Low-Sunday. – On Sensual Enjoyments. – 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.
Low-Sunday. – On Sensual Enjoyments. – continued.
Lastly: it is said that Lazarus desired the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, and that no one did give him. It is not, however, said, that Lazarus asked for them, or that the rich man refused to give them: he desired, says the parable, and no one did give him. The inattention was undoubtedly criminal. But was it to be expected that a man of his rank and condition should send relief from his own table? would it not have sufficed if he had given general orders to his domestics to administer to him? This is what is usually done by the great: (and this might have been done by the rich man) and yet they do not consider themselves responsible, if their orders are neglected. In a word, the rich man is censured, not on account of any thing hardhearted or unfeeling in his character, but on account of the indolence of his disposition, and his want of attention to the distresses of Lazarus.
Thus, when Abraham declares to him the cause of his condemnation, he does not say, in the words which will be pronounced by the great Judge at the day of judgment: “Lazarus was naked, and thou didst not clothe him; he was hungry, and thou didst not give him to eat; he was sick, and thou didst not visit him:” but, “Son, remember, thou didst receive good things in thy life: thou didst seek thy consolation in the world: thou didst make the abode of thy pilgrimage the place of thy delights. Here every thing is reversed: the tears of Lazarus are wiped away, and thy laughter and joy are turned into mourning: Son, remember thou didst receive good things in thy life, and Lazarus also evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.” This is his great crime. A life of luxury and ease is the great cause of his condemnation; and rash would it be for us to assign other reasons than those which the Spirit of God has assigned in the gospel.
This, perhaps, may excite your surprise. But, my beloved, will it require any deep consideration to discover that the practice of Christian virtue is necessary for salvation? Ah! if a disciple of Moses, living under a carnal and imperfect law, – a law, which neither inculcated the sublimer precepts of the gospel, nor so rigorously forbad sensual pleasures; if he, I say, is condemned because he led a soft, voluptuous life; what will be required of the Christian, – the member of a crucified Jesus, – the child of the new law, – the disciple of the gospel? What will be the eternal lot of the Christian, whose life ought to be so perfect, whose self-denials so frequent, whose sensual indulgences so few, and whose expiatory sufferings so numerous? Will he be treated more favourably, do you suppose, than the rich man, if he lead the same voluptuous life, and is careful only to abstain from shameful and criminal excesses?
It is an undeniable truth, founded on the unerring testimony of the word of God, that unless we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, we never shall be admitted into the number of his elect. Now, is nothing more necessary, in order to shew forth in our bodies the image of Christ crucified, than to abstain from adultery, from theft, from intemperance, and from the other grosser crimes? Our divine Model, it is true, was free from all these vices: but was this the whole of His virtue? Far from it: in addition to this, He was meek and humble of heart: He forgave and prayed for His greatest enemies: He was not conformed to this world: His life was in direct opposition to its maxims: He neither courted or enjoyed its pleasures or its vanities: He was a stranger to ease: He had not a place whereon to lay His head: He carried His cross from His birth, and He finished His course in the midst of the severest torments: the grand principle, which He came to establish among men, was the principle of self-abasement and self-denial, and His whole life was conformable to it. – In this, therefore, He is your model. Whether you are rich or poor, living in the world, or retired from it, married or single, old or young, if you do not bear the image of Christ crucified, you are lost for ever.
Nevertheless, provided you live in a regular way, and are guilty of no gross or enormous crime, you are not apprehensive about your eternal lot; and indeed, so far are you from being alarmed on that head, that when we urge you to devote the remainder of your days to prayer, retirement, mortification, and the practice of virtue, you coolly reply, that it is dangerous to attempt too much, that it is prudent to avoid the excesses into which others have been hurried by indiscretion, and that you see nothing in your conduct that requires to be corrected. St. Augustin lamented that certain Pagans in his time refused to be converted to the faith, on the supposition that nothing more was required of man than to refrain from excess, to lead a regular life, and to abstain from injuring his neighbour. “My conduct,” they said, “is blameless; why, then, should I embrace a new religion? If my life were disorderly, you would do well to hold out to me a law, which would place a restraint on my conduct, and prevent me from committing any excess. But if I avoid such things without the help of the law of Jesus, why should I subject myself to it?”
