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.
IV — Our Lord Finds the Disciples Asleep.
“And going away again, He prayed, saying the same words. And when He returned, He found them again asleep (for their eyes were heavy) and they knew not what to answer Him. And He cometh a third time, and saith to them: ‘Sleep ye now, and take your rest.’” — Mark xiv, 39, 40, 41.
WHEN our Lord found that there was no comfort for Him in the disciples He went back to His prayer. Still, the sensitive nature shrank, and the only strength He obtained was from His Father’s will.
In religion our Lord demands from most the same trial, and offers the same support. It is the experience of all who undertake work for God that when real trial comes, the soul stands alone as far as human comfort is concerned. Before He brings great trial upon a soul God seems invariably to wean that soul from reliance on anyone but Himself. Yet He does not condemn the seeking of companionship; He Himself sought it. This is one of the weaknesses of our nature which our Lord allowed to Himself. It is natural to man to seek help and the comfort of appreciation of work undertaken or of the trial borne, but our Lord lets me see that, though natural to man, it will rob the work God gives me to do of its completeness if I rest upon this sympathy; therefore, in my case as in His own, though He allows the weakness, He does not permit it to be satisfied. Even a second and a third time He seeks the support of His disciples, but He returns to the only complete support of the soul — “Yet, not My will, but Thine be done.” In the repetition of His prayer He teaches me the persistence He would have me to practise in prayer. To persuade myself that it is necessary for my mind to seek for other prayer than that which suits the occasion He shows me is a mistake. I must not be afraid that I am not praying fervently if the same words come to my mind, so long as I can say them genuinely. The difficulty of repetition comes not so much from the repetition itself as from my want of really meaning the words I repeat. As our Lord fully meant the words He said, it was kind of Him to repeat them over and over again, that in the like circumstances I should not distract myself to find words in my prayer when the words which suit me have come to me.
He finds the disciples asleep, and they know not what to answer Him. His first word is to Peter: “Canst thou not watch one hour with Me?” Our Lord seems to complain, yet we know that the labours of the day, the long waiting about the temple for the buying of the lamb and the slaying of it, the further waiting to have it offered on the altar, the excitement of the Last Supper, the long discourse, both in the supper chamber and in the walk to the Garden, the very obedience to our Lord to sit down and wait, would all account for Peter’s weariness, yet because He knew that many would feel the same impossibility to keep awake, and often find difficulty in giving full attention to my difficulties and my needs, our Lord allowed Himself to feel what I so often feel when others might be more helpful to me in my need. Still, He shows me that I am not to be turned from doing what I know to be the will of God, because others are not interested and do not assist me. Even this complaint to Peter He makes in love of me, for after the resurrection He allows to be seen what He knew of Peter’s love, and how far He was willing to entrust His work to the sleepy disciple. Here He shows me it is not a mark that love is not genuine, because it does not answer when I seem to have most need of it.
Thou teachest me much, Lord, that concerns my religious life in this act of Thy passion. Grant that I may learn Thy lesson. Give me the grace to understand the meaning Thou wishest me to take from Thy passion, and to see how closely every act of Thine is capable of helping me in my own difficulties and trials. Let Thy love and Thy care for me be apparent to me, not only as a doctrine, but as a force to enter into my very life. Thy passion, dear Lord, is not only meant to work my redemption once and for all, but to have part in every moment of my striving. The small details are meant to be to me a help, an instruction, a support. Give me the grace to read the story in this way. Let it help me to bear the want of sympathy that drives me to repine. Let it lead me as it led Thee to the only sure support of Thy divine will.
Be Thou in Thy holy passion the food of my prayer, the support in weariness, the giver of all honesty, the purifier of my heart, that the love of my heart may burn with the same intensity with the love of Thee and Thy Father. Let not this centre of all that is noble and true be for me of no avail. Let not this treasury of all virtue be closed to me, but, in Thy mercy, give me the support and the stimulus of Thy passion, that in all things my life may be after the model Thou hast given me. 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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