The Mystical City of God Vol. 3: The Transfixion – Mary of Agreda
At thirty-five Mary Agreda began her Mystical City of God, which was the fruit of her daily meditations and rapt states of contemplation. When this work appeared it was hailed with almost unanimous applause by the bishops of Spain. The Spanish Inquisition, always rigid in its censorship, regarded it as almost, if not wholly, of divine revelation. The Sorbonne at Paris held thirty-two stances, in which five hundred and fifty doctors discussed its merits, but finally condemned it with true national hostility to Spain. At Rome it was indeed placed on the Index, but was removed shortly after by command of the pope himself, some say at the solicitation of the King of Spain. Though no formal approbation has ever been given to the work, Pope Alexander VIII. authorized its circulation, and Clement IX. forbade its being placed on the Index. Its discussion, however, has delayed the process for the canonization of its author, though no one ever doubted her sincerity, her earnest convictions, and the saintliness of her character. In it she displays a mind thoroughly imbued with the religious spirit, and, though without education, strictly speaking, shows a knowledge of Scripture, a depth of theological learning, and a correctness of scholastic terms that are truly surprising. The style is dignified, and yet easy; and some of her descriptions have a certain grandeur, as in the Passion, where Satan and his angels are represented as following Christ to Mount Calvary bound in chains, forced to become witnesses of his sufferings and death, and smitten to the ground at the moment of the Consummatum est. This is volume three out of four.
The Mystical City of God Vol. 3: The Transfixion
The Mystical City of God Vol. 3: The Transfixion.
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The monastic life of Mary of Agreda (from wikipedia.com)
When Mary of Jesus was twelve, she made the decision to enter a monastery, having decided upon that of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Tarazona. As her parents prepared to accompany her there, Catalina de Arana had a vision that she was to turn the family home into a monastery in which both she and her daughters were to commit their lives as nuns. While the young María was agreeable to this arrangement, her father refused to go along with it. In this he was supported by his brother, Medel, as well as by their neighbors, who all considered this arrangement a violation of their marriage vows. His resistance lasted for three years, until in 1618, then considered an older man in his early fifties, he (and later his brother) entered the Franciscan Friary of San Antonio in Nalda as a lay brother. Her brothers, who had already become friars, continued their studies toward the Catholic priesthood in Burgos. Mary of Jesus later recalled that this period had been one of severe trial for her spiritual life and had led to a certain sense of vanity.
Catalina and her daughters then converted their family home into the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception, to be a part of the Order of the Immaculate Conception. The choice of this Order was a part of the huge devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Mary which marked Spanish spirituality of that period. They began this endeavor as part of the Discalced—or reformed—branch of the Order. Unfortunately, there were no monasteries of this branch in the region, so three nuns of the original Calced branch were brought from their monastery in Burgos to serve as the abbess of the community and to train them in the life of the Order. Mary of Jesus later judged that this had given a bad start to the enterprise, as these nuns were to teach them a way of life they had neither known nor practiced. Mary of Jesus was 16 when she and her mother and sister took the religious habit of the Order and she was given the religious name by which she is now known. She felt, though, that she had to make up for her years of laxity during the period of contention between her parents and the delay in the foundation of the monastery resulting from it.
As other women soon joined the community, the monastery was rebuilt (and completed in 1633), although when reconstruction began the community’s coffers contained 24 reales(approximately 2.5 Spanish dollars at the time), supplemented by a donation of 100 reales from devotees and many other gifts and hours of voluntary labor. Once she had made her religious profession in 1620, Mary of Jesus began to experience a long period of illness and temptations. After her mother’s death, Mary of Jesus, then aged 25, was appointed the Superior locum tenens, after which her fellow nuns elected her as their abbess. Though rules required the abbess to be changed every three years, Mary remained effectively in charge of the monastery until her death, except for a three-year sabbatical in her fifties.
Throughout her life, Mary of Jesus was inclined to the „internal prayer“ or „quiet prayer“. Like her countrywoman Teresa of Avila a generation earlier, these prayerful experiences led to religious ecstasies, including reported accounts of levitation. As this form of prayer was practiced frequently among women, the Inquisition kept a watchful eye on those who advocated the practice.
(The text of the last section was taken from a Wikipedia entry and is available under the the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)
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