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 Kingdom of Christ
Hitherto we have been sorrowing for sin; and as the thought of the fearful malice which sin contains struck forcibly upon us, we determined to avoid sin, to love God from our whole hearts, and to seek Him henceforth as the only object in life. Being weak, however, and not knowing the way to heaven, nor yet the dangers of the road that leads there, we must now begin to look about us a little more, and perceive what we are trying to do, and what instruments we have to work with. Nothing is more important than this consideration: for what will it avail us to know that we are sinners, to discover that we have lost sight of the true end of our existence, or that an awful punishment is prepared for sin, unless we learn how to remedy it all? In truth, many times have we heard these things before, and perhaps also, the impression they made, however little, has had its effect; we may have been more on our guard, and have gained some few victories; but how soon the good spirit wore away, and how easily betimes, after a few resistances, did we not relapse into the very same sins. And why? Because, although we knew this life was a warfare, we yet never began to fight in earnest; and this again, 1. because we have never clearly seen the nature of the fight: perhaps have never been aware that there was a fight at all; 2. because we have never sufficiently - understood who the combatants are, or cared to know the commander under whose standard we are fighting. We must therefore beg for the assistance of Almighty God to enable us to learn, by means of a parable, all that is requisite for us in regard of this.
Let us imagine to ourselves some great and good king, who rules over some powerful nation, and who is making preparations for a war which he is about to undertake. Having advised with himself, he proclaims his sovereign will to all his subjects. He invites them to come with him to the war. "Come," he says, " and follow me." And immediately, he begins to tell them all they will have to suffer in this war. "Their enemy is no common one; they will have to march all the day, with but little rest by night; they - will have to endure much hunger and thirst, for the country through which they are to pass is barren, and the provisions scarce; great burdens will be laid upon them, and accoutrements of heavy weight; the war may be long and severe, and the labours will doubtless be many and hard to bear." This account startles and appals them at first: but the cause is so just, and the war of such importance, and their king so loving and good, that one and all, with the greatest enthusiasm, they rush unhesitatingly to enlist in the arduous service. And good indeed is their king: for whilst they flock to his standard, what does he? "The hardships are great and numerous," he says to them: "but think not that I lay these on you, to carry of yourselves. Think not, whilst you fight for me, that I shall remain at home with ease. I will go with you to the war, and when a battle commences, I will descend into the very thickest of the fight, and there, when least expected, you will find me helping you each one individually in the midst of your struggles. I will suffer everything with you, even more than any of you, so that no one, as. he looks upon me, will have a right to complain. And besides this, I will provide such a wonderful means of support and assistance, that will astonish those that taste of it. You will thirst; but I will give you living water. You will hunger; but I will give you food that this world knows not of. You will be worn out with fatigue, toils, and disease; but I possess a remedy that will cure all sickness, and restore the strength of your wearied limbs."
The subjects of this good king listen to his speech, and their souls are fired by it. At once they join with the invitation, they will be his soldiers, his servants, his very slaves - anything will they be, to fight for such a master. Hardships are nothing to them in such a cause; the labour is light, and as for long marches, and the consequent fatigue, what care they, when their king is ready to refresh and restore them? and thus they go forth to battle.
But as in imagination we see them winding their way over mountain, over valley, over rough roads and smooth, pursuing their journey in sunshine and storm, or betimes engaging manfully with the enemy, - supposing that one of these soldiers, or several, were to grow faint and weary through marching, to become fearful, and to lay down their arms and run away, or more truly, to go over to the enemy (for he who is not with this king must fight against him), what should we call them? what name should we give them? Is there any epithet too opprobrious, dastard, coward, or what not, by which we might not designate such traitors?
And now, let us simply apply this parable to the kingdom of Christ on earth.
Our Lord comes down from heaven to dwell amongst us. He calls us together - for we are His subjects - and communicates His divine Will to us, which is to subdue and conquer the kingdom of His mortal enemy, the devil. He summons us to help Him, not in the harsh and overbearing manner of a tyrant, but in the kindest and most loving of ways.
The enemies, He tells us, we are to fight against are - 1. the devil, and all his works and pomps; 2. the world, the deadly foe of Christ - ("My kingdom," He declares, "is not of this world:" therefore, the world is against Him, or His enemy,) 3. the flesh, and all the evil propensities of our fallen nature.
Nor are we less informed about all that we have to suffer. Contradictions without number, inducements to anger, excitements to lust and intemperance, impure imaginations, all the temptations which arise from avarice and the love of pleasure. Allurements again from evil companions, the contagion of bad conversation, first listened to unwillingly, then indulged in. Further, the reproaches or the scoffs of irreligious people, perchance of our own friends and relations, insults from the world, at home, in the streets, in our open foes or our secret enemies, the undutiful conduct of children, or the scandalous behaviour of parents. Then, that other class of miseries, the offspring of sin in our bodies, such as cold, hunger, and sickness, and everything that poverty and wretchedness entail upon poor mortals. These are the hardships of our war, which is to be conducted against a wary and skilful general, well acquainted with all the wiles and stratagems of his art. And upon this undertaking have we ail entered, when we became Christians - all, no one excepted.
