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 Our Own Sins
Having contemplated the great evil of sin, by viewing the consequences which have followed the sin of the angels, and that of our first parents, we yet must not leave this subject until we have witnessed the effects which sin produces in the soul of man. Of little use is it, indeed, to reflect upon the sins of others, unless likewise we look to our own souls, and examine how we may have resembled those, whose dreadful example has already come before us.
Let us behold then for a moment the soul of a man, who has been unhappy enough to fall into mortal sin.
The very instant he committed that sin, his soul, from a beautiful image of God, became changed into an abominable monster. No one in this world, without a special revelation, can ever understand the surpassing beauty of a soul in the grace of God. Hut in proportion as it is beautiful in grace, so docs it become horrible by the commission of sin. In one sense, there is little difference between a damned soul, and a soul in mortal sin: for, as no human being could look upon a demon without falling dead through terror, so in like manner, if a soul in mortal sin were revealed to our eyes, we should die for very fear at the sight.
The instant a mortal sin is committed, the soul of him who committed it becomes possessed with the spirit of the devil. It is a lamentable thing for any Christian to be possessed by a devil, to have to carry day and night in his body one of the lost spirits of hell: what must it be then, in fact, to deliver one's soul itself over to the power of the devil! He who is possessed by an evil spirit, may still be a child of God, and can freely hope one day to obtain heaven: but he who has delivered his soul over to the power of the devil by mortal sin, is the enemy of God, and stands in imminent danger of being cast down every moment into hell.
But can anything be more shameful than sin? Let us suppose that Almighty God should so open our eyes as to enable us to see into the heart of any one amongst us, to perceive distinctly all the sins and crimes which that person had committed in thought, word, or deed, through the long course of his life. What a shame, what a disgrace fur that poor soul I Would he not seek to hide himself, and call upon the mountains to cover him, rather than that his fellow - men should see his face? and this would be but the righteous judgment of his own conscience. And does not God see into every thought and secret feeling of the heart? If a soul in mortal sin would flee then for shame from the sight of men, how much more truly shameful is it not in the sight of Almighty God!
Further: we shall understand better the greatness of the evil of sin in our souls, if we but consider what poor miserable creatures we are in ourselves, and how utterly dependent on God. What are we, in fact? a handful of clay: a few years ago we were nothing, no one had ever heard of us: a short time hence, we shall be all rotting in the grave. And yet this worm of the earth, this dust, this miserable creature, has lifted its hand against God, has withstood the commands of its own Maker! - Besides, what has not God done for us? He has bestowed countless blessings upon us, so that there is no moment in our whole lives, day or night, in which He has not given us some new blessing, nor will there ever come a moment of our lives on earth in which He will not still bless us. All this He has done for us, with an infinite love: and the while, He might have dealt out to others the graces He gave to us - to others, who, perhaps, - deserved them better - to others, who would have served Him better with them. Indeed, so much have we from God, that we depend entirely on Him. What ingratitude then, nay, what insanity to sin against His divine Majesty! Supposing that the paralytic in the Gospel had turned round after his cure, and struck the Sacred Person of Our Lord, with the very hands that were healed by Jesus; or supposing, that the man deaf and dumb from his childhood, whose tongue Our Blessed Lord Himself let loose, had begun with that very tongue to insult and blaspheme Him when dying on the Cross, - "what a horrible ingratitude!" we should say. But say again, who was it that created those tongues that are ever insulting God? who made those eyes, those ears, and hands, who made all the members of our body, and who formed our soul? - and we are ungrateful enough to offend that Maker!
Again, by committing sin, a man insults the great Majesty of God. To strike one's fellow - citizen is an offence against the law: but how much greater that offence, if directed against the person of the Sovereign. Oh, what a crime must then sin be! for who is God, but the King of kings, and the Lord of lords? God is infinitely good, infinitely holy, infinitely powerful, infinitely beautiful, just, merciful, infinite in all His perfections, and all that is good in creatures springs from Him. Nothing is good without Him, nothing holy, nothing beautiful, nothing just. With Him all is happiness, loveliness, goodness, and mercy, in an infinite degree. And to think that we have offended so great a Good, wilfully and with malice! Let us turn towards heaven, and represent to our minds that which is now passing there. See Almighty God Himself upon His throne, surrounded upon every side by legions of angels and saints - see them entranced as they gaze on His splendour and glory - see how they praise and magnify Him, each and every one, with all the power and nobleness of a heavenly spirit, and perceiving that enough of praise or love can never be given to so great a Majesty, these holy ones throw themselves upon their faces, confessing that He is worthy of far greater honour than they can ever give. But suddenly there arises in the midst of this mighty host of spirits, a miserable worm of the earth, that begins forthwith to insult and dishonour the divine Majesty. Who can comprehend so great a crime? none but God: for the angels themselves, were they, with the whole wisdom of their understandings, to endeavour to comprehend it in all its magnitude, they could not. And a soul in mortal sin has committed that crime! Where does there exist an evil like to this? Sin then is the greatest of all evils. Oh, in the face of such truths as these, who is there that has sinned, once even, but should fly without delay to the throne of God for pardon? "O great God!" he should cry, "I see my sin. I have offended Thee: and who am I? not a Lucifer, not a seraph, not an angel, but a poor worldling, a wretched worm of this earth. And Thou, whom I have insulted, who art Thou? not a king, nor an angel, nor a seraph, but God, the highest Good, the Fountain of all Good, the Lord of Heaven and Earth. I have injured Thee: and where? perhaps secretly, when Thou wert absent - not so, but openly, before Thy very face. I have sinned against Thee: and by what means? with the very eyes, the very ears, the very tongue, the hands, the very body Thou Thyself didst give me. I have sinned against Thee: and for what? perhaps because I had been promised a kingdom, or at least with the hope of riches, or because I was driven to it by the fear of a cruel death - none of these; but, to indulge perchance some shameful pleasure, or because I feared some little humiliation or passing pain. I have sinned against Thee: and how often? not once, but ten, twenty, hundreds of times: and those perhaps at the very moment Thou wert preserving me in health and comfort, when for certain Thou wert pouring grace after grace on my soul, to prevent the devil from tearing me down into hell. O God of heaven, how great has been my wickedness!"
