The Servant. -- |Praise the Lord, O my soul, in my life I will praise the Lord; I will sing to my God as long as I shall be.|
Who will grant, O God, to my full heart to fulfill before my death its desire for Thy praise? Who will grant me worthily to praise, in my day, the beloved Lord whom my soul loveth? Ah, tender Lord, would that there issued from my heart as many sweet tones as ever have issued from sweet harpings, as many as there are leaves and blades of grass, would that they were all addressed on high to Thee in Thy heavenly court, so that a song of such a delightful and unheard-of praise might burst from my heart, as would be pleasing to the eyes of my Lord, and full of joy to all the heavenly host! Ah, beloved Lord, although I am not worthy to praise Thee, still my soul desires that the heavens should praise Thee, when, in their ravishing beauty and sublime splendour they are lit up with the multitude of glittering stars; and the fair delightful meadow, when, in all the bliss of summer it glistens afresh in blithesome beauty, in manifold flowery adornment; and all the sweet thoughts and fervent desires that ever a pure and affectionate heart conceived for Thee when it was encompassed by the refreshing summer-delights of Thy illuminating Spirit. Lord, when I but think of Thy high praise, my heart is ready to melt in my breast, my thoughts wander from me, speech fails me, and all knowledge escapes me. Something shines in my heart beyond the power of words, when I will needs praise Thee, O infinite Good; for, if I take the fairest creatures, the most exalted spirits, the purest beings, Thou yet surpassest them all unspeakably. If I enter the deep abyss of Thy goodness, there all praise disappears in its own littleness. Lord, when I behold living forms of beauty, creatures gentle and engaging, they say to my heart: Oh, see how right gracious He is from whom we emanate, from whom all that is beautiful has issued! If I traverse heaven and earth, the universe and the abyss, wood and grove, mountain and valley, lo! they one and all fill my ears with a rich canticle of Thy unfathomable praise. Then, when I mark with what infinite beauty and harmony Thou orderest all things, both evil and good, I am dumb and speechless. But, Lord, when I remember that Thou Thyself art this praiseworthy good which my soul has chosen out solely for herself, as her one only and undivided love, my heart, for praise, is like to burst within me, and to cease its throbbings. Oh, tender Lord, have regard, therefore, for the great and ardent desire of my heart and soul, and teach me how to praise Thee worthily, and how to serve Thee acceptably before I depart hence, for this is what my soul thirsts after in my body.
Eternal Wisdom. -- Wouldst thou then gladly praise Me?
The Servant. -- Alas! Lord, why dost Thou provoke me? Thou knowest all hearts, Thou knowest that my heart is ready to turn round in my body from the true desire of Thy praise, which from my childhood's day till now I have had.
Eternal Wisdom. -- Praise becometh the upright.
The Servant. -- Alas! my Lord all my uprightness lies in Thy boundless compassion. Beloved Lord, the frogs praise Thee in the pool, and if they cannot speak, yet do they croak. Full well do I know who I am. Lord, I know that rather than praise Thee, I ought to lament and beg pardon for my sins. And yet, O unfathomable good, scorn not the desire I have to praise Thee, miserable worm that I am. Lord, though the cherubim and seraphim, and the countless number of all exalted spirits, praise Thee according to their utmost powers, yet what can they do more as regards Thy infinite dignity, far removed above all praise, than the very least of Thy creatures? Lord, Thou standest in need of no creature's praise; but Thy infinite goodness is made all the more manifest the more Thou givest Thyself to the praise of those who are without desert.
Eternal Wisdom. -- Whoever thinks he can praise Me to the fulness of My worth, acts like him who chases the wind and trys to grasp a shadow. And yet it is permitted to thee and all creatures to praise Me according to your ability; for there never was a creature so little, nor so great, nor so good, nor so wicked, neither will there be one, but it either praises Me or testifies to My praise; and the more it is united with Me, the more praiseworthy it finds Me; and the more thy praise is like the praise of eternal glory, the more praiseworthy it is to Me; and the more this praise of thine is abstracted in imagination from all creatures and united in true devotion to Me, the more it is like the praise of eternal glory. A fervent contemplating sounds better in My ears than merely a praising with words, and a heartfelt sighing sounds better than a lofty appeal. A total subjection of one's self under God and all mankind, in the wish to be as nothing in their sight, is a sound for Me above all sweet sounds. I Myself never appeared on earth so worthy of praise before My Father as when I hung in mortal agony on the cross. Some persons praise Me with fair words, but their hearts are far from Me, and of such praise I make no account. So likewise, some persons praise Me when things go according to their desires, but when things begin to go wrong with them, their praise ceases, and such praise is disagreeable to Me. But that praise is good and precious in My divine eyes when, with thy heart, thy words and works, thou dost praise me as fervently in sorrow as in joy, in utter adversity as in full prosperity; for then thou thinkest of Me and not of thyself.
