Here present thee with set of Meditations for every day in the year, collected from the Word of God, and the writings of the saints and servants of God. The subjects are digested in such a manner as to take in the whole Christian doctrine, with all the mysteries and solemnities celebrated by the church throughout the year, and all the practical lessons of the gospel. The great truths of the Christian religion are here briefly proposed, in their own plain native colours. Upon every subject there are three considerations, which may serve to entertain the devout Christian for half an hour or longer, according to the time he allows himself for the exercise of daily meditation: and every meditation is concluded with pious resolutions, which may determine the soul to decline with all her strength for the time to come from all evil, and to dedicate herself in good earnest to the love and service of her Maker, by a serious application of all her powers to good.
As to the preparation, that ought always to be premised to avoid needless repetitions, I have not marked it down at the beginning of each meditation, but must here put thee in mind, once for all, that thou must ever begin this exercise by the faith and remembrance of the presence of God and by humbly imploring his light, grace, and assistance. Thou must also observe, that these considerations are not designed to be a matter of barren study, or speculation of the brain; but to be the seeds of pious affections in the heart; which affections are looked upon by spiritual writers as the principal part of mental prayer; as tending directly to bring the soul to her God, and to unite her to him by divine love. I have not set down upon each subject, all the various affections that might be drawn from every consideration; as well because this would have been an endless work, and liable to frequent repetitions, as because these affections are usually taught by a better master, viz., the Spirit of God, to all such as diligently frequent his school, which he holds in the interior of those souls that seriously exercise themselves in mental prayer.
However, as it may be of some help to many, especially to beginners, I shall here point out the different kinds of affections, which may be excited in the soul, according to the different subjects of her meditations, and the degrees of her advancement in a spiritual life. Such are: 1. Acts of a lively faith of the divine truths set before the soul in the considerations; and a bowing down of all the powers of the soul to adore the sovereign Truth, that is thus pleased to reveal himself to the little ones. 2. Acts of fear of the judgments of God; of his wrath enkindled against impenitent sinners; and of all the dreadful consequences of sin, and the punishments inflicted upon it by divine justice, both in this world, and in the world to come. 3. Acts of hope and confidence in the power, mercy, and goodness of God, represented in the meditation; in the fidelity of his divine promises made in favour of penitent sinners; and in the inexhaustible treasures of merit and grace, purchased for us all, by the labours, sweat, and blood of the Son of God. 4. Acts of the love of God, from the consideration of the goodness of God in himself of all his divine attributes, beauty, and perfections; of his eternal love for us, and all his benefits to us; and of the passion and death of his Son for the love of us. 5. Acts of shame and confusion for our manifold sins against his infinite good ness; and for our base ingratitude, by which we have returned so much evil for so much good. 6. Acts of repentance and contrition for our sins, and of an humble accusation of them all at the feet of Christ; of a horror and hatred for them and even a hatred of ourselves, for having been so base and wicked; with earnest supplications for mercy for what is past, and an offering of ourselves to a penitential life for the time to come. 7. Acts of adoration of the divine majesty, of praise and thanksgiving to him, for all his benefits; of invitation of all the angels and saints, and of all his works to glorify him; and of an oblation of our whole being, and of all that we have, to his glory. 8. Acts of joy in him, and of congratulation with him, that he is what he is; of zeal for the greater glory of his name, for the advancement of his kingdom, and the executing of his will; of desire that all the world may be converted to him, and that all may know him, and serve him. 9. Acts of humility, and contempt of ourselves; of embracing the cross, and resignation to God's blessed will in all things; and of a total dedication and consecration of ourselves to be the servants of his divine love. 10. Acts of desire to imitate the virtues of our divine redeemer, of his blessed mother, and of all the saints, to attend to his heavenly lessons, to imprint them deeply in oar hearts, and to sigh continually after him. 11. Acts of compassion for our Lord in his sufferings; with a great sense of what be has endured for us, and of all the outrages that are daily offered to him by wilful sinners. 12. Acts of a general slight and abhorrence of all evil, and resolutions to embrace and follow all Christian virtues. Lastly, fervent petitions and prayers for the divine grace and assistance in all things.
