MEDITATION BEFORE THE MOST BLESSED SACRAMENT
Meditation, wherever it is made, pleases God; but it is certain that Jesus Christ especially delights in the meditation that is made before the Most Holy Sacrament, since it appears that there He bestows light and grace most abundantly upon those who visit Him. He has left Himself in this Sacrament, not only to be the food of souls who receive Him in Holy Communion, but also to be found at all times by every one who seeks Him. Devout pilgrims go to the Holy House of Loretto, where Jesus Christ dwelt during His life, and to Jerusalem where He died on the Cross; but how much greater ought to be our devotion when we find Him before us in a Tabernacle, where this very Lord Himself now dwells in person, Who lived among us, and died for us on Calvary!
It is not permitted in the world for persons of all ranks to speak alone with kings; but with Jesus Christ, the King of Heaven, both nobles and plebeians, rich and poor, can converse at their will in this Sacrament, and employ themselves as long as they will in setting before Him their wants, and in seeking His graces; and there Jesus gives audience to all, hears all, and comforts them.
Men of the world, who know no treasures but those of the earth, cannot comprehend what pleasure can be found in spending a long time before an Altar where is placed a consecrated Host; but to souls who love God, hours and days passed before the Blessed Sacrament seem as moments, because of the celestial sweetness which the Lord there gives them to taste and to enjoy.
But how can worldly people expect to enjoy this sweetness if they keep their hearts full of the earth? St. Francis Borgia said that in order that Divine love may rule in our hearts, we must first drive the world away from them; otherwise, Divine love will never enter into them, because it finds no place to rest. Be still, and see that I am God. (Ps. xlv. 11). In order to have experience of God, and to prove how sweet He is to them that love Him, our hearts must be empty, that is, detached from earthly affections. Wouldst Thou find God? “Detach thyself from creatures and thou shalt find Him,” said St. Teresa.
What should a soul do when in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament? It should love and pray. It should not come there in order to experience sweetness and consolation, but only to give pleasure to God, by making acts of love, by giving itself wholly to God without reserve, by stripping itself of its own will, and offering itself, saying: “O my God, I love Thee and desire nothing but Thee; grant that I may ever love Thee, and then do with me, and with all that I possess, according to Thy pleasure.” Among all acts of love, that is most pleasing to God which the blessed continually exercise in Heaven, namely, the rejoicing in the infinite joy of God; for the blessed soul loves God infinitely more than it loves itself, and therefore desires the happiness of her Beloved far more than her own; and seeing that God enjoys infinite joy, the blessed soul would thence receive an infinite delight, but as a creature is not capable of an infinite delight, it rests full of satisfaction, and thus the joy of God constitutes its joy and its Paradise. These acts of love, even when made by us without any sensible sweetness, please God. He does not, however, give to souls whom He loves a perpetual enjoyment of His comforts in this life, but only at intervals; and when He gives them, He gives them not so much as a reward for good works (the full reward of which He reserves for them in Heaven), as to give them more strength to suffer with patience the troubles and adversities of this present life, and especially the distractions and dryness of spirit which pious souls experience in meditation.
So far as distractions are concerned, of these we must not make much account, it is enough to drive them away when they come. Besides, even the Saints suffered involuntary distractions. But they did not on this account leave off meditation; and so also must we ourselves act. St. Francis de Sales said that if in meditation we did nothing but drive away, or seek to drive away, distractions, our meditation would be of great profit. As for dryness of spirit, the greatest pain of souls in meditation is to find themselves sometimes without a feeling of devotion, weary of it, and without any sensible desire of loving God; and with this is often joined the fear of being in the wrath of God through their sins, on account of which the Lord has abandoned them; and being in this gloomy darkness, they know not any way of escaping from it, for it seems to them that every way is closed against them. Let the devout soul, then, continue resolute in not leaving off meditation, as the devil will suggest to it. At such a time let it unite its desolation to that which Jesus Christ suffered upon the Cross; and if it can only say this, it is enough to say it, at least with the whole heart and will: “My God, I wish to love Thee; I wish to be wholly Thine! Have pity on me! Oh, leave me not!” Let it say, also, as a holy soul said to its God, in time of desolation: “I love Thee, though I seem to myself an enemy in Thy sight. Drive me away as Thou wilt; I will ever follow after Thee.”