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.
1. The Approach to the Garden of Olives.
“Then Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemane.” — Matth. xxvi, 36.
IT is difficult to say which is the first act of the Passion. I may take the first moment of our Lord’s life, and there are many references to the Passion throughout His life; but the first physical act is this journey to the Garden where He was to accept His Passion, and begin the sufferings which were to end in death.
He went, therefore, from the town into a country place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray.” And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to grow sorrowful and to be sad.
This deliberate coming of our Lord to the Garden, and His retiring even from His disciples in order to be more private in His prayer, is an example to all those whom He has called to follow Him in love. There was no need for Him to compose Himself to prayer, for at a moment He could have turned His whole soul to His Father, and no circumstance would have disturbed the complete attention and devotion of His mind and heart. But because His religious could and would grow into careless habits, and go to their prayer without full deliberation, and in circumstances which would be a cause of distraction, He would show us the care He requires of us. He takes the two precautions before His prayer—He seeks a quiet place, and He separates Himself from His companions.
Am I careful in these matters? Whilst I am with the community at the prayer which is made in common, am I not on the alert for any distraction? Do I not allow ways, habits and peculiarities of my companions to rob me of the quiet I should seek? Is it not true that my time of prayer is often wasted, because I will not make the determined effort to recollect myself? The immediate preparation for prayer is at all times in my power. Continued attention is given only as a special grace to those who are very faithful in doing what is in their power. Everyone by the grace of God can begin prayer with attention. To make the effort required is one lesson of the first act of the Passion. I have part in the Passion of our Lord when I am particular to secure the surroundings suitable to my prayer. If I am careless and choose a place or a time in which I shall be assailed by distractions so far I am not joining myself to our Lord in His Passion.
But if I follow His example and am particular to choose a time and place in harmony with prayer I may be sure of the grace our Lord has purchased for me by His Passion. With very little effort I find it easy to begin my prayer well when I have taken the precautions my Lord takes for my sake. I must separate myself from that business which is capable of engrossing my thoughts, and I must unite myself with our Lord just entering on His Passion.
How little have I thought of Thee, Lord, and of Thy example! How ready I have been to excuse my carelessness and my want of forethought when my prayer has been vapid or distracted! Has it not been through my own fault? I have not taken the opportunity of making my prayer in Thy company. Thou offerest me the support of Thy own prayer, but only if I will do my part. As Thou didst so carefully leave the town and retire to a quiet country place, as Thou didst leave even Thy disciples that Thou mightest be alone with Thy Father in prayer, so must I leave my distractions and the thought of human intercourse, and put myself as completely as I can in the presence of God.
Sometimes in saying prayers of obligation I find that a great effort is necessary, or my prayer is one long chain of distractions. This points to a necessity of obtaining a power of recollection which is not easily gained. But the use of my prayer will depend almost wholly on the exercise of this power. When I find that the circumstances are distracting, instead of taking them as an excuse for myself, I must know that it is all the more incumbent upon me to secure recollection in spite of the circumstances. If I can avoid them, well and good; if I cannot, I must follow Thee, dear Lord, in Thy concentration, and I must learn in all times and places to look to Thy example. Thou wast ever recollected during Thy whole life. Thou didst not allow any distraction to rob Thee of Thy clear sight of the Father. Thou wilt help me, Lord, to a recollection which at present seems wholly beyond my powers, as Thou hast given to Thy saints the power in even the most occupied lives to keep the thought of Thee always in mind. Thou wilt so impress my heart with the love of Thee that nothing shall be able to take my love from Thee. I beg Thee in Thy mercy to add the gift of Thyself, that with Thy constancy 1 may keep my mind and my heart on Thee and the Father, so that nothing can take my attention from Thee, but that whatsoever I do may be done in Thy presence and in Thy love. Amen.
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.
The Versicles and Responses used in the Office of the Church, in the Lauds and Vespers, on Fasting days and during the penitential Times of Advent and Lent.
LORD have mercy on us.
Christ have mercy on us.
Lord have mercy on us.
Our Father, &c.
V. And lead us not into temptation.
R. But deliver us from evil.
V. I said, O Lord, have mercy on me.
R. Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee.
V. Turn to us, O Lord; O how long wilt Thou be angry?
R. And be Thou entreated in favour of Thy servants.
V. Let Thy mercy be upon us, O Lord.
R. As we have put our trust in Thee.
V. Let Thy priests be clothed with justice.
R. And let Thy holy ones rejoice.
V. Lord save the king.
R. And hear us in the day that we shall call upon Thee.
V. O save Thy people, O Lord, and bless thine inheritance.
R. And rule them and exalt them for evermore.
V. Remember Thy congregation.
R. Which Thou hast possessed from the beginning.
V. Let peace be in Thy strength.
R. And plenty in Thy towers.
V. Let us pray for the faithful departed.
R. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
V. Let them rest in peace.
V. For our absent brethren.
R. O my God, save Thy servants, who put their trust in Thee.
V. For the afflicted and captive.
R. Deliver them, O God of Israel, from all their tribulations.
V. Send them help, O Lord, from Thy sanctuary.
R. And from Sion protect them.
V. O Lord God of Hosts, convert us to Thee.
R. And show us Thy face, and we shall be saved.
V. Rise up, O Christ, and help us.
R. And deliver us for Thy name’s sake.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come to Thee.
Let us Pray.
O God, whose property is always to have mercy and to spare, receive our petitions, that we, and all Thy servants who are bound by the chains of sin, may by the compassion of Thy goodness mercifully be absolved, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, Who, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Penitential Prayer of St Austin.
Ante oculos Tuos, Domine, &c.
Before Thy eyes, O Lord, we bring our offences, and with them compare the stripes we have received.
If we weigh the evil we have done, we find that what we suffer is much less than we deserve.
What we have committed far outweighs what we endure.
We feel the punishment of sin, and yet we turn not from our wilfulness in sinning.
Our weakness faints under Thy scourges, but our perverseness is still the same.
Our diseased mind is racked with pain, and our neck is as stiff as ever.
Our life is spent in sighs and grief, but in our actions we are not reformed.
If Thou expectest our amendment, we grow no better; if Thou takest revenge, we are not able to subsist.
When we are chastised we acknowledge what we have done, but when Thy visitation is over we forget what we weep for.
If Thou stretchest out Thy hand, we promise duty; if Thou suspendest Thy sword, we keep not our promise.
If Thou strikest, we cry for pardon; and if Thou pardonest, we provoke Thee again to strike.
Here, O Lord, are Thy criminals confessing their guilt. We know that, unless Thou forgivest, Thou mayest justly destroy us.
Grant, O Almighty Father, without merit, what we ask, as out of nothing Thou didst create us to ask Thee: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We wait in expectation of our Saviour’s coming, who will reform our frail bodies according to the pattern of His glorious body.
V. Behold, the God of heaven is our Redeemer.
R. In Him will we put our confidence, and will not fear.
Almighty God, who for the redemption of mankind didst send Thy only-begotten Son to assume our flesh, and suffer death upon the cross; we humbly pray, that as our Saviour hath left us here the example of His patience, He would both enable us faithfully to follow His example, and make us hereafter partakers of His glory: Who, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.
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