On Venial Sin As a Hindrance to Profitable Meditation.
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 Venial Sin As a Hindrance to Profitable Meditation.
How grand and delightful it is to stand on a high mountain and enjoy the pleasure of looking out on the magnificent prospect, of drinking in all the charm of the splendid landscape which can be seen from that height. But unfortunately gloomy mists or fogs too often interfere sadly with the beauteous view, even if they do not conceal it altogether. Now when you make your meditation, my soul, you ascend in like manner to the top of an eminence, in order to gaze upon the image of the Godhead, on His eternal beauty, or to study the divine mysteries which are proposed to you for your meditation. And the fogs which so often intrude themselves upon the scene, and spoil the view, are the venial sins you have committed. In order to recognize how serious an impediment they are to making a good meditation, consider:
1st. Venial sins obscure the clear mirror of your soul. St. Leo (Pope) compares them to dust. Just as a mirror, if covered with dust, reflects your countenance very imperfectly, in like manner a soul upon which the dust of venial sin has accumulated, cannot properly reflect the divine mystery which forms the subject of her contemplation, and the more thickly that soul is coated with the dust of venial sin, the more faulty will be the reflection from her surface. The saints were well aware of this truth, and consequently they were as careful to avoid venial sin as if it had been a fire, which might singe their wings, whereon they rose to the contemplation of divine things. St. Magdalen of Pazzi said plainly that she would rather endure all possible tortures that the executioners could inflict upon her on earth than transgress the Rule of her Order in one of its slightest regulations. And in fact, my soul, has not your own experience taught you that on the day when you have been less exact in the observance of your Rule, the day whereon you have fallen into most faults, you have made your meditation less well than usually? The more venial faults before meditation, the fewer good thoughts during meditation.
2d. Venial sin clouds the light of the understanding, i.e., the higher powers of the intellect, which, enlightened by faith and by grace, must be brought into play during meditation. The more dimly the light of grace burns within your soul – and venial sin has the effect of obscuring it – the less light does it cast upon your understanding. Do not say: what can this one sin matter, it is so very slight. Do you not know that the least tiny grain of dust in your eye may obstruct its sight? Consider, moreover, that in mental prayer you fix the eye of your soul on the dazzling sun of the Godhead, you gaze upon the celestial ocean of light of the divine mysteries. Now for this a clear, undimmed vision, an eagle eye is needed, for the eye that is inflamed by the presence of the minutest grain of the dust of venial sin will scarcely be capable of the task.
3d. Consider finally that venial sin diminishes the strength of the soul. There is much that is sublime about mental prayer, but also much that is difficult. To rise from the earth to which our soul is bound by a thousand cords, and soar aloft to the throne of God; to spring up from the ground, to which, as the Psalmist is heard to complain, the soul cleaves, and ascend to heaven, there to immerse one’s spirit in the depths of the divine mysteries, requires all the powers of the soul in undiminished force. Now, as St. Bonaventure says, it is precisely venial sin which weakens the spiritual strength, which lessens, as the Church teaches us, sanctifying grace within the soul, and consequently enfeebles the life and forces of the soul. Hence you will have no difficulty in perceiving how formidable an impediment it is in the way of making a good meditation. And if, at the close of this meditation, my soul, you ask yourself sorrowfully: Since I find it so hard to free myself from venial sins, what am I to do to render them less of a hindrance to making my meditation well? The answer is simple: Cleanse your soul before each meditation in the water of sincere contrition, and you will find you have got rid of the hindrance.
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)
Come, let us adore the King our Lord, who is to come!
Hymn from the Office of Lauds for Advent
The solemn voice of the Precursor is heard, explaining the obscurity of the ancient figures; let our slumbers cease; Jesus is rising on our horizon.
Let the sluggish soul now rise, and stay no more upon this earth; a new star is shining, which will take all sin away.
Lo! the Lamb is sent to forgive us freely our debt; let us unite in tears and prayers, that we may obtain pardon.
That when He comes the second time, filling the world with fear, He may not have to punish us for our sins, but may protect us in mercy.
Power, honour, praise, and glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Paraclete, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayers from the Office and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for Advent
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Almighty Lord and God, who hast brought us to the beginning of this day, let thy powerful grace so conduct us through it, that we may not fall into any sin, but that all our thoughts, words, and actions may be regulated according to the rules of thy heavenly justice, and tend to the observance of thy holy law. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
V. Incline unto my aid, O God.
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
Lord God, and King of heaven and earth, vouchsafe this day to rule and sanctify, to direct and govern our souls and bodies, our senses, words, and actions in conformity to Thy law, and strict obedience to Thy commands; that by the help of Thy grace, O Saviour of the world! we may be fenced and freed from all evils. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.
V. O Lord God of hosts, come and deliver us.
R. Show Thy face, and we shall be saved.
V. Show us, O Lord, thy mercy.
R. And grant us the Saviour, whom we expect from Thee.
V. The Lord shall rise upon thee, O Jerusalem!
R. And His glory shall be seen upon thee.
Exert, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy power and come; that by thy protection we may be freed from the imminent dangers of our sins, and be saved by Thy mercy; who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.
Novena for Advent
Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God! To hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.
(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30th) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)
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