THE PRACTICE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST
XV.-THE MEANS OF AVOIDING LUKEWARMNESS AND ATTAINING PERFECTION
The holy Fathers say, that prayer is necessary for us, not merely as a necessity of precept (so that divines say, that he who neglects for a month to recommend to God the affair of his salvation is not exempt from mortal sin), but also as a necessity of means, which is as much as to say, that whoever does not pray cannot possibly be saved. And the reason of it is, in short, because we cannot obtain eternal salvation without the help of Divine grace, and this grace Almighty God only accords to those who pray. And because temptations, and the dangers of falling into God’s displeasure, continually beset us, so ought our prayers to be continual. Hence St. Thomas declares that continual prayer is necessary for a man to save himself: “Unceasing prayer is necessary to man that he may enter Heaven.” And Jesus Christ Himself had already said the same thing: We ought always to pray, and not to faint–(Luke xviii. 1). And afterwards the Apostle: Pray without ceasing-(Thess. v. 17). During the interval in which we shall cease to pray, the devil will conquer us. And though the grace of perseverance can in no wise be merited by us, as the Council of Trent teaches us, nevertheless St. Augustine says, “that in a certain sense we can merit it by prayer.” The Lord wishes to dispense His grace to us, but He will be entreated first; nay more, as St. Gregory remarks, He wills to be importuned, and in a manner constrained by our prayers: ” God wishes to be prayed to, He wishes to be compelled, He wishes to be, as it were, vanquished by our importunity.”
Saint Mary Magdalen de Pazzi said: “When we ask graces of God, He not only hears us, but in a certain sense thanks us.” Yes, because God, as the infinite Goodness, in, wishing to pour out Himself upon others, has, so to speak, an infinite longing to distribute His gifts; but He wishes to be besought; hence it follows, that when He sees Himself entreated by a soul, He receives so much pleasure that in a certain sense He thanks the soul for it. Well, then, if we wish to preserve ourselves in the grace of God till death, we must act the mendicant, and keep our lips ever open to beg for God’s help, always repeating, “My Jesus, mercy! Never let me be separated from Thee! O Lord, come to my aid! My God, assist me!” This was the unceasing prayer of the ancient Fathers of the desert: “Incline unto my aid, O God! O Lord, make haste to help me! O Lord, help me, and help me soon; for if Thou delayest Thy assistance, I shall fall and perish!” And this above all must be practised in the moment of temptation; he who acts otherwise is lost.