his holy gifts in a most eminent degree. In addition to all this the most holy Trinity crowned her head with an imperial diadem, made of inestimable material and set with most precious stones, constituting her thereby as his Spouse and as the Empress of heaven. In testimony whereof the white and refulgent vestments were emblazoned with letters or figures of the finest and the most shining gold, proclaiming: Mary, Daughter of the eternal Father, Spouse of the Holy Ghost and Mother of the true Light. This last name or title the heavenly Mistress did not understand; but the angels understood it, who, lost in wonder and praise of the Author, were assisting at this new and strange ceremony. Finally the attention of all the angelic spirits was drawn toward the Most High and a voice proceeded from the throne of the blessed Trinity, which, addressing the most holy Mary, spoke to Her:

"Thou shalt be our Spouse, our beloved and chosen One among all creatures for all eternity; the angels shall serve thee and all the nations and generations shall call thee blessed" (Luc. 1, 48).

The sovereign Child being thus attired in the court dress of the Divinity, then celebrated a more glorious and marvelous espousal than ever could enter the mind of the highest cherubim and seraphim. For the Most High accepted Her as his sole and only Spouse and conferred upon Her the highest dignity which can befall a creature; He deposited within Her his own Divinity in the person of the Word and with it all the treasures of grace befitting such eminence. Meanwhile the most Humble among the humble was lost in the abyss of love and wonder which these benefits and favors caused in Her , and in the presence of the Lord She spoke:

"Most high King and incomprehensible God, who art Thou and who am I , that thy condescension should look upon me who am dust, unworthy of such mercy? In Thee, my Lord, as in a clear mirror seeing thy immutable being, I behold and understand without error my lowliness and vileness, I admire thy immensity and deprecate my nothingness. At the sight of Thee I am annihilated and lost in astonishment, that the infinite Majesty should stoop to so lowly a worm, who can merit only oblivion and contempt of all the creatures. O Lord, my only Good, how art Thou magnified and exalted in this deed! What marvel dost Thou cause through me in thy angelic spirits, who understand thy infinite bounty, magnificence and mercy in raising up from the dust her who in it is poor, and placing her among the princes (Ps. 112, 7)! I accept Thee, O my King and my Lord, as my Spouse and I offer myself as thy slave. Let not my understanding attend to any other object, nor my memory hold any other image, nor my will seek other object or pleasure than Thee, my highest Good, my true and only Love. Let not my eyes look upon human creature, nor my faculties and senses attend upon anything beside Thee and whatever thy Majesty shall direct. Thou alone for thy spouse, my Beloved, and she for Thee only, who art the immutable and eternal Good."

The Most High received with ineffable pleasure this consent of the sovereign Princess to enter into the new espousal with her most holy soul. As upon his True Spouse and as Mistress of all creation, He now lavished upon Her all the treasures of his grace and power, instructing Her to ask for whatever She desired and assuring Her that nothing would ever be denied Her. The most humble Dove at once proceeded to beseech the Lord with the most burning charity, to send His Only begotten to the world as a remedy for mortals; that all men be called to the true knowledge of his Divinity; that her natural parents, Joachim and Anne, receive an increase of the loving gifts of his right hand; that the poor and afflicted be consoled and comforted in their troubles; and that in Herself be fulfilled the pleasure of the divine will. These were some of the more express petitions addressed by the new Spouse on this occasion to the blessed Trinity. And all the angelic host sang new songs of admiration in praise of the Most High, while those appointed by his Majesty, midst heavenly music, bore back the holy Child from the empyrean heaven to the place in the temple, from which they had brought her.
In order to commence at once to put in practice what She had promised in the presence of the Lord, She betook Herself to her instructress and offered all that her mother, saint Anne, had left for her comfort and sustenance, with the exception of a few books and clothes. She requested her to give it to the poor or use it for any other purpose according to her pleasure, and that She command and direct her what she was to do. The discreet matron, (who was, as I have already said, the prophetess Anne) by divine impulse accepted and approved of the offering of the beautiful Child and dismissed her entirely poor and stripped of everything except the garments which She wore. She resolved to take care of her in a special manner as one destitute and poor; for the other maidens each possessed their spending money and a certain sum assigned and destined for their wearing apparel and for other necessities according to their inclinations.
The holy matron, having first consulted the high priest, also gave to the sweetest Child a rule of life. By thus despoiling and resigning herself the Queen and Mistress of creation obtained a complete freedom and detachment from all creatures and from her own Self, neither possessing nor desiring anything except only the most ardent love of God and her own abasement and humiliation.


