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EIGHTEENTH MEDITATION.1010   [Probably written at Bec.]

THANKSGIVING FOR THE BENEFITS OF THE DIVINE MERCY, AND PRAYER FOR THE DIVINE ASSISTANCE.

[§ 90. Thanksgiving for past blessings, and prayer for future.]

‘My Hope, my Light, sweet Lover of mankind;

True God and Christ, the Life, the Health, the Peace,

The Crown of all Thine own; fain would I tell

What for their saving Thou didst undergo,

Flesh of our flesh, bonds, cross, wounds, death, and grave;

Whence issuing in three days victoriously,

Death trodden under foot, Thou didst appear

To Thy disciples, strengthening their frail hearts;

Then, forty days elapsed, didst mount high heaven,

Where now Thou liv’st and reign’st for evermore.’1111   [2 The original consists of eight hexameter verses:
   ‘Spes mea, Christe Deus, hominum Tu dulcis amator, Lux mea,’ &c.]

Thou art my living God, my holy Christ, my merciful Lord, my great King, my good Shepherd, 239my Teacher of truth, my seasonable help, my Be loved beautiful beyond all men, my living Bread, my Priest for ever, my Guide and Leader to my fatherland, my true light, my heavenly sweetness, my straight way, my wisdom full of illumination, my stainless simplicity, my peace-making reconciliation, my safe protection, my good portion, my everlasting salvation, my great compassion, my all-enduring patience, my immaculate Victim, my holy redemption, my unfailing hope, my perfect charity, my holy resurrection, my eternal life, my exultation, and my most blessed life, Who shalt endure for evermore. Thee I beseech, implore, and beg, that Thou wouldest complete the work Thy mercy has begun in me; for I, the least of Thy servants, not unmindful of the benefits Thy tender mercy has bestowed on me, give thanks to Thee for that, notwithstanding my unworthiness, Thou of Thy sole compassion didst cause me to be born of Christian parents, and didst loose me from my original bonds by the waters of holy baptism and the Holy Spirit’s renovation, and didst enrol me in the company of the sons of Thy adoption; for Thou didst give me the gift of the right faith, and hast evermore vouchsafed to increase and confirm it in my heart by the illumination of Thy grace, 240and by the teachings of holy mother Church; and, O Lord, I beseech and suppliantly pray Thee, evermore increase this faith in me, this true and holy faith, this Catholic and orthodox faith, this most wise, far-seeing and inconquerable faith, this faith so richly adorned with all blessings and with every virtue, that so it may by love work in me what is pleasing to Thee, and may refuse to give way amidst words of strife in time of persecution, or in the day of necessity and death. O God, Thou Fount and Origin, Bestower and Preserver of all virtues, increase in me, I beseech Thee, true faith, unfailing hope, and perfect charity; profound humility, invincible patience, and perpetual chastity of body and of mind. Give me prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance; discretion in all things, and a watchful sensibility, that I may wisely make discernment between good and evil, between the right hand and the left. Therefore make me rich in holy virtues, so as by them to serve Thee, and by means of them to please Thee in truth; for by Thy grace I am enamoured of their beauty. Give me them for the honour and glory of Thy name; make them comrades of my faith, that they may be its inseparable companions all through the period of my life. And thus make me, I pray Thee, 241by Thy grace always stedfast in faith, and ready to do all good works, that Thy faith, which my tongue professes and my writings witness to, may be publicly and openly set forth by the good behaviour of an irreprovable life.

I give Thee thanks, O Lord, that though I was an empty vessel, worthless and senseless, yet Thou didst endue me with knowledge and under standing, and didst give me ever and anon some little skill wherewith to edify. Give me, besides, the gift of wise and very gentle speech, innocent of all bombast or pretence, and incapable of elation, by reason of gifts which are all Thine own, above my brethren. Put, I pray Thee, a word of comfort, of edification, of exhortation, into my mouth by Thy Holy Spirit, that so I may encourage the good to better things, and recall to the path of rectitude, both by word and by example, those who walk amiss. Let the words Thou givest to Thy servant be like sharpest darts and burning arrows, to penetrate and inflame the hearts of those who listen to the fear and the love of Thee, Thou Pastor and Ruler of all, Thou Christ and God, who hast called my littleness to this pastoral office for no merits of mine, but by the sole condescension of Thy mercy; do Thou, for Thine own sake and 242Thy mercy’s sake, fit me for this ministry, that I may rule Thy house wisely, and be strengthened in all things to feed Thy flock according to Thy will. Grant, for Thy mercy and goodness’ sake, that I may be made a burning and shining light in Thy house; and vouchsafe for the honour and glory of Thy Name that I may merit to attain Thy glory, bringing much good fruit with me from this community of brethren, for to Thee nothing is difficult, nothing is impossible. With Thee to will is to do; Thy will is act. And so with the heart I believe, and with the mouth I make confession (Rom. x. 10), that Thou art both able and willing to perfect to great issues by me, who am so little and so worthless, this work of Thine; I know and am assured that Thou art able to bring forth good fruit and abundant from Thy flock by means of me, me that am so little and so weak. I am indeed a little, frail, and worthless son of man, having in me nothing that can be of service, nothing that can be suitable to so high an office; and therefore, despairing altogether on account of my own littleness and incapacity, I only find relief and breathe again in Thy mercy, in that and nothing else.

