3 O'Clock Prayer
The Diary of St. Faustina is more than a religious book and more than a record of the profound mystical events that shaped her life. The Diary gives us precise instructions from Jesus as to how He wanted the new devotion to His Mercy to be formulated. From the very depths of His tender mercy, He created the Feast of Mercy, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Divine Mercy Novena, the Image of Divine Mercy and the conversion prayer known as the 3 O’Clock Holy Hour.
At 3 O’Clock on Good Friday, Jesus died in incomprehensible agony on the wooden Cross which the Roman soldiers had nailed Him to. The soldier appointed to watch the bodies checked if the three whom they had crucified were still alive, but when he examined Jesus, he discovered Jesus had already died. So he did not break His legs, which was a Roman custom, thereby fulfilling the prophecy "Not one of his bones will be broken" (Psalm 34). Instead, he took a spear and pierced His sacred body, driving the iron blade into His Merciful Heart. As he withdrew the spear, there followed a gush of blood and water. The soldier was shocked and gave witness to St. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, of this event. It is this moment which changed the world forever, and it is this prayer that commemorates that extraordinary moment.
The red and pale white rays emanating from the Heart of Jesus in the Image of Divine Mercy represent the blood and water which gushed forth from His pierced Heart on Good Friday. Jesus asked that all who venerate His mercy honour His Passion by remembering Him with this prayer at 3 O’Clock in the afternoon. He asks us, “If only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony”. (Diary 1320) At this moment, He asks us to implore His Mercy, especially for sinners. He told St. Faustina, "as often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment, mercy was opened wide for every soul". (Diary 1572)
The short prayer which Jesus taught St. Faustina for the veneration of His Mercy at 3 O’Clock is, “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a Fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You”. This is also known as the Conversion Prayer. Jesus told St. Faustina, "I desire that you know more profoundly the love that burns in My Heart for souls, and you will understand this when you meditate upon My Passion. Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners; I desire their salvation. When you say this prayer, with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner, I will give him the grace of conversion. This is the prayer: “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.” (Diary 186-187) St. Faustina also created her own prayer for this moment, which is: You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us. (Diary 1319)
Jesus asked, that as often as we “hear the clock strike the third hour” that we deeply contemplate His Passion, “if only for a brief moment”. But after we observe the moment of the death of the Messiah at 3 O’Clock with this special prayer, we then have before us “the hour of great mercy for the whole world”. (Diary 1320) Jesus has let us know that in Heaven, the 3 O’Clock hour is a special holy hour, as He said, "it was the hour of grace for the whole world — mercy triumphed over justice...In this hour, you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking...In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion". (Diary 1320, 1572) He asked St. Faustina, that if she had time she should make the Stations of the Cross during this special hour. He acknowledged that her duties might prevent her from being able to do this, but He asked that on these occasions, she step into a church and adore His Mercy, if only for a brief moment. He also said that if she did not have the opportunity to enter a church, she could pause, wherever she was, and “immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant”. (Diary 1572)
The Passion of Jesus is a disturbing image in our minds. His betrayal by Judas and the abandonment of His friends; the brutality of the scourging and the violence of the Roman soldiers and the Jewish observers; the suffering He endured while carrying His heavy wooden cross; the emotional agony of meeting His mother, suffering so much by the sight of her Son; the sharp pain of the nails as they entered into His hands and feet and the three hours in which He was left dying in agonising pain on that cross, all the time being mocked by onlookers, who did not even have the compassion to give a tortured dying man a drink of water. So why would Jesus, who is love and mercy, want us to contemplate daily this brutal and disturbing event of the death of the promised Messiah?
The Passion of Jesus is the proof of His love for us. He underwent this horrifying ordeal so that He could forever stand between us and the uncompromising Justice of the Father and ask for mercy on our behalf. At the moment of our Judgement, we cannot defend ourselves and it is not possible for God the Father to be unjust. He must exercise justice and punish sin, as He ordained that the world should be created in this fashion. There is but one means to save a soul and that is to ask God for mercy and only the Passion of Jesus and His appeal to the Father to show us mercy, is the only way that we can obtain the mercy of God.
