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.
Birth of John the Baptist-The Benedictus. (continued).
“And thou child shalt be called the prophet of the Highest, for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord.” He, then, Whose way was to be prepared by John on earth, is none other than the Lord from heaven, and it is as announcing Him to men that John will be called the prophet of the Most High. Now comes the mission of the forerunner. “Thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways. To give knowledge of salvation to His people, unto the remission of their sins, through the bowels of the mercy of our God.” It is mercy as well as penance which John comes to announce to the world. A mercy such as the earth had never known; for the most marvellous act of God’s mercy under the old law was the promise of the Redeemer, following immediately on the condemnation of our first parents; and on this promise the whole human race had lived for four thousand years, surrounded by the sorrows which sin had entailed on them. But here the bowels of the Divine mercy are moved like those of a mother for the sufferings of her children; and it is in the name of this mercy that He who is to dissipate so much darkness appears upon earth. “The Orient from on High hath visited us. To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to direct our feet into the way of peace.” Since Adam’s sin had introduced death into the world, each succeeding generation was wrapped in that night so justly called by the Holy Scriptures the shadow of death. The spirits of the just who had served God on earth, although departed, were still sighing for deliverance, as they had done in this life, and it was through hope alone that some rays of light were reflected into the darkness in which they were waiting for the dawn. But listen to Zachary: “The Orient from on High hath visited us.” He will dissipate for ever this fatal night, and shed floods of light over the regenerated earth. The just man of the new law, looking upon death, not as the end of life, but only as the last step to be taken “in the way of peace,” by which the Lord has brought him to Himself, will say with another prophet, “O grave, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” Such is the wonderful canticle of Zachary, called the Benedictus, from the Latin word with which it begins. The Church orders it also, like the Magnificat, to be sung standing, as a sign of reverence and faith. It comes in at the end of Lauds. Every time this joyous sound strikes our ears, let us remember its signification, and thank God. Then, in thinking over all the wonders which Zachary announced to the world, let us think also of his faith; his voice, so long silent, breaks forth in an act of fervent faith, and then, when we remember how severe had been the chastisement with which in his case a single rising of doubt had been visited, we shall be able to see the high value and blessedness of a firm and unwavering faith. Let us be careful never to doubt any of the truths announced to us in the name of the great God, by His ministers and messengers, who speak to us in His name, as the Angel Gabriel did to Zachary. Has no word contrary to faith ever escaped our lips? Have we never, like Zachary, deserved to have our tongues struck dumb? If God is so merciful to us, let us not abuse His mercy, and thus incur a guilt far greater than that of this holy priest, even in the moment of his unbelief, for at that time the marvels of the Divine goodness, which have been revealed to us, had not yet been made known to him.
“Mary,” continues St. Bonaventure, “after having taken leave of Elizabeth and Zachary, and having blessed St. John, returned to her poor dwelling at Nazareth. And while she makes this journey, her extreme poverty is once more brought before us. In the humble home to which she is returning she will find neither food nor drink, nor any of the necessaries of life, for she possessed neither money nor property. She has just spent three months with kinsfolk who were probably in easy circumstances, and she is returning to her former poverty. She is now reduced once more to provide for her subsistence by the labour of her own hands. Be touched by her necessities, and let your hearts be enkindled by the love of poverty.
O Mary, so gentle and tender towards Elizabeth, so happy in her joys, so sympathising in her sufferings: O Mary, so strong in faith when thou didst press in thine arms the Forerunner of thy Son, and didst hear Zachary announce at the same time the destinies of John and of the Saviour: O Mary, so humble, so calm, so diligent in the poverty of Nazareth, obtain for us, according to the measure of our weakness, the virtues which we learn to love in thee. Teach us active charity, which loves and consoles; lively faith, which accepts and worships the word of God; and an untroubled soul, which receives alike from the Hand of God poverty and abundance. Thou wert the same in the house of the rich Elizabeth and Zachary, and in the poor dwelling at Nazareth. The same joy, far above all earthly joys, shone forth from thy soul, and enlightened all around thee. O holy Virgin, our model, may the meditation of thy life light up in us a single ray of that charity, and of that faith of which thy soul was the centre, and of which the peace and joy which thou didst shed around thee, were the rays, and may we learn to believe and love like thee, that we may also learn like thee to suffer and to comfort. Amen.
To thank God from the bottom of our hearts, with holy Zachary and the Blessed Virgin, every time that we hear the Benedictus.
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.
August Devotion: The Most Pure Heart of Mary
Virtues to practice: The sanctification of our actions, diligence, edification, fidelity in little things
O Heart of Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother; Heart most worthy of love, in which the adorable Trinity is ever well pleased, worthy of the veneration and love of all the angels and of all men; Heart most like to the Heart of Jesus, of which thou art the perfect image; Heart full of goodness, ever compassionate toward our miseries; deign to melt our icy hearts and grant that they may be wholly changed into the likeness of the Heart of Jesus, our divine Saviour. Pour into them the love of thy virtues, and kindle in them that divine fire with which thou thyself dost ever burn. In thee let Holy Church find a safe shelter; protect her and be her dearest refuge, her tower of strength, impregnable against every assault of her enemies. Be thou the way which leads to Jesus, and the channel, through which we receive all graces needful for our salvation. Be our refuge in time of trouble, our solace in the midst of trial, our strength against temptation, our haven in persecution, our present help in every danger, and especially at the hour of death, when all hell shall let loose against us its legions to snatch away our souls, at that dread moment, that hour so full of fear, whereon our eternity depends. Ah, then most tender virgin, make us to feel the sweetness of thy motherly heart, and the might of thy intercession with Jesus, and open to us a safe refuge in that very fountain of mercy whence we may come to praise Him with thee in paradise, world without end. Amen.
An indulgence of 7 years once on any day of the month; A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of devotion is repeated daily for entire month (Apostolic Brief Dec. 21, 1901)
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