These affections may also be exercised in the way of colloquies with our Lord, or with his saints, according to the exigence of the subject; sometimes treating with him as with a parent; other times as with a friend or a spouse; other times, as with our physician, representing to him all the maladies of our soul; at other times, casting ourselves at his feet, and like Magdalene, making a general confession of our sins to him, as to our high priest and the true pastor of our souls, &c. Ever representing him as near us; or rather, as within us, and in the very centre of our being; and treating with him, as we would do, if we saw him visibly present with us; and ever concluding our addresses to him, with an oblation of our whole selves to him to execute all his wills.
As to the necessity of this holy exercise of meditation, and the great advantages of the daily practice of it, I shall refer thee to what thou shalt find under the heads of consideration and mental Prayer; and I shall only add here, that a diligence in this exercise is the great means to bring all good to the soul, and to conduct her safe to her sovereign good. The devil, who very well knows that such souls as apply themselves seriously to mental prayer, will be none of his, makes all possible efforts to divert Christians from this application by a thousand impostures, and to frighten them with phantoms of imaginary difficulties; but this very opposition of his ought to convince us of the great importance of this exercise, and to make us the more eager to pursue it, in spite of all his lies and deceits. He pretends the practice of mental prayer is not for all, but only for such as live in convents or colleges; that it requires wit and learning; and that the exercise of it is very difficult, &c. But all this is nothing but a delusion, it is all imposition and lies. Mental prayer, by the way of meditation, is very easy, even to the meanest capacities; it requires nothing but a good will, a sincere desire of conversing with God, by thinking of him, and loving him. In effect, the great business of mental prayer is thinking and loving; and who is there that can even live without thinking and loving? But then, in mental prayer, the thinking and loving is not confined to such narrow limits or mean objects as the thoughts and affections of worldlings are, which lie always grovelling upon the earth; but it has an immense field open for its entertainment, of great and everlasting truths, and such as are both highly moving, and of infinite importance to us all - of great and external goods, together with the way to make them all our own.
As to the difficulty objected to mental prayer, from the importunity of distractions, and the dryness and in-devotion that many find therein - it must be allowed, that in order to make any progress in this exercise, the Christian must do his part, by removing the occasions of these distractions - as well by maintaining a purity of conscience, as by retrenching all inordinate affections to creatures, (for where the treasure is, there the heart and thoughts will be;) and by restraining the mind, at other times, from idle and impertinent amusements, and from that continual dissipation of thought, in which too many Christians pass their days. But then, for our comfort, when we endeavour to follow these rules, the involuntary distractions, or dryness, which we find in prayer, will not be imputed to us, nor hinder our prayer from being acceptable to God and though less pleasant, highly advantageous to ourselves. And what matter is it, whether we please ourselves or not, provided we please our God and do his will? This we may assure ourselves of, that if we continue faithful in attending, as it were, daily upon him, by this exercise of mental prayer, in spite of all this dryness, and opposition of the evil spirit, and of our own weakness and corruption, we shall not fail of coming, sooner or later, to taste of’ the excellent fruits that ever grow upon this tree of life.
I shall add no more by way of Preface, but only beg of thee resolutely to undertake, and consequently to persevere, in this heavenly exercise of mental prayer, in spite of the world, the flesh, and the devil. That thou art seeking after is a treasure of infinite value, if it costs thee some pains in digging for it, it will abundantly recompense all thy labour. This exercise is the true Christian philosophy, consisting in the search and love of true wisdom; even that wisdom which is so much extolled by the spirit of’ God in Holy Writ, and which comes down from God, and carries us up to God. THIS IS THE SCIENCE OF THE SAINTS.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
Liturgia Latina Index