By Lady Lucy Herbert
A Manner of Assisting at Holy Mass, considering our Death as a Holocaust and Sacrifice of Thanksgiving. It is to prepare us for Death, Mass being the most proper Time for that Preparation, since it is a Commemoration of Christ’s Death, in which his Merits are applied to us.
Consider your death as a Holocaust our Sacrifice of Praise, to adore and worship the greatness of God. Endeavour to render it so by acts conformable, and therein employ yourself from the beginning of Mass till the Sanctus.
At the Beginning of Mass.
Reflect that sacrifices were ordained to honour God, who is infinite in all kinds, containing in himself all greatness and excellency; which to honour worthily, it ought to be with the destruction and sacrifice of our lives; life being the greatest thing we have our ourselves to offer.
My God, though my death is inevitable, yet in acknowledgment of your sovereign dominion over me, and for love of you, I am resolved, as much as in me lies, to make it voluntary; and, therefore, I now freely offer myself to it: So that could I avoid dying, I would not, that by my death I may make restitution of all I am to your Divine Majesty who gave it me. I rejoice that by death I shall be no more in a condition to resist your will and dominion over me as Lord and Maker. I accept of death in punishment for my having so often done it.
My god, I acknowledge and confess before heaven and earth, that you only are him that is, and I rejoice at it with my whole heart; and I, poor creature, am her that is not. I embrace, with humble submission, the destruction of my body, which by death is to return to dust or nothing from whence you drew it. I humbly adore the decrees of your providence, and submit to whatever you have been pleased, from all eternity, to ordain concerning my death. And because I know not what will then be the sentiments of my soul, I desire not to perform that which I wish then to do, and beg you will be pleased to accept it now for that time.
I adore you, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one in essence and three in persons, and I love you with my whole heart. I acknowledge you as Author and Principal of my life, both of nature and grace. I firmly believe all you have said, and as firmly hope all you have promised, because you are truth itself, and can neither deceive nor be deceived. You are an infinite Good, containing in yourself whatsoever is good; therefore I love you above all things, and that purely for yourself.
It is for your sake alone, my God, who are infinitely amiable, and can never be sufficiently loved, that I detest all my sins, because contrary to your sanctity. I detest them for the same motive that Christ our Lord detested them in the garden of Gethsemani; and for the same motive that my detest them, I offer you, in reparation of the affronts you have received by them, the love with which your only Son, and blessed Mother loved you, and the love with which all the Just upon earth, and Saints and Angels in heaven love you, and with which you love yourself.
I desire that the last motion of my heart may be an act of adoration to pay you due homage for my being, and an act of love whereby loving you for yourself, and in the last moment of my time, I may continue to love you for eternity.
I adore your power which created me, your goodness which redeemed me, your providence which has care of me, and your mercy which has pardoned me so many offenses. I adore also your justice, and abandon myself to it, but with this confidence, that your goodness and mercy will never forsake me, but plead for me before your justice; and obtain that I may for all eternity sing forth your mercies. Full of this sweet and amorous confidence, I hope to see and enjoy your blessings in the land of the living, of which you are the resurrection and the life.
At the Offertory.
Reflect that Christ not only offered his life and merits upon Mount Calvary for your salvation, and to purchase for you all yo shall want for that effect, but he is also pleased to do the same upon our altars: Now what is more necessary for salvation than a happy death? Confide therefore, since he will obtain it for you.
Innumerable are the thanks I owe you, my dear Redeemer, for thus sacrificing yourself for me; all I can offer in return, is my life, which I offer as a victim to honour you; and that it may be worthy of your acceptance, I unite it with yours, which you offered for me on the Cross, and are now going to offer for me here. Let the fire of your love consume this victim, that so it may be grateful to you.
O infinite Goodness! You are all love. Loving me, though so unworthy, with an infinite love. I give you my heart, fit it for yourself, and fill it with your love, that so from this instant it may of sinful become holy. I offer myself a Holocaust, that is, my life with all the objects of it. All I have or could love in it, all the satisfactions I could draw from it, all which I freely offer to you; destroy both them and me by death; so that if it please you to take my life this moment, I readily submit to it, and truly desire to die now, that I may enjoy you, and be no more in danger of offending you.
But if it be your will and pleasure to leave me yet some time in this dark prison of my body, grant me the grace from this instant to love nothing but you, whose love has redeemed me, and bought me with no less a price than you precious blood, as a condemned criminal begged from the gallows for experience: but what experience, dear Lord? To try if, after such preventions, I could come to love you. O work that love in me, ad steroy all that opposes it. Let is take up all my thoughts, actions, and affections, and in a word my whole heart.
From the Sanctus till the Agnus Dei, consider your Death as a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving.
Motives to accept and offer it as such.
God requires Sacrifices of Thanksgiving, under pain of withdrawing his affection and favours from us. St. Bernard speaking of ingratitude, says, that it dries up the fountain of goodness, the dew of mercy, and the current of God’s graces. If you desire not to be guilty of it, offer to God the sacrifice of your life, and with it all that might be a pleasure and contentment in it, as a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving. Rejoice that you have that to offer in return for what God has bestowed upon you, and desire that you may soon offer it.
O my god! How great are your benefits to me, both in number and worth, and how kind your way of bestowing them on me. If I should spend every moment of my life in thanksgiving, yet I should not be able to return due thanks for one single benefit; for, besides those favours common to all your creatures, your particular providence has been most liberal to me; in my education, my vocation, the innumerable and powerful helps you have given me for my salvation continued by you, though neglected by me. The many dangers, both of soul and body, which you have secured me from, preserving me from death, when in the state of sin, etc., add one more to these, I beseech you, which is a happy death.
