By Lady Lucy Herbert
A Third Design our Lord had in instituting the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, was, that it might be an impetratory Sacrifice; by means of which we might obtain all necessary Graces to love and serve Him; for which End we ought to offer it.
Our Lord promised us, that all the petitions we should make in His name, should be infallibly granted us. We can never be said to ask so properly in His name and by His merits, as when we present Him to His eternal Father to be our petitioner; when His precious body and blood are actually upon our altars, where His sacred blood pleads for us; the virtue of which is infinite, and the voice all-powerful to obtain all that is requested. What can God refuse us, when we offer Him a God in payment for what we ask?
We are assured that the only Son of God is given us; He is then all ours; Parvulus Filius datus est nobis. Therefore when we assist at Holy Mass, we may offer Him as ours, with all the divine acts which His soul then addresses to His eternal Father, and present them as our own. What a treasure have we then in hand! by means of which, we shall adore, give thanks, and pray by the prayers of Christ. How can we then but be heard? How rich is a soul that knows thus how to make use of the great treasure bestowed upon her! which is no less than Jesus Christ with all His merits. Let us then make use of it, to purchase all we want, begging with confidence all we stand in need of, for it is given us for that end.
O excess of goodness! who obliged Him to be thus liberal to us! He in a worthy manner performs on our altars, towards His eternal Father, what we are incapable of doing in a manner worthy of His Divine Majesty, and thereby supplies for all our defects. What cause of joy for us! since all His divine operations are ours, and performed for us. Since in giving Himself to us, He gave us all He is, and all He has, without reserve.
It is by means of the Holy Mass, that we gain strenght to overcome all our enemies, and efficacious remedies to cure our wounds. And our souls are cleansed form the stains of sin, by the blood of the Lamb of God, there offered. Almighty God also affords a more special protection to such as are careful to assist thereat as often as they can. The Council of Trent assures us thereof in these words: “The Sacrifice of Mass does not only obtain us the gifts of penance, but manages for us the proper helps we have need of in the different conjunctures of this life.” Many by means of Mass have overcome the temptations of the enemy that tempted their fidelity to God. One that was tempted to despair, and was upon the point of yielding, being advised by the person the declared it to, to hear Mass every day, which he had no sooner resolved upon, but he was entirely freed from the temptation.
Happy are they that are sensible of the vast advantage of assisting at Holy Mass; for it is the source of all sorts of Good. What grace, what savour, what riches, spiritual and corporal, for time, and for eternity!
As with earthly kings and princes, it is all in all to address ourselves to them in a proper time when they are best disposed, and they are likely to be best disposed when great hours are done them. So in regard of God, the most proper time to obtain of Him what we desire, is the time of Holy Mass, by which He receives an infinite honour, and in which He takes an infinite complacence: which makes St. John Chrysostom say, that of all times, Mass is the most advantageous time to negotiate with Almighty God. For how is it possible that God should refuse us any grace we ask, at the very moment He works so many wonders in our favour, and gives us His only Son, and the same Son offers Himself in sacrifice for us?
To profit by it as we ought, our chief design must be to render to God that due honour which this sacrifice only can render Him. Then to obtain pardon and remission of our sins, and the grace to overcome temptations, and to fulfill the duties of our state and employment as we ought. That peace may be maintained in our family, and that each may increase in perfection according to God’s merciful designs.
An infinity of blessings are wanting to us, and we are oppressed with as many evils and miseries. We have in the sacrifice of Holy Mass, a treasure so great, that all blessings are contained in it, and an universal remedy against all our miseries; and for want of knowing how to make use of it, we are spiritually poor, and oppressed with miseries. In order then to make our advantage of our treasure, we may use the following method.
The manner of assisting at Holy Mass, when we consider it as an impetratory sacrifice, for which end Christ instituted it, that we might thereby obtain all necessary graces to love and serve God.
At the Beginning of Mass.
Consider yourself in the presence of God as a poor beggar at the gate of a prince, infinitely rich, liberal, and powerful. Then reflect that Jesus Christ assures you that you shall obtain whatever you ask His Father in His name; and moreover that He will come down from heaven to join His prayers with yours, and to renew the Sacrifice of the Holy Cross for you, and apply the merits of it to you.
