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HOW POWERFUL AND EFFICACIOUS THE REMEMBRANCE OF CHRIST’S LIFE AND PASSION IS.
ALL prayers, singing of hymns, thanksgiving, and holy meditations are profitable. But by consent of all, the remembrance of Christ’s Humanity, and especially of His most sacred Passion, is said to be most profitable and only necessary, and with justice. For it is the present extermination of passions and inordinate affections, a fit refuge in temptation and surest safeguard in dangers, a sweet refreshing in distress, a friendly rest from labour, a gentle repressing of distractions, the true door of sanctity, the only entry to contemplation, the sweet consolation of the soul, the unfailing flame of divine love, the salver of all adversities, the fountain of all virtues, from whence they flow to. us: to conclude, the absolute example of all perfection, the haven, hope, trust, merit, and salvation of all Christians. I knew a Monk, whose custom was to propose to himself every day some part of our Lord’s Passion, as, for example, one day he would set before his eyes Christ’s being in the Garden. And whithersoever he went that day, wheresoever he chanced to be, if not troubled with any other serious and necessary cogitation, whatsoever he did outwardly, he took a special care to direct his internal eye to our Lord suffering -distresses in the Garden, and thus would he talk with his soul: And my soul, behold thy God. Behold, daughter, attend, see, and consider, most dear! Behold thy God, behold thy Creator, behold thy Father, behold thy Redeemer and Saviour! behold thy refuge, behold thy defender and protector, behold thy hope, trust, strength, and health! Behold thy sanctification, purity, and perfection! behold thy help, merit, and reward! behold . thy tranquillity, consolation, and sweetness! Behold thy joy, thy delights, and thy life! behold thy light, thy crown, and thy glory! behold thy love and thy desire! behold thy treasure and all thy good! behold thy beginning and thy end! Whither art thou scattered, thou wandering daughter? How long wilt thou leave the light and love darkness? How long wilt thou forsake peace and involve thyself in troubles! Return, return, thou Sunamite, return! Daughter, return and recollect thyself, most dear! leave many things and embrace one—for one thing is necessary for thee. Abide with thy Lord; place thyself by thy God; go not from thy Master; sit in His shadow Whom thou lovest, that His fruit may be sweet to thy throat. It is good for thee to be here, daughter. For hither the enemy cannot make his approach; here are no snares, no dangers, no darkness. All things are here safe, all things calm. Reside here willingly, most dear. For here thou shalt be safe and free, thou shalt be merry and joyful. Here are roses, lilies, and violets; here flowers of all virtues do smell most pleasantly. Here thou shalt see a brightness sweetly enlightening all things with his rays. Here thou shalt find true consolation; here thou shalt find peace and rest. To conclude, here thou shalt find all good.
With such short sentences he would both sharply and sweetly spur forward his soul, and call her home when she was wandering abroad, and force her to apply herself to the chiefest good. Of these little sentences he would take sometimes more, sometimes fewer, sometimes only one, sometimes two, sometimes three, according to the fervour of his devotion and the pleasure of the Holy Ghost; and he would oftentimes iterate and repeat them. He would also force his soul to the remembrance of those things which our Saviour did and suffered for her in the Garden. In the meantime, one while exciting her to the considerations of our Saviour’s unsearchable humility, mildness, patience, most fervent and incomprehensible charity; another while to take compassion on our Lord of infinite majesty, so humbled and afflicted; and then again to thank Him for so great benefits and piety; another while to repay love with love, and anon to ask pardon for her sins, and then to beg this or that grace. He would often convert his speech to these or the like affectionate or fervent aspirations: And my soul, when wilt thou be ready to follow the humility of thy Lord? when wilt thou imitate His mildness? when shall the example of His patience shine in thee? when wilt thou be better? when wilt thou be free from passions and vicious affections? when shall evil be destroyed in thee? when shall all inordinateness be blotted out in thee? when wilt thou peaceably and gently endure all tribulation and temptation? when wilt thou perfectly love thy God? when wilt thou intimately embrace Him? when wilt thou be wholly swallowed up in His love? when wilt thou be pure, simple, and reserved before Him? how long will it be ere thou be hindered no more from His most chaste embracings? and that