Consider first, how St. John the Baptist, being sent as a forerunner of our Lord, to prepare the people for him, by preaching to them penance, and a thorough conversion from their sins; when a multitude of publicans and other sinners resorted to him, and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins, and receiving from him the rules of a new life; our Lord Jesus also came among them, as if he had been one of their number and stood in need of that baptism of penance for the remission of sins; and desired to be baptized by him. Admire the humility of this 'Lamb of God,'
who came 'to take away the sins of the world,' and yet here associates himself with sinners and is willing to pass for one of them. The Baptist was astonished at it and refused to baptize him, saying, 'I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me?'
But Jesus insisted upon his doing it; 'for so it becometh us,' said he, 'to fulfil all justice,' Matt iii. 14, 15; that is to exercise and to give examples of all virtues; amongst which
humility is the foundation, which sustains all the rest. O give us thy grace, dear Lord, that we also may
'fulfil all justice,' by the imitation of thy humility.
Consider 2ndly, how our Lord Jesus having thus humbled himself to 'fulfil all justice,' was presently 'exalted' by his heavenly Father; when 'being baptized and praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, as a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven: Thou art my beloved Son, and in thee I am well pleased,' Luke iii. 21, 22. Learn from hence, my soul, that humility opens heaven and conducts us to God, and to all good. But see also, how upon this occasion of the baptism of Christ, the chief mysteries of religion are displayed: see how the whole blessed Trinity manifests itself: the Father, by his voice from heaven; the Son, in his human nature, assumed for us; and the Holy Ghost, by descending in the shape of a dove. See how the mission and the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ is here solemnly authorized, with a formal declaration of the dignity of his person, and of his unction and consecration, by the Spirit of God: see how the Son of God, descending into the waters sanctifies them, in order to those great effects of regeneration and renovation of the soul in the laver of baptism: see how he buries, as it were, the old Adam here under the waters, and brings him forth a new man; opening heaven in his favour, and imparting to him both his Holy Spirit, and the title and dignity of Son of God. O let us venerate these heavenly mysteries! Let us here embrace our humble Saviour, the source of all our good.
Consider 3rdly, how our Lord began the functions of his mission, and the preaching of his gospel, from this time of his being baptized, and his being here solemnly recommended to the world, not only by the voice of his heavenly Father, and by the visible descent of the Holy Ghost. But first, for our instruction, he was pleased, by way of preparation, to withdraw himself from the conversation of men, into days in fasting and prayer; at the end of which time he suffered three different assaults of temptation from Satan; and after overcoming this wicked enemy, was visited and served by Angels. Christians, let us learn from this great example, in all our spiritual undertakings to seek first the assistance and blessing of heaven, by retirement, fasting, and prayer; let us learn that these same are also the best arms against all the temptations of the enemy; that we are not to expect, how much soever we are retired from the world, to live without temptation, since Christ himself was tempted; but that we must, by his example, fight and overcome; and that this is the way to heavenly comforts here, and to an immortal crown hereafter.
Conclude to keep as close as thou canst to the Lord Jesus, in every step he takes, and to have thy eyes always upon him, that thou mayest copy out his virtues in thy life.
Consider first, these words of the apostle, Phil. ii, spoken of the eternal Son of God, incarnate for us: 'He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and in hell; and that every tongue shall confess, that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.'
Christians, let us then venerate this sacred name, and all the mysteries and heavenly truths it contains - which are so many and so great, that no tongue can sufficiently express them, nor heart conceive them. The name of Jesus came from heaven; it signifies
a Saviour; but such a Saviour as should deliver his people from their sins; reconcile lost man to God; purchase for him mercy, grace, and salvation, and of a slave of Satan, and a child of hell, make him a son of God, and heir of heaven. O what has not our Lord Jesus done, what has he not suffered, that he might be such a Jesus to us? None but he could ever fulfil the import of this heavenly name; none but a
God-man, an Emmanuel, that is, a God with us, could be a Jesus to save his people from their sins, and be to them a never-failing source in all true good; even to that degree as to make them in a manner partners in his divinity.
Consider 2ndly, that the name of Jesus is a name of virtue and of power. In this name the churches of God were planted throughout the earth. In this name the Apostles wrought all kinds of miracles, and even raised the dead to life. By this name millions of martyrs have overcome death in all its shapes. This name has peopled the deserts with holy solitaries, and every nation of the Christian world, in every age, with innumerable saints, who 'looking upon Jesus the author and finisher of their faith,' have, through his name overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, and are now set down with Jesus in his throne, according to the promise he has made to them that conquer in his name, Rev. iii.21. To this sacred name so many mighty monarchs have yielded themselves captives, submitting both themselves and their kingdoms to the great conqueror, and oftentimes leaving even their crown and sceptre for the love of this divine name. O kingdoms of Jesus, kingdom of mercy and grace, when wilt thou extend thy conquest over all the universe, and bring all kings and people all nations and all hearts, to bow down, to embrace, and to give all praise and glory to this adorable name?
