from the annals of history unto our current day
Meditations by Rev. John Wyse
from the book
'Devout Exercises: Compromising Meditations and Visits to the Sanctuaries of the Blessed Virgin for Every Day in the Month of May'
On the Spirit in Which We are to Make Use of This World
Yesterday we endeavoured to call to mind the true and sole end of our existence: and having seen that it was God, and He only, both in this life and the next, we tried to reflect how far we had strayed from this path, and what had kept us from God. We resolved, moreover, that henceforth, cost what it might, nothing should be able to separate us from the service of God here, and eternal happiness with Him hereafter.
Let us now draw a practical conclusion from these thoughts. Not only was man created for the one object of serving God and saving his soul, but everything else on earth was created for the same end, that is, as a help to man in attaining the final end of his creation. Oh, how good a Father our God has been to us! He created everything necessary to preserve our life: and besides this, numberless creatures are called into being, solely that we might glorify God by such means, and thus save our souls. How many beautiful and various sights has He not given to our eyes: what sweet and harmonious sounds to our ears, what fragrant odours, how many substances delicious and enjoyable to the sense of taste and of touch, has not God created for us! And all this to assist us in praising Him, and saving our souls! Then let us look and see how faithfully all these creatures fulfil the end for which God made them; how the horse draws his load, or carries his rider; how the cow gives her milk; how the sheep yields its wool to clothe us; how the fishes are taken, and the oxen slaughtered; how the very birds of the air sing the praises of God! Do they not all, faithfully and without complaint, serve us and nourish us, because God so commanded? Even so it is. What a lesson for us: and let it teach us that nothing is created on this earth, but for the sole object of serving God, and helping us to save our souls. God intended them all for His own glory, and for our salvation. Hence if we pervert them to any other use whatever, we are going directly against the commands of God, and endangering our own souls. A short consideration will easily show us how far we may have made use of this world, contrary to the intentions of Almighty God, and at the risk of eternal salvation. When any one finds on reflection, that he has lost sight of his true end as the creature of God, he may be quite sure that his sin arises either from a too great attachment to pleasures, honours, and the comforts of this life, or from an unwillingness to bear that which is painful and trying. In the first case, "Self," and everything comprised in that word, is so evidently served and cared for instead of God, that it needs but a moment's reflection to see how, as a natural consequence, the real end of man is soon wholly lost sight of. But in the second, it is often still more the case: for poverty and bodily pain, sickness or insults, so readily awaken lowness of spirits, a certain horror of suffering, and even a murmuring against God, that never is it so easy to lose sight of the real end of man, as when our bodies or minds are worn out and afflicted.
To keep, therefore, our last aim and end effectively before us, it is necessary to place our hearts into a state of entire indifference, so as to be able to resist the most pleasurable enjoyment if contrary to our last end, and to embrace willingly the hardest and most opprobrious state of life, if such only help us in obtaining it.
The supreme power which Almighty God possesses over all His creatures, obliges us to this indifference. We have to serve God, not in the particular way that it may please us, but as it pleases Him. We have not to decide how God is to be served, but He Himself: for God is the Ruler, and we are the servants. Even the angels in heaven must obey God; and shall poor miserable men presume to be choosers in any, when angels obey in all things? But the power of God is so great, that there are no limits to it. He made us, and we are His creatures: and who shall dare to say that He cannot act with us as He wills? A workman takes his work and uses it, or lays it aside, or uses it again, or throws it away, and destroys it, just as he has a mind: and shall not God do with His work what He will? In short, God can place us where He will, and treat us as He will. Be our lot therefore what it may, it is always our end to praise and to love Him: and to praise and love God is nothing else than to do His Holy Will. But, can any one say he is doing the will of God, if he is not ready to receive with an equal grace health or sickness, happiness or trouble? How often do people, exclaim, in their fancied piety, that they are ready to love God - but how? Perhaps they are in the enjoyment of worldly blessings, and nothing occurs to disturb them. It is not difficult for such to imagine that they love God, when they have no sacrifice to make, or when it costs them no pain or trouble. But are they willing to bless God equally in sickness and health, in poverty and in riches, when they are despised and insulted, as well as in honour? In a word, are they indifferent to all that happens, praising God in all? If not, they are not yet fulfilling the end of their existence, namely in serving God, and thus saving their souls."
