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tion upon them, will be sufficient to make us tremble from head to foot. We must not, however, examine them in detail, but only in a general way; for we are not now making our preparation for confession, but simply meditating on the deformity of our sin, which is so enormous, principally for three reasons: 1. Because of the number and grievousness of our offences; 2, Because of the baseness and ingratitude of the sinner; and 3. Because of the majesty and clemency of Him whom we offend. Wherefore, S. Ignatius proposes these points for our consideration in the following meditation.
N.B. Those who spend one day only in meditating on sin and hell, may confine themselves to the second and third points of the following meditation—reserving the first point for Spiritual reading during some free hour.
On our personal Sins.
The malice and heinousness of sin is infinite, because of its intrinsic deformity, and its multiplicity. 1. So great is the deformity of even a single sin, that the God of Infinite Beauty hates it with a neverdying and necessary hatred; He abominates and detests it, as being essentially evil, and essentially opposed to His interests. 2. It is so great, that neither the universal deluge which once covered the earth, nor all the fire which shall yet consume it, nor the blood of all the victims that have ever been offered in sacrifice, nor that of all the martyrs who have ever died, would of themselves be sufficient to atone for it, and wash it out. 3. It is so great, that if, in an impossible hypothesis, the most august Mother of God, and the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, could contract the stain of a single sin, all the splendour of the glory which surrounds them would fade, and in an instant they would become horrible brands from the fire of hell. 4. By sin we absolutely recede from God, according to the teaching of the angelic Doctor, S. Thomas. (2. 2. q. 161, a. 6. in corp.)
Yet, unhappy being, you have, nevertheless, dared many times to soil and to defile with a stain so black and filthy the image of God stamped upon your soul, O God! if a single sinful thought rendered the beauty of the angels so hideous and repulsive, what appearance will I present before the eyes of my Creator, after having sinned so grievously hundreds of times, without remorse, through mere caprice, in pure malice!
II. Ah ! the number of my many crimes has made me more hideous than the very demons themselves. O God, how numerous my sins are! I, too, shall cry out in sorrow with Antiochus, "Now I remember the evils that I have done " (a). Alas! the three faculties of my soul, which ought to have been a living mirror of the Divine Presence, and the Sacred Temple of the most Holy Trinity, have been, instead, as a sewer polluted with filth of every description, "and the abomination of desolation standing in the holy places " (b).
(a) 1 Machab. vi. 12. (6) Matt. xxiv. 15.
My imagination was a store-house of most foolish fancies, my intellect a sink of most foul thoughts, my will the workshop in which every iniquity was fashioned. My five senses were five poisoned fountains; instruments in the working of every description of wickedness; gates flung open to admit every vice. The entire series of my years is but an unbroken chain of crime; the actions of my life are but an accumulation of all kinds of defects and sins. Ah! while I was as yet but a very small child, I was already a great sinner; and as my body became developed, my wickedness increased in proportion. My youth (I blush to recall it) was polluted with every infamy, my manhood was held in bondage by unruly passions, and my old age, too, perhaps, may be the slave and the toy of corrupted nature. In a word, my entire life has been one continued sin. Oh! who then will give to my eyes a fountain of tears to weep for so many faults, and infuse into my soul a due horror of them, that I may detest their wickedness. "My God, lam confounded and ashamed to lift up my face to Thee, for my iniquities are multiplied over my head, and my sins are grown up even unto heaven " (a).
The heinousness of the sin is increased immeasurably by the baseness and ingratitude of the sinner. (1.) The baseness of man is exceedingly great, because of the nothingness from which he derives his existence, because of his powerlessness to act, because
(a) 1 Esdras ix. 6.
of the rotteness and corruption in which his existence terminates, because of the impurities of his body, the sinfulness of his soul, the ignorance which clouds his intellect, and the perverse inclinations which sway his will. A sinner, as compared with other men, is nothing: all men together are as nothing in comparison with a single angel; all the angels are nothing in respect of God. What will you be, then, when compared with the Divine Majesty 1 ,
Yet, nevertheless (be horrified, ye heavens !) this handful of dust, this filthy mire, "hath stretched out his hand against God, and hath strengthened himself against the Almighty. He hath run against him with his neck raised up, and is armed with a fat neck" (a); saying with Pharao, " Who is the Lord, that I should hear his voice? I know not the Lord " (b). This worm, so vile, so base, so filthy, has dared "to cast the Lord off behind his back " (c). Hide your light, ye stars! God .... is held of less account than the body .... since the sensual man prefers the gratification of his unbridled lust to the observance of the most holy law of God. O angels! which excites within you the greater wonder—the impudence of man, who so insolently outrages his Creator, or the. patience of God, who so mercifully bears with this monster 1
(2.) The ingratitude which accompanies so much baseness, immeasurably increases the malice of sin. God has conferred upon you, sinner, favours countless in number, of rare utility, priceless in value, and incalculably great, whether we regard the majesty of the Donor, or the intrinsic value of the gift,
(a) Job xv. 25, 26. (b) Exod. v. 2. (c) Ezek. xxiii. 25.
or the base condition of the recipient. Moreover, the manner in which God bestowed these gifts upon you is worthy of attention; for they were the outcome of an eternal love, with which He loved you from the very moment in which He commenced to love Himself; of an infinite love, the self same with which He loves Himself; and of a purely disinterested love, since He cannot possibly derive from it the slightest advantage.
So, then, God has showered down upon you countless favours, and has done so in a manner which argues on His part the greatest love .... God .... who is all-sufficient to Himself, who is in Himself infinitely happy! . . . . And these favours He has conferred upon you—a rebel slave! Upon you, who are but "as a drop of the morning dew that falleth down upon the earth " (a); "a leaf that is carried away with the wind " (b); "a vapour which appeareth for a little while, and afterwards shall vanish away" (c); upon you, a mere nothing, a compound of wretchedness and vice. These favours He has bestowed upon you without any merit on your part; nay, with a foreknowledge of your many sins, He has preferred you to very many other souls who would have served Him with all possible fervour. Yet, nevertheless, with black and most criminal ingratitude, you have dared to offend so generous a God, "to break his yoke, to burst his bands, and to say: I will not serve"(d). And, in offending Him, you have made use of His own gifts which He had lavished upon you—the senses of your body,
(a) Wisdom xii. 23. (b) Job xiii. 25.
(c) James iv. 15. (d) Jer. ii. 20.