By Lady Lucy Herbert
The Fourth Design which our Lord had in instituting the Sacrifice of Holy Mass, was, that it might be a propitiatory Sacrifice to obtain forgiveness of sins, and satisfy for them in all rigour of justice.
A Sacrifice of Expiation, is what we offer to obtain remission of our sins. In sin there are two things; the guilt, which is the offence of God, and pain due to that offence. Sin, if mortal, is only blotted out by perfect contrition, or attrition joined with confession, and the punishment due to it, only by the painful exercise of penance, or by the application of the merits of our Saviour’s life and death. One of the principal effects of Holy Mass, is to obtain us the grace of contrition, and to make us partakers of the merits of Christ, whose sacred body is offered for the sins of men, and for the pain due to them, and for that intention we ought to offer it.
What would have become of all mankind after the sin of Adam, had not the sacrifice offered on the cross appeased the anger of God, and satisfied for the injuries sin had done him? And since that, what would become of men who daily offend and injure God, if the same Redeemer did not daily continue to immolate himself for us upon our altars? By which he restores to his eternal Father the glory which all sinners, as far as they are able, bereave him of by their sins.
Though we should fast all our lives with bread and water, give all the treasures of the earth in alms, and employ ourselves in continual prayer, and that to the end of all ages, all thins, weighed in the balance of divine justice, would not have the weight of one only Sacrifice of Holy Mass, which is of infinite value; and all other things, in comparison of it, are as nothing.
With what confidence and comfort ought we to assist at Holy Mass, it being the most powerful means to satisfy entirely for our sins? Just the same as if we had been present at Calvary, and taking up the blood which fell from our Saviour’s wounds to the ground, had offered it to his eternal Father, in satisfaction, and to have obtained pardon for all our sins. As we should not then have doubted of it, we ought no more to question it now, when at Holy Mass we offer the same blood unto his Divine Majesty,to satisfy for them. If with a firm faith and sincere sorrow we do so, there is no offence, however great, which this sacrifice will not wash away.
Yet though the Sacrifice of Mass be of its own nature infinitely satisfactory for the punishment due to sin, nevertheless the quantity of the application is greater or lesser, according to the greater or smaller disposition of them for whom it is offered, or of them that are only present at it; it is what the word of the sacred Canon teaches; “whole faith and devotion is known to thee for whom we offer, and who offers unto thee.”
When you assist at Holy Mass, offer our Saviour’s precious blood to the eternal Father, beseeching his Divine Majesty to receive the blood of his only Son, which you may offer as belonging to you by his free gift. Beg him to take it and pay himself therewith, for what you are indebted to him by your sins; and ask victory over them, and pardon for them. Have confidence that he will grant your request for his dear Son’s sake, but acknowledge that having so long continued in sin, you deserve to die in it; nevertheless hope in the precious blood that pleads for you, and demands its price and salary, having been shed to cleanse you from your sins.
There is not a more powerful means to obtain true contrition than the Sacrifice of Holy Mass. Let sinners who desire their conversion come with confidence to it: Jesus Christ will speak in their favour, and will appease the just anger of his eternal Father, and obtain for them the gift of penance. This the Council of Trent teaches us.
It is not less certain that our Saviour communicates to us at Mass the satisfaction which he offered to his eternal Father for us, dying o the cross; insomuch that the pains we so justly deserve in punishment are diminished, if not entirely remitted, by virtue of the Sacrifice of Mass. And not only the living have part in this benefit, but also the souls in purgatory, for it is the most efficacious and infallible means to help and assist them.
The gift of penance being one of the fruits of this Sacrifice, sin ought not to hinder us from approaching, but rather should be a motive for our coming to it. For would it be just to hinder the sick from using remedies, or keep the dead from the source of life? It is by this Sacrifice that we obtain the grace of penance; and if sinners return from it as they come, without the least change, it is not because the blood of Jesus Christ did not cry for mercy in their favour, but because they rejected it.