Accept, in thanksgiving, the sacrifice of my life, and all I am and have, which by death I sacrifice to you. And I desire now actually to offer it, if such be your divine will and pleasure; if not now, whenever you please. In the mean-time I offer the sacrifice and myself to be sacrificed; and I wish I could every moment offer the same, and had I a million of lives, I would offer each of them a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving. Accept, my god, this free and willing oblation I make you of my life, and with it all earthly enjoyments; for were it in my power to avoid death, yet I would die in return of thanks for all you favours and mercies to me; and especially for your having died for me: for whatever else I offer it is still but part of your gifts, but by death I sacrifice all.
At the Elevation.
Having adored jesus lifted up by the hands of the priest, as he was on the Cross, call to mind that when he was upon earth he said these words: “No man can shew a greater love than to give his life him he loves.” This Christ has done for you; love and gratitude obliges you to do the same for him.
O my God, since love has made you died for me, it is by just that with a good will I accept of death for love you. Had I thousand lives, I would give them all to acknowledge this your love to me. I embrace death in return; and rejoice that this body of sin will be by it destroyed in punishment for my having offended your goodness. Let earth return to earth, but grant that my soul created to your image, and redeemed with your Blood, may return to you. This is what I earnestly beg, recommending it now for then into your sacred hands.
I do most humbly thank you for all your benefits, as I desire to do at the last moment of my life; in which possibly I may be deprived of both speech and reason: and therefore not able to speak, or even think of you. Therefore be pleased now to receive my thanksgiving for all your benefits to me, general and particular, known and unknown; but above all for that Blood and life you offered for me on Mount Calvary, and daily offer on our altars, allowing me to the happiness to be present, and applying to my soul the merits thereof, through means of the Sacraments. For all which I offer all the adorations, praises, and thanksgiving, which the humanity of my Saviour and his blessed Mother rendered to you, O Eternal Father! And those which all the Saints and Angels have, and will render you for all eternity. And all the Sacrifices of Mass, which have been, are, or shall be offered you till the day of judgment.
And when in my Agony I shall not be able to adore, praise, and thank you my god, I desire still to be united to all those that do it both in heaven and on earth. And I offer now and then my agony, my seat, and dolorous sufferings of my dying Saviour, for the remission of my sins, and for the eternal glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: whose name be fore ever praised, and will for ever be done, in me, and by me, for all eternity.
O my God! I abandon myself to your Divine will; and to the judgment you shall pronounce on my soul: and I submit to it with my whole heart, confiding in your goodness that you will safe a soul, you have loved so much as to send your only Son for its redemption and salvation.
Reflect how the same Jesus Christ, present on the altar, as said: that he who shall eat his flesh shall live for eternity, and shall not die for ever. Beg that this may be fulfilled in you; and confide it will be so, since you have his word for it.
How coms this happiness to me, that my God should vouchsafe to visit me! Lord I am not worthy that you should enter my soul, speak only the word, and my soul shall be saved. I firmly believe whatever you have said, and therefore, unworthy as I am, I desire to receive you, that so I may be made worthy to live for ever with you. Grant that this heavenly food may be to me a preservative against all my enemies at the hour of my death, and that I may receive it with the disposiitions most pleasing to you. And since you are pleased to promise that those who eat your flesh, and drink your Blood, shall not die for ever; I confide in your mercy, that I shall not die that eternal death: and I beg that whilst I live I may never die by sin, which I dread more than temporal death.
My Saviour and redeemer, the Sovereign object of my heart! Take possession of its affections. Sanctify my soul, and replenish it with your grace; to the end that all the remain moments of my life may be entirely spent in your love.
I desire now to die, having received my God and Saviour; that separated from all earthly things, and from this my body; I may for ever be united to you with unchangeable affection. Jesus, my Jesus, be to me a Jesus especially in my last hour; and fortify me in my passage out of this world, against all your enemies and mine.
Then take, as it were, an oath of allegiance; renew your vows, and promised made for you at Baptism. Beg your Sovereign Lord never to leave you. Say to him, with the Disciples of Emmaus: Stay with me Lord, for it si late, the best part of my life being spent, and the evening of it now approaches. Or else with holy Simeon: let your servant depart now in peace, for not only my eyes have seen, but my Heart has received the Author of my Salvation. And with the Royal Prophet: although I walk in the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because you, my Lord, are with me.
Put yourself, dear Lord, as a seal upon my heart, that nothing but you may find entrance there; I unite this Communion with that I shall make at my death; and both with that you made before your death: and also with the Communions of our blessed Lady, and all your Saints during their lives, that those may supply for all the faults I have, or ever shall commit in receiving you.
I beg, dear Saviour, that you will make me partaker of those Sacred dispositions which your Divine Soul had at the last moment of your life, to the which, I with my whole heart unite mine; that they may supply for all my defects at my death. Dear jesus be to me a Jesus, especially at the hour of my death. I abandon myself entirely to you, to suffer for your sake the pangs of death. And I renounce and disavow all impatience, or any evil I may be tempted to commit.
At the Benediction say,
O most Blessed and undivided Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore you, and consecrate to you my heart and all its affections. Bless me now and at the hour of my death, as you bless those that are yours and bring with them to that everlasting glory which you have designed for me; that I may for ever bless and praise your mercies. Amen.