thou were immaculate; and that thou didst fervently love thy God; and that thou didst inseparably cleave unto thy chiefest good. And then directing the eye of his heart to Heaven or to the depth of eternal light, he would frame these aspirations: And my soul, where is thy God? where is thy love? where is thy treasure? where is thy desire? where is thy total good? when shalt thou see Him? when shalt thou most happily enjoy Him? when shalt thou freely praise Him with all the citizens of Heaven? These and the like aspirations would he secretly speak either mentally or with his lips, taking sometimes more, sometimes fewer, according to the internal motions of the Holy Ghost. He would also often accuse his soul, that it was too slow, sluggish, tepid, ungrateful, hard, insensible, and unhappy. Again he would comfort it, being dejected with pusillanimity or fear, and would encourage it with these or the like words: Despair not my soul; take comfort, daughter, and be confident, most dear. If thou halt sinned and art wounded, behold thy God! behold thy Physician is ready to cure thee. He is most courteous and most merciful, and therefore willing; He is omnipotent, and therefore can pardon thy sins in a moment. Peradventure thou art afraid because He is thy Judge? but take heart, for He that is thy Judge is also thine Advocate. He is thy Advocate to defend and excuse thee, doing penance; He is, therefore, also thy Judge to save, not to condemn thee, being humbled. His mercy is infinitely greater than thy iniquity either is or can be. Which words I say not that, persevering in evil, thou shouldst make thyself unworthy of His mercy; but that, being averted from evil, thou shouldst not despair of indulgence and forgiveness. Thy God is most gentle, most sweet; He is wholly amiable, wholly desirable, and wonderfully loveth all things which He hath created. When thou thinkest of Him, or conceivest Him in thy memory, far be all imagination of terror, austerity, and bitterness from thee. When we say He is terrible, it is not in respect of Himself, but of those that abuse His patience and defer to do penance, whose most bitter and poisonous sins, as contrary to His most sweet and pure goodness, He repelleth and punisheth. Let not thine imperfections discourage thee too much for thy God doth not despise thee because thou art imperfect and infirm, but loveth thee exceedingly because thou desirest and labourest to be more perfect. He will also help thee if thou persistest in thy good intention, and will make thee perfecter—yea, peradventure (which thou little hopest for), wholly fair and every way pleasing to Him.
Thus, and in innumerable other ways, would he friendly talk with his soul, and invite her by chaste speeches to the chaste love of her Beloved. He would also turn his speech to our Lord, and, aspiring to Him by holy love, would say: And good JESUS, pious Pastor, sweet Master, King of eternal glory, when shall I be immaculate and truly humble before Thee? when shall I truly despise all sensible things for Thee, and when shall I perfectly forsake myself? when shall I be stripped of all propriety? For, unless there were propriety in me, there would not be self-will in me: passions and inordinate affections would have no place in me. I should not seek myself in anything. Propriety only maketh the impediment and medium between Thee and me; propriety only doth hinder Thee from me. When, therefore, shall I cast off all propriety? When shall I freely resign myself to Thy divine pleasure? When shall I serve thee with a clean, quiet, simple, and calm mind? When shall I perfectly love Thee in the arms of my soul? When shall I love Thee with most fervent desire? When shall all my tepidity and imperfection be swallowed up by the immensity of Thy love? O my desire, my treasure, O my total good, O my beginning and end, O my God, O sweetness pf my soul, O my consolation, my life, my love! Oh, that my soul might enjoy Thy most sweet embracings! Oh, that it were indissolubly bound with Thy love; would it were perfectly united to Thee. For what is to me in Heaven, and besides Thee what would I upon earth, God of my heart, and God my portion for ever? When shall the world be silent to me? When shall the impediments, troubles, and vicissitudes of this life cease to me? When shall my pilgrimage be ended? When shall my sojourning be consummated? When shall the miserable captivity of this banishment be dissolved? When shall the shadow of mortality decrease and the day of eternity draw near? When shall I lay down the burden of this body and see Thee? When shall I praise Thee as Thy Saints, without impediment, happily, and eternally? O my God, my love, my total good! He was often wont to use such aspirations, knowing that by the exercise of them the human spirit is more effectually united to the divine spirit, and