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 Sin of Our First Parents
Let us try once more to obtain for ourselves some knowledge of the infinite malice of mortal sin, by considering the sin of our first parents, and how Almighty God punished it.
Never, since the beginning of the world, has so great a happiness been enjoyed on earth, as by Adam and Eve, when God placed them in the garden of paradise. Thither came neither heat nor cold, nor rain, nor wind: a delightful sunshine was ever beaming upon the inhabitants of that favoured spot: no labour was wanting to till the ground: the trees brought forth their fruits of themselves, and the earth yielded abundantly the most luxuriant plants and flowers. Our first parents had bestowed upon them a complete power over all created animals, so that at their only word the birds, the very fishes, and every living creature came and went as they commanded them. They had bodies like ours, yet different: for they never endured fatigue, nor suffered pain or sickness, and the fear of death, or the cares and weakness of old age, were unknown to them. Their souls also were like ours, yet so different: for constituted as they were in a state of original justice, they possessed a perfect mastery over all their passions, so that neither sorrow, nor anger, nor envy, nor hatred, nor any other undue feeling had power to rule them. They were gifted with an intimate knowledge of God, and with a most ardent love for Him. Lastly, they could look forward after a long and happy life to a passing, without sickness or death, body and soul united, to heaven, there to reign with God to all eternity. In the Holy Scriptures we read, that God created them only "a little less than the angels in dignity." But like some amongst that heavenly host, they were as ungrateful to God, as God had been gracious to them. They would not serve Him in the manner He wished. They sinned: and were punished.
Let us now recall all the circumstances and results of their punishment, and endeavour to see thence the character of the sin committed. - Because of this one sin, Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise: the earth has been cursed, and has become incapable of producing anything without intense labour at the sweat of the brow: our bodies have been cursed, and condemned to infirmities, acute pains, ending only with the sting of death. - Moreover, because of this one sin, many thousands and millions of men, the children of Adam, have had to endure much suffering in life, and to meet finally with a bitter death. We may imagine an immense tract of country, as long as it is broad, covered all over with the bones and corpses of-the dead and dying, which rise upwards for miles in the air, and say to ourselves "All this has happened on account of one sin." - Again, because of this single sin, not only must every man die, but the greater part of mankind are condemned to hell. For why are men damned, but because they have yielded to the evil dispositions of our corrupted nature, which is the result of this sin? Thousands and millions condemned to hell every year because of one sin! - Also, because of this one sin, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Lamb without spot, the only begotten Son of God, has become Man, and suffered on earth, and has shed the last drop of His blood for us on the altar of the cross. - Lastly, because of this single sin of our first parents, Paradise has been lost to us, and we are wanderers hither and thither in this vale of tears: our life is full of trouble and bitterness, and we shrink from death with fear and trembling: we are not sure if we shall be saved, and, in all cases, we can never enter heaven but by the road of tears and penance. - Such is a faint idea of the woeful punishment which Adam and Eve brought down upon their children by one sin. An idea we call it; because no man on earth can comprehend, in its entirety, the real nature of the curse with which God cursed our first parents.
What inference must we now draw for ourselves? This - namely, that if a single sin has been such a blot in the sight of God, what a horrible object must be the state of a sinning soul! Whoever has committed but one mortal sin, has committed as many as one of the demons in hell; and if he has committed a hundred, he has committed as many sins as a hundred of those demons, and his soul is in one sense as abominable before God as all that number of damned spirits together. - Still further. When a man has committed but a single mortal sin, he has deserved hell as much as any one of those lost spirits; and when he has committed more than one such sin, he has merited hell more than any one of the lost spirits. How comes it then, that every man that has sinned mortally, but once even, is not now in company with the devils burning eternally in hell? How comes it? Aye, well may we ask the question. It is solely because our common Creator has dealt out His mercy to us, whilst upon them fell the exercise of His divine justice. O the love, the goodness, the infinite patience of our God!