The Servant. -- Lord, I desire not sufferings from Thee, neither will I give cause for such things; but I will give myself up wholly and entirely, according to the desire of my heart, to Thy eternal praise, whereas, before, I never could truly forsake and utterly forget myself. Lord, if Thou wert to permit me to become the most despised person the whole earth could produce, Lord, even this I would suffer for the sake of Thy praise. Lord, I yield myself up this day to Thy grace and mercy; nay, if I were to be accused of the foulest murder that ever any man committed, so that whoever saw me should spit in my face, Lord, I would willingly bear it in praise of Thee, provided I only stood guiltless in Thy sight. But even if I were guilty, I would still endure it in praise of Thy blessed justice, which is a thousand times more precious to me than my own honour. For every term of reproach cast at me I would give Thee a particular praise, and with the good thief would say to Thee: Lord, I receive the due reward of my deeds, but what hast Thou done amiss? Lord, remember me, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom! And should it be Thy will to take me now from hence, if it were for Thy praise, I would not look about me for a respite, but I would desire to be taken hence; and I would desire that, if it should have been my lot to have become as old even as Mathusala, every year of the long period, and every week of the years, and every day of the weeks, and every hour of the days, and every minute of the hours, might praise Thee for me in such rapturous praise as never did any saint in the veritable bright reflection of the saints, and this as many times as the grains of dust are countless in the sunshine, and that they might fulfill this my good desire, as though I myself had all the time lived to fulfill it. Therefore, Lord, take me early or late to Thyself, for such is my heart's desire. Lord, I will say still more, that, if I had now to depart hence, and it were to Thy praise that I should burn fifty years in purgatory, I am ready to incline myself at Thy feet, and gladly accept it all to Thy eternal praise; blessed be the fire of purgatory in which Thy praise is fulfilled in me! Lord, Thou, and not myself, art what I here love and here seek. Lord, Thou comprehendest all things, Thou knowest all hearts, Thou knowest that these are my unshaken sentiments; nay, if I knew that I should have to lie for ever at the bottom of hell, however it might afflict my heart to be robbed of Thy ravishing vision, I yet would not cease from Thy praise; and could I retrieve the lost time of all men, reform their misdeeds, and by means of praise and honour, make full amends for all the dishonour that ever was shown Thee, I would willingly do it; and if it were indeed possible, then, from the lowest abyss of hell must needs burst forth from me a beautiful song of praise which would penetrate hell, the earth, air, and all the heavens, till it arrived before Thy divine countenance. But, if this were not possible, I would yet wish to praise Thee here all the more, that I might even here rejoice in Thee all the more. Lord, do with Thy poor creature what is for Thy praise; for let what will happen to me, so long as there is any breath in my mouth I will utter Thy praise; and when I lose my utterance, I desire that the raising of my finger may be a confirmation and conclusion of all the praise I ever spoke; nay, when my body falls to dust, I desire that, from every grain of dust, an infinite praise may pierce through the hard stones, through all the heavens up to Thy divine presence, till the last day, when body and soul shall again unite in Thy praise.
Eternal Wisdom. -- In this desire and good intention thou shouldst remain till death -- such praise is pleasing to Me.
The Servant. -- Ah, sweet Lord, since Thou deignest and desirest to receive praise from me, poor sinful person that I am, it is my desire that Thou wouldst show me three things, namely, how, wherewith, and at what time I ought to praise Thee. Tell me, dearest Lord, is the external praise which is given by words and singing, any way profitable?
Eternal Wisdom. -- It is certainly profitable, and especially as it stirs up the interior man, which it very often stirs up, above all in the case of newly converted persons.
