On the Christian’s Death to the World.
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 Christian’s Death to the World.
Represent to yourself our Lord, who lovingly calls to you, saying: “Follow Me.” What could be more tender, more pressing than this invitation which your God, your Redeemer addresses to you. Who, hearing it, could turn away and with a stubborn heart disregard it? Yet remember this, it is no easy matter to follow Christ. The road wherein He leads you is the way of the cross, His goal is the death of the cross. Therefore whoso follows Him must walk with Him in the way of the cross, must die with Him as He died on the cross. He must die a mystic death; in a word, he must be crucified, dead to the world, or as St. Francis said, a dead man. What is meant by this? Let us proceed to explain it.
1st. The dead man has indeed all his five senses, but he has no longer the use of them. He is still in the world, but he sees and hears nothing of what goes on around him, he cannot speak, he cannot feel. Thus it is precisely with the Christian, the Religious. To them may be applied in a good sense the Psalmist’s words: “They have mouths and speak not; they have eyes and see not; they have ears and hear not” (Ps. cxiii. 5, 6); they live in the world, but they are as if dead; their senses are without perception for the things of the world. This is as it ought to be. As the pious Cassian says: “He who would attain perfection, and be continually recollected in spirit, must be blind, deaf and dumb. For if the doors of the senses are completely closed, the soul will not contract any stain by contact with the things of the world, and will hold intercourse with God the more freely and unreservedly.” St. Bernard was thus mortified; for almost the whole of a day he had been walking on the shores of a lake, and yet when later on, those who had accompanied him were talking of the lake, he asked with surprise of what lake they were speaking. As for you, you allow such liberty to your senses, you look at and listen to all the frivolities of the world, consequently you are by no means dead to the world, and it would be well for you if you were to follow more closely the counsels of St. Dorotheus: Accustom yourself to observe custody of the senses; for to let one’s eyes wander to vain things which do not concern one, is the ruin of all the good that is done in the cloister.
2d. Consider that a dead man has no will of his own. One may do with him whatever one chooses. It is a matter of perfect indifference to him whether he is clothed in gold and silken garments, or wrapped in rags; whether he is laid on his back or on his face, whether he is buried as a prince or a pauper. This is what you should be like, if you are a Christian, a Religious dead to the world. In a certain sense you ought to have no will of your own. You ought to acquiesce without the slightest opposition in whatever God, or your Superior, would do with you. You ought not to consider any habiliments too mean, any bed too hard, any office too onerous, any place too unattractive for you. How far you are from such complete mortification of your own will! Once when St. Francis had given blessed Brother Giles permission to take up his abode in whatever province, whatever monastery he might prefer, the Brother availed himself of this permission; but before four days were past, he grew uneasy, and he begged the saint not to leave him any longer to follow his own will, but to indicate to him the place where he should remain. And the Seraphic Father himself said: “I desire to obey my Superior and to be so completely subject to him, as never to go anywhere or do anything except in obedience to his will, because he is my master.” That was truly being dead in Christ. What are you, my soul?
3d. Consider that only the body of the dead man remains on earth, while the spirit is already with God in Heaven. Thus it ought to be with the Christian, the Religious who is dead to the world. He ought in like manner only to be on earth as far as his body is concerned; his mind, his aspirations and his yearnings ought all to be fixed upon Heaven. We should feel and regard ourselves as pilgrims and strangers upon earth, “for they that say these things,” the Apostle declares, “do signify that they seek a country.” (Heb. xi. 14.) We ought to exclaim with St. Augustine: “When, Lord, shall my exile come to an end? When wilt Thou take me to Thyself? When shall I come and appear before the face of God?” (Ps. xli. 3.) Is this your desire, your entreaty, my soul? Alas! it is to be feared that you dwell on the earth not only with your body, but with your soul. “My soul hath cleaved to the pavement” (Ps. cxviii. 25), David was forced to declare, and you will be fain to re-echo his ejaculation, for your mind is engrossed with earthly interests, almost as much perhaps as if you were a man of the world. Seculars consider you in a certain sense as dead, but you are not, otherwise you would say with the author of the Imitation: “All temporal things are no goods at all but rather burdensome to me; it is truly a misery to live upon earth. The more a man desires to be spiritual, the more this present life becomes bitter to him. For to eat and drink, to watch, sleep, rest, labor, and to be subject to other necessities of nature is truly a great misery and affliction to a devout man.” (Imit. B. i. ch. 22.) Why, my soul, do you not feel these things to be a misery and a burden? Because you are not yet dead, because both your body and your soul still cleave to earth.
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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