Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Blessed Mary of Agreda, Mystical City of God
Chapter 21

Of The Felicitous Birth Of The Most Holy Mary,
Of The Favors Which She Then Received From The Hand Of The Most High,
And How A Name Was Given Her In Heaven And On Earth.

326. The day destined for the parturition of saint Anne and for the birth of her, who was consecrated and sanctified to be the Mother of God, had arrived: a day most fortunate for the world. This birth happened on the eighth day of September, fully nine months having elapsed since of the soul of our most holy Queen and Lady. Saint Anne was prepared by an interior voice of the Lord, informing her, that the hour of her parturition had come. Full of the joy of the holy Spirit at this information, she prostrated herself before the Lord and besought the assistance of his grace and his protection for a happy deliverance.  Presently she felt a movement in her womb similar to that which is proper to creatures being born to the light. The most blessed child Mary was at the same time by divine providence and power ravished into a most high ecstasy. Hence Mary was born into the world without perceiving it by her senses, for their operations and faculties were held in suspense.  As she had the use of her reason, she would have perceived it by her senses, if they would have been left to operate in their natural manner at that time. However, the Almighty disposed otherwise, in order that the Princess of heaven might be spared the sensible experience otherwise connected with birth.

327. She was born pure and stainless, beautiful and full of grace, thereby demonstrating, that she was free from the law and the tribute of sin. Although she was born substantially like other daughters of Adam, yet her birth was accompanied by such circumstances and conditions of grace, that it was the most wonderful and miraculous birth in all creation and will eternally redound to the praise of her Maker. At twelve o clock in the night this divine Luminary issued forth, dividing the night of the ancient Law and its pristine darknesses from the new day of grace, which now was about to break into dawn. She was clothed, handled and dressed like other infants, though her soul dwelt in the Divinity; and she was treated as an infant, though she excelled all mortals and even all the angels in wisdom. her mother did not allow her to be touched by other hands than her own, but she herself wrapped her in swaddling clothes: and in this Saint Anne was not hindered by her present state of childbirth; for she was free from the toils and labors, which other mothers usually endure in such circum stances.

328. So then Saint Anne received in her arms her, who was her daughter, but at the same time the most exquisite Treasure of all the universe, inferior only to God and superior to all other creatures.  With fervent tears of joy she offered this Treasure to his Majesty, saying interiorly: Lord of infinite wisdom and power, Creator of all that exists, this Fruit of my womb, which I have received of thy bounty, I offer to Thee with eternal thanks, for without any merit of mine Thou hast vouchsafed it to me. Dispose Thou of the mother and child according to thy most holy will and look propitiously down upon our lowliness from thy exalted throne.  Be Thou eternally blessed, because Thou hast enriched the world with a Creature so pleasing to thy bounty and because in her Thou hast prepared a dwelling-place and a tabernacle for the eternal Word (Sap. 9, 8). I tender my congratulations to my holy Forefathers and to the holy Prophets, and in them to the whole human race, for this sure pledge of Redemption, which Thou hast given them. But how shall I be able worthily to treat her, whom Thou hast given me as a daughter? I that am not worthy to be her servant? How shall I handle the true ark of the Testament? Give me, O my Lord and King, the necessary enlightenment to know thy will and to execute it according to thy pleasure in the service of my daughter.

329. The Lord answered the holy matron interiorly, that she was to treat her heavenly child outwardly as mothers treat their daughters, without any demonstration of reverence; but to retain this reverence inwardly, fulfilling the laws of a true mother toward her, and rearing her up with all motherly love and solicitude.  All this the happy mother complied with; making use of this per mission and her mother s rights without losing her reverence, she regaled herself with her most holy daughter, embracing and caressing her in the same way as other mothers do with their daughters. But it was always done with a proper reverence and consciousness of the hidden and divine sacrament known only to the mother and daughter. The guardian angels of the sweet child with others in great multitudes showed their veneration and worship to Mary as she rested in the arms of her mother; they joined in heavenly music, some of which was audible also to blessed Anne. The thousand angels appointed as guardians of the great Queen offered themselves and dedicated themselves  her service. This was also the first time, in which the heavenly Mistress saw them in a corporeal form with their devises and habiliments, as I shall describe in another chapter (Ch. XXIII) and the child asked them to join with her in the praise of the Most High and to exalt Him in her name.

330. At the moment of the birth of our Princess Mary the Most High sent the archangel Gabriel as an envoy to bring this joyful news to the holy Fathers in limbo. Immediately the heavenly ambassador descended, illumining that deep cavern and rejoicing the just who were detained therein. He told them that already the dawn of eternal felicity had commenced and that the reparation of man, which was so earnestly desired and expected by the holy Patriarchs and foretold by the Prophets, had been begun, since she, who was to be the Mother of the Messias, had now been born; soon would they now see the salvation and the glory of the Most High. The holy prince gave them an understanding of the excellence of the most holy Mary and of what the Omnipotent had begun to work in her, in order that they might better comprehend the happy beginning of the mystery, which was to end their prolonged imprisonment. Then all the holy Patriarchs and Prophets and the rest of the just in limbo rejoiced in spirit and in new canticles praised the Lord for this benefit.

