Low-Sunday. – On Sensual Enjoyments.
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.
Low-Sunday. – On Sensual Enjoyments.
There was a certain rich man, who was cloathed in purple and fine linen; and feasted sumptuously every day. Luke xvi. 19
At the time, my beloved brethren, when the restraints of public penance are suspended, and example and inclination invite you to pleasure and enjoyment; – at the time, when the canticles of spiritual gladness and festivity, with which the Church celebrates the mystery of the resurrection, are too often interrupted by the songs of dissipation and worldly joy; – at the time, when the greater number of the faithful throw off the yoke of mortification, and return with increased relish to the world, from which they had been unwillingly separated during the fast of Lent; it will not be unseasonable to call your attention to the history of a man whose manners and dispositions were not dissimilar from yours, and from whose condemnation you may collect the most undeniable evidence that a life of sensuality and worldly pleasures is a life of sin, and will be succeeded hereafter by torments that will never end. – In vain will you attempt to justify this love of pleasure, by alledging your strict attention to the duties of morality and religion: the rich man was probably the same; he was neither a murderer, a swearer, a Sabbath-breaker, nor an oppressor of the widow or the orphan; and yet he was condemned. Hearken to the parable: There was a certain rich man, says our Lord, who was cloathed in purple and fine linen; and feasted sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate full of sores: desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table; and no one did give him: moreover, the dogs came, and licked his sores. And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died; and he was buried in hell. And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom: and he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue, for I am tormented in these flames. And Abraham said to him: Son, remember thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. This, my beloved, is a parable delivered by Truth itself: and the whole purport of it is intended, as I will demonstrate by a few instructive reflections, to prove one of the most important points that can be discussed in the system of Christian morality, namely, that a worldly life alone is a life of sin, and worthy the severe effects of God’s eternal justice.
1. In the first place, the parable remarks that he was rich: there was a certain rich man. Nothing odious, however, is added to this circumstance. He is not accused of acquiring his wealth by unjust means, nor of behaving with haughtiness or arrogancy in his exalted rank. It is merely stated that he was rich: and it may be presumed that he peaceably enjoyed the patrimony of his ancestors, void of ambition, free from cares, surrounded by tranquil and domestic pleasures, and enjoying the sweets of a property which was his own by right. Could the possession of wealth be more innocently acquired? And yet, this was the first step that led to his condemnation.
In the second place, he was cloathed in purple and fine linen. This, undoubtedly, was a costly dress in those times. But it is not said that he surpassed the bounds which custom prescribed to people of his rank and station. It is not said that his means were unequal to his expenditure, nor that the labourer, the tradesman, and others who were about him, were sufferers on account of his splendid magnificence. Nothing at all of this is so much as hinted at. Neither is it said that he endeavoured to ensnare the innocent by the improper adjustment of his dress, and that he justified himself by the plea, that he meant no harm – a plea, by which too many of the fair sex, now-a-days, endeavour to justify the indecent and artificial display of their personal charms. Nothing of the kind is laid to his charge. It is said that he was rich, that he was cloathed in purple and fine linen, and that he was fond of pomp and splendor; and these things were certainly more excusable under the old, than under the new law; for Jesus, poor and debased, had not then given the example, nor displayed in his own person the model of modesty and simplicity.
In the third place, he feasted sumptuously every day. Here again we must consider that the law of Moses forbad only excess; that strict watch over the sensual appetite, which has been since prescribed by the gospel, was not then enjoined. Milk and honey were a part of the promises made to the sons of Abraham: and it was rational to conclude that the sweets of plenty, which were held out as the recompense of fidelity, might be enjoyed without crime. It is said, indeed, that he feasted sumptuously: but it is not said that he eat forbidden meats, or that he violated the fasts and abstinences enjoined by the law. It is not said that he was guilty of debauchery or excess; that the infidel and libertine were his guests; that improper conversation formed any part of his entertainment; or that there was any thing in his conduct which marked him out to his associates and others as a loose and dissipated character. – No neglect of his religious duties is imputed to him: nor is there any thing said, from which we might infer that he was either a hard master, an irreconcileable enemy, a perfidious friend, or an unfaithful husband. He is not accused of envying the prosperity of others, nor of defiling his tongue with calumny and detraction. – In a word, according to the description given in the gospel, he was fond of the table, and spent his days in Jerusalem in a gay, splendid, and agreeable manner. In other respects, he seems to have been a man of probity, of inoffensive morals, and living in the world as the world expects that men of property should live. It may, moreover, be said, that he seems to have been one of those men whom the public voice extols, who is proposed as a model of rational life, and whom piety itself would hardly venture to condemn.
