Consider first, that although the kingdom of heaven abounds with all that can be imagined good and delightful, yet there is but one sovereign good, in the enjoyment of which consists the essential beatitude of heaven, and that is God himself, whom the blessed ever see as he truly is, face to face; and see him in the very centre of their own souls; and by the eternal contemplation of his infinite beauty and truth, together with all his divine attributes and attractions, they are quite ravished and set on fire with seraphic flames of eternal love. By means of this contemplation and love they are closely united by a most pure and amiable union with this sovereign and infinite good, and they eternally enjoy him. He surrounds and penetrates them on all sides with inexpressible delights; he fills their whole souls with himself, the overflowing source of all good; he gives himself to them to be their joy, their treasure, their never-ending bliss; he transforms them in a manner to himself, as when brass or iron in the furnace is perfectly penetrated by the fire it loseth in a manner its own nature, and becomes all flame and fire. O happy creatures! what can be wanting to complete your joys, who have within and without you the immense ocean of endless felicity?
Consider 2ndly, that what makes God himself infinitely and eternally happy is the eternal knowledge, love, and enjoyment of himself. For God himself is his own happiness; nothing less than his own immense divinity could ever make them happy. See then, my soul, the infinite riches of the bounty and goodness of thy God, who giveth his servants, in reward of their loyalty, so great a good that nothing greater an be given: even God himself can give nothing greater; since he giveth himself to them to be their possession and eternal inheritance; and what can be given greater than himself? O shall that not suffice, my soul, to make thee happy which maketh God himself happy! Who than can be able to conceive the least part of the joy, peace, and pleasure which that soul must experience that sees herself thus full of God and enjoying him! O how happily does she here lose herself – downed in an ocean of delights – an immense ocean, where she can neither find surface nor bottom, nor any shore, because it is on every side incomprehensible and infinite.
Consider 3rdly, in what manner all the powers of these blessed souls, which are thus full of God, are eternally employed. Their understanding elevated by the light of glory, and in this light of God, seeing God, they ever contemplate with infinite delight this sovereign and universal truth, and in him see all truths, penetrate into the secrets of God and the sublimest mysteries, and are even let into the closet of his heart, to see there the immense treasure of his love for us, and all the wonders he works in time and eternity in consequence of this love. Their memory is continually occupied with the remembrance of all their God has ever done for them; his creating them out of his own pure goodness, for the eternal enjoyment of himself; his redeeming them with the blood of his divine Son; and through him opening to them an inexhaustible source of mercy, grace, and all good; his manifold preservations, by which he has so often delivered them both from a temporal and an eternal death; and his innumerable other benefits and distinguishing favours. Their will all set on fire with the sight of the infinite beauty and infinite goodness of their God, loves him without ceasing and without measure, and perfectly consumes herself in the flames of an eternal love; she lays fast hold on this her sovereign good; she embraces him, she eternally adheres to him, and by a thrice happy union she becomes in a manner the same thing with her divine lover.
Conclude to employ here all the powers of thy soul upon God, by the practice of mental prayer and recollection, and to accustom them now to that kind of exercise which thou hopest will be their eternal occupation. Thus mayest thou, by contemplation and love, in some measure anticipate here upon earth the joys of heaven.
Consider first, how St. Laurence, being archdeacon to the holy Pope Xystus, in the time of the persecution of the church under the heathen emperor Valerian, seeing his holy bishop led away to martyrdom, and himself left behind, addressed himself to him in these words: ‘Whither are thou going, O father, without thy son? Whither art thou hastening, O holy priest, without thy deacon? Thou wast never accustomed to offer sacrifice without me thy minister; try me then now, and make the experiment whether thou hast chosen a fit minister, to whom thou hast committed the dispensing the blood of our Lord.’ To whom the holy pope replied: ‘I am not going to leave thee, my son, nor to forsake thee, but only am going a little before thee: after three days thou shalt follow me. I am old, and therefore my conflict is more light and easy; but thou are young, and shalt sustain far greater conflicts for the love of Christ, and shalt triumph in a more glorious manner over the tyrant.’ See, my soul, what a spirit animated these blessed martyrs, what an ardour they had to suffer for the love of Christ, and let it be thy grief to find so very little in thyself of these holy dispositions.
