IN the foregoing narrative it has been mentioned how Mother Harriet was accustomed to help some of the Sisters, suggesting simple thoughts for meditation, and often writing them out with her own hand in their Manuals of Devotion. Some of these suggestions are here given as a sample of the kind of help she would thus provide for them. It is uncertain how far they may have been her own ideas, how far derived from what she had read. It is probable that they were the mixed results of her own thoughts and of what she gathered from various sources. Her reading was of a very promiscuous kind, and she rapidly caught ideas from the different means of instruction within her reach.
SUGGESTIONS FOR MEDITATION FROM ADVENT TO EASTER. November 18.
Contemplate this week the perfect life of man with GOD before the Fall, the simple unity, in contrast to the multiplicity that distracts us,--man in the image of GOD, possessing all things in GOD. Begin the life of mortification by resolving to put away these causes of distraction and multiplicity.
Contemplate the immediate effect of sin in the creature's relation to GOD. GOD the Unchangeable called to Adam, man hid himself from GOD, went away from GOD. This is the effect of sin in us,--it drives us away from GOD, we hide ourselves from GOD. True penitence is the child-like return to GOD, putting aside all excuses, going straight back to GOD. Seek diligently to find out the sin, the self-indulgence, the self-gratification, the faithlessness, the unbelief, that makes us hide ourselves from GOD, and having found it take it to GOD in humble contrition. "Fear not," the child's return is the FATHER'S truest joy.
November 30. S. Andrew's Day.
Contemplate the nearness to GOD attained by the Old Testament Saints, and the special virtues wrought out in them through their nearness. Fix on one Old Testament character to be your special study and example. Gather up the memory of the past year, and see what one thing it is that mars your Christian life which you feel most unwilling to give up, and take that as the one object of mortification for Advent.
First Week in Advent.
Contemplate our LORD JESUS CHRIST voluntarily leaving the Home of His FATHER in Heaven to come down to unite Himself with the creature of His own creation, to be one with man. Contemplate Him condescending to our utmost nothingness, yet preserving, in the minutest details, the calm repose and dignity of the Godhead. Try to rise up to the contemplation of our LORD'S perfect Example by considering some one or more of His servants who foreshadowed Him. Would not Abraham's character, contemplated in its yielding humility, its strong practical faith, learned through an experience of his own weakness, and the spirit of sacrifice, help you to use and grasp more fervently the standard of His own life?
Second Week in Advent.
Contemplate the Blessed Virgin, a vessel of election, chosen of GOD. Her early life before the call came, in its simplicity. Her unstartled acceptance of the vocation, taking it up with prompt readiness. Her view of the power of lowliness by which to attain the regard of GOD. Her full consciousness of the glory of the call, the graces that led to her wonderful exaltation. View in this light your own call, yourself as a vessel of election. Renew \he acceptance of your vocation, forming it on the model of hers. Believe in the glory of your call, and joy in it. Renew life by going deeper down into the valley of humiliation, that COD may lift you up.
Third Week in Advent.
Contemplate the profound humiliation and annihilation of the God-Man, made one with the simplicity and child-like humility of the Blessed Virgin. Ask much grace and light to penetrate this great mystery. Humility coming down from GOD, and humility rising up from the creature, and this the means chosen for the accomplishment of the great ideal of life. What a lesson for us. How earnestly should we seek to lay it as the foundation of our work.
JESUS is come. The humility of the God-Man meets the humility of the creature, raising and sustaining it. He comes to you as to the Blessed Virgin: a union with JESUS based on humility. Within thee is enclosed the Divine Life of Humiliation, and thou art enclosed in the Divine Life of Love.
First Week of the New Year.
Contemplate JESUS as the "Prince of Peace." "He is our Peace." "My Peace I give unto you." Measure your life by this standard,--is it peace? Peace in all its inward workings. What hinders this perfect peace? JESUS was circumcised for us, He bore the suffering of the flesh that we might learn to apply the knife of circumcision to everything in our flesh that hinders peace. This week weigh well in detail all your inward hindrances to perfect peace, and resolve in this year to overcome each one in detail.
"Arise, shine, for thy Light is come." Dwell on each of these words,--arise--shine--Light is come. It is a call for an enlargement of faith, that faith which is the truest humility. We need to be humble in order to arise. The shining requires the sanctity of humility. The Light came in a degree of lowliness far beyond aught we can conceive.