What great truths, therefore, does not our holy Faith teach us, with regard to the malicious nature of sin! and who that has sinned can think of them without, on the one hand, shuddering with fear at the thought of his own soul, and on the other without thanking heartily his God for the boundless mercy shown to him! The most beautiful of the angels fell from heaven, the whole race of mankind were cast out of Paradise, hosts upon hosts - of souls are now burning in the flames of hell, Jesus the Son of God died upon the cross - and all by reason of one single sin committed! Oh, what must be the state of a soul in mortal sin: what an awful amount of evil must he hidden there I and if God spared not the angels, nor our first parents, nor even His own Son, what think we may be the lot of those, whose souls are monsters of sin, who have scorned the voice of the messengers whom God sent to call them to repentance, who, after being so often pardoned, have so often fallen back again. With great fear should not such a sinner fly at once to God, and thus, from his innermost soul, beseech Him saying - "O Lord my God, and Creator! have mercy once more, have mercy on me. I now see how terrible an evil sin is. I see it in the fire and the torments of the lost souls in hell - I see it in all the misery and wretchedness around me on earth, the consequence of sin - I see it in the pains and martyrdom of my dying Lord on the cross. O dreadful thought! that I, by my sins, should have caused the death of the loving Jesus! O sin, accursed sin I never more will I commit, never more will I harbour thee, or yield to thine evil temptations. Away for ever with sin, and by Thy mercy, O Jesus, may no such evil again separate me from the love and service I owe to God."
In conclusion, let us invoke with heartfelt devotion the patronage of Our Blessed Lady, Refuge of Sinners. Where is the sinner, however grievously he may have sinned, that cannot find rest in the Immaculate Heart of her who is the Mother of the God of Mercy, in that tender Heart, ever inseparably united with the Heart of Jesus flowing for us poor sinners! Let us all approach then with confidence, and ask Our Blessed Lady to obtain for us the especial grace of entertaining for the future such an extreme horror for the greatest of evils - sin, that we may be able to resolve rather to die than commit one sin again.
VISIT TO A SANCTUARY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN.
Our Lady of Sarrances is one of the many sanctuaries, which Southern France possesses. It is situated in the diocese of Bayonne in the Lower Pyrenees, almost on the borders of the two Catholic countries of France and Spain. On the banks of the Gave, at the further extremity of a lovely valley, in a holy solitude, lie the church and monastery of "Notre Dame" or "Our Lady of Sarrances." The origin of this romantic sanctuary is scarcely known. Some have thought, that it can be traced back to a period in the ninth century. One thing is certain, however, that long before the ravages of the so-called Reformation in that country, Our Lady of Sarrances was a place of great devotion to high and low, rich and poor. It is recorded, that the two kings of Navarre and Arragon, and the sovereign prince of Beam, having met by chance on the occasion of a pilgrimage to this Sanctuary, were much struck at an encounter so apparently providential, and calling to mind the visit of the three kings to the stable of Bethlehem, they placed themselves under the special protection of the Queen of Heaven, and made rich offerings at the Sanctuary. A great many more traits of devotion could be brought forward, to prove the great love of our forefathers to Our Lady of Sarrances. But these happy days were not of long duration: the foul heresy of Calvin was let loose on that unfortunate country, and in its time the abbey of Sarrances, and the Sanctuary itself, were pillaged and burnt. There was desolation in the holy place till about the beginning of the seventeenth century, when, by the zeal of the King of France, the Catholic religion having been restored to the territory of Beam, the church of Our Lady was rebuilt, the monastery reestablished, the image of Mary replaced, and the pious inhabitants, with tears of joy, as it is related, gave back to her the worship which their fathers had handed down to them. The church and the monastery were confided to the monks of the order of Premontre, and these monuments still exist to testify by their magnificence to the faith of our ancestors. The Sanctuary suffered, of course, in the old French Revolution, but not over much; and the devotion and pilgrimage are still, to a certain extent, vigorous. The principal feast of the pilgrimage is the 15th of August, the festival of Our Lady's Assumption into heaven; and a good Christian gentleman, who was present at the Sanctuary, in 1842, on that day, described it as well and numerously attended. And if it was so then, certainly it must have wonderfully increased since, now that religion has taken such a stand in France. Let us join the devout groups assembled there in this Month of May, and let us send up a good prayer in spirit to Our Lady of Sarrances.
PRAYER OF ST. BERNARD
O thou, who art Our Lady, our mediator, our advocate, do thou reconcile us - do thou commend us to thy Son. O thou, who art blessed by the grace which thou didst find, by the privilege which thou didst merit, by that mercy to which thou didst give birth, O grant that He Who, through thee, deigned to partake of our infirmity and misery, may also, by thine intercession, make us partakers of His happiness and glory. Amen.
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