Consider 2ndly, that what made St. Laurence so great a saint was his divine charity, that is to say, his ardent love for his God and for his neighbour. His charity or his neighbour was evinced as well by his diligent discharge of his office in the care and support of all the poor of the city, as by his distributing amongst them, in the time of the persecution, all the plate and treasures of the church committed to his charge. His fervent love of God was evinced by that invincible courage and fortitude with which he endured the worst of torments, even with cheerfulness and joy, because he was suffering for the sake of his beloved. His love was truly stronger than death; and the fire, with which he was outwardly broiled on the gridiron was by no ways to be compared with the flames of divine love which were enkindled within his soul, and which made him proof against all the efforts of his enemies, and victorious over all the powers of earth and hell. O! ‘tis divine charity that makes saints: ‘tis love, ‘tis an ardent love of God and our neighbours that carries souls to heaven. O let us but love as we ought, and as we are all strictly bound to love, and we shall all be saints; and he that loves the most shall be the greatest saint. O teach us, dear Lord, but this divine art of love, and in all things else do with us what thou wilt.
Consider 3rdly, the great lesson given us in the gospel of this festival (St. John xii. 24, & c.,) in which we are taught by our Lord, that the grain of corn must die before it can bring forth fruit; that he that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal; that the minister or servant of Christ must follow him, and that where he is there also his minister shall be; and that if any one shall duly minister to Christ he shall be honoured by his Father. See, my soul, thou study well these gospel lessons; see that thou learn to die to self-love, to thy own will, to thy disorderly passions and sensual inclinations, by the practice of daily self-denial and mortification; and then thou shalt bring forth much fruit. We must all be so far at least martyrs of Christ as to die to ourselves for the love of him. Thus we shall be his servants and ministers indeed: thus we shall follow him, and where he is we shall also be; thus we shall come to be eternally honoured by his heavenly Father.
Conclude to honour this glorious martyr St. Laurence by an imitation of his fervour, zeal, and constancy in the cause of God, and of his ardent love for God and his neighbour. and learn from the consideration of the grievous torments the martyrs have endured for Christ, to suffer with patience, at least, whatever share there shall be allotted to thee in the cross of Christ.
Consider first, that as the body and soul are individual companions and partners in this life in the good or evil we do, so shall they be in the rewards or punishments of the next. Hence, besides the essential beatitude of the soul, consisting in the eternal sight and enjoyment of God and the happy exercise of all the powers of the soul employed eternally about him, the body also of the servant of God shall meet with its eternal reward in heaven, and so happy a reward as no human understanding can be able to conceive. These bodies of ours, at the resurrection, shall be most wonderfully changed. ‘This corruptible,’ says the apostle, 1 Cor. xv.,
‘must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.’ And again –
‘It is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it shall rise in glory; it is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power; it is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body.’ Spiritual, not in its substance, (for it is still a body,, and not a spirit,) but in its qualities; like the body of Christ after his resurrection, penetrating through the doors that were shut and all other obstacles, clothed with perpetual health, strength, vigour, and youth – swift as thought, immortal and impassible.
Consider 2ndly, the glory and beauty of these heavenly bodies, far exceeding all earthly glory and beauty. ‘The just,’ saith our Lord, ‘shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father,’ Matt. xiii. 43. Yet the very least of God’s servants in that eternal kingdom shall be far more resplendent and beautiful than anything that can be seen by mortal eye here below or represented by man’s imagination. But O how happy then shall the eyes of the blessed be that shall be eternally entertained with the sight of all these heavenly beauties, every one of which is so charming and ravishing to behold! O how happy shall those eyes be which shall be eternally entertained with the sight of all these heavenly beauties, every one of which is so charming and ravishing to behold! O how happy shall those eyes be which shall be perpetually fed with the view at once of all that is delightful in the new heavens and the new earth! And what, again, is all this in comparison with the happiness of their eternal contemplation of the great king of beauty himself and king of glory, Jesus Christ, whom they shall always see in all his beauty and in all his glory?