I will relate that, which the Most High explained to me on one occasion in his own words:
"The works of her, who was to be the Mother of the Godman, were altogether and in every way most perfect, and even to understand them exceeds the capacity of all human creatures and of the angels. Her interior acts of the virtues were so precious and of such great merit and favor, that they surpass all that the seraphim can do; and thou, my soul, wilt much better understand, than be able to explain them with words of thy tongue. But it is my will, that during thy pilgrimage in thy mortal body thou place most holy Mary as the beginning of thy joy, and that thou follow Her through the desert of renunciation and abnegation of all that is human and visible. Follow her by a perfect imitation according to the measure of thy strength and of the light which thou receivest. Let her be thy guiding star and thy Directress: She will manifest to thee my will and will let thee find my holy law which is written in her by the power of my right hand: meditate upon it day and night. She by her intercession will strike the rock of Christ's humanity (Num. 220, 11), in order that in this desert may abound the waters of divine grace and light, so that thy thirst may be quenched, thy understanding enlightened, and thy will inflamed. She will be a pillar of light to illuminate thy path (Exod. 12, 21) and a cloud to afford thee shade and refreshment against the ardors of thy passions and the fierceness of thy enemies.
"Thou wilt have in her an angel, who will guard and guide thee, and (Exod. 13, 21) lead thee away from the dangers of Babylon and of Sodom, so that my punishment shall not reach thee. Thou wilt have in her a Mother to love thee, a Friend to counsel thee, a Mistress to direct thee, a Protectress to shield thee and a Queen whom thou canst serve and obey as a handmaid. In the virtues, which this Mother of the Only begotten exercised in the temple, thou wilt find a summary of all the highest perfections according to which thou should arrange thy life; an exact and reliable copy of all her sanctity; the beauty of virginity, the loveliness of humility, the utmost promptness in devotion and obedience, the stead fastness of faith, the certitude of hope, the fire of love and the most complete outline map of all the wonders of my right hand. According to this rule thou must regulate thy life, by this mirror thou must arrange and adorn it, adding to the beauty and grace of a bride that wishes to enter into the chamber of her Spouse and Lord."

"If the nobility and condition of the teacher are a spur to the disciple and make his doctrine more amiable acceptable, who can attract thee more powerfully than thy Instructress, who is the Mother of thy Spouse, chosen as the most pure and holy among women, and without blemish of sin, being at the same time a Virgin and the Mother of the Only begotten of the eternal Father, the splendor of his Divinity in his own essence? Hear then this sovereign Mistress; follow her in close imitation, and meditate without ceasing upon her admirable excellence and virtues. Remember, that the life and conversation she led in the temple is the original, which all the souls, that consecrate themselves after her as spouses of Christ, must copy within themselves." The above is the explanation and instruction, which the Most High gave me in outline concerning the life and conduct of the most holy Mary in the temple.

But let us proceed now to a more particular description of her actions. After the vision of the Divinity, described in the second chapter, after She had offered Herself entirely to the Lord and delivered up to her instructress all that She possessed, being thus deprived of all, entirely bound over to obedience, and hiding, beneath the veil of these virtues, treasures of grace and wisdom greater than that of the seraphim, She requested the priest and her teacher to prescribe for Her an order of life and to direct Her in the occupations, which She was to assume. The priest and her instructress, having together considered her petition with the aid of a special enlightenment from on high and desiring to regulate from now on the exercises of this heavenly Child of only three years, called Her to their presence. The Princess of heaven remained kneeling before them during this interview and, although they bade Her rise, She begged most humbly be allowed to remain in this reverent position in the presence of the minister and priest of the Most High and her teacher, on account of their office and dignity.

