|Devotion to Our Lady||
NINTH DAY OF THE NOVENA (new meditations posted each day)
Topic to Contemplate: Learning from the Mother of Sorrows (PART TWO)
Taken from The City of God by the Venerable Mary of Agreda, Book 3: The Transfixion
INSTRUCTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY TO SISTER MARY OF AGREDA
The Power of Christ's Cross
My daughter, by divine enlightenment thou hast received a deep understanding of the glorious triumph of my Son and Lord on the Cross over the demons and of their rout and vanquishment. But thou must remember that thou art yet ignorant of much more than what thou knowest concerning these ineffable mysteries. For in mortal flesh the creature cannot comprehend them in their reality, and divine Providence reserves the full understanding of them as a reward of the saints in Heaven and for the beatific vision, in which these mysteries will be comprehended clearly. This insight will also be given to the reprobate, to each one according to his degree, for their confusion and punishment at the end of their life.
But what thou hast learned will suffice to apprise thee of the dangers of this mortal life and to enliven thy hope of overcoming thy enemies. I wish also to warn thee of the new wrath, which the dragon has conceived especially against thee for what thou hast written in this chapter. He has ceaselessly pursued thee with his wrath and has sought to hinder thee from writing my life, as thou hast experienced continually in this work. But now his haughty pride is incensed against thee especially, because thou hast revealed his humiliation, his crushing ruin at the Death of my most blessed Son, the condition in which it left him and the secret counsels for revenging himself upon the children of Adam and especially upon the members of the Holy Church. All this has excited and disturbed him anew, seeing that these secrets will be revealed to those yet ignorant of them. Thou wilt feel his wrath in the difficulties he will place in thy way, the temptations and persecutions thou hast already encountered. Therefore I warn thee to be wary and circumspect against the rabid fury and cruelty of thy enemy.
Thou art astonished, and justly, to see, on the one hand, the power of my Son's merits and of His Redemption, the ruin and weakness caused by the demons in men; and, on the other hand, to see the power of the devil lording it over the world in haughty presumption.
The Fear of the Devils
Although the light given to thee in writing this history is equal to this astonishment, I wish to add still another point of information, in order that thou mayest guard thyself so much the more carefully against enemies so full of malice. It is certain, that when Hell came to the full knowledge of the sacrament of the Incarnation and Redemption, and of the poverty, humility and lowliness of the birth of Jesus, of His life and miracles, ending in the mysterious Passion and Death, and of all the rest of His labors to draw men to Him, Lucifer and his demons were weakened and disabled and they saw that they could not tempt the faithful in the same way as the rest of men and as they ceaselessly desire to do.
In the primitive Church this terror and fear of the baptized, and of the followers of Christ our Lord, continued many years; for the divine virtues shone forth brightly in their imitation of Christ, in their zeal in confessing the faith, in following the teachings of the Gospel, in practicing heroic virtues and most fervent love, humility, patience and contempt of the vanities and deceits of the world. Many shed their blood and gave their life for Christ the Lord; they performed many admirable and exalted deeds for the glory of His name. This invincible fortitude resulted from their living at a time so near to the Passion and Death of their Redeemer and so close to the prodigious example of His patience and humility; but also because they were less tempted by the devils, who could not so soon rise from the crushing defeat brought upon them by the triumph of the crucified God.
This close imitation and living reproduction of Christ, confronting the demons in the first children of the Church, they feared so much, that they dared not approach and they precipitously fled from the Apostles and the just ones imbued with the doctrines of my divine Son. In them were offered up to the Almighty the first fruits of grace, and of Redemption.
Potential for Our Times
What is seen in the saints and in perfect Christians in those times, would happen in the present times with all the Catholics if they would accept grace and work with it instead of permitting it to go to waste, and if they would seek the way of the Cross; for Lucifer fears it just as much now as in the times thou hast been writing of. But soon the charity, zeal and devotion in many of the faithful began to grow cold and they forgot the blessings of the Redemption; they yielded to their carnal inclinations and desires, they loved vanity and avarice, and permitted themselves to be fascinated and deceived by the false pretenses of Lucifer, obscuring the glory of their Savior and inveigling them into the meshes of their mortal enemies.
This foul ingratitude has thrown the world into the present state and has encouraged the demons to rise up in their pride against God, audaciously presuming to possess themselves of all the children of Adam on account of this forgetfulness and carelessness of Catholics. They presume to plot the destruction of the whole Church by the perversion of so many who have fallen away from it; and by inducing those who are in it, to think little of it, or by hindering them from producing the fruits of the blood and death of their Redeemer.