Consider 3rdly, that the other bodily senses shall also have their reward in heaven, not by their enjoying there any of those gross or brutal pleasures which carnal and worldly-minded men are so fond of – which are so apt to defile the soul and can give her no true satisfaction – but the eternal experience of pleasures of quite another nature, pure and immortal, which shall affect all the senses and fill them with unspeakable delight, from the most delicious sweets of the heavenly paradise. And as for the hearing in particular, it shall be ever entertained with an unspeakable harmony, formed by the melodious concerts of all the celestial choirs, and the united voices of millions of millions of heavenly citizens, all sweetly singing together divine hymns of eternal praise and love to their ever glorious and ever loving king. O my soul, the hearing of any one of these heavenly voices, could it be allowed us here, would certainly be enough to ravish any mortal with inexpressible delight! And what must it be eternally to hear them all?
Conclude to admire and adore the infinite bounty and goodness of thy God, who, not content with giving the soul so great a reward as the eternal enjoyment of the sovereign good, which is himself, has been pleased to prepare such excellent gifts and endowments for the body, to make it also eternally happy. But then thou must remember, that if thou wouldst secure to thy body these heavenly endowments and all this happiness for endless ages, thou must keep it pure and holy during this mortal life, and ever mortify its disorderly appetites and carnal inclinations.
Consider first, that what completes the happiness of the servants of God in his heavenly kingdom is the eternity and the absolute security of all their enjoyments in every branch of their bliss. Their joys are even linked with God’s eternity; and by the unalterable decrees of his divine love, they can no more cease to be happy than he can cease to be God. The honours, riches, and pleasures of this world are all, alas! short and momentary – could they even continue with us for the whole time of our life (which is seldom or never the case) they could be of no better condition than this our mortal life; which is ‘but a vapour which appeareth for a little while, and presently vanishes and is seen no more,’ St. James iv. 15. And though we would give the whole world to secure to ourselves but one day the enjoyment of them, we should not be able to purchase any such security. How long then, O ye children of men, will ye be in love with these empty vanities? How long will you suffer yourselves to be imposed upon with lies and deceits? Give but your hearts in earnest to God; give yourselves up to divine love, and, instead of these vain worldly toys, which at the best you can only enjoy for an uncertain moment, you shall secure to yourselves all good from your God for endless ages.
Consider 2ndly, Christian soul, and look forward into this immense eternity of the incomprehensible and never-ending felicity which is prepared for thee in heaven, to reward thy fidelity in the love and service of thy God, and to recompense the short labours and sufferings of thy mortal life. O what a pleasure it is to lose one’s self in the happy prospect of this boundless ocean of eternity! O what an unspeakable joy to think of being for ever plunged into the immense abyss of the divinity itself! What a delight to be counting up millions of millions of ages, crowned with all the honours, riches, and enjoyments of the heavenly paradise; and after all to find one’s self no nearer the end of this felicity than when one first set out. The thought of this blessed eternity inspired St. Teresa, when yet an infant, with a contempt of all those things that pass away with time, and with a desire of giving up her life for the love of Christ. She often repeated with great feeling those words: ‘For ever, for ever, for ever,’ and in the meditation on these eternal years a bright fire of devotion was enkindled in her soul. O let the like thought inspire us with the like affections.
Consider 3rdly, that in this eternal bliss there is not only an absolute security of their joys never having an end, but also an assurance that they shall never suffer the least decay or diminution, or any ways become tedious or less agreeable by the infinite length of the possession of them. For as the God whom the blessed perpetually enjoy is every way infinite and incomprehensible, being an immense ocean of all good, an inexhaustible treasure of all happiness; so the joy, pleasure, and delight of those that eternally enjoy him is ever fresh and ever new, and continually fills the whole capacity and fully satisfies the whole appetite of their souls. O! how ‘blessed then must they be that dwell in thy house, O Lord. for ever and ever thy shall praise thee,’ Ps lxxxiii. O! ‘how lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord.’ Yea, my soul thirsteth after this fountain of eternal life which is with her God, and which perpetually inebriates all his heavenly guests, flowing without ceasing into their happy breasts.
