Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jesus in the Garden of Olives

Meditation for the First Wednesday in Lent.

Jesus in the Garden of Olives.

1st Point. Jesus is sorrowful even unto death. What is the cause of his sadness? Is it the foreknowledge of all that he is to suffer? Alas, no! it is the sight of my sins, my ingratitude, my misery! I laugh at those things which should cause me to weep! I take pleasure in that which ought to render me miserable! He has compassion on me, and I have none on him.

2nd Point. He is seized with fear to prove that he is man, that he is human and infirm like myself. He has divested himself of his strength, and clothed himself with my weakness; he has given me his courage, and taken my timidity; he trembles to assure me, fears to encourage me, falls to raise me! Oh, what goodness! what charity! Where can we find a physician who is willing to give his health and strength to his patients in exchange for their maladies and feebleness? Oh! surely, he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows.

3rd Point. Pleasure and grief constitute the causes of the sins of men; desire and fear their passions. Jesus has vanquished these two enemies, and imparted to us his strength, that we also may vanquish them. He has abstained from all pleasure, suffered all griefs, renounced all the desires of nature, triumphed over all fears; sweat blood and water from all his veins, and contended even unto death.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On the Passion of Our Lord in General

Meditation for the First Tuesday in Lent.

On the Passion of Our Lord in General.

1st Point. Jesus is the victim of all time and of all men; the victim of sinners and of the just. As he has loaded himself with all our crimes, he has crowned himself with all our sufferings! As there are none of his creatures whom he has not loved, there are none for whom he has not suffered. But he suffered principally for myself, as he bestows more graces on me than on others, which are the fruits of his sufferings. He has ever held me in remembrance, and I never think of him! I do not love him, or desire to suffer for his sake.

2nd Point. Why did Jesus die? Why did he desire the unspeakable anguish and misery that he endured? Alas! he died to return me the life which I lost through sin; he rendered himself miserable to secure for me an eternal felicity; he delivered himself to the power of his enemies to deliver me from mine! He did not question the judgment of Pilate, he did not work miracles as he might have done, to deliver himself from their hands. He was crucified throughout his life. His heart was transfixed to the cross with his body. The greatest of all his sufferings was in not suffering; it was his chief desire to be baptized in his own blood, to drain the chalice of his passion, and die.

Oh, sweetest Jesus! thou wert not displeased with thy enemies for doing that which thou didst so much desire, and which enabled thee to suffer without measure. It was only their sins and malice which diminished thy satisfaction, and added to thy griefs. The torments which they inflicted on thee cannot be surpassed in cruelty, nor could they make thee suffer more. They loaded thee with opprobiums and ignominy, and treated thee as the most miserable of all men. Couldst thou have suffered more than thou didst suffer, or die in more cruel agonies than thou didst?

3rd Point. And I avoid all suffering and mortification, and would even escape death. I wish to live surrounded by delights and enjoyments, when, if justice were awarded me, I should at this moment be suffering all the pains of hell. Where is it that I do not find examples of thy goodness and tender mercy? Where is it that I do not discover my own malice and presumption? Where is it that my ingratitude is not apparent?

Words of Scripture.

"For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead corporally." -Colossians, ii.

"Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us." -Galatians, i.

"And I have a baptism, wherewith I am to be baptized: and how I am straitened until it is accomplished?" -St. Luke, xii.

"From the sole of his foot to the top of his head, there is no soundness therein: wounds and bruises and swelling sores: they are not bound up, nor dressed, nor fomented with oil."-Isaias, i.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

On the Causes of Temptation

First Sunday in Lent

The Gospel. Matt. iv. 1-11.

Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple, And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.


On the Causes of Temptation.

1st Point. Why did our Lord suffer himself to be tempted? It was in order to vanquish our enemy, to teach us how to combat, to inspire us with courage, to animate us by his example, to humiliate the devil, who triumphed over Adam, to repair the sin of our first parents, and to raise them from their fallen condition, by giving their children to triumph over the devil.

