On the Wedding-Garment.
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 Wedding-Garment.
Represent to yourself the moment described by our Lord in the parable, when the king entered the hall where the marriage-feast was held, and surveyed the assembled guests with kindly condescension. Suddenly a frown contracts his brow, the genial expression of his countenance is changed to one of grave displeasure, he descries amongst his guests one who has not on a wedding-garment. For thus we read in St. Matthew’s gospel (xxii. 11): “And the king went in to see the guests, and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding-garment.” Keep this scene before your mind whilst meditating on this subject.
1st. The wedding-garment represents sanctifying grace. The King is God the Father; the Son whose marriage feast is held is Jesus. When He became man, the divine nature was espoused to human nature, and afterwards He celebrated His nuptials with the Church, His Bride; in that Church the marriage-feast is made ready, the holy sacraments, pre-eminently the “Sacrament of sacraments,” the Holy Eucharist. And when those who were invited first, the Jews, slighted that banquet, the Gentiles were called to it, and the room, the Church of God, was filled. Rich and poor, high and low, entered alike; no one was excluded on account of race, sex or age; one condition alone was imposed on each and every one who desired to partake of the king’s marriage supper: he must of necessity wear a wedding-garment, i.e., he must put off the old man, and put on the new man; he must present himself either with the stainless robe of baptismal innocence, or with the garment of forgiveness obtained in the Sacrament of Penance. Thus it will be seen that the wedding-garment is nothing else than sanctifying grace, which alone gives us the right, renders us worthy to sit down at the heavenly banquet, worthy to partake of the table of the Lord here below, and hereafter to enjoy to all eternity the feast of celestial felicity. Are you also arrayed in the wedding garment? And if not, are you not afraid of the King’s angry countenance, of the look of wrath He fixed on the delinquent in the parable?
2d. Consider the wedding-garment more closely; that is to say, consider what the wedding-garment, what sanctifying grace really is. Bethink yourself of the first man, after God had “formed him out of the slime of the earth,” before He had breathed into him the breath of life, and made him a living soul. He might unquestionably have endowed him – imagine for a moment that it was so – with a merely natural soul. Possessed of such a soul Adam would have been nothing more than a natural man. But God did not create man in the order of nature simply; He raised him to a higher state, to the supernatural order, for He did not breathe into Adam’s body a purely natural soul, but a soul that was endowed with sanctifying grace; consequently a soul equipped with higher properties and capabilities, a soul ennobled, made to God’s image, and bearing in itself some portion of the divine nature. Yet it must not be supposed that through the gift of sanctifying grace the soul was so transformed as to become another, no it does not lose its identity, but it is changed; it is the same soul ennobled, made more like unto God, nearer to His image and semblance. The life given to the soul with sanctifying grace is a higher, a supernatural, to a certain extent a divine life; when this grace is lacking to the soul, the soul is dead, dead to God, dead for Heaven, for it lacks the divine element that renders it worthy of union with God, it lacks the heavenly quality which makes it fit for Heaven. In order to understand this better, think of a wild apple tree. If it is grafted with a shoot of a choice kind of apple, the original tree remains, but its nature is changed; from a wild apple tree it becomes a cultivated one, and is fit to be transplanted from the wood where it grew to the garden of the royal palace. And in like manner you who are in yourself a wild fruit-tree, by the operation of sanctifying grace are grafted and made a good tree, deserving of a place in the garden of God, that is, in His Church here below and in His Heaven above. Meditate attentively on the nature of this wondrous grace, . . . then pray with the great ascetic: “Lord my God, who hast created me after Thine own image and likeness, grant me this grace which Thou hast shown to be so great, and so necessary to salvation.” (Imit. B. iii. ch. 55.)
3d. Consider the question which the king addresses to the guest: “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding-garment?” (v. 12.) The mere entrance into the banqueting-hall, the mere fact of being a guest is not enough by any means. Your being a member of the Church, and claiming for yourself the name of Christian and Catholic will certainly not suffice to save you from the pitiless sentence pronounced by the king: “Cast him into the exterior darkness.” (v. 13.) One thing alone protects you from that terrible fate, and that is the wedding-garment. Whosoever has once entered into the hall where the marriage-feast is held, i.e., the Church, must have that garment. There is no excuse that can be alleged for him who has it not, for mark that the culprit makes no reply to the king’s inquiry. The Gospel narrative simply says: “He was silent.” No wonder at that! We know that it is customary in the east to present everyone who is invited to the royal table with a court dress, called a caftan, and thus even the most poverty-stricken individual is enabled to appear at a marriage in habiliments fitted for the occasion. Therefore the offender had no possible excuse, in fact, he condemns himself by his silence. Now, my soul, ponder this well: Were you to die now and enter into the celestial marriage-feast without a wedding-garment, although the King of kings has bestowed on you not once only, but countless times, the magnificent apparel of sanctifying grace, what would your excuse be when the question was put to you: “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding-garment?” Do you not greatly fear lest it would also in that case be said of you: “But he was silent”? Rouse yourself then, my soul; there is yet time; go this very day, if need be, to confession, and obtain the wedding-garment for yourself.
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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