that thereby man attaineth the sooner to the perfect mortification of himself. He had them ready everywhere; but if at any time he had more sufficient leisure, he would then (sitting as Mary Magdalen did) rejoice to linger more freely, and that more to the honour of God than to the inordinate pleasing of himself. He would not in the meantime omit, with a certain internal effusion of heart, by a sincere and sweet affection, to adore, bless, give thanks, and pray. Moreover, turning his speech to the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God, as to a most merciful lady, and most liberal stewardess of heavenly treasures, he would redouble his pious complaints before her, and, with a holy importunity, extort a benediction. Another day he would set before himself how our Saviour, betrayed by Judas, was taken, and concerning this point he would iterate his foresaid exercises, and so would go through with the Passion in order, and having ended would begin again. And about that part of the Passion which did represent Christ hanging on the Cross, he did not employ himself in order and in his proper day, but every day at least briefly, if so be he thought it convenient, exciting his soul to the earnest contemplation of these things. On every solemnity of our Saviour or the Blessed Virgin he would (if he thought it good) propose to the eyes of his mind the representation of that Feast instead of part of our Lord’s Passion, which otherwise was that day to be frequented, and would perform his internal exercises or friendly discourses with his soul, and about the work, cause, mystery, and joy of that festivity. He was also much delighted with singing the Psalms. And I know that, by the continued custom of this holy exercise, he reaped consolation and singular profit of his labours.
I will set down an example; imitate of it, if you please. For by this means you shall be accustomed to apprehend the presence of God; by this means you shall begin to have your senses sober, watchful, exercised, and calm; by this means you shall prepare yourself a way to the highest contemplation and perfection. Thus, wheresoever you are, you shall spend your time profitably, vague and unstable cogitations being cast forth out of the corners of your heart, and such as are serious being entertained in their place. You may frame yourself meditations and aspirations in other terms than we have. If you perceive the looking in your book to hinder your mind, whereby you are the less able to, reach God and to be united to him, lay aside your book. Again, if you perceive it doth farther your exercise, make use of it, for I would that your devotion should be free to you, and that you should follow the grace of the Holy Ghost without confusion or anxiety. Moreover, by aspirations (as you may perceive by the above-written copies) we understand certain short ejaculatory prayers, or burning desires, and lively and loving affections to God. He that hath not as yet undertaken the beginning of internal conversation and his own mortification, or hath at least but newly begun, ought not peradventure so precisely to follow this rule.
But it shall be expedient for him to exercise himself for awhile according to this manner which I shall prescribe. Let him, therefore, every day propose to himself some part of our Saviour’s Passion, and let him study to have recourse in mind to the same whether he stand, go, sit, or rest, unless he have some other profitable or necessary thing in his heart to treat of. And let him often discourse with his soul in the presence of Christ suffering, either thus, or after the like manner—O my soul, behold thy God, behold ungrateful, attend thou wretch, consider thou poor soul, behold thy God, behold thy Creator and Redeemer; behold how the King of eternal glory humbled Himself for thee; behold how the highest Majesty debased Himself for thee; see what sorrows, bitterness, and indignities thy Saviour suffereth for thee; consider with what charity He loved thee, Who undertook so great calamity and affliction for thee. Arise, my soul, arise out of the dust, slip thy head out of the collar, thou captive daughter of Sion. Arise, forsake the puddle of thy vices and leave the uncleanness of thy negligent life. How long wilt thou take pleasure in perils? How long wilt thou esteem anxiety and torments to be rest? How long wilt thou securely sleep in destruction? How long wilt thou willingly leave the right way and wander abroad far and near by unknown places? Return unto the Lord thy God, for He expecteth thee; make haste, be not slack, for He is ready to receive thee; He will meet thee with open arms, only defer not thou to return. Come to JESUS, and He will heal and purify thee. Join thyself to JESUS, and He will illuminate thee. Adhere to JESUS, and He will bless and save thee. Sometimes let him more