Consider first, that our Lord, during his mortal life, often restored the sight of the light of this world to them that were corporally blind; but oftener by far, both then and ever since, has by his great mercy opened the eyes of them that were spiritually blind, to see the light of God, and his eternal truths. He gave sight to him that was born blind, (John ix.,) by spreading clay upon his eyes, and ordering him to wash in the pool of Siloe; (which is interpreted 'sent' to instruct us that we who, according to the soul, are all born blind, by original sin, must have our eyes opened to the light of truth by the application of this mystical clay, of self-knowledge, to our inward eyes; and by being washed in him, who was sent from God, to be the true light of the world. In the supplication we make to him, for the obtaining the sight of this divine light, we must, like the blind men of Jericho, show ourselves quite in earnest, by the fervour and importunity of our prayer; and not be discouraged by the opposition we meet with from the crowd of distractions, &c., that rebukes us, as it were, and seeks to stop our mouths; but cry out so much the more for mercy, even as they did, Matt. xx. 31, and our Lord will not fail to show us the mercy we call for, and to enlighten the eyes of our souls.
Consider 2ndly, that in the gospel we read of three whom our Saviour raised from death to life: one was the daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, a girl of twelve years old; another was a young man, the son of a widow of the city of Nain; the third was Lazarus of Bethania, the brother of Martha and Mary. The first was but just then dead, and was raised to life by our Lord with two words: 'Talitha cumi;' that is, Girl, arise. The second was carried out in order to be buried; and for the raising of him to life, something more was done; for our Lord came near, and touched the bier, and stopped them that carried it; and then said to the deceased, 'Young man, I say to thee, arise; and he that was dead sat up and began to speak,' &c. But Lazarus had been dead and buried four days; and before our Lord restored him to life we read, John xi., that 'he groaned in the spirit, and troubled himself,' verse 33; that he went to the sepulchre, and wept, verses 34, 35; that he 'groaned again in himself,' and ordered the stone to be taken away, verses 38, 39; that 'He lifted up his eyes to heaven, and prayed to his Father, and then cried, with a loud voice, Lazarus come forth,' verses 41, 42, 43. The first of these represents such souls as have but just now fallen into sin; who by a timely and fervent application to our Lord, who alone can raise the dead to life, may more easily be recovered out of the jaws of death and hell, and brought back to the life of grace. The second represents such souls as are not only fallen into the death of sin, but are already laid upon the bier and carried towards the sepulchre of a sinful habit, by repeated acts of sin. For the raising of these to life, stronger graces are required; signified by our Lord's touching the bier and causing the bearers of it, that is the criminal passions, which are hurrying the poor sinner to his grave, to stop and stand still. But Lazarus represents the more dismal condition of such as are already buried in inveterate habits of mortal sin; whose case requires still more extraordinary graces, signified by tears. groans, prayers, and the loud cry of the Son of God. O! Christians, let us dread the death of sin above all other evils; but much more the being buried in the grave of sinful habits; from which we shall not be raised again, without a greater miracle than even that by which Lazarus was called out of his monument. And who shall dare to be so presumptuous as to go on in his sins, flattering himself with the expectation of such a miracle being wrought in his favour?
Consider 3rdly, that in these miracles wrought by our Lord, in raising the dead to life, we find he was pleased to let himself be moved by the tears of the living, as in the case of the widow's son, and of Lazarus: to encourage us to present to him our prayers and tears, for poor sinners dead and buried in sin; with an humble confidence, that in his great mercy he will have pity on them, (who, alas! have no pity on themselves,) and restore them to life. O what a happiness will it be for a Christian to be instrumental in this manner of bringing back any one from death to life! How agreeable will such prayers and tears be to our good Lord, which deliver a soul from sin and hell; and how beneficial to ourselves in covering a multitude of sins! But mark well the care our Lord took, for the future well-being of those men whom he raised to life. He ordered that they should give to eat to he daughter of Jairus, as soon as her soul was returned into her body, Luke viii. 56; to signify, that the sovereign means to keep her soul in life, and to recover her strength and health, is a frequent and worthy participation of the blessed sacrament. He had no sooner given life to the widow's son, in consideration of her tears, but he delivered him to his mother, Luke vii. 15; to signify the special care he expects from the church, the common mother of all the faithful, of all these her children, whom by his grace he brings back from the death of sin, at the intercession of her prayers and tears. And with regard to Lazarus, whom he called out of his monument, bound feet and hands with winding bands, &c., he immediately ordered that they should 'loose him, an let him go,' John xi. 44; to signify the necessity of discharging the bands of the affections and occasions of sin, in order to maintain a new life in such as were buried a little while before in bad habits; and to the end they may be qualified henceforward to go; that is, to begin and to continue the great journey they are to make to the mountain of eternity.
