HOW THE CONCEPTION OF THE MOST HOLY MARY WAS ANNOUNCED BY THE ARCHANGELGABRIEL, AND HOW GOD PREPARED HOLY ANNE FOR IT BY A SPECIAL FAVOR.
178. The petitions of the holy Joachimand Anne reached the throne of the holy Trinity, where they were accepted andthe will of God was made known to the holy angels.
The three divine Persons, according toour way of expressing such things, spoke to them as follows : “We have in ourcondescension resolved, that the Person of the Word shall assume human fleshand that through Him all the race of mortals shall find a remedy.
We have already manifested and promisedthis to our servants, the Prophets, in order that they might announce it to theworld. The sins of the living, and their malice are so great, that We are much,constrained by the rigor of justice.
But our goodness and mercy is greaterthan all their evil-doing, nor can it extinguish our love toward men. We willlook with mercy upon the works of our hands, which We have created according toour image and likeness, so as to enable them to become inheritors andparticipators of our eternal glory(I Pet. 3, 22).
We will consider the services and thepleasure derived from our servants and friends and regard the multitude ofthose, who shall distinguish themselves in our praise and friendship.
And above all have We before our eyesHer, who is to be the chosen One, who is to be acceptable above all creaturesand singled out for our delight and pleasure; because She is to conceive theperson of the Word in her womb and clothe Him with human flesh.
Since there must be a beginning of thiswork, by which We shall manifest to the world the treasures of the Divinity,this shall be the acceptable and opportune time for its execution. Joachim andAnne have found grace in our eyes ; We look upon them with pleasure and shallenrich them with choicest gifts and graces.
They have been faithful and constant intheir trials and in simplicity and uprightness their souls have becomeacceptable and pleasing before Us. Let Gabriel as our ambassador bring tidingsof joy for them and for the whole human race; let him announce to them, that inour condescension We have looked upon them and chosen them.“
179. Thus the celestial spirits wereinstructed in regard to the will and the decree of the Almighty. The holy archangelGabriel humbled himself before the throne of the most blessed Trinity, adoringand revering the divine Majesty in the manner which befits these most pure andspiritual substances.
From the throne an intellectual voiceproceeded, saying:“ Gabriel, enlighten, vivify and console Joachim and Anne,our servants, and tell them, that their prayers have come to our presence and theirpetitions are heard in clemency.
Promise them, that by the favor of ourright hand they will receive the Fruit of benediction, and that Anne shallconceive a Daughter, to whom We give the name of MARY.“
180. Together with this mandate of theMost High many mysteries and sacraments pertaining to this message wererevealed to saint Gabriel. With it he descended from the vault of the empyreanheaven and appeared to holy Joachim, while he was in prayer, saying to him:
“Just and upright man, the Almighty from hissovereign throne has taken notice of thy desires and has heard thy sighs andprayers, and has made thee fortunate on earth. Thy spouse Anne shall conceiveand bear a Daughter, who shall be blessed among women(Luc. 1, 42, 48). Thenations shall know Her as the Blessed.
He who is the eternal God, increate, andthe Creator of all, most upright in his judgments, powerful and strong, sendsme to thee, because thy works and alms have been acceptable.
Love has softened the heart of theAlmighty, and has hastened his mercies, and in his liberality He wishes toenrich thy house and thy family with a Daughter, whom Anne shall conceive; the Lordhimself has chosen for Her the name of MARY.
From her childhood let Her beconsecrated to the temple, and in it to God, as thou hast promised. She shallbe elect, exalted, powerful and full of the Holy Ghost; on account of the sterilityof Anne her conception shall be miraculous; She shall be a Daughter wonderfulin all her doings and in all her life.
Praise the Lord, Joachim, for this benefitand magnify Him, for in no other nation has He wrought the like. Thou shalt goto give thanks in the temple of Jerusalem and in testimony of the truth of thisjoyful message, thou shalt meet, in the Golden Gate, thy sister Anne, who iscoming to the temple for the same purpose. Remember that marvelous is thismessage, for the Conception of this Child shall rejoice heaven and earth.“
181. All this happened to saint Joachimduring his prolonged prayer and in a miraculous sleep, into which he fell forthe purpose of receiving this message. He experienced something similar to thatwhich happened to saint Joseph, the spouse of the most holy Mary, when it wasmade known to him, that her pregnancy was the work of the Holy Ghost (Matth. 1,20).
The most fortunate saint Joachim awokein great joy of soul and with solicitous and ingenuous prudence he concealedwithin his heart the sacrament of the King (Tob. 12, 7). With a lively faithand hope he poured forth his soul in the presence of the Most High, and full oftenderness and gratitude, he thanked and praised Him for his inscrutablejudgments. In order to do this more appropriately he hastened to the temple ashe had been ordered.
182. In the meanwhile the thrice blessedAnne was exalted in prayer and divine contemplation and totally wrapped up inthe mystery of the Incarnation, which, after having been previously filled witha most high understanding and a specially infused light, she solicited from theeternal Word.
