A Lenten Reflection for Saturday after the First Sunday in Lent from Holy Cross Publications
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.
Saturday after the First Sunday in Lent.
On the Arrest of Our Lord in the Garden.
Picture to yourself the gloomy, dismal scene when our Lord was apprehended; it is one on which no man can look without compassion. By the lurid glare of torches the nocturnal procession moves away; the soldiers go first, then come the executioners, dragging Jesus along with ropes, then the mocking Pharisees, and last of all the servants of the high priest bringing up the rear. That was indeed a melancholy journey! The terrified disciples in grief and consternation have fled, hardly knowing what they do; only Peter and John follow their Master afar off.
1st. Consider our Lord’s helplessness and patience. Fancy a gentle pure white lamb in the midst of hungry wolves, and there you will have an image of Jesus taken captive by the Jews. The barbarous executioners handle the Lamb of God roughly, they maltreat Him cruelly, they exercise their ingenuity in tormenting Him. They conduct Him along rough, unfrequented paths, where the stones hurt and bruise His bare and bleeding feet, driving Him onward with coarse oaths and hideous mocking laughter. Jesus is defenceless, completely in the power of these ravening wolves; He can only endure in silence. What is your conduct under similar circumstances?
2d. Consider our Lord’s humility and charity. He, the God of infinite greatness and majesty, allows Himself to be arrested, bound, and led away captive by the very men who but a few moments before He had overthrown and cast to the ground by a single word from His lips. He, the infinitely Holy One, who could say to His ferocious adversaries: “Which of you shall convince Me of sin?” (St. John viii. 46) allows Himself to be taken prisoner like a common highwayman by the officers of the law and the executioners, and endures their contempt and derision without rebuke or retort. What inconceivable humility and charity! Yes, charity, my soul; for it is charity that bound Him—the jailers were impotent to do so; charity that placed Him a captive in the power of the Jews in order to deliver you from the captivity of the devil; charity that thrust Him into Pilate’s prison to save you from being cast into the prison of hell. Now, my soul, you have the opportunity of daily admiring, daily marvelling at the helplessness and patience of our Lord in captivity, as we shall proceed to show.
3d. Consider Jesus imprisoned in the tabernacle. Observe how He is here voluntarily confined under the species of bread. He voluntarily abides day and night in the dark and narrow prison of the tabernacle, and alas! how completely helpless this great and glorious Prisoner is here. How utterly defenceless He is against profanation of all kinds at the hands of sacrilegious persons! And with what amazing patience He suffers Himself to be touched by unworthy lips, to be received into unworthy hearts! Look with astonishment, my soul, at the humility wherewith the divine Prisoner conceals Himself under the appearance of bread, of an ordinary, insignificant morsel of bread. Observe that no cabin is too lowly for Him to enter, no beggar too poor to entertain Him as his Guest. All this He does out of love for you. As in the dungeon at Jerusalem, so now He remains in the prison of the tabernacle wholly and solely out of love for you. Now ask yourself seriously, my soul, how often do you visit this divine Prisoner, how often do you effect His release in the only way open to you, that is, by preparing for Him a suitable dwelling-place in your heart; ask yourself if, after all, your conduct has not resembled that of the servants of the high priest, if you have not taken your Lord out of His voluntary prison-house, in order by your unworthy Communion to drag Him to Calvary and there crucify Him afresh.
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.