Conclude, from the consideration of these miracles of our Saviour, to have recourse to him on all occasions, with a humble confidence in his mercy and goodness, for obtaining of light, life and all other good, both for thyself and thy neighbours. Thou canst not do him a greater pleasure, nor thyself a greater service.
Tota pulchra es, Maria, es macula originalis non est in te.
Consider first, how man who was originally created in justice and sanctity - to be happy here in grace and innocence, and eternally happy hereafter in the enjoyment of his creator - having wretchedly fallen from God by sin, and forfeited his original justice with all the advantages annexed to it; and incurred at the same time all kinds of miseries, both for time and eternity; out of which it was not in his power to extricate himself, by anything that he could do of himself - the infinite goodness of God, out of pure pity and compassion, was pleased to decree that his own eternal Son should come down from heaven to be our Saviour; to redeem us from all our sins with his most precious blood; to bring along with him mercy, grace, and salvation to us, and by his death to open to us the gates of everlasting life. O Christians, it is this infinite goodness of our God that we must never forget. It calls aloud for all the return we are able to make of love and gratitude, of adoration, praise, and glory; and a total dedication of our whole being to the service of our great deliverer, for all our time, and for all eternity. O may all heaven and earth, with all the angels and saints, bless and glorify his mercy, bounty, and love for us!
Consider 2ndly, that God, having thus decreed to give us his only Son for our Saviour, was pleased to reveal this great mystery from the very beginning to our first parents; and afterwards from time to time to the patriarchs and prophets, and others his servants; to the end that this might be in all ages the capital object of the faith of all true believers; and that as non could ever attain to eternal salvation but through the merits of the Son of God made man for us, so all might approach to God, for mercy and grace, through faith in him. In the meantime the divine wisdom, which had created the world in six days, was pleased to employ full four thousand years in preparing the world for this great redeemer. All the most remarkable passages of sacred history, recorded in holy writ, have all some relation to him or his church; all the most eminent servants of God and deliverers of his people, were so many figures and forerunners of him: the whole law, with all its sacrifices and ceremonies, alluded to him, and to the great sacrifice he was to offer. The writings of the prophets and the psalms are full of him. Now, when the time of his coming drew near, God, who had done great things long before for the whole people of the Hebrews in general and for that family in particular of which he would have his Son to be born into the world, was pleased to do still greater things in favour of her whom he had chosen, in his eternal decrees, to bring forth this Lord of glory and Saviour of the world. These great things wrought for her, even in her very conception, we celebrate in the festival of this day; to glorify him that wrought them; and to honour her for whom they were wrought. Our Lord, in taking her for his mother, and us for his brethren, has authorized us to consider her as our mother also; to have recourse to her as such; and to rejoice in all her advantages. We cannot love the Son of God, and be indifferent in what relates to the honour of his mother.
Consider 3rdly, that the Son of God, making choice of this blessed Virgin to be his mother, was pleased to prepare her for this near alliance with him, by that extraordinary grace of keeping her ever pure from sin, either original or actual, mortal or venial; for so it was becoming that she who was to bear in her womb, and to bring forth to the world purity itself, should never be defiled with any spot or stain of sin. Learn from hence, Christian souls, the care you ought to take to keep yourselves pure, if you hope to be agreeable to the eyes of this same Lord. Learn to purify yourselves from all sin, as often as you approach to him, to receive him in the sacred mysteries: an as the particular devotion of this holy time of Advent should be to prepare yourselves in such manner for worthily celebrating the birth of Christ, as that you also be partakers in this great mystery by his coming to you, and being spiritually born in you - see you make it your business now to dispose yourselves for so great a happiness, by purifying yourselves from all defilement either of the flesh or of the spirit, and thus preparing a proper place within you for the Lord of glory to be born in.
