Passion Sunday. – On Contrition.
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.
Passion Sunday. – On Contrition.
Jesus said to the Jews, who amongst you shall convince me of sin? John viii. 46.
In this gospel our blessed Saviour warmly asserts His innocence, and with indignation refutes the calumnies of the Jews. But why this warmth in the breast of the meek, the humble Jesus? Was He not the Lamb of whom it was said, that He should be led to the slaughter without opening His mouth? Was it not He whose meekness would not suffer Him to break the bruised reed, nor to extinguish the smoaking flax? Why then this warmth and indignation? The reason is obvious. He came on earth to suffer, and to shed His blood for our salvation, and on that account He met sufferings with joy. But in quality of our High Priest – holy – innocent – and undefiled, He would not be silent under the imputation of sin. So infinite was His hatred of the crime of rebellion against the Almighty, that He could not endure that the testimony of others, however unfounded, should lay it to His charge.
What an instructive lesson, my beloved, may be drawn from this example of our Saviour! What a perfect idea may be formed of the sorrow which ought to rend our hearts, when we survey the multiplied guilt which we have incurred by our sins! This subject may be treated with peculiar propriety at this time: for, now it is that every member of the Church will be summoned to approach the sacred tribunal of reconciliation, and wash away his defilements in the precious blood of the Lamb: now it is that every sinner will be called upon to excite in his soul the most unfeigned detestation of sin, and to return to the Lord by a true and hearty sorrow for all his past disloyalties. To this subject, therefore, I will call your attention; and I trust that a just delineation of the essential requisites of contrition will produce the most beneficial effects at this season.
1. Contrition, in the first place, is a supernatural virtue, and consequently depends on the co-operation of divine grace. Man of himself is too weak, too much under the influence of terrestrial and present objects to be greatly affected either by the goods or evils of a future life: and therefore, unless he be aided and assisted by the grace of God; he is incapable of raising his soul to those sublime conceptions which constitute the essence of supernatural virtues. Of this nature is contrition. It consists in a determined hatred of sin, infused by the Holy Ghost, on account of its opposition to the infinite sanctity of the Deity: – it consists in a sincere and heartfelt grief for the sins already committed, a grief occasioned by the clear view with which the sinner beholds, by the light of faith, the outrage which he has offered to God, and the evils which he has entailed on himself: – it consists in a fixed resolution to avoid all sin for the future, – a resolution, inspired by the love which the repentant sinner begins to entertain for God, the source of all justice. This is true contrition. Sorrow which is not founded on these principles, is imperfect, and insufficient to complete the great work of justification.
Now, my beloved friends, let me entreat you to look into your souls, and examine whether these are the sentiments which have hitherto, accompanied you to the sacred tribunal of penance. In preparing for this sacrament, it is probable that you have more than once experienced something of the bitterness of sin: your minds have been much agitated, and your hearts have been secretly troubled within you. But from what did this proceed? From a sincere grief for having offended so great, and .so good a benefactor? This would be much; for this is every thing: but this, alas is by no means always the case. In general, I very much fear, it is quite otherwise. We have much to do whenever we are at war with our natural propensities. The sight of our manifold offences, numerous as they are, would oftentimes occasion little anxiety within us, if the indignity, which is thereby offered to the majesty of the God of heaven, were the only consideration we had to look to. We look to ourselves in general; and seldom to any thing besides. It is the fear of disclosing to our director the enormities, which we would gladly hide even, from our own inspection: it is this circumstance, which, more than any other consideration, is the thing that so terribly appals us. This, my beloved, is no unusual occurrence. There is no man, however low in His own esteem, who, if he thinks he is going to lower himself in the esteem of another, does not feel a sensible regret. Thus it happens that pride is oftentimes mistaken for repentance, and the natural aversion which all of us feel towards self-debasement, for true sorrow and compunction for sin. It is our vanity that is humbled: we feel the remorse which this circumstance naturally instils into our minds; and we immediately conclude that we are in full possession of all that is most essentially necessary, namely, the sincere sorrow of a contrite and humble heart.
The sensations, however, which are created by shame are not to be indiscriminately condemned; for, a salutary confusion is invariably the attendant on true contrition, and there is a shame which leads to salvation: All the day long, exclaims the royal prophet, my shame is before me, and the confusion of my face hath covered me, Ps. xliii. 16. But then, this confusion must arise from the same principle as the contrition itself. The just man is sorry for his sins, because they offend his God: and he is confounded at the sight of his sins for the same reason, namely, because they are exposed in their most odious colours before the eyes of an omniscient Deity. As for the contempt or ridicule of men, he sets it completely at naught: the contempt of God is his only subject of alarm. – The true penitent, therefore, is overwhelmed with confusion when he exposes the secrets of his conscience; but his confusion bears no kind of similitude to that which originates in pride and self-love.
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.
Not only the heavens, but the sight of a blade of grass, or of the most insignificant thing, suffices to inflame with love of God the heart that knows Him.. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Maffœi, Book iii, ch. 1.
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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