Venerable Mary of Agreda

Book 4, Chapter 5


From the moment the most prudent Virgin found Herself chosen as the
Mother of the divine Word, She began to ponder upon the labors and
sufferings in store for her sweetest Son. As her knowledge of
Scripture was profound, She understood all the mysteries contained
therein and She began to foresee and prepare with incomparable
compassion for all that He was to suffer for the Redemption of Man.
This sorrow, foreseen and expected with such a full knowledge of
details, was a prolonged martyrdom for the most meek Mother of the
sacrificial Lamb of God (Jer. 11, 19). But in regard to the
Circumcision, which was to take place after the birth of the Child,
the heavenly Lady had received no command or intimation of the will of
the eternal Father. This uncertainty excited the loving solicitude and
sweet plaints of the tender and affectionate Mother. Her prudent
foresight enabled Her to conjecture, that, as her most holy Son had
come to honor and confirm his law by fulfilling it and as He had
moreover come in order to suffer for men, He would be constrained by
his burning love and by other motives to undergo the pains of

On the other hand her maternal love and compassion longed to exempt
her sweet Child if possible, from this suffering; moreover She knew,
that circumcision was a rite instituted for cleansing the newborn
children from original sin, whereas the divine Infant was entirely
free from this guilt, not having contracted it in Adam. In this
hesitation between love of her divine Son and obedience to the eternal
Father, the most prudent Virgin practiced many heroic acts of virtue,
unspeakably pleasing to his Majesty. Although She could have easily
escaped this uncertainty by directly asking the Lord what was to be
done; yet, being as humble as She was prudent, She refrained. Neither
would She ask her angels; for with admirable wisdom, She awaited the
opportune time and occasion, assigned by divine Providence for all
things, and She would not presume curiously to search or pry into his
decrees by consulting supernatural sources of information, especially
in order to rid Herself of any suffering. When any grave and doubtful
affair arose, in which there was danger of offending God, or some
urgent undertaking for the good of creatures, in which it would be
necessary to know the divine will, She first asked permission to
submit her petition for enlightenment regarding the divine pleasure.

Most holy Mary issued from her prayer and requested saint Joseph to
take the necessary steps for the Circumcision of the divine Infant.
With rarest prudence She avoided telling Him anything of what She had
been told in answer to her prayer. She spoke as if She wished to
consult Him or ask his opinion in regard to the Circumcision, saying
that the time appointed by law for the Circumcision of the Child had
arrived and since they had not received any orders to the contrary, it
seemed necessary to comply with it. They themselves, She said, were
more bound to please the Most High, to obey more punctually his
precepts, and to be more zealous in the love and care of his most holy
Son than all the rest of creatures, seeking to fulfill in all things
the divine pleasure in return for his incomparable favors. To these
words saint Joseph answered with the greatest modesty and discretion,
saying, that, as no command to the contrary had been given concerning
the Child he wished in all things to conform himself to the divine
will manifested in the common law; that, although as God the incarnate
Word was not subject to the law, yet He was now clothed with our
humanity, and, as a most perfect Teacher and Savior, no doubt wished
to conform with other men in its fulfillment. Then he asked his
heavenly Spouse how the Circumcision was to take place.

The most holy Mary answered, that the Circumcision should be performed
substantially in the same way as it was performed on other children
but that She need not hand him over or consign Him to any other
person, but that She would herself hold Him in her arms. And the
delicacy and tenderness of the Infant would make this ceremony more
painful to him than to other children, they should have at hand the
soothing medicine, which was ordinarily applied at circumcision.
Moreover, She requested saint Joseph to procure a crystal or glass
vessel for preserving the sacred relic of the Circumcision of the
divine Infant. In the meanwhile the cautious Mother prepared some
linen cloths to catch the sacred blood, which was now for the first
time to be shed for our rescue, so that not one drop of it might be
lost or fall upon the ground. After these preparations the heavenly
Lady asked saint Joseph to inform the priest and request him to come
to the cave where, without the necessity of bringing the Child to any
other place, he might, as a fit and worthy minister of so hidden and
great a sacrament, with his priestly hands perform the rite of the