The greatest misfortune is, that many Catholics fail to recognize this great damage and do not seriously think of a remedy, although they can presume that the times, of which Jesus forewarned the women of Jerusalem, have arrived; namely, those in which the sterile should be happy, and in which many would call upon the mountains and the hills to cover and fall upon them, in order not to see the devastation of wickedness cutting down the sons of perdition, the dried trees, barren of all the fruits of virtue.
In these evil times dolt thou live, my dearest; and in order that thou mayest not be included in the perdition of so many souls, do thou bewail it in the bitterness of thy heart, never forgetting the mysteries of the Incarnation, Passion and Death of my Divine Son.
I desire thee to give thanks in compensation for the great number of those, who forget it, and assure thee that the mere memory and contemplation of these mysteries are terrible to Hell, torment and drive away the demons, and that they avoid and fly those who thankfully remember the life and passion of my divine Son.
The Wounds of Christ
My daughter, the lance-thrust which my blessed Son received in His side, was cruel and very painful only to me; but its effects and mysteries are most sweet to those souls who know how to taste its sweetness. It was a great affliction to me; but whoever meets with this mysterious favor will find it a great relief and consolation in his sorrows.
In order that thou mayest understand this and participate in it, thou must know, that my Son and Lord, on account of His most ardent love for men, in addition to the wounds of the feet and hands, wished to open the wound of His heart, the seat of love, in order that through this port the souls might enter and there receive refuge and relief. This is the only retreat which I wish thee to seek during the time of thy banishment, and which thou must consider as thy habitation upon earth. There thou wilt find the conditions and laws of love for imitating me and learn how for injuries thou must return blessings to all who commit them against thee and thine, just as thou hast seen me do, when I was grieved by the wounding of the side of my dead Son.
The Prayer of Forgiveness
I assure thee, my dearest, that thou canst not do anything more adapted to the obtaining of the efficacious graces from the Almighty. The prayer, which thou offerest in a forgiving spirit, is powerful not only for thy own good, but for the good of the one that offends thee; for the kind heart of my Son is easily moved, when He sees that creatures imitate Him in pardoning offenders and in praying for them; for they thereby participate in His most ardent charity manifested on the Cross. Write this doctrine in thy heart and in imitation of me practice this virtue, of which I thought so highly. Through this wound look upon the heart of Christ thy Spouse and upon me, sweetly and ardently loving in it thy enemies and all creatures.
Consider also the anxious and ever ready providence of the Most High in coming to the aid of the creatures, that call to Him in true confidence. This thou hast seen in my behalf, when I found myself afflicted and at a loss concerning the proper burial of my divine Son. In order to come to my assistance in this plight, the Lord showed His sweet love by moving the hearts of Joseph and Nicodemus and of the other faithful to assist me in burying Him. By their opportune help I was so much consoled in this tribulation, that on account of their behavior and my prayer the Most High filled them with wonderful influences of the Divinity, by which they were regaled during the time of taking Jesus from the Cross and His burial; and from that time on these faithful were enlightened and filled with the mysteries of the Redemption. This is the admirable disposition of the sweet and powerful providence of God, that in order to bind Himself to do good to some of His creatures, He sends affliction upon others, so that he moves the benevolence of others to benefit those in necessity.
Thus the benefactor, on account of the good work he does and on account of the prayer of the poor, is rewarded by receiving graces of which he otherwise would not be worthy. The Father of mercies, who inspires and assists the good work done, afterwards pays for it as if it were due in justice. For we can correspond to His inspirations merely according to our insignificant abilities, while all that is really good, comes entirely from His hands (James 1, 7).
Consider also the equity maintained by this Providence in compensating the injuries received in patient suffering. For after my divine Son had suffered death amid the contempt, dishonor and blasphemies of men, the Most High at once provided for an honorable burial and moved many to confess Him as the true God and Redeemer, to proclaim Him as holy, innocent and just, and, at the very time when they had finished their frightful crucifixion, to adore Him as the Son of God. Even His enemies were made to feel within themselves the horror and confusion of their sin in persecuting Him. Although these benefits availed not all men, yet all of them were effects of the innocent Death of the Lord.
MARY, MOTHER OF GOD, your life, like that of your Divine Son, was a daily crucifixion and martyrdom. You found the cross very heavy during the three years of His public life, for then He had to leave your side that He might be "about His Father's business,"—the sanctification and salvation of souls. Though deprived of the joy of His actual presence, you were more intimately united with Him than ever through your sacrificial love, since your will was one with His. He was preparing you for your final separation from Him at the foot of the cross.
Because you freely consented to become the Mother of God, you experienced mentally all the bitterness of your Son's Passion and death. At the very beginning of His public ministry, you observed the hatred and jealousy of His enemies and the false accusations which would bring about His death. Each event of the sorrowful drama of His sufferings was a sword that pierced your motherly heart.
