The great advantages of keeping God’s Presence ever before our minds. – continued.
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. – continued.
Another advantage is that it would be difficult to walk in God’s presence without acquiring solid virtue, and feeling enkindled within us, little by little, the ardours of divine love, as it would be to stand always before the fire and not to feel warmth; inasmuch as the soul, basking continually, or frequently, in the rays of the sun of justice, gains light to know the beauty of Christian virtue, and soon grows enamoured of it, and readily practises it. At the sight of those divine charms to which our mind’s eye turns amid its several occupations, we soon begin to love them and to be set on fire with the consuming flames of divine charity. Whatever light the planets shed on this earth of ours, they have it not of themselves, nor is it evolved from their own substance, but they receive it all from the sun. Although they shine so brilliantly in the firmament, they are indebted for all their splendour to that mighty orb by which they are illumined. Imagine for a moment that, by an impossibility, the planets could flee from the presence of the sun and hide themselves away from its radiance; they would at once become darker than is our earth in the thick of the blackest night. In the same way, all those servants of God who shine as stars in the firmament of the Church by the lustre of their virtues, have all the light and fervour whereby they are enabled to do virtuous actions imparted to them by the Divine Sun in whose glorious presence they ever dwell. This it is which enkindled in their hearts the fire of divine charity; for as, to warm ourselves, there is no other means than to stand in the sunshine or before the fire; so too, the most effectual means to obtain the heat of charity is ever to stand as much as possible in the radiance of that Sun of Beauty and of that Fire of Love. Hence St. Laurence Justinian observes: “I am not aware of the existence of any means so effectual for curbing the rebellion of the flesh, for gaining purity of heart, and for scaling rapidly the heights of Christian virtue, as the frequent remembrance of our ever being under the eye of that Divine Judge who beholds all things” (Lib. de Grad. Perfect, Cap. 6).
St. Basil sees in this exercise a kind of mutual action and reaction which makes us steadily advance in the path of perfection. For the thought of God’s presence naturally awakens within us those feelings of charity and love which render us careful and anxious to keep His commandments most exactly. Now, the careful and exact observance of God’s precepts, in its turn, increases this charity in the soul, fosters it, fixes and makes it lasting. For this reason the Saint would have us ever bear the thought of God’s presence indelibly graven upon the tablets of our hearts (In Reg. Fusius Disp. Quest. 5). But if it be true that the thought of God’s presence affords such valuable help towards the speedy acquisition of every virtue – and of charity in particular, from which the other virtues borrow all their lustre, and by which they are ennobled – it follows that it is also a most effectual means of becoming perfect in a short time.
It may further be observed that no other thing is so well calculated to strengthen us against the seductions of our fellow-men, the persecutions of our enemies, and the assaults of the devil, as to preserve in our minds the lively remembrance of our God being always present to us. What was it that made Susanna so courageous during the wanton solicitations and violent threats of the impure judges in Israel? What kept her firm in so terrible a crisis? The presence of God. These two elders assailed her with cunning speeches, saying, “Behold, the doors of the orchard are shut, and nobody seeth us” (Dan. xiii, 20). On hearing these words, the heroic woman heaved a deep sigh and said, “God sees us. No evil can be so great as to sin in the sight of the Lord.” Again, what was it that rendered the Machabees invincible against the assaults of their most formidable enemies? What made them superior to the countless hosts that were brought against them. Once more the same answer: the thought of God’s presence. For Judas Machabees with his warrior band, seeing the formidable army of their enemies advancing full of fury to put them to the sword, merely lifted up their minds to God and rushed to the attack. They fought with their arms in their hands, and with the thought of God in their hearts. Their countenances showed fury, but, as the sacred text tells us, they cherished in their souls a feeling of marvellous delight in the presence of that God Who was vouchsafing to them so many favours. And thus it came to pass that they left no less than five and thirty thousand of the enemy slain on the battlefield (2 Mach. xv, 27).
So, too, may it be in our case. Our enemies may persecute us, they may make us a by-word on account of their slanders, they may overwhelm us with their outrages, scoffs, and derision; but if we keep ourselves ever in God’s presence, we shall surely carry away the palm of victory. God will give us the shield of long-suffering, the breastplate of meekness, the helmet of courage, wherewith we shall be able to parry their every blow, to bear all in peace; nor shall their arrows find their way to our hearts. On the contrary we shall derive from these great conflicts a lively satisfaction; for God will strengthen us with His gracious help, and we shall pass through the serried ranks of our adversaries, “being greatly cheered with the presence of God” (2 Mach. xv, 27).
As to the assaults of evil spirits, this Divine presence, if we bear it constantly in mind, will render us not only strong to withstand them, but invincible, impregnable to all their attacks. Holy Job, who had been so sorely exercised in these conflicts with the powers of hell, says; “Deliver me, O Lord, and set me beside Thee, and let any man’s hand fight against me” (Job. xvii, 3).
Nor was it without a cause that this most valiant athlete spoke such language; for as there is no soldier, however craven, but would feel courage arise in his heart when he does battle in presence of his general or his king, and this, moreover, that he may gain a fading and corruptible crown, how much more will not a Christian, with the prospect of an immortal and never-fading diadem, bravely withstand the assaults of his hellish foes, if only he bear in mind that he is seen by the eye of that God Who is helping and supporting him in all his struggles?
Happy, then, is the man who has taught himself to walk with a lively faith in the presence of his God; for whenever his infernal foes shall pursue him with their evil suggestions, he will find himself fully equipped for the struggle; because the assurance that the Almighty is close at hand, will, in like manner, encourage him to withstand their attacks; and he too will thus be enabled to say with the Psalmist; “Though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for Thou art with me” (Ps. xxii, 4). (Scaramelli, Guide to the Spiritual Life, Vol. I, Section i, Article vii, Chapter III).
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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