Will it not be helpful to contemplate now the perfection of man as first created, and his life with GOD: and the perfection he may attain even now, through the Incarnation, in our fallen humanity,--if we diligently set ourselves to purge away each hindrance, great and small, to the life with GOD--the marvellous life of union that may be ours even here? Dwell on S. Paul's vision and its effects upon him,--he was as you are, he was perfected through much suffering.
Hear our LORD saying to thee, "What wilt thou t" all through this week, and have faith to say, What Thou wilt; and love to fulfil what thou dost ask. How easy to write, how difficult to attain.
First Week in Lent.
Going into the wilderness alone with GOD for forty days: yield yourself up to desire, even in the midst of active life, to be alone with GOD. Take two points to contemplate,--
1st. GOD'S Love.
2nd. Your sins against that Love.
Second Week in Lent.
GOD gave His well-beloved SON to humiliation,--the SON shrank not from accepting the humiliation. The soul in union with GOD must yield itself up to be humbled.
Third Week in Lent.
Hope and progress. By faith we have grasped a life of repose above the clouds and trials of this lower world, a life of repose in GOD--in a will conformed to the will of GOD. Hardly have we done so when our faith is sorely tested--trials without, far sorer trials within--till we have well-nigh sunk--till hope comes in to our aid and bids us look on, look above, try yet again, make progress. All will yet be well,--we are but being fitted to reach the land we have attained by faith. GOD give you at this time the good spirit of Hope, that you may have courage to reach the haven where you would be--attained even here through the repose of faith and the quickness of humility.
Fourth Week in Lent.
Love and adoration. By Faith and Hope the soul attains to Love; "GOD is Love." "We love Him because He first loved us." By the daily death of self, love is nurtured in the soul. Love is the test of progress in the Divine Life. The expression of love is adoration, the homage of the soul to the Source of all love.
The drawing of the soul within the Passion of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, uniting oneself, or being united, with Him in the Passion through sharing His humiliation. He wrought all His work through self-humiliation; we must grow like Him in this.
The soul humbled before GOD having with true faithfulness sought to die to self, to lay self down in the grave of the Crucified, rises up to newness of life. As you have been united to JESUS in His suffering life, go forth fearlessly, with good courage along the path of the Risen Life. Fear not, JESUS is with you, though hidden, yet He will appear manifesting Himself as and how He wills. Faith has but to say, I know He is near, I know I love Him, because He has loved me with such an amazing love. And so let the soul in the trustingness of love repose on its LORD'S love and be satisfied--still--in the marvellous rest of the confidence of Love.
"Peace be unto you; My peace I give unto you." Cherish this peace, here is what your soul needs. If it could but hear, and hearing respond, all would be well. "Peace," it is the death of self, and the abiding Presence of GOD in the soul.
Second Sunday after Easter.
The expectation of the soul of the manifestation of JESUS. His quiet coming near to the waiting soul in the midst of the ordinary duties of life--the faithful soul quick to discern His Presence. Seek a living faith that JESUS will so manifest Himself to your soul, and lay aside all the excuses and doublings of mistrust as a want of true humility.
WHITSUNTIDE, AND ROGATION DAYS. Whitsun Day.
The Days of Pentecost are accomplished, the figurative Pentecost is passed, the mystery is accomplished, the HOLY GHOST descends to take possession of redeemed man.
The SON of GOD has by His meritorious suffering won from the love of GOD the FATHER the great Pentecostal gift,--the Spirit of Love, the Bond of Love, of the Triune GOD, the Person of the HOLY GHOST, the Comforter.
The hour fixed from all eternity is come, and suddenly is heard a rushing mighty wind, filling all the house, and on the waiting expectant disciples descend the tongues of fire; they sit upon each of them, filling them with the vigour and the repose of the dove-like Spirit of GOD.
Each tongue of fire, a power from on high,--a wondrous illumination, a burning desire, a fervent love, a Divine utterance, wherewith to proclaim the mighty mystery of man's redemption, of the indwelling of the HOLY GHOST, of the transforming power by which man is taken up into GOD, dwells in GOD, and GOD in him, and becomes on earth through the power of the HOLY GHOST a simple revelation of the Life, the Love, the Unity of Him Who is our Life.
"Come from the four winds, O Breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."--Ezekiel xxxvii. 9.
"I will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their GOD, and they shall be My people."--Ezekiel xxxvii. 26, 27.
Let us contemplate the mission of the HOLY GHOST to guide us into all truth. "He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear that shall He speak." The FATHER is the Source of all; the SON co-eternal with the FATHER; the SPIRIT Co-eternal with the FATHER and the SON, proceeding forth from both. JESUS saith, "All things that the FATHER hath are Mine;" and, "He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you." The HOLY GHOST completes the teaching of the SON.