expressly upbraid his soul of ingratitude and perverseness, saying—Alas! my soul, how ungrateful hast thou been to thy God. He hath bestowed innumerable and most admirable benefits upon thee, and thou still repayest evil for good. He hath created thee according to His own image and likeness; He hath endowed thee with immortality; He hath deputed heaven and earth and all things contained in them to thy commodity; He hath enriched thee with many gifts and graces; He hath brought thee to the light of the Catholic faith; He hath withdrawn thee from the dangerous waves of the world, and conveyed thee to the haven and tranquillity of a monastical life, where thou (as in a most sweet paradise of spiritual pleasures) might have infinite occasion of holy joy and good works; He hath patiently borne with thee grievously sinning, and hath preserved thee from the jaws of hell. The King hath been incarnate for thee; thy Creator for thy sake hath become thy Brother. Neither did He think it sufficient to be born for thee, wherefore would He also suffer for thy sake. He endured sorrow and distresses for thy sake; He was betrayed and taken for thy sake; He was spit on and buffeted for thy sake; He was scourged and wounded with a crown of thorns; for thy sake He was smitten with a reed and laden with the burthen of the Cross; for thy sake He was nailed to the Cross and drank vinegar; for thy sake He wept and shed His most holy blood; for thy sake He died and was buried. He hath adopted thee to be heir of the Kingdom of Heaven; He hath promised those things unto thee which neither eye hath seen nor heart of man can comprehend. But thou hast left and condemned Him Who hath been so many ways beneficial to thee; thou hast cast away the holy fear of Him that loved thee; thou hast shaken off His sweet yoke that hath elected thee; thou art become as one of the daughters of Belial, as an impudent harlot; thou hast worshipped iniquities, without modesty; thou hast compacted with death; thou hast given thy hand to the devil; thou hast been most prompt to all wickedness; thou hast heaped evil upon evil, and hast rejoiced to add worse to the worst. By thy wickedness thou hast again crucified JESUS CHRIST, Who hath chosen thee for His spouse; thou hast renewed His wounds by thy crimes. Who will give thee groans and sighs? Who will give thee a spring of tears, that thou mayest night and day bewail thine ingratitude? O unhappy wretch, what wilt thou do? Oh, that thou hadst kept thyself in the state of innocency, and that thou hadst remained immaculate! Oh, that thou hadst not miserably defiled thyself with dishonesty I Oh, that thou hadst not gone astray from thy God! Thou has lost thine innocency; thou art defiled; thou art become dishonest; thou hast gone astray from thy God. Alas! poor wretch, and what wilt thou do? To whom wilt thou fly? From whom wilt thou expect help? From whom but From Him Whom thou hast offended? He is most pitiful, most courteous, most merciful. Humble thyself, pour out thyself like water in His sight, and He will take pity on thee. Sometimes let him turn his lamentations to our Lord with these or the like words—Alas! my Lord JESUS, what have I done! How have I left Thee! How have I despised Thee! How am I become forgetful of Thy name! How have I cast aside Thy name! How have I cast aside Thy fear! How have I trod Thy law under my feet! How have I transgressed Thy precepts. O me, my God! O me, my Creator! O me, my Saviour! O me, my life and my total good! Woe be to me, wretched creature! Woe be to me, woe be to me, because I have sinned! Woe be to me, because I have made myself like to a brute beast! Woe be to me, because I am become more silly than a sheep. O good JESUS, O loving Shepherd, O sweet Master, help me. Set me on my feet, stretch forth Thy hand to me, being in danger. Cleanse me from my filth, cure my wound, confirm my weakness, save me from destruction. I confess myself unworthy to tread on the- earth, I am unworthy to behold the light, I am unworthy of Thy aid and grace. For great is mine ingratitude; great, yea, too great, is the enormity of my sins. Nevertheless, Thy mercy is infinitely greater. Therefore, O God, Thou lover of mankind,. and my only hope, have mercy on me according to Thy great mercy, and according to the multitude of Thy mercies take away mine iniquity. Sometimes, as if he had risen out of a dream, falling on his knees in the sight of our Lord, let him affectionately say—Lord, if Thou wilt Thou canst make me clean. Or this—O God, be propitious to me a sinner. Or that—Have mercy on me, JESUS, Son of David. Or that other—O Lord help me. So likewise let him pour forth his heart before the Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Lord, and all the Saints of God, humbly suing for their intercession.
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