With the profoundest humility and livelyfaith she was praying for the hastening of the coming of the Redeemer of thehuman race in the following words: “Most high King and Lord of all creation, I,a most vile and despicable creature, and yet the work of thy hands, desire at theprice of the life which Thou hast given me, to urge Thee to hasten in thy mercythe time of our salvation.
O may thy infinite kindness inclinetoward our need! O that our eyes might look upon the Restorer and the Redeemerof men! Remember, O Lord, the mercies of old shown to thy people,wherein Thouhast promised thy Only begotten, and may this promise of infinite kindnessunbend Thee!
May it come now, that day so much longedfor! Is it possible, that the Most High should descend from his holy heaven? Isit possible, that He is to have a terrestrial Mother? What woman shall She be,that is so fortunate and blessed ? O who shall be so favored as to look uponHer? Who shall be worthy to be the servant of her servants?
Blessed the race, that shall be able tosee Her and prostrate themselves at her feet to reverence Her ! How sweet shallbe the sight of Her and her company ! Blessed the eyes, that shall see Her andthe ears, that shall listen to her words, and the family, from whom the MostHigh shall select his Mother! Execute, O Lord, this decree: fulfill thy divinebenevolence!“
183. In this prayer and colloquy saintAnne occupied herself after having received enlightenment regarding thisineffable mystery. She weighed all the conferences, which she had had with herguardian angel, who on many occasions, and now more openly than ever before,had manifestedhimself to her.
The Almighty ordained, that the messageof the Conception of his holy Mother should in some way be similar to the one,by which the Incarnation was announced. For saint Anne was meditating in humblefervor upon her, who was to bear the Mother of the incarnate Word.
And the most holy Virgin was making thesame reflections upon Her, who was to be the Mother of God, as I will relate inits place (Part II, 117). It was also the same angel, that brought both messages, and in human form, thoughhe showed himself in a more beautiful and mysterious shape to the Virgin Mary.
184. The holy archangel Gabriel appearedto saint Anne in human form more resplendent than the sun, and said to her:“Anne, servant of God, I am an angel sent from the council of the Most High,who in divine condescension looks upon the humble of the earth (Psalm 137, 6).
Good is incessant prayer and humbleconfidence. The Lord has heard thy petitions, for He is nigh to those who call upon Him withliving faith and hope, and who expect his salvation (Ps. 144, 18).
If He delays hearing their clamors anddefers the fulfillment of their prayers, it is in order to dispose them toreceive and to oblige Himself to give much more than they ask and desire.Prayer and almsgiving open the treasures of the Lord, the omnipotent King, andincline Him to be lavish in mercy toward those, who ask (Tob. 11, 8).
Thou and Joachim have prayed for the Fruitof benediction and the Most High has resolved to give you holy and wonderfulFruit; and by it He will enrich you with heavenly gifts, granting to you muchmore than you have asked.
For having humiliated yourselves inprayer, the Lord wishes to magnify Himself in conceding your petitions: becausethose, who in humble confidence pray to Him without belittling his infinitepower, are most agreeable to the Lord.
Persevere in prayer and ask withoutceasing for the Redemption of the human race in order to constrain the MostHigh. Moses by unceasing prayer brought victory to the people (Exod. 17, 11);Esther by prayer obtained liberation from the death sentence ( Esther 4, 11);
Judith by the same means was filled withfortitude to execute a most arduous task for the salvation of Israel: Shefulfilled it, though a weak and frail woman (Judith 9, 1).
David came forth victorious in hiscombat with the giant, because he prayed, invoking the name of the Lord (IKings 17, 45; III Kings 18, 36). Elias drew fire from heaven by his sacrificeand by his prayer opened and closed the heavens.
The humility, faith and the alms ofJoachim and of thyself have come before the throne of the Most High and now Hesends me, his angel, in order to give thee news full of joy for thy heart :
His Majesty wishes, that thou be mostfortunate and blessed. He chooses thee to be the mother of Her who is toconceive and bring forth the Only begotten of the Father. Thou shalt bringforth a Daughter, who by divine disposition shall be called MARY.
She shall be blessed among women andfull of the Holy Ghost. She shall be the cloud that shall drop the dew ofheaven for the refreshment of mortals (III Kings 18, 44) : and in Her shall befulfilled the prophecies of thy ancestors.
She shall be the portal of life andsalvation for the sons of Adam. Know also that I have announced to Joachim,that he shall have a Daughter who shall be blessed and fortunate : but the fullknowledge of the mystery is notgiven him by the Lord, for he does not know,that She is to be the Mother of the Messias.
Therefore thou must guard this secret;and go now to the temple to give thanks to the Most High for having been sohighly favored by his powerful right hand. In the Golden Gate thou shalt meetJoachim, where thou wilt confer with him about this tiding. Thou art the one,who art especially blessed of the Lord and whom He wishes to visit and enrichwith more singular blessings.
In solitude He will speak to thy heartand there give a beginning to the law of grace, since in thy womb He will givebeing to Her, who is to vest the Immortal with mortal flesh and human form. Inthis humanity, united with the Word, will be written, as with his own blood,the true law of Mercy.“
185. In order that the humble heart ofthe holy Anne might not faint away with admiration and joy at these tidings ofthe holy angel, she was strengthened by the holy Spirit and thus she heard itand received it with magnanimity and incomparable joy.
