On the Angels Song of Praise.
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 Angels Song of Praise.
To-day, my soul, during your meditation you are called upon to associate yourself with the shepherds of Bethlehem, and represent to your mind in vivid colors the scene at midnight, when a brilliant light suddenly broke through the darkness, and the fields around Bethlehem were resplendent with the glory that shone from Heaven, while amid the silence of night a song resounded, a song which touches your heart and brings tears to your eyes and to those of the shepherds; a song that no human ear had till then ever heard, words surpassingly beautiful and soothing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.” And if this angelic canticle finds an echo in your heart, proceed to consider:
1st. The words: “Glory to God in the highest.” Recall to mind how during the season of Advent you meditated on the fact that it is through the incarnation of our Lord that the greatest possible glory accrues to Almighty God; that in this auspicious event, the principal attributes of the Godhead are reflected as in a fair and wondrous rainbow; and that it is precisely on account of this mystery that the highest praise and honor is due from us to the Most High God. Yes, indeed, well may we say: Glory be to the Father, who gave His Son to us; glory be to the Son, who to-day for our sake lies in the manger; glory be to the Holy Ghost, by whose operation this miracle of grace was accomplished!
2d. Consider the words: “On earth peace.” Pass in review before your mental vision all those patriarchs and holy men – a venerable yet an expectant band – who under the Old Dispensation longed ardently for the advent of the Prince of Peace, for Him who was to bring peace on earth. Now He has come, He is here with us. Peace is already concluded between the unhappy human race and the God whose wrath they kindled, for now the Heavens are opened, angels ascend and descend, pacific relations are reestablished between Heaven and earth. Man is once more at peace with himself, for the incarnate Saviour has set the troubled conscience at rest by the remission of sins. But alas! perhaps you will say, I am a stranger to the peace here spoken of. If so, then consider in the third place:
3d. The concluding words of the angels’ song, “to men of good will.” Peace, the gift which the divine Child brought with Him from above, will not be bestowed on those individuals who are endowed with a good understanding or a good memory; it will not be granted to those who excel in bodily strength, who are remarkable for their personal beauty or for their noble birth; it will be given solely and exclusively to the men of good will, no matter if all else be lacking to them – intellectual superiority, distinguished beauty, a splendid physique, high position. And who is the man of good will? He who desires and asks and strives after nothing else but solely and wholly what God wills. He is a man of good will who is no less ready to drink vinegar and gall, if such be the Lord’s will, than to accept with gratitude for his consolation the most costly and delicious wine, if God presents it to him; who is equally willing to have a crown of thorns pressed on to his head, as to wear a regal crown of gold, since he is actuated only in either case by the love of God. Alas, my soul, how far you fall short of being a man of good will; how far you are from being able to take as your motto the beautiful words:
“What Thou willest, Lord,
as Thou willest,
as long as Thou willest,
and because Thou willest it.”
How far are you from resembling St. Stephen, who was the first to make manifest his good will, that is, the complete conformity of his will to the will of God, by gladly offering to God the sacrifice of his life; who, whilst he was being stoned, repeated, in deed at least if not in word, the prayer his Lord uttered: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
Oh, see then that you pray to-day for this good will; let the resolution you make to strive to the utmost of your power to acquire it be the first oblation you present at the crib; and renew that resolution every time that you hear the words of the angels song of praise:
Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
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.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
St. Stephen (first martyr), ora pro nobis.
Twelfth Night Prayer for the First Day of Christmas.
O sweet Jesus, with the angels let me praise Thee; with the shepherds let me see Thee; with St. Joseph let me find Thee.
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