Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XIV

Life is a Journey to Eternity.
“Man shall go into the house of his eