Yesterday’s readings really provoked a lot of thought within me on what it means to revere and to please Mary. Mary of Agreda approaches a new perspective on Mary and provides a lot of insight not only into who Mary was as a human, but who she is now as a deity. Mary of Agreda also seems to be urging the reader to attempt to imitate Mary, as impossible as that sounds, in order to achieve some of her grace and wisdom. However, Mary of Agreda really sets the stakes high for us. She describes Mary as the perfect human. On page 56, she says, “She was born pure and stainless, beautiful and full of grace, thereby demonstrating, that she was free from the law and the tribute of sin,” and on page 596, that she was preserved from impure temptations and thoughts. Mary of Agreda then goes on to say later in Chapter One, Book Seven, that Mary tells her to “strive with all thy powers to imitate me as an exercise” and to “be very devout toward my sweet name.”
How can we possibly reach the level of grace and devotion that Mary held? How can we, as lowly humans born with original sin and constantly prone to failure, become like Mary in any possible way? How can we imitate a woman chosen by God to serve as the Mother of Christ and the Restoratrix for mankind? How is Mary even human, then, if she was born without temptation like we were?
As I look deeper into these initial thoughts that crossed my mind, I realized that Mary is not posing something so daunting to us, she is not trying to intimidate us with her perfection; she is trying to guide us by her example so that we may become closer to God. I think in The Glories of Mary, Alfonsus de Ligouri gives us exact ways in which we can strive for this unattainable perfection. Mary urges us to devote our minds to prayer, discipline ourselves, fast, observe silence and obedience, not give impatient answers, receive Communion, and to ask Mary for pardon for negligence and promise fidelity. These are all things Mary practiced in her day-to-day life, so in order to fully welcome Mary into our minds and hearts, and to achieve some inkling of her grace, we must imitate how she lived in her human life.
Mary of Agreda tells us that God gifted Mary with the knowledge of Creation and infinite wisdom, so she is trying to pass this along to us for our own benefit because she is truly the Mother of us all. As Alfonsus de Ligouri says, she is the Queen of Mercy, not the Queen of Justice, so she is more interested in pardoning us than condemning us. She wants us to reach that level of closeness with the father that she herself has reached. Looking at Mary of Agreda’s work of Devotion from this perspective, I feel more of a sense of encouragement that Mary is standing right by my side at all times, that she is always here for guidance, reassurance, and inspiration when we are tempted to go against God’s will. Mary is not simply a human figure, she is a deity in her own right, and has the full power to steer us in the way of the Lord.
Furthermore, Mary of Agreda’s depiction of Mary as a somewhat goddess, even while human, really captured my attention. After giving birth to Jesus, Mary of Agreda says that Mary “remained in this ecstasy and beatific vision for over an hour immediate preceding her divine delivery” and “her body became so spiritualized with the beauty of Heaven that she seemed no more a human and earthly creature. Her countenance emitted rays of light, like a sun incarnadined, and shone in indescribable earnestness and majesty, all inflamed with fervent love…her soul wrapped in the Divinity and she herself was entirely deified.” So, was Mary a human or a deity? She was a perfect human, born of human flesh and qualities, yet without human impurities. She is the prime example for how we should be.
Later, Mary of Agreda says that she occupies the same high place in heaven as God and Jesus hold. I feel that why shouldn’t she occupy this same position? She devoted her whole life to God, to purity and humility. She accepted graciously the duty of conceiving Christ and knowingly opened her life to suffering, as she knew bearing and raising Christ, and then watching him brutalized and killed would bring. These selfless acts, along with her pure, unending love deify her and place her in likeness with the Father. After all, she is the Mother.