The Apostles, who had abandoned their Master informed you of your Son's betrayal by Judas and of His brutal capture after His agony. The beloved disciple told you what he had seen in the houses of Annas and Caiphas: how Jesus had been accused as a blasphemer for stating that He was the Son of God. With your own eyes you saw Him brought first to Pilate, then to Herod and then again to Pilate. You were in the judgment-hall and heard it ring with lies. You saw Barabbas preferred to Jesus when the Roman governor showed the Man of Sorrows to the angry mob. What grief filled your heart as you gazed upon your Son with His flesh torn, His head encircled with long, sharp thorns, His whole body covered with blood—a mock-King with a reed in His hand and cast-off cloak over His bleeding shoulders.
You heard the mob, led by the chief priests clamoring for His crucifixion. You saw the heavy cross placed on His bent shoulders. Your heart sank each time He fell beneath its weight. You saw His virginal flesh torn open again when the soldiers pitilessly stripped Him of His garments. You beheld His arms and feet roughly extended on the hard wood of the cross. What must have been your anguish when you looked at the sacred body of Jesus as the long nails were being driven into His hands and feet! You saw the cross raised and heard the mob, not yet satisfied with their bloody work, continue to torment their dying Victim.
Though worn with sorrow, you at once took your place at the foot of the cross. There you stood bravely, your eyes fastened on your Divine Son. How generously you offered Jesus, your dearest treasure, as a Victim to the justice of His offended Father! How courageously you united the oblation of your own suffering and grief with the offering of Jesus, thus proving yourself worthy not only to share but also to be one with Him in the redemption of souls.
Parting with your dying Son was the height of your sorrow. But with the same humility with which you had conceived Him, you consented to the supreme loss of your God. Jesus had delivered Himself in His Passion to the will of His Father, and before His sacrifice for sinners could be perfect, He had to be forsaken by that Father. In the same way you, who freely delivered your son to a cruel death, parted with your Son. Only thus could you become one with Your God in the salvation of souls.
MARY, MY MOTHER, more courageous than the martyrs, you stood at the foot of the cross. The suffering of Jesus in His dereliction was the most difficult test of your faith. In union with Him you also did the will of God perfectly as He exclaimed "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit."
When you heard Jesus utter these words and saw Him bow His head and die, you died a spiritual death. Gazing sorrowfully on His lifeless body, you watched the soldier drive the spear into His Heart. The words of Simeon were then fulfilled. "And thy own soul a sword shall pierce." Filled with grief, you saw how the disciples removed the nails from the Redeemer's hands and feet, extracted the thorns from His head, and took Him down from the cross. What a sight met your tear-dimmed eyes when you beheld the body of your Son, bruised and mangled and covered with open bloody wounds. Your soul filled with love and sorrow, you embraced your Son now pale in death, a victim for the sins of mankind.
Imprint, O Sorrowful Lady, thy wounds upon my heart, that I may read therein sorrow and love; sorrow, to endure every sorrow for thee; love, to despise every love for thee. Amen.
Say the Our Father and the Hail Mary.
Most Sorrowful Heart of Mary, pray for us.
ACT OF CONSECRATION TO OUR LADY OF SORROWS
Most Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, holy Queen of Martyrs and spotless Virgin, would that I could be in Heaven with thee; there to contemplate the honors rendered to thee by the Most Holy Trinity and by the whole Heavenly Court! But since I am still a pilgrim in this valley of tears, receive from me, thy unworthy servant and a poor sinner, the most sincere homage and the most perfect act of vassalage and devotion that a human creature can offer thee.
I consecrate myself to thy Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, pierced with so many swords of sorrow, and place my poor soul therein forever. Receive me as a partaker in thy Sorrows, and never suffer that I should depart from that Cross on which thy only begotten Son expired for me and which He wishes to share with me. With thee, O Mary, I will endure all the sufferings, persecutions, adversities, failures, contradictions and infirmities, with which it will please thy Divine Son to visit me in this life.
All of them I offer to thee, in memory of the Sorrows which thou didst suffer during thy life, that every thought of my mind, every beating of my heart may henceforward be an act of compassion to thy Sorrows, and of delight for the glory thou now enjoyest in Heaven.
Since then, O Dear Mother, I now meditate thy Sorrows, and rejoice in seeing thee glorified, do thou also have compassion on me, and reconcile me to thy Son Jesus, that I may become thy true and loyal son (daughter); come on my last day and assist me in my last agony at the hour death, even as thou wert present at the Agony of thy Divine Son Jesus, that from this painful exile I may go to Heaven, there to be made partaker of thy glory. Amen.