None shall be crowned who has not fought well.
------- 2 Tim. 2: 5
Taken from the
of the same title by DOM LORENZO SCUPOLI
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IT HAS BEEN POINTED OUT how one's mind may be elevated from the things of earth to those of Heaven that it may contemplate the varied mysteries concerning Christ. I shall continue and point out other subjects of meditation that will serve to satisfy the devotion of persons of diverse tastes. This will not only prove useful to the beginner, but also to those who are more instructed and advanced in the spiritual life. All of these do not follow the same method in striving for perfection, nor are they equally capable of deep contemplation.
Do not think that a variety of methods will create difficulties. Let discretion be your guide. Take the advice of a prudent director and obey his directions with great humility. This applies not only to what I am considering here, but also to what I shall say later on.
A thing, attractive and esteemed by the world, should be tegarded as more insignificant than the dirt under your feet. It falls infinitely short of what heaven promises, whither you should aspire with all your heart, despising the world's foolish interests.
When you look at the sun, think of your soul. Adorned with
grace, your soul is incomparably more resplendent and beautiful than
destitute of it, it is blacker than Hell itself. Lift up your heart,
to Heaven when you gaze at the sky. Establish your right to an eternal
dwelling place by guarding the integrity of that grace.
The charm and beauty of creatures should not deceive your judgment. The serpent is often con- cealed under enchanting appearances, seeking to poison and destroy the very life of your soul. Your very wrath will speak out: "Depart, cursed serpent, it is in vain that you hide for my destruction!" Then you will turn to God and say: "Blessed art Thou, O God! Thou hast discovered my enemy. He sought to destroy me, and Thou hast saved me!"
Seek refuge in the wounds of your Crucified Savior. Completely absorbed in them, consider the overwhelming sufferings that divinity itself endured to rescue you from sin and to inspire you with an aversion for sensual pleasures.
Here is another means of estimating the attractiveness of created beauty. Take into consideration the changes that death will make in what now appears so charming.
Each step a person takes is a reminder of the approach of death.
The swift flight of the bird, or the rushing torrent of a river, is slow when compared with the swiftness of human life.
A storm that destroys everything, a peal of thunder that shakes the earth, recall the day of judg- ment. They send us to our knees in adoration before God, beseeching Him to give us grace and sufficient time to prepare for our appearance before His infinite Majesty.
If you desire, however, to make use of the innumerable incidents which occur in this life, the following method may be practiced. The sufferings brought by the heat, or cold, or any other inconvenience, the heavy weight of grief or sorrow, may be considered as the eternal decrees of Providence which sends suffering for your own good and proportions it to your strength. In this way, God's fatherly love and tenderness for you will become evident. It is apparent in the opportunities that He gives you to serve Him in the way that is most pleasing to Him.
N ow that you are in a position to please Him more than ever, speak from the fulness of your heart and say: "It is the will of God that is accomplished in me. From all eternity God's love has chosen me to undergo this suffering today. May He be blessed forever!"
A firm conviction that all good thoughts come from God will lead you to thank the Father of light whenever these occupy your mind.
The promptings and inspiration of the Holy Spirit are to be seen in any religious book that you read. In the cross you will see the banner of Jesus Christ, your Captain. Realize that if you leave Him for just a moment, your most cruel enemies will seize you, but if you follow Him, you will be received, emblazoned with the medals of the victor, into the kingdom of Heaven.
When you see a statue of the Blessed Virgin, offer your heart to that Mother of mercy. Rejoice that she always observed the will of God perfectly, that she brought forth the Savior of the world and nourished Him with her milk. Thank her also for the favors and helps that she never refuses us in our spiritual combats.
The representations of the Saints will remind you of those valiant soldiers of Christ who, fighting courageously till death, have marked the road you must follow to someday share in their glory.
Each time the bell rings for the Angelus, make a short reflection on the words that precede each Hail Mary.
The first consideration is thanksgiving to God for the message sent from Heaven, which began the work of our redemption.
The second reflection is one of rejoicing with Mary because of the sublime dignity to which she was elevated by her own incomparably profound humility.
The third sound of the bell will recall to our minds the Word, now made Man. And then we shall acknowledge the honor due His Blessed Mother and the Archangel Gabriel. A respectful inclination of the head is proper each time the bell is rung, but particularly at the third.
Now these are acts that may be performed at any time. Certain exercises which concern the mysteries of our Savior's Passion, and are more adapted to particular times of the day, as morning, noon, and night, will be treated later. But we must also frequently recall the sorrows that our Blessed Mother endured at that time, for only ingratitude could lead us to forget them.
At night consider the deep affliction that chaste and delicate Virgin felt at the bloody sweat and the seizure of her son Jesus in the garden, and all the agonies of her mind throughout the entire night.
In the morning feel with her the sorrows she suffered when she saw her beloved Son dragged before Pilate and Herod, condemned to death, and burdened with a heavy Cross.
Noon will bring the picture of the sword of grief that pierced the soul of this afflicted mother when she saw Him crucified, dying, His side pierced by a cruel lance.
These reflections on the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin may be made from Friday evening to Saturday noon. The preceding meditations may be made at any time. External circumstances or certain occasions will suggest other things for your own particular devotion.
In conclusion, I offer a short resume of the best means of regulating your senses. Never permit love or hatred to enter your heart on purely human motives. Rather let the will of God direct your inclinations to embrace or reject the objects presented to your mind.
You must be careful to note that, with regard to this great variety of practices recommended to regulate your senses, it is far from my intention that you should spend all of your time on them. Quite the contrary. Recollection and attachment to God should be your normal attitude. Your chief activity will be the interior conflict with your vicious inclinations and the performance of acts of the contrary virtues. These methods have been proposed that they may be used at the proper occasion.It must not be imagined that a multiplicity of exercises will produce any real progress in devotion. Although they may be good in themselves, their improper use may only serve to confuse the mind, increase self-love and instability, and thus open a way to the illusions of the devil.