On the Signs of the Son of Man.
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 Signs of the Son of Man.
To-day you are invited to picture to yourself the scene in the valley of Josaphat when the signs of the Son of man appear in the heavens. All mankind are gathered together there, waiting in fear and trembling for the coming of the Judge. Suddenly a thrill runs through the multitudes; every eye is turned upward to the heavens, and there, flashing with the brilliance of the lightning, the sign of the Son of man, the sacred cross, is seen. Fix your gaze upon this cross while you meditate on its appearance.
1st. Consider how momentous will be this last appearance of the cross. It was a great and grand instant when Almighty God called the universe into being with a single word, when the earth was created out of nothing, and the brilliant orbs lit up the firmament of heaven! It was a great and grand instant when – “while all things were in quiet silence and the night was in the midst of her course” (Wisd. xviiL 14), the Eternal Son of God came down to earth from Heaven for the world’s redemption; yet incomparably grander and more sublime will the moment be when, in presence of all the nations of the world, in the sight of Heaven and earth, the sign of the Son of man, the holy cross suddenly shines forth, lighting up the heavens with so brilliant a refulgence that it will be seen from east to west, in every quarter of the globe. Moreover it is the Redeemer’s triumphal sign, for this sign – as St. Thomas of Aquin teaches – will place in a no less striking and convincing manner before the eyes of the ungodly the just chastisements of God which they have deserved, and His great mercy which they have wantonly outraged. This sign will make known emphatically to all the world that their Judge is the self-same Person whom they once nailed with such ignominy to the cross of shame; this sign finally, shining with the brilliance of the noonday sun in the sight of all mankind, will bear incontrovertible testimony to the glory that our Lord merited for Himself and for His elect by hanging on that instrument of torture. Let this thought of the Angelic Doctor sink deeply into your mind.
2d. Consider the consternation of the ungodly at the sight of this cross. The cross which has been to them only a scandal and foolishness, the cross which hitherto they have scorned and despised, the cross against which they have striven and struggled by every means in their power, which they would fain have banished from the face of the earth, now shines forth in the heavens as the sign of their Judge. What a terrible sight for them, proclaiming their condemnation! Furthermore, this cross was, in the case of thousands, marked on their foreheads in baptism and in the Sacrament of Confirmation. To the standard of the cross they have sworn allegiance, repeatedly perhaps, in the course of their lives; now, alas! at the sight of this cross the consciousness of having been false to their oath will weigh upon them like a mountain. To that cross their Redeemer was nailed, on it He hung and suffered, He shed His blood and died; all this was done for them, and they knew it; it was not from ignorance but from indifference that they heeded it not; only think, my soul, what these unfortunate creatures will feel when they behold this cross in the heavens, and after its appearance they see the King whose diadem is the cross, their Judge, coming in the clouds. It is of Him that Habacuc writes (ch. iii. 3-6): “God will come from the south, and the Holy One from Mount Pharan. His brightness shall be as the light; Death shall go before His face, and the devil shall go forth before His feet. He stood and measured the earth; He beheld and melted the nations; and the ancient mountains were crushed to pieces. The hills of the world were bowed down by the journeys of His eternity.” If only they could once come back to the world, how gladly would they carry that cross!
3d. Consider the joy of the just at the sight of the cross. Up to this time they also have stood trembling in the valley of Josaphat, for who has not cause to dread the coming of the Judge, if St. Paul himself was not without fear? But as soon as the cross shines forth in the heavens, their apprehension will vanish as swiftly as mist before the rising sun. For this cross is the sign of their redemption, this cross has been the daily companion of their life; they have for twenty, thirty; nay for fifty or eighty years carried this cross after their Saviour, and as disciples of this cross they have borne so much contempt and derision, they have encountered so much hatred and persecution, that now they can recall to mind the recompense our Lord promised them for all they have endured. Consequently the sight of the sign of the Son of man gleaming brightly in the heavens is as consoling to them as it is terrible to the ungodly; and in their case the beautiful words of the Imitation will be fulfilled, words the truth of which you will perhaps now appreciate more fully than heretofore: “This sign of the cross will be in Heaven when the Lord shall come to judgment. Then all the servants of the cross who in their lifetime have made themselves like to the Crucified, will draw near with great confidence to Christ Judge;” they will draw near to Him with the glad assurance that “in the cross is salvation; in the cross is life; in the cross is salvation from enemies; that there is no health of the soul nor hope of eternal life but in the cross.” (Imit. B. ii. ch. 12.) Will you now, my soul, persist in turning a deaf ear to the invitation of your future Judge: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (St. Matt. xvi. 24.)
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 Tuesday
Lord, God Almighty, I beseech Thee by the precious Blood which Thy Divine Son Jesus shed in His bitter crowning with thorns, deliver the souls in purgatory, and amongst them all especially that soul which would be the last to issue from those pains, that it tarry not so long a time before it comes to praise Thee in Thy glory and bless Thee for ever. 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.
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