Sorrow and Repentance for Sin – part 4.
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.
Sorrow and Repentance for Sin – part 4.
In every mortal sin there are two great evils: (1) the turning away from God Who is the very fountain of all goodness, (2) the embracing of sin for the sake of the passing and deceitful pleasure which it affords. “Be astonished O ye heavens at this, and ye gates thereof, be very desolate, saith the Lord. For my people have done two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and have digged to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. ii, 12, 13). When we are about to repent of sin we must return to God, detesting sin and exciting ourselves to sorrow for it because by it we have offended God who is so infinitely good in Himself, and infinitely good to us. The Council of Trent explains the nature of the sorrow which is required for sin: “Contrition, which holds the first place amongst the aforesaid acts of the penitent, is a sorrow of mind, and a detestation for sin committed, with the purpose of not sinning for the future. This movement of Contrition was at all times necessary for obtaining the pardon of sin; and, in one who has fallen after Baptism, it then at length prepares for the remission of sins, when it is united with confidence in the Divine mercy, and with the desire of performing the other things which are required for rightly receiving this Sacrament. Wherefore the Holy Synod declares this contrition contains not only a cessation from sin, and the purpose and the beginning of a new life, but also a hatred of the old (past), agreeably to that saying: “Cast away from you all your transgressions, by which you have transgressed: and make to yourselves a new heart, and a new spirit” (Ezech. xviii, 31). And assuredly he who has considered those cries of the Saints: “To Thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before Thee” (Ps. 1, 6); “I have laboured in my groanings, every night: I will wash my bed” (Ps. vi, 7); “ I will recount to Thee all my years in the bitterness of my soul” (Ps. xxxviii, 15); and others of this kind, will easily understand that they flowed from a certain vehement hatred of their past life, and from an exceeding detestation of sins” (Session XIV, Chap. IV). Detestation means a hatred and an aversion for sin, looking at sin as the enemy of our salvation and of our eternal happiness. This detestation is a necessary part of contrition and precedes our sorrow for sin. When we take pleasure in anything this pleasure includes some love for the object of our pleasure in like manner, the sorrow we feel for anything includes a dislike or hatred of that thing. We should detest sin, not merely on account of the punishment attached to it, but purely on account of the offence given by it to God Who is infinitely good and perfect.
True sorrow for sin must have four qualities: (1) it must be in the mind and heart, (2) it must be super natural, (3) it must extend to all our mortal sins, (4) it must be greater than our sorrow for anything else. Theologians speak of these qualities as interior, super natural, universal, and supreme.
We have now to explain each of these qualities. Contrition must be internal, or as it is sometimes called a hearty sorrow, that is a sorrow of the heart and mind, not of the lips or other external senses. It is an act of the will detesting sin, and being sincerely sorry for it as an offence against God. It is not necessary that it should be in the sensitive appetite, or that we should feel it. In estimating sorrow for sin we have not to pay regard to tender-heartedness but to the vigour of the will. Hence it does not consist in shedding tears, or in external works of mortification, or in any outward expression of grief, but in the interior dispositions of the heart, detesting sin and grieving over it as an offence against God. “Be converted to Me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning, and rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, patient, and rich in mercy” (Joel ii, 12 ,13). Outward expressions of sorrow, such as tears may be admired when they spring from true sorrow and detestation for sin, but we must remember that Contrition does not consist in these things, and that the most perfect Contrition can exist without them. We will have more about this point later on.
Sorrow for sin must be Supernatural, that is, it must be a sorrow that is elicited by means of grace, and founded on a motive proposed by Faith, and not on merely natural motives, such as the disgrace or punishment of this world. “The sorrow that is according to God worketh penance steadfast unto salvation, but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Cor., vii, 10). A person may be sorry for his sins because they were the cause of reducing him to poverty, or were the cause of disease, etc. These are mere natural motives and will not do when we want to get pardon of our sins. The sorrow that is required for sin is of an entirely different kind; it is produced by means of grace and has some reference to Almighty God and to our eternal salvation. If a person is in mortal sin he would remain for ever in that sad condition if he did not get grace from God. Should the person pray to God for grace to repent, God will grant it, because good efficacious prayer always gets us grace from God. This grace is poured into the soul of the sinner and it makes his sorrow supernatural.
Sorrow for sin must extend to all our mortal sins; we must detest and be sorry for them all. It is not necessary to repent of every sin individually. It is enough to repent of all in general from some common motive.
Sorrow for sin must be greater than our sorrow for anything else, because sin inflicts the greatest evil upon us. When we repent we must prefer the friendship of God to every other good, and detest sin above every other evil, not necessarily with more intensity, but more in the appreciation of the intellect. When the Council of Trent says that the sorrow required for the Sacrament should be above all, it means that it must be such in the appreciation of the intelligence, not in the sensibility or feeling of the affections. Whence it follows, that if he who confesses feels not a sorrowful heart, but acknowledging the evil which is contained in the offence against God, detests it above all other evils, and is determined to undergo anything rather than to repeat the offence against the Divine Goodness, he has sufficient sorrow, and is duly prepared for Sacramental Absolution. Nor can anyone justly complain that this sorrow is beyond his reach, because God is ever ready to grant it to all who ask it of Him, and will do their part to stir it up in the will” (Scaramelli, Vol. II, Section 2, Article xi, Chap. VI).
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.
– by Rev. P. Ryan
– Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur October 10, 1910
When the enemy cannot succeed in making you sin, and has lost the hope of attaining this end, he strives at least to torment you. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letter 4.
February Devotion: The Holy Trinity (also the Holy Family)
Virtue to practice: Humility
I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me: my memory and my actions to God the Father; my understanding and my words to God the Son; my will and my thoughts to God the Holy Ghost; my heart, my body, my tongue my senses and all my sorrows to the sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, ‘who was contented to be betrayed into the hands of wicked men and to suffer the torment of the Cross.’ – St. Francis de Sales
An indulgence of 3 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of oblation is devoutly repeated every day for a monh (S.P.Ap., Sept. 22, 1922 and May 12, 1934).
The faithful who devoutly offer any prayers in honor of the Most Holy Trinity with the intention of continuing them for nine successive days, may gain:
An indulgence of 7 years once each day:
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions at the end of the novena (S.C. Ind., Aug. 8 1847; S.P. Ap., Mar. 18, 1932).
Copyright © 2013 – 2014. Holy Cross Publications. All rights reserved.