The great Marian Mystic
The figure of Sister Maria de Jesus of Ágreda, (1602-1665), the great Marian mystic of century XVII, occupies a first position between the great contemplatives of the Church. Her deep knowledge of the inner and spiritual life of the Virgin, as the first Christian, her particular and prolonged experience of the presence of Maria along her life, becomes her privileged witness of the true Marian devotion in the Holy Church. It is not manifested in occasional or isolated experiences of her, that they denote her, as it is known in so many contemplatives souls, but in the habitual intervention of the Virgin throughout her life, like true Mother and Teacher who accompanies and instructs to her daughter and disciple in faithful pursuit of Christ.
This presentation now made of Sister Maria de Jesus, keeps a direct and dependent relation with her so well-known work Mystical City of God (MCG) that it takes like extension or subtitle: Divine history and Life of the Virgin Mother of God.
If the Lord in his loving aims wanted that the Franciscan Concepcionist of Ágreda were the chronicler of history or life of the Virgin, he gave her for it a hoard of supernatural graces, lights and knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures that enabled her to fulfill the order that was assigned to her. The life sanctity that in Sister Maria de Jesus shines, did it deserving of that her cause of canonization was submitted in few years of her death, giving her then the title of Venerable.
The MCG, history or life of the Virgin, it begins to deal about the presence of Maria in the divine plan of the creation, predestinated her together with Christ Jesus, her Son, First-born of all creature, to be his Mother. Reason why, since the first moment of her Conception in the divine mind, she was created Purest, Immaculate, and free of all sin. Her unique dignity of being the worthy Mother of God needed it. And the first redeemed by the anticipated merits of her Son, the only Redeemer. She was, for that reason, deserving of the cult of imitation, example of her life of first Christian, that to the Church she offers and that our concepcionist (Maria de Agreda) promotes.
That century XVII, known like “the Immaculate one century”, by the defense that the Christian people did of the still pious opinion then, that the theologians of Saint Thomas did not admit, it will be proclaimed dogma of faith in 1854 by Pope B. Pious IX. The work of the M. Ágreda that defends it, became point of reference of all devotees and those ones in favor of the Immaculate. And for that same reason it was fought by the followers of the opposite opinion, to whom the jansenists, gallicans and the enemies of the cult to the Virgin were united, which they considered it excessive. The controversy triggered for that reason against MCG and against the M. Ágreda, its author, would not finish until the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was defined. Nevertheless, also the person of its defender Sister Maria de Jesus was not revalued by her adversaries.
The Marian teachings of the M. Ágreda acquired great diffusion between the believing people. The editions of her work MCG are already centenarians, with almost forty translations to other languages different than castellany. From the three last editions in Castilian of the complete work that are in a volume, 1970.1982, 1992, have sold-out the 20,000 units. And it has made the new edition necessary that is prepared. The theological solidity of her doctrine never has been the condemned by the Church, since the condemnation that suffered by the Roman inquisition in 1681 was unconfined quickly. None of the teachings of our concepcionist have deserved rejection or condemn. Nevertheless, all that preceding doctrinal opposition, it was concentrating against Sister Maria and her cause of beatification, that it was interrupted, to the wait of which it be reopened again.
The MCG has had great influence in the spirituality of the preceding centuries and continues having it in our days. The Marian spirituality that it promotes, the cult to the Virgin, particularly of imitation, its filial devotion; the invocations as Queen and Lady, Mother and Teacher of the Church, first redeemed Christian and; disciple of Christ, evangelical Woman, Teacher of the Apostles, model of the Church… constitute other so many basic points of their Mariology, that the Church of the Vatican II promotes. The Mother Agreda’s bibliography of the last quarter of the last century and this first decade of present proves it with abundant studies.
Regarding to the Marian mystic that the contemplative of the Moncayo proposes in its work “opening unsuspected horizons in the mystical soul of Maria” is necessary to have in mind which the Venerable one says to us. When she starts to write the second part of the MCG, with the divine approval of whatever she had already written, the Lord requests to her like answer in her condition of disciple of the Virgin, a new way to make the virtues and so high perfection of life and customs, that… I was disturbed and afraid to undertake so arduous and difficult business for an earth creature, she writes (MCG: 2, n.2, p.337). It is to say: that to be able to live the Marian life, imitating to the Virgin like model of Christian life, one has to live in a new way, of greater generosity and give oneself, to similarity of the blessed Mother, the evangelical perfection and to follow her doctrine.
In the spiritual way that Sister Maria de Jesus indicates to the souls that they want to follow it, being in truth spiritual, the base of their Christian perfection is in living it imitating Maria: It is the form to be able to follow the passages of Christ the Lord until reach the glorification of the Holy Trinity. These are the three successive tops in which the perfection of the evangelical life culminates: To the glorification of the Most Holy Trinity by Maria and Christ.
GASPAR CALVO MORALEJO, OFM