On the Mother of Dolors at the Time of Our Lord’s Death.
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 Mother of Dolors at the Time of Our Lord’s Death.
On this day, which is dedicated to the Mother of God, look once again on the Blessed Virgin. Picture her to yourself as she stands beneath the cross, and lifts her eyes, dimmed with tears, to her beloved Son. She has stood there beneath the cross of her only Son for three hours, like Him suffering and silent, with a courage which is truly heroic, and a steadfast fortitude little short of the miraculous. But now the bitterest moment of all is approaching, the moment fraught with the intensest anguish a mother’s heart can know; Jesus, her Son, is at the point of death. Keep this affecting scene before your mind while you consider the following points:
1st. Jesus when expiring bows His head. “When the loving Lord of life” we quote from the narrative of Catharine Emmerich “paid by His death the debt of suffering that sinners owed, when, as man, He commended His soul into the hands of His God and Father, and delivered His body into the power of death, the cold sweat of dissolution broke out on that sacred form mangled by blows; His body assumed the livid, ghastly hue of death; a shiver of agony convulsed His frame, His cheeks fell in, His features wore a pinched appearance, His blood shot, blood-laden eyes opened once more ere they closed for ever; for the last time He raised His thorn-crowned head, and a few moments later, in the act of expiring, inclined it in the direction of His Mother.” Here consider how individuals who are warmly attached to one another commonly take leave of one another with a silent, expressive look, a gentle inclination of the head. Now although our Lord had bestowed upon the world benefits so numerous, so inexpressibly great, yet those from whom He could take an affectionate farewell were few in number. Almost all those who stood around His cross were enemies, inveterate enemies. There was only one who watched His soul depart, one who clung to Him with an infinite, a tender, a maternal affection, the Blessed Virgin Mary. For her His parting salutation was principally meant, and she understood the love that the last motion of His divine head was intended to express. Ask yourself, my soul, whether, had you been standing upon Calvary, supposing yourself in the same spiritual state in which you now are, should you have been among the friends of Jesus, to whom He bade that last farewell?
2d. Consider what anguish that farewell caused to Mary. Alas, what did she part with at that moment? Mary, He who is thy life is dying, thy comfort is departing, thou art losing the chief object on which thy affection centres here below. What a painful farewell! Immerse yourself, my soul, during this hour of meditation, in the bitter ocean of your Mother’s sorrows. What must she have felt, what must she have suffered when she beheld the Child expire whom she loved so fondly? If all the regions around Bethlehem resounded with lamentations when “Rachel wept for her children and refused to be comforted because they are not” (Jer. xxxi. 15); if David in his grief at the death of his son, the godless son who rebelled against him, exclaimed with tears: “ Absalom, my son, my son! “ (II. Kings xix. 4), judge what must have been the measure of the grief that most loving Mother felt at parting from the sweetest of sons. “ At that instant,” we read in the meditations of a contemplative, “the hands of His Mother seemed paralyzed, her eyes grew dim, a death-like pallor overspread her countenance, her limbs gave way beneath her, she sank to the ground” in a swoon perhaps, the effect of her grief and anguish? No; although her soul was pierced, was cruelly torn by this parting, she bore this sorrow bravely for the love of God. My soul, you too in consecrating yourself to God must bid farewell to the world and to all that you have ever held most dear; you must part from father and mother, brothers and sisters. That is most painful, most grievous to human nature. Or you have perhaps become attached to your surroundings, you love the convent in which you live, you are fond of your fellow Religious, you take a deep interest in the souls committed to your charge; all at once the order comes for you to go elsewhere, and you have to take leave of all. The parting is indeed painful, it costs you many a pang, but if this trial comes upon you, do not be cast down; look up to Mary and learn of her how to carry out the counsels of the great ascetic: “Sometimes it behooves thee to use violence, and manfully resist the sensitive appetite, nor to regard what the flesh likes and what it dislikes, but rather to make it thy care that, even though unwilling, it may become subject to the spirit.” (Imit. B. iii. ch. 11.)
3d. Consider how after Jesus death Mary’s heart no longer dwelt on earth, but there where her divine Son was; and how from that time forward the only longing, the sole desire of that heart was to be with Him where He had gone. For, as Holy Scripture says, “where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also” (St. Matt. vi. 21), and the Apostle, with the same holy yearning, exclaims: “I have a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.” (Phil. i. 23.) Such should be the longing, the yearning of your heart, my soul, after you have taken leave of the world. This is pre-eminently the mark of a true Priest, a true Religious, as St. Bonaventure observes, to be animated by so great, so ardent a love of God, as to be almost unable to live apart from Him and to desire nothing more fervently than to be released from the prison of the body in order to attain to the beatific vision of His divine countenance. Is that the case with you? How would you meet death if it came to you to-day, if it came now? Should you be dismayed, and consider that it had come too soon? If so, you are no true Religious, for when brought face to face with death, the pious monk ought to be ready to exclaim joyfully as St. Francis did: “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Thy name; the just wait for me until Thou reward me.” (Ps. cxli. 8.)
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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