2nd Point. Why am I tempted? It is because you are proud, because you do not guard your senses, especially your eyes and ears, because you are under the dominion of bad habits, which hold correspondence with the devil; it is, perhaps, because you are not in the order, or state, in which God desires you to be, and have not followed your vocation; it is that your heart is attached to creatures, or that you are not sufficiently occupied; it is that you are a man, a sinful man and a Christian, and that you desire only happiness and consolation. For a man, being free, is not always determined to do good; but the sinner, being a slave, is under the dominion of him who has conquered. The Christian, being a soldier, should never relax his warfare, or slumber at his post. If the righteous wish to be crowned, they must first be proved by temptation.

3rd Point. Why has the devil tempted me? Because he hates the image of God, which you bear in you; because he is envious of man, and wishes him to be in his own place; because he seeks to make you his slave and the companion of his pains. It is for this end that he desires to enter into your heart, which is the throne of God, to be adored therein; strives to profane his temple and sanctuary; wishes to drive Jesus Christ from his kingdom, which is in you; wishes to crucify him anew, in your soul, and renew the ignominies of his passion. Do you not assist him in his malicious designs? Do you not satisfy his ambitious schemes? You do this as often as you yield to his temptations.

4th Point. Why does God suffer me to be tempted? For his glory and your good. He wishes to know if you truly love him; he wishes to know yourself, and to make you sensible of your infirmities, and constrain you to have recourse to him; he wishes to prove your virtue, to hold you in dependence of him, to prepare you for combat, detach you from creatures, and render you worthy of eternal life.

Oh, Jesus, Saviour of my soul! since thou hast been tempted, I am no longer astonished that I also suffer temptations. It is good for me to know thee and know myself. Temptations is necessary and salutary for me, because it render me humble, and prevents me from being presumptuous. Let me be tempted, then, my God, and prove me to see if there is any iniquity in me. Oh, no, my God, do not tempt me; I know my miseries too well! Deliver me speedily from temptation, at least strengthen me against its assaults, and give me courage to vanquish it. Satan aims at thee as well as at thy servant. Defend thyself and thy interests, therefore, in me, against thy enemy and mine.

Words of Scripture.

"God tempted Abraham." - Genesis, xxii.

"Fear not; for God is come to prove you." - Exodus, xx.

"Ananias, why hath Satan tempted thy heart?" -Acts, v.

"God hath tried them, and found them worthy of himself." -Wisdom, iii.

"As gold in the furnace he hath proved them." -Ibid.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

On the Obligations we are under to Meditate on the Passion of Jesus Christ

Meditation for the Saturday after Ash-Wednesday.

On the Obligations we are under to Meditate on the Passion of Jesus Christ.

1st Point. The Son of God is well pleased when we reflect on the sorrows of his bitter passion; and we owe him this consolation, since it was for us that he suffered and yielded himself a willing victim to the justice of God, bearing in himself the punishment due for our sins. It was for this that he descended from the throne of his splendour at the right hand of the Father, and passed his life on earth in poverty, humiliation, and misery, "Blotting out," says St. Paul, "the handwriting of the decree that was against us, fastening it to his cross." We should, then, suffer with patience and joy, for the love of him, all pain, all distress, all injuries, which may overtake us. But he only asks us to come hither, and, at the foot of the cross, think of the love we owe him, and the excessive griefs he has suffered for our salvation. IS there anything more just? Notwithstanding which, we occupy ourselves but little with such reflections. When they are presented to our minds, do we not think of them with lightness and frivolity, and without interest, attention, or grief? The grandeurs, the vanities, and the pleasures of the world, engross our thoughts, while the sorrows and pangs of Jesus are forgotten! Can anything be more unjust?

2nd Point. There is nothing sweeter or more consoling, than to meditate on the passion of Jesus, because it reveals to us the excess of his tender and compassionate love, and inspires us with a lively and strong hope, that God will pardon our sins, and be merciful to our infirmities. For the Son of God has satisfied the justice of God the Father; he has transferred to us the treasures of his merits; and we should glory more in the price he has given for us, than in all the blessings, graces, and joys, which we hope to obtain from his infinite goodness.
These are sweet reflections, and ought to fill our souls with consolation. What joy and pleasure ought we not to derive from the fountain of all grace, which is ever open and free for the refreshment of souls!