Conclude to honour the immaculate conception of the blessed Virgin, by a perpetual love of purity in all its branches; and an imitation of her purity, as far as thy frailty and corruption will admit of: thus mayest thou hope that the fountain of all purity will come also to thee, and be spiritually born in thee.
Consider first, that he who prepared the blessed Virgin to be the mother of his Son, by this early care to keep her pure in the very conception, would thereby give us to understand what dispositions he expects in us, in order to our being also qualified for the spiritual conception and birth of the same Lord in our souls. For as we could never have been happy if the Son of God had not been born into this world for us, so we never can be happy if he be not also spiritually received and born in us. No, my soul, we must put off the old man, and put on the new, which is Jesus Christ, before we can come to God; and this putting on the new man must be effected by his being spiritually conceived in our souls. Now he can never come to any soul, to be spiritually conceived or born there, if that soul be not clean; for though he humbled himself so far as to be born in a poor stable, yet he will not be born in an unclean soul, because such a soul is the habitation of unclean spirits, and therefore cannot be a proper place for his spiritual birth. It is then by cleanness of conscience and purity we must prepare the way of the Lord, if we hope to have a share in the happiness he offers us by his incarnation and birth; without this his coming will be to our condemnation.
Consider 2ndly, that this cleanness and purity, which is indispensably necessary for the spiritual conception and birth of Christ in our souls, must be, at least, exemption from all wilful and deadly sin. For wherever wilful and deadly sin resides, there is the seat of Satan; there he resides and reigns, and consequently there can be no room for the birth of Christ in such a soul. so that the first and most essential branch of Christian purity, without which God has no part in us, (Job xxxi. 2,) and we have no part in him, is a purity of conscience at least from mortal sin; joined with a fixed determination of the soul, for no consideration whatsoever; for no honour, interest, or pleasure; for no fear, or love, or human respect; for no promises or allurements on the one hand, or terrors and threats on the other; in fine, for nothing that the world can either give or take away, ever to consent, so much as in thought, to any such sin. Christians, what are your dispositions in this respect? Are your consciences either pure or clear from all deadly sin by innocence, or cleansed by penitence? Are your souls in a proper condition to welcome Christ? Are you in a settled resolution to give up the dominion of your souls to this great king, who desires to be born there and to live there? Are you willing to sacrifice to his will and pleasure all other loves that offer to oppose his reign, so as to be ready to part even with life itself, rather that with your allegiance to him? This is the purity of conscience he absolutely insists upon, and nothing less will satisfy him. If you are not in this disposition, you are none of his, and he will not be born in you.
Consider 3rdly, that to welcome Christ in a suitable manner, you must not content yourselves with having your consciences only cleansed from all mortal sin, or your souls only settled in a resolution of never more being guilty, upon any consideration, of such sins as may eternally separate you from your God, and cast you into hell; this is but a low degree of Christian purity, and those that aim no higher are in great danger of not even arriving so far. To make light of smaller sins; to be indifferent about Christian perfection; to pretend to no more than the avoiding hell; to indulge one's self in a negligent, lukewarm way of living, and in a variety of evil habits and known sins which one is willing to suppose are only venial, with little or no concern about the offence we commit against God, or any serious thought of amendment - so far from being a proper disposition to prepare the soul for the spiritual birth of Christ, is indeed the broad road to mortal sin, and too often ends in hell. A generous Christian, and one that is a true lover of his God, does not stand to inquire, whether the doing this or that will send his soul to hell or not. It is enough to determine him to avoid it with all his power, to know that it offends his God, whom he loves with his whole heart; and therefore he dreads more the doing anything that is displeasing in his eyes, than either death or hell itself. My soul, are these thy dispositions?