Through the tongues of fire, the face of the earth is renewed; "Go yc into all the world," with this ineffable gift of GOD, the sevenfold gifts of the HOLY GHOST, the seven energies of sanctifying grace, renew the image of GOD in the soul, shedding abroad the love of GOD in our hearts, sealing us with the earnest of the Spirit on our heads as the anointed of GOD, forming in us the life of CHRIST. Thus let us go forth day by day on our mission of Divine Love.
Come, O HOLY SPIRIT, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and kindle within them the fire of Thy Love.
"GOD anointed JESUS of Nazareth with the HOLY GHOST and with power."--Acts x. 38.
"He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of GOD. And he shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain."--2 Sam. xxiii. 3, 4.
Let us contemplate the formation of the Church. On that little band in the upper chamber descends the fire of the HOLY GHOST, and through the transforming power of the HOLY GHOST sends them forth firm, valiant, living witnesses to the risen and ascended JESUS, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The mysteries of the Incarnate Life, which they had beheld all the years they companied with JESUS, tfyey have now by the operation of the HOLY GHOST to proclaim and reveal.
Filled with the Divine gift of language, multitudes of all nations heard the word, and believed and were added to the Church. The seed of the Precious Blood began to grow, and the Church as a real spiritual kingdom was established in the world. Men were baptized with the baptism of the HOLY GHOST. "In the Name of the FATHER, and of the SON, and of the HOLY GHOST." To her was given the power of communicating Divine Grace, of revealing Divine Truth, of administering Sacraments of Divine power. The whole treasury of Grace lay in the Apostolic life of the Church, springing out of the mighty Pentecostal gift, filling it with the undying Life of the Eternal SPIRIT.
And such too is our individual life. We live under the operation of the HOLY GHOST, indwelt by the HOLY SPIRIT, the temple of the living GOD, the instrument of the glory to be revealed.
Our prayer united to the moaning of the Heavenly Dove, is one long life of prayer--ever ascending to the FATHER'S throne. In union with the intercession of JESUS, we have but to ask, to receive.
The union of the creature with the Creator is perfected. The SON is glorified, the HOLY GHOST is come, and we pass on into the mysteries of the transformed man, the Life in GOD. To manifest the power and energy of the Divine Life. To prepare for the second coming of our LORD.
Here let us pause to gaze on the finished work of JESUS. Redeemed man walks again with GOD in an entire confidence of love.
Let us not turn aside from this weight of glory to a consciousness of our own nakedness, to spending our energies in sewing fig leaves together to hide ourselves from GOD, but with a contrite heart and adoring love to pass on into the presence of our GOD, and yield ourselves up to be transformed by the power of the HOLY GHOST into the Body of CHRIST, filling up the suffering that He has left in His treasury of love, that we with the Captain of our Salvation may be made perfect through suffering, and through Him may have access by One Spirit to the FATHER, and be builded together for an habitation of GOD through the Spirit.
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of GOD. And if children then heirs; heirs of GOD, and joint heirs with CHRIST; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together."--Rom. viii. 16, 17.
"Ye shall receive power after that the HOLY GHOST is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto Me."--Acts i. 8.
A season for solemn, steadfast prayer,--an asking time. "Every good gift and every perfect gift" is at our command, it "cometh down from the Father of Lights,"--ask, and it is yours. "JESUS ever liveth to make intercession." "The Spirit intercedcth with groanings that cannot be uttered." GOD'S work is perfect. We must do ours; we must by our own act unlock the treasure-house; we must ask ere we receive; we must make our prayers, even in infirmity, such that the Spirit may make intercession for us.
Every good gift,--gift of Life, gift of Love, gift of Prayer, gift of Healing, gift of Virtue, gift of Grace, gift of the HOLY SPIRIT,--all are ours. Have we asked them? Are we asking? Is there not large room for contrition?
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Thus our intercessory prayer is a call to deepen our spiritual life. All things are ours through JESUS CHRIST, and by the power of the HOLY GHOST. "It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your FATHER that speaketh in you."
Let us rise up to the consciousness of the omnipotence of prayer as we each say "Our FATHER," "JESUS, mercy."
In the least lifting up of our hearts with fervour and a pure intention GOD is glorified, prayer is heard. The omnipotence of Divine Love will accomplish the rest.
