On the Lord’s Prayer.
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 Lord’s Prayer.
Represent to yourself the touching scene when the disciples draw nigh to our Lord in familiar confidence, with this petition: “Lord, teach us to pray.” (St. Luke xi. 1.) Many a time had they seen their divine Master at prayer, seen Him praying with such rapt devotion, such warmth of fervor that the mere sight of Him moved the soul to its depths, and caused them to desire above all things to learn how to pray of One who Himself understood so well what prayer ought to be. Jesus grants their request and teaches them the Our Father. He Himself repeats it to them; thus the first time that the Our Father ascends from earth to Heaven, it issues from the lips of an incarnate God. Proceed to meditate on the different parts of this prayer, keeping at the same time before your eyes your divine Example.
1st. Consider the depth and beauty of the Lord’s prayer. The words which compose it are few, yet this prayer, which the Son of God teaches us, is most comprehensive in depth and fulness of meaning. On the one hand it is so clear and simple that every child may learn to repeat it, and on the other, it is so abundant in mystery that it may be used and meditated upon for years without fathoming the abyss of wisdom and spirituality which it contains. When we repeat this prayer we speak to the Father in the words dictated to us by His Son. This fact alone suffices to give potency to our petitions, “for,” as St. Chrysostom says, “shall we not more readily find a gracious hearing, if we converse with the Father in the language His Son taught us? That prayer sounds familiar, not strange to the ear of God, which is couched in His own words.” In this prayer man – a needy suppliant for divine aid – for the first time addresses God by the consoling title of Father. Almighty God does, it is true, call Himself by that name in the Old Testament, in His character of Israel’s Creator and Preserver, but only in Christ is this name of Father as applied to the Most High really and fully true both as regards God and ourselves, since Jesus, the Son of God, became our Brother through His incarnation, and by our sacramental union with Him we are made members of His mystical body. And as in the second word of this wondrous prayer, Father, we find contained the main, the essential part of our faith, so in the preceding word, Our, lies the gist of the Christian moral code, the law of charity; for if we confess God to be the Father of all men, we must acknowledge all men to be our brethren. And when we proceed to say: Who art in Heaven, we express in these words the expectation of Faith, the reward of charity; we raise the eyes of Christian hope to the regions where our Father dwells, whither the longings of us who are His children tend, the Heaven where He lives and reigns eternally. How wondrously rich in meaning is the introductory clause of this prayer! Let us now consider the several petitions of which it is composed.
2d. Hallowed be Thy name. The name of God is in itself holy; but we pray that it may be hallowed in us and by us, by our knowledge of God as Supreme Sanctity becoming ever deeper and truer, by our learning to love Him and extol Him above all things; and we ask this of the Father of all men not only for ourselves but for all our fellow men. How often, my soul, you have repeated the words, Hallowed be Thy name, without thinking of what you were saying. Consider how at the self-same moment, while you who ought to pay great reverence to the name of God in your prayer, are alas! uttering it carelessly and thoughtlessly, this holy name is being dishonored, profaned, blasphemed by thousands wittingly and willingly. At the self-same moment, while you repeat merely by rote the words: Hallowed be Thy name, how many are appearing before God’s judgment-seat who, having lived as heathens upon earth, have never known that name, than which there is none other given unto men whereby we must be saved. (Acts iv. 11.) Think upon these things, and when next you say in your prayers: Hallowed be Thy name, repeat this petition with the threefold intention, first, that the name of God may never be profaned by yourself or by others through impatience or sinful actions, never taken in vain or blasphemed in oaths. In the second place, pray that His holy name may be made known to all, Jews and pagans, Turks and other unbelievers; finally pray that a blessing may rest upon the labors of all who strive to extend the knowledge of that name; and then you will not utter the words: Hallowed be Thy name so carelessly as you have done heretofore.
3d. Consider the second petition: Thy kingdom come. We know that God Almighty, King of ages immortal, reigns in honor and glory for ever and ever. (I. Tim. i. 17.) Hence it is not in regard to Him that we are told to pray for the advent of His kingdom. But we pray that His kingdom may come for us, the kingdom promised us by the Father and purchased for us by the Passion of Christ. God has indeed a fourfold kingdom, a fourfold dominion. First there is the dominion which is His as Creator, which extends over the whole universe, over all created things. Secondly He governs all rational creatures, that is, mankind, in the kingdom of grace as their Redeemer and Sanctifier. Thirdly He reigns in an especial manner as the King of Heaven in the realms of the blessed. Finally, after the last judgment God will enter upon that one eternal kingdom, in which He will be all in all, wherein the angels and the elect will rule with Him in eternal glory; and the reprobate, in everlasting torment, will own His sway and the justice of His chastisements. Now there are many who repudiate His authority, who rebel against Him, but then, after the day of judgment, all, Christians and pagans, saints and sinners, will bow down before the Lord of hosts, and of His kingdom, His sceptre, there shall be no end. Think of this, my soul, when you repeat the words: Thy kingdom come; and let your earnest petition be that to you and all men His kingdom may come; the kingdom of grace here, the kingdom of glory hereafter.
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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