But great though Thou be in great things, yet dost Thou show more glorious still in least; and 243sweeter than ever, more abundant than ever, will be Thy praise in the mouth of men, when, by means of me, who am so little, Thou shalt have deigned to do great things by Thy flock. Send therefore to my help Thy holy angel out of heaven, that he, helping me in all things, may make this work of Thine prosper in my hand; so that Thy Name be glorified in me, a miserable sinner. Rich in mercy, bountiful in gifts, who givest all to all and losest nothing, grant me heavenly and earthly aid in full sufficiency, that I may have wherewith to feed and to sustain Thy flock both in body and in soul, and to welcome without any hesitation those who come in Thy Name, and also to order and prepare for the repose and well-being of my brethren all the places intrusted to my management, as is fit ting and as duty bids. All this I ask of Thee, O Lord our God; for all our blessings are gifts from Thee, nor can we else serve and please Thee save only by Thy gift.

But if haply it is not in the counsel of Thy eternal will to gain much fruit from Thy sheep by my means, then, I implore and suppliantly pray Thee, release me from the bonds of so weighty an office in ways pleasing to Thyself by the disposition that seems good to Thee. For 244Thou knowest all things, and canst do all things. What do I here? Why do I dwell in these turmoils, if I am not to do by Thy grace some good for the salvation of my brethren? Two things do I seek from Thee, and for Thy clemency deny me not one of the two. I pray Thee by all Thy loving-kindness give me Thy heavenly consolation in my many troubles. For, as to that exceeding heavy burden which has been laid on my shoulders, I have not strength to carry it; I am afraid to set it down. I am straitened either way, and which to choose I know not. O God, the helper of all that trust in Thee, let not Thy mercy leave me nor Thy grace forsake me. O God, keep me; for I trust in Thee, and I confide only in Thy mercy; , since without Thee I cannot please Thee. Did ever any one hope in Thee, and was confounded? (Ecclus. ii. 11.) From the beginning of the world it hath not been heard (St. John ix. 32). Thou art the all-good God, of infinite mercy and boundless goodness, and wert never wont to forsake them that hope in Thee. O show Thy mercy upon me, I beseech Thee; for I have fled to Thee; ‘that they who hate me may see and be confounded, because Thou, O Lord, hast helped me, and hast comforted me’ (Ps. lxxxv. 17).

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[§ 91. Thanksgiving for past blessings, and prayer for future.] I give Thee thanks, O Lord, that Thou hast separated me from the vain society of this world, and led me on to this Thy sacred office, for no merits of mine, but by the sole condescension of Thy mercy. I bless Thee, O Lord our God, who givest me, undeserving as I am, to enjoy the society and the love of Thy servants. Give me quiet, give me health of body and health of soul; and withal suitable leisure to devote to Thee. Deliver me from the vain entanglements of this world; so that my soul may profit, for the honour and glory of Thy Name. And since it is written, ‘No man, being a soldier to God, entangleth himself with worldly business’ (2 Tim. ii. 4); and since Thou dost for this end withdraw from all cares and turmoil the souls of them that serve Thee, that they may be intent on Thee, their only Lord, by night and by day; give those who renounce the world a fruitful and spiritual disengagement, that with the palate of their inmost heart they may taste and see ‘that the Lord is sweet’ (1 St. Pet. ii. 3); that Thou, O Lord, art sweet and pleasant, as Thy scripture doth instruct us, saying, ‘Be still, and see that I am God’ (Ps. xlv. 11); and in another place, ‘The wisdom of a 246scribe cometh by his time of leisure; and he that is less in action shall receive wisdom’ (Ecclus. xxxviii. 25). But let the all-holy word which issued from Thy mouth inform us yet more fully, ‘You cannot serve God and mammon’ (St. Matt. vi. 24); and again, ‘No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God’ (St. Luke ix. 62); and Thou dost vouchsafe in another place to recall us by an evident instance, ‘Be you mindful of Lot’s wife’ (St. Luke xvii. 32).

