THE HOLY HOUR
“Could you not watch one hour with me?” (Mt. 26:40)
The Holy Hour is an exercise of prayer, either mental or vocal, in union with the prayer of Our Lord in the Garden of Olives on Holy Thursday night. It was taught as a practice to St. Margaret Mary by Our Lord Himself, who appeared to her while she was adoring the Blessed Sacrament, and said: “In the night between Thursday and Friday each week, I will make you partaker of that sorrow unto death which it was My will to suffer in the Garden of Olives... To join with Me in the humble prayer which I then offered to My Father, you shall rise between eleven o'clock and midnight; you shall prostrate yourself with Me for one hour, with your face to the ground, both to appease the anger of God by imploring mercy for sinners, and to sweeten in some way the bitterness I felt when My apostles abandoned Me, being unable to watch one hour with Me.”
The following sentences, taken from the writings of St. Margaret Mary, may serve as a meditation for the Holy Hour.
“Whilst my whole attention was fixed upon the sole object of my affections in the Garden of Olives, immersed as He then was in an ocean of agony and sadness out of charity for man, I felt strongly urged by the desire of participating in His anguish, and He said to me: ‘In this spot, I suffered more interior pain than in all the rest of My passion on account of My dereliction; I saw Myself forsaken by Heaven and by earth, burdened with the sins of all humanity. Thus I appeared before the holiness of God, Who, not heeding My innocence, bruised Me in His wrath, making Me drink deeply of the chalice filled with the gall and bitterness of His just indignation, as if He had forgotten His name of Father in order to sacrifice Me to His just anger. It is impossible for any created being to understand the intensity of what I then suffered; it is the same grief and pain that the guilty soul experiences when she stands before the tribunal of divine sanctity, and she is weighed down, bruised, oppressed, overwhelmed by the just anger of her Judge.’ ”
UTTERANCES OF AFFECTIONS
1. The Faithful Heart
Is it Thou, my Saviour and my God, that I see in this abyss of humiliations, fainting, and abandoned by all most dear to Thee, in an agony of weariness, fear, and sorrow, and bathed, so that even Thy garments are saturated with a bloody sweat? Yes, it is Thou, my God and Saviour. Thou art He Who didst pass throughout Judea and Galilee, curing all diseases, and casting out devils from the bodies of the possessed, by Thy divine power. How then is it that I see Thee in this lamentable condition? Ah! it is Thy excessive love for souls that has reduced Thee to agonise and sweat blood for them. And as Thou didst prove Thy Divinity then by stupendous miracles, so now Thou showest Thyself to be the Man-God by such excess of sufferings. It is Thy Divine power that supports Thee to prevent Thy dying before the time appointed from eternity, and permits Thee to endure in Thy most delicate body the whole violence of the suffering inflicted on Thee. O Jesus! Thou art my Lord and God. The more I see Thee subject to suffering, and afflicted at the enormity of our sins, the more my faith is confirmed in Thee. There is no one but a God Incarnate that could endure such excessive torments, and could conceive so great a sorrow for sin, and comprehend so fully the enormous outrage that the man who sins does against God, the Sovereign Good. Yes, O my Jesus, I firmly believe Thou art my God. Lord, increase my faith—while with the Angels, the beholders of so great a mystery, I adore Thee most profoundly.
2. The Contrite Heart
But whence, dear Jesus, comes this effusion of Thy Blood? I see no executioners here with scourge and crown of thorns, with cross, nails, and spear. Adorable Blood! who has forced thee from the veins of my Saviour? Alas, I have been the cruel executioner, who with my sins, have grieved the Heart of Jesus to an agony and sweat of Blood. O Jesus, infinite Goodness! how is it that my heart, which has been so ungrateful to Thee, is not broken with sorrow? The mere excess of Thy love for unhappy sinners, and the impatient desire Thou hadst in all Thy life to suffer for them, have united at one moment in Thy Heart all those sufferings which Thou art about to feel actually thoughout the whole of Thy Passion. O my God, Thy love is not content with the tears Thou hast shed from Thine eyes for my sins, but has opened all the pores of Thy body to shed from them in abundance tears of blood. With these tears, so full of anguish, Thou weepest for my sins and those of the world. O abominable monster, sin!—how could I have committed thee so often and so easily? Ah, that I could expire of pure contrition for having offended Thee so much, O infinite Goodness! O my hard heart! how is it thou dost not break asunder? Canst thou be so insensible? Thy God is weeping for thy sins with tears of Blood, and thou, my heart, art so hard that thou dost not make me shed one tear of contrition! O my Jesus, give me, I beg of Thee, something of that excess of sorrow which Thou hast felt for my sins. Distil from Thy Divine Heart into mine one drop of that torrent of bitterness with which Thy soul was inundated, and since I am not permitted to shed all my blood for Thee, Who hast poured forth Thine to the last drop for me, grant at least that I may wash away my sins from my heart by constant tears of most tender contrition. Oh, that my eyes would let fall tears in torrents for the excessive pains my Lord surfers for my sins and the sins of the whole world. It is I, my Jesus, that have sinned, and Thou who art Innocent bearest the pains due to my sins. Those pains I ought to suffer—why then dost Thou share them with so great love? Give me, Lord Jesus, a share in Thy affliction. Make me suffer with Thee. For love of Thee I henceforth accept in union with Thy pains, all that it shall please Thee to lay upon me in punishment of my offences.