A reason why reap so little fruit from so powerful a means, is because we assist at it after so cold and tepid a manner. If we reflected, as we ought to do, that Christ labours there for our reconciliation with his eternal Father, as most certainly he does, should we not join with him? He there endeavours to repair the honour our sins snatch from his Divine Majesty, and to satisfy his offended justice. We ought then certainly to keep ourselves at least united to Jesus as much as possible during the time of Mass, that so the Sacrifice may be fully accomplished according to his merciful designs on us.
We must consider the Sacrifice of Mass as the monument of peace between God and us by means of Jesus Christ. The altar may put us in mind of Mount Calvary, where with his precious blood canceled our debts, and established us again in the grace and favour of his eternal Father, and the same he performs on our altars. If the least venial sin deserves death, we ought to die, else to find a victim to be sacrificed in our place; this victim is Christ, whose death daily is offered for the expiation of our sins.
O excess of goodness! my dear Redeemer, not content to have paid the debt due for my sins in history, with the price of his precious blood shed on Mount Calvary, but daily continues it, offering himself or the same end in the Sacrifice of Holy Mass. What can be compared to this charity? Who is like my Saviour in goodness, who gives himself and the treasures of his merits to pay what I owe for my sins?
A manner of Hearing Mass when we consider it as a propitiatory Sacrifice for our Sins, for which End we must offer it.
When the priest is at the steps of the altar reciting the Confiteor, imagine yourself to appear in the sight of Almighty God all covered with sin, which is so detestable to him. Conceive a true confusion, and humbly acknowledge yourself a sinner, and incapable of repairing the injury you have done to God, or satisfying for your sins; then reflecting that Jesus Christ offers to satisfy his eternal Father for you, raise your hope and confidence in his goodness.
My most dear Saviour, you are my only hope. Your presence puts fear and despair to flight; it is in your sacred merits that I place all my trust and confidence. How great is my trust and confidence. How great is my obligation to you, my dear Redeemer, for vouchsafing to be my bail, and to pay those debts which I could never have paid. If malice could have equaled so great a goodness, mine had done it, since, instead of spending my life in loving and serving so good a Lord, I have employed it in offending you.
How often have I abused your goodness, slighted your friendship, contemned your love, and turned the stream of mine (which you only can challenge and deserve) towards creatures; thus preferring my own will to yours.
Behold here a copious subject for your pardon, and an ample object to exercise your mercy on. Pardon, O infinite Abyss of mercy, pardon the multitude of my offences. From the bottom of my soul I cry to you, I have sinned, and my sins are in number more than the hours of my life; but though equal to the minutes I have lived, your mercy pardons all, and for one peccavi from the heart are remitted; O forgive my unfaithfulness. Besides your pardon for the past, give amendment for the future. Give me grace by the merits of this Sacrifice to sin no more; or if sin be still necessary to suppress my pride, at least grant me a perfect contrition. Enkindle in my heart that flame of charity, that I may love you purely for yourself.
O love of my God, which as much exceeds our love as you Lord excel us! you witness it by dying for us, not only once, but daily dying mystically on our altars. Give me a gratitude as ample as these benefits. Take from me what is mine, and odious, and give me what belongs to you. Give me an upright heart, and a will conformable to yours, and in all my thoughts, words, and actions, let me have no other aim but your will and greater glory.
O my God and Father! but shall I dare call you so, after having so much offended you? Being sensible of my unworthiness, I durst not do it, where it not for the precious Blood of your Son shed, which he will here offer for me. If my sins provoke your just anger, his Blood will move your compassion. If you are deaf to my sighs and tears, you will not be so to his Blood, which cries louder than that of Abel, not for punishment but pardon of my crimes. Besides I know you had rather be esteemed the Father of mercy than the God of vengeance; all which makes me hope that you will not reject a contrite and humble heart; especially when presented by your Son, who, as our High Priest, is going to immolate himself in favour of me; for his sake receive me again as your child. Say to the ear of my heart, “You are my child”, which words will give a new life, and breathe a better soul into me. Imprint in my heart and actions the character of a good child; and give me not only that which children use to want and Fathers bestow, but give me what the depth of my necessity requires, and the greatness of your goodness knows how to give. Change my heart into that temper which may please you most. Give me a humility as profound as the nothing from whence I came, or rather as deep as the abyss into which my sins have cast me. Renew in me your image which by sin I have defaced, and destroy all that is offensive in me, and make me what I ought to be, for to be your worthy child. Let neither pleasure, fear, nor force startle me from my duty, or make me offend you.