I give Thee thanks, most merciful Lord, that, miserable and most heedless sinner though I be, and have been from the first, and though, beginning from my cradle, I have run through well nigh every course of vice and sin, yet still Thou dost so kindly and forbearingly await me and invite me to repentance; not willing to destroy me with my sins, my faults, my failings, and my neglects. For if Thou hadst willed to deal with me according to my sins, long, long ago had the earth swallowed me up alive. But, I pray Thee, Lord of pity, let not Thy waiting for me be in vain; let it not have been unfruitful all. Thou, who desirest not the death of the wicked (Ezech. xxxiii. 11), give for my past ills forgiveness, and amendment for the 247present; and, as to those yet to be, ever, ever grant me watchfulness and caution. Give me opportunity and space for fruit worthy of penance (St. Luke iii. 8); open the eyes of my heart by Thy Holy Spirit, that I may see and bewail all my sins. Behold, Lord, ‘now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Cor. ii. 6). Have mercy on me, O Lord, and destroy me not with my sins; nor reserve my ills for punishment in that life to come, in those torments of hell, in that fearful scrutiny of Thine. For Thy tender mercy’s sake loose the bonds of all my sins before I pass away from this life. Give me a contrite and humble heart; give me the gift of tears. Give me light in my heart, strength in my body, that I may see what is to be done, and, what I see, may have strength and vigour to accomplish all the days of my life. ‘Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me’ (Ps. lvi. 2). Let not this sinful soul, for which Thou didst deign to be born of the Virgin and to die on the Cross—bid it not, I pray Thee, be separated from this mortal body before Thou make me fully and perfectly repent, and bemoan all sins soever that I have committed since baptism, sins from my very cradle, whether committed knowingly or unknowingly, whether 248committed from self-sufficiency or from carelessness. So may I in the day of my departure, all my faults cleansed away, and my whole behaviour chastened and corrected to what is good, gaze all secure and happy on Thy all-sweet, all-lovely Face, full of joy and exultation for Thy boundless mercy and goodness.

Again I give Thee thanks, and yet again, O merciful almighty Christ, that Thou hast hitherto been pleased to deliver me, worthless and insignificant as I am, for Thine own sake and Thy Holy Name’s sake, from many straits, many tribulations, calamities, and sicknesses; to save me from many pits, snares, scandals, and sins; from many treacheries of foes visible and invisible; from many evils and most serious perils; marvellously and mercifully guiding my life’s course between adversity on the one hand, and prosperity on the other, so that neither should the one deject me nor the other too much elate. For Thou hast put a bridle on my jaws, and hast not left me altogether at the disposal of my own will, having care for me in Thy fatherly compassion, and not suffering me to be tempted beyond my power of endurance (1 Cor. x. 13). Where there was opportunity for sinning, often there was not the 249will; or where there was the will, opportunity was wanting.

Therefore be praise and benediction and thanks giving rendered unto Thee, O Lord my God, for all Thy gifts and largesses, and for all the benefits which Thou dost lavish on me both in soul and body, and hast lavished incessantly even from my cradle, such has been Thy mercy and Thy goodness, no merits of mine requiring; nay, rather, my sins notwithstanding. But I pray Thee, Lord, I pray Thee, let me not be unthankful for such great benefits, nor unworthy of so many mercies. Be it neither mine, nor the devil’s, nor the world’s, nor anything’s, nor any man’s whatsoever, to over throw Thy gifts in me; for whatever would oppose Thee is soon dashed to pieces. Put Thy bridle, I beseech, tighter and tighter to my jaws, and lead me after Thee like some tractable and gentle brute; in nothing rebellious to Thy bidding, but with even and measured step carrying Thee, my Lord, and in all things submissive to Thy will. Bestir my sluggishness, O Lord, with whips and goads of Thine, and make me with my whole heart and energies seek Thy Face all the days of my life. Draw me to Thee, O God, Thou virtue of our salvation, with the rein of Thy mighty grace, and let 250me not wander loose from wilfulness of mine in places of my own choosing. Let not Thy Image be defaced and blurred in me; for so long as it is protected by Thy care it remains ever noble, princely, and distinct. Have mercy on me, O Lord, on me Thy most miserable and unworthy servant; for I am not like those numberlessly many vassals of Thine, who have served Thee from their cradle; nor like those who, after notorious sins committed, have merited by penance to become devout; nor like the Christian married women, not a few, who do Thee service by works of mercy with utmost devotion; nor again am I like many of those who, in the eyes of men, seem wicked and renegade, but show far otherwise in Thy sight; for ‘Thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men’ (2 Par. vi. 30). But if, by Thy bountiful grace, I ever do or ever shall do any good, I know not for what issue it is done, nor with what strict scrutiny it will be judged by Thee. Wherefore, O God, who art terrible in Thy counsels over the sons of men (Ps. lxv. 5), I suppliantly and with exceeding dread implore Thy holy and infinite condescension, forasmuch as Thou wilt have none perish but that all should be saved, not to leave me to the disposal of my own designs, not to the sentence of 251 my own will, nor within the power or temptation of the demons, nor to the erring judgment or the harmful designs of men; but for Thy goodness and Thy mercy’s sake, according to that all-bountiful providence which can never be mistaken in its designs, do Thou here and ever, now and always, dispose the days of my life in the order of Thy good pleasure, and by Thy Holy Spirit direct my heart, my tongue, and my actions by Thy mercy in accordance to Thy will; that Thou being my Ruler, and Thou my Guide, I may ever truly study by Thy grace to speak and to do what is pleasing to Thee; so may they conduct me at last to eternal life, through Thy mercy and Thy gift, who art the bestower of all good things, and who art with the Father and the Holy Ghost God blessed for ever and ever. Amen,

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