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 Love of Jesus Crucified for Man.
To-day the return of Friday again calls on you to contemplate the bitter Passion and death of Jesus Christ upon the cross. Raise your eyes therefore to the cross and there behold your dying Saviour; see His pitiable condition; He is covered with blood and wounds, racked with pain, in the agony of death, overwhelmed with grief and woe. Do you not perceive that in the moment of expiring He thinks of you; do you not hear His pallid lips speaking to you; can you resist the testimony of His pierced heart which says to you: “Behold how exceedingly I have loved mankind!” Launch out in thought on this ocean of love, the love of our crucified Lord for us, and meditate upon it attentively.
1st. In legendary lore we find the story of a king who was sick unto death. The skill of the physicians was powerless to arrest the disease; the life of the royal sufferer gradually ebbed away. Then another physician came who assured him that he would recover if a heart, fresh from a human body, were given to him. But where could the king obtain that remedy, unless by putting some one to death? In this moment of perplexity the queen voluntarily offered to supply the required remedy at the cost of her own life. This generous offer was not accepted, but the love which prompted it acted so powerfully upon the patient that it proved the best of medicine and actually effected his cure. The love that could make such a sacrifice was indeed great, but what was it in comparison with that of the crucified Redeemer? The queen offered her heart, her life, in will; our Lord offered His in deed; the queen was willing to make the sacrifice on behalf of a beloved consort; our Lord made the sacrifice of Himself for His foes, His murderers. O love unspeakable! Who can wonder that when meditating upon it our Seraphic Father St. Francis exclaimed in holy rapture: “Jesus Christ, my love, is crucified!” No, do not wonder at that; what should cause you real surprise is this, that you are so cold, so insensible to this love, that you will not give your whole heart to Him who gave His life for you, that you will not sacrifice to Him the corrupt inclinations of that heart.
2d. Consider how highly the ancients extolled the affection of the servant who, in order to save his master’s life at the sacrifice of his own, when the former was threatened with death, personated him and thus fell under the assassin’s sword. How deeply touched and affected his lord, who thus escaped death, must have been at such a proof of devoted affection! But what is this love, which we deem so amazing, compared with the love of the crucified Redeemer? The servant gave his life for his master, who had doubtless conferred many benefits upon him; our crucified Lord offered His life for subjects who had rebelled against Him, their Monarch. The servant suffered a speedy death for the sake of the master he loved, to whom he owed much, whereas our crucified Lord endured a death of ignominy and protracted torture on behalf of servants who were guilty of the blackest in gratitude towards Him, their Lord, their Father, their Creator. O love surpassing all other love! Can it be true, can it be possible that you make no return of love to this God of love? Why is God compelled actually to command you to love Him, who first so loved you? St. Augustine exclaims in astonishment that such a precept should be necessary: “Lord, Thou commandest me to love Thee, and if I fail to do so, Thy wrath is kindled against me, and Thou threatenest me with terrible penalties; as though it were not in itself misery enough not to love Thee!”
3d. Consider how great was the love which Alphonsus, the far-famed king of Aragon, showed to one of his soldiers. This man, one day, while crossing a river, fell from his horse and was in great danger of drowning. Seeing that none of his comrades went to his assistance, for they were all afraid lest the force of the current should carry them away, the king spurred his horse into the river, and at the risk of his own life succeeded in rescuing the man, who was only a common soldier. That was truly royal generosity, a deed of heroic magnanimity! What words can describe the gratitude of the soldier, his enthusiastic devotion to his rescuer, the earnest longing he felt for an opportunity of repaying so charitable an act in some manner, even at the cost of his life. Now reflect upon this, my soul: The king showed this charity to a fellow man, one of the same flesh and blood as himself, whereas the charity of our crucified Lord is the charity of the Creator, whose greatness is infinite, towards His sinful creatures. The king put his life in jeopardy for a soldier, who had done the same on countless occasions for his monarch, whereas our crucified Lord offered His life for those who had outraged and insulted Him. The king rescued from a watery grave a mortal man who must die sooner or later, whereas our crucified Lord rescues from the flames of hell the whole of mankind, who otherwise would be doomed to eternal perdition. Who can conceive such love? Who on the other hand can conceive the poor return you make for that love? You, a Priest, who are daily privileged to lean on the Saviour’s breast; you, a Religious, who daily in your mental prayer look into the depths of the ocean of divine love, are nevertheless so cold, so indifferent oh, blush with shame, and with fervent contrition of heart pray in the words of the seraphic saint: “Grant, Lord, that the sweetness and force of Thy ardent love may detach me from all that is earthly and may make of me a holocaust of charity”; or in the words of St. Augustine: “If, my God, I do not love Thee enough, grant that I may increase in Thy love. My God, who art Thyself all love, kindle in me the fire of Thy love.”
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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