Immediately arising she hastened to thetemple of Jerusalem, and there found saint Joachim, as the angel had foretoldto them both. Together they gave thanks to the Almighty for this wonderfulblessing and offered special gifts and sacrifices, They were enlightened anewby the grace of the holy Spirit, and, full of divine consolation, they returnedto their home.
Joyfully they conversed about thefavors, which they had received from the Almighty, especially concerning eachone‘s message of the archangel Gabriel, whereby, on behalf of the Lord, theyhad been promised a Daughter who should be most blessed and fortunate.
On this occasion they also told eachother, how the same angel, before their espousal, had commanded each to acceptthe other, in order that together they might serve God according to his divinewill. This secret they had kept from each other for twenty years, withoutcommunicating it, until the same angel had promised them the issue of such aDaughter.
Anew they made the vow to offer Her tothe temple and that each year on this day they would come to the temple tooffer special gifts, spend the day in praise and thanksgiving, and give manyalms. This vow they fulfilled to the end of their lives, spending this day ingreat praise and exaltation of the Most High.
186. The prudent matron Anne neverdisclosed the secret, that her Daughter was to be the Mother of the Messias,either to Joachim or to any other creature. Nor did that holy parent in thecourse of his life know any more than that She was to be a grand and mysteriouswoman. However, in the last moments of his life the Almighty made the secretknown to him, as I will relate in its place (Infr. No. 666).
Although great revelations have beenmade to me concerning the virtues and the holiness of the two parents of theQueen of heaven, I shall not dilate upon that which all the faithful mustpresuppose. I shall rather hasten to the main point.
187. After the first conception of thebody which was to be that of the Mother of grace, and before creating her mostholy soul, God granted a singular favor to saint Anne. She had an intellectualand most exalted visionor appearance of his Majesty, inwhich, having communicated to her great enlightenment and gifts of grace.
He disposed her and forestalled her withthe blessings of his sweetness (Ps. 20, 4). Entirely purifying her, Hespiritualized the inferior part of her body and elevated her soul and spirit tosuch a degree, that thenceforward she never attended to any human affair, whichcould impede her union with God in all the affections of her mind and will, andshe never lost sight of Him.
At the same time He said to her: “Anne,my servant, I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: my blessing and myeternal light is with thee. I have created man in order to raise him from thedust and to make him the in heritor of my glory and participator of myDivinity.
I also showered my gifts upon him andplaced him in a position and state of high perfection; but he listened to theserpent and lost all. Out of my goodness and in fulfillment of the promisesmade through my holy Prophets, I wish to forget his ingratitude and to repairthe damage, by sending my Onlybegotten as their Redeemer.
The heavens are closed, the ancientPatriarchs are detained, deprived of the sight of my face and of eternal lifepromised to them. The inclination of my bounteousness is as it were strained innot communicating itself to the human race.
Now, at this time do I wish to showmercy, giving them the person of the eternal Word, to become man, to be born ofa Woman, who shall be Mother and Virgin, immaculate, pure, blessed and holyabove all creatures. Of Her, my chosen and only One, I make thee mother.“(Cant.6, 8).
188. I cannot easily explain the effectof these words in the upright heart of holy Anne, she being the first of thoseborn of men, to whom was revealed the mystery of her most holy Daughter, whowas to be the Mother of God and chosen for the greatest sacrament of the divineOmnipotence.
It was befitting that she should know ofthis mystery and properly estimate the Treasure which she was to possess and towhich she was to give birth and existence. She heard with profound humility thevoice of the Most High and with a submissive heart she answered:
“Lord,God eternal, it is the essence of thy immense bounty and the work of thypowerful arm, to raise from the dust those that are poor and despised(Ps. 112,7). I acknowledge myself, O Lord, a creature unworthy of such mercies andbenefits.
What shall this lowly worm do in thypresence? Thy own Being and thy own magnificence alone can I offer in thanksgiving, and my soul and all its faculties in sacrifice. Use me, O Lord,according to thy will, since to it I resign myself entirely.
I wish to be as completely thy own assuch a favor requires ; but what shall I do, who am not worthy to be the slaveof Her who is to be the Mother of the Onlybegotten and my Daughter? This Iknow, and shall confess always: that I am a poor creature; but at the feet ofthy greatness I await the course of thy mercy, who art a kind Father and theall-powerful God. Make me, O Lord, worthy in thy eyes of the dignity Thoubestowest upon me.“
189. During this vision saint Anne waswrapped in a marvelous ecstasy, in which she was favored with the highestunderstanding of the laws of nature, and of the written and the evangelicalprecepts. She was instructed as to how the divine nature in the eternal Wordwas to unite itself to our own ;
how his most holy humanity was to beelevated to the being of God, and she understood many other mysteries, whichwere to be fulfilled in the Incarnation of the divine Word. By these enlightenmentsand by other gifts of grace, the Almighty disposed her for the Conception andthe creation of her most holy Daughter, the Mother of God.