But what does Christ Our Lord? "You have not chosen me," He says, "but I have chosen you." (1) " As a father, therefore, tends his children, so shall I tend you. I will fill you with My grace, to comfort and strengthen you. When you ask for anything, you shall receive it, on the sole condition that you remain faithful to Me. When you are tempted to anger and pride, you shall look to Me for an example, you shall 'learn of Me to be meek and humble of heart,' (2) and to take the last place. You shall think how kind and charitable I am, how prudent and shortspoken, a man of few words. "When you are insulted, you shall call to mind how I was persecuted and abused, and that at the very moment I was doing good to Mine enemies; when you remember this, you will not complain. Still more, hunger and cold, and all the miseries of your poverty, will come thick upon you: but while you suffer them, think you I shall remain at home in comfort? Oh, no. I will descend amongst you, I will be a poor man like you, I will lie on straw in the winter's frost, I will become a carpenter's son, and work for My bread, which will often be scanty. I shall be poorly clad, and sometimes without the necessities of life. I shall hunger so, that My own disciples shall be forced to rub the ears of corn in their hands for food. And as for my bed, you shall see that 'the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.' (3) And, lastly," exclaims - Our Blessed Lord, "the devil, against whom you are going to fight, will tempt you, perhaps, more than all, with the pleasures of the flesh. He will represent the world as a place of enjoyment, the delights of which are unequalled; he will seek to attach you to it, to chain you to it. But, O My children, when thus you are tempted, look to Me, your teacher and example: I committed no sin, neither was guile found in My mouth; and yet, did I not fast and pray, did I not watch, did I not labour and travail, did I not deliver myself to My persecutors to be scourged and maltreated?" In such language does Our Blessed Lord, Our King, address us His subjects, when He calls upon us to follow Him to the war. But His address comes not harshly or severely, but in those sweet loving accents - "Follow Me:" for "he that followeth Me walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life;" (4) or if we grow languid and careworn, with much trouble of body and mind, He bids us to "come to Him" we that labour and are burdened, and "He will refresh us." (5)
Let us allow this to penetrate deeply into our hearts. Let us ask Our Blessed Lord, to give us light to see His truth, and grace to embrace His cause; and if with such spirit we enter into this warfare, then shall every complaint, every murmur disappear. When insulted, we shall bear it cheerfully, and for the love of Christ; when stricken with poverty, in reverses and trials, we shall run to Christ for help : when tempted impurely, or to indulge too freely in worldly pleasures, we shall derive strength and grace to resist them from the thought of all Christ suffered for us. Oh, this is to belong to the kingdom of Christ; this is to "follow Him" - "to fight with Him" in earnest and in truth. May we then resolve forthwith to act upon such feelings, sincerely and generously to relinquish every evil thought, word, or deed for His sake, and henceforth to fight fervently against His enemies, which are also ours.
"And Mary, Mother of Christ, thou who didst follow Christ's footsteps, bodily, as well as in spirit, deign to help thy poor suppliants here below. Thou art now in glory, reigning in heaven with thy Son : we are as yet poor journeyers on earth. But thou wert once, as we are now, wanderers in this vale of tears. Help us with thy prayers: for we desire nothing better than to follow thy Son, Our Lord, and to fight by His side, that instead of being traitors to His cause, having fought the good fight, we may, by His Precious Blood, and thine intercession, deserve to enter the land we are fighting for - the eternal land of promise. O Mary, remember us in thine own sweet month of May.'
VISIT TO A SANCTUARY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
At Venice, in the church of Santa Maria della Pace, there is an image of Our Blessed Lady, which has-been held for centuries in the highest veneration. The presence of this image has made a Sanctuary of the church; and the history of the image is told in a few words. In the year 788, Saint John Damascene, who is celebrated for his strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin, had had his hand cut off by order of the Greek Emperor, Leo the Isaurian. But having prayed, with many tears, before an image of Our Lady, his hand was restored to him, and the Saint was perfectly cured. This same image was afterwards translated to Venice, in the year 1349, and placed in the church of Santa Maria della Pace. Devout worshippers are often seen at this shrine, which is much honoured, especially in May: for Venice is very Catholic. In that town, Pius VII was elected Pope; and all those who love Mary should remember, that to his zeal and piety the Church owes much of the devotion peculiar to the month of May, if not the very institution itself. Mary loves Venice, doubtless, for such a Pontiff; and let us, therefore, repair to her Sanctuary, and thank Our Blessed Lord for all the glory and devotion, which the Church has ever paid to His Mother.
PRAYER OF ST. JOHN DAMASCENE
I salute thee, O Mary! thou art the hope of Christians: receive the prayer of a sinner, who loves thee tenderly, honours thee in a special manner, and places in thee the whole hope of his salvation. From thee I have my life. Thou dost reinstate me in the grace of thy Son: thou art the sure pledge of my salvation. I beseech of thee, therefore, to deliver me from the burthen of my sins: dispel the darkness of my mind, banish from my heart the love of the world, repress thou the temptations of mine enemies, and so rule my whole life, that by thy means, and under thy guidance, I may obtain everlasting happiness in heaven. Amen.
1. St. John, xv, 16
2. St. Matthew, xi, 29
3. St. Luke, ix, 58
4. St. John, viii, 12
5. St. Matthew xi, 28
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