Conclude to make it thy business, now at least, to labour for this perfect purity of conscience, not only from all deadly sin, but also from all known deliberate venial sins; and much more from indulging thyself in the habit of any such sin. For how canst thou expect that infinite purity should be willing to take up his abode in thy soul, if thou art not careful to keep it clean, at least from all wilful and affected stains?
Consider first, that as this spiritual conception and birth of Christ is to be perfected in our interior, so in order to dispose ourselves effectually for so great a happiness, and that it may continue with us into life everlasting, by our abiding always in Christ, and Christ's abiding always in us, we must be ever jealous of the purity of the interior powers of the soul. 'All the glory of the king's daughter (the Christian soul) is within,' Ps. xliv.; there is to be the residence of the Lord of glory; the beauty of the interior is to attract him thither; and this beauty depends upon keeping these inward powers of the soul in a proper state of purity. See then, Christians, if you desire to have Christ with you, that you take proper care: - 1. To purify your understanding from all its errors, false opinions, and affected ignorances, by obliging it to open its eyes to the light of divine truths, in the exercise of meditation and mental prayer; 2. To purify your memory from all its impertinent amusements, distractions, and evagations, by accustoming it to the remembrance of God, and a recollection of thought; 3. To purify your will from all its disorderly affections, by fixing your heart upon solid and eternal goods, but especially upon your sovereign good, which is God himself. Thus shall your whole souls be agreeable to him.
Consider 2ndly, that one of the greatest enemies to this interior purity, (which is so necessary to bring Christ into our souls, and to fix him there,) is that unhappy dissipation of mind, in which many Christians pass their days, always thinking, but very seldom thinking on anything to the purpose. Alas! 'tis too true that the minds of the generality of men are a constant thoroughfare of vain amusements, of empty, idle, impertinent thoughts, succeeding one another all the day long, and leaving little or no room for God, or the things of God and the soul, to come in, or to make any lasting impression. Thus the inward castle is left quite unguarded, and the enemy has free access to come and rifle, and even murder the soul at pleasure, by suggesting a variety of criminal thoughts, which are admitted without resistance, through the supine carelessness and licentiousness of the mind; whilst on the other hand, the divine grace is shut out from such souls, by their whole attention being engaged by these toys and trifles; so that when God would come, and would visit them, they are not at home for him, but are going gadding abroad after other impertinences. See, my soul, if this be not thy case; and if it be, seek a remedy without delay, or there will be no room for Christ in thee. Now, the only remedy is a recollection of spirit, and an attention to God in all thy ordinary actions and employments.
Consider 3rdly, that if it be so necessary, in order to conceive and to bring forth Christ in thy interior, to maintain the purity of thy mind, by recollection of thought, it must be no less necessary to maintain also the purity of thy heart, by banishing from thence all disorderly affections; for these are no less apt to disqualify the soul for this spiritual conception and birth of Christ in her; they are no less unclean and disagreeable in his eyes, and no less opposite to his reign. Neither can the purity of the mind and of the thought be maintained without the purity of the affection and of the heart, for the mind and the thought are generally bent upon such objects as the heart affects - we think most upon what we love most; and therefore if the affections of our heart are impure, our thoughts will also be impure; for where our treasure is, there both our hearts and our thoughts will be. Now that love alone is pure, which makes God its treasure; and all such affections are impure as take off the heart from God, and make it seek its treasure in something that is not God, or which at least divides the heart between God and the creature. And these are the disorderly affections that must be banished in order to dispose the soul for Christ.
Conclude to examine well, and to set thy interior in order, particularly with regard to these two branches of purity, viz.: the purity of the mind and the purity of the heart. For Christ will not come to be spiritually born in any soul, or to make his abode in any soul where he is not allowed to be sole master both of the mind and of the heart. Therefore the mind must be set free from the servitude of useless thoughts and impertinent amusements, and the heart from the servitude of misplaced affections, and every fond, sensual, worldly, or distracting love, to make place for the birth of Christ, and his reign in the soul. The soul that desires to have Christ with her, must endeavour to be like the spouse in the canticles, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up. Dissipation of thought, and all disorderly affections, bring such company into the soul as the Son of God will not endure.