Let us now look back upon our own lives and see, whether we also ought not thus to run for forgiveness to God. Have we been unfortunate enough to commit mortal sin in our thoughts, words, or actions, let us try to remember the time, the first occasion, we fell from God. Oh, what an evil hour is that for a soul in life! the first mortal sin! how lovely and fair our soul, in all the purity and innocence of youth, a chaste and hallowed spirit, the sanctuary of the Holy Ghost, the image of God imprinted freshly upon it! With what benignant love does God look down upon that soul: what glory it must give to God, and what pleasure to the angels and saints: and the angel guardian of that soul, what joy does there not beam from his celestial countenance, as he delights to lead it, and watch it, pray with it, and protect it! Can we not almost fancy him returning, every now and then, from earth to heaven, to recount his happiness, and to relate how there exists on earth at least one soul - his dear charge - free from sin and preparing for heaven. But the first mortal sin! Oh, that fatal moment! a beautiful soul has become changed into a hideous monster, the enemy of God and His saints: - and the angel guardian of that soul, must not the very lustre of his throne become dimmed at the horrid sight? What a foul blot on a Christian soul is sin! Let us then shun it, and loathe it, and turn from it with disgust when it approaches; but above all, let us excite ourselves to a real contrition. If we have sinned against a God Who is infinitely good in Himself, and infinitely good to us, we have sinned shamefully, barefacedly, before the majesty of heaven, before the great God of the universe, Who made us.
What sorrow too deep to fill our hearts! Let us then turn a moment to Mary, and beseech her to pray for us poor sinners that we may receive the grace of true and hearty contrition. When we remember our sins, and at the same time call to mind the infinite majesty of Him we have offended, and the consequent magnitude of our sins, is it not a consolation to have Mary there to plead for us with her Son, we who are but miserable worms, defiled with sin, and unfit for the presence of so good and loving a God? Let us, therefore, confidently seek her: for she is indeed the "Health of the weak," "the Consoler of the afflicted" - and if in real earnest we wish to turn to God, she will be the "Morning Star" dawning upon us after the long dark night of our misery and sin.
VISIT TO A SANCTUARY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
The visits which we make spiritually this month to Our Blessed Lady will conduct us to - day to the city of Ephesus, once so famous, but of which now there are few remains. It was in this city that the title of Mother of God, given to Mary, was fully approved and confirmed by a general council of the Church, held in the year of grace 431. The Catholic Church has always believed, that Mary was the Mother of Him, who united in His Sacred Person the nature of God and the nature of man - and that, therefore, she was truly called the Mother of God. But some impious heretics having denied it, the Council of Ephesus was held to confute and condemn them. It is related in history, that the people of Ephesus displayed the greatest anxiety about the result of that Council. They were loving servants of Mary, and their fear was therefore natural, lest by any chance the honour due to their Mother should be withheld her. But great was their exultation, when the bishops coming forth from the Council proclaimed Mary to be the Mother of God. Catching up the sound, they repeated it again and again with shouts of joy. Let us join our voices to that Christian multitude, and as we listen with the ear of faith to the glorious title, let us in our hearts determine to defend her honour evermore against those who blasphemously deny that Mary is the Mother of God.
PRAYER OF SAINT ATHANASIUS
Give ear to our prayers, O most holy Virgin! and be thou mindful of us. Dispense unto us those riches and that abundance of graces, with which thou art filled. The archangel saluted thee and called thee full of grace." All nations call thee "blessed." The whole hierarchy of heaven bless thee: and we, who are of the hierarchy of this earth, also address thee, saying, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Pray for us, O Mother of God, our Lady, our Queen." Amen.
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