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.
The traveller who has been passing through a region of remarkably grand and beautiful scenery, before leaving that part of the country, naturally pauses on the summit of the last acclivity, and looks back in order to gaze once more on the magnificent panorama before him, and impress it on his memory. In the same way it will be well for you to-day to cast a retrospective glance over the marvellously grand and beautiful life of our Lord, which during the past year you have been contemplating, and thus let the principal features of the pleasing prospect, elevating alike to heart and mind, be stamped in brief outline on your soul.
1st. Consider the wondrous beauty and mysterious depth of the life of our Lord which has hitherto formed the subject of your meditations. In thought pass in review once more the different scenes of the life of Christ amongst the children of men, abounding as it did in graces and blessings for mankind. Remember how the sight of the divine Infant in the crib rejoiced your heart; how the ineffable charm of the Child Jesus won your affections, how the wondrous wisdom of the divine Teacher roused your admiration, how the miraculous power of the great Thaumaturgus excited your amazement. Remember the singular and irresistible attraction which the Good Shepherd had for your poor, sinful heart; how that heart throbbed with awe and reverence when you beheld the High Priest celebrating the Last Supper, how it was torn with grief and anguish when you followed your tortured Lord from Olivet to Calvary, and how it swelled with joy and exultation at the sight of the risen Saviour, on witnessing His ascension into Heaven. Yes, that life was truly an inexhaustible mine of rich ore on which you have dwelt in your meditations; it was a treasure-house of the most sublime and salutary truths that your attentive consideration unlocked to you; an unfathomable fount of profound consolation and instruction from which you daily drew; in a word, it was an earthly vision of the Deity, a revelation of His works of mercy and of love. Therefore look back with deep thankfulness on the spiritual journey, replete with blessings, which you made in your hours of recollection and reflection during the past year.
2d. Consider the fruit of these meditations. No one traverses an especially beautiful region without receiving and bearing away with him some particular impression; no one remains seated for a considerable time beside a clear, cool spring without quenching his thirst in its waters, and no one walks for weeks in a well-cultivated garden without plucking a flower or gathering a fruit. Now apply this to yourself. For a whole year you have accompanied our Lord on His wanderings in this world, for a whole year you have been seated beside the Fount of life, you have lingered in the new garden of paradise, full of fruit for eternal life and of what use has all this been to you? A single word spoken by our Lord which Antony the hermit once heard, awoke in him the resolution to enter upon his strange supernatural existence. This one exhortation which Christ addressed to His disciples: “Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses; nor scrip for your journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff” (St. Matt. x. 9, 10), was the means of inspiring St. Francis to found his great Order. And you have for the space of a year been contemplating the whole life of Christ, studying the teaching of Christ; what great resolution has this called into being within your soul, what great act has our Lord’s word and example inspired you to perform? Meditation on Christ’s life and Passion was ever the source whence the saints drew their fortitude, their solace, their strength, their wisdom; in it men such as St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom, St. Bernard and St. Bonaventure found an inexhaustible supply of counsel and knowledge yet alas! to you, after a whole year of meditation, it is perhaps still a closed book, with its seven seals unbroken; it is a treasure still hidden from your sight. Or have you really become a better Christian, more pious, more devout, more united to God? have you increased in likeness to and conformity with Him whose life on earth you have contemplated day by day?
3d. Consider finally the reasons why so little fruit is produced. The scantiness of the produce yielded by some land may be accounted for on different grounds. The reason may rest with God, who does not give the increase, or with man, to whose unskilfulness or slothfulness the sterility of the fields is due. If God has not granted the increase in your case, ask yourself whence this is? Were you perhaps unfaithful to His grace? Or have you neglected to ask for this grace, to implore this blessing from on high? Or may you perchance not belong to the number of the humble souls to whom alone God grants His grace? Examine yourself on these points, for in all probability you are responsible for the result, not God. Perhaps your own indolence was the cause why you have gained so little fruit; he who would find treasure must bestir himself, he must, like the merchant in the Gospel, purchase it at a great cost. Have you acted as the merchant did? Of what nature was the preparation you made, and did you persevere in your meditation in spite of difficulties? Or did you aim wide of the mark, and not seek in meditation what ought to be sought in it? “Truth is to be sought for in Holy Scripture, not eloquence; all Holy Scripture ought to be read with that spirit with which it was made.” (Imit. B. i. ch. 5.) Or perhaps you did not meditate in a right spirit? “The teaching of Christ surpasses all the teachings of the saints; and whosoever had the spirit would find therein the hidden manna. But it happens that many by the frequent hearing of the Gospel, feel little care for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. He however who would understand in their full savor the words of Christ, must study to make his whole life conformable to Him.” (Imit. B. i. ch. 1.) Weigh well these precious words: you will perhaps find in them the solution of the problem; and then form the resolution for the ecclesiastical year on which we are about to enter, in all your meditations to follow the counsel of the Ven. Father Rodriguez: “In meditating upon the life and Passion of Jesus Christ, let the following of Christ be your chief aim and object, and the principal fruit to be derived from your meditation. Let each one accordingly endeavor to imitate the virtue of which he stands most in need; let him dwell upon this, study it deeply, and understand it thoroughly, and also carry it into practice, until it has struck root profoundly in his heart, and the corresponding vice has become totally extinct.” Now the whole life of Christ lies outspread before you choose some one virtue as the model for your imitation, and it cannot then be said that the time spent upon meditation has been fruitless.
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 Saturday
O Lord, God Almighty, I beseech Thee by the precious Blood that gushed forth from the side of Thy Divine Son Jesus, in the sight and to the extreme pain of His most holy Mother, deliver the souls in purgatory, and amongst them all especially that soul which was ever most devout to this great Lady, that it may soon attain unto Thy glory, there to praise Thee in her and her in Thee, world without end. 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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