Consider first, that this Christian purity, which is to prepare the way for Christ in us, and to dispose us to give him a proper entertainment, must not be confined to the interior powers of the soul, but ought to extend itself also to the whole body of our actions. As the tree ought to be pure, so ought the fruits also, for the tree is known by its fruits. Now, our fruits are our actions; so that these must be pure, or else we shall not be pure, not duly qualified for that happy union with Christ, which we are to aspire to at this approaching solemnity: for that which is impure cannot be in proper condition to be united with the sovereign purity. Now for our actions to be pure it is not enough that what we do be good in itself; it must also be good in all its circumstances, for any one vicious circumstance is enough to corrupt the whole. But that on which the purity of our actions principally depends is the purity of our intention, according to that of the gospel, Matt. vi. 22, 23, 'If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome; but if thy eye be evil, thy whole body shall be darksome.'
For the eye of the soul is the intention, which is then single when the view of the soul is carried towards God in all that she does; but when the intention is turned off from God and looks at something else, the eye is evil and the work is darksome.
Consider 2ndly, that all Christian virtue depends upon this purity of intention: the meanest of our actions are ennobled by it, and the highest and the most esteemed by men are good for nothing in the sight of God without it. Now the perfection of this purity of intention is to act in all things from the motive of the love of God; for the greater glory of God, and in conformity to the will of God. This carries the soul up to God, and brings down God to the soul: this produces a happy union of the soul with her God. Christians, see here the shortest way to all good, and the sovereign means of arriving at the height of perfection. The practice of this requires - 1. That you should begin all your days and all your works with God, by offering them all up to him and to his service. 2. That you should consult his divine will in all things, and make it the rule of all you do. 3. That you should watch over yourselves, both in the beginning and in the progress of every work you take in hand, that you may exclude all by-motives, suggested by your self-love, human respect, interest, pleasure, or passion. 4. That you should often renew the directing of your attention to God, and should endeavour to season all your ordinary actions and employments with frequent aspirations or breathings of the soul towards him.
Consider 3rdly, that the two capital enemies of purity of intention, those which spiritual persons in particular have most occasion to guard against, are vainglory and pride. The difference between the two is, that vainglory consist in loving and desiring to be esteemed by others, whereas pride consist in a vain esteem of one's self; vainglory makes persons ever turn their eyes upon what others may say or think of their words or actions; it makes them perfect idolaters of a point of honour, of the esteem, reputation, and approbation of the world: but pride makes them full of themselves, measuring as it were themselves on every occasion, and their performances with those of others, and still giving themselves the preference before others, ever turning their eye upon their own excellence, building on their own lights, resolutions, strength, or capacity, and taking a secret complacency in themselves and in all the good they do. Both the one and the other are infinitely pernicious to the soul, by turning off her eyes from God, and consequently robbing her of all the fruit of her good works, and make them all rotten at heart, and good for nothing in the sight of God; they even pervert the best of her performances to her eternal condemnation, by shutting out God from them, and giving the preference to these devils of pride and vainglory before him. As long as these have possession of the soul there will be nothing but corruption there, and no room for the spiritual birth of Christ.
Conclude to aim at all times at a purity in all thy actions, by purifying thy intention from all pride and vainglory, and from every other thing that may turn off thy eye from God. Let God be the beginning and end of all thou doest; and take care to give to every action its full perfection, by doing all for God's greater glory, and our of the pure motive of his divine love, and the very meanest of thy daily actions will suffice to make thee a saint. Whereas, neither long prayers, nor large alms, nor converting millions of souls, nor working of miracles, nor giving thy body to the flames, will avail thee anything if thy intention be vitiated by pride or vainglory.
