On the Forty Days’ Fast of Our Lord.
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 Forty Days’ Fast of Our Lord.
To-day you are called to go out into the desert and in solemn stillness contemplate your Lord, as in this sacred seclusion, solitary and alone, He holds intercourse with His heavenly Father in prayer. There He remains for forty days, forty days of the most rigorous fasting. One day after another passes, yet Jesus takes no food; weeks go by, but no morsel passes the Saviour’s lips until forty days were ended; then He was hungry. O marvellous fast, full of instruction for us!
1st. Jesus fasts as an act of atonement for man’s unlawful excesses. Alas! it was the inordinate gratification of sensual appetite that brought on the human race all the untold misery from which Jesus came to redeem us. The sins we commit are every one of them acts of unlawful indulgence, and therefore He fitly begins His work of redemption with what is diametrically opposed to sensual indulgence, with fasting, in order by His abstinence to atone for the sins of mankind which arise from the inordinate desire for enjoyment. So you too, Christian, ought to fast as an atonement, an atonement for your craving for enjoyment, which displays itself in a threefold manner, as coveteousness, ambition, sensuality. And in fasting you ought not only to have the intention of expiating your own sins, but and this Religious and Priests should ever bear in mind, for it is what gives dignity to their vocation also of expiating the sins of your fellow men, who cannot or will not fast themselves. Think to yourself, to day I will fast, not for myself, but like Jesus, for this or that sinner, for this or that unhappy soul suffering on account of her inordinate desire for sensual gratification, and this thought will render fasting easier to yourself and more acceptable to God.
2d. Consider that Jesus fasts as a preparation for His career. As all the great saints fasted previously to taking in hand the work God commissioned them to accomplish, as we see Moses fasted, Elias fasted, St. John the Baptist fasted in view of preparing themselves for their work, so our Lord also fasted. His task was to defeat the devil and overthrow his kingdom. Satan founded that kingdom first of all on indulgence in unlawful gratifications, now the great Conqueror comes and founds His kingdom on that which is most opposed to such indulgence, on fasting and abstinence. Mark this, my soul, fasting has not only the nature of an atonement, it is also an excellent means of advancing in virtue, and a very powerful weapon wherewith to resist the devil. And as the devil retains his power over men so long as they cannot subdue in themselves the craving for inordinate gratification of the senses, so on the other hand those who by fasting conquer their fleshly lusts, prove too strong for him to overcome. If therefore you desire effectually to combat the evil within and around you, commence the warfare as Jesus did, by fasting. If you have any special work to perform for God’s glory, if you are about to undertake a post of responsibility, arm yourself beforehand against Satan’s darts and his assaults, as Jesus did, by fasting, and divide the period of fasting so that for one week it may be as an act of expiation that you fast, for another, as a means of acquiring certain virtues, or resisting certain temptations.
3d. Finally, consider that Jesus fasted without intermission. During the whole time of His sojourn in the desert His fast was unbroken. Herein is a lesson of great importance for you, my soul. As you ought to pray without ceasing, so you ought likewise to fast without ceasing. A Religious ought never to allow a day to pass without some act of self-denial, be it ever so slight. You will of course fast more rigorously in the prescribed season, fast, that is, in the strict sense of the word, but do not drop the practice at other times. If in Lent you fast chiefly in view of the mortification of the flesh, at other times let it be for the mortification of the spirit. By embracing the Religious life or entering the Priesthood, you place yourself in the foremost ranks of the army of Jesus Christ, waging war with the devil and his kingdom; you belong to the chosen warriors of the Lord; wherefore see that you never lay aside that important weapon against the malign foe, the practice of fasting. Make a resolution to this effect to-day, and consider one point more: Although the Saviour fasted so rigorously, He did not feel it until the forty days were ended. Till then it was easy and pleasant to Him because of the strength imparted by His divine nature and the ineffable delight of the contemplation of heavenly things. If you are in the grace of God, if during the season of fasting you contemplate heavenly things in your mental prayer, then fasting will no longer seem difficult and onerous, you will find in it a celestial sweetness, in comparison with which all the enjoyments of the world will be as vinegar is to honey. Therefore before you close this meditation make a resolution cheerfully and gladly to keep up the practice of fasting, in one way or another, both now and throughout the whole year.
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)
A Week for the Poor Souls:
Prayer for Thursday
O Lord, God Almighty, I beseech Thee by the precious Body and Blood of Thy Divine Son Jesus, which He gave with His own hand, upon the eve of His Passion, to His beloved Apostles, to be their meat. and drink, and which He left to His whole Church, to be a perpetual sacrifice and life-giving food of His faithful people: deliver the souls in purgatory, and especially that soul which was most devoted to this mystery of infinite love; that it ever may praise Thee by the same, with Thy Divine Son, and with the Holy Ghost in Thy eternal glory. Amen.
Our Father, and Hail Mary.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
De Profundis for the Faithful Departed (Ps. 129)
Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice.
Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If Thou, O Lord, shalt mark our iniquities: O Lord, who shall stand it?
For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness: and by reason of Thy law I have waited for Thee, O Lord.
My soul hath relied on His word: my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even unto night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with Him plenteous redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
V. Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord.
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
Copyright © 2013. Holy Cross Publications. All rights reserved.