Although it is Jesus who underwent this agony so that He could beg mercy for us, He was fulfilling the Will of His Father. It was God’s Will that there be a means by which He could grant us pardon and therefore prevent Him from rendering justice to sinners. It shows us the incomprehensible mystery of the mercy of God. For He created a way so that He could grant mercy to those who don’t deserve it, but it shows His love and unwillingness to condemn souls, especially souls who do not want to be condemned. It shows His Love and His desire that we spend all of eternity with Him in perfect peace, tranquillity and love. In many ways, God has set events up so that He could have an excuse to forgive us, for that is His true desire, the hallmark of His perfect love, His desire to forgive and forget, so that souls can be re-united with Him in love.
So initially when we contemplate the Passion of Jesus, we are disturbed by the violence of His terrifying ordeal, but we should come to understand that His Passion is a solemn pledge of His love for us and His desire to pour out His mercy into our souls, to heal our wounds and arrange that we will live forever with Him in Heaven. We will understand the sacrifice which Jesus made on our behalf when we contemplate His Passion. This understanding will help us to know the love which burns in His heart, the love which is the only love which can satisfy the longing of the human heart, as it is perfect love, and it is the love for which we were created. It is this love which Jesus wants us to understand, for He knows that once we understand the extreme measures to which He was willing to go to save our souls, we will grow in trust and after we learn to trust, only then can we learn to love and enter deeper into the Mystery of His Divine Mercy. Only then will life become special. Only then does the meaning of life start to make sense and the excitement of living become a reality. For everyone knows that the passing pleasures of the world bring no lasting joy and often bring far more trouble then the moment of joy which the worldly indulgence of self promised.
It is during the 3 O’Clock Holy Hour that we should, if our duties permit, contemplate the Passion of Jesus. Jesus told St. Faustina, “There are few souls who contemplate My Passion with true feeling; I give great graces to souls who meditate devoutly on My Passion. Without special help from Me, you are not even capable of accepting My graces. You know who you are”. (Diary 737-738) Although it is very hard to understand, we cannot survive without God’s graces. There are special graces which greatly enhance our lives and our souls. But it is also possible for us to lose God’s grace through sin and sometimes God withholds graces from souls as a punishment. But if we keep His commandments and ask God with a genuine love, for His grace, He will not refuse it, as it is His burning desire and the driving force of His love, to give us more graces than we can contain. Again His generosity is a hallmark of His perfect love and mercy. Jesus told St. Faustina, "There is more merit to one hour of meditation on My sorrowful Passion than there is to a whole year of flagellation that draws blood; the contemplation of My painful wounds is of great profit to you, and it brings Me great joy". (Diary 369)
So there are two distinct parts to the 3 O’Clock Hour. The first is the moment of the death of Jesus at 3 O’Clock. We immerse ourselves in the Passion of Jesus and pray with great love and gratitude to Him, thanking Him for His love for us. We say the short prayer and offer it for sinners. The second part of this holy hour is the prayer and meditation during this Holy Hour. If we have time, Jesus requested that we pray the Stations of the Cross and to meditate with true feeling His sorrowful Passion. As He has told us, it is the hour of great mercy for the world and He has promised that He will refuse nothing to the soul who makes a request of His grace in virtue of His Passion. He has revealed to us that this meditation has more merit for us than an entire year of the most extreme form of penance. He has revealed that the contemplation of His Passion brings Him great joy and helps us to grow in trust and love of God.
This holy hour is an exceptionally important element of the devotion to Divine Mercy. For if we do not take the time everyday to contemplate and understand the mercy of God and the sacrifice that Jesus made for mankind, how can we understand the purpose of the Chaplet, the Image, the Novena and particularly the Feast of Mercy? The Passion of Jesus teaches us what true mercy is. How can we grow in love of God if we don’t trust Him? And if we don’t understand the depth of His mercy, we may never truly trust Him and therefore never truly love Him. We will be forever standing afar from Jesus, fearful and distrusting. But Jesus understands the reasons why we behave like this. We are viewing Him through our human experience where doubt, fear and an unwillingness to forgive, condition our everyday lives. We refuse to believe that God is as good, as merciful and as loving as He says He is and as He has proven He is. It is for this reason that the 3 O’Clock Holy hour is so important, for it is only through meditation on the Passion of Jesus that we, in our own way, will begin to understand how incomprehensible and infinite His mercy is and also believe that He has forgiven us. Only then can we believe in His Goodness and only then will we feel in our souls His love and mercy for each and every one of us, regardless of our past sins.