The following is an excerpt of a meditation on the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord from the Founder of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, St. Stanislaus Papczynski (1631-1701). These meditations are compiled in the work Inspectio Cordis (Contemplation with the Eyes of the Heart), translated from the original Latin by Fr. Casimir Krzyzanowski, MIC.
Before Most Holy Communion
1. “Jesus appeared to them” (see Mk 16: 14)
Consider that Jesus Christ rather often appeared to the disciples after His Resurrection, either that He might perfect and confirm them — still unskilled and imperfect in their faith — or that by visions and most sweet exhortations, He might stimulate them to endure many sufferings for His name.
And for no other reason does He so often arrange the Holy Banquet for you and unite Himself to you wholly in a most divine way, except on condition that — having thrown out the old leaven of malice — you may appear more perfect in each virtue and that you bear with a steady mind any adversities befalling you, because through fire and water one passes into a place of refreshment [see Ps 65:12].
2. “He reproached them for their incredulity” [ibid.]
As a teacher deservedly accuses a disciple … thus the Lord deservedly blames the Apostles, because although they saw Him after the Resurrection so many times, for a long time before His death they had dealings with Him, saw the miracles which He had performed, heard the words by which He announced that He would rise from the dead and that in three days He would restore the temple of His body, destroyed by the Jews, nevertheless they did not believe those who announced that He had risen from the dead.
O how justly the Savior should rebuke you, too, at today’s Communion! Because when you have received from Him so many graces, so much light and so many favors; when you for so many years approach Him for the sake of dealing with Him and of being enlightened by Him; when the rewards for good deeds and the punishments for evil deeds are not unknown to you; when you have read about, or observed, so many of His miracles, when you have heard and have experienced the grave threats, by which — as He publicly declared — He would punish the imperfect, still you are more lukewarm than all those who even today for the first time have converted themselves to God. Neither the fear of infernal torments, nor the striving after heavenly glory is able to arouse you from a sound sleep in the filthy dung of your vices, passions and imperfections.
Fear, lest your incredulity be not reproached, but indeed punished.
3. “And hardness of heart” [ibid.].
O my soul! What do you hear? When Jesus was seized and the disciples took flight, they did not hear any reproach. But indeed, when He hastens not to His Passion but to His glory, He reproaches them for their incredulity and blames their hardness of heart. Namely, O all-good Jesus, when they ran away from the repulsive and unexpected tragedy, you had consideration of their frailty, and I believe also of their pusillanimity. But now You cannot bear their hardness, when they do not believe what was seen.
Ah! my Savior, how do You endure and will You endure, or how have You endured my hardness? When, although I knew that You are very inimical to sin, and yet I was committing countless very shameful and very grave sins. Although I saw, I knew, I read and heard that others, because of their less serious [sins], were doomed to eternal punishments; nevertheless, as if sleeping and as if intoxicated from wine, I was not arousing myself from my evil deeds, I was not returning to You [when] called, allured and frightened? Moreover, by Your mercy having entered the way of uprightness, how often have I gone astray? How often have I deviated from the right way? How foolishly! How foully! How obstinately! How hardily! O hardness of my heart! When my conscience, with You stimulating and reproaching it in me, I am ashamed and have a feeling of dread, with my sins causing me a great fear. But what at last will you do with [me, so] hard?
O Goodness, O Benevolence! You are, O Jesus, the immaculate Lamb! You are the Lamb led to the slaughter without complaint. Therefore, what I hope, what I trust, what I suppliantly and humbly beseech, You will remove the hardness of my heart, when you nourish it in this holy, admirable Communion, full of love and clemency, with your most Holy Body, and you revive it with Your Blood. And as the hard diamond is broken only with the blood of a kid, thus you, the Lamb of God, by besprinkling my heart with Your Blood, will soften it in a mystical way and will shatter its hardness.
Do it, my Jesus, lest my conscience reproach me for my hardness for ever: lest it say to me that I did not want to improve when I had time. And indeed, although as a sinner I consider myself unworthy of any grace of Yours, it is fitting to you as Savior to impart it to me. Therefore I hope for grace, I hope for salvation, because I desire to consume You, O Lord, who are grace and salvation. You are, namely, the one who reproached the hardness of the disciples, and yet you have placed them in the heavenly Kingdom.
After Most Holy Communion
1. “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Good News” [Mk 16:15].
Consider how good and how compassionate is the Lord whom you serve; who after He convicts failings, immediately shows the way to make up for them. For behold, He was reproaching the incredulity and the hardness of heart of the Apostles, and what does He say then?
“Go”, He says, “into the whole world and proclaim the Good News to every creature”. This is as if He said: you have sinned by incredulity; make up for your sin by faith, proclaiming Me and My salutary teaching to the whole world. You have failed by the hardness of your heart; now go, open the hearts of mortals, and break their hardness by the hammer of the Gospel. Namely, to rebuke this vice and soon to suggest the remedy: namely, to recognize the sickness and at once to apply the medicine.
Deal thus with yourself and with others, so that when you detect your imperfections or someone else’s and reprove them, immediately you should indicate and apply the way to remove them and to make up for them by true virtues. In this regard imitate Christ the Lord; imitate good physicians, who in vain would indicate the sickness, unless at the same time they provided a medicine to the sick.
2. “But he who does not believe, shall be condemned” [Mk 16:16].
You fortunate one! Who at this time contains the Lord of heaven and earth. You fortunate one in having such a Guest! Fortunate in having such a Lord! But what made you a participant in this good fortune? Faith alone. “Blessed are they”, (says your most holy Guest) “that have not seen, and have believed” [Jn 20:29].
Because you have believed that God exists, whom you have not viewed with your eyes, this faith has made you fortunate. Truly since you have this [faith] from God himself, what worthy thanks will you give to Him, especially hearing that those who “do not believe” will have to be condemned? Indeed, you would not be able to repay this divine benefice in another and more appropriate way than if you prayed for the infidels, that they may be enlightened, or if you contributed to their conversion by some of your work. As did he who, having become an Apostle from a publican, was presenting the publicans to Christ for the sake of [their] conversion, so that in this way he might recompense the gift of his vocation. He wished for others, that which he understood as salutary for himself.
3. “Proclaim the Gospel to every creature” [Mk 16:15].
How great is the kindness of the Son of God towards all mankind! He does not want to exclude anybody, even the most miserable and most despicable, from the Heavenly Fatherland, since He commanded them, whom He honored with apostolic dignity, to proclaim the Gospel to every creature: so to kings, as to citizens; so to rulers, as to subjects; so to masters, as to servants — together to the rich and to the poor; to old people and also to children — indeed, to all mortals, to everyone.
And so you, yourself conclude how great an impious deed you would commit, if on a given occasion in fulfilling a function regarding salvation, you preferred the magnates to the plebeians, and the poor to the wealthy! How much you would deviate from this teaching of the celestial Master if you sought only noble audiences in order to boast of it, and if you avoided those more humble because of contempt, and if you did not serve the small and the great with equal disposition!
It is fitting indeed that we, according to our religious vocation, by which we are equal to the Apostles, at least show to God this kind of gratitude, that we not treat any of His creatures with contempt and that we not neglect, in so far as it our duty, to instruct them in salutary rules and to provide them with [necessary] aids.