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.
“The third day He rose again from the dead”
WE turn to the contemplation of our Saviour’s glorious Resurrection, that great truth in which we express our belief when we say these words of the Apostles’ Creed: “The third day He rose again from the dead.” The instruction which we propose to give you . . . on this most important subject can be divided into three heads, namely:
I. The number of witnesses that testify to the truth of the Resurrection.
II. The weakness of the objections that are urged against it.
III. The enormous significance which the fact of the Resurrection bears.
We will, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, begin by considering briefly and devoutly the two first of these headings.
The Resurrection is an event which came to pass many hundreds of years ago in a distant country on the other side of the world. We are always desirous in the case of any important occurrence to fix the exact date at which it took place, and in this case we learn from the Apostles’ Creed that Christ rose again on the third day after His death: “The third day He rose again from the dead.” Christ rose, therefore, as it were, before His time, not delaying or putting off His resurrection till the day of the general rising from the dead, but, on the contrary, hastening it in order that His sacred body should not long remain in contact with the dust of the earth; He did this to confirm and strengthen our faith and supply us with a type and figure of our own resurrection. On the other hand He delayed it for three days that it might be evident beyond any doubt that He was really dead, and that incontrovertible proof of the genuineness of the Resurrection might be established. So it was a resurrection anticipated and yet delayed, and which, taking place on the third day, fulfilled the figure given of it by Jonas, and made true our Saviour’s own prophecies concerning it. What evidence, then, have we that Jesus in truth rose again from the dead and that this event really came to pass, as we are told it did? We know it first of all from the testimony of the apostles and disciples. It is always to eye-witnesses that one looks for the confirmation of any great event. Their evidence is accepted in a court of law as proof positive all the world over. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall stand” (Deut. xix. 15). But as a matter of fact the apostles and disciples can not be said to have been eye witnesses of the resurrection of Christ. At best the only people who could be said to have been actually present were the guards and the soldiers; and yet we are quite justified in quoting the apostles and disciples as bearing testimony to it, because they looked with their own eyes upon the living Saviour after they had known Him to be dead and buried. If you met this morning here in the street a friend whom you had yesterday seen off on the train, you could confidently assert that your friend had returned from his journey. Now just think what numbers of different people saw the risen Saviour! He was seen by the two disciples going to Emmaus, and the same evening he appeared to the assembled apostles in Jerusalem. Thomas was absent, so a week later He came to them once more, Thomas being then present. He was seen by seven apostles on the Lake of Genesareth, and later on by five hundred disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Finally, He was with the assembled apostles and disciples in Jerusalem before He ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives under the eyes of numerous witnesses.
You will admit that there is an abundance of reliable testimony furnished by witnesses, all of whom had known the Saviour intimately, having lived with Him in close and constant intercourse; every feature and line of His sacred face was fresh in their memory, every tone of His voice was familiar to them. His most sacred wounds gave them the means of identifying Him with infallible accuracy as the same, whose death on the cross they had witnessed. Men as well as women saw Him, not only in the dusk of evening, but in the clear light of day, and that not once, but repeatedly; and they not only saw Him, but they talked with Him, ate with Him, and touched Him. Many of them were far from being ready and inclined to be credulous; some were skeptical and hard to convince, like Thomas: “Unless I put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John xx. 25). Thomas meant, in other words, that unless he could with his hands find proof that it was our Saviour he refused to believe it. Another important witness is St. Paul, who, enemy of Christ and persecutor of the Church, became transformed by the sudden appearance of the risen Christ into one of His most zealous disciples. “And last of all He was seen by me also” (1 Cor. xv. 8). Without a doubt witnesses are plentiful enough.
What character do these various witnesses bear? Did they give their evidence in confused and hesitating language, in broken and disjointed sentences, retreating to some distant country to tell their story where no one could contradict them, or reserving it for the ears of friends who would not pain them by showing up their delusions? Quite the contrary. The apostles after the Holy Ghost was come upon them preached with great power and strength concerning the Resurrection of the Lord in the presence of His enemies, His accusers, His murderers, in the very city where He had been put to death but a few weeks before, and which contained His grave. Openly and to their faces He said: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, whom you by the hands of wicked men have crucified and slain . . . this Jesus hath God raised again, whereof we are all witnesses” (Acts ii. 22-32). Do you perhaps suggest that these were picked witnesses and merely deceitful and self-interested men? Such a thing has never even been hinted. They had no reward to hope for from the world; they expected and looked for nothing but what they received, namely, ridicule, contempt, and persecution, toil and labor, martyrdom and death. Eternal life was the reward they hoped for, and this they would have forfeited had they been impostors trying to deceive their fellow-men. It seems clearly established, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that witnesses to the Resurrection are so numerous and so unanimous that it would be unreasonable not to accept their testimony.
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.
April Devotion: The Holy Ghost
Virtue to practice: Patience
Vexilla Regis prodeunt
The royal banners forward go;
The Cross shines forth in mystic glow,
Where Life for sinners death endured,
And life by death for man procured.
Where deep for us the spear was dyed,
Life’s torrent rushing from His side,
To wash us in that precious flood
Where mingled, Water flowed, and Blood,
Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old;
‘Amidst the nations, God,’ saith he,
‘Hath reigned and triumphed from the Tree.’
O Tree of beauty! Tree of light!
O Tree with royal purple dight!
Elect on whose triumphal breast
Those holy Limbs should find their rest.
On whose dear arms, so widely flung,
The weight of this world’s ransom hung:
The price of human kind to pay
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.
O Cross, our one reliance, hail,
Thou glory of the saved, avail*
To give fresh merit to the Saint,
And pardon to the penitent.
To Thee, Eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done;
Whom by the Cross Thou dost restore,
Preserve and govern evermore. Amen.
*Instead of: ‘Thou Glory of the saved,’ during Passiontide, say: ‘This Holy Passiontide‘, during the Paschal Season: ‘Thou joy of Eastertide‘, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: ‘On this triumphant day.‘
Vexilla Regis pródeunt,
Fulget Crucis mystérium,
Qua vita mortem pértulit,
Et morte vitam prótulit.
Quæ vulneráta lánceæ
Mucróne diro, críminum
Ut nos laváret sórdibus,
Manávit unda et sánguine.
Impléta sunt quæ cóncinit
David fidéli cármine,
Regnávit a ligno Deus.
Arbor decóra et fúlgida,
Ornáta regis púrpura,
Elécta digno stípite
Tam sancta membra tángere.
Beáta, cuius bráchiis
Prétium pepéndit sæculi,
Statéra facta córporis,
Tulítque prædam tártari.
O Crux, ave, spes única,
Gentis redémptæ glória!*
Piis adáuge grátiam,
Reísque dele crímina.
Te, fons salútis, Trínitas,
Colláudet omnis spíritus:
Quibus Cricis victóriam
Largíris, adde præmium. Amen.
(ex. Breviario Romano)
An indulgence of 5 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions for the daily recitation of this hymn throughout an entire month (S.C. Ind., Jan. 16, 1886; S.P.Ap., April 29, 1934).
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