Conclude to despise henceforward all that is earthly and transitory, and from this hour to set out and to begin thy journey towards this glorious, heavenly, and eternal kingdom. There thou shalt find all that thy heart can desire – immortal honours, never-failing riches, pure and everlasting pleasures. There thou shalt meet with beauties that never fade, perpetual health, perpetual life, & c. O this alone is thy true home, the land o the living!
Consider first, that a conformity of our will in all things with the holy will of God is the sovereign perfection of a Christian life, inasmuch as it is the very perfection of divine love and charity, which is the queen of virtues. For there can be no greater love than to have no other will than the will of our divine lover; so as ever to adore in all things his holy will, ever to embrace and love his holy will. This kind of love is perfect indeed – it resembles the love of the angels and saints of heaven. The most acceptable offering we can make to God out of our poor stock is that of our will; whatsoever else we give him, as long as we keep any part of our will from him, will never content him. He claims our whole will without reserve when he says: ‘My son, give me thy heart,’
Prov. xxxiii. Now this we give him when we conform our will in all things with his blessed will. but if we refuse to submit our will in anything to his holy will we refuse him our heart; or, at the best, we only offer him a divided heart, which he will never accept of. O my god, let my whole heart be ever thine! Let my whole soul be ever subject to thee. Let my will be ever a faithful servant and true lover of thy ever-blessed and holy will.
Consider 2ndly, the great advantages that come to our souls from a perfect conformity with the will of God. It gives a certain dignity and perfection to all, even the meanest of our actions, and to all our sufferings, by making the will of God the rule of them all. It purifies our intention in all things by continually directing the eye of the soul towards God. It brings with it a certain uprightness and simplicity of heart which is highly agreeable to God; it makes us even, as the Scripture says of David, ‘men according to God’s own heart.’ It places the soul in the hands of God, for him to dispose of her in all things according to his holy will and pleasure. It brings along with it a perfect peace and tranquility of mind in all events, as being all ordered and directed by him who is infinitely good and infinitely wise, and who orders all things for the good of them who cast their whole care upon him and seek to have no other will but his. O blessed conformity, how rich, how sweet and delicious to the soul are thy happy fruits! Thou makest us enjoy even a heaven upon earth.
Consider 3rdly, that this conformity of the soul with the will of God rids her of all her evils, and puts her in possession of all other virtues. ‘Tis the sovereign means to bring all our passions into order and subjection, and to mortify all our irregular inclinations. For that which makes them disorderly and irregular is their opposition to, or their resistance of, the will of God; whereas this blessed conformity obliges them all to stoop down and submit to his sacred will. It humbles the soul under the mighty hand of God; it teaches her to be meek under all injuries, affronts, and provocations, considering them all as coming from the just appointments of heaven; it makes her willing to take up her cross, and to bear it till death, with perfect patience and resignation: in a word, it teaches her to be obedient unto death. O grant us, dear Lord, this blessed conformity.
Conclude to set a great esteem upon this excellent virtue of conformity with the will of God: it is the greatest treasure thou canst enjoy in this mortal pilgrimage. But then it is not to be obtained without thy being in earnest in seeking it, fervent in praying for it, and ready to part with thy own will and humour for the purchasing of it.
Consider first, that all kinds of motives concur in recommending to a Christian this best of all devotions, which has for its object the holy will of God. ‘Tis our greatest honour and glory ever to follow God, to submit to him, to be servants of his divine will, to be servants of his divine love, to be so closely united to him as to have no other will but his. ‘Tis our greatest interest to conform ourselves in all things with his blessed will; it brings with it all kind of good to our souls, both for time and eternity; for by giving up our will without any reserve to God, we engage him to give himself without reserve to us. ‘Tis the source of the greatest, and indeed the only true and solid pleasures, to embrace the will of God in all things; forasmuch as it unites the soul with the fountain of all sweetness, which is God. The will of God is always right, always wise, always good, always beautiful. The will of God is God himself. What motives then have we not to conform ourselves continually with this ever right, ever wise, ever good, ever beautiful will of our ever-loving God; how wicked it is to rebel against this sovereign will! How mad it is for us to pretend to withdraw ourselves from the will of the Almighty!
