On the Preparations Made for the Last Supper.
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 Preparations Made for the Last Supper.
The time was drawing nearer and nearer when our Lord would have to leave His beloved disciples. But before parting from them, He desired once more to eat the pasch with them, the last pasch. Imagine as far as you can the frame of mind with which the God-man made preparation, or rather gave directions how preparation was to be made for the last paschal feast; imagine the feelings, half sad, half joyful that filled His soul, knowing as He did everything beforehand, foreseeing the vast importance of all that was to happen at the approaching festival.
1st. Consider that it was enjoined upon the Jews as an obligation under the Old Law to keep the feast of the Passover. Although our Lord was about to annul the Old Covenant and substitute the New Dispensation in its place, yet it was His will to conform to the Old Law and therefore mark this, for it is a thought fertile in instruction for us He determined to close the Old Dispensation and inaugurate the new with an act of obedience. Now observe that as our Lord was already threatened with imprisonment and death, in order to be sure of fulfilling the commandment, He made all the arrangements for celebrating the paschal feast earlier than was customary, and told His disciples beforehand how they could most quickly and easily prepare the paschal lamb. Herein our Lord gives us a beautiful example not merely of obedience in general, He also teaches us in particular that not only ought we to practise obedience whenever it is a strict and bounden duty, but that we ought also to fulfil the command laid upon us even when exceptional difficulties might excuse us from accomplishing it, or unforeseen circumstances afford a just reason for obtaining a dispensation. From our Lord’s example we learn that we ought to provide betimes for the removal of the impediments that may stand in the way of our obedience. This strict and perfect manner of yielding obedience is a note of the true Christian, the perfect Religious, who is far removed from a perfunctory or servile spirit. For instance, supposing some task is allotted you, some act enjoined upon you to which your inclination is strongly opposed, but which is highly advantageous to your neighbor, your Community, or your convent. You find that an obstacle has arisen which would absolve you from the duty of obedience, but which would deprive your neighbor, your convent, of the anticipated advantage or profit. How will you act in such a case if you are perfect? Undoubtedly you will do as Jesus did, and in order to fulfil the command in spite of all difficulties, you will set about your work more promptly and at an earlier date than you would otherwise have done, knowing that there is scarcely anything that we can do more pleasing to God than, undeterred by obstacles, to act on the precept of the prophet: “Obedience is better than sacrifices, and to harken rather than to offer the fat of rams.” (I. Kings xv. 22.)
2d. Observe to whom our Lord entrusts the preparation of the paschal lamb. We read in St. Luke: “And He sent Peter and John, saying: Go and prepare for us the pasch that we may eat.” (St. Luke xxii. 8.) Our Lord’s choice of these two apostles in particular to make the necessary preparations for the Lord’s Supper is not without a mystic signification. Peter is the man of faith, the rock of unwavering belief, John is the disciple of charity. Hence Peter and John are sent to make ready the paschal lamb, for the purpose of teaching us that we can prepare ourselves in no better manner for the reception of the Holy Eucharist, than by awaking beforehand within our breast the faith of St. Peter, and kindling in our heart the love of St. John. Were you always to approach the altar with the lively faith of St. Peter, did you realize fully to yourself who it is who comes to you, and could your cold heart catch something of St. John’s glowing charity, surely you would have less need to lament in the words of the Imitation: “I am often ashamed and confounded with myself, Lord, that I approach with such lukewarmness and coldness to Thine altar and to the table of Holy Communion; that I remain so dry and without affection of heart, that I am not wholly set on fire in Thy presence, my God, nor so mightily drawn and affected as many devout persons have been.” (Imit. B. iv. ch. 14.) Those devout persons sent Peter and John previously to prepare the feast, they made acts of lively faith and awakened their charity in pious meditation. Why do you not do likewise, my soul?
3d. Consider in whose house our Lord directs the paschal feast to be prepared. “And He said to them: Behold, as you go into the city, there shall meet you a man carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And you shall say to the good man of the house: The Master saith to thee, where is the guest-chamber where I may eat the pasch with My disciples?” (v. 10, 11.) This simple inquiry is sufficient. The mere message from our Lord, “I desire to eat the pasch in thy house,” is quite enough to determine the owner of the house to place his large, well-furnished dining-room entirely at the Master’s disposal. Learn a lesson from this man. A hint is all that is needed to induce him to set open his whole house to our Lord; and for you a little thing is enough to induce you to give admittance to the evil one; you leave our Lord to stand and knock at the door, you have no time to attend to Him, you are not prepared to receive Him. Do you not know that the true Christian, the good Priest, the perfect Religious ought always to have a large dining-room furnished, that he ought at all times and in all places to be ready to receive our Lord? That the inquiry, “Where is the guest-chamber where I may eat the pasch with My disciples,” ought never to cause him embarrassment or confusion? My soul, it is your earnest desire to be holy here and happy hereafter. Well, you may confidently hope that this desire of your heart shall be fulfilled, at the moment when you go to Communion after making a good preparation; let your dispositions at that moment not be transitory, but permanent; that is to say be ready at any moment, like the good man in the Gospel, to receive our Lord, and then you may be certain that He will enter into your house.
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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