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.
V—The Band with Judas.
“Judas. therefore, having received a band of soldiers and servants from the chief priests and the Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.” — John xviii, 3.
THE care that Judas took to cover his treachery is full of warning for us. He had no direct communication with Pilate, but went to the chief priests. They, no doubt, obtained from Pilate some of the Roman soldiers and, joining to them their own guard, called by St. John the servants of the high-priest, sent them with Judas to receive from him their enemy. Judas thus covered his treachery by obtaining the sanction of both the secular and the ecclesiastical authority. The time of his betrayal was carefully chosen. He knew that the Last Supper would be finished, and that our Lord, according to His custom, would retire into the Garden of Olives, that He might be alone in prayer during the night. He wanted to avoid the company of the Apostles. They did not suspect him. None of them except St. John and St. Peter had even a hint of what Judas was about to do. Still, as some of the disciples might have accompanied our Lord, Judas would be on the safe side. It was necessary that he should be able to see distinctly, therefore he would have the men carry lanterns. There might be some little resistance on the part of the disciples: he had heard them say only a few days before: “Let us go and die with Him.” He knew well the courage of Peter and the boldness of John and James. He warned the soldiers to take arms, and, lastly, he would have them bring ropes to secure our Lord. He had known Him escape from their hands when sought before. The word of our Lord to Judas, as he left the supper chamber, confirmed him in the hope that at last He would submit and allow Himself to be taken, but still it was better to be safe. Thus we see Judas taking great care over his treachery. Even now his chief right of approaching our Lord is the friendship his Master had given him. And Jesus went forth to meet His betrayer. He did this apparently to show His faithful disciples that it was not because of force that He was to deliver Himself up, but of His own deliberate will. The suddenness of His appearance startles Judas, and he is not ready with his prepared greeting. Many of the soldiers know not Jesus, and when He asks them, “Whom seek ye?” they answer, “Jesus of Nazareth.” When our Lord answers, “I am He,” the whole band falls back, and falls to the ground. . . the fact brought home to the disciples that our Lord was not taken against His will. The time for His passion appointed by the Father had come, and though it means His submission to the soldiers, He lets me see that it is deliberate and wilful submission.
He had something else to bring home to us, namely, that at all times He was careful of and merciful to the weaker of His disciples. Thus, He asks the soldiers once more: “Whom seek ye?” and when He is answered, “Jesus of Nazareth,” His words in reply are: “I have told you that I am He; if then you seek Me, let these go.” Our Lord is always gentle with weakness, but He urges all to have the courage which He Himself shows to accept the sufferings God sends to us with full deliberate submission as coming from the hand of our Father and Friend. He would have me imitate His own courage and deliberateness in my own life, and yet to have regard to the needs of others, that I may be courageous in facing suffering myself, yet be gentle with others, lest they fail in the time of trial. If He wishes me to sacrifice myself, He also wishes me to spare all whom I am consorted with.
I thank Thee, Lord, for the lesson Thou givest to Judas as he comes to betray Thee. Thou lettest him know that he would be powerless to betray Thee if Thou didst not give Thyself willingly into his hands. At the same time Thou showest him once more Thy gentle care of the disciples with whom he was associated such a short time ago. Indeed, Lord, Thy example is of much importance to me. I am so inclined to expect too much from others, and to avoid all trouble myself. How often I am wanting in courage when a little boldness would enable me to accomplish Thy work. Thou askest me to pause when my selfishness has led me to place myself in an occasion of sin, and Thy word sounds in my ear: “Whom seek ye?” Oh, if I could answer at all times that I seek Thee, Lord, not to betray Thee, but to unite myself with Thee, it were well for me! Thou allowest me to see that I can unite myself to Thee most closely by my deliberate sacrifice for Thee. Give me, I beseech Thee, some of Thy courage, and give me also Thy own gentle care of others, that I may forget myself and think, even in the time of suffering and trial, of the needs of others. Thou wast ever kind and considerate for Thy disciples, even now when their weakness was about to separate them from Thee. Make me thoughtful for others after Thy example. 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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