The great advantages of keeping God’s Presence ever before our minds.
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 great advantages of keeping God’s Presence ever before our minds.
The first special reason which shows what great power the thought of God’s presence has to draw to perfection all those who are really desirous of acquiring it, is this: whosoever abides in God’s presence will never commit any wilful sin. All experience shows this. On this very account it was that the Royal Prophet took care to keep himself unceasingly in the sight of God. “My eyes are ever towards the Lord, for he shall pluck my feet out of the snare” (Ps. xxiv, 15). And elsewhere the holy Prophet, examining into the reason why some walk in the filthy paths of sin without ever leaving them, gives as the chief reason that they have not God present to them. “God is not before his eyes, his ways are filthy at all times” (Ps. x, 5).
St. Basil, asking why some are so quick to anger – others so greedy of praise? – why some waste their time idly and aimlessly going to and fro? – why others again are negligent in their spiritual exercises, and others distracted at their devotions? gives but one answer to all these questions, which is, that they forget how God is ever present to them, watching all their actions: for this thought alone (he continues) were it only constantly borne in mind, would be a sufficient remedy against every vice, and would prevent even every failing (St. Basil, In Questionibus Fuse Explic., quest. 30).
And assuredly the holy Doctor is in the right: for as no subject would be daring enough to break the law under the very eyes of his king: as no criminal, however bold, would venture to do wrong in the presence of his judge: so no Christian would be so abandoned as knowingly to violate the laws of God, His Sovereign Lord, and King, and Judge, while conscious of being in His immediate presence. The sole remembrance of God’s presence suffices, says St. Ephrem, to cool down the most violent heat of passion, to enable us to preserve our souls ever spotless, and to fit ourselves by this alone to be the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, the forgetfulness of God’s presence is enough to make us capable of every guilty excess, so much so that our souls may become sinks of filth and and darkness. Thus, he adds, there can be no question that nothing is worse than to forget God and to lose sight of his presence (Bas. De Virtut, tom, ii, 10). St. Chrysostom assures us most positively that if anything can secure us from saying, or doing, or so much as thinking, aught that is evil, it is the reflection that God is present to us, and not only beholds our outward actions, but searches into the inmost recesses of our hearts (Homil. 8, ad Phil. II). “Tell me,” continues the Saint, “if you had to abide always in the presence of your Sovereign, with what circumspection and caution, with what reverential awe, would you not behave? Whether then you eat, or drink, or sleep, or amuse yourself, when you are tempted to anger, or whatever else happens to you, think that God is close at hand, and be assured that this thought will so restrain you, that you will never give way to any unseemly mirth, nor even to a single act of impatience or anger.”
A mere Pagan, such as was Seneca, knew how efficacious a preservative from sin it would be to imagine oneself ever in the presence of some person of authority, who is witness of all our actions. But deprived as he was of the light of faith, and possessing no other knowledge of God than the imperfect notions supplied by nature, he advised his friend Lucillus to keep ever before his eyes some good and virtuous man, and to imagine that this person was continually looking at him; and Seneca assured his friend, that by means of this imaginary witness of his actions, he would avoid the great majority of his sinful doings (Epist. II).
Now if the mere fancy that someone is present to us, who, in reality, is absent, appeared to this philosopher an all-sufficient means to preserve us from most of our ordinary faults; who can doubt but that the very true and most real presence of a God of infinite might and of infinite majesty, will avail with exceeding great power to keep us from all sin, either mortal or venial, and to preserve our conscience in perfect purity and stainlessness? We are told that the mere look of St. Romuald, mild and gentle as he was, sufficed to curb the pride of Roger, the Marquis of Tuscany, to such an extent, that the colour fled from his cheeks and he could scarce find breath to speak a word in his own defence (In Vita, S. Romualdi, Surius, tom. iii). How much more, then, will not the presence of the all pure, thrice-holy God, avail to restrain our lust, and check the violence and rage of our passions, so as to keep us from transgressing, whether in things great or small, the bounds of what is right and just. The more so as our God, whose holiness and purity are so great, is our Judge also, and as such observes all our doings, notes down our every word, considers attentively our every thought, in order to call us at the appointed time to a rigorous account, and to execute strict justice for every transgression, however slight. Hence it would seem impossible for us to be conscious of the gaze of this most pure Eye ever fixed upon us, and to do in sight of the Lord what is displeasing to Him and what makes us liable to the penalties and chastisements which His incorruptible justice will inflict (Guide to the Spiritual Life, Vol. I, Article vii, Chapter II).
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.
One might pardon, perhaps, some neglect in the service of man, but in the service of God one ought not to bear with it at any price. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Maffœi, Book ii, ch. 3.
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,
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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