Various methods of devoutly and profitably cultivating the Presence of God

Various methods of devoutly and profitably cultivating the Presence of God.

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.

Various methods of devoutly and profitably cultivating the Presence of God.

The first way in which we may commendably bear in mind the presence of God while occupied in our worldly business, is by the aid of the imagination. But as God cannot be truthfully represented as He is Himself by this faculty of our soul – for He has neither body, nor shape, nor figure, nor any other thing that can be imaged in the fancy – it will be necessary for such as employ this means to picture Him in their minds as He was upon earth. They must consequently set before their mind’s eye our loving Saviour in such form as may be the most favourable to their devotion and recollection of spirit. Some there are whom the sight of the Infant Jesus greatly moves; others again are more touched at the view of Jesus as the Man of Sorrows, while others are to be found who prefer the appearance of Jesus risen and glorified. Many thus have a great facility of representing to themselves our Divine Lord in the arms of His Blessed Mother; others have the same ease in representing Him in a piteous aspect as upon the Cross, or when being scourged at the pillar, all dripping with His sacred Blood; others love to behold Him in His risen Majesty, to figure Him to themselves as He is on high, crowned with rays of glory, clad in brightness, and they entertain themselves with Him in this state, giving vent to the various feelings of love, oblation, petition, compassion, joy, and such other affections as their devotion may suggest. “In this, consists the true love of Christ; to keep Him ever present to our minds; never to suffer His image (as far at least as we are able) to fade from our imagination; to direct all our actions to Him; to refer to Him whatever we read, or hear, or do; in all things to seek to work out His Will; and never to prefer any single thing to His holy love” (Thomas à Kempis, Lib. De Discip. Claustrali, Cap. 13).

St. Teresa in her works recommends very strongly this pious exercise, and earnestly advises those who have the spirit of prayer to engage themselves in this sweet conversation with God, as a very effectual means of speedily attaining purity of conscience and of scaling the heights of a lofty Contemplation. However, we should add two things by way of caution: – First, that they who thus keep Christ ever present to them must not care to go into all the details of feature, gesture, countenance, colour and such like peculiarities; as attention to these unimportant particulars would only have the effect of fatiguing the brain. But having set before the mind a sort of general representation of our Blessed Redeemer, and giving, as it were, a passing glance at His Godhead, they should without delay stir up their affections; for this can be done without effort or any straining of the bodily organs. The next thing which it is necessary for us to bear in mind is, that this mode of keeping ourselves in God’s presence (by aid of the imagination) is better suited to such as have the gift of prayer than to those who are not so gifted; for the supernatural light with which the former abound enables them to move easily, and without labouring, their imagination and affections; and hence they can persevere in the presence of the Redeemer without fatiguing the brain: while those who have not the gift of prayer are unable to do this without much effort, so that it were hardly possible that, in course of time, they should not weaken their head, to the serious detriment both of body and mind. Such persons should be advised, in preference, to keep in God’s Presence by faith, in the way we shall now explain.