Consider 3rdly, that the name of Jesus carries with it an unspeakable majesty, tempered with humility, meekness, sweetness, and love; inasmuch as it expresses to us a God made man - even a poor, meek, and humble man - out of a pure love for us. It shows forth to us all the divine attributes, stooping, as I may say, to the work of our redemption, in order to raise us up from the dung-hill, and to bring us to a heavenly kingdom. Jesus is a name of mercy, a name of comfort, a name of grace and of salvation: it promises pardon and forgiveness to all penitent sinners; it preaches to them deliverance from their slavery and from their bonds; the discharge of all their debts; the healing of all their maladies; and the rescuing them from all their enemies, and from the wrath to come. It supports the Christian pilgrim under all his labours; it comforts him in all his afflictions; it is his refuge in all dangers; it sets before him the source of all his good; it encourages him to pray with an assurance that there is nothing but what he may obtain, if he prays in the name of his Saviour. It puts to flight all the powers of hell; they cannot bear that sacred name. It conquers the world and the flesh; in fine, opens heaven to all its true lovers and followers. O sacred name, mayest thou be always in our hearts, and on our lips! It was so with the blessed apostle St. Paul: O may we, like him, find all things in Jesus!
Conclude ever to venerate the divine name of Jesus, as presenting to your souls the principal object of the Christian's faith, the strongest grounds of his hope, and the chiefest motive, and most powerful attraction, to engage his love, viz., a God incarnate, and crucified for us. Thus you may exercise, as often as you hear his sacred name, all the thee theological virtues of faith, hope, and love of God.
Consider first, these words of the Gospel: 'there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples.'
Happy marriage, which our Lord was pleased to honour with his presence, and with his first miracle! He himself was the author and first institutor of marriage; and, therefore, was pleased to give it a sanction and a blessing by assisting at it. He came to marry, as it were, by his incarnation, our human nature with his divine person; he came to marry himself to his Church, and by imparting to it a spiritual grace, to raise Christian matrimony to the dignity of a sacrament - which should be a sacred and mysterious sign of his perpetual union with his Church: he came to espouse our souls to himself; and, therefore, was pleased to favour this marriage (in which the contracting parties were, in all appearance, allied both in blood and virtue, to his Blessed Mother) with his first miracle. O how happy were they in inviting Jesus and Mary to their wedding! O how unhappy are they, who when they marry 'shut out God from themselves and from their mind, to give themselves to their lust.'
Tob. vi. 17. 'Over these the devil hath power,' because they invite him, rather than Jesus, to their wedding. and is not this the true cause why so many marriages are unhappy for want of the blessing of Jesus?
Consider 2ndly, how, in the midst of the marriage-feast, wine was wanting, to teach us how deceitful are all the pleasures of the world, and how often they fail us, when we expect the most from them. O 'tis Jesus alone can furnish our immortal souls with the true 'wine that cheereth the hearts of man.' 'Tis his love alone can present us with pure delights, which ring with them joy and peace, and a certain foretaste of heaven. he often changes, in favour of his friends, even the waters of 'the torrent in the way' into delicious wine, by the consolation he gives them in their labours and afflictions, and the spiritual blessings of his grace, for the advancing their souls in divine love, and bringing them nearer to himself, the source of all sweetness; whilst the world, the flesh, and the devil, do but delude us, by flattering our senses at first with a false sweetness, which quickly comes to an end, and leaves nothing behind it but bitterness, discontent, and remorse.
Consider 3rdly, that this miraculous change made by our Lord, of water into wine, (which was his first miracle,) was a prelude to another more miraculous change which he made at his last supper, and will continue to make by his ministers, even to the end of the world, of bread and wine into his own body and blood. With this wonderful miracle, he daily honours the wedding feast of his own espousals with our souls, in order to communicate himself to his spouses, and to unite them to himself. And by the means of this communication of himself to us he operates another no less wonderful change in us, by which he changes us in a manner into himself. The corporeal food we take, is by the means of our natural heat daily changed into our flesh and blood; but this spiritual food, like the fire which changes all things into itself is not changed into our substance, but changes and transforms our souls, as it were, into its own nature, to make them one with this bread of life; here by grace, hereafter by glory. O miraculous change! O blessed conversion!