Consider 2ndly, that the only business for which we come into this world is to do in all things the holy will of God. The Son of God himself had no other business during his mortal life than to do the will of his father. ‘I came down from heaven,’ says he, John vi. 38, ‘not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.’ And Ps. xxxix., ‘In the head of the book,’ says he, ‘it is written of me, that I should do thy will: O my God, I have desired it – in the midst of my heart.’ In this same good book of life it is written also of all the children of God, that they likewise should do the will of their heavenly Father; this is the test by which we are all to be examined; all they that, with Jesus Christ, desire in the midst of their hearts, and like him, embrace and love the holy will of God, and always conform themselves to it, shall be acknowledged for the true children of God, and the brethren of Jesus Christ; but as many as shall revolt and fall off from their allegiance to the blessed will of God, shall have their name blotted out of the book of life. See then, my soul, that the true way to heaven is to conform thyself with the divine will.
Consider 3rdly, that by all manner of titles God claims of us a conformity with his heavenly will. He claims it as our creator, because he made us to serve him, and gave us our will, with the rest of the powers of the soul, only to be employed in the service of his holy will. With what face then can we refuse him the sacrifice of that will which he made for himself? Or how can we pretend that his divine will should at any time stoop to our silly will, and not rather we give up at all times our whole will, by a perfect conformity to the will of our creator? The Son of God also claims our will as our redeemer, by the title of purchase; because he has ransomed our souls – enslaved before to Satan and sin – and bought them for himself and his father, at a great price, even with his own most precious blood. So that our will ought always to be at his disposal as his property; and therefore ought ever to conform itself with his blessed will. The Holy Ghost also claims our will by the title of sanctification; because our whole soul has been at our baptism dedicated, sanctified, and consecrated by the Spirit of God to be the eternal temple of God. And therefore our will, which is the principal power of the soul, and which commands the rest, is strictly bound to be ever obedient to the will of him who has chosen and sanctified it for himself.
Conclude to give always to God what upon so many titles belongs wholly to him, and never more to be a rebel to the will of God; or to give the preference to thy own will, or any other creature, before the will of God.
ASSUMPTA EST MARIA IN CAELUM, GAUDENT ANGELI, LAUDANTES BENEDICUNT DOMINUM.
Consider first, in the festival of this day, and contemplate in spirit the glorious entry of the blessed virgin Mary, the mother of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, into the everlasting kingdom of her Son. See, my soul, with what joy of the whole court of heaven, with what triumphs, with what heavenly hymns, she was escorted thither by legions of angels; see how all the citizens of heaven went forth to meet her: with what affectionate embraces she was welcomed by her divine Son, and presented by him to his eternal father: see how she was placed above all the angels and saints, above all the cherubim and seraphim on a most glorious throne, the highest in heaven next to that of her Son; and crowned by him with a diadem of such supereminent brightness and glory as is not to be expressed nor conceived. Rejoice, O my soul, in this glorious assumption of the mother of our Lord, who as he has been pleased to make us his brethren, has been pleased to make her also our mother. O what a happiness it is for us to have such a mother, (who has so great interest with the king of heaven, and who takes our welfare so much to heart,) so near the throne of all mercy and grace! O blessed Virgin, graciously look down upon us in this our banishment, and always show thyself a mother to us.
Consider 2ndly, what brought this ever-blessed Virgin to this supereminent glory, which we honour in this festival of her assumption? 1. It was her most profound humility – she was exalted above all because she was the most humble of all. For he that humbleth himself the most upon earth shall be the most exalted in heaven. 2. It was her perfect purity of soul and body, mind and heart, from all the defilements of sin. 3. It was principally her supereminent love of God; for the degree of the enjoyment of God in his eternal glory is ever proportioned to the degree of our love of God in this mortal life. If then we hope one day to follow this blessed Virgin to heaven, and to have a share in the glory of her assumption, we must endeavour to imitate her humility, her purity, and her love of God. No soul can ever ascent to heaven by any other way than that of humility, purity, and the love of God.
