The work of the Bl Mary of Agreda’s Mystica Ciudad de Dios or The Mystical City of God in English is a detailed history of the life of the Virgin Mary as it develops in the Gospel and then as it is revealed in the visions of the Bl Mary of Agreda. As such, it is different from other biographies and hagiographies of the Virgin Mary but because she does not allow what she records as is instructed in her visionary experience to conflict with the Church or that of other histories or that of the Gospels, the historical accuracy is reliable as a template for Gospel interpretation. The work received much applause from the authorities of the Catholic Church after it was completed and it was nearly unanimously accepted as orthodox. The only group which denounced it as heretical and contrary to the faith were the Jansenists. The Jansenists, incidentally, were actually part of a heretical group themselves. So the acceptance of the orthodoxy of the work by the entirety of the Church except for the Jansenists makes this work even more acceptable.
The biographical work starts off with the conception of the Virgin Mary. One might think that an entire volume worth two books would be unnecessary, however, the Bl Mary of Agreda’s intention with the work is not only to celebrate the beginning of life for the Virgin Mary but also to realise the timelessness of God in the creation of individual souls. The entire life of the Virgin Mary occurred to God as if it already was and so the intent to focus on so much on his timelessness, on the creation of the soul of Mary, on the birth of the Virgin Mary, on the creation of the world in an instant that is explained to us in six instances–this is all focused on the timelessness of God. God exceeds and goes beyond time. Mary is born to two parents who are otherwise barren. She is dedicated by her mother St Anne (also known as St Anna or St Hannah–named after the mother of St Samuel who is also St Hannah) to the Temple upon her birth (see the name significance?). She pledges to a life of Virginity but must be married off after both her parents die. She is married off to a humble man named St Joseph. Old Testament typology is seen significantly here. Specifically the woman in Prov. 31 who is identified as the Virgin Mary.
The second volume focuses on the Incarnation of the Lord. The Incarnation of the Lord as identified by the Bl Mary of Agreda does not simply occur upon the birth. The Nativity scene that is when the angels sing to him. The one that is celebrated by us on Dec. 25. Rather, the incarnation is actually identified at the point of conception. Grace is found abundant in Jesus. While Mary was conceived immaculately, she visits her cousin St Elisabeth who is also pregnant with St John the Baptist. St John the Baptist’s leap in the womb indicates not only how far along he is in development that he is already beginning to learn to pray as an infant in the womb, but also signifies his purification by the Lord at that moment. He is released from all bondage to sin and becomes the immediate forerunner of Christ at that moment when he leaps in the womb. Finally, Christ is born and the pagans are converted first. The evil king Herod seeks after the slaughter of infants who are made martyrs by the Lord at the prayer of the Virgin Mary. They flee to Egypt. It is intentional and is also part of the Lord’s mission work. While Christ came into the world to die, his time is not yet. So he travels to Egypt to free the Egyptians from their captivity to idolatry. The demons’ conversations are recorded throughout this history. We see that the demons allow themselves to be duped. They know God is coming into this world. They recognise both Jesus and Mary to be powerful opponents. Rather than acknowledging they are God and Mother of God though, they insist they are merely righteous people. They see the idols fall in Egypt and the land exorcised but they allow themselves to be deceived. God allows this deception to occur.
The third volume focuses on the life of Christ as he served and ministered. It starts off with the scene at the Temple where his parents are allowed to leave him at the Temple in order that he teach the teachers there and show his authority as a teacher of the Law. It then shows how he took care of his father in his dying moments and after that his mother. St Joseph died before Jesus’s baptism. After the death of St Joseph, Jesus approaches the forerunner, St John the Baptist. He is baptised then his mother is baptised by him (Jesus). Jesus’s baptism comes to take place and become more significant, St John less so. The demons, still uncertain about anything going on, captivate Herod to enslave the Baptist and have him executed at the command of his niece. This is all by demonic inspiration. But then the demons are realising something must be done about Jesus who they presume to be still a righteous man. They pursue him in the wilderness tempting him by offering things that are already his such as the kingdoms of the world. Lucifer carries out this temptation directly. But Jesus won’t fall for it. Seeing Jesus’s teachings growing more and more popular and his healings, the demons inspire the Pharisees to condemn him as possessed. To counter this, God inspires a woman to declare the womb that bore him to be blessed. The Virgin Mary, desiring God to acknowledge her humility instructs her Son to preserve this so he instead states that rather blessed are those who obey the word of God (Luke 11:27-28). We see a constant theme with the Virgin Mary instructing the Apostles not to even write about her mysteries to preserve both her humility and to prevent idolatry from occurring in such an infant Church. Judas is finally inspired by the demons to get Jesus killed. As Jesus is about to be sold off to the Pharisees to be executed, the demons begin to realise what a mistake they are making. They call back to the prophecies of the Old Testament and think maybe Jesus is the Messiah. If he dies, then they are defeated. So they try everything to prevent this. Even inspiring Pontius Pilate’s wife to insist that Jesus is innocent which Pontius Pilate then brings the complaint to the Jews. Hoping he only can just give Jesus a beating instead and then let him off the hook. But the Jews are lost at this point. They keep insisting upon Jesus’s death. Jesus is put to death, the demons are defeated, Jesus is resurrected, and then after showing himself to the Apostles, ascends into Heaven with the Virgin Mary offering her to celebrate in victory or to return and continue battle on Earth.
