On Holy Mass, As the Sacrifice Most Worthy of Our God.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On Holy Mass, As the Sacrifice Most Worthy of Our God.
Imagine, my soul, that it is now that great and awful moment in the solemn celebration of High Mass, when heart and mind are raised above earth, when every knee is bent, every head is bowed, while the Priest elevates the most holy body of Jesus Christ for the adoration of the faithful. What an impressive moment! What are all other sacrifices, the sacrifices of Jews and heathen in comparison with the one Christian sacrifice? Truly, holy Mass stands alone as the sacrifice most worthy of our God.
1st. Consider that many and manifold sacrifices were offered to God under the Old Dispensation, in order to honor and worship Him as the Supreme Deity, in recognition of man’s subjection to Him and in acknowledgment of man’s guiltiness in His sight. Thus the Jews offered burnt offerings to praise and venerate the divine glory and majesty; sacrifices of atonement to implore forgiveness of sins; peace offerings to entreat the bestowal of special graces, and thank offerings in gratitude for favors and benefits received. Who can form an idea of the immense number of animals that were slaughtered, the multitude of priests who officiated at the altar, the manifold and multifarious ceremonies that were observed at those sacrifices! And yet despite the number of the oblations, the elaborate ceremonial, hear what the prophet Micheas very truly says: “What shall I offer to the Lord that is worthy? Wherewith shall I kneel before the high God? Shall I offer holocausts unto Him, and calves of a year old? May the Lord be appeased with thousands of rams or with many thousands of fat he goats?” (Mich. vi. 6, 7.) No indeed, there is only one sacrifice worthy of the Most High God, one oblation which outweighs and surpasses all others, and that is holy Mass. Reflect my soul, on the vast magnitude of this sacrifice.
2d. Consider why holy Mass is pre-eminently the sacrifice most worthy to be offered to our God. Because God is infinite, and therefore deserving of infinite honor, of an oblation infinite in its nature. Where in the whole world would it be possible to find such an oblation, were it not that our Lord has left us in holy Mass a perpetual memorial of His infinite sacrifice upon the cross? In it alone we have a sacrifice of infinite value, consequently a sacrifice worthy of the Deity, for the Victim therein offered is of infinite, of divine nature. Weigh well, my soul, this grand, this sublime truth, and you will no longer wonder that St. Laurence Justinian should say that at the time of the celebration of holy Mass the heavens are opened, the angels look down in amazement, the saints open their lips to praise and magnify God, the just rejoice, the suffering souls are released, hell mourns and the whole Catholic Church is made glad. But there is one thing at which you may wonder, that any one can remain cold and indifferent at such a time, as you too often do.
3d. Consider that the reason why holy Mass is the only sacrifice really worthy to be offered to God is not merely because the oblation itself is infinite in its nature, but also He by whom it is offered. For He who officiates at the altar is none other than Christ Himself. The Priest who celebrates Mass does so only in the name of Christ, by virtue of Christ’s authority, as the minister of Christ. He who first instituted the holy sacrifice, who said the first Mass in the cenaculum at Jerusalem, who offered Himself up on the cross upon Mount Calvary, He it is who now at one and the self-same time is Priest and Victim in the holy Mass. He it is whom the Eternal Father sees in the celebrant; He looks not upon the Priest, who is the instrument, and who, without detriment to the efficacy of the sacrifice, may be sinful, nay, even quite unworthy of his office. Whenever therefore, my soul, you see the Priest at the altar, imagine that you see Christ Himself offering the sacred oblation, and you will experience no difficulty in assisting at Mass with the devotion St. John Chrysostom requires from the faithful. “When you stand before the altar,” he says, “do not think that you are in the presence of men. Realize that presence of countless hosts of angels and archangels who are beside and around you, and who tremble with awe before the sovereign Lord of Heaven and earth. Be silent, therefore,” he adds, “let your minds be filled with respect and veneration; remember how retiring, how circumspect and careful courtiers are in their behavior when in the presence of their monarch; learn of them the respect, the veneration that ought to mark your conduct when you are there where God Himself is present.”
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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