Saturday, 11 July 2009

Aspirations after the Country of the Blessed

Happy is he who is saved; who leaves this place of exile, and enters into the heavenly Jerusalem, and enjoys that perfect day which will be always day and always joyful, free from all molestation, and from all fear of ever losing so infinite a happiness.

Jacob said, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty; few, and evil.1 The same may be said of us miserable pilgrims, whilst we remain on this earth, to endure the toils of our exile, afflicted by temptations, torn by passions, and tormented by miseries, and still more by the fear of losing our eternal salvation at last. Seeing all this, we should conclude, and ever keep it in mind, that this is not our country, but a land of exile, where God detains us, in order that we may, through suffering, come to merit the reward of entering one day into our happy country. And thus living detached from this earth, we ought always to aspire after Paradise, saying: “When shall it be, O Lord, that I shall be delivered from all these distresses, and think only of loving Thee and praising Thee? When will it be that Thou wilt be all to me in all things, as the Apostle writes: That God may be all in all?2 When shall I enjoy that unchanging peace, free from all affliction, and from all danger of being lost? When, my God, shall I find myself dwelling with Thee, and enjoying the sight of Thine infinite beauty face to face, and without veil? When shall I attain to the possession of Thee, my Creator, in such a manner that I may say, My God, I cannot lose Thee more?

O my Saviour, whilst Thou seest me an exile, and full of trouble, in this land of enemies, where I live in continual warfare, help me with Thy grace, and console me in this sorrowful pilgrimage. Whatever the world may offer me, I know that nothing in it can bring peace; but yet I fear lest, if I have not help from Thee, the pleasures of the world, joined to my evil inclinations, should draw me on to some terrible precipice.

Exile as I am in this valley of tears, I would think of Thee continually, O my God! and share in that infinite happiness which Thou enjoyest; but the evil appetites of sense make themselves heard within me, and disturb me. I would that my affections were ever occupied in loving Thee and thanking Thee; but in my flesh I feel drawn towards sensual delights, and thence I am constrained to exclaim with St. Paul, Unhappy man that lam, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?3 Miserable man that I am, in continual combat, not only with external enemies, but with myself, whence I am weighed down and a trouble to myself.4

Who, then, will deliver me from the body of this death? that is, from the danger of falling into sin, from that peril, the fear only of which is to me a continual death, which torments me, and will not cease to torment me during all my life: Go not far from me, O God; my God, in Thy help I put my trust.5

My God, go not far from me; because if Thou goest from me, I fear I shall displease Thee. Therefore, draw nearer to me with Thy powerful help; succor me continually, that I may be able to resist the attacks of my enemies. The royal prophet has said that Thou art ever near, that Thou dost endow with holy patience all those who are of sorrowful heart, afflicted within themselves.6 Remain beside me, then, my beloved Saviour, and give me that patience that I need to overcome the continual attacks by which I am tormented. As often as I try to give myself to meditation and prayer, troublesome thoughts draw me away, and distract me with a thousand follies; do Thou give me force to drive them from me, and to crucify all the evil inclinations that hinder me from uniting myself to Thee. And take from me, I pray Thee, the great repugnance that I feel to embracing in love and peace everything that is not according to my own self-love.

O house of my God, prepared for those that love Thee, to Thee I sigh from this land of misery. “I have gone astray as a sheep that is lost: O, seek Thy servant.” O beloved Shepherd of my soul, who didst descend from heaven to seek and to save the lost sheep, behold me, one of these who has turned from Thee, and lost itself! Seek Thy servant; Lord, seek me; abandon me not, as I deserve; seek me and save me; take me and keep me safe within Thine arms, that I may not leave Thee any more.

While I am looking towards Paradise with strong desire, my enemy frightens me with the remembrance of my sins; but the sight of Thee, my crucified Jesus, consoles me, and gives me courage to hope that some day I may come to love Thee, and behold Thee unveiled, in Thy blessed kingdom. Queen of heaven, continue to be my advocate. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, and through thine intercession, I have a firm hope of being saved.

1“Dies peregrinationis meæ centum triginta annorum sunt, parvi et mali.” -- Gen. xlvii. 9.

2“Ut sit Deus omnia in omnibus.” -- 1 Cor. xv. 28.

3“Infelix ego homo! quis me liberabit de corpore mortis hujus?” -- Rom. vii. 24.

4“Factus sum mihimetipsi gravis.” -- Job, vii. 20.

5“Deus, ne elongeris a me; Deus meus, in auxilium meum respice.” -- Ps. lxx. 12.

6“Juxta est Dominus iis qui tribulato sunt corde.” -- Ps. xxxiii. 19.

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