No the title isn't incorrect. This post introduces a new series on A Merry Little Life in which I reflect on the apparitions contained in The City of God by Ven. Mary of Agreda (nope not St. Augustine...maybe someday that'll happen 🤔) which recount the life of the Blessed Mother Mary. This post will cover Part I 1-303). The background of this work is that in the 1600s, a Spanish Nun, Sister Mary of Jesus, an abbess in a Franciscan Convent in Agreda, received revelations about the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, from Jesus and Mary, herself.
Now, actually it doesn't quite begin as one would expect as the first mention of even Mary's conception, physically speaking, does not occur until Part I 179. The revelations actually start with the creation of the universe. She records in particular the fall of the Angels. . Notably, she states what Lucifer/Satan says when the future creation of Mary is revealed. According to her revelation, Mary of Agreda writes that he said:
"'Unjust are these commands and injury is done to my greatness; this human nature which Thou, Lord, lookest upon with so much love and which thou favorest so highly, I will persecute and destroy. To this end I will direct all my power and all my aspirations. And this Woman, Mother of the Word, I will hurl from the position in which Thou hast proposed to place Her, and at my hands, this plan, which Thou settest up, shall come to naught" (Agreda, 91).
According to Mary of Agreda, the Lord responds with Genesis 3:15, the protoevangelium (fancy word meaning the first gospel). This is iterated when she recalls the fall of our first parents. A detail she adds to this narrative is that Satan was not given the knowledge of how Eve was created from Adam's side. Thus, this lack of knowledge caused Satan to mistake Eve as "the Mother of the Word" who would vanquish him. So even more evidence that Mary deserves the title New Eve.
She expounds the virtues of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Mary's parents. It seems both had a the grace of understanding the mysteries of scripture to some degree, presumably beyond that of most other people. Most surprisingly she reveals that Sts. Joachim and Anne were told by God, explicitly, that they were to be spouse. She writes that to St. Anne the Archangel Gabriel proclaimed:
"The Most High gives thee his blessing, servant of God, and be thy salvation. HIs majesty has heard thy petitions and He wishes the to persevere therein and that thou continue to clamor for the coming of the Redeemer. It is his will, that thou accept Joachim as they spouse, for he is a man of upright heart and acceptable to the Lord: in his company thou wilt be able to persevere in the observance of his law and in his service" (Part I 168)
St. Anne's message certainly reflects the heart of Ephesians 5:22-24 where St. Paul calls "the husband the head of the wife" (Eph. 5:22) and instructs wives to be subject to their husbands (5:24). Likewise, St Joachim's message echoes the heart of Ephesians 5:25-30 where St. Paul exhorts husbands "To love their wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25) highlighting that husbands should "love their wives as their own bodies...For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it " (Eph. 5: 28-29). Mary of Agreda does specify that the Archangel Gabriel "did not appear in a corporeal manner" with St. Joachim as with he did with St. Anne and that it was in St. Joachim's sleep in which St. Gabriel gave him this message:
"Joachim, be thou blessed by the right hand of the Most High! Persevere in thy desires and live according to rectitude and perfection. It is the will of the Almighty, that thou receive saint Anne as thy spouse, for her the Lord has visited with his blessing. Take care of her and esteem her as a pledge of the most High, and give thank to his Majesty, for he has given her into thy charge" (Part I 169).
This sort of divine intervention is what often, I wonder, people want in marriage discernment. But I am sure few, if any receive such an overt sign or message about their future spouse.
Now like Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, her mother Anne was sterile at the time of their child's conception. There, however, remains one difference in these conceptions, that is only Zachariah receives the message of John's impending conception and birth where as both Joachim and Anne receive messages about Mary's impending conception and birth; however, there is one detail that differs, Anne is told that here daughter is to be the mother of the messiah but Joachim receives no such message. Here, mentioned earlier, Mary of Agreda describes the actual conception of Mary. I will not iterate the details. She also reveals the height of sanctity Mary had even at conception. Much of this is done through a exposition of Revelation 21 (Part 1, 244-309), in which I have completed up through paragraph 303. For example, Mary of Agreda states:
"The walls of a city most conspicuously of colors and hues that distinguish the jasper-stone here mentioned as composing the walls of Mary, the City of God, bespeak the ineffable humility with which all the excellencies and and graces of the great Queen were clothed and permeated...Nevertheless, this wall of jasper, though apparently displaying these color-tints of the rest of womankind, was to serve as an invincible defense of the city" (Part I, 282)
This gives inestimable symbolism to the text. It shows the genius of God and his use of human language to reveal divine actions. This really brings such a beautiful mystery to the Immaculate Conception while also bringing to the mystery some degree of understanding.
This is only a few hundred pages into part one. If this is what I have to expect from the rest, I am greatly blessed. While I have consecrated and reconsecrated myself several times to Mary (most recently on December 8, 2024), The City of God has given me so much more wonder in God's works and such a renewed desire to grow closer to Mary. If you have not read it yet, and don't mind a challenge, read it, for it will be a blessing to you (or so I hope). Stay tuned for the next installment in this series.