331. All these happenings at the birth of our Queen succeeded each other in a short space of time. The first exercise of her senses in the light of the material sun, was to recognize her parents and other creatures. The arms of the Most High began to work new wonders in her far above all conceptions of men, and the first and most stupendous one was to send innumerable angels to bring the Mother of the eternal Word body and soul into the empyrean heaven for the fulfilling of his further intentions regarding her. The holy princes obeyed the divine mandate and receiving the child Mary from the arms of her holy Mother Anne, they arranged a new and solemn procession bearing heavenward with incomparable songs of joy the true Ark of the covenant, in order that for a short time it might rest, not in the house of Obededon, but in the temple of the King of kings and of the Lord of lords, where later on it was to be placed for all eternity. This was the second step, which most holy Mary made in her life, namely, from this earth to the highest heaven.

332. Who can worthily extol this wonderful Prodigy of the right hand of the Almighty? Who can describe the joy and the admiration of the celestial spirits, when they beheld this new and wonderful work of the Most High, and when they gathered to celebrate it in their songs? In these songs they acknowledged and reverenced as their Queen and Mistress, her, who was to be the Mother of their Lord, and the source of the grace and glory, which they possessed; for it was through his fore seen merits, that they had been made the recipients of the divine bounty. But above all, what human tongue, or what mortal could ever describe or comprehend the heart-secrets of that tender child during these events? I leave the imagination of all this to Catholic piety, and still more to those who in the Lord are favored with an understanding of it, but most of all to those who, by divine bounty shall have arrived at the beatific vision face to face.

333. Borne by the hands of the angels the child Mary entered the empyrean heaven where she prostrated herself full of love before the royal throne in the presence of the Most High. Then (according to our way of understanding), was verified what long before had happened in figure, when Bethsabee entered into the presence of her son Solomon, who, while presiding over his people of Israel, arose from his throne, received her with honor and reverence, and seated her at his side as queen. Similarly, but in a more glorious and admirable manner, the person of the divine Word now received the child Mary, whom He had chosen as Mother, as Queen of the universe.  Although her real dignity and the purpose of these ineffable mysteries were unknown to Mary, yet her infant faculties were strengthened by divine power for the proper reception of these favors. New graces and gifts were bestowed upon her, by which her faculties were correspondingly elevated.  Her powers of mind, besides being illumined and prepared by new grace and light, were raised and proportioned to the divine manifestation, and the Divinity displayed Itself in the new light vouchsafed, revealing Itself to her intuitively and clearly in a most exalted manner. This was the first time in which the most holy soul of Mary saw the blessed Trinity in unveiled beatific vision.

334. The sole witnesses of the glory of Mary in this beatific vision, of the sacraments then again revealed to her, of the divine effect that overflowed into her most pure soul, was God the Author of this unheard of wonder, and the astounded angels, who in some measure perceived these mysteries in God Himself. The Queen seated at the side of the Lord, who was to be her Son, and seeing Him face to face, was more successful in her prayer than Bethsabee (III Kings, 2, 21). For she prayed, that He bestow the untouched Sunamite Abisag, his in accessible Divinity, upon his sister, human nature; she prayed that his promised coming from heaven to the earth and his marriage with human nature by the hypostatic union be fulfilled in the person of the Word. Many times had He pledged Himself to it among men through the ancient Patriarchs and Prophets and now Mary besought Him to accelerate the reparation of the human race, expected for so many ages amid the multiplied iniquity and the ruin of souls. The Most High heard this most pleasing petition of his Mother, and acting more graciously than Solomon of old toward his mother, He assured her that soon His promises should be fulfilled, and that He should descend to the world in order to assume and redeem human nature.

