The War of the Ages
Catholic mystics are awesome.
I don't know why more people don't read their works. I mean, for heaven's sake - literally, the Venerable Mother Mary of Agreda (Sister Mary of Jesus) was exhumed in 1909 and found to be in the exact same condition as when she was laid to rest in 1665 - totally incorrupt. Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich, who is considered to have had more visions of the past, present and future than anyone, was also exhumed and found incorrupt. Marie-Julie Jahenny is yet another example. During their lives, they were often also blessed with the visible wounds of Christ, the stigmata, and / or lived on the Eucharist alone for many years. All of these cases were examined at the time by independent, competent scientific entities in their respective fields and declared to be scientifically inexplicable. (Which, on a side note, raises the question: why isn't the entire world Catholic on account of the miraculous lives and incorruptibility of some of the saints?) But even most Catholics pay little attention to the treasures left to us by these patently extraordinary mystics of the Church. This is unfortunate, given their reason for being. The cover of Sister Mary of Jesus's City of God reveals the great purpose for which her visions and understandings had been given to her - and by extension, us: "for new enlightenment of the world, for rejoicing of the Catholic Church, and encouragement of men."
Enlightenment, rejoicing and encouragement: those are all great reasons in this day and age to pick up the works of the mystics, and I encourage each reader to do so. In particular, Sister Mary of Jesus's City of God is entirely about the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Woman of the Apocaplyse, or in other words, "The Woman of the Unveiling," who God has ordained to reveal in a very unique way throughout history. This very work was explicitly for "new enlightenment" into the "divine history and life of the Virgin Mother of God, Our Queen and Our Lady, Most Holy Mary, Expiatrix of the Fault of Eve and Mediatrix of Grace, manifested in these later ages by that Lady to her handmaid, Sister Mary of Jesus." Again, what is the reason for the revelation now? That we may rejoice and be encouraged. I will begin to delve into the revelations of Mary in subsequent articles; but first I want to begin my explorations in the same place they do.
Interestingly, I've noticed that all of the mystics, who have received visions of the full spectrum of salvation history, tend to begin in the same place: simultaneously in Genesis and the Book of Revelation, which occur concurrently (something I will explain in more detail below). Another hallmark is their inability to fully describe what God reveals to them about his omnipotence, the abyss of his grace, and the majesty of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God; and they repeatedly bemoan the limitations of their faculties and even of language itself, to perceive and convey all that is being revealed.
But they try! And I will do my best to convey these gems of private revelation!
I'll only cite Mary of Agreda's visions in this article, as they are nearly identical in essence to Anne Catherine Emmerich's, and Sister Mary's visions are far more focused on the Blessed Virgin Mary. I will quote extensively from CHAPTER IX, which lays out the War of the Ages in exquisite detail. Despite this being Chapter IX of Volume I, it is very much "in the beginning" of the entire four-volume corpus of works. This Chapter is entitled, "THE REST OF THE TWELFTH CHAPTER OF THE APOCALYPSE IS EXPLAINED." It begins....
"And there was a great battle in heaven; Michael and his angels fought with the dragon and the dragon fought and his angels." When the Lord had manifested these things to the good and to the bad angels, the holy prince Michael and his companions, with the permission of God, gave battle to the dragon and his followers. It was a wonderful battle, for it was fought with the understanding and the will.
(Mary of Agreda, Chapter IX, paragraph 106)
Something noteworthy to point out is that the nature of the battle is purely intellectual. This War of the Ages, first valiantly fought among the angels, is primarily fought with the understanding and will. This makes sense, because angels are created intelligences. They do not have a corporal nature, which makes them superior to the human race in the order of perfection. For more of a theological and Scriptural exploration of this reality, you can find out more about angels in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) (the existence of angels and the fall of the angels). But we know that the War of the Ages is apparently no different for us, "For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).
What I found most beautiful and encouraging of this mystical vision was the recounting of Saint Michael's defense of the Most High...
Saint Michael, burning with zeal for the honor of God and armed with divine power and with his own humility, resisted the arrogant pride of the dragon, saying: "Worthy is the Highest of honor, praise and reverence, and of being loved, feared and obeyed by all creation. He is mighty to work whatever He desires. He that is increate and without dependence on any other being, cannot seek anything that is not most just. To us He gave grace such as we have, creating us and forming us out of nothing. He can create other beings, as many and in what manner He pleases. It is reasonable that we, submissive and prostrate in his presence, adore his Majesty and kingly grandeur. Come then, ye angels, follow me, let us adore Him, and extol his admirable and secret judgments, his most perfect and holy works. God is most exalted and above all creatures, and He would not be the Most High, if we could attain or comprehend his great works. Infinite He is in wisdom and goodness, rich in the treasures of his benefits. As Lord of all and needing none, He can distribute them to whomsoever He wishes, and He cannot err in the selection. He can love and confer his favor to whomsoever He chooses, and He can love whom He likes; He can raise up, create and enrich according as it is his good pleasure. In all things He will be wise, holy and irresistible. Let us adore and thank Him for the wonderful work of the Incarnation which He has decreed, and for his favors to his people and for its restoration to grace after its fall. Let us adore this Person endowed with the human and the divine nature, let us reverence It and accept It as our Head ; let us confess, that He is worthy of all glory, praise and magnificence, and, as the Author of grace, let us give Him glory and acknowledge his power and Divinity."
