A Lenten Reflection for Monday in Holy Week 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.
On the Seven Words of Our Lord Upon the Cross.
To-day take your stand beneath the cross of your Redeemer, and in a spirit of holy recollection fix your eyes on Him, your dying God. The terrible crown of thorns is still upon His head; His countenance is sunk upon His breast; His hair and beard are clotted, His eyes are blinded, His parched, parted lips are crimsoned with blood; His chest, drawn and forcibly extended upon the instrument of torture, heaves painfully as He struggles for breath. The skin, torn in many places, is stretched and strained so tightly through the weight of the body that all His bones can be numbered; His blood falls in streams and bedews the ground. What a pitiable object! Now see, once more this tortured Victim opens His pallid lips; seven times His voice is heard speaking from the cross. Listen in spirit to the words our Lord utters and consider the following points:
1st. When a celebrated preacher comes to some town it is customary for all good Christians to make a point of attending his discourses. Now never was so eloquent a preacher, so great a teacher seen and heard upon earth as the Son of God. From the cross as from an elevated pulpit He speaks amid intolerable torture, and His words are heard far and wide. Precisely from that pulpit, the last which He ascended, He delivered a most impressive sermon in the last seven words He uttered, whereby salutary doctrine was disseminated throughout the whole world. He delivered that sermon with His dying lips, amid excruciating sufferings, in order that up to His latest breath He might labor for the salvation of souls. Look with admiration at this Teacher speaking from the cross, and rekindle the expiring flame of your zeal at the ardent furnace of His charity.
2d. It is the habit of parents, when their end draws near, to summon their children to their bedside, in order once more to impart to them wise counsels and serious admonitions for the regulation of their whole life. And what is said to the sons and daughters on such solemn occasions is regarded as sacred and for the most part it is taken deeply to heart. Now never was there a father known upon earth who was so loving towards his children as our Lord was towards men. Whilst hanging upon the cross, as from a death-bed—and what a death-bed that cross was!—He once more takes leave of those whom He loves; He gives them His last instructions with His expiring breath. These instructions are contained in the seven last words of Christ upon the cross; ought not you, my soul, to regard them as sacred? ought they not to impress you deeply?
3d. As a dying man in addressing those around him for the last time says all he wishes to say in a few words, epitomizing what in his past life he has urged in detail and at length, and, so to speak, enjoining on his loved ones the main point, so Jesus did in the seven words spoken from the cross. They are a summary of Christian perfection. Does not the first word: “Father, forgive them,” express the highest type of charity? Is not the second word, which He addressed to the penitent thief, an example of consummate compassion? And how could true, loyal affection towards His Mother and His disciples be more perfectly displayed than it was when, despite the languor and faintness of death, He was not forgetful of them, but in the third word which He spoke, with loving solicitude He provided for their future. And when, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, He uttered that cry upon the cross: “I thirst,” did He not give us an example of perfect obedience in accomplishing the minutest particulars of what is commanded? Again, observe and admire the perfect humility wherewith He lets it be known that He is forsaken even by His God, although He knows that by this confession He will bring fresh mockery upon Himself. Hear too how in His sixth word: “It is consummated,” He testifies to the perfect fulfilment of His mission; and in His seventh and last word: “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit,” note the perfect submission which He manifests to God, His heavenly Father.
Hasten, my soul, to the feet of this great Preacher, who preaches to all mankind. Learn of Him what Christian perfection really is, and in this week during which we commemorate the death of our Lord, show your grateful remembrance of the sermon upon the cross by practising each day one of the seven virtues which by word and in deed our dying Redeemer inculcated upon us in His last moments.
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.