335. In this divine consistory and tribunal of the most holy Trinity it was determined to give a name to the child Queen. As there is no proper and legitimate name, except it be found in the immutable being of God himself (for from it are participated and determined according to their right weight and measure all things in infinite wisdom) his Majesty wished himself to give and impose that name in heaven. He thereby made known to the angelic spirits, that the three divine Persons, had decreed and formed the sweet names of Jesus and Mary for the Son and Mother from the beginning before the ages, and that they had been delighted with them and had engraved them on their eternal memories to be as it were the Objects for whose service They should create all things. Being informed of these and many other mysteries, The holy angels heard a voice from the throne speaking in the person of the Father: Our chosen One shall be called MARY, and this name is to be powerful and magnificent. Those that shall invoke it with devout affection shall receive most abundant graces; those that shall honor it and pronounce it with reverence shall be consoled and vivified, and will find in it the remedy of their evils, the treasures for their enrichment, the light which shall guide them to heaven. It shall be terrible against the power of hell, it shall crush the head of the serpent and it shall win glorious victories over the princes of hell; The Lord commanded the angelic spirits to announce this glorious name to saint Anne, so that what was decreed in heaven might be executed on earth. The heavenly child, lovingly prostrate before the throne, rendered most acceptable and human thanks to the eternal Being; and she received the name with most admirable and sweet jubilation. If the prerogatives and graces, which she then was favored with, were to be described, it would necessitate an extra book of many volumes. The holy angels honored and acknowledged most holy Mary as the future Mother of the Word and as their Queen and Mistress enthroned at the right hand of her Son; they showed their veneration of her holy name, prostrating themselves as it proceeded from the throne in the voice of the eternal Father, especially those, who had it written on the devises over their breast. All of them gave forth canticles of praise for these great and hidden mysteries. In the mean while the infant Queen remained ignorant of the real cause of all that she thus experienced, for her dignity of Mother of the Incarnate Word was not revealed to her till the time of the Incarnation. With the same reverential jubilee did the angels return in order to replace her into the arms of holy Anne, to whom this event remained a secret, as was also the absence of her daughter; for a guardian angel, assuming an aerial body, supplied her place for this very purpose. More than that, during a great part of the time in which the heavenly child remained in the empyrean heaven, her mother was wrapped in an ecstasy of highest contemplation, and in it, although she did not know what was happening to the child, exalted mysteries concerning the dignity of Mother of God, to which she was to be chosen, were revealed to her. The prudent matron kept them enshrined within her breast, conferring them in her thoughts with the duties she owed to her child.

336. On the eighth day after the birth of the great Queen multitudes of most beautiful angels in splendid array descended from on high bearing an escutcheon on which the name of MARY was engraved and shone forth in great brilliancy.  Appearing to the blessed mother Anne, they told her, that the name of her daughter was to be MARY, which name they had brought from heaven, and which divine Providence had selected and now ordained to be given to their child by Joachim and her self. The saint called for her husband and they conferred with each other about this disposition of God in regard to the name of their daughter. The more than happy father accepted the name with joy and devout affection. They decided to call their relatives and a priest and then, with much solemnity and festivity, they imposed the name of MARY on their child. The angels also celebrated this event with most sweet and ravishing music, which, however, was heard only by the mother and her most holy daughter. Thus was the divine Princess named by the holy Trinity: in heaven, on the day of her nativity, and on earth, after eight days. This name was written in the list of other names, when her mother presented herself at the temple according to the law, as I will relate further on. This was the birth, like to which none had been before, and the like of which cannot again happen in mere creatures.  This was the most blessed birth of which nature was capable, for by it an infant came into existence, whose entrance into the world was not only free from all impurities of sin, but who was more pure and holy than the highest seraphim. The birth of Moses was celebrated on account of the beauty and handsomeness of the infant (Exod. 2, 2); all his beauty was only corruptible and apparent. But O how beautiful is our great child! O how beautiful (Cant. 7, 6)! She is entirely beautiful and most sweet in her delights, since she is possessed of all grace and beauty, without being wanting in any. The laughter and the joy of the house of Abraham was the birth of the promised Isaac (Genes. 21, 6), conceived in a sterile womb, but this joy was great only because it foreshadowed and was derived from the birth of our infant Queen, toward which all this joy of Abraham was only a step. If that birth was so admirable and full of joy for the family of the Patriarch because it was a fore shadowing of the birth of sweetest Mary, heaven and earth should rejoice at the birth of her, who gave a be ginning to the restoration of heaven and the sanctification of the world. When Noah was born, his father Lamech was consoled (Genes. 5, 29), because in that son God had provided a Progenitor of the human race in the ark and assured a restoration of the blessings, which the sins of men had forfeited.  But all this happened merely as a type to foreshadow the birth of this child, who was to be the true Reparatrix, being the mystical ark which contained the new and true Noah and which drew Him down from heaven, who was to fill with benediction all the inhabitants of the earth. O blessed birth! O joyful nativity! The most pleasing to the blessed Trinity in all the ages of the past, the joy of the angels, the relief of sinners, the delight of the just, and the singular consolation of all the holy souls in limbo!