The fourth volume begins where the third volume left off. The Virgin Mary declines the offer and wishes to continue on the Earth in order to sustain and provide sustenance for the Apostles. She participates actively in their lives. In order to fight heresy, the Apostles write the Apostles’ Creed each one contributing to the Creed a different part of the Church’s belief. The Apostles eventually spread out to different lands in order to spread the beliefs of the Church. This occurs after the tongues of fire, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost by which thousands are baptised. The Church’s growth begins. But the ever-plotting demons inspire such souls as Ananias and Saphiras to sabotage the message of the Church dragging them down into the abyss. The Virgin Mary knows all of this through the visions the Lord gives to her. There is a young woman deceived by a demon disguised as a woman who tells her to avoid the Virgin Mary. She begins to suffer severe convulsions and is on the point of death, not able to see any of the Apostles. The Virgin Mary is brought into the room and the demons are forced to flee and the girl dies penitent. The Virgin Mary,every time she receives the Eucharist, maintains the body in her bosom until receiving the Eucharist. She becomes the tabernacle until the Church can eventually create temples of their own. The martyrdom of St James is vividly described. He is the patron of Spain so naturally he is. His martyrdom comes shortly after the Virgin Mary puts to flight the demons who have seduced the Amazons at the Temple of Diana. This is the second one and not the one mentioned in the book of Acts. True virginity is brought to the Amazons, nine are saved but the rest are not. The Lord wills her to see who cannot be saved. In particular, when it comes to the death of Herod, an angel is sent to ask her to proclaim sentence upon the wicked man. She is reluctant to do so but after the angel verifies to her that the man is reprobate and will not be saved, she sentences death upon him. The death is an entirely supernatural death. Then is covered the myriad practices of the Virgin Mary in celebration of the several holy days–her immaculate conception, the birth of the Lord, the death of the Lord, the resurrection of the Lord, All Saints’ Day, and St Michael and All Angels’ Day. She is attributed with the institution of the celebration of the latter two days. She finally receives word that in her passionate love for the Lord she will finally be rejoined to him in death. The Apostles gather as she dies. The world becomes dark as it did for the Saviour. She dies and is resurrected three days later, and is crowned queen.
The Virgin Mary is the typology of all women. She is the exemplar of all women. Practicing humility, not allowing pride to dominate, submitting to authority. Only in this will one become rightfully ruling. As her Son became poor and gave up riches, he became king, so she who gave up riches and submitted became queen. The kingdom is about humility. Not authoritarianism. Both Christ and Mary gave up that. She is not just an example for women but for men too as Christ is not just an example for men but for women as well. Humility was found in both of them perfectly for both were absolutely sinless. The poor Christ and poor Mary imagery is consistent with Bl Mary of Agreda’s Franciscan spirituality.
Side note on Jews and Women
Some may be tempted to see in Bl Mary of Agreda’s work hostile anti-Semitism for the Jews. It is important to note that Bl Mary of Agreda was born of a father who was a converso. This sacred history reveals a divide happening between Christianity and the religion of Judaism from the birth of Christianity as a Messianic movement. The Jewish leaders defined it as an invalid movement and so the Jewishness was rejected. Thus, the divide needs to be remembered as purely theological. The Jews who placed the blood of Christ on their descendants are not referring to descendants according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Jewish theology thus became opposed to the incarnate God and because of Christ’s incarnate deity in the Christian theology, Judaism must be denounced as heretical. However, even still, the disobedient Christians are acknowledged as committing worse crimes than that of the Jews. In regards to women it is easy to see Bl Mary of Agreda as a sexist or holding backwards views of women. This is because in pride, we no longer see humility as the most highly hailed virtue. The virtue praised most throughout this work is a virtue that women are stated over and over throughout the work to already naturally possess–humility. This does not excuse men from practicing it though.
This is a sacred history and so “scholarly research” would no doubt contradict numerous points. As well as possibly Eastern Orthodox sacred histories since it is a Roman Catholic sacred history. However, history is a discipline that seeks to establish facts based on what we know. Not one what we do not know. Bl Mary of Agreda never claims her work is the exact way things happened. She claims her work is historical in that it does not contradict what we know about the New Testament or other works of the Ecclesiastical Historians at her time. Sacred historians tend to dispute very minute details of the Bl Mary of Agreda’s work and nothing in it contradicts actual history.