Miserere

Friday night. It has been an amazing 24 hours since we began. Has it only been a day? So much ground covered. So many things brought forth. No wonder they’re called exercises. St. Ignatius would have made one heck of a tough gym teacher! I was feeling a little fatigued though refreshed at the same time. Once we finished in the chapel I went to my room to read a little and fell asleep. There would be no visit to St. Isadore’s with Cocoa on this night.

And so we had our final exercise of the day, an opportunity to go to Confession, and a Holy Hour of Adoration in the chapel. I’m going to try to be brief in this blog. And due to the naturally very personal nature of the subject at hand will not be revealing much. The grace of this session was to gain a true knowledge of my sins and to detest my turning from God. In other words it was time to be honest with myself and God. It was time to get real.

There are three ways in which we are tempted by Satan.

  1. Riches
  2. Honor
  3. Pride

In a talk on Christian morality, Fr. John Hardon expanded upon these three temptations:

“… the devil’s strategy is to get people to become attached to earthly things. He urges them to, well, acquire say material wealth, which is the cheapest kind of riches, or acquire education. … Or acquire mastery in the use of their emotions, or cultivate gifts in the social order, or, would you believe it, the devil will even tempt people to acquire spiritual riches. … But whatever the possession, whether as cheap a thing as money, or special things say as, secular knowledge or even spiritual wisdom, the beginning is to become wealthy and thus to attain to recognition, praise, honor. … Attachment to the things of this world gradually makes a person, not only satisfied with what he or she possesses, but hungry for acceptance, recognition, praise, and honor. And once, as Ignatius says, once a person becomes a victim of empty honors, then pride follows as a matter of course. … Because once a person falls into pride, there is no limit to that person’s malice. Proud people are the agents of the devil. He uses them to seduce others. In fact, he uses them to work with him, and under his demonic power he organizes proud people into what some of the Fathers of the Church, as I have said, call a distinct power, call it the mystical body of satan. By whatever name, it is mastered by the father of lies.”

Well said, Father.

There are also three ways in which we accept these temptations.

  1. Spoiled child – in other words it is if the temptation is an entity that whines until it gets its own way
  2. False lover – this temptation approaches us in secret
  3. Military commander – in this way the temptation seems to study our stronghold and then attacks the weakest points of our defense

We give in to the spoiled child.

We keep the secret of the false lover.

We surrender to the military commander.

We need the discipline to recognize a temptation for what it truly is and be able to resist its whines, its secret invitations and its reconnaissance efforts. The best way is to expose a temptation to the light in its seed form. The most effective way we have as Catholics is the light of the confessional.

*****

Father Jim and Deacon Andrew spoke of a few more things before we began our holy hour. There were no assigned readings. There was no assigned prayer. Just one hour face to face with Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament on the altar.

I began my hour on my knees and after fifteen or twenty minutes sat down to read a psalm that had come to mind. It’s Psalm 51, a great psalm of David known as The Psalm of Repentance. It’s also called the miserere (miz-uh-rair-ee) because the first line in Latin is Miserere mei, Deus: Have mercy on me, O God.

Psalm 51 is one of the most foremost of the psalms of instruction. In it David is truly teaching us what sin is, where it comes from, the damage it does, and how one may be freed from it. In this psalm, it is shown that sin is an inheritance born in us, and that no works can help us against it, but only God’s grace and forgiveness. Through the Holy Spirit He creates us new again as a new person and a new creation. Afterwards when by grace and the Spirit we are once more made new, we not only learn how to praise but to actually thank and praise God.

Non-Catholics and Catholics alike have asked me what one does during a holy hour. I’ve made many at my own parish, usually at night when I can’t seem to sleep or I’m wrestling with an issue in my mind. To those who ask I can only echo the reply given to St. John Vianney after he asked an older man who prayed often before the Blessed Sacrament what he was speaking about to Jesus.

“I don’t say anything. I look at him. He looks at me.”

What else is there to say, really?

Maybe just one thing more. A quote from St. Julian of Norwich in which she speaks of Jesus:

“So I saw him and sought him; and I had him and wanted him. And it seems to me that this is how it is and how it should be in this life.”

And so it was that after examining my conscience I got into the line for confession. On the wall where the line formed was a large portrait of Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son”. Perfect.

The chapel at Broom Tree.

*****

There is a line in this psalm (verse 15) that reads “O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.” Since Vatican II as we pray the Liturgy of the Hours we begin the Invitatory Psalm (Invitation to Pray) with this verse. Prior to Vatican II this office was known as Matins and prayed or sung at midnight. To that end Italian composer Gregorio Allegri composed the “Miserere mei, Deus” in the 1630s for use in the Sistine Chapel during Matins, specifically for use on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week. There’s a neat story about it here. While we did not hear this sublime piece of sacred music that night, I offer it to you now. It’s a little over fourteen minutes long and sung in Latin but you owe it to yourself to give it a listen. I’ve downloaded it to my MP3 player from iTunes. I find myself listening to a lot of music like this as we draw closer to the election and the inflammatory rhetoric launches into overdrive.

Even better, explore the Sistine Chapel while listening to it by clicking here. Be sure to shut the music off at that site by clicking the music note button in the lower left hand corner or you’ll get another piece of music in your speakers or headphones.

In the pages of my journal I personalized and rewrote a shorter version of this psalm by using its original text. That is for my eyes.

This is for yours.

Psalm 51
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to thy steadfast love;
according to thy abundant mercy blot out
my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
and done that which is evil in thy sight,
so that thou art justified in thy sentence
and blameless in thy judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Fill me with joy and gladness;
let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence,
and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of thy salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors thy ways,
and sinners will return to thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
thou God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of thy deliverance.

O Lord, open thou my lips,
and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.
For thou hast no delight in sacrifice;
were I to give a burnt offering,
thou wouldst not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God
is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, thou wilt not despise.

Do good to Zion in thy good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then wilt thou delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on thy altar.

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