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excellency of thy love, the merits of thy sacrifice, the bitterness of thy passion, the glories and virtues of the mysterious sacrament. Lord, let me ever hunger and thirst after this instrument of righteousness; let me have no gust or relish of the unsatisfying delights of things below, but let my soul dwell in thee; let me for ever receive thee spiritually, and very frequently communicate with thee sacramentally, and imitate thy virtues piously and strictly, and dwell in the pleasures of thy house eternally. "Lord, thou hast prepared a table for me, against them that trouble me:" let that holy sacrament of the eucharist be to me a defence and shield, a nourishment and medicine, life and health, a means of sanctification and spiritual growth; that I, receiving the body of my dearest Lord, may be one with his mystical body, and of the same spirit, united with indissoluble bonds of a strong faith, and a holy hope, and a never-failing charity, that from this veil I may pass into the visions of eternal clarity, from eating thy body, to beholding thy face in the glories of thy everlasting kingdom, O blessed and eternal Jesus. Amen.
Considerations upon the Accidents happening on the Vespers of the Passion.
1. WHEN Jesus had supped and sang a hymn, and prayed, and exhorted and comforted his disciples with a farewellsermon, in which he repeated such of his former precepts, which were now apposite to the present condition, and reinforced them with proper and pertinent arguments, he went over the brook Cedron, and entered into a garden, and into the prologue of his passion; choosing that place for his agony and satisfactory pains, in which the first scene of human misery was represented, and where he might best attend the offices of devotion preparatory to his death. Besides this, he therefore departed from the house, that he might give opportunity to his enemies' surprise, and yet not incommodate the good man by whose hospitality they had eaten the Paschal lamb; so that he went "like a lamb to the
slaughter," to the garden as to a prison, as if, by an agreement with his persecutors, he had expected their arrest, and staid there to prevent their farther inquiry. For so great was his desire to pay our ransom, that himself did assist, by a forward patience and active opportunity, towards the persecution teaching us, that, by an active zeal and a ready spirit, we assist the designs of God's glory, though in our own sufferings and secular infelicities.
2. When he entered the garden, he left his disciples at the entrance of it, calling with him only Peter, James, and John: "he withdrew himself from the rest about a stone's cast, and began to be exceeding heavy." He was not sad till he had called them; for his sorrow began when he pleased: which sorrow he also chose to represent to those three who had seen his transfiguration, the earnest of his future glory, that they might see of how great glory for our sakes he disrobed himself; and that they also might, by the confronting those contradictory accidents, observe, that God uses to dispense his comforts, the irradiations and emissions of his glory, to be preparatives to those sorrows, with which our life must be allayed and seasoned; that none should refuse to partake of the sufferings of Christ, if either they have already felt his comforts, or hope hereafter to wear his crown. And it is not ill observed, that St. Peter, being the chief of the apostles and doctor of the circumcision, St. John, being a virgin, and St. James, the first of the apostles that was martyred, were admitted to Christ's greatest retirements and mysterious secrecies, as being persons of so singular and eminent dispositions, to whom, according to the pious opinion of the church, especial coronets are prepared in heaven, besides the great "crown of righteousness," which in common shall beautify the heads of all the saints; meaning this, that doctors, virgins, and martyrs, shall receive, even for their very state of life and accidental graces, more eminent degrees of accidental glory, like as the sun, reflecting upon a limpid fountain, receives its rays doubled, without any increment of its proper and natural light.
3. "Jesus began to be exceeding sorrowful," to be "sore amazed," and "sad even to death." And because he was
a Etenim in horto tanquam in carcere.-S. Chrys.
now to suffer the pains of our sins, there began his passion, whence our sins spring. From an evil heart, and a prevaricating spirit, all our sins arise; and in the spirit of Christ began his sorrow, where he truly felt the full value and demerit of sin, which we think not worthy of a tear or a hearty sigh: but he groaned, and fell under the burden. But therefore he took upon him this sadness, that our imperfect sorrow and contrition might be heightened in his example, and accepted in its union and confederacy with his. And Jesus still designed a farther mercy for us; for he sanctified the passion of fear, and hallowed natural sadnesses, that we might not think the infelicities of our nature, and the calamities of our temporal condition, to become criminal, so long as they make us not omit a duty, or dispose us to the election of a crime, or force us to swallow a temptation, nor yet to exceed the value of their impulsive cause. He that grieves for the loss of friends, and yet had rather lose all the friends he hath than lose the love of God, hath the sorrow of our Lord for his precedent. And he that fears death, and trembles at its approximation, and yet had rather die again than sin once, hath not sinned in his fear; Christ hath hallowed it, and the necessitous condition of his nature is his excuse. But it were highly to be wished, that, in the midst of our caresses and levities of society, in our festivities and triumphal merriments, when we laugh at folly and rejoice in sin, we would remember, that for those very merriments our blessed Lord felt a bitter sorrow; and not one vain and sinful laughter, but cost the holy Jesus a sharp pang and throe of passion.