O my God, I am sensible of my great poverty and wants, and of my many miseries in body and soul; of my infirmities and weakness in the one, passions and vicious inclinations in the other. My soul defiled with sin, my heart narrow for want of Divine Love. And in the little good I do, there is so much dross caused by self-seeking, and self-love, that there will little or nothing worthy of your regard; and what is most deplorable is, that I feel my miseries and wants, and cannot free myself from them.
Come then, my God, and drive away all that you dislike in me, for no less a power than yours can do it; cast out all that is hurtful to me, and cleanse my heart from all that loathsome corruption which dwells in it. Banish thence for ever the tyranny of self-love, under which I groan, together with all that is sensual; and since my heart is so narrow, enlarge it, I beseech you, to a capacity fit to entertain and love you.
O my God, since you have been pleased to give me your only Son, I cannot think you will refuse me what I ask, for He being mine by your free gift, I offer Him to you with all His merits; which offering I am sure you will graciously accept; and after having received from me a present of so great vaule, what return may I not hope from you, who will not be outdone by any of your creatures. I dare affirm that whatever I can request, or you can give, will not be worth the victim I offer you; which raises my hopes to an assurance of obtaining what I ask: for what can you deny me, when I offer you your Divine Son?
During the Epistle and Gospel.
Reflect, that the source of all your evils is the darkness of your understanding through want of faith: which darkness is the cause of all you do amiss. For did you know and understand truth, and what God is, you would never cease to love Him; and in all you did, you would seek Him only and his interest, and by consequence could never offend Him.
O my God, the darkness I live in, for want of a sufficient light, is the chief cause of my misfortune and defects. I own it is a just punishment for my sins, and for my having so often slighted the light gave me; refusing to make use of it as I ought, when it would have led me through virtue to felicity, and through grace to glory. I therefore have deserved to be deprived of it, and to have my understanding obscured with ignorance, and subject to deceit and error.
O pardon me, my God, and in your mercy now disperse those clouds of darkness and ignorance which overshade me. Let your light shine with such piercing beams, as may not only illuminate my darkness, but also melt and inflame my heart, and make it fit to receive your impressions. Take from me that sadness which darkness breeds, and give me that spiritual cheerfulness and joy which no created good can give, nor evil deprive me of, and which you only can bestow. Give me a profound humility which springs from the light that shows me to myself as I am in your eyes. Let it humble but not deject me.
O did I believe, as I ought, that humility and sufferings is the secure way to glory, I should not have so great a repugnance to what is humbling, not so great a horror of the least suffering, mortification, or self-denial, since faith teaches me that it is the only way to heaven. All is possible to those that have faith, says our Lord, and one grain of it is sufficient to transport mountains. How can I then be said to have any, since I am not able to surmount the least difficulty? When shall I have it? When you, my God, shall please to bestow so precious a gift upon me; for unless you give it, I cannot have it. I beg it then, in the name of Jesus Christ your only Son, who is going to sacrifice Himself for me on this altar, for whose sake I beseech you to open and enlighten my understanding with your Divine Light, that I may comprehend the maxims of my salvation and perfection, and rectify my heart that I may cordially embrace the same.
At the Offertory.
Let the bread and wine there offered mind you of your own soul and body; as that is offered to be changed into the body and blood of Christ, beg He will please to work in you a like change, transforming your soul and body into a resemblance of Him.
My Lord and my God, permit me to offer you my soul and body with the bread and wine that is offered you by the priest your minister, to the end it may be changed into the body and blood of your Son; so let me be changed into a resemblance of Him. All is pure in Him, and all profane in me. It was to reform what the malice of the devil and sine had defaced of your image, that my Saviour immolated Himself on the Cross, and it is for that He now sacrifices Himself on our altars. Repair that image in me with the precious blood that ran from the wounds of your Divine Son; and with the water that issued from His sacred side, wash away all that defiles my soul. Change those perverse and inveterate inclinations which draw me to sin; and in place of them, give me what may make me truly pleasing to you. (For example: Change my tepidity into fervour, and my love of ease into an unalterable patience.)