The Servant. -- Lord, I also am filled with the desire (seeing that one should be glad to begin in time, what one will have to practice in eternity) to attain the diligent praising of Thee in my interior, and that I should not be interrupted in Thy praise at any time, even for the space of a second. Lord, out of this very desire I have often spoken as follows: |O, thou firmament why dost thou hasten and revolve so fast? I beseech thee, stand still in this moment, until I shall have thoroughly praised my Lord according to my heart's desire. Lord, when perchance I have been a little while neglectful of Thy present praise, and have shortly come to myself, I have interiorly cried out as follows: O Lord, it is a thousand years that I have thought no more of my Beloved! O Lord, teach me, then, as much as Thou canst, while my soul is yet in my body, how I may attain to praise Thee continually and without relaxation.
Eternal Wisdom. -- He who in all things is mindful of Me, who keeps himself from sin, and is diligent in virtue, praises Me at all times; but still, if thou wouldst seek after the highest sort of praise, listen to something more: The soul is like to a light peacock's feather; if nothing is attached to it, it is very easily borne aloft by its own mobility towards the sky, but if it is laden with anything it falls to the ground. In like manner, a mind that is purified from all heaviness of sin is also raised by virtue of its native nobility, with the help of gentle contemplation, to heavenly things; and therefore, when it happens that a mind is disengaged from all bodily desires, and is set interiorly at rest, so that its every thought cleaves at all times inseparably to the immutable Good, such a mind fulfills My praise at all times; for in the state of purity, so far as words can express it, man's carnal sense is so wholly drowned and so wholly transformed from earthiness into a spiritual and an angelic semblance, that, whatever he receives exteriorly, whatever he does or operates, whether he eats, drinks, sleeps, or wakes is nothing else but the very purest praise.
The Servant. -- Ah, Lord, what a truly sweet doctrine is this! Lovely Wisdom, three things there are still that I should be glad to have explained. One is: Where shall I find the most reasons to praise Thee?
Eternal Wisdom. -- In the first origin of all good, and then in its outflowing springs.
The Servant. -- Lord, as to the origin, it is too high for me, too unknown to me; there let the tall cedars praise Thee, the heavenly spirits, the angelic minds. And yet will I too press forward like a rude thistle with my praise, that they may be admonished by the spectacle of my impotent longings of their own high worthiness, that they may be incited in their pure brightness to praise Thee, just as though the cuckoo were to give the nightingale occasion to sing a ravishing song. But the outflowings of Thy goodness; these will be proper for my praise. Lord, when I ponder well what I was formerly, how often Thou hast protected me, from what evil chains and bonds Thou hast delivered me, O Thou Everlasting Good, it is a wonder that my heart does not wholly melt in Thy praise! Lord, how long didst Thou not wait for me, how kindly didst Thou not receive me, how sweetly in secret didst Thou not anticipate me and interiorly warn me! How ungrateful soever I might sometimes be, still Thou didst not desist until Thou hadst drawn me to Thee. Ought I then not to praise Thee, my gentle Lord? Yes, truly do I desire that a rich praise should ascend before Thy eyes, even such a great and joyous praise as that rendered by the angels when they first beheld the sight of their own constancy and the reprobation of their fallen companions; as that uttered in the joy felt by the miserable souls in Purgatory when they come forth from their grim prison-house before Thee, and behold for the first time Thy countenance beaming with delight and love; a praise even as that unfathomable praise which will resound in the streets of the heavenly city after the last judgment, when the elect shall be separated in everlasting security from the wicked. Lord, one thing I should also like to know respecting Thy praise is this: How all that is naturally good in me may be referred to Thy everlasting praise?
Eternal Wisdom. -- Inasmuch as nobody in this temporal state can be sure, from actual knowledge, of the true difference between nature and grace, so when anything gracious, joyous, or agreeable, arises in thy mind, whether it be from nature of from grace, enter quickly and speedily into thy interior, and make an oblation of it to God, so that it may be consumed in My praise, because I am the Lord of nature and grace, and in this way will nature now to thee become supernatural.
The Servant. -- Lord, but how then shall I turn even the imaginations of evil spirits to Thy eternal praise?
Eternal Wisdom. -- To the suggestions or inspirations of an evil spirit speak thou as follows: Lord, as often as this wicked spirit or any other sends me against my will such disagreeable thoughts, let me of my own premeditated will send Thee the most fervent praise in his stead, even the very praise which the same evil spirit ought to have given Thee throughout all eternity had he remained loyal, so that in his reprobate state I may represent his place in praising Thee; and as often as he inspires me with such odious thoughts, let my good praise ascend to Thee.
