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.
Imagine that Jesus, the divine Teacher, is now present in our midst as He formerly was amongst His disciples, and that you hear from His lips those eternal truths, truths, of wondrous depth and beauty, which He teaches to the people “as one having power, and not as the Scribes and Pharisees.” With the form of your heavenly Master vividly before your eyes proceed to meditate upon His words.
1st. Consider His exhortation: “Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands.” (St. Luke xii. 35.) Our Lord here alludes to an eastern custom. If the ruler of a house was absent at a marriage ceremony, it was usual for his servants to stand on the lookout for his return with their long upper garment girded, that is tucked up, to enable them to go more quickly to meet their master, holding lighted torches, ready at the first intimation of his approach to place their services at his disposal. In like manner when our Lord returns from the celestial nuptials which He celebrates in Heaven with His Bride, the Church triumphant, when He comes again to judgment, we ought to be standing in readiness to receive Him, our “loins girded and burning lamps in our hands.” According to St. Gregory, the girding of the loins signifies nothing more or less than continence. “Our Lord,” says St. Augustine, “by bidding us gird our loins teaches us to refrain from fixing our affections on earthly things.” Those only who are chaste, temperate, detached from this world, experience no difficulty, no restraint when called upon to meet their Lord, for they are not encumbered and impeded in walking by the folds of their long and flowing garments, attachment to the things of earth. Thus made ready, we ought in the second place to hold aloft in the nocturnal darkness of this, our mortal existence, a “burning lamp,” the symbol of the flame of our devotion, fed with meditation on the eternal truths as a lamp is fed by oil, that the bright light it emits may be seen by our Lord immediately upon His coming. The life of the vigilant servant of the heavenly Master of the household is a life withdrawn by abstinence and mortification from the interests of this passing world, and tending by means of devout prayer and constant meditation to the eternal and celestial country. Is your life such a life as this?
2d. Consider the second admonition our Lord adds: “Be you yourselves like to men who wait for their lord when he shall return from the wedding, that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately.” (v. 36.) Thus, like servants waiting and watching for their lord on a dark night, not venturing, however weary and sleepy they may be, to close their eyes even for a short time, lest they should be completely mastered by sleep, so we ought never to relax our vigilance for a single moment or in regard to the least matter, but always and everywhere keep in mind the coming of our Lord, that is, the hour of our death. We shall find that most useful. “If,” says the blessed Brother Giles, “ if the thought of death were ever present to the eye of the soul, if the remembrance of the final judgment, of the chastisements and torment of the lost were continually borne in mind, we should never dream of committing sin and offending God.” Reflect on these words, my soul, they are uttered by a watchful servant, and then make this firm resolution: Every night, when I lay down to rest, I will cross my hands upon my breast and stretch myself upon my bed in the position of one who is laid in his coffin, and I will for a short space think within myself how it would be with me if I had died in the course of the day that is just ended; and when I awake in the morning, I will imagine that death has knocked at my door and bidden me arise; and I will spend that day as if I knew it to be my last. This practice will undoubtedly contribute greatly to enable you when your Lord really “knocketh” to “open to Him immediately” and readily; so that you may not, as those who are unprepared, turn pale with terror, and taken by surprise, hesitate and delay to open; exclaiming in sorrowful accents: “My Lord has come too early, alas too early!”
3d. “Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching.” (v. 37.) Jesus does not merely admonish His disciples, He makes promises to them, He declares those to be blessed who obey His behest. “Amen, I say to you, that he will gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and passing will minister unto them.” He will requite His servants for their faithful attention to duty with extraordinary condescension and favor, and will fulfil on their behalf the promise given in St. Matthew’s gospel (viii. 11): “Many shall come from the east and from the west and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven.” Reflect upon this, my soul. It is undoubtedly difficult and arduous to be ever on the watch, constantly upon one’s guard, never to venture to relax one’s attention, to unbend the bow, to lay down one’s weapons. Yet do not lose heart; the labor is great, and it is followed by a great recompense. Listen to what our Lord says to us in the Imitation: “Oh! hadst thou seen the everlasting crowns of the saints in heaven, and in how great glory they now triumph who once appeared contemptible in this life . . . Thou wouldst not covet the glad days of this life, but rather rejoice to suffer tribulation for God. . . . Lift up therefore thy face to heaven; behold I and all My saints with Me who in this world have had a great conflict, now rejoice, are now comforted, are now secure, are now at rest; and they shall for all eternity abide with Me in the kingdom of My Father.” (B. iii. ch. 47.)
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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