The priest spoke to her and said: "My Daughter, as a very young Child the Lord has drawn Thee to his house and holy temple; be thankful for this favor and seek to profit by it by striving hard to serve Him in truth and with an upright heart. Acquire all the virtues, in order that thou mayest return from this holy place prepared and fortified against the troubles and the dangers of this world. Obey thy Mistress Anne and commence early to bear the sweet yoke of virtue, in order that thou mayest find it more easy to bear during the rest of thy life" (Thren. 3, 27). The sovereign Child answered: "I thou, my master, who art the minister and priest of God; and holdest his place, and thou my Mistress together with him, command and instruct me in whatever I am to do that I may not commit any fault: this I beg of you, wishing to obey you in all things."
The priest and her teacher Anne felt within themselves a great enlightenment and a divine impulse to attend especially to this heavenly Child and to care for her more than the other maidens. Conferring with themselves about this great esteem, with which they had been inspired, though ignorant of the mystery by which it came to them, they resolved to devote particular attention to her guidance and assistance. But as their care could extend only to the exterior and visible actions, they were far from suspecting the interior acts and inspirations of her heart, for over these the Most High watched with singular protection and favor. Thus the pure heart of the Princess of heaven remained free to advance and grow in interior vision, without losing one instant, in which she did not reach what is highest and most excellent in virtue.

The priest also gave Her a rule for her occupations and said: "My Daughter thou wilt assist at the exercises of divine praise and song in honor of the Lord with all reverence and devotion, and always pray to the Most High for the necessities of his holy temple and of his people, and for the coming of the Messias. At eight 0' clock thou wilt retire for sleep and at the beginning of dawn thou wilt arise in order to praise the Lord until the third hour (this hour corresponds to our nine o'clock in the morning). From the third hour until evening thou wilt occupy thyself in some manual works, in order that thou mayest be instructed in all things. At meals, of which thou wilt partake after thy exercise, observe befitting moderation. Then thou wilt go to hear the instructions of thy teacher; the rest of the day thou wilt engage thyself in the reading of holy Scriptures, and in all things be humble, affable, and obedient to the commands of thy instructress,"
The most holy Child remained on her knees, while She listened to the words of the priest and then asked his blessing; having kissed his hand and the hand of her mistress, She proposed in her heart to observe the order of life assigned Her during her stay in the temple and as long as they should not command her otherwise. And she, who was the Mistress of sanctity, fulfilled their orders as if she were the least of all the scholars. Her desires and her most ardent love impelled her to many other external exercises, which they had not included in their orders; but with regard to these she subjected herself to the minister of the Lord, preferring the sacrifice of perfect and holy obedience to the high dictates of her own fervor. She knew, as Mistress of all perfection, that the divine will is more surely fulfilled by the humble acquiescence of obedience, than in following the highest aspirations to other virtues. By this rare example let souls, and especially those in the religious state, learn not to follow their own effervescences and whims contrary to obedience and the will of their superiors; for in the latter God make known to us his desire and pleasure, whereas in the former we seek only our own fancies; in the superiors God himself operates, in ourselves (if we work contrary to their orders), temptations, blind passion and deceit is active.

