Christian Perfection. – 2.

Man’s Perfection, in what it consists.- continued.

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.-continued.

Second Proof from Sacred Scripture: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.
This is the greatest and first commandment.
And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets” (Matt. xxii. 36-40).
Here our Divine Lord clearly states that the whole law of God is fulfilled by the love of God and of our neighbour. But man’s perfection consists in the fulfilment of God’s law; therefore, man’s perfection must consist in Charity.
St. Augustine lays down the same doctrine when he says: “Jesus Christ is our end; by Him then we are made perfect: for all our perfection is to tend towards Him, not, of course, by a bodily movement, but by affections of the heart, and, therefore, by a close union with Him in the sweet bond of Charity” (In Ps. lvi).
“Charity that is newly born, is perfection in its infancy; Charity that is on the increase is mature perfection; great Charity is great perfection, perfect Charity is entire and complete perfection” (St. Augustine, Lib. de Nat. et Grat).
Here St. Augustine makes no distinction between Charity and perfection, showing that in his opinion they are one and the same thing. From which it follows that perfection consists in Charity.
It may be well here to distinguish between the perfection of saints and angels in heaven, and the perfection to which men can attain in this life.
The one is complete perfection. The other is, if we may so speak, imperfect perfection.
The saints and the angels are continually adoring and praising God. They see God face to face, His glory and splendour is so shining before them that they are drawn to love Him.
In this life we can never attain such perfection, because let us do what we will we cannot escape all venial sins. For this we should receive a special privilege from God, such as He has vouchsafed to none but to the Blessed Virgin (Council of Trent, Session VI. can. 23).
If we fall into sins, however small, it follows that we cannot be completely perfect.
Moreover in our present state we, as it were, see God through a veil, through the things which He has created, and seeing Him in this manner we are liable to forget Him at times; but if we give up contemplating God we cannot be completely perfect, because complete perfection consists in continually loving God.
Again, the affairs of life weigh us down to the earth and hinder us from perpetually contemplating and loving God as the blessed do in heaven. Hence it follows that we cannot attain supreme perfection in this life.
This is the teaching of St. Thomas. And hence the Apostle of the Gentiles hit, so to say, the mark exactly, when, speaking of perfection in this life, he called it the perfection of a child; and speaking of perfection in the next life, he called it full-grown, manly perfection (I Cor. xiii. 10).
The Apostle, says the Angelic Doctor, compares the perfection of our present life to the age of youth, which is feeble and imperfect; and he likens the perfection of the life of blessedness to the state of manhood, which has already reached its perfection of strength and vigour:—to give us to understand how imperfect is our perfection, which like a child, is always in a state of growth and advancement; and how complete is the perfection of the blessed, which like a full-grown man, has already attained perfect stature.
Let us then sum up by understanding clearly what we are to hold. The perfection of us, mortal men, compared to the perfection of the immortal Spirits now reigning in their heavenly country, is, on many accounts, ever wanting, and must be spoken of as defective and imperfect perfection. But if we compare it with the state of this our present life, and with the capabilities of our feeble forces, we may and must speak of it as true perfection. Nay, when it increases much and attains, if we may so speak, a greater finish, it may be termed great perfection, heroic perfection, sublime perfection.
It follows consequently that the highest perfection of the saints here below is reduced to this, that their passions being mortified create little disturbance in them, are easily and quickly overcome, and that the venial sins which they commit are not fully deliberate and are rapidly effaced by the good and meritorious works which are familiar to them.
This is the view of Suarez and the teaching of St. Augustine.
That man is perfect, says the holy bishop of Hippo, who falls not into the more serious sins—those, namely, which are committed with full deliberation — and who strives by almsgiving and other good works to purify his soul from the sins he has committed.
Nor, says the Angelic Doctor, does the perfection of our present state require that we should be united to God by a continual and uninterrupted exercise of love: such perfection belongs to our heavenly country, not to the slippery pathway of this life.
To be perfect here, it suffices that we find ease in the practice of union with God, so far as is consistent with the occupations in which it is the will of God that we should be engaged during our present life (Scaramelli, Vol. I, Section I, Article i. Chapter I).

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.

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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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