What will it cost you to work this change? one word from your sacred mouth will presently change the bread and wine into the substance of the body and blood of your Son; add one more in my favour, and it will suffice to make a saint of a sinner. At the birth of time, as soon as you had pronounced that, “Light be made”, it presently shined over the whole universe. Speak the same word in behalf of my understanding, and those thick clouds which darken it will at the same instant be dispersed. You commanded that the earth should produce flowers and fruits, and immediately it did so. O if you would but speak after that manner to my soul, though but one word with the absolute tone of Master, however barren it be, it would presently become fruitful in all sorts of good works. Say only, “Behold my servant”, and forthwith I shall have all the qualities of a good one; as real fidelity, prudence, etc… O that I could substitute myself in place of the bread and wine, to be changed in some sort into you! If you said of me, “This is my body and my blood”, what admirable effects would not those words work in me. At least please to say, “This is my image”, and I shall be truly so.
At the Elevation.
Reflect that Jesus Christ descends from heaven upon your altars, to intercede in favour of you; and it is to obtain you the graces you stand in need of, that He renew the sacrifices He offered upon Mount Calvary.
What joy for me, my most amiable Saviour, that you will please to descend from heaven to earth in this conjuncture, when you presence is so necessary. I adore and reverence you as my God, and I love you as my Saviour. You being both my Saviour and my God, what may I not hope for? I beseech you, have compassion on my miseries. Let not descent from heaven to earth be in vain to me. What can your heavenly Father refuse you in state of victim? The profound respect with which in mortal flesh you petitioned His Divine Majesty, made you be ever heard; and when did you ever appear in His presence with more respect, and in a more humble posture, that as present? Speak then, dear Saviour, for me; let all your wounds, as so many mouths, plead my cause. Can you refuse me this at the very time you have the goodness to descend, and to sacrifice yourself for me upon the altar? that is what I cannot believe.
But as I know myself unworthy to be heard, having so often refused to hear and obey your voice, I implore the intercession of our Blessed Mother, and of your Holy Angels; and I assure myself, you will not refuse to hear them who never offended you in the least.
O sacred Queen of heaven and earth! you are the Mother of my Saviour, and you are also mine, though I am a sinner. Have as much compassion for me as you have power with your Son. Employ your credit in petitioning for me His unworthy member, and obtain me what you feel I most want, to become truly pleasing to Him and you.
O Holy Angels, make appear your love to me on God’s account. Let not the advantage you enjoy in being disengaged from a corruptible body make you less compassionate the unhappy circumstances of a soul kept down by the weight of her corruptible body. Pray for me to your King and mine, and obtain me the entire victory over all His enemies and mine, both in life and death.
And be mindful also of our afflicted friends in purgatory: you who present the prayers of the saints before the throne of God, offer Him this Sacrifice of Holy Mass to obtain their deliverance; especially of ________, who so ardently desire to sing the praise of God with you.
Remember, when you address yourself to the eternal Father by the Pater noster, to beg Him that divine nourishment you stand so much in need of, and prepare yourself for spiritual communion.
Since you are pleased, my God, to look on me as your child, and to allow me to call you Father, I cannot but expect you will give me that celestial food I want. O my God, that I might be nourished with the divine victim which has now been immolated on our altar! What joy and content would it be to me! the wearied and thirsty stag desires not so much the cooling streams, as my heart does this victim which is the source of grace.
Come then, my amiable Saviour, the joy of my heart and life of my soul. I have asked a great many things of your eternal Father; but provided I am so happy as to possess and keep you, I will request no more, for I have all things in you. You are my light, my refuge, my comfort, and my hope. In you are contained all the treasures of heaven: In you is true wisdom, power, and all happiness. What remains then to be wished or desired more, but only that you will please to remain continually with me whilst on earth, and that I may remain for ever with you in heaven?
Then in the heart of Jesus, which you possess, and by the merits of it, beg of Almighty God all your spiritual wants, especially a happy death: And you may then accept of death for love of him who died for you, and to satisfy for all your offences against him.