(Mary of Agreda, Chapter IX, paragraph 106)
"Grace" is repeated over and over in Saint Michael's defense. It is grace that creates us, and it is grace that restores us after the fall. "To us He gave grace such as we have," he says, "creating us and forming us out of nothing...He can create other beings, as many and in what manner He pleases." These humble declarations of God's grace are so important in relation to understanding not only ourselves - but in relation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God!
On a side note: if you'd like to learn more about grace, please read the sections of the CCC: Where Sin Abounded, Grace Abounded All the More; God's Salvation: Law and Grace; and Grace and Justification. (On another side note: it is interesting to see that most of the dogmas of the Catholic Church relate to grace. There are only 255 dogmas of the Catholic Church, and the word "grace" occurs 31 times in them! Besides "God," "Christ," and "divine," the word "grace" occurs more frequently in the stated dogmas than any other spiritually meaningful word - even more than "church," "sin, and "sacrament." Check for yourself! It's a fun exercise! Grace is preeminent in the life of the Church!)
Saint Michael continues his defense of the Most High and the Blessed Mother of God... (While reading the rest of the account of the great battle in heaven, please keep in mind that in the preceding chapter (Chapter VIII), Sister Mary recounts how the angels were given full revelation of the Will of God to create a human race, and to bridge that infinite gap between the Creator and humanity through a hypostatic union in the Second Person of the Trinity, the Incarnate Word. She also recounts how the angels were given full revelation of the Will of God to create a fully human being, a woman, who would bear the Incarnate Word, and who would be fully sanctified and full of grace, thus placing Her above them according to God's Will. The apostate angels' fall was a series of rejections of these revelations and submissions to creatures they deemed inferior to them in the order of perfection: first the Incarnate Word made Flesh and then the Woman of Revelation.)
With such arms St. Michael and his angels gave battle, fighting as it were, with the powerful rays of truth against the dragon and his followers, who on their hand made use of blasphemies. But Lucifer at the sight of the holy prince, not being able to resist, was torn with interior rage and sought to fly from his torments; it was the will of God, however, that he should not only be punished, but also conquered, in order that by his fall he might know the truth and power of God. Nevertheless he blasphemed and cried out: "Unjust is God in raising the human nature above the angelic. I am the most exalted and beautiful angel and the triumph belongs to me. It is I who am to place my throne above the stars and who shall be like unto the Highest; I will subject myself to no one of an inferior nature, and I will not consent that any one take precedence of me or be greater than I." In the same way spoke the apostate followers of Lucifer. But St. Michael answered: "Who is there like unto the Lord, who dwells in the heavens, or who to compare himself to Him? Be silent, enemy, cease thy dreadful blasphemies, and since iniquity has taken possession of thee, depart from our midst, wretch, and be hurled in thy blind ignorance and wickedness into the dark night and chaos of the infernal pains. But let us, O spirits of the Lord, honor and reverence this blessed Woman, who is to give human flesh to the eternal Word; and let us recognize Her as our Queen and Lady."
(Mary of Agreda, Chapter IX, paragraph 107)
I find it most interesting that Lucifer's downfall seems to be in his persistence in his blasphemies. God lets him fall, that he might know the truth and power of God; but "nevertheless," he blasphemes... It is said that this is the state of a soul that is condemned to hell: a soul that persists to the end in rejection and blasphemy of God. And it very well may have been for the sake of the other angels that Saint Michael rebukes him in their presence, lest they also followed him. "As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear" (1 Timothy 5:20). It does seem to be the case that the battle was waged not for the sake of the battle, but for the sake of the salvation of the angels who were all grappling with the revelations. "Nevertheless," one third were lost.
I find it also very interesting that Lucifer's downfall also seems to be a jealousy over Jesus and His Incarnation. "I am the most exalted and beautiful angel and the triumph belongs to me." Elsewhere, Sister Mary describes how Lucifer demanded to be the hypostatic union himself. Clearly, Lucifer desired to be the Incarnate Word. In this way, he will continue to ape the Christ as the eternal Antichrist.