In Time of the Epistle and Gospel.
Reflect, that all your sins are breaches of God’s law, which you ought to have inviolably observed. How ungrateful have you been to have preferred to it the law of flesh and blood, and of your own will. Beg grace, that for the future you may make the Divine Law the rule of all your actions.
O my God, in hearing your law read, do I not hear my condemnation? since I have not made it the rule of my life, nor preferred it before all things, as I ought to have done, but, on the contrary, have preferred my own will and the law of flesh and blood. I have not only omitted to do what it ordained, but have also done what it forbids. I know my faults exceed all pardon and mercy but yours, which is infinite, and which your goodness excites my heart to hope for, and my tongue to ask. For though your facility in pardoning be so great, yet in behooves me humbly to ask it; I will then make it the first of my many requests.
Pardon, O infinite goodness, what none else will. You have writ my pardon in bloody characters, let not the black ingratitude of my sins have force to blot it out. Had I as many lives to give as you have received wounds, all would be too small a ransom to redeem my sins, and too poor an offering of thanksgiving for my redemption and your sufferings.
Grant, my dear Lord, that for the future no terror may have power to make me sin, no torment to remove me, nor pleasure to entice me from your love. Take me wholly to yourself, but better me in the taking. Take soul and body; let my body be immured with your law, and my soul centered in yourself; That the one may never more transgress, nor the other have any motion but from you. Put your mark upon, imprint the sign of Tau upon my forehead, that wherever I go, it may be visible that I am yours.
But how dare I petition so great a favour after such great infidelities? It is the confidence I have in your goodness that encourages me; for did I not believe you were more prone to mercy than to justice, I should not have presumed to ask it.
At the Offertory.
Reflect that all your evils come from preferring a sensual life before a spiritual one; which the beard and wine may represent to you as sustaining the corporal life. Be confounded, and beg grace to do otherways for the future.
My God, considering in the merits of the victim that is going to be offered to you; I hope, and beg pardon for the too great tenderness and care I have taken of this body of corruption, which has caused most of my faults. Passion and sensual pleasures have drawn me to sin; and yet, though I know them to be enemies who conspire my ruin, I cannot resolve to declare war against them. Assist me, my God, with your all-powerful grace; for as it is impossible for me to rise from my ill habits and my self-love without your help, so neither can I stand, that is, be faithful to you, without the continuance of your mercies. Grant me both through the merits of Christ your Son, and my sweet Saviour, who is going to sacrifice himself for me.
My dear Saviour, blessed be this hour which you are going to offer to your eternal Father, for my salvation, and the remission of my sins, the greatest of sacrifices, that is yourself. A far less sacrifice from so great a Priest, could not chuse but find acceptance. What then may I not hope from this, in which you are not only the Priest that offers it, but also the victim that is offered.
I hope for so less than pardon of my sins, and all that may be for your glory, and my soul’s good; as a pious life, and a most happy death; the accomplishment of all your merciful designs over me: and that you will please to change my heart into a heart that may resemble yours, and be according to your desire. I purely desire this, that it may be less unworthy to be presented to you. Imprint your law in it, and give me the grace to observe it, and to cause it to be observed. Bless, and look favourably upon all this Family, and give them all that your mercy has designed for them, as also to all my friends and relations. Make them your faithful servants, and grant them the grace to live holily and die happily.
At the Elevation.
Represent to yourself Jesus Christ fastened to a Cross, to expiate the sins of all mankind. Consider in his passion, as in a faithful mirrour and glass, how enormous sin is. At this spectacle, excite your heart to conceive so great a sorrow of them, as never more to commit them.
