On the Place to which Our Lord Ascended.
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 the Place to which Our Lord Ascended.
In order that you may enter more fully into the joy and triumph of the festival we celebrate to-morrow, during your meditation to-day cast your eyes upward to the place whither our Lord is about to ascend, to the Heavens above. Rise up therefore from earth, soar aloft in spirit to the realms of bliss, refresh your soul with the sight of their beauty and splendor. And that you may do this the better:
1st. Consider the beauty of earth. Picture to yourself the face of nature on a fair summer morning when the sun, rising in its majesty, gilds the summits of the mountains; when the dewdrops on every blade of grass in the meadows sparkle like so many bright pearls; when the brooklets gleam like molten silver; when the birds of the air sing so sweetly, so joyously, as if they were messengers from heaven, and over all this natural beauty the church bells ring out their deep, melodious, touching music, almost, one might fancy, as if they were an echo of the celestial hosannas. Is it possible to gaze upon this lovely sight without being struck with amazement at the beauty of God’s creation? And what you see is but a corner, a tiny portion of the great wide world with its different lands and cities, its rivers and oceans, its mighty mountains, over all of which stretches the great vault of heaven glittering with a thousand bright orbs. Now ask yourself, my soul, if the abode of sinful mortals, this curse-laden earth, is so beautiful, so grand, so wonderful, who can hope to describe the loveliness, the sublimity, the splendor, the felicity of the dwelling of God on high, the abode of the angels and saints? “My brethren,” St. Augustine exclaims in one of his eloquent discourses, “let us picture to ourselves a palatial residence. However superb the property it contains, however richly it is furnished, how great soever the profusion of golden vessels to be found in it, how numerous soever the household attached to it, howsoever superbly it may be decorated with paintings, marbles, sculptures, with pillars and lofty rooms, yet in comparison with the house of God in the Heavens it is only a Babylon, wherein we are held captive.” But you, my soul, are content to dwell in this prison; you like it so well that you have no wish to leave it in order to enter into that abode of the Most High which is the dwelling-place of eternal joy.
2d. Consider how St. Peter tasted upon Mount Thabor one single drop of celestial bliss, and in consequence of it forgot all the world around him. Although the apostle had not seen Heaven itself, but only our Lord in His gloryfied form, he was so enraptured by this sight that, inebriated with delight, he would fain have remained for ever upon Thabor. If a single drop produces such ecstatic happiness, what will be the effect of the whole ocean of celestial joys? If the mere reflection of the light of Heaven is so dazzling, what must its full brilliance, its undimmed glory be? “Run,” St. Augustine says, “on the straight road that leads to the heavenly country, of which the angels are the citizens, of which God is the temple, of which the Son of God is the light, and the Holy Ghost is the all-pervading spirit of charity.” Have you hitherto obeyed this admonition? Have you run, with holy eagerness, to win the kingdom of Heaven, or have you advanced but slowly, in miserable tepidity and sloth, crawling like a snail along that path?
3d. Consider that the two apostles who were privileged actually to behold and have a foretaste of Heaven appear to search for expressions of which to make use, and to exhaust all images in the effort to describe even in a faint manner what they had seen, to give us a conception in some degree approximating to it. St. Paul is obliged to content himself with saying: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man.” (I. Cor. ii. 9.) And St. John evidently is at great pains to portray the image of the glorious heavenly Jerusalem which he beheld, the city adorned as a bride, the walls of which shone as jasper-stone, and her gates with the brilliance of an emerald. But let this suffice us. All that we mortals can feel, can think or speak, is, in comparison with the reality only as a drop to the ocean, as an expiring spark to the hot rays of the sun. Endeavor to comprehend this truth, my soul, and then reflect that it only rests with you to win this heavenly prize, and that you can only succeed in winning it if you lay to heart what St. Augustine says: “The price wherewith the kingdom of Heaven is to be purchased is thyself; this alone is required. It is of the same value to thee as thine own soul. Surrender thyself and thou shalt have it for thine own.”
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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