St. Nicholas, ora pro nobis.
On John the Baptist in Prison.
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 John the Baptist in Prison.
Picture to yourself, my soul, this day, John the Baptist in prison, as the Gospel of to-day places him before you. Behold this saintly man loaded with chains, confined in a darksome dungeon, expecting every moment to be put to death; then consider
1st. The reason why Herod cast John into prison. The life led by this great prophet in the wilderness was one of such extraordinary sanctity, that all the people came forth to him from the towns and country. A great many believed him to be the prophet Elias risen again; others even thought that he was the promised Messias. His example as well as his preaching, incisive as a two-edged sword, converted the most hardened sinners, and Herod himself could not withhold his admiration from the great preacher of the desert, whom he heard gladly. But presently he conceived an illicit passion, and then all the good resolutions which the sight and the exhortations of the Apostle of penance may have elicited in him, were cast to the winds; nay, so completely did the spirit of impurity master him, that he did not scruple to apprehend John, and despite his innocence, his great reputation, and the esteem he himself felt for him, to put him in prison. my soul, nothing is more to be abhorred than the spirit of impurity! If you do but once let it penetrate into your heart, although only in thought or desire, then farewell to all idea of a Christian life, let alone the life of perfection. No blight is so baneful to the blossoming fruit-tree as the least touch of impurity, however slight, is to the Christian, not to speak of the Priest and Religious.
2d. Why did not Herod give up his illicit affection since he continued to listen to John’s exhortations and was even afraid of him? Because this fear was purely human. Herod feared the judgment of man, not of God, as was proved by his life, and by his behavior when the death of the Baptist was demanded of him. This fear of man, says St. Chrysostom, does not prevent sin, it does not restrain the corrupt will. But the true fear of God corrects the intention and preserves innocence intact. See yourself, my soul, reflected in the person of Herod. As long as the fear of man, the dread of your Superior, the apprehension of disgrace, in a word, mere human respect, holds you back from sin, or from giving free rein to some passion slumbering within your breast, and fostered in thought and desire, so long you are never secure from falling into sin, nor will you cast off the yoke of concupiscence. Fear God, who sees in secret and who can cast body and soul into hell, for then only will you be preserved from sin and delivered from the servitude of sin.
3d. Contemplate the inscrutable judgment of God as manifested in the imprisonment of John the Baptist. Herod, a man sunk in vice and a perpetual scandal to his subjects, retains his high position, enjoys all the comforts and pleasures life can offer, whilst John, a mirror of virtue, a source of edification to all the people, is unjustly persecuted for speaking the truth, and subjected to the misery of a cruel incarceration. Thus God is accustomed to deal with those who fear Him, in order to refine them as gold in the crucible, and at the same time prepare them for celestial brightness and eternal splendor. On the other hand, it is a dreadful judgment which He passes on the ungodly, when, instead of visiting them with salutary punishments and pains, He leaves them to lead a happy and prosperous life. That is like the last good meal, the feast which used to be set before condemned criminals on the eve of their execution; it is a recompense that the just God gives in reward of the few good actions which even bad men perform. But oh! what a poor and pitiable feast granted to the wretched sinner before he is cast into hell! Ponder upon this to-day, and derive from it consolation or warning.
Consider this also: That in his dark and dismal dungeon John was full of confidence, and could look death calmly in the face, because he was chaste and feared God, and had nothing to dread. How is it that within the walls of your pleasant monastery, or the house of your Order, you are often so discontented, so morose? Is it because there is something wrong about you, in however slight a degree, in regard to the subject of the two first points of this meditation?
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.
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.
Exert, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy power and come; that by Thy protection we may be freed from the imminent dangers of our sins, and be saved by Thy mercy; 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.)
Act of Perfect Contrition
Oh my God! I am heartily sorry
for having offended Thee and
I detest all my sins because
I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell;
But most of all because I have offended Thee, My God,
Who art all-good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace,
To confess my sins, to do penance,
And to amend my life. Amen.
Prayers in Time of Calamity
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