Then most holy Mary and Joseph took counsel concerning the name to be
given to the divine Infant in the Circumcision, and the holy spouse
said: “My Lady, when the holy angel of the Most High informed me of
this great sacrament, he also told me that thy most sacred Son should
be called JESUS.” The Virgin Mother answered: “This same name was
revealed to me when He assumed flesh in my womb; and thus receiving
this name from the Most High through the mouth of his holy angels, his
ministers, it is befitting that we conform in humble reverence with
the hidden and inscrutable judgments of his infinite wisdom in
conferring it on my Son and Lord, and that we call Him JESUS. This
name we will propose to the priest, for inscription in the register of
the other circumcised children.”

While the great Mistress of heaven and saint Joseph thus conversed
with each other, innumerable angels descended in human forms from on
high, clothed in shining white garments, on which were woven red
embroideries of wonderful beauty. They had palms in their hands and
crowns upon their heads and emitted a greater splendor than many suns.
In comparison with the beauty of these holy princes all the loveliness
seen in this world appeared repulsive. But pre–eminent in splendor
were the devices or escutcheons on their breasts, at each of which the
sweet name of Jesus was engraved or embossed. The effulgence which
each of these escutcheons exceeded that of all the angels together,
and the variety of the beauty thus exhibited in this great multitude
was so rare and exquisite as neither human tongue can express nor
human imagination ever compass. The holy angels divided into two
choirs in the cave, keeping their gaze fixed upon the King and Lord in
the arms of his virginal Mother. The chiefs of these heavenly cohorts
were the two princes, saint Michael and saint Gabriel, shining in
greater splendor than the rest and bearing in their hands, as a
special distinction, the most holy name of JESUS, written in larger
letters on something like cards of incomparable beauty and splendor.

The two princes presented themselves apart from the rest before their
Queen and said: “Lady, this is the name of thy Son (Matth. 1, 21),
which was written in the mind of God from all eternity and which the
blessed Trinity has given to thy Onlybegotten Son and our Lord as the
signal of salvation for the whole human race; establishing Him at the
same time on the throne David. He shall reign upon it, chastise his
enemies and triumph over them, making them his footstool and passing
judgment upon them; He shall raise his friends to the glory of his
right hand. But all this is to happen at the cost of suffering and
blood; and even now He is to shed it in receiving this name, since it
is that of the Savior and Redeemer; it shall be the beginning of his
sufferings in obedience to the will of his eternal Father. We all are
come as ministering spirits of the Most High, appointed and sent by
the holy Trinity in order to serve the Onlybegotten of the Father and
thy own in all the mysteries and sacraments of the law of grace. We
are to accompany Him and minister to Him until He shall ascend
triumphantly to the celestial Jerusalem and open the portals of
heaven; afterwards we shall enjoy an especial accidental glory beyond
that of the other blessed, to whom no such commission has been given.”
All this was witnessed by the most fortunate spouse Joseph conjointly
with the Queen of heaven; but his understanding of these happenings
was not so deep as hers, for the Mother of wisdom understood and
comprehended the highest mysteries of the Redemption. Although saint
Joseph understood many more mysteries than other mortals, yet he did
not penetrate them in the same way as his heavenly Spouse. Both of
them, however, were full of heavenly joy and admiration, and extolled
the Lord in new canticles of glory. All that they experienced in these
various and wonderful events surpasses human language, and certainly
my own powers, and I cannot find adequate words for expressing my