We conclude from these reflections, that to serve Almighty God truly and sincerely, we must be perfectly content in whatever station or position He is pleased to place us. When we are well, we must be ready for sickness - when we are sick, we must not be impatient to get well: if we are rich,we must not grumble if God should reduce us even to the most abject misery: and in poverty, we have no right to envy or desire riches. To be despised or to be honoured must be the same to us; and whether we are neglected or abused, or placed high over others, God is equally to be praised for all. This is serving God in earnest.
But besides, we should look upon our Creator as the God of Providence, as Him by Whose hand all things are directed and disposed in all places. It is of faith, that nothing happens by chance or without the divine permission. Hence if a man be sick, or in robust health, or if he be rich and another man poor, it is the same God that disposes and rules all. If to-day we are in honour, and to-morrow despised and insulted, it is because God wishes it: and is it not better to endure cheerfully the greatest misery, if such be the will of God, than to be free from all trouble, to please one's self which never yet comes to pass, as experience shows that he who seeks but the will of God, is infinitely more happy, even in his wretchedness, than the mere pleasure-hunter who looks but to "Self" in all things.
This then is the secret of real happiness, both here and hereafter - indifference to whatever befalls us, so long as we but recognize there the will of our heavenly Father. We may say prayers without end, and be ever making resolutions: but no one has learned to use with profit the creatures of this life, and by such means to save his soul, - unless he knows how to detach himself from the world in the very midst of pleasures and honours, so as to be ready to abandon them, when God so commands - unless he be perfectly willing to embrace whatever crosses and humiliations may be sent him. The nearer we approach this standard, the more surely are we living up to the only end of man on earth: and if thus we learn to use His creatures, for His glory and for our own salvation, God in His turn will bestow such a happiness upon us, even here below, that none can know but those who have tried it.
In order to strengthen the resolve we now make to live in this manner, let us fervently invoke the help of Our Blessed Lady. Consider, for our comfort, that if she is now the highest in heaven, she was once amongst the lowly ones on earth - that if she is now in glory, seated on the most resplendent throne after that of God, it is because she ever lived in perfect conformity to the divine will, suffering all things, enduring all things - and who, except her divine Son, ever endured or suffered as she did? - yet desiring nothing beyond it, content in all, and to the last praising God for all. "O Mary, most perfect of creatures! procure for us the priceless grace of ever keeping before us the true end of our existence, that so we may become indifferent to all that God sends us, desiring nothing but to be able to obey Him, love Him, and praise Him in every place and for everything - and that thus we may save our souls."
VISIT TO A SANCTUARY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
Constantinople, by reason of the multitude of churches erected there to the honour of Mary, was once known by the glorious name of "the City of the Mother of God." The most beautiful of these churches was built by the Empress Pulcheria, immediately after the famous Council of Ephesus: and there was hardly a street or any house of importance, that did not possess its church or chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. How must not Mary have been loved and venerated, in that once holy city. But now how changed! a foreign and unchristian race have for centuries polluted and destroyed the sanctuary of the Mother of God, they knew her not, and in Constantinople there is kept no month of Mary. We cannot go there joyfully, as we may to other sanctuaries. We can but weep, that a savage horde should possess the heritage of the Mother of all Christendom. Let us travel thither, however, in company with the spirits of our pious forefathers, and in spirit let us live again through the early centuries of the Church, when love for Mary shone so brightly in the hearts of men, that a whole town was made her sanctuary.
PRAYER OF ST. GERMANUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE
O mine only and sovereign Lady, who art the sole consolation I receive from God: thou, who art the heavenly dew that doth refresh me in my sufferings: thou, who art the light of my soul when it is surrounded with darkness: thou, who art my guide when I travel, my strength in weakness, my treasure in poverty, the balm of my wounds, my comfort in affliction, my refuge in misery, the hope of my salvation! O hear thou my prayers, have pity on me, as becometh the Mother of a God Who has such love for men I Make me worthy to enjoy with thee that great happiness which thou dost enjoy in heaven. I know that, being the mother of God, thou canst, if thou wilt, obtain it for me. O Mary, thou art omnipotent to save sinners, nor needest thou any other recommendation: for thou art the Mother of true life. Amen.
Return to the Second Meditation . . . Proceed to the Fourth Meditation. . .