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.
VIII — Our Lord’s Hands are Bound.
“Then the band and the tribune, and the servants of the Jews, took Jesus, and bound Him.” — John xviii, 12.
THIS insult, this want of trust, this treatment of our Lord as a dangerous prisoner may have arisen from Peter’s attack on the servant of the High Priest. Though it was the natural way of dealing with a prisoner, it was especially galling to our Lord. He knew that He had accepted the death His Father wished Him to undergo for the salvation of the world. The bands with which they had bound Him could not restrain His power. The ropes would have fallen from Him at the first wish of His heart. They did not as a fact restrain Him, but they were a sign that the ministry of His hands was rejected by His own people. Our Lord loved the use of His sacred hands, and allowed much of His ministry to be through them. Very often in His life we read of His stretching out His hand, of His touching the sick, of His taking the dead son of the widow of Naim by the hand, of His helping Peter when sinking, of His raising His hands to heaven in prayer, of His blessing little children, and of His blessing the few loaves of bread, multiplying them so that they satisfied a great multitude. He had just held in His hands the sacred elements which He had blessed and brake and given to His disciples. He had just washed the feet of the disciples, using His hands in that act of humiliation. And the response to all that loving ministry is that they bound Him. As our Lord loved to use His hands in His prayer. His blessings and His charity, so He felt the indignity of these bands. Yet He did not cease to offer His hands a few hours later to be pierced by the nails, that the instruments of His goodness might also have part in His sufferings.
Our Lord would have me sanctify the work of my hands after His example. I find that much of my service depends for its completeness on the work of my hands. Not unfrequently 1 cannot be used in our Lord’s work, because I have not trained my hand to work for Him. So much of my power to work for Him depends on the care with which I use my hands. He showed me the kind use, and I am careless in my imitation of Him. So also in my dealing with others, much depends on my gentleness and firmness in the use of my hands, as much of the influence I may have on others depends upon the grace or carelessness of my hands in prayer or in speech. Our Lord would teach me the lesson that His service does not disregard the small things of life, but is made perfect by loving attention to small things. No one has a greater soul than our Lord, and no one has ever been more careful in the little things that add joy to life.
Then it may be that our Lord allowed His hands to be bound to teach me that it is in subjection and restraint of the powers He has given me that I am to prepare my soul for His work.
Thou, dear Lord, didst not refuse to be bound that Thou mightest give the most free service of Thy passion and death for me. Thou wouldst be bound in Thy hands, because Thou wishest me to seek freedom of action by submitting myself to Thy bondage. Thou wishest me to be bound by loving subjection to Thee, not by sin or any evil habit. I have allowed the powers of good to be taken from me by submitting to the bondage of Satan; from this Thou freest me by Thy passion and death; to help me to work for Thee Thou submittest Thyself to the bondage of my meanness, and Thou allowest me to bind Thy hands to prevent Thee from helping me. Alas! I have so bound Thee in the past; oh, grant that I may never do so again. I have bound Thee by my selfishness, by my false liberty, for Thou wilt not assist a man who will not submit himself to Thee. Thou hast called me to make the sacrifice of my own will in holy Religion, that my weak will may be strengthened by union with Thine. Yet after I had promised Thee my will, how often have I striven for my own! I have even persuaded myself that my will was a safe guide. I have thought little of Thy will, though I have appealed to it. I have said: “Let Thy will be done,” but I have sought my own. Thou in Thy mercy hast refused to give me the freedom I sought. Thou hast raised up other wills more in conformity with Thine. I see it now. Lord, though I refused to see it in the past. In Thy mercy, continue, I beseech Thee, to thwart me when I seek my own will, but deign to make my will conformable to Thine, that I may work for Thee, not only with the force of the weakness of my own will, but with the strength of Thine. Let Thy blessing be upon all I do for Thee, not that I may be satisfied, but that, joined to Thee in the bonds of love, I may go forth as Thou didst to suffer and to die if it be Thy divine will. Let me never join Thy enemies in binding Thy hands that they can no longer bless me or help me. It will be my own fault, Lord, if Thou help me not. Let me not be useless in Thy service, because of my self-will. 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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