The priest came to the gates or cave of the Nativity, where the
incarnate Word, resting in the arms of his Virgin Mother, awaited him.
With the priest came also two other officials, who were to render such
assistance as was customary at the performance of the rite. The
rudeness of the dwelling at first astonished and somewhat disconcerted
the priest. But the most prudent Queen spoke to him and welcomed him
with such modesty and grace that his constraint soon changed into
devotion and into admiration at the composure and noblest majesty of
the Mother; and without knowing the cause he was moved to reverence
and esteem for such an unusual personage. When the priest looked upon
the face of Mary and of the Child in her arms he was filled with great
devotion and tenderness, wondering at the contrast exhibited amid such
poverty and in a place so lowly and despised. The priest thereupon
proceeded to his duty and circumcised the Child, the true God and man.
At the same time the Son of God, with immeasurable love, offered up to
the eternal Father three sacrifices of so great value that each one
would have been sufficient for the Redemption of a thousand worlds.
The first was that He, being innocent and the Son of the true God,
assumed the condition of a sinner (Phil. 2, 7) by subjecting Himself
to a rite instituted as a remedy for original sin, and to a law not
binding on Him (II Cor. 5, 21). The second was his willingness to
suffer the pains of circumcision, which He felt as a true and perfect
man. The third was the most ardent love with which He began shed his
blood for the human race, giving thanks to eternal Father for having
given Him a human nature capable of suffering for his exaltation and

This prayerful sacrifice of JESUS our Savior the Father accepted, and,
according to our way of speaking, He began to declare Himself
satisfied and paid for the indebtedness of humanity. The incarnate
Word offered these first fruits of his blood as pledges that He would
give it all in order to consummate the Redemption and extinguish the
debt of the sons of Adam. All these interior acts and movements of the
Onlybegotten his most holy Mother perceived, and in her heavenly
wisdom She penetrated the mystery of this sacrament, acting as his
Mother and in concert with Her Son and Lord in all He was doing and
suffering. True to his human nature, the divine Infant shed tears as
other children. Although the pains caused by the wounding were most
severe, as well on account of the delicacy of his body as on account
of the coarseness of the knife, which was made of flint, yet his tears
were caused not so much by the sensible pain as by the supernatural
sorrow caused by his knowledge of the hard–heartedness of mortals. For
this was more rude and unyielding than the flint, resisting his
sweetest love and the divine fire He had come to enkindle in the world
and in the hearts of the faithful (Luke 12, 49). Also the tender and
affectionate Mother wept, like the guileless sheep, which raises its
voice in unison with the innocent lamb. In reciprocal love and
compassion the Child clung to his Mother, while She sweetly caressed
Him at her virginal breast and caught the sacred relics and the
falling blood in the towel.

In the meanwhile the priest asked the parents what name they wished to
give to the Child in Circumcision; the great Lady, always attentive to
honor her spouse, asked saint Joseph to mention the name. Saint Joseph
turned toward Her in like reverence and gave Her to understand that He
thought it proper this sweet name should first flow from her mouth.
Therefore, by divine interference, both Mary and Joseph said at the
same time; “JESUS is his name.” The priest answered: “The parents are
unanimously agreed, and great is the name which they give to the
Child”; and thereupon he inscribed it in the tablet or register of
names of the rest of the children. While writing it the priest felt
great interior movements, so that he shed copious tears; and wondering
at what he felt yet not being able to account for, he said: “I am
convinced that this Child is to be a great Prophet of the Lord. Have
great care in raising Him, and tell me in what I can relieve your
needs.” Most holy Mary and Joseph answered the priest with humble
gratitude and dismissed him after offering him the gift of some
candles and other articles.

Being again left alone with the Child, most holy Mary and Joseph
celebrated anew the mystery of the Circumcision, commenting on the
holy name of JESUS amid sweet canticles and tears of joy, the fuller
knowledge of which (as also of other mysteries which I have mentioned)
is reserved as an additional accidental glory to the saints in heaven.
The most prudent Mother applied to the wound caused by the knife such
medicines as were wont to be used on such occasions for other
children, and during the time while the pain and the healing lasted
She would not for a moment part with holding Him in her arms day and
night. The tender love of the heavenly Mother is beyond all
comprehension or understanding of man; for her natural love was
greater than any other mother was capable of, and her supernatural
love exceeded that of all the angels and saints together. Her
reverence and worship cannot be compared with that of any other
created being. These were the delights of the incarnate Word (Prov. 8,
31), which He desired and longed for among the children of men; and
this was the recompense, which his loving heart drew from the
exceeding sanctity of the Virgin Mother for the sorrows occasioned Him
by their behavior.