I have committed many and grievous sins; my conscience is terrified; but why should I be cast down or troubled, when I remember the wounds of my Saviour, and that it was for my sins that he received them? "There are no wounds, however mortal," says St. Bernard, "which may not be healed by the death of Jesus."

3rd Point. The remembrance of the passion of our Lord, is very useful to us in our spiritual warfare; for it renders us victorious over our enemies, who are the world, the flesh, and the devil. The devil tempts us by despair or presumption: despair arises from ignorance of the mercy of God, who delivered his only Son to death for the salvation of sinners, and accepted his suffering in payment of their debt. He revealed his justice in the rigorous treatment which he inflicted on his only, his most holy and innocent Son, who, wearing only the likeness of a sinner, and being clothed in the shadow of our transgressions, was obliged to submit to the weight of his anger, and suffer the penalty of our guilt.

The passion of Jesus enables us to obtain the victory over the world, which tempts us only by love and pleasure, fear and grief; for who is there that can love pleasure, when they behold the Saviour of the world consumed by suffering? Who can fear grief and pain, when they reflect that Jesus preferred them to all the splendour and felicity of paradise?

The flesh is our most dangerous enemy; it is that which tempts us both by love and fear; but the passion of Jesus inspires us with horror for all that it loves, and with love for all that it hates and fears. When I see the body of my Saviour covered with wounds, I am constrained to cry out, with one of the saints, in accents of tender compunction, Behold mine, without wounds!

Oh Saviour of the my soul! is it surprising that I, who meditate so seldom on thy sacred passion, who shrink with horror from the contemplation of thy wondrous sufferings, who turn my eyes away from thy wounds, should yield to temptations when they assail me? But, from henceforth, I will establish my habitation on Calvary. There do I wish to live - there do I wish do die. Not on Thabor will I begin my Lent, but on this hill of grief. Here I will say, "It is good, O Lord, for me to be in this place." Oh, spectacle full of profit and consolation, to behold a God expiring on a cross for the love of sinners!

Words of Scripture.

"Think diligently upon him that endureth such opposition from sinners against himself, that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds." -Hebrews, xii.

"O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow." -Lamentations, i.

"For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ and him crucified." -1 Corinthians, ii.

"Forget not the kindness of thy surety, for he hath give his life for thee." -Eccles. xxix.

"Christ, therefore, having suffered in the flesh, be you also armed with the same thought." -1 Peter, iv.

Friday, February 24, 2012

On the Excellence of Mortification

Meditation for Friday after Ash-Wednesday

On the Excellence of Mortification.

1st Point. What is mortification? It is a death of love which destroys the criminal life, detaches the mind from the sense, separates the soul from the body, and makes it live in the spirit. It is a sacrifice of love, in which the Holy Ghost is the priest, the body is the victim, the heart is the altar, pain is the knife, love the fire, glory the fruit.

2nd Point. What is mortification? it is a martyrdom of love, less bloody than a martyrdom of faith, but longer and more wearisome, more free, and (in one sense) more voluntary.
What is mortification? It is a continuation of the sacrifice of the passion of Jesus, which supplies all that is wanting in his sufferings; which transforms our bodies into members of his, and animates them with his divine spirit; which makes us participate in his sorrows, merit his graces, and finally exalts us to the throne of his glory.

3rd Point. Why is it that I mortify myself so little? Alas! it is because I do not love Jesus Christ, and am not one of his members animated by his spirit; it is because I lead a sensual and carnal life, and despise and shrink from his suffering; it is that I am the slave of my body, and seek only the pleasures of the flesh, and relish not those of the spirit, being worldly, sensual, voluptuous, and the enemy of God. Oh! in order that I may die the death of the just, I will henceforth live the life of the just; I will, from this moment, become a victim of love, that I may die in the arms of divine love.

Words of Scripture.

"I beseech you, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing unto God." - Romans, xii.

