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 name of “Woman,” Whereby Our Lord Upon the Cross Addressed His Mother.
On this, the last day of the week, we again turn our attention to Mary. Imagine that you see the Blessed Virgin standing beneath the cross, that you see with what anguish she notes the signs of her Son’s approaching dissolution, the deadly pallor of His features, His labored breath, His fast-glazing eye, and that at this very moment the livid lips of the dying Saviour are parted once more, to speak for the last time to His Mother; His words are these: “Woman, behold thy son.” (St. John xix. 26.)
1st. Jesus addresses His Mother by the appellation “Woman” for her trial. “O most kind Jesus,” exclaims St. Chtysostom, “why art Thou ashamed to own her to be Thy Mother who nurtured Thee so lovingly, who constantly served Thee with such maternal affection?” The saint wonders that our Lord in taking leave of Mary should deny her the title of Mother, and St. Bernard exclaims in similar surprise: “Mary, does not this speech: Woman, behold thy son, wound thy maternal heart more deeply than a sharp sword?” But thus He is accustomed to act, who for our instruction has said: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways.” (Is. Iv. 8.) With the thief who had long offended against Him with grievous sins, the Saviour converses in the most consoling and condescending manner; whereas to His immaculate Mother, to her who throughout His whole life has devoted herself to His service with indescribable affection, and who has known no sin, He speaks with apparent harshness, not even giving her the tender name of Mother, but addressing her as if she were a stranger. Pause, my soul, and consider that God is wont to treat those for whom He reserves a great and high destiny, who belong to the number of His elect and are most beloved by Him, with apparent coldness, for a season, and to bestow on them less affection, or to speak more correctly, to show fewer signs of His favor to them than to those who have offended Him. This truth you see exemplified here, and you see it times without number in the lives of the saints. Impress this truth on your mind for your consolation. Perhaps you feel this, and it appears hard and unkind; that of late you have experienced less peace, less joy, less consolation, than you ever have felt since you forsook the way of transgression and entered the service of God. But do not be cast down on this account; look at Mary, whom our Lord loved so tenderly, loved with the affection of a son, and for whom He had already prepared the most glorious throne in the Heavens, and whom in spite of this, He from the cross addressed simply as “Woman.” Listen to the words of Thomas a Kempis: “Such a trial is often more profitable than if thou wert always to have prosperity according to thy will. For the merits of a man are not to be estimated by his having many visions or consolations, but by his being grounded in true humility and full of divine charity.” (Imit. B. iii. ch. 7.)
2d. Consider how according to St. Chrysostom’s opinion, our Lord when upon the cross addressed Mary as “Woman” out of compassion, and a desire to spare her feelings. He did this, the saint says, that He might not wound her heart more deeply by calling her His Mother. What painful thoughts and feelings would have been awakened in her breast on hearing the name of Mother once more from the lips of her expiring Son! For this reason our Lord avoided making use of that title and merely called her “Woman.” If you adopt this second explanation, my soul, consider that it is a characteristic of truly charitable souls to avoid with the utmost solicitude every word, every allusion howsoever slight, which might cause more pain to hearts that are already afflicted and suffering, and that the real Christian, although he does not shrink from rebuking and censuring when this is necessary, is careful never to wound the feelings of another. Are you one of those who act thus tenderly? Examine yourself on this point, and lay to heart the following incident which is found in the annals of the Franciscan Order. A certain Brother, having allowed himself to speak harshly and bitterly to one of his Brethren in the presence of a nobleman of Assisi, when he perceived the pain he had caused to the Brother whom he had offended, in order to atone for the scandal he had given to the nobleman, he put some mud into his mouth, and said: Swallow this mud, mouth, since you dared to vomit forth gall and venom against thy brother. The nobleman was greatly edified. Have you perhaps cause to imitate the penance of that Brother?
3d. Our Lord calls Mary “Woman” to do her honor. St. Cyril says that our Lord gave her this title in order that all the world might know her to be the woman of whom God spoke when He promised: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed.” (Gen. iii. 15.) This is consequently a glorious and illustrious title. As a woman, the first woman, the mother of an ill-fated posterity stood beside the tree which caused the ruin of the human race, so now beneath the tree which was to be to us a tree of life, another woman stands, Mary, who was to be the spiritual mother of a new and happy race. The woman who wrought destruction is now confronted with the woman who brings salvation. Thus it is that a name, an appellation which at first strikes strangely on the ear when applied to Mary by her crucified Son, receives a sublime signification, is found to be a treasury of spiritual meaning. Meditate deeply on this subject, and learn from the “Woman” standing beneath the cross how you may at all times and in all places crush the head of the wicked serpent. Perhaps you have some perverse propensity, some secret passion, which weighs more or less upon your conscience; courage, tread upon the head of that serpent as did the “Woman” who stood beneath the cross, go to confession this very day, and if you experience any difficulty in this matter, be not dismayed, there is one who is ready to help you, the one to whom Jesus when dying said: “Woman, behold thy son!”
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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