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 Washing of Feet.
Fix your eyes in imagination to-day on the persons assembled in the guest-chamber on Mount Sion, where the Last Supper is to be held. All present had just taken their places at table, our Lord and the twelve apostles, when our Lord rose up, and to the extreme surprise of His disciples, took a basin of water and prepared to wash their feet. Bear this scene in mind during your meditation.
1st. St. John thus narrates the incident: “Knowing that the Father had given Him all things into His hands, and that He came from God and goeth to God; He riseth from supper and layeth aside His garments, and having taken a towel, girdeth Himself.” (ch. xiii. 3, 4.) Thus our Lord acts as a servant, binding a linen towel round His waist, as servants did before washing the feet of the guests, if they were personages of distinction, according to the custom then prevalent in the east. Here let your mind dwell particularly upon this point on which St. John lays stress, that our Lord acted thus in full consciousness of His supreme dignity. Although He knew that He came from God and was about to go to God, He did not do as would be expected of one who was God and Lord, but fulfilled the office of a man and a servant. Do not fail to learn a lesson of the Saviour. He, the greatest and highest, supreme in Heaven and on earth, humbles Himself on this occasion to such an extent in order to teach us that the higher the dignity we fill, the more lowly we ought to be. The Wise Man of old says: “The greater thou art, the more humble thyself in all things, and thou shalt find grace before God.” (Ecclus. iii. 20.) If, my soul, you do not do so, if you pride yourself on your position, your gifts, even your virtues, listen to the words of St. Bonaventure: “The proud man is nothing else than a thief, for he appropriates to himself what is the property of another. He takes honor to himself which belongs to God alone.” Even St. Francis dreaded falling into this fault, so much so indeed that he frequently sent up this petition: “Lord, if it is Thy good pleasure to bestow Thy graces upon me, be Thou Thyself the guardian of them, for I cannot trust myself; I am an arch-robber who will very probably seize for himself all the riches that are Thine.” If a saint, and a saint so remarkable for his humility, speaks in this manner, what ought you to say, haughty sinner?
2d. Consider further the way in which our Lord acted. “After that, He putteth water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded.” (v. 5.) St. Chrysostom, commenting on this passage, bids us observe that after every one had taken his place at table, our Lord alone rises up. He does not content Himself with simply washing the disciples’ feet. He makes the same preparations for the task as a servant would have done. He girds Himself and Himself fills the basin with water. He gives no orders to anyone else, He does all Himself, alone and unaided. Reflect upon this, my soul. Jesus is not only humble in mind and in word, but also in deed; He practises the virtue of humility in its integrity and perfection. His will is to minister, without being ministered to in the slightest degree. He has every right to issue commands and give directions, but He does not choose to do so. Although He is Lord and Master, He acts as if He were a menial and a minister. What is your conduct in this respect? Probably the very reverse of what it ought to be. Perhaps you would rather command than obey, you prefer to rule rather than to serve. Take example to-day from our Lord, and often recall the saying of Brother Giles: “If any one desires to attain and retain perfect peace and tranquillity, let him see in every one his superior and consider himself to be subordinate and subject to all.”
3d. Consider that our Lord accomplishes this humility in a mystic sense for the benefit of the whole world in a far more exalted and marvellous manner. In order to prepare a salutary and purifying laver wherein all mankind might be cleansed, He laid aside the splendid and lustrous robe of glory that was His in Heaven, and girded Himself with the despicable garb of humility that He might, in the form of a servant, wash our souls clean in His own blood. When He was crucified He was stripped of His garments, and after His death He was wrapped in linen cloths, His whole Passion being for our spiritual cleansing. Meditate attentively upon this higher, spiritual signification of the washing of feet; give thanks to God for having prepared for you a laver wherein you may be purified and escape immersion in the pool of brimstone in hell. Forget not however, that pride and arrogance with all their lamentable consequences, were conquered by our Lord by means of abjection and humility; and urged by gratitude to Him, take the resolution to-day not to allow a single day to pass without making at least one act of humility.
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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