337. O precious and rich Pearl, that didst come forth to the light of the sun, still enclosed within the rough shell of this world! O sublime Infant, who, though scarcely noticed by terrestrial eyes in the material light, yet in the eyes of the highest King and his courtiers, excellest all that is not God in dignity and grandeur! All generations bless Thee, all the nations recognize and praise thy grace and beauty! Let the earth be made illustrious by thy birth, let mortals be rejoiced because their Mediatrix is born, who will fill up the vast emptiness of original sin.  Let thy gracious condescension toward me be blessed and extolled, who am the most abject dust and ashes.  If Thou givest me permission, O my Lady, to speak in thy presence, I will propose a doubt which occurred to me in describing the mystery of thy most admirable and holy birth, namely: regarding an act of the Almighty at the hour of thy coming forth into the material light of the sun.

338. And this is the doubt: How are we to understand thy being raised in thy body by the hands of the holy angels into the empyrean heavens and to the vision of God? For according to the Teaching of the holy Church and her doctors, heaven was closed and as it were interdicted to man, until thy most holy Son should open it through his life and death, and until He himself, as Redeemer and Chief, should enter it on the day of his admirable Ascension, He being the first one for whom these eternal portals were to be opened after their being closed up by sin?


Answer And Instruction Of The Queen Of Heaven.

339. My dearest daughter, it is true, that divine justice closed heaven against mortals on account of the first sin, until my most holy Son should open it by satisfying most abundantly for men through his earthly life and death.  It was befitting and just, that this same Redeemer, who had united to Himself the redeemed members and opened heaven, should as their Chief enter before any of the children of Adam. If Adam had not sinned, it would not have been necessary to follow this course; for men would have ascended of themselves in order to enjoy the Divinity in the empyrean heavens; having however foreseen the fall of man, the most blessed Trinity provided for the course followed at present. This great mystery was referred to by David in the twenty-third psalm, when speaking of the spirits of heaven he repeats twice; Lift up, ye princes, your gates; and be ye lifted up, ye eternal gates, and the King of Glory shall enter in. They are here called the gates of the angels, because only for them were they open, but for mortal men they were closed. Although these heavenly courtiers were aware of the fact that the incarnate Word had already thrown back the bars and bolts of guilt, and that He was now ascending rich and glorious with the Spoils of death and sin, bringing with Him the fruits of his Passion in the accompanying hosts of the Glorious saints released from limbo; nevertheless the holy angels give vent to their admiration and breathless suspense at this wonderful novelty, asking; Who is this King of glory? For He was a man and of the same nature as the one who had lost for himself and for all his race the right to enter into heaven.

340. They themselves give answer to the question saying: The Lord who is strong and mighty; the Lord mighty in battle; the Lord of virtues, the King of glory. This was as if they confessed their conviction, that this Man, who was now coming up from the world in order to open the eternal gates, was not a mere man and is not included under the law of sin; but that He was true God and true man, who, strong and powerful in battle, had overcome the strong-armed one (Luc. 11, 22), that reigned in the world, had taken away his reign and despoiled him of his weapons. And He was the Lord of virtues, as one that had exercised them as a Master, with sovereignty over them and without any contradiction of sin and defect. As the Lord of virtues and as the Lord of glory, He now came in triumph, distributing virtues and glory to his redeemed, for whom as man He had suffered and died, and whom as God He was now raising up to the eternal and beatific vision, having broken the bars and shackles imposed by sin.

341. Since this, O soul, was the work of my dear Son, the true God and man, He, as the Lord of virtues and graces, exalted and adorned me with them from the first moment of my Immaculate Conception. And as, more over, the hindrance of sin touched me not, I was free from the impediments which prevented other mortals from entering into the eternal gates of heaven; on the contrary the powerful arm of my Son acted with me as being the Mistress of all virtues and as the Queen of heaven. Because He was to vest Himself and assume unto Himself human nature from my flesh and blood, He was beforehand in preparing me and making me like Himself in purity and exemption from fault and in other divine gifts and privileges. As I was not a slave of sin, I exercised the virtues not as a subject, but as a Mistress, without contradiction, but with sovereignty, not like the children of Adam, but like the Son of God, who was also my Son.

342. For these reasons the celestial spirits, who had possession of the eternal gates as their own, opened them up for me, perceiving that the Lord had created me more pure than all the most exalted spirits in heaven, and made me their Queen, and the Mistress of all creation. Remember also, my dearest, that he who makes the law can also dispense with it freely, and this the supreme Lord and Legislator did with me, extending the scepter of his clemency toward me more readily than Assuerus did to Esther. For the common laws regarding others and consequent on their guilt, applied not to me, who was to be the Mother of the Author of Grace. Although I could not, as a mere creature, merit such blessed privileges, yet the divine clemency and goodness of God turned toward me with full liberality and He was pleased with the humility of his servant, in order that for all eternity the Author of such prodigies might be praised. Do thou also, my daughter, according to my directions, bless and magnify Him for these benefits bestowed upon me.

343. 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 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.

344. 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 shouldst 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 to the Lord. Then, following the light which He gives and in pursuance of that which is 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.

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