Conclude to be ever thankful for all the wonders which the Son of God has wrought, and continues daily to work for thee; but particularly join with the Church at this time of Epiphany, in celebrating with love and gratitude, those three miracles, which were the forerunners of, and introductions to all thy good: thy vocation to the true faith, thy being regenerate in Christ by baptism, and admitted to his heavenly feast in the blessed Eucharist, in which thou art incorporated with him. O who can ever sufficiently love him and praise him for these great wonders of his love to us!
Consider first, and take a view of the whole Christian world, and see how much Satan and sin everywhere reign. See how many thousands in every nation, of all degree and conditions, pass their lives in mortal sin, with little or no concern, or apprehension either of death, judgment, or hell: see how they indulge their passions, and prefer every empty toy, mere bubbles, before their immortal souls, before their God, and a happy eternity: see how numbers of them even live without God, and in a total forgetfulness of him: then see how hell opens wide its jaws, and daily swallows down thousands of them; cut off, alas in the midst of their sins, when they least expected it, and hurried away in a moment from their short-lived, empty, and deceitful satisfactions, to dreadful and everlasting torments. And whence proceeds all this dismal scene of evils, but from the want of consideration. 'With desolation is all the earth made desolate,' saith the prophet, 'because there is none that considereth in the heart,' Jerem. xii. 11.
Consider 2ndly, the great truths which the Christian faith teaches. That there is a God infinitely good, whose eye is always upon us; a God infinitely good and infinitely just, and who hates wilful sin with an infinite hatred; a God who is our first beginning and our last end, our Creator and Redeemer, to whom we belong by all kind of titles; who made us for himself, and sent us hither upon no other errand, and for no other business, but to love and serve him in this world, and to be eternally happy with him in the next: that there is another life hereafter, in comparison with which the present is but a moment; that death will quickly separate us from all these visible things, and send us into another region, where all that worldlings have set a judgment to come; and that there is a heaven and a hell. all these are articles of the Christian faith, and all most certainly true, and in themselves very moving. and do all Christians believe these truths? They must believe them, or they are no Christians. But how, then, is it possible they should live as the generality do? How is it possible that such as believe all these things should live on in sin and walk in the broad road that leads to hell? O! tis for want of consideration? 'Tis because they don't think.
Consider 3rdly, that the great difference between the good and bad Christian is, that the one thinks well on the truths he believes, and by that means lets them sink deep into his soul, and take root there, so that they bring forth in him the fruits of all virtues: whereas the other does not think, and therefore is little or nothing affected with the truths of the gospel; they make no impression upon him, because his faith is asleep, or rather dead, for want of consideration. O what wonderful effects have we often seen produced in the world by consideration? How many, even of the greatest sinners, have been reclaimed by it, and drawn back from the very jaws of hell? How many has it sent out of the midst of Babylon, to seek their God in solitude, and to consecrate their lives to him? O! that men would but think! What a reformation should we see in the world! O 'tis thinking is the true way to heaven; and not thinking, the high road to hell!
Conclude to allow thyself daily some time to meditate upon some or other of the great truths that relate to God and eternity. 'Tis one of the best means thou hast to secure thy soul. They that will not think of these things now, will infallibly think on them hereafter, when their thinking will only serve to increase their eternal misery.
Consider first, that we cannot be saved without the knowledge of God, and such a knowledge as may effectually influence our lives, and command both our love and obedience. Now we can neither know God, nor love him as we ought, without the help of consideration. 'Tis consideration that discovers to us his infinite beauty and perfection, and the many pressing motives we have to dedicate ourselves wholly to his love and service. 'Tis consideration that discovers to us his infinite beauty and perfection, and the many pressing motives we have to dedicate ourselves wholly to his love and service. 'Tis consideration sets before our eyes his eternal love, and all his benefits to us, and convinces us that he is both infinitely charming and lovely in himself, and infinitely good to us. Without consideration, we know these things, as if we knew them not; we have eyes and see not. But when these truths are duly weighed and considered by the soul, 'tis then the light of the knowledge of God begins to dispel our darkness: and in our meditation the fire of his love breaks forth into flames, which sweetly carry up the soul towards their heavenly element, which is with God, and hinders her from ever forgetting him.
Consider 2ndly, how large a field we have in God for our meditation, whether we consider him as he is in himself, and in his own divine attributes, or with relation to what he is to us, and the titles he has been pleased to assume in our regard. He is in himself eternal, that is, without beginning, without end, without change, self-existent, independent; he is Being itself; he alone properly is; 'I am who am,' says he, Exod. iii., all other things are just nothing at all; they have no being but from him and in him: he is the being of all beings. He is immense and incomprehensible, and every way infinite; he fills heaven and earth, creating, preserving, moving, ruling, supporting all things. He is infinitely wise, infinitely powerful, infinitely good, infinitely just, infinitely merciful; he is beauty itself, truth itself, and all perfection. See, my soul, what an immense field we have here for our consideration! It has no end. Here is more than enough to employ us for all eternity; in this vast ocean of the infinite perfections of the deity, the blessed themselves can find no bottom. Here they are happily lost in the contemplation of him, who, though he discovers himself to them face to face, and fills their soul with heavenly pleasure, remains nevertheless incomprehensible even to the highest Angels, because he is every way infinite.
