On the Wine Mingled with Gall Which Was Given to Our Lord Upon the Cross.
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 Wine Mingled with Gall Which Was Given to Our Lord Upon the Cross.
On this day, when you are reminded of our Lord’s bitter Passion and death, contemplate Him at the moment when He reached the summit of Calvary, exhausted, wearied unto death. He stretches out His hand to take the goblet offered Him, to revive Him in some degree. Imagine the joy a traveller feels, a traveller who is overcome with heat and parched with thirst, at the sight of a cool, sparkling stream; or think of the relief experienced by a sick man when, after he has waited long and patiently, a charitable individual approaches his bedside with a refreshing beverage. Try to realize this, and then consider the following points.
1st. The torture inflicted on our Lord by thirst was bitter, but no less bitter was the draught offered to quench that thirst. Recall briefly to mind all that He had gone through since the night of His agony on Mount Olivet until the time of which we are speaking. The loss of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the scourging at the pillar, and the crowning with thorns must have occasioned a burning thirst; this was aggravated by the scorching heat of the sun, which, beating upon Him as He was dragged from the tribunal of one judge to that of another, and finally made to follow the way of the cross, rendered His sufferings more acute, and brought to a climax His need of a refreshing, invigorating drink to assuage His thirst and recruit His strength. Yet see, not a drop of cool water, not a mouthful of generous wine is given to the tortured Victim; only a draught of intense bitterness, for it is mingled with nauseous, disgusting gall. O suffering Saviour! how cruelly Thou dost expiate, how greatly Thou dost put to shame the daintiness of my palate! We, wretched sinners that we are, are so greedy, so particular, so difficult to please in regard to our food and drink; we find it so difficult to practise self-denial, we complain at once if we have to endure the slightest privation, real or imaginary and Jesus, our Lord, in His burning thirst has nothing but gall and vinegar to drink. Reflect on this, my soul. St. Augustine, St. Bernard, extraordinarily temperate as they were at table, declared it to be difficult to exclude sensuality, and we consider ourselves as most mortified individuals though our fare is by no means poor in quality or scanty in quantity. St. Francis once was obliged to remind his sons that they had to guard against excess in fasting rather than in eating what would he say now? Be warned to-day, and for your edification turn your attention to the draught of gall given to your Lord; and if ever you suffer from the want of refreshment, remember the following legend, which we read in the chronicles of the Brothers Minor. Two pious Religious on a journey, passing through a desert region were much tormented by thirst. All at once they came upon a clear, cool spring, beside which a young boy was sitting and weeping. When they asked the child why he was so sorrowful, when they were so glad to find this welcome stream, he answered: “Ought I not to weep, for I can quench my thirst with refreshing water, whereas Jesus, my Lord, had only bitter gall.” As he spoke the vision vanished; the two Brothers went on their way, but neither of them was again heard to complain of thirst.
2d. Wine was given to our Lord, but it was mingled with gall. Think of these two liquids when they are separate. How sweet, how welcome, how delicious a draught of wine is to one who is thirsty, and on the other hand how nauseous, how revolting is gall! Without the latter the goblet offered to Christ would have been a grateful refreshment to Him, but through being thus mingled it only added to our Lord’s sufferings. The wine of its nature is intended to revive and invigorate, but this mixture does the very reverse. How often, my soul, do you in the supernatural order offer to your Lord something which in itself is good wine, but is mingled with bitter gall. Are not your good works a choice wine? True, but they are mingled with the gall of ambition and the desire to please. Are not your prayers a sweet wine? True, but they are mingled with the gall of wandering, uncharitable thoughts. Is not your earnestness and zeal in the care of souls, in the observance of the Rule, the maintenance of discipline, a pure, unadulterated wine? True, but it is mingled with the gall of self-seeking, of undue severity, of unkindness and exaggeration. Leave off mixing your wine in this manner; offer to the Lord a pure, a virgin wine; offer Him that pure, unmixed love of which St. Bernard speaks when he says: Love when real is sufficient to itself; to be permitted to love the object beloved is the only guerdon it asks. We ought to love God as the bridegroom loves the bride, to love Him for His own sake, and this love ought to constitute our sole joy and felicity, for love is its own recompense and reward. Beyond itself it seeks no reason for loving, it asks no advantage. It is enough for love to love. I love, because I love; I love for the sake of loving.
3d. Consider what is the chalice our Lord offers to man, who gave Him gall to drink. It is His precious blood wondrous, most touching return! Jesus stands languishing, fainting on Golgotha, His parched lips thirst for a drop of cooling water, and alas! man gives Him nothing but bitter gall. Our Lord is now continually in our midst, spiritually thirsting for our good works, and alas! what do men offer Him? Either gall, thus adding sin to sin; or (and these are the better sort) others do indeed give Him the desired draught, but it is mingled with gall; they offer this bitter beverage to Him who gives us His sacred, precious blood to drink, who bids us draw from the fount of living water, the river of life eternal; who has refreshed us, who continues often to refresh us with the celestial wine of the Holy Eucharist. Meditate upon this wondrous, this deeply affecting contrast, my soul; weigh it attentively and perhaps it may awaken within your breast that emotion which the consideration of the two first points failed to excite. Perhaps you will then make a special resolution on this day and on every recurring Friday to offer your Saviour in His thirst a spiritual refreshment by devoutly making the way of the cross.
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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