"I die daily." -1 Corinthians, xv.

"With Christ I am nailed to the cross." -Galatians, ii.

"who now rejoice in my suffering, and fill up those things that are wanting of the suffering of Christ, in my flesh for his body, which is the Church." - Colossians, i.

"Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God, by Jesus Christ our Lord." -Romans, vii.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On the Same Subject

Meditation for Thursday after Ash-Wednesday

On the Same Subject

1st Point. Make a free offering of your body to God, and he will impart to you his Spirit. Be watchful and careful in the discipline of your exterior, and he will guard and provide for the interior. Do all that you can, and that which you cannot accomplish he will do for you. Walk while you can, and when your strength fails you he will bear you in his arms. Fast with Jesus, that you may eat the Pasch with him.

2nd Point. Fasting is salutary for both soul and body; it is an efficacious remedy for their diseases. Nothing is impossible to him who has faith; nothing is difficult to him who loves; all is possible to him who reposes his trust in God. Fast if you can, and persuade yourself that you can do more than you imagine yourself capable of. Fasting is blessed by God, consecrated by his Son, and observed by all the faithful. God imparts strength to those who fast, and deprives of strength those who do not. Good cheer and luxurious ease are destructive to the health and life of all men; fasting and abstinence are safe remedies which restore the health and prolong the lives of all who practise them. He who shall have lost his health and strength for Jesus Christ, shall recover all that he thinks he has lost. He who desires to preserve his body and health, to the prejudice of the interests of Jesus Christ, shall lose all that he hopes to gain.

3rd Point. I will therefore chastise my body as the Apostles did, for fear of being found among the reprobates. I desire, with all my heart, to follow the example and imitate the life of Jesus Christ, that I may be of the number of the predestined. I will mortify my body, in order to remedy the maladies of my soul; I will deprive it of the power of revolting, by fasting, which will impair its strength. I will mortify my senses, that I may live a spiritual life. I wish to die with Jesus, that I may rise with Jesus. I wish for stripes and wounds, that I may become a true member of his thorn-crowned head; and if I have not the courage to inflict them on myself, I will at least suffer with thankfulness whatever afflictions God may see fit, in his divine providence, to send me.

Words of Scripture.

"The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary to another." -Galatians, v.

"And they that are Christ's have crucified their flesh, with its vices and concupiscences." - Ibid.

"If you live according to the flesh, you shall die." - Romans, viii.

"For the wisdom of the flesh is death; but the wisdom of the spirit is life and peace." - Ibid.

"Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." - Jeremias, xvii.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On Exterior Penance and Mortification

Meditation for Ash-Wednesday

On Exterior Penance and Mortification

1st Point. There is nothing more united and less united than the soul and body. When one advances, the other recoils; when one rises, the other descends; when one is in health, the other is sick; when one is strong, the other is weak. It is necessary, then, in order to strengthen and give health to the soul, to bring the body under subjection, and weaken its evil propensities by penance and mortification.

I am not a man if I obey my passions; I am not a Christian if I do not combat with and overcome my passions; I am not a true penitent if I do not mortify my passions. Since my body is polluted by sin, it ought to be purified by pain; and since it has part in the pleasures of the soul, it ought to glory in sharing its sorrows.

2nd Point. How do I know that my sins are forgiven? How do I know that the pain which my offences merit is remitted? How do I know that God will not punish me in my body? How do I know that he will not chastise me in my soul? How do I know that he will not regard me with coldness, and permit me to fall into some grievous sin? How do I know that I shall be able to rise after falling therein?

3rd Point. If I spare myself, God will not spare me; if I love myself, God will not love me; if I hate myself, God will not hate me; if I punish myself, God will not punish me; if I excuse nothing in myself, God will pardon all; if I excuse all things in myself, God will pardon nothing; if I am indulgent to myself, God will be severe; if I am austere and harsh with myself, God will be merciful.

Oh, Christian soul! make your body a living and dying victim; mortify your passions, your senses, and your desires; mortify yourself at all times, and in all places; mortify yourself with zeal, mortify yourself with discretion.