Consider 3rdly, that there still remains an ample field for meditation to help us to acquire the knowledge and love of God, in the manifold considerations of what God is in our regard, and how good he is to us. He is our sovereign good; he alone can satisfy our souls. He has loved us first; he is our ancient lover; he is our eternal lover; his thought and heart are always upon us. He is a disinterested lover, a most faithful and most constant lover, whose love never forsakes them that do not first forsake his love. He is our Maker and our Redeemer; the best of fathers, the best of friends, the spouse of our souls. He ever desires to come and dwell with us and in us, and to impart all his heavenly treasures to us; in a word, to give himself to us, and to take us to himself. And are not here sufficient motives to oblige us to love this great and good God, infinitely good in himself, and infinitely good to us? Is it possible that a generous heart, made through love and for love, should hold out against such pressing considerations as these, so far as to refuse a return of love? O divine love! 'tis only because thou art so little known, that thou art so little loved. O 'tis consideration, then, is both the true way to know thee, and the true way to love thee!
Conclude ever to seek by daily considerations, and to cherish in thy soul, this saving and savoury knowledge of God, as the source of divine love and of all thy good. and remember that a deluge of all evils will come pouring upon the soul, where this knowledge of God is wanting. Osee iv. 1, 2.
Consider first, that in order to our salvation, we must also have a right knowledge of the holy law and commandments of God: we must know all the precepts and maxims of the gospel of Jesus Christ; and we must know them in such a manner as to be practically convinced of the beauty of this divine law, of the equity of these commandments, of the excellence of these heavenly precepts, of the truth of these gospel maxims; that so we may heartily embrace them, love them, and keep them. Now this infers a necessity of a serious and frequent meditation on God's holy law, without which we shall not even know, as we ought, the duties and obligations of a Christian life; much less shall we have a due esteem and love for these divine statutes and ordinances which our great King has made to be for us the way to true life. O! 'blessed is the man, whose will is in the law of the Lord, and who shall meditate on it day and night. And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit in due season: and his leaf shall not fall off: and all whatsoever he shall do shall prosper.'
Psa. i. O happy meditation, which is the source of so much good! Unhappy they who seldom think of this divine law, and therefore neither love it, nor keep it.
Consider 2ndly, that even under the Old Testament, God requires of his people, that they should continually meditate on his divine commandments, Deut. vi. 6, &c. 'These words which I command thee this day shall be in thy heart: and thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them, sitting in thy house, and walking upon thy journey, lying down to bed, and rising up. and thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be, and shall move, between thy eyes. And thou shalt write them in the entry, and on the doors of thy house.' Now if under the old law (when so great perfection was not expected of the faithful as now) God was pleased to require this close application of the soul to the meditating on his divine precepts, how much more does he now expect it from us, under the new covenant of grace and love, in which he delivers his commandments to us, not graven on tables of stone, but on the tables of the heart; not to be laid up in the ark, or deposited in an earthly sanctuary, but to be laid up within us in the true sanctuary of God in our souls? Christians, this is our glory and our wisdom; this is our happiness above all other people, to have the divine law written in our hearts; to keep it there by love and affection, and to read it there by attention and meditation, lest otherwise we lose so great a treasure.
Consider 3rdly, what were the sentiments of the Royal Prophet with regard to the law and commandments of God, and the duty of meditating continually upon them. he has abundantly declared them in the 118th Psalm, (alias 119th,) where there is scarce one verse in which the beauty and excellence of the divine law, the love and observance of it, the great happiness of keeping it, and the many advantages of meditating upon it, are not strongly inculcated. For which reason the Church, in her canonical hours of prayer, appoints this Psalm for the daily devotion of her children, in order to inspire into them the like sentiments, with relation to the holy law and commandments of God, and to oblige them daily to meditate upon these divine ordinances. Christians, can any thing else be of so great importance to you as to study well the true way to a happy eternity? Can any other science deserve your attention in comparison with this? Is not your all here at stake? And what other way is there to secure to your souls a happy eternity, but the knowing and keeping the law and commandments of God? 'Tis this then calls for your study and attention by daily considerations and meditations.
Conclude to turn henceforward your thoughts from vain and curious searches into things little or nothing to your purpose, to the daily considering on what God requires of you by his holy law; what your duty is to him; and what his will is in your regard. The studying this is our great business. O how little will all other sciences avail, if this be neglected.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
Liturgia Latina Index