By Lady Lucy Herbert
A Manner of assisting at Holy Mass, and preparing ourselves for Death, by considering our Death as a Sacrifice of Propitiation for our Sins, and Impetration of eternal Happiness.
The prayer Christ made for us, tho’ of such force, and the sacrifices of himself offered for us, though of an infinite value, will avail us nothing, if they are not applied to us. Now they are only applied to us by our prayers of sacrifices offered to him. The best sacrifice we can offer, is certainly our lives, which we may offer as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, because that all things, and all the satisfactions which we might severally in sacrifice to God, are all victims of this sacrifice: Therefore, if we sincerely, with a humble ad contrite heart offer our lives, that offering will effect the full pardon of our sins, and by an entire atonement blot them out. God is pleased to give us an example of this in the third book of Kings, in the person of the prophet sent to Jeroboam, who, for punishment of his sin, was killed by a lion; but bet because he accepted the punishment with submission, and willing offered his life to atone for sin, death thus accepted of by him made him again a just man, and acceptable to God.
We cannot have a true contrition, unless we are willing to destroy our past sins by such a sacrifice as offers in satisfaction for them, whatever proved an unjust satisfaction to us, and was cause of our offending God. By death we do this; therefore, who really, willingly, and actually receive and offer their death as such, have certainly the true contrition that blots out all sins.
At the Beginning of Mass.
Reflect, how Adam having sinned, God, in punishment of it, ordained that he and all his posterity should die. This is due to us on account of that sin; but how much more have we deserved that punishment on account of our own sins?
Since death, my God, is the punishment you ordain for sin, it is with a humble and submissive heart to the decree of your justice that I accept of it; and in the spirit of penance I accept of all the pains, humiliations, and privations, which accompany it, in satisfaction for all the sins I have committed, which I am truly sorry for: O pardon me, my God, I beseech you!
How great is my ingratitude to your Divine Majesty, who drew me out of nothing, and gave me all I have; and I have disowned your sovereignty over me, by refusing to subject myself to your law. You could at each moment have punished me, and I slighted your justice, and offended you with so little fear and so great liberty: I have dishonored your sanctity by the impiety of my sins, and your goodness which adopted me for your child, by refusing to obey and hour you as my Father. You proffered me a share in you happiness, in your glory; nay, in yourself, if I would be faithful to you, and the least difficulty has made other ways.
Had I but once offended you, it were still too much, but I have multiplied my sins above the hairs of my head. My iniquities and offences are so many, that I cannot look through the numberless multitude of them.
In every place, surrounded with your gifts, have I sinned. No moment of my life which has not been stained with different sins, ad this, after pardons so frequently obtained. Besides, how many have caused to sin by my ill example?
Pardon, my god, these crimes, for I am truly sorry for them, and detest them with my whole heart. I wish I were capable of an infinite sorrow to blot out the guilt of them. Accept, Lord, in lieu of the grief that is wanting in me, that which my Saviour had in the garden of Olives and upon the Cross for the sins of the whole world, and of mine in particular. Purify me from my sec ret sins, and pardon those I have committed by others. Despise not, my God, a contrite heart, which only hopes for pardon from your infinite mercy, and the promise you made, that when a sinner is sorry for his sins you will no longer remember his iniquities.
If, dear Lord, I have ceased to be your dutiful child, you have not ceased to be my loving Father. All that I can offer you in satisfaction for my sins and ingratitude, is but my life, which I offer you with a very good will, as a propitiatory victim; ad with it I offer the privation of all I have loved, liked, and r enjoyed when I offended you. At this very instant, if you please, deprive me of all, and of my life. I resign ti to you with my whole heart, and would think myself most happy if you did it by violence of the grief you give me for having offended you: But if you defer taking the whole sacrifice, take at least what part you please, I resign it to you, ad only beg you will give me the grace to sanctified by it.
At the Offertory.
Reflect that Christ, your model and example, offers himself to his eternal Father to die for satisfaction of your sins, well may you offer yourself to do the same.
