Man’s Perfection, in what it consists.
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.
Man’s Perfection, in what it consists.
“Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect”. (Matt. v. 48).
What does our Divine Lord wish to convey when He tells us to be perfect? He means that we must have the love of God, and the love of our neighbour in our hearts if we are to be pleasing to Him—in other words, that we are to have Charity. Our perfection, then, consists in Charity. That this is so, we will now prove from reason, Sacred Scripture, and the Fathers of the Church.
First Proof from reason: God has imposed a law upon us, and He expects us to fulfil His law. The end of every law is to promote some special perfection in that community for which the law has been enacted. Thus the civil laws have in view the formation of a perfect state; rules of military discipline have for their scope the organization of a perfect army; the laws or rules of monastic life are framed to develop religious orders which shall be pre-eminent in some particular virtue.
Almighty God in giving us His law had for His sole aim to form us into perfect Christians. Thus all our perfection should consist in the perfect fulfilment of God’s laws, and consequently, in Charity, which according to the Apostle, is the fulfilment of God’s laws. “Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. xiii. 10).
Second Proof from reason: The perfection of everything created consists in the attainment of the end peculiar to itself; thus we say that an eye is perfect when it sees objects distinctly, because the end for which the eye was made is to see; we call an ear perfect when it distinguishes sounds and words with accuracy, for the ear was made to hear; we call a light perfect when it shows us everything clearly and well-defined; we call a fire perfect when it burns actively, for the end of light and fire is thus attained. Thus, too, speaking of the fine arts, we consider a brush perfect, if it is well adapted for painting, and a pen, if well suited for writing; because the end of the former is to paint, of the latter to write.
To determine therefore in what man’s perfection consists, it suffices to know what that thing is which unites us to our last end, which is God, Who alone created us, and Who alone now rules us, and preserves us in life. That this thing is Charity, the Beloved Disciple lays down in plain terms.
“He that abideth in Charity, abideth in God, and God in him” (St. John, I. Epis., iv. 16).
“If any one love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and we will come down to him, and will make our abode with him” (John xiv. 23).
“But above all these things have Charity, which is the bond of perfection” (Coloss. iii. 14). St. Paul infers that Charity unites the Spirit of God to the spirit of man with the bond of divine love, and of the two forms one spirit (I Cor. vi. 17).
No wonder, then, that he calls Charity “the bond of perfection,” since Charity, which unites us with our last end, alone can make us perfect, and alone constitutes the whole essence of our perfection (Scaramelli, Vol. I, Section I, Article i, Chapter I).
First Proof from Sacred Scripture: “If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not Charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
And if I should have prophecy, and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not Charity, I am nothing.
And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not Charity, it profiteth me nothing” (I Cor. xiii. 1-3).
Here St. Paul lays down that Charity is absolutely indispensable for salvation; since without it the most distinguished gifts—whether of tongues, of prophecy, or miracles, as well as the most heroic acts of virtue —will ultimately prove of no avail.
He says that if he had the gift of tongues, and could speak not only all human languages, but also languages so exquisite as we may suppose the angels themselves to employ, were they to speak, and have not Charity; he would be like the sounding brass, or the tinkling cymbal, which wears away, while emitting a pleasing sound.
And if he should have prophecy, and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if he should have all faith, so that he could remove mountains, and have not Charity, he would still be nothing. And even if he were to go further and to practise the most heroic acts, such as giving all his goods to feed the poor, or suffering martyrdom, still if he had not Charity these things would profit him nothing.
From all this it follows that Charity is the very essence of Christian Perfection, that all other virtues derive their efficacy from their union with Charity, and that, if they are exercised apart from Charity, they are of no avail.
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.
August Devotion: The Most Pure Heart of Mary
Virtues to practice: The sanctification of our actions, diligence, edification, fidelity in little things
O Heart of Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother; Heart most worthy of love, in which the adorable Trinity is ever well pleased, worthy of the veneration and love of all the angels and of all men; Heart most like to the Heart of Jesus, of which thou art the perfect image; Heart full of goodness, ever compassionate toward our miseries; deign to melt our icy hearts and grant that they may be wholly changed into the likeness of the Heart of Jesus, our divine Saviour. Pour into them the love of thy virtues, and kindle in them that divine fire with which thou thyself dost ever burn. In thee let Holy Church find a safe shelter; protect her and be her dearest refuge, her tower of strength, impregnable against every assault of her enemies. Be thou the way which leads to Jesus, and the channel, through which we receive all graces needful for our salvation. Be our refuge in time of trouble, our solace in the midst of trial, our strength against temptation, our haven in persecution, our present help in every danger, and especially at the hour of death, when all hell shall let loose against us its legions to snatch away our souls, at that dread moment, that hour so full of fear, whereon our eternity depends. Ah, then most tender virgin, make us to feel the sweetness of thy motherly heart, and the might of thy intercession with Jesus, and open to us a safe refuge in that very fountain of mercy whence we may come to praise Him with thee in paradise, world without end. Amen.
An indulgence of 7 years once on any day of the month; A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of devotion is repeated daily for entire month (Apostolic Brief Dec. 21, 1901)
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