Tremble, O my soul, “for if these things be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” If Jesus Christ, the Innocent, the Holy, the Just One, was treated with such rigour by the Divine Justice for being clothed in the garb of sinners—what, sinful soul, will become of thee? Alas, living, as I have hitherto done, with so great ingratitude to God, I have good reason to fear that His innocent Blood, shed for my salvation, may cry for vengeance against me, and that this very Blood may be the cause of my condemnation to greater torment. Great God! pierce my heart through with Thy holy fear, that I may ever be afraid of Thy tremendous judgments. Who shall not fear Thee, O King of Nations? What sinner shall not tremble at the sight of the dreadful severity of Thy justice which required such a satisfaction of the most innocent Jesus for the sins of the world?
If thou hast resolved, O my soul, to correspond effectually to the graces of thy most loving Saviour, thou hast a well-founded hope of attaining to salvation. O my God, when I cast a look upon Thy Son, sacrificed for me, all my fears are put to flight, and I feel to my consolation the sweetest confidence in Thine infinite mercy. Yes, my Jesus, Thou art my mercy and my refuge of safety, Thou art my salvation. Behold Jesus thy Saviour, O my soul, and hope in Him. He holds these hands of His open to embrace thee, and to clasp thee to His breast: these feet He keeps nailed to the Cross to wait for thy return: His head He holds inclined to thee to invite thee to Him: His Heart is open to declare that He is ready to pour out upon thee the riches of His grace: all His Blood shed for thee pleads pardon for thy sins. What then dost thou fear? Put in Jesus thy trust, and thou shalt not be confounded. Hope in thy God, and do good for the time to come, and thou shalt be fed in the delights of thy Divine Pastor for ever. O Jesus, my lot is in Thy hands. I place my soul in Thy Heart, and there I desire that it may dwell. In Thy open side, as in a place of refuge, I will breathe out my soul, in firm confidence that Thou wilt not tear it from Thy Heart to cast it into eternal flames. Remember, O Lord, what this soul of mine has cost Thee, and have mercy on me. Henceforth, dear Lord, I will ever have hope in Thee. If God for my salvation spared not even His Only Son, but sacrificed Him for me upon the Cross, how shall He not with Him give me all things?
O my soul, measure the excess of the love of Jesus by the excess of grief with which thou seest Him oppressed. O Love, O Love! if thou couldst have such power over the Heart of God, how is it that thou hast so little over the heart of man? Thou hadst power to force a sweat of blood from every pore of the body of the Son of God, and yet thou canst not draw one tear from my eyes, nor one sigh from my heart. O my Saviour, how strong is Thy love! It makes Thee anticipate the fury of Thy executioners; it makes Thee undergo the agony of death before Thine hour is come. But remember, I beseech Thee, that Thou art come to cast the fire of Thy love on earth, and that Thou desirest that all hearts be enkindled with it. O most loving Heart of Jesus, furnace of most ardent love, kindle in my soul this divine fire, that I may be wholly consumed.
Behold what miracles are wrought by Love! The Omnipotent is become feeble, the Impassible suffers, the Majesty of God is disguised under our miseries, the Eternal is subject to death, Life Itself is laid in the tomb. O excess of Mercy! Hast Thou, O Lord, worked all these wonders for me, a miserable creature? But who am I, O my God. Do I deserve so much as one look of Thine to be cast upon me. What! the Creator suffers death for the creature, the Master for the slave; God, Who is all in all, for me, who am nothing! Be amazed, ye heavens, at such a miracle of mercy. O Jesus! to what an excess has love brought Thee for ungrateful man? Thou art God of Infinite Majesty, and at the same time the Man of Sorrows; Thou art in Heaven adored by the blessed Angels, and at the same time upon earth Thou art mocked, scourged, crucified, and put to death by sinners. It is Thou, O Word of God, that didst create the universe from nothing; but what wonder that Thou couldst do so, for Thou art omnipotent? What I cannot cease to wonder at, and can never comprehend, is to see Thee humbled, suffering, and breathing out Thy Blessed Soul upon a shameful gibbet, and for me! O Jesus, Eternal Majesty! to what a length has Thy excessive love for Thy ungrateful creatures led Thee!