But, WOW! Can you not deny that Lucifer's downfall was also due to his rejection of Mary as Mother of God?!! Do not forget, "He can create other beings...in what manner He pleases." Amen, Saint Michael! Amen! Yes, the Most High can create a woman to be His Mother, because he can create anyone in whatever manner He pleases. And if it pleases God to submit Himself to one of His created beings, SO BE IT. Or, rather, as most perfectly and most humbly consented to by that very Mother, "Let it be done unto me according to your Word." Amen, Saint Mary of Nazareth! Amen! May you be the Mother of God, according to His Word! May you be the Woman who crushes the dragon under her heel! Come then, my brothers and sisters in Christ, "follow me, let us adore Him, and extol his admirable and secret judgments, his most perfect and holy works," in this Woman, His Mother. And "let us, O spirits of the Lord, honor and reverence this blessed Woman, who is to give human flesh to the eternal Word; and let us recognize Her as our Queen and Lady." Anything less towards the Most High's most perfect and holy works is an injustice! A rejection of His Mother as the most perfect and holy of His works comes from the spirit of the Antichrist, who hates not only the Creator and the Word Incarnate but also His humble Mother.
The great sign of the Woman served the good angels as a shield and as arms of battle against the evil ones; for at the sight of it, all their power of reasoning weakened and was brought to confusion and silence, since they could not endure the mysteries and sacraments contained in this sign. And just as by divine power this mysterious sign appeared, so also now the other figure or sign of the dragon appeared, in order that thus transformed he might be ignominiously hurled from heaven amid the fright and terror of his followers and amid the astonishment of the holy angels. All this was the effect of this new manifestation of the justice and power of God.
(Mary of Agreda, Chapter IX, paragraph 108)
So not only did God ordain that Mary would be the Mother of God but that she would also be the shield and arms of battle against evil! “Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?” (Song of Solomon 6:10) There is so much more to say about this, our Valiant Queen, but I will save that for a future article. Suffice it to say for now, she will usher us forth to battle and will conquer the enemy of Her Son and of His redeemed in grace.
It is difficult to describe in words what passed in that memorable battle, since there is such a wide difference between our conceptions, founded on material objects, and those which would be appropriate to the nature and operations of such great spirits as these angels. "But the bad ones did not prevail" for injustice, lies, ignorance and malice could not prevail against equity, truth, light and goodness ; nor could these virtues be overcome by vices. Therefore, it is also said : "From that time on their place was not found in heaven." Through the sins which these disgraced angels had committed, they made themselves unworthy of the eternal vision and company of the Lord. Their memory was blotted out from his mind, where they had been written by the excellences and graces of the nature given to them. Having lost the right to the places, which had been reserved for them, if they had obeyed, it passed over to mankind. To man these places were now transferred in such a way that the very vestiges of the apostate angels were blotted out and were no more found in heaven. O unhappy wickedness and never to be described misfortune, which drew after itself such a horrible and dreadful chastisement!
(Mary of Agreda, Chapter IX, paragraph 109)
So we follow on the inheritance of the angels, for better or for worse. We may inherit their place in heaven, a place prepared for beings that far surpass us in perfection; but we also inherit their place in hell, should we follow along in their ways of rebellion and wickedness. "And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’…Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…" (Matthew 7:23 and 25:41) May the Blessed Mother of God protect us from ever hearing those dreadful words of condemnation.
The Evangelist adds: "And the dragon was cast out, that ancient serpent who is called devil and satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth and his angels were thrown down with him." The holy prince Michael hurled from heaven the dragon Lucifer with the invincible battle-cry: "Who is like unto God?" So powerful was this cry, that it sufficed to precipitate that proud giant and all his host to the earth and cast him in dreadful ignominy to the center of the earth. From that time he began to be called dragon, serpent, devil and satan, imposed upon him by the holy archangel in that battle as a testimony of his iniquity and malice. Deprived of the happiness and honor, of which he had become unworthy, he was despoiled also of his names and honorable titles, acquiring in their stead such as designate his ignominy. The wicked plans which he proposed and enjoined upon his confederates, namely, that they should deceive and pervert all those that live in the world, manifest sufficiently his wickedness. He therefore, who intended to scourge the nations, was consigned to hellish regions, as Isaias says in the fourteenth chapter, to the profound abyss, and his cadaver was delivered to the moth and the worm of his own bad conscience; thus was fulfilled in Lucifer all that the prophet says in that chapter.
(Mary of Agreda, Chapter IX, paragraph 110)
From all of this, my main takeaway is that I now know that I must enter into battle with my understanding of God's Will and my own will united with his. Together with the Host of Heavenly Angels, I know that I must fight the enemy with these swords until the end of time, with Mary as my shield. For all of us, the battle begins by assenting to God's Will with regard to both His Son and the woman ordained to be his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary; otherwise, we may find ourselves on the wrong side of the War of the Ages.
Sister Mary of Agreda City of God. New Jersey: Ava Marie Institute, Reprinted 1993.
Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, reprinted 2016.