O my soul! what is represented to us by the body of Christ on the one side of his blood on the other, and himself lifted up in the Host, but his Sacred death on the Cross? all that our eyes behold here, is a lively representation of the bloody Tragedy acted upon Mount Calvary.
My divine Saviour, after having adored you as my God, permit to me to ask you what has reduced you to this deplorable condition? ‘tis sin; ‘tis to expiate the disobedience found in all the sins of mankind, that you are obedient even to the death of the cross; as also to satisfy for the pains they deserve, that you suffer such sad torments.
O infinite goodness, to suffer so much for me your enemy, who had a hand in all you suffer! ‘tws not so much Judas that betrayed you, as my treacherous heart; not so much the soldiers that struck, reviled, and spit upon you, as did my passions. ‘Twas my sensuality that scourged you; my gluttony that gave you gall; in short, ‘twas my sins that nailed you to the cross, drew all the blood from your veins, and bereaved you of life.
Lord, what have I done in sinning? taken away your life, and crucified you anew. After such proceedings, I might with reason despair, did I not hear you pray upon the cross for your Crucifiers, which prayer cannot fail to be heard, and to obtain what it asks, and that is the pardon of my sins. Add to this favour the grant of _______ and a true and perfect sorrow for having ever offended you, which may preserve me from doing it again. I here offer myself in satisfaction for my sins, and to suffer for your love whatever you please, provided you will grant me your love and your grace, which I most heartily beg through the merits of this Sacrifice; and that you will please to unite all I shall do and suffer to your sacred merit; without which, all I can perform will avail me nothing.
At the Agnus Dei.
Be persuaded that you can never better atone, and satisfy for your sins, than by offering Christ and his Sacred Merits (which you possess in communion) both to his eternal Father, and to himself. ‘Tis likewise the most efficacious means to preserve you from falling into sin. Therefore, whenever you offer up the Sacrifice of Holy Mass for your sins, fail not to communicate at least spiritually.
Come my most amiable Jesus, come; for you come chiefly for sinners. Come then to me who am the most unworthy of them. But before you enter to make your offering, consecrate the temple of my heart so much defiled by sin, and profaned by the idol self-love. Break and destroy that enemy of yours; and since all things are possible to you, change the love I bear myself into your love, and so make a great saint of a great sinner.
Pardon, dearest Lord, my sins and misdemeanors for your mercy’s sake, for tho’ I do not deserve it, yet you having merited it for me, I request it on your score. You have done abundantly more than sufficient to satisfy for all my debts; I therefore lay claim to pardon. Grant it me then, since I can pay you more than enough; for I give you, dear Jesus, your death and passion, which you have given me, with the which you must needs be satisfied, and I cleared from guilt.
What will you loss by forgiving me? Who will blame you for that mercy? On the contrary, you will acquire great glory by it; for it is ever more glorious to your name to save than to condemn; it is therefore I beg it. Pardon that vast multitude of my sins which I have incurred, partly through ingnorance, but much more thro’ willfulness; in both I have offended you. Cure also those wounds they have caused in me; your wisdom knows the depth of them; your power is able, and your goodness, I am sure, is willing, which give me hopes much larger than my fears have been.
The inveteracy of no disease can make resistance, if you command all maladies will obey you. Say to me only, as to the leper, volo mundare, that word will restore me to perfect health: For as your word alone created me, so your word can again repair me. No distemper can remain in me, if you will but say you will have me be freed. Take away the cause, pull up the root, self-love, which is the origin of all.
I know you more desire what I ask, that I do who ask it: grant it me then, to fulfil your desire. Give me also love, and a true zeal of your glory; but give me plenty, for I cannot be satisfied with a little, nor is it glorious for your name to give sparingly. My Jesus do this for me, and let me know what you desire of me, and I will bestow the remainder of my life in performing it: Or if you think fit to punish me for my sins and misdemeanors, I beg it may be so, as to correct and not harden me, as to bring me to you, and not drive me from you.