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.
III — The Sweat of Blood.
“And His sweat became as drops of blood trickling down upon the ground. And when He rose up from prayer, and was come to His disciples, He found them sleeping for sorrow.” — Luke xxii, 44-45.
THE sweat of blood shows me the terror of the forecast of the passion. It took all the resolution of our Lord’s nature, supported by the messenger from heaven, to sustain Him when His Father offered Him the work for which He was sent. His divine will never wavered, but His human will which had accepted the sacrifice, now that it was actually offered, recoiled, and His human nature rose up against the offering of Himself. The struggle to submit and calmly accept the will of His Father was so violent that the life-blood was forced from His veins, and through the pores of His skin, and stood as sweat upon His brow and fell upon the ground. Here our Lord shows me the repulsion I feel in facing difficulties which will cost me self-sacrifice. He would feel to the utmost all the difficulties, and force His human nature to submit. He lets me see the struggle, that I may know His sympathy in my own.
There is often in my life a call of God to endure some pain, or to undertake some commission for the sake of others which will entail sacrifice on my part, and my first impulse is to resist when our Lord would have me brace myself to accept and go through with His work. Whilst it is at a distance I do not find it hard to accept, but in the very excitement of the work the acceptance is more difficult. I tell myself that it is not necessary for me to do this work, others will take it up, but our Lord lets me see that He wishes me to do it. No doubt He will find others to accept it if I refuse, but I shall not be joined to Him, I shall not be His soldier if I fail Him in the time of need.
Give me a share in Thy courage, dear Lord, that when time of trial comes I may not fail. Thou hast allowed each of Thy servants to grow up with a natural objection to certain work, and at times Thou askest each to contradict that objection, and only by doing so to accomplish Thy work. Thou askest one who is naturally shy to face concourses of men, in spite of the effort it costs him. Thou askest another who is naturally keen and full of life, and with a natural inclination to lead others, to take up the yoke of obedience, and to leave all public work absolutely to the will of another. Thou givest us natural tastes which enter into Thy work chiefly by being crossed. The completeness of my union with Thee will greatly depend on the generosity with which I am willing to act against my natural inclinations. I do not clearly see why Thou dealest with me in this way, but Thou showest me in Thy own example that I am to expect this call from Thee. Thou showest me I am not to think that because I feel the aversion I am therefore unfaithful to Thee, but only when I refuse to do as Thou wishest me, though the doing of it will demand from me the courage to overcome the shrinking of nature.
Again, Thou teachest me that I must not lose heart because after many resolutions I find my courage apparently to fail in some particular circumstance, for Thou didst find that even Thy divine union with Thy Father did not prevent the shrinking of Thy human will in the moment when the full chalice of Thy passion was presented to Thee. Thou didst allow the natural shrinking of Thy human nature from pain and death to have its full effect on Thee, and when that effect had made Thee shrink from the sacrifice, Thou didst will to make an obedience to Thy Father’s will; Thou didst make even Thy shrinking human nature submit, and the sweat of blood shows me the reality and the intensity of Thy victory.
Then, still human, Thou didst turn to the sympathy of Thy friends for comfort, and going to the three favoured disciples Thou didst wish them to offer to suffer with Thee, but this sympathy was not given to Thee. Thus our Lord and Master allowed Himself to feel the bitterness to which He subjects so many of His servants. In the time of real trial they stand alone; either none of their associates join themselves with the sufferer, because they do not appreciate the object for which he is ready to suffer, or they do not understand the suffering. In both these ways the disciples failed to sympathise with our Lord, hence they were no support to Him in His agony. It was thoughtful and kind of our Lord to subject Himself to this trial which He knew would be the experience of so many engaged in His work. He did this that when the trial comes upon me I may join myself to Him and suffer with Him: and though I receive no sympathy from others I may still persevere.
Our Lord would teach me also to understand the views of my companions, that I may, if He wishes it, bring some comfort and support in the day of trouble. How can I complain of the want of sympathy on the part of others, when 1 take so little pains to appreciate the difficulties of others? Our Lord knew and fully weighed all the feelings of His disciples.
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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