Of the profit we ought to draw from Holy Mass, and the return we ought to make to God for it.
We owe more to God, and to his Divine Son Jesus Christ, for the benefit of Holy Mass, than it is possible for us ever to repay. Whatever we can do, we still shall remain infinitely indebted for it, not only during life, but for the whole eternity.
Though we can never return what we owe, yet we must, a least, return what we can, to acknowledge the benefit of Holy Mass, and to imitate our dear Saviour, who therein daily offers himself a sacrifice for us. We must offer all our actions to God as so many sacrifices and testimonies of our engagement to his service, and submissions to his will. Holy Scripture gives the name of Sacrifice to almost all good actions; and St. Augustine says expressly, that each good action is a true Sacrifice.
Now as we are composed of body and soul, there are two sorts of sacrifices which we ought to offer; the first consists in referring to God all exterior and sensible actions; and the second, in consecrating to him all the motions of our heart and acts of our will.
This is the double Sacrifice which St. Paul exhorts us to make, and which, to be acceptable to God, must be animated with charity; that is, God’s love. Reason, as he says, engages us to render that duty to God for we have received all from him, and consequently owe all to him. It would be an act contrary to the rules of Justice and Reason, to employ for any other use but God’s service, what we possess purely from his liberality.
St. Paul makes the interior Sacrifice chiefly consist in two things: the first to strip ourselves of the sentiments and inclinations of the Old Man; and the second, to assume the sentiments and inclinations of the New One, Christ Jesus.
God does not exact the same exterior actions from all; for each 0one must act according to the state his Divine Majesty has placed him in; nor does he exact the same interior degree of perfection. Nevertheless he will have our whole life be a perpetual Sacrifice to him; which it will be, if we consider our employment as a commission from God, and accordingly acquit ourselves of it; being exact in all its parts and duties. Whoever proceeds so, is a true victim, which continually sacrifices itself to the will and pleasure of God; so that their whole life is a perpetual Sacrifice.
Each time we assist at Mass, we contract, as it were, a new obligation of living so, and of devoting ourselves entirely to God’s service, and of conforming ourselves to his will in all our actions; which is the fruit we should draw from Holy Mass, and the best return we can make for so incomparable a benefit.
To render this practice more easy, we may distinguish the four perpetual Sacrifices:
The first is a Holocaust.
The second, a sacrifice of Thanksgiving.
The third of Impetration.
The fourth of Propitiation.
Now the life of a good Christian ought to be a continual exercise of all those acts of virtue.
As the first, which is a Holocaust, in which the victim used to be entirely consumed by fire, God having given us our liberty, which is the precious thing we have to offer; it is that victim we consume by fire when for the love of him, and the desire we have to content him, we give him the entire dominion we have over our selves, actions, and goods; not reserving to ourselves the choice of any of our actions, nor of the circumstances that accompany the, It is not enough to present to God our labours, prayers, and fasts, or any other exercise, however good and holy, if they are not according to his will, and done both in the time and place he would have the, for other ways they will be of little or no merit in his fight; for if we reserve to ourselves the liberty of doing what actions we please, and when and how we please, God may reproach us as he did the Jews, who fasted by humour and inclination, that their fast was of no merit, because their own will was too much in it.
We should do well to question ourselves from time to time: saying, Am I in the place God would have me be in? Di I do what God would have me do? Be assured that the most excellent of all victims, is a perfect conformity of our judgment and will to the will of God. Great is the advantage religious person have; for in exactly observing their vows, their rules, and the orders of their superiors, both by day and night, they thereby become perfect Holocausts, immolated each moment of their lives to the will and pleasure of God. They may say with Jesus Christ, that they are always employed in doing what is pleasing to God. And he will say of them, as of the Royal Prophet, I have found a man according to my heart, who accomplishes all my wills.
The second Sacrifice is of Thanksgiving. We should continually offer this sacrifice to the Divine Majesty, since there is no moment of our lives in which we receive not some benefit from him.
In order to this we must reflect on those graces and favours, for which we are indebted to God’s goodness; an acknowledge him the author of all the good we have, which he has given us for his service, offering him all the possess; and letting no occasions pass without contributing as much as is in our power, to the advancement of his glory, and the accomplishment of his designs.
We must even thank him for all the good actions we do, he having the greatest share in them: and for his being pleased to make use of us for the advancement of his glory, and for having helped us to merit heaven: for as St. Augustine observes, God crowns his own benefits when he rewards our merits.
The third Sacrifice is of Impetration. To offer this sacrifice perpetually, we must persuade ourselves (as it is true) that of ourselves we neither can do, nor succeed in any thing, without God’s assistance. Which being, we must not fail to implore it each moment. If therefore we desire to offer his Divine Majesty this Sacrifice, we must have continually before our eyes our own miseries and weaknesses, the many evils which oppress us, and the dangers we are exposed to; the goods we stand in need of, and our inability as to the procuring the one, or freeing ourselves from the other, which will force us continually to have recourse to God.
This we may perform in several manners, sometimes by pronouncing certain words, as Deus in adjutorium…, sometimes by forming in ourselves a desire of God’s assistance; fixing the eyes of our soul upon him, from whom only we expect necessary forces, and strength to act. These short prayers and interior desires are victims, which breathe forth a more odoriferous smell, than perfumes which were formerly offered.
The revolt of our passions, the multitude of our temptations, the pain we find in labour, are as many admonitors to put us hourly in mind of exposing them to God; thereby to engage him to come to succour us, and make us feel the effects of his mercies.
The fourth Sacrifice is that of Expiation, or Propitiation, which we ought also to offer perpetually. There is no sacrifice which we should more frequently offer than this, we having in the bottom of our souls a source of sin, which even the just feel, an often every day they deplore the effects of it, an dare obliged to have recourse to this sacrifice to expiate them.
There are two things in sin, the guilt which is the offense of God, and the pain which is the chastisement it deserves. The sacrifice of expiation includes both grief for and punishment of the fault. You will perpetually offer this sacrifice, if as soon as you perceive yourself fallen into any sin, however small it be, you interiorly detest it, and mortify yourself in something; or at least in our examinations night and morning, if you not only grieve for the sins you have committed, but also impose some penance on yourself in satisfaction.
How holy would our life be, if, from morning to night, we employed ourselves in offering some of these sacrifices. Sometimes making acts of conformity to the will of God, at other times thanking him for his benefits, then imploring his help, and [always striving to make reparation for sin.]