Consider first, that after the blessed Virgin had been prepared by the purity of her conception and by the purity of her life, by the purity of her soul and of her body, of her heart and of her mind, and of all her actions and intentions, to conceive in her sacred womb the Son of God, whom she had long before conceived in her soul - the time appointed by our Lord being now come, the Archangel Gabriel was sent to her from heaven, upon the most solemn embassage that ever was: viz., to treat with this most humble maid, concerning the great work of the incarnation of the Eternal Word, by his taking flesh of her, in order to the redemption of mankind from Satan, sin, and hell, and reconciliation with God; and in order to establishment of a new law, a new and everlasting covenant, a kingdom of heaven upon earth by grace, in favour of all that should embrace this grace, and an eternal kingdom for them hereafter in glory. But give ear now, my soul, to the angel's address, and mark every work of it. The angel being come in, said to her: 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women,' Luke I. 28. He greeted her with the word Ave or Hail, a word of salutation or congratulation with her, for all that God had done and was about to do in her favour, and for his choosing her to be the happy instrument that should give birth to the source of all our good. O let heaven and earth join in this Ave of salutation and congratulation! as all heaven and earth are highly interested in the issue of this most sacred negotiation, which is to bring us innumerable benefits, both for time and eternity, by the incarnation of the Son of God! and see, my soul, thou never forget to testify thy grateful sense of the share designed for thee in these graces and benedictions, by daily joining with suitable devotion in this holy salutation and congratulation, as often as thou repeatest the Ave Maria
Consider 2ndly, how the angel, in his salutation, styles the blessed Virgin 'full of grace,' signify the supereminent degree of divine grace to which God elevated her soul, to prepare her to be the mother of his Son. For she was full of all that habitual grace which justifies and sanctifies the soul; full of faith and hope; full of divine charity, in both its branches; ever loving God with her whole heart, with her whole soul, with all her mind, and with all her strength, and loving her neighbour as herself; she was full of humility, meekness, patience, obedience, and all other moral virtues; she was full of wisdom, godliness, the fear of the Lord, and all other gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit; her memory was full of holy thoughts; words, and works; her works were all full, by the purity of intention, of the fervour and love with which she performed them all. Many saints have been full of grace; but none like this queen and mother of all the saints, whose grace was proportioned to the great designs that God had upon her, and to the supereminent dignity to which she was chosen, of being mother of God. O congratulate, my soul, with the blessed Virgin, for this her fullness of grace, which went on continually increasing for the whole time of her life, by the good use she continually made of all God's gifts; and beg through her intercession, that thou mayest, like her, faithfully correspond and diligently co-operate with every divine grace.
Consider 3rdly, how the angel adds in his salutation, 'the Lord is with thee;' to signify the source from which all her fullness of grace flowed, and the extraordinary manner of God's communicating himself and all his graces to this most highly favoured of all his creatures. For our Lord was not only with the blessed Virgin by his essence, his presence, and his power, as he is with all men; not only by his sanctifying grace, as he is with all the just; but in a most extraordinary manner, by a far more eminent grace, a closer union, and a higher sanctification. And therefore the angel adds, 'blessed art thou amongst women;' to express the super eminence of those graces and benedictions with which she was blessed from heaven, and should still be blessed more and more, as well as the innumerable blessings that should be communicated to all mankind, through the fruit of her womb, and the blessings and praise that should on that account be given her by all generations. For as one woman by disobedience, in hearkening to the suggestions of the infernal serpent, was the beginning of all the maledictions that fell upon all mankind, so one woman, by her humble obedience to the proposals brought her by an angel from heaven, was the beginning of all the benedictions that were to come upon all mankind, from the blessed fruit of her womb, by whom also she crushed that serpent's head who first brought sin and death amongst us. O see, thy soul, with what sentiments of devotion thou oughtest to join with the angel, and with the blessed St. Elizabeth and with the whole church of God, in this solemn address to the virgin lady: 'Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,' Luke I. 24.
Conclude ever to keep up in thy soul a grateful remembrance of all the great things that God has done for the blessed Virgin and for us all, in the incarnation of his Son, by a frequent and devout repetition of the angelical salutation, always concluding it with that pious address of the church: 'Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen'. O how just it is that we should particularly crave the assistance of her prayers for that critical time when we can do the least for ourselves, and when all is at stake for eternity.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
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