O my soul, thou must not be content with a barren admiration, but thou must imitate the divine model thou hast before thine eyes. Overwhelmed with a sea of sorrows, and sacrificing Thyself for the glory of Thy Divine Father and my salvation, Thou givest me, my Saviour, an example of every virtue. How great would be my ingratitude if from this moment I did not seek with all my strength to imitate Thee. I desire to do so, O Lord, and this is the fruit I propose to gather from this prayer. I will, in imitation of Thee, with the help of Thy grace, resign myself wholly to the Divine Will. I will persevere in prayer notwithstanding my tepidity. I will bless Thee in my pains and sufferings. I will fight against my rebellious passions; prefer the humility of the Cross to the pride of the devil; penitence to the softness of the flesh; sufferings to the insane pleasures of the world. O my Divine Model make me a faithful imitator of Thee.
8. The Oblation
My Saviour, Thou hast bought me at so great a price, and am I not then by every title wholly Thine? Yes; this is the ardent and only desire of my heart. Come then and take possession of this poor heart of mine, most sweet and beloved Spouse of my soul. To Thee I give my heart, and desire it to be ever wholly Thine. Receive it, O my Jesus, take possession of it, consume it with the fire of Thy divine love. Nay more, I give myself entirely to Thee. To Thee I unite myself, to Thee I abandon myself; and as a babe reposes calmly in the bosom of its mother, so in every trouble will I remain tranquil in Thy arms. I know the loving care Thou hast hitherto taken of me, and I doubt not, O my Jesus, that Thou wilt have the same for the time to come. Do Thou make me constant in Thy service, and sustain and strengthen my weakness. Grant that in all my afflictions, spiritual and temporal, I may have recourse to Thee with the confidence of a child, and do Thou ever be my Comforter. O Tender Lover of souls, dear Spouse of my soul, do not separate Thyself any more from me. I desire to live but for Thee. I would have Thee so wholly Master of my heart, that each time it beats I would renew my entire abandonment of my will to Thine. O most sweet Heart of Jesus, to Thee I consecrate my love, my desires, my affections, and every wish of mine. O Jesus, I live no more to myself, but do Thou ever live in me, and grant that I may breathe out my soul in the Wound of Thy Side.
9. Reparation for the Wrongs done to Jesus
O Jesus, Thou hast conferred so many benefits upon men, and they return Thee evil for good. And that which grieves me most, is that I too have been so many years in the number of those who have repaid with ingratitude Thy excessive and most bountiful love. O that I could with my blood and with my tears make atonement for such ingratitude. From this very moment I will cease to be ungrateful to Thee, my most loving and bountiful Benefactor, and will begin to love Thee. Too late have I begun to know Thee, O my Sovereign Good. But since the occupations of this miserable life do not permit me to remain united with Thee as I would desire every moment of my life, I purpose at every breath to renew the offering of myself in union with Thy Divine Heart to the Eternal Father in thanksgiving for all the benefits I have received. I desire with every beating of my heart to love Thee with that most perfect love which all the blessed have for Thee in Heaven. Every time that I behold the picture of Thy Sacred Heart, or the image of Thee crucified, I purpose to offer Thee all the praises Thou shalt receive for eternity from the Just, in thanksgiving for the excessive love Thou hast shown me, especially in giving Thyself as food for my soul, and in dying for my salvation. Every time I shall raise my eyes to heaven, I intend to declare that my heart is there where Thou art my Heavenly Treasure; and I purpose to unite myself in loving Thee with Thy ever Blessed Virgin Mother, with all the Angels and Saints in heaven, and all the Just on earth. O my Sovereign Good! may that happy time speedily come when I shall be united perfectly by love to Thee, and shall be blessed in Thee, and fear no more to be separated from Thee. Then I will show myself to all the Blessed as a glorious trophy of Thy grace, and will invite them all to sing with me Thy mercies unto me for ever.
SOURCE: THE HOLY HOUR; OR, THE INTIMATE UNION OF THE SOUL WITH JESUS IN HIS AGONY IN THE GARDEN (1870).