In the same manner, when we exhort these regular people to embrace a more Christian life, – a life more conformed to the maxims of Christ and His saints; when we remind them of the solemn promise, of renouncing the world and its pleasures, which they made in baptism, and which they ratify by the public profession of Christianity, they reply, that religion does not descend to trifles; that Christian morality and piety consist in leading a regular life; in being a good subject; a faithful spouse; a generous, disinterested, just, sincere master; an upright, honest, steady servant; and a friend to all mankind. “These, they say, are the essentials; with these virtues a person may be saved in any state: the addition of any thing else is totally unnecessary; it is all a matter of discretion.”
But attend to the sentiments of the same father in another part of his writings. Their conduct, he says, is irreproachable according to the world: they are men of probity: women of regular conduct: they honour their parents: they do not over-reach their brethren: they are faithful to their promises; they commit no injustice; – but yet, with all these virtues, they are not good Christians. And the reason is, because Christians crucify their flesh, with its vices and concupiscences; whereas they cherish and flatter this domestic enemy: – Christians are not men of this world; whereas they are its admirers, – its partisans, – its slaves: – Christians offer violence to their own will on every occasion; whereas they have no other rule of conduct than their own will: – Christians are like pilgrims on earth, sighing incessantly after their true country; whereas they would willingly fix their abode on earth, and consent to live for ever in this vale of tears: – Christians consider riches as obstacles to salvation; injuries, contumelies, and affronts, as blessings; afflictions and pains, as favours from heaven; the figure of this world, as a dream; whereas they view all these things in the opposite light: – Christians are spiritual; whereas they are worldly, and carnal-minded.
Ah! my beloved, if nothing more were required to form a good Christian, than to abstain from excess, examples of moderation in this kind were not wanting among the Pagans; and such examples, let me assure you, as are seldom equalled even among the disciples of Jesus. The excellence of a Christian does not consist wholly in avoiding excess, but more particularly in the practice of the gospel virtues; it does not consist wholly in the possession of the qualities which are admired by the world, such as honour, probity, generosity, uprightness, moderation, humanity, and such other social virtues; but it more particularly consists in being animated with the spirit of Christ crucified, and in possessing a lively faith, a pure conscience, and an unfeigned charity: the Christian must acquire merit in the sight of God by his actions, otherwise he will not be entitled to an eternal reward: his life must be worthy of a saint, otherwise it will be unworthy of a Christian: the tree that bears leaves without bearing fruit, is accursed, as well as the tree that is completely withered: the gospel condemns to the same eternal torments the unprofitable as well as the unfaithful servant.
Suffer not yourselves, my brethren, to be lulled into a false security. During the whole of your lives, you are required to bear in your bodies the image of your crucified Jesus. The obligation of denying yourselves, of chastising your flesh, and of reducing it into subjection, will never cease. Particular times, it is true, are set apart for a more severe course of penance: but, when those times are elapsed, sensuality is not to be indulged without restraint. He that is born of God, (1 John v.) saith St. John in the epistle of this Sunday, overcometh the world; overcometh its vices and concupiscences; overcometh its vanities and follies; overcometh its pleasures and allurements. Stand on your guard, therefore, my dearly beloved, and be resolute. Run the course that is set before you. Fight the good fight, and never forget that it is the battle of the Lord. Take to yourselves the armour of God: assume the lofty spirit of conquerors, and keep in subjection your vanquished enemies, – the world, – the devil, – and the flesh. Bear in mind what it is that you are contending for. Fix your affections on heaven. By these means will you ensure to yourselves the possession of it hereafter.
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.
That Temporal Miseries Are to Be Borne with Patience after the
Example of Jesus Christ.
[Christ.] 1. Son, I came down from heaven for thy salvation; I took upon Me thy miseries, not of necessity, but moved thereto by charity, that thou mightest learn patience, and mightest bear without repining the miseries of this life.
For from the hour of My birth till My expiring on the cross, I was never without suffering.
I underwent a great want of temporal things; I frequently heard many complaints against Me; I meekly bore with confusion and reproaches; for My benefits I received ingratitude; for My miracles, blasphemies; and for My heavenly doctrine, reproaches. – Thomas à Kempis – Imitation of Christ Bk III, Ch XVIII pt I.
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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