On the Love of the World As Constituting a Hindrance to Deriving Profit from Mental Prayer.
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.
On the Love of the World As Constituting a Hindrance to Deriving Profit from Mental Prayer.
What more melancholy sight than that of a waste and barren tract of land standing among cultivated fields! Good seed has been sown in it also, but the seed came to nothing, and while the surrounding fields bear a fine crop of waving corn, this one remains untilled and unproductive, presenting a sad and desolate appearance.
Who can deny, my soul, that you too much resemble that sterile field? Has not good, excellent seed been sown in you during your daily meditations on the incarnation of our Lord? Yet you have remained dry, cold, and no fruit has been produced. Whence is this? There are several reasons to account for it, and in order to acquaint ourselves with them, and thus render ourselves better able to eliminate them, we will, before proceeding further to meditate upon the great mysteries of religion, ask ourselves what are some of the principal hindrances which stand in the way of our meditations being fruitful. One of the foremost of these is the love of the world.
1st. Only consider the saint whose feast falls early in Advent, St. Francis Xavier. In the midst of a terrific storm, which lashed the waves of the sea into fury, tossing the vessel violently to and fro, so that her timbers creaked and threatened to part asunder, the saint might be seen kneeling in a corner of the tempest-rocked ship as calmly as if he were in some quiet church on the mainland. And while all around was enveloped in thick darkness, his countenance shone with the radiance of holy devotion. Whence came this spirit of contemplation, whence this supernatural ardor? It was the Holy Ghost who kindled that fire in the heart of the great servant of God. Holy Scripture tells us that “the Spirit Himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings” (Rom. viii. 26); and these words are specially true in regard to mental prayer. It is by the Holy Ghost that you are enabled to understand that which, in accordance with the counsels of God the Father, you have received through the teaching of God the Son, the precious deposit of the Faith. God the Father decreed the redemption of man, God the Son accomplished the work, but it is God the Holy Ghost who gives us the power to comprehend it aright and make use of it to our profit. Consequently without the aid of the Holy Spirit no mental prayer can be good or profitable. Now nothing is a greater obstacle to the operation of the Holy Spirit in your soul than the love of the world.
2d. Consider in the first place what the love of the world really is. St. Augustine says: By the world we mean the affection that is set on the world; that is (to quote Dionysius the Carthusian) more attached to what is earthly, transitory, vain, than what is divine and eternal. David speaks of these empty, idle things of earth as “lies,” because they are all deceptive and misleading. If then your heart is worldly, if it loves the world, it loves what is a lie; and how can the Spirit of truth enter into such a heart? So if your heart loves the world, the pleasures of the world, the wealth of the world, to you must be applied the words of St. John: “The world cannot receive the Spirit of truth.” (St. John xiv. 17.)
Furthermore, according to St. Augustine the love of the world is an uncontrolled desire to obtain what the heart covets. And not only does this inordinate desire engross the whole heart, take possession of the whole mind, but, the same holy Father of the Church asserts, since the heart or mind contracts a resemblance to the object it loves, so your heart will acquire the evil characteristics of the world; its vanity, sinfulness, falseness.
And now consider how can the sun of the divine mysteries upon which you are to meditate light up a heart, be mirrored on its surface, if, entangled by the love of the world, it has become a spiritual swamp and morass? Wherefore consider:
3d. Whether you entertain in your heart any love of the world. St. Bonaventure suggests a simple method of discovering this. “The thoughts of a man,” he says, “dwell most constantly on the object he loves best.” Now ask yourself, what are the thoughts which most frequently creep into your mind during mental or any other prayer? What do you love best to think about when you are at work, or during your leisure hours? Do you not perhaps by some little postern-gate of your thoughts and wishes give admittance again to the world, although on the day of your entrance into the cloister, or your admission to Holy Orders, or on the day of your conversion, you closed the door against it once and for ever? Up, then, my soul, sweep out your house, drive out of it these unholy intruders, these worldly thoughts and desires; without further delay prepare a clean and pure resting-place for the divine Child who is soon to come, remove this obstacle to the entrance of the Holy Spirit, this impediment to the fruitfulness of your meditations. Otherwise you may have reason to fear lest, although to the eye of man you appear dead to the world on account of the garb you have assumed, if you still beneath the habit or the cassock cherish the love of the world in your heart, you merit to hear the woful sentence which our Lord pronounced upon those who outwardly wear sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravening wolves.
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.
December Devotion: The Immaculate Conception.
Come, let us adore the King our Lord, who is to come!
Hymn from the Office of Lauds for Advent
The solemn voice of the Precursor is heard, explaining the obscurity of the ancient figures; let our slumbers cease; Jesus is rising on our horizon.
Let the sluggish soul now rise, and stay no more upon this earth; a new star is shining, which will take all sin away.
Lo! the Lamb is sent to forgive us freely our debt; let us unite in tears and prayers, that we may obtain pardon.
That when He comes the second time, filling the world with fear, He may not have to punish us for our sins, but may protect us in mercy.
Power, honour, praise, and glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Paraclete, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayers from the Office and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for Advent
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Almighty Lord and God, who hast brought us to the beginning of this day, let thy powerful grace so conduct us through it, that we may not fall into any sin, but that all our thoughts, words, and actions may be regulated according to the rules of thy heavenly justice, and tend to the observance of thy holy law. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
V. Incline unto my aid, O God.
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
Lord God, and King of heaven and earth, vouchsafe this day to rule and sanctify, to direct and govern our souls and bodies, our senses, words, and actions in conformity to Thy law, and strict obedience to Thy commands; that by the help of Thy grace, O Saviour of the world! we may be fenced and freed from all evils. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.
V. O Lord God of hosts, come and deliver us.
R. Show Thy face, and we shall be saved.
V. Show us, O Lord, thy mercy.
R. And grant us the Saviour, whom we expect from Thee.
V. The Lord shall rise upon thee, O Jerusalem!
R. And His glory shall be seen upon thee.
Bend Thine ear, O Lord, we beseech Thee, to our prayers, and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation; who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.
Novena for Advent
Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, O my God! To hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.
(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30th) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)
Immaculate Conception Novena.
O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, didst prepare a worthy dwelling place for Thy Son, we beseech Thee that, as by the foreseen death of this, Thy Son, Thou didst preserve her from all stain, so too Thou wouldst permit us, purified through her intercession, to come unto Thee. Through the same Lord Jesus, Christ, Thy Son, Who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
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