Let us have some fixed objects for our abiding intercession which we may increase from time to time, such as this:--
1. The conversion of sinners.
2. The return of souls to GOD, the restoration of grace to those who have lost it.
3. Gifts of grace and illumination to the Heather), Jews, Mahomedans, Infidels.
4. Great cities sunk in sin, blinded by wealth and worldliness, oppressed by ignorance and poverty, crime, &c.
5. All in temptation--from self, from pride, from intellect, from worldliness.
6. The dying at this moment, those about to die, the departed, mourners, our own hour of death.
7. All souls consecrated to GOD, Bishops, Priests, Religious, Missionaries.
8. Schools, colleges, institutions.
9. All in spiritual or temporal peril.
10. All in loneliness,--all who have none to pray for them.
11. All who pray for us, personal friends.
12. Our benefactors, our homes, our relations.
13. Widows, orphans, sick, friendless.
14. Our enemies, those who injure us.
15. Soldiers, sailors, labourers, artizans, servants.
16. Lawyers, judges, prisoners, convicts.
17. Those in high places and authority.
Special intercession for our own Community, and those bound up with us in a common life, those committed to our care. Those on whom our acts and words have influence.
1. Religious Orders,--Confessors.
2. All aiming at perfection.
3. Apostates from the Faith, or Religious Orders.
4. All who dishonour their vocation by sloth, laziness, worldliness, ambition, weakness, self-love, shrinking from humiliation, self-delusion, flattery, and contempt.
OCTAVE OF S. JOHN BAPTIST. I.
Let us contemplate the holiness of the life of S. John Baptist,--the child of aged parents, both righteous, "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the law, blameless." Sanctified--the effect of original sin stayed within him--even in his mother's womb.
Contemplate him in the desert in converse with GOD, his soul filled with a burning love of holiness, with an abiding vision of JESUS, as "the Fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness," the nearness of the Divine Child always flooding his soul with light. Would we enter into the life of S. John Baptist, and unite with him in adoration and thanksgiving for our vocation, we must with him give ourselves to a life of earnest penitence, of mortification, of retirement, of generous love, of closest union with our GOD.
"The righteous LORD loveth righteousness, His countenance will behold the thing that is just."
"Be ye holy, for I am holy."
"Holiness becometh Thine House for ever."
Let us contemplate the child who was elected from everlasting to be the Precursor of our LORD; his great destiny, none greater than he. "A man sent from GOD whose name was John,"--named by the angel Gabriel, the messenger of Gon, John (filled with grace)--coming in the spirit and power of Elias, the dawn of the Sun of the Gospel, dispelling the shadows of the obscure night of the ancient law.
Consider his profound humility,--retiring into solitude, after the example of Moses and Elias, that he might acquire the perfection of sanctity, and be worthy to point out' the CHRIST to sinners, by the entire mortification and sacrifice of self. What but the power of humility and meekness of a mortified self, won through "vigils of contemplation, of praise and prayer," could have thus prevailed with souls dead in trespasses and sins?
Would we win souls to repentance, would we bear witness to JESUS, and reveal the Light of the World, we must chasten our souls in solitude and silence.
Let us contemplate S. John Baptist sent of GOD to prepare the way of the Incarnate SON. To point out the Lamb of GOD, to tell sinners of the love of GOD manifested in CHRIST JESUS, the highest mission the soul is capable of.
Contemplate his virgin life, his abstinence, his mortification, his prayer, his silence, his recollection, flying from the world, rich in his poverty. What an example of virtue, what a model of detachment to Religious, specially to us who are called by his name to work under the banner of this saint, so pre-eminent for his detachment from the world. 2 Samuel xxiii. 4, 5.
Let us contemplate S. John Baptist as the Voice crying in the desert,--the Voice by which the Eternal FATHER makes known the Word. The Voice preaching with bold confidence and power, at the court as in the wilderness, its austere message of purity unmoved by any human respect.
The voice of greatness and the voice of humility, the voice of justice and the voice of confession, the voice of faith and the voice of love,--such is the voice that must still live on in us. The days of preparing for our GOD are not yet ended, we have not yet reached the final triumph of the Lamb. Let us give thanks that we are called to tell souls of the love of the Eternal Word, Whose Voice thrills through us as its moan is heard, "Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life."
Let us contemplate the wonderful mystery of the Baptism of JESUS. JESUS comes to the Baptist,--comes with others as one of them,--the Baptist shrinks back overwhelmed with the sense of his own nothingness, yet he acts in obedience to the Divine Word. "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." Faith accepts the Messiah,--"He that be-lieveth and is baptized shall be saved,"--the water has touched the sacred Body of JESUS, and become the source of supernatural life.
