Examination of Conscience
Presence of God – O Lord, cast a ray of light on my soul, so that I may be able to see myself as You see me and as You judge me.
To insure an orderly and progressive growth in the spiritual life, we must know ourselves. We have to consider our sins, our weak points, our evil tendencies, as well as the progress we have already made, the favorable results we have attained, and our inclinations to good. This knowledge of our interior state is obtained through the examination of conscience. The examen, considered in this way, becomes one of the most important exercises of the spiritual life since its object is to help the soul to rid itself of everything that might obstruct or delay its journey to God and to stimulate it to quicken its pace toward Him. Just as we cannot wage war with an unknown enemy, or make conquest of an unknown region, in the same way, it is impossible to fight the evil in ourselves if we have not previously identified it. We can never attain sanctity if we have not looked for an efficacious means of acquiring it. In other words, the examination of conscience attains its end when the soul who has faithfully practiced this exercise can say to itself: these are the inclinations which I must watch more carefully to avoid falling into sin; these, the weak points which I must strengthen; these are the virtues that I must practice most of all. In this way, the soul will be able to formulate practical, firm resolutions which will then become the special subject of its subsequent examinations.
It is clear that we must first recognize and combat any tendencies which could lead us to mortal sin, but then, those that could bring us to venial sin or to simple voluntary imperfections must be similarly treated. Everything that constitutes a deliberate fault must be progressively and energetically rooted out of the soul which aspires to divine union.
“O God of my soul, what am I in Your presence! Have my acts ever been free from faults–my words, my will? But You, O Lord, are good and Your right hand is merciful.
“O Physician of my soul, show me the fruits of my avowal. I confess because the admission of my miseries awakens my heart and keeps it from slumber; but even while saying I am incapable of doing good, my soul awakes again in the love of Your mercy and the sweetness of Your grace, by which every sick soul feels strong and becomes aware of its weakness.
“I shall love You, O Lord, and return thanks to You and exalt Your Name because You have pardoned so many of my guilty acts. If my sins have melted away like ice, it is the work of Your grace and mercy. All the evil that I have not committed was likewise the work of Your grace. Was there any sin that I could not have committed, I who have loved evil with so light a heart? I confess that all my sins have been forgiven, both those that I committed as well as those that, with Your help, I did not commit” (St. Augustine).
O my God, You who by one single act of Your will created light–and light was made–speak again Your all-powerful creative word: fiat lux, and light will be created in my soul; and, in Your light, I shall be able to see myself as I really am in Your sight.
But light is not enough for me who am so weak and cowardly; I need strength, O Lord; I need a strong, resolute will to hate evil in all its forms, to have a horror of my self-love, my pride, my sloth, to renew and strengthen my resolution to overcome myself for love of You.
Yes, Lord, with Your help I wish to conquer myself, not for the vain satisfaction of thinking that I am doing better, but solely to give You pleasure, to avoid even the smallest thing that displeases You, to grow in Your love, to enter into closer union with You. O my God, infinite Perfection, envelop and penetrate my soul with the reflection of Your holiness, and just as the sun illumines, purifies and makes the earth fruitful with its rays, illumine, purify, and sanctify my whole being. Teach me to look at myself with Your eyes, to know myself as You know me, to consider my miseries in the light of Your infinite perfections, to open my soul to Your purifying, sanctifying light.
Note from Dan: These posts are provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contain one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.
Art for this post on Examination of Conscience: Gandzasar cathedral [of St. John the Baptist, in Gandzasar Monastery], in Kararbakh [Azerbaijan], 5 August 2007, Vladimer Shioshvili, CC, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.