Now, my brethren, according to the description I have given, (and I leave it to any of you to say whether the description is not a just one) does he appear very culpable? Were any man, except our Saviour, to declare that such a life led to perdition, and that such a man was deserving of eternal torments, would you not exclaim against his intemperate zeal? would you not cry out, in the words of the army of Israel, when Jonathan was condemned by his father Saul, What has he done? Is he to die because he has tasted a little honey? – Early impressions, I acknowledge, have induced us to form no very favourable opinion of the rich man: but what is his crime? The scripture says that he was rich, that he was superbly cloathed, and that he feasted sumptuously every day. Do you discover any thing very enormous or criminal in all this? The man who, in these times, is guilty of no other crime, is applauded as a man of virtue as a model worthy of the imitation of others. “Such a one,” they say, “lives up to his rank, does honour to his fortune, and by his morality and probity gives respectability to religion and virtue.” Praises are not sufficient: comparisons injurious to the piety of the true servants of Jesus are introduced: “it is thus,” they say, “that a Christian ought to live in the world, and to avoid the enthusiastic folly of those men, who disgrace piety by their austere deportment and indiscreet singularities.” This is the language of worldlings: and I tremble, when I reflect that the only victim of the eternal justice of God, designated by our Lord, is a character which would be held up as a model of virtue in the present age.
Perhaps you may say that the rich man was devoid of charity, and that his treatment of Lazarus was cruel and criminal in the highest degree. It is not for the minister of the gospel to gloss over any transgressions of the law of charity: and therefore I will not pretend to be his advocate, and excuse his guilt. But let us attend to the parable, and perhaps it will appear that the guilt which you, or at least the greater number of Christians, contract, by the violation of the law of charity, is greater than that which is attributed to the rich man. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who lay at his gate full of sores, desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table; and no one did give him. There is certainly something shocking to the feelings of humanity in this account. But let us examine into the chief design of the parable, and we shall be convinced that our Lord intended to describe the character, not of an uncharitable and cruel man, but of a man who lived in indolence, and who was too earnestly engaged in pleasure to attend to the wants of the poor: we shall be convinced, that the history of Lazarus is only an incident in the parable, and that its main object is to expose the danger of riches and sensual enjoyments.
In the first place, Lazarus was a common beggar, – a beggar, who looked for subsistence, not to one individual only, but to the public at large: – a beggar, who might have been treated as an impostor, or as an indolent vagrant; and who might have been passed by unnoticed, as an object who had no just claims on his charity, with as much reason as common vagrants of this description are neglected by you on many occasions.
Secondly, I acknowledge that Lazarus lay at his gate full of sores. Such an object of distress ought undoubtedly to have excited his compassion: but there was some merit in suffering such a disgusting spectacle, as Lazarus was, to remain unmolested at his gate, to make it his usual place of resort, and to exhibit constantly before his eyes the display of his multiplied sores, without so much as rebuking him for his intrusion. You, perhaps, on similar occasions, hasten to bestow your charity. But what are your motives? To succour a fellow-creature in distress? To relieve the wants of a member of the same body? To show forth your love for Jesus, – the Father of the poor? Or rather, are you not induced by the desires of removing, as quickly as possible, such a disgusting object from your sight? And does it not frequently happen that, instead of fixing your eyes on the nauseous spectacle, and endeavouring to form an idea of the ulcerated wounds of your own souls in the sight of God, you distribute your charity by the hands of a servant, in order that your delicate feelings might not be injured? If this be the truth, your delicacy, perhaps, is as offensive to the Almighty, as the indifference and neglect of the rich man.
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.
True Comfort Is to Be Sought in God alone.
Do with me, O Lord, whatever Thou pleasest; dispense to me either good or evil, health or sickness, life or death, prosperity or adversity, consolations or trials; Thou wilt find me disposed, with the assistance of Thy grace, to receive all things indifferently from Thy fatherly hand, with patience, with submission, with joy, with love and thanksgiving. In one thing, alone, Thou wilt not admit of indifference, and that is, in the business of my salvation. Overwhelm me, therefore, with every misfortune, provided Thou art pleased to preserve me from sin; take from me all riches except those of Thy grace; and in depriving me of all, deprive me not of Thyself; be Thou always my portion, both for time and eternity. Amen. – Thomas à Kempis – Imitation of Christ Bk III, Ch XVII prayer.
April Devotion: The Holy Ghost
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 humankind 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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