Holy Scripture.-continued (2).
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.
Holy Scripture.-continued (2).
“All scripture inspired of God is profitable to teach” (2 Tim. iii. 16).
Now let us go on to consider how the Scriptures are divided. Into how many parts? The Scriptures are divided into the Old and the New Testament. The word “ Testament” signifies a compact or covenant. Before the coming of Christ God made a covenant with the patriarchs, and later on with the people of Israel. That was the covenant of the Old Law, and the books in which it is set forth are called the Old Testament. But through Jesus Christ God made a new and more merciful covenant with mankind, and the history of this new covenant is called the New Testament.
If we open the Old Testament we shall find twenty-one books relating to Bible history; seven books containing moral teaching, and seventeen books of prophecy. The five books of Moses, for instance, and the books of Kings contain the Bible history; the Psalms, Proverbs, and the Book of Wisdom, moral principles; and the books of Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and Daniel, the prophecies.
The New Testament consists of the four Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by St. Luke; the fourteen epistles of St. Paul addressed to different communities, and to a few private individuals; and the seven epistles of the other apostles: one of St. James, two of St. Peter, three of St. John, and one of St. Jude; and, finally, the Apocalypse of St. John.
The four Gospels are placed rightly quite at the beginning of the book. “Gospel” in English means the good message and corresponds to the Greek word “Evangel,” which also signifies good tidings. Why do they bear this name? Because they bring to us the most blessed of all good tidings. Tidings of the Incarnation of the Son of God and of His life and teaching, His sufferings and death, of the kingdom which He instituted here on earth, and of His ascension into heaven.
The four Gospels comprise, therefore, the whole life of Christ on earth. But this does not mean that each Gospel deals with a separate section, so that one would contain a story of His childhood and youth, another an account of His public life, a third the details of His suffering, and the fourth a description of His resurrection and glory. No, they are not written in that way, and no one Gospel contains either all His teaching, nor another all His miracles, and so on. In all four Gospels the whole life of Christ is put before us, told over in different words, sometimes more briefly, sometimes at greater length, as though the same person was being reflected before our eyes in four different mirrors. We frequently see pictures of the four Evangelists, and usually they are represented by some sign or emblem by which we can recognize them. Matthew has the sign of a man’s face, Mark has the lion, Luke the ox, and John the eagle. Artists of all kinds, both painters and sculptors, are never tired of picturing these four signs. What is their signification? It is interesting to know these things, though of course not essential.
It is said that these four signs are taken from the vision of the prophet Ezechiel before the throne of God, where he saw the four living creatures: “ And as for the likeness of their faces; there was the face of a man and the face of a lion on the right side of all the four; and the face of an ox on the left side of all the four, and the face of an eagle over all the four” (Ezech. i. 10). And further on he says, “whither the impulse of the spirit was to go, thither they went” (Ezech. i. 12).
It needs no great stretch of the imagination to apply this as being a type of the four Evangelists in whom the spirit of God worked, and inspired them in the writing of their Gospels; and on the feasts of the Evangelists the Church has, no doubt with a purpose, ordained these portions of Ezechiel to be read. Without in any way rejecting this interpretation, there is another suggestive explanation attached to these emblems by St. Jerome. He considers them to have reference to the beginning of each of the four Gospels. The Gospel of St. Matthew begins with the birth of Christ, an infant in the manger, so St. Matthew is known by the face of the man-child. St. Mark begins with the sermon of St. John in the desert, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness.” It is the lion who raises his voice in the wilderness in such an awe-inspiring way, so St. Mark’s symbol is the lion. St. Luke begins with the sacrifice of Zacharias; therefore beside St. Luke we have the ox, which was the most frequently used as a sacrifice. St. John opens his Gospel by raising us up from this earth to heaven, from time to eternity, to the begetting of the Eternal Son by the Father. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” Like the eagle, who, by a few strokes of his wings, leaves this earth and soars beyond the clouds into the immeasurable heights of the firmament, St. John, in a word or two, transports us into eternity. So he is symbolized by the eagle.
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).
Copyright © Holy Cross Publications, 2013 – 2018. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Holy Cross Publications with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.