In the performance of works not commanded her our Queen and Lady distinguished herself from other maidens by asking her teacher to be allowed to serve them all and be engaged in the humble occupation of scrubbing and cleaning the rooms and of washing the dishes. Although this seemed extraordinary, especially in one of the firstborn children, who were treated with greater consideration and respect, yet the incomparable humility of the heavenly Princess could not be restrained or confined by any consideration of what was due to her position, but reached out for the most humble occupations. With such an eager humility She knew how to gain time and opportunity for doing such work, that She was beforehand in assuming the tasks of others. By means of her infused science she understood all the mysteries and ceremonies of the temple; but she was anxious to learn them also by study and practice, as if she were ignorant of them, nor did she ever fail in any ceremony or duty, no matter how small. She was most eager for humiliation and most submissive in her self contempt; every morning and evening she asked the blessing of her teacher and kissed her hand, and the same she did whenever she was ordered or was permitted to perform works of humility. Sometimes, when it was allowed Her, She kissed her feet with profound humility.
The sovereign Princess was so docile, so sweet and friendly in her actions, so ready to serve and so eager and diligent in humbling herself, so anxious to show kindness and esteem toward all the maidens in the temple, obeying them as if each had been Her Mistress, that She ravished all the hearts. By Her ineffable and heavenly prudence she proceeded in all her actions in such a manner, that she never lost an occasion for engaging in lowly work, in humble service of her companions, and in the fulfillment of the divine pleasure.

But what shall I, most vile creature, and what shall all faithful children of the Catholic Church think, when describing and considering such a vivid example of humility? It seems to us great virtue, when the inferior obeys the superior, the lowly yields to the exalted; and we esteem it a great humility, that the equal submit to his equal. But when the inferior commands and the superior obeys, when the Queen humbles Herself before her slave, when the most holy and the most perfect of all creatures submits to a mere wormlet, the Queen of heaven and earth to the least of women, and when this is done with all her heart and in all sincerity: who is not astonished and confounded in his vapid pride? Who will not see, as in a clear mirror, his unhappy presumption? Who can convince himself, that he knows what true humility is, much less exercise it, when he sees it exhibited, in its reality and in its own element, the most holy Mary? Let us souls, who live under the vow of obedience, approach this light in order to perceive and correct the disorders, which show themselves, whenever obedience to our god-given superiors requires renouncement of our whims and therefore becomes hard and troublesome. Here let our hardness be crushed, let the proudest humiliate herself and be confounded in her shameful pride; let her banish all presumption and let her not account herself obedient and humble, because on certain occasions she has yielded to the superiors, for she is yet far from thinking herself inferior and beneath her companion, as Mary did, who is superior to all.

The beauty, grace, elegance and courteousness or our Queen were incomparable; for all the natural graces and gifts, which were hers in a most perfect degree. were re-enforced by the splendor of supernatural or divine grace, and effected a marvelous union of grace and beauty in all her being and activity, enthralling all in love and admiration of her. Divine Providence moderated the outward demonstrations of this affection, which those who conversed with her, would have shown, if they had been left to the natural force of their spontaneous love of the Queen. In eating and in sleep, as in all other virtues, She was most perfect: She observed the measure dictated by temperance; never did She exceed, nor could She, rather She deducted from the necessary. Although her curtailed sleep did not interrupt her high contemplation, as I have said before, yet She would have gladly omitted it altogether; in virtue of obedience however, She retired to rest at the time appointed, and on her humble and poor couch, strewn with the flowers of virtue (Cant. 1. 13) and surrounded by the seraphim and the angelic host who guarded and assisted Her, She enjoyed more exalted contemplation (outside of beatific vision), and more ecstasies of love, than all of them together.

She divided her time and applied it with rare prudence so as to give to each of her actions and occupations its proper share. She read much in the sacred writings of the ancients and, by means of her infused science, She was so well versed in them and in all their profound mysteries, that none of them was unfamiliar to Her; for the Most High made known to Her all their mysteries and sacraments; She treated and conversed about them in her conferences with the holy angels of her guard, familiarizing Herself with them and asking about them with incomparable intelligence and great acuteness. If this sovereign Mistress had written what She understood, we would have many other additions to the sacred Scriptures; and we would be able to draw out of them a perfect understanding of those writings and the deep meanings and mysteries of all those preserved in the Church.
 Source: Ven Mary of Agreda, Mystical City of God; used with permission.