4. Now that the holy Jesus began to taste the bitter cup, he betook him to his great antidote, which himself, the great Physician of our souls, prescribed to all the world to cure their calamities, and to make them pass from miseries into virtue, that so they may arrive at glory; he prays to his heavenly Father, he kneels down, and not only so, but “falls flat upon the earth," and would, in humility and fervent adoration, have descended low as the centre; he prays with an intension great as his sorrow, and yet with a dereliction so great, and a conformity to the Divine will so ready, as if it had been the most indifferent thing in the world for him to be delivered to death, or from it: for, though his nature did
decline death, as that which hath a natural horror and contradiction to the present interest of its preservation; yet when he looked upon it, as his heavenly Father had put it into the order of redemption of the world, it was that baptism," which he was "straitened, till he had accomplished." And now there is not in the world any condition of prayer which is essential to the duty, or any circumstances of advantage to its performance, but were concentred in this one instance; humility of spirit, lowliness of deportment, importunity of desire, a fervent spirit, a lawful matter, resignation to the will of God, great love, the love of a Son to his Father; which appellative was the form of his address; perseverance; he went thrice, and prayed the same prayer; It was not long, and it was so retired as to have the advantages of a sufficient solitude and opportune recollection; for he was withdrawn from the most of his disciples: and yet not so alone as to lose the benefit of communion; for Peter and the two Boanerges were near him. Christ, in this prayer, which was the most fervent that he ever made on earth, intending to transmit to all the world a precedent of devotion to be transcribed and imitated; that we should cast all our cares, and empty them in the bosom of God, being content to receive such a portion of our trouble back again, which he assigns us for our spiritual emolument.
5. The holy Jesus having in a few words poured out torrents of innocent desires, was pleased still to interrupt his prayer, that he might visit his charge, that "little flock," which was presently after to be "scattered:" he was careful of them in the midst of his agonies; they, in his sufferings, were fast asleep. He awakens them, gives them command to"watch and pray," that is, to be vigilant in the custody of their senses, and observant of all accidents, and to pray that they may be strengthened against all incursions of enemies and temptations; and then returns to prayer; and so a third time; his devotion still increasing with his sorrow". And when his prayer was full, and his sorrow come to a great measure, after the third, God sent his "angel to comfort
· Καὶ γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ ἐκτενέστερον προσηύχετο: Luke, xxii. 44. Extensius orabat, sic Latinus interpres reddit: Alii plures reddunt per intensiùs.
him;" and, by that act of grace, then only expressed, hath taught us to continue our devotions so long as our needs last. It may be, God will not send a comforter till the third time, that is, after a long expectation, and a patient sufferance, and a lasting hope: in the interim God supports us with a secret hand, and, in his own time, will refresh the spirit with the visitations of his angels, with the emissions of comfort from the Spirit, the Comforter. And know this also, that the holy angel, and the Lord of all the angels, stands by every holy person when he prays; and although he draws before his glories the curtain of a cloud, yet in every instant he takes care we shall not perish, and in a just season dissolves the cloud, and makes it to distil in holy dew, and drops sweet as manna, pleasant as nard, and wholesome as the breath of heaven. And such was the consolation which the holy Jesus received by the ministry of the angel, representing to Christ, the Lord of the angels, how necessary it was that he should die for the glory of God; that, in his passion, his justice, wisdom, goodness, power, and mercy, should shine; that, unless he died, all the world should perish, but his blood should obtain their pardon; and that it should open the gates of heaven, repair the ruin of angels, establish a holy church, be productive of innumerable adoptive children to his Father, whom himself should make heirs of glory; and that his passion should soon pass away, his Father hearing and granting his prayer, that "the cup" should pass speedily, though indeed it should pass through him; that it should be attended and followed with a glorious resurrection, with eternal rest and glory of his humanity, with the exaltation of his name, with a supreme dominion over all the world, and that his Father should make him King of kings, and Prince of the Catholic church. These, or whatsoever other comforts the angel ministered, were such considerations which the holy Jesus knew, and the angel knew not but by communication from that God, to whose assumed humanity the angel spake; yet he was pleased to receive comfort from his servant, just as God
• Confortatus est, sed tali confortatione quæ dolorem non minuit, sed magis auxit: confortatus enim est ex fructus magnitudine, non subtractâ doloris amaritudine. — Beda, in Lucæ 22.