Monday, 8 June 2009

The House of Eternity

A man shall go to the house of his eternity.1 We err in calling this our habitation in which we now dwell; the habitation of our body in a little while will be a grave, in which it must rest until the day of judgment; and the habitation of the soul will be either paradise or hell, according as it has deserved, and there will it continue through all eternity.

At our burial our corpses do not go to the grave of themselves, they are carried thither by others; but the soul goes itself to the place which awaits it, either of eternal joy or eternal woe. A man shall go to the house of his eternity. According as a man lives well or ill, so he departs himself to his habitation, in paradise or in hell, which he shall never change.

Those who live on this earth often change their home, either to please themselves, or because they are compelled. In eternity the habitation is never changed; where we enter the first time, there we abide forever. If the tree fall to the south or to the north, in whatever place it shall fall, there shall it be. He that enters into the south, which is heaven, will be ever happy; he that enters the north, which is hell, will be ever miserable.

He, then, who enters heaven, will be always united with God, always in company with the saints, always in the profoundest peace, always abundantly contented; because every blessed soul is filled and satisfied with joy, nor will he ever know the fear of losing it. If fear of losing their happiness could enter among the blessed, they would be no longer blessed; for the mere thought of losing the joy they possess would disturb the peace they enjoy.

On the other hand, whoever enters into hell will be forever far from God: he will ever suffer in the fire of the damned. Let us not think that the pains of hell will be like those of earth, where, through the force of habit, a trouble continually grows less; for, as in paradise, the delights never cause weariness, but seem ever new, as though they were for the first time enjoyed (which is implied by the expression of “the new canticle,” which the blessed are ever singing); so, in hell, the pains never grow less through all eternity; long custom will never diminish their torment. The miserable beings who are damned will feel the same anguish through eternity that they feel the first moment they experience its pangs.

St. Augustine said that he who believes in eternity and is not converted to God, has either lost his sense or his faith. Woe, cries St. Cesarius, woe to sinners who enter eternity without knowing it, through having neglected to think upon it! And then he adds, “But, O double woe! they enter it, and they never come forth.” It is a double woe, the first of which will be to fall into that abyss of fire; the second, that he who falls into it will never come out: the door of hell opens only to those who enter, not to those who would depart.

No; the saints did not do too much when they went to hide themselves in caves and deserts, to eat herbs, and to sleep on the ground, in order to save their souls. “They did not do too much,” says St. Bernard, “because, where eternity is in question, no certainty can be too great.” When, then, God visits us with any cross of infirmity, poverty, or any evil, let us think of the hell we have deserved, and thus every sorrow will appear light. Let us say, with Job, I have sinned, and truly gone astray, and I have not received in accordance with my deserts.2 O Lord, I have offended Thee, and many times betrayed Thee, and I have not been punished as I deserved; how, then, can I lament if Thou sendest me any tribulation? I, who have deserved hell!

O my Jesus! send me not to hell, to the hell in which I could no longer love Thee, but must hate Thee forever. Deprive me of everything,--of property, health, life; but deprive me not of Thyself. Grant that I may love Thee and praise Thee forever; and then chastise me, and do with me what Thou wilt. O Mother of God! pray to Jesus for me.

1“Ibit homo in domum æternitatis suæ.” -- Eccles. xii. 5.

2“Peccavi, et vere deliqui, et, ut eram dignus, non recepi.” -- Job, xxxiii. 27.

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