In this new creation the Trinity wills to be revealed. The dove-like Form manifests the holiness of the Emmanuel. The voice of the love of the Eternal FATHER proclaims, "This is My beloved SON, in Whom I am well pleased," and the SON Himself, obedient to the Divine law, fulfils all righteousness.
JESUS ascending from the water raises up with Himself the world regenerated,--sanctified, created anew in Himself,--and he that was dead is made alive in Him for evermore.
"The voice of the LORD is upon the waters, the GOD of glory thundereth; the LORD is upon many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty."--Ps. xxix. 3, 4.
Let us contemplate the death of S. John Baptist. His life was a revelation of humility and duty, his death a witness to the purity of the Law of GOD. "It is not lawful," are his bold words to the king, which cost him his life. He who is "a burning and a shining light" must bear witness to the Light by his life and seal it by his death.
Dwell on the love of JESUS for S. John Baptist. When He heard he was put in prison He departed into Galilee; when He heard of his death He withdrew into loneliness. See in this that the greatest purity, the most perfect life, sanctifies human affections and consecrates them to GOD. Let us gather carefully the lessons of his life and death, dying at the desire of a sinful woman, a most obscure end permitted of GOD for this famous saint, that our light may shine as his light, and we, in these days of darkness and unbelief, may, in the retirement of our hidden life, shine as lamps burning before our GOD.
We have contemplated S. John Baptist in the marvellous purity of his miraculous life. Dwell on the mystery of love to us contained in these words of JESUS, "He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." S. John was marked by a special vocation, "Among those that are born of women none greater than he." We, too, have been by special vocation called into closest and most perfect union with our LORD, we are made one with Him in Sacramental union. We are the temples of the living GOD. Conscious of the dignity of our vocation, what reverent repose, what still watchfulness, what tender bearing, what abiding adoration should mark our lives. "To whom much is given, of them shall much be required." Have we not much given to us? Is it not our glory and our joy? Let us make sure that in that day when He conies to "make up His jewels," and to be "admired in all them that believe," the "much given" will still be our glory and our joy.
Let us contemplate the great work of S. John Baptist,--the preaching of repentance, "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." "Prepare ye the way of the LORD." The kingdom of GOD is within you, saith the LORD, but not yet are the kingdoms 'of the world become the kingdoms of our GOD and of His CHRIST; not yet is the accuser of our brethren cast down, which accuseth them night and day before GOD; not yet has the Bride made herself ready to enter in to the marriage supper of the Lamb; not yet has He that is Faithful and True, with His garments dipped in Blood, the Word of GOD, the King of kings and LORD of lords, entered into the New Heavens and the New Earth.
The voice calling to repentance must still be heard, and our blessed work must still be to "prepare the way of the LORD," to make straight in the desert a highway for our GOD. Let us earnestly seek for the sanctity of S. John Baptist, that we may be found worthy of our great work, of our beautiful vocation.
FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF S. PAUL.
Let us contemplate Saul in his fierce vehemence, standing to receive the clothes of those who stoned the gentle martyr.
Saul who at this moment was, in the counsels of the Eternal Trinity, a "chosen vessel" to bear the Name of JESUS to the Gentiles and before kings, and to the children of Israel: a mighty mission of Divine love to be confided to His persecutor.
What gentleness in our judgment of others should we learn here!
See Saul in his wild course arrested by the tenderness of the voice of JESUS, "Why persecutest thou Me?" and mark the child-like attitude of his converted soul, "LORD, what wilt Thou have me to do?"
Trace the lines of Providential care, and see him passing through his three days' agony of doubt and fear and blindness, and the token of his conversion given to the messenger of GOD, "Behold, he prayeth," and the message, "I will show him what great things he must suffer for My Name's sake."
The transformed Paul, obedient to the Divine attraction, goes on his wondrous mission in a life of perfect sacrifice, his character elevated, magnanimous, heroic, yet gentle, loving, fervent, generous, daily dying, that "the life of JESUS" might be revealed, and shed its sweet fragrance around him with its constraining love and winning attraction. Nor does the active life mar the contemplative. What was the vision of GOD vouchsafed to him when caught up into the third heaven? What may be the vision of GOD vouchsafed to the soul whose abiding cry in the midst of the fulfilment of the active duties of life is, "Show me Thy glory?" And what in His Love may be the blessed assurance given to the soul of a crown of glory laid up for it in the treasure-house of GOD? "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask the FATHER in My Name He may give it you." (S. John xv. 16.)