The Servant. -- O Lord, now do I indeed see that to good men all things may be turned into good, when even the very worst things of the evil spirit can in such a way be made good things. But now tell me one thing more. Ah, Thou gracious Lord, how am i to turn all that I hear, all that I see, to Thy praise and glory?
Eternal Wisdom. -- As often as thou seest a great number of people, as often as thou beholdest an exceeding fair multitude, say from the very bottom of thy heart: Lord, as often and as beautifully must the thousand times a thousand angelic spirits who stand before Thee salute Thee lovingly this day in my name, and the ten thousand times a thousand spirits who serve Thee praise Thee to-day for me, and they must desire for me all the holy desires of the saints, and that the ravishing beauty of all creatures may do Thee honour to-day for me.
The Servant. -- O my sweet Lord, how hast Thou not refreshed and increased my zeal in Thy praise! But truly, Lord, this temporal praise has stirred up my heart and alas! set my soul a longing for the praise which is everlasting and eternal. When, my own elected Wisdom, when will the bright day arise, when will the glad hour arrive of a perfectly prepared death and departure from this scene of wretchedness to my Beloved! Ah me, I begin so to languish, so ardently to long after my heart's only love! When, O when shall I ever possess it? How lingering is the time, how late it will be before I behold face to face the delight of my soul's eyes, before I enjoy Thee according to my heart's desire! O misery of banishment, what a misery thou art to him who considers himself banished in very truth! Behold, Lord, there is hardly any one on earth but has some friend to visit, some place on which to rest his foot a little while. Alas, my only one, Thou whom my soul alone seeks and desires, Thou knowest that I have no other refuge, than in Thee alone! Lord, whatever I hear and see, if I find Thee not, is a torment to me; the society of all mankind without Thee is bitterness to me. Lord, what should rejoice me, what detain me here?
Eternal Wisdom. -- Here on earth shouldst thou often wander in the delightful orchard of My blooming praise. In this transient life there is no truer prelude to the celestial habitations than is to be found among those who praise God in the joy of a serene heart. There is nothing that cheers a man's mind so much, and lightens his sufferings; that drives away evil spirits, and makes sadness disappear, as joyous praising of God. God is near those who praise Him; the angels are familiar with them: they are profitable to themselves; it betters their neighbour and gladdens the soul; all the heavenly host is honoured by cheerful minded praise.
The Servant. -- Sweet Lord, my tender, my Eternal Wisdom! I desire that when my eyes first awaken in the morning, my heart may awaken too, and that there may burst from it a high-flaming fiery love-torch of Thy praise, with the most fervent love of the most loving heart that exists in time, according to the most ardent love of the most exalted seraphim in eternity, in the fathomless love with which THOU, Heavenly Father, lovest Thy only Son, and with the most sweet love of the Holy Ghost who proceeds from Father and Son; and I desire that this praise may resound so sweetly in the Fatherly heart as never did yet the strings of all earthly instruments in a joyous mind; and that this love-torch may send up so sweet a savour of praise as though it were smoking incense composed of all precious herbs and spices of all virtues finely powdered together in their highest perfection; and lastly, that the sight of it may be so beautifully blooming in graces as never any May was known to be in its most ravishing bloom; so that it may be a delightful aspect for Thy divine eyes and all the heavenly host. All my desire is, that this love-torch may at all times blaze out fervently in my prayers, from my mouth in my singing, in my thoughts, words, and works, that it may subdue all my enemies, consume all my sins, and obtain for me a happy end, so that the end of this my temporal praise may be but the beginning of my everlasting, my eternal praise. Amen.
Let everybody who desires to meditate briefly, properly, and earnestly on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all our salvation lies, and who desires to be thankful for His manifold sufferings, learn by heart the hundred choice meditations which hereafter follow, severally, according to their sense, which is comprised in few words, and go over them devoutly every day, with a hundred venias or otherwise, as it may suit him best, and at every venia, when it relates to our Blessed Lady, let him say a Pater Noster, or an Ave Maria, or a Salve Regina, for in this manner were they revealed to a preacher by God, at a time when he stood before a crucifix after Matins, and fervently complained to God that he could not well meditate on His torments, and that it was so bitter a thing for him to meditate on them, inasmuch as; up to that hour, he had had herein great infirmity, from which he was then relieved. The prayers he afterwards appended, in a short form, so that all might be free to find matter for themselves to pray agreeably to their own feelings, but should the prayers prove too many for a person all at once, let him divide them into even daily hours, or into the seven days of the week, according as they are here noted down.