Consider 3rdly, that this imitation of the virtues of the blessed Virgin is an excellent way of honouring her, and of showing our real esteem, love, and devotion to her. For how can we better testify our affection and veneration for the saints of God than by honouring and loving in them that which made them saints; and that which God himself honours and loves in them, that is their virtues? Or how can we better express our esteem and love for their virtues than by studying to imitate them? This kind of devotion is most pleasing to the saints, and to the queen of the saints, and to the God of the saints; it is most honourable to them and most profitable to ourselves. This will bring us effectually to the eternal society of the saints; which without this no other devotion can secure to us.
Conclude so to rejoice in the exaltation of our blessed Lady, in this day of her glory, and to take up on this day a generous resolution of walking in her footsteps, by a diligent imitation of her life; but more especially by following the great example of her humility, purity, and love of God. This generous resolution of thine will be so agreeable to her as to add a new satisfaction and joy to the immense felicity she possessed before.
Consider first, how our Lord, going into a certain town, a certain woman named Martha received him into her house; and she had a sister called Mary, who sat also at the Lord’s feet, and heard his word, & c. O how happy, my soul, were these holy sisters, who had it thus in their power to receive the Lord of glory into their house; to entertain him there, to hear his word, and to converse familiarly with him, and to minister to him! O how happy should we have been if we had lived at that time, and could have been favoured in the like manner! But stay, my soul, and see if this same Lord does not offer thee the like favours at present; and if it be not entirely thy own fault if thou art not a great saint in consequence of them. For does he not still abide amongst us in the blessed Sacrament? Does he not there come in person into our house? Does he not bring all his treasures of divine grace with him, to enrich our souls? May we not by a spiritual communion invite him to us whenever we please? May we not by a spirit of recollection and mental prayer entertain him, and converse with him as long as we please? Does he not often visit us with his grace? Does he not often stand at the door of the heart and knock? Have we not his heavenly word with us? May we not minister to him when we please, and serve him in the person of the poor, which service he declares he looks upon as done to himself? If so, what reason have we to regret our not having lived at the time of our Saviour, seeing he is always living with us?
Consider 2ndly, how very differently these two holy sisters were then employed; the one being busy about much serving, and full of care in providing for the entertainment of our Lord; the other sitting still at his feet, and quietly attending to his divine word. And yet they were both employed about him; they both dedicated themselves to his love and service. In this they represent to us two different kinds of lives of the servants of God, the active and contemplative; or, if you please, two different kinds of functions of the Christian life: the one consisting in action, the other in contemplation; the one in the variety of good works done with a good intention, for the service of Christ; the other in a more quiet retirement and recollection, and a more close attention to God by mental prayer. Both of these are good, both of them highly commendable; because both of them tend to the love and service of God: but the latter is preferred by the judgment of truth itself; because it makes that its occupation here, which is to be its eternal employment hereafter. Mary has chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her. Learn thou, my soul, of Martha, ever to direct thy common actions with all the functions and labours of thy calling, by a pure intention to the service of Christ; learn to sanctify them all by calling in Mary, that is recollection and prayer, to thy assistance. But learn also of Mary to retire as often as thou canst from the noise and hurry of the world, to the feet of Christ; learn of her, as often as thou hasts thy choice, to choose that better part of contemplation and love, which is to be thy eternal occupation.
Consider 3rdly, that this gospel is applied by the church to the blessed Virgin and to her assumption, because she was the happy woman that received in an extraordinary manner Christ into her house; she perfectly fulfilled in her life both the functions of Martha and Mary; of Martha in the services she rendered to our Lord in his humanity, for all the thirty years he was under her roof; and of Mary, by the perpetual contemplation and love of his divinity; so that even in the midst of the duties of the active life, the eye of her heart was always upon her God; she ever attended to the one thing necessary; she ever made choice of the better part; and on this day of her exaltation she was put in the full possession of it for eternity – according to that, Mary has chosen the better part which shall not be taken from her.
Conclude, O my soul, to follow her great example in choosing always the better part, that thou mayest partake in her everlasting happiness.
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