The Merit and Excellency of Prayer
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 Merit and Excellency of Prayer
“And another angel came, and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of God. And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God, from the hand of the angel” (Apoc. viii, 3, 4).
St. Chrysostom, speaking of this passage tells us, that one proof of the merit of prayer is, that in the Holy Scripture it alone is compared to incense. For as the smell of well-composed incense is very delicious, so prayer also, when well made, is very acceptable to God, and gives great joy to the angels and inhabitants of the heavenly Jerusalem.
“What can be more excellent than prayer? what is there more profitable in this life? what more sweet to the mind? and what in our whole religion more sublime”? (St. Augustine Tract, de mis. tom., 10).
“Of all things which we esteem in this life, none ought to be preferred before prayer” (St. Gregory De Or, Dom.).
St. Bernard, the better to make us understand the merit of prayer, says, that though it is certain the angels are often effectually but invisibly present with God’s servants, to defend them from the deceits and ambushes of the devil, and more and more to raise their thoughts and desires to God; yet nevertheless they more particularly favour us with this presence, when we are employed in prayer. He proves this proposition by divers passages of Scripture, as by this; “I will sing praise to Thee in sight of the angels” (Ps. cxxxvii, 2). Prayers scarcely go out of the mouth of him that prays, but presently the angels who are by us receive and present them to God. St. Hilary also assures us, that “the angels preside at the prayers of the faithful, and continually offer them to God” (St. Hilary, Can. 18 in Matt).
So that when we are in prayer, we are surrounded by angels, and in effect we perform their office; exercising at present what we must practise with them for an eternity, wherefore they already look upon us as their companions, and beforehand beholding us as in heaven, filling up the places of their fallen companions, favour us more particularly during our prayers than at other times.
St Chrysostom, speaking of the excellency of prayer, and desirous to let us see its advantages, says; “Consider to what a degree of happiness you are raised by prayer, and how great prerogatives are attributed to it. You thereby speak to God Himself, you entertain yourself and converse with Jesus Christ; you therein desire what pleases you, and you ask whatsoever you desire” (Lib. 2, de Oran Deum). There is no tongue that is sufficiently able to express, of how great a value this communication is, which man has with God, and what profit it brings along with it. We see in the world, that those who ordinarily keep company with wise and prudent persons, reform and improve their minds and judgment by their conversation. If, therefore, they become virtuous by frequenting the company of virtuous persons, what advantage may we not believe we gain by a frequent communication with God? “Approach Him and you shall be enlightened.”
In effect, with what lights, with what knowledge must we not needs be filled? What good, what happiness, must we not assuredly gain, by this kind of commerce? Wherefore St. Chrysostom assures us that nothing can so much contribute to our progress in virtue, as frequent prayer, and conversation with God; so that by this means the heart of man comes to be filled and to relish the most noble thoughts; and is enabled to raise itself above all earthly things, and in fine, becomes spiritual and holy, and in a manner transforms itself into God (Rodriguez).
Prayer, then, being of so great value in itself, and so necessary for us; it is just we should consider how much we are obliged to God for having rendered it so easy, that we may attend to it at any time, or in any place whatsoever. “With me is prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God, Thou art my support” (Ps. xli, 9, 10).
The gates of God’s mercy are never shut; they are always open to the whole world. We find Him always at leisure, always well disposed to do good; and He even importunes us to ask favours and graces of Him. Some make a most pious reflection hereupon, and say that if God should give audience only once a month, to all those that desired to speak with Him, and give them a kind and favourable hearing; and, moreover, should bestow several graces on them; this without doubt would be what we could not sufficiently esteem: because we should repute it a greater happiness than if an earthly king should honour us after this manner. Now if this be so, what esteem ought we not to have of the offer which God makes us, by inviting us to address ourselves to Him, not only once a month, but every day, and even every hour of the day? “But I cried to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning, and at noon I will speak and declare; and He shall hear my voice” (Ps. liv, 17, 18).
God is not like men, who reject the petitions offered to them; because by giving, He does not impoverish Himself, as they do. A man has so much the less, by how much he bestows upon another; for he deprives himself of that which he gives, and grows the poorer by his liberality. It is for this reason, then, that men so easily refuse what is asked; and if they give once or twice with a good will, they grow angry the third time, and give nothing at all; or if they do, it is in so disobliging a manner, that thereby they take away all assurance or confidence of asking them for anything another time. But God is “rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved” (Rom. x, 12, 13); because He makes Himself not the poorer by giving, nor is weary of being importuned, nor of seeing a great many continually employed in begging of Him. He is rich enough to satisfy the whole world, and is able to enrich every one, without being in the least poorer than he was before. But His riches are infinite, the source of His mercy is also inexhaustible. So that, as on the one hand, He abounds in all things to succour our necessities, so, on the other, He has a constant will to assist us, and would have us recur unto Him. It is, therefore, very reasonable that we should have a most grateful, sense of so great a favour; and that making our profit of so ample a permission, we should endeavour continually to apply ourselves to prayer. For, as St. Augustine says, upon these words of the Psalmist, “Blessed be our Lord, who has not deprived me of the spirit of prayer, nor of His mercy,” we must believe for certain, that if God withdraws not from us the spirit of prayer, He will neither withdraw that of His mercy; wherefore that His mercy may never forsake us, let us never leave off the exercise of prayer (Rodriguez).
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.
We ought to place a bar on the complainings of our bodies, which, under pretence of weakness, wish to prevent us from laboring. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Bartoli, Book v.
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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