O eternal Father, behold your dear Son, who, out of his abundant charity for me, offers himself to die, for to satisfy for my sins and offences, it is but just that I do the same; I offer you, then, my liberty and my life, my heart and my soul, but united with his, that so it may be grateful in your sight. I accept of death with all submission; and I offer it to your Divine Majesty for expiation of my sins; and that as a criminal, guilty of treason, whom you have justly condemned to die. I am glad that my body will be reduced to earth, to punish my proud mind, and all the faults I have committed for its sake; but grant that my soul may return to your hands from whence it came.
I resign myself to all the bitterness, pains, and anguishes; to all temptations (sin excepted) is all the satisfaction I can make your Divine majesty; having nothing more of my own to offer, I bet you will please to accept of this all that I can give; and remember not my sins and iniquities, but remember that I am the work of your hands, the price of your blood, the conquest of your Cross, the pledge of your death, and the effect of your love. It is is to your love that I join mine, with this protestation, that I will admit of no other sentiments but those conformable to what faith teaches; and that I will be moved with no other thoughts than those of hope in your mercies and love of your goodness; if any thing pass in me contrary to these, I disown, extract, and detest them.
I recommend my soul into your hands, it is what you have bought with the price of your blood. Be mindful, dear Lord, of all you have done for it, and forget all it has done against you. You were pleased to declare, that you will not the death of a sinner, to wit, eternal death; but that he be converted and live for ever. I bet for the sake of your most precious passion and death; and since you have said it, I hope that the sentence which will decide my eternity, will be such as to procure my eternal happiness.
It is true, my God, that notwithstanding all this, I am very full of fears, my sins being so grat and your jugments so terrible; but yet my hopes are still greater, because your mercy is great, and you forgive all that confide in you. I cast myself into the abyss of your mercies, full o repentance for having so often offended you, and had I but this moment left, I would employ it in loving you. The greater my sins are, the more glorious it is for you to pardon me, on which account I beg it.
From the Preface till the Elevation.
Reflect that the victim must necessarily die before we can enter our happy inheritance. A good Christian cannot enjoy that supreme Good who ahs not first ardently desired it: For not to desire it is a contempt of it; and that is such a fault that will not be repaired but by the ardent desire of the said happiness. It is contempt not ot desire eternal bliss for more than the reserving human life, so as to be content to sacrifice our temporal life to obtain eternal. We ought to also to desire to make the exchange soon; for what we really desire we are eager to possess.
My god, I firmly believe each point of faith. I am ready to sign any of them with my blood; in particular, all you have revealed of that blissful eternity; where your servants enter ino your joy; become like to you, because they see you as you are; dwell in you as you dwell in them, and possess that kingdom prepared for them before the creation of the world. I ardently desire to be dissolved here by death, that I may be with you, my God. And having nothing but my life to purchase it, with all I might have enjoyed by it, I here offer you the sacrifice of both, accept it, dear Lord, and let a speedy death complete the Holocaust. Hasten that day, when joyful tidings will be brought me that I must go into the house of our Lord, where God dwells, and I shall possess the freedom and liberty of his children. Send my deliverer a happy death; I expect it, and will embrace it with open arms, hoping by its means to get into yours. I fear it not, under the covert of your mercies, insured to me by the blood of your Divine Son, which he shed for me, and is this very moment going to offer the same for me on this altar.
At the Elevation.
With all imaginable respect adore Jesus Christ elevated on high. Reflect that it is through the sac red merits of his death, that you can only hope, and lay claim to eternal life. Look on him in that state in which he negotiates your salvation. Beg him to form your death my the model of his; for you cannot die well unless he makes you partaker of his interior dispositions.
Eternal Father, behold here you dear Son, who is pleased to offer himself and his merits for me; it is by them that I have a just title to an eternal possession of your Divine Majesty, and of all in you. Your Son, Christ Jesus, has lain down the full price of it for me. I have no other title to it, nor do I desire any other. His death for me, is my security for eternal life; and with full confidence I challenge it in his name by his merits, which has bequeathed to me as an inheritance. It is what I ardently desire, and will firmly hope for, because your unerring word assures me of it; for they that hope in you shall not be confounded.