The second mode of remaining in the Divine presence is by faith alone, independently of any particular effort of the imagination; and it is practised by making acts of lively faith, that God is very close to each one of us; that He surrounds us all on all sides; and that His all-searching eye is looking upon us, and taking note of all our actions. As a bird in its flight is wholly surrounded by the air; as an atom dancing in a sunbeam is penetrated by the light; as a fish gliding about in the depths of the ocean has the sea around it on every side; so too are we, after ourselves no matter in what part of the world we may find ourselves, ever surrounded by the omnipresence of the Lord. If we turn to the right, we find God; if to the left, He is there; if we soar aloft, still there is God; if we go down to the uttermost depths, we ever find God present. And, as St. Augustine observes, God cannot help seeing our every movement, every step that we take, every action however unimportant, that we perform: – just as though, having banished the rest of the world from His mind, He were wholly absorbed in the contemplation of each one of us alone. And in very truth, the infinite and incommunicable light of God’s countenance knows no waning or increase, whether He cast His eyes on innumerable hosts of created beings, or confine them to the consideration of a single one” (St. Augustine Soliloq., C. 14). “Nothing can escape God’s sight for He beholds all we do, and hears everything that we say; all is marked, all is taken down, all is written in the book of His judgments; in order to assign, when the time comes, the reward which our works have merited, or the chastisement which they have deserved” (St. Augustine Soliloq., C. 14), This mode of keeping God present to us cannot tire the mind, nor can it weaken the organ of the brain; for in order to have God present to us, according to this method, nothing further is required than that we should bear in mind what faith teaches us of God’s immensity, and then yield to a simple and loving consent; add to this that it is useful in the highest degree, since it maintains the soul in filial love and fear, and renders us careful, cautious and much upon our guard, lest in any of our actions we offend that most High God, whose watchful eye is always looking at us, without ever, for a moment, averting from us its penetrating glance. Akin to the presence of God, thus considered as eternal to us, is a very advantageous practice; that of beholding God in the divers creatures which come before us in the course of our daily occupations. Some at one time consider God in the flowers, at another in the verdure; now in the plants, now in the stars; one day in the planets, another day in the firmament; again in the properties of the several kinds of animals; or again in the actions of their fellow-men; or, once more, in the divers events, whether prosperous or untoward, that are daily brought before our notice. And in all of these they admire, sometimes the power, sometimes the beauty, sometimes the grandeur, sometimes the providence, sometimes the loving kindness of their God; and with pious reflections such as these they fan the flame of divine love which burns within their heart. Thus, for instance, Simon Salo – in his country walks – at the sight of the green meadows and pleasant hills, lifted up his thoughts to the contemplation of the divine perfections, and striking the flowers and plants with his stick, “Be still! be still!” he would say to them, “you speak to my heart, and tell me to love the God Who is the Author of all your many charms. Be still! My heart knows what you mean, and is already on fire with the love of God.” Thus too, St. Augustine, considering the heavens and the earth, with the countless creatures that make them so beauteous and enchanting, heard a voice in his heart saying to him: “Love Him Who is the first cause of so many beautiful creatures.”

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.

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God takes particular care to detach those from the fleeting pleasures of this life whom He loves with a love of predilection, by the desires with which He inspires them for the heavenly life, and by the griefs and afflictions which He sends them in this life. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letter 432.

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April Devotion: The Holy Ghost (The Passion for Lent)

Virtue to practice: Patience

Vexilla Regis prodeunt

The royal banners forward go;
The Cross shines forth in mystic glow,
Where Life for sinners death endured,
And life by death for man procured.

Where deep for us the spear was dyed,
Life’s torrent rushing from His side,
To wash us in that precious flood
Where mingled, Water flowed, and Blood,

Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old;
‘Amidst the nations, God,’ saith he,
‘Hath reigned and triumphed from the Tree.’

O Tree of beauty! Tree of light!
O Tree with royal purple dight!
Elect on whose triumphal breast
Those holy Limbs should find their rest.

On whose dear arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world’s ransom hung:
The price of human kind to pay
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.

O Cross, our one reliance, hail,
Thou glory of the saved, avail*
To give fresh merit to the Saint,
And pardon to the penitent.

To Thee, Eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done;
Whom by the Cross Thou dost restore,
Preserve and govern evermore. Amen.

Vexilla Regis pródeunt,
Fulget Crucis mystérium,
Qua vita mortem pértulit,
Et morte vitam prótulit.

Quæ vulneráta lánceæ
Mucróne diro, críminum
Ut nos laváret sórdibus,
Manávit unda et sánguine.

Impléta sunt quæ cóncinit
David fidéli cármine,
Dicéndo natiónibus:
Regnávit a ligno Deus.

Arbor decóra et fúlgida,
Ornáta regis púrpura,
Elécta digno stípite
Tam sancta membra tángere.

Beáta, cuius bráchiis
Prétium pepéndit sæculi,
Statéra facta córporis,
Tulítque prædam tártari.

O Crux, ave, spes única,
Gentis redémptæ glória!*
Piis adáuge grátiam,
Reísque dele crímina.

Te, fons salútis, Trínitas,
Colláudet omnis spíritus:
Quibus Cricis victóriam
Largíris, adde præmium. Amen.

(ex. Breviario Romano)
*Instead of: ‘Thou Glory of the saved,’ during Passiontide, say: ‘This Holy Passiontide‘, during the Paschal Season: ‘Thou joy of Eastertide‘, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: ‘On this triumphant day.
An indulgence of 5 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions for the daily recitation of this hymn throughout an entire month (S.C. Ind., Jan. 16, 1886; S.P.Ap., April 29, 1934).

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