On the Manna of the Old and of the New Testament.
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 Manna of the Old and of the New Testament.
Imagine yourself a witness of the scene enacted in the desert on the day when for the first time the manna, the wondrous food, the divine nourishment was showered down from Heaven; when the children of Israel, hastening in joyful excitement out of their tents, exclaimed, in amazement: “What is this!” (Ex. xvi. 15.) Well might they be astonished at this miracle to which the words of the Church may aptly be applied: “Thou hast given them Bread from Heaven, containing in itself all sweetness.” But not to the children of Israel alone is this bread given; it is also given to us. We too have Bread from Heaven, the Holy Eucharist, of which the manna is a type and a shadow. Wherefore, my soul, as a preparation for the feast of the morrow, institute a comparison between the manna of the Old and of the New Dispensation.
1st. Consider that the Bread from Heaven was not given to the Israelites until they had already left the Egyptian servitude, passed through the Bed Sea, and consumed the provisions that they brought with them out of Egypt. If then this manna is a type of the Bread of Heaven of the New Testament, consider well the beautiful words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, who bids us observe that we can only eat that manna worthily when we are released from the bondage of sin, when we have passed through the Red Sea of penance, thereby washing our souls in the cleansing blood of Christ, and have got rid of the last remnants of the old leaven of Egypt. Ask yourself, my soul, ask yourself seriously if this is the case with you, for on this it depends whether you celebrate to-morrow’s feast in a worthy or unworthy manner.
2d. Consider another peculiarity of the Old-Testament manna. God did not suffer it to fall upon the earth before the pure dew of Heaven had covered the face of the ground, lest the celestial bread should be sullied by contact with the dust and dirt. What a lesson this fact contains for you, my soul. Remember you are the soil whereon the manna of the New Testament descends. Think how much holier, purer, more sublime this Bread of Heaven is than the other. Most truly it is so, for it is not merely the Bread of Heaven which you receive, it is the Lord of Heaven, Himself perfect, intrinsic Purity and the Author of all purity. It is His most sacred humanity, His most pure body, born of a pure and chaste Virgin, which you receive. How clean, how spotless the ground ought to be whereon this manna falls! Consider this to-day, and do not be satisfied with decorating the church, adorning the convent or house in preparation for the feast on the morrow, but cleanse and deck your soul above all. Cleanse it from the defilement of sin; cleanse it from the earthly dust of reprehensible proclivities and attachments, which cloud the clear surface of the soul’s mirror, and make it your chief solicitude so to prepare the soil that it may be free from all impurities when the heavenly manna falls upon it.
3d. Consider that the Israelites were obliged to gather the manna in the early morning, before the sun rose, for when its heat began to be felt, the celestial food melted away and lost all its sweet flavor. He who desired to taste the manna in all its sweetness under the Old Dispensation had to watch and rise early, and it is the same under the New Covenant. The more you exert yourself, the more pains you take and time you spend in preparing yourself, the more fully will you taste the sweetness of the heavenly manna. But if you are slothful and drowsy, if you will not put yourself to any inconvenience to find time to make a proper preparation, then you will assuredly take little delight in the heavenly banquet. Oh see that to-day at least, on the eve of the great festival of that manna, you make a careful preparation, and to-morrow, in the early hours of the morning raise your heart in gladness to Heaven, whence comes this delicious spiritual food. Above all, in order that you may taste the sweetness of this manna more fully than you have done heretofore, make a resolution for the future to follow the counsels of a well-known spiritual writer, who says: “It is meet, on the day when we are to receive Holy Communion, to spend a portion of the morning in preparation. We should also let it be our last thought on the evening before, that we are going to approach the altar. When we wake in the night let us think of our communion, and on opening our eyes in the morning let this be the first, the one idea that presents itself to our mind.” Thus we shall act like the Israelites of old, and gather the heavenly manna before the rising of the sun.
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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