My dear Saivour, who not only would die for me, but also suffer a most a cruel agony, I adore each of your interior motions, even to the last moment of your life. I adore your last thoughts, words, and sufferings. I adore the last sentiments of your sacred humanity, and last applications of the powers of your soul. I offer you my death, and the last moment of my life, in honour of your most holy death, and last moment of your sacred life.
Dear Jesus, bless my death and sanctify it by yours. Unite it, Lord, with yours. Make me partaker of those divine dispositions with which you rendered your soul into the hands of your eternal Father. Grant that the last sigh of breath I take, may be consecrated to you. And be a perfect act of love.
As you accepted of death from the first moment of your incarnation, and remained in the same acceptance all the days of your life; in like manner I, from this moment, accept of whatever death you have ordained for me, and will, with your grace, remain in a constant resolution of dying for you according your will, in the spirit of obedience; heartily desiring that the last use of my liberty may be an act of obedience to your divine will in honour of that last act you produced on the Cross, when, bowing down your sacred head in obedience to the divine decree, you rendered up your blessed soul. I also accept of death in the spirit of love. As your death was the most pregnant testimony of your love for my soul, so I desire to give my life (which according to nature, is most dear to me) as the greatest proof I can give that I truly love you, and have a sincere desire to be where I shall ever love you, and never more offend you.
At the Agnus Dei.
Behold Christ in the Blessed Sacrament as your strength, your hope, your support, as the pledge of your salvation, and of a happy eternity.
Come, sweet Saviour, come and take possession of my heart, it is yours by so many titles; sustain, comfort, and assure it against all the terrors of death and apprehensions of my salvation. Say to my soul, especially at the hour of my death, as you did to your Apostles, “it is I, fear not, peace be with you”, no attempt of the enemy shall hurt you. Say but these comfortable words, and my soul shall be saved.
Who am I, great God, that you should vouchsafe to visit me? You truly verify what you once said, that you come to save those in danger to be lost. I have reason to fear, when I think what I have deserved for offending you; but yet much more to hope, when I reflect what you have done to merit my salvation. I acknowledge you for my God and my Saviour, and as such I confide in you. It is in your merits that I place all my hopes of salvation, fortify me in my passage out of this world to eternity.
Since you have been pleased to visit me, I beg you will leave me some tokens of your presence, giving me victory over all my enemies, sins, and passions; especially that from which I may fear the worst consequences at my death. Do not refuse me this, since it is for your glory I beg it. I am sensible that my continued offences deserve that you should let me die in them, but the blood which you have shed for me, cries out to you, and demands its price and salary; since it was shed for no other end than to cleanse me from my sins, and merit eternal bliss for me, which I confide you will grant through its merits.
What shall I render you, my dear Saviour, for all you have done for me? But what shall I return you for yourself which you have been pleased to give? I will return you my life, because that includes all in my power to give. I really desire then to die, if such be your will. Please to unite my death with yours, and say to my soul before she quits her earthly habitation, as you did to Magdalene, “many sins are forgiven you”; and if you cannot say, “Because she has loved much”; say at least, “because you have loved her much.”
Eternal Father, your Son has given himself to me, that I may offer him and his merits to you to pay my debts, and purchase what I stand in need of. I then present him to you, with all the merits of his life and death; and bet by them to be discharged of the heavy load of my sins, and enriched with all I want to render my death precious in your sight.; and that I may receive all the last Sacraments, with a disposition necessary to receive the grace and virtue they bring with them. With joy I receive death from your hands, because it gives me to you, and alone can bestow you upon me by a happy exchange.
Death being the greatest concern, and it being uncertain what deaths we shall die, and whether our last sickness will permit us to think of God; and though it should, whether we shall be capable of strengthening ourselves then by those interior acts of virtue requisite to prepare for so dangerous a passage; let us, with God’s grace, every week, for the remainder of our lives, hear one Mass according to the method here set down to prepare for death, endeavoring to perform the acts therein mentioned, as if we were presently to depart out of the world; and beseeching Almighty God to grant that they may supply for those which probably we may not be in a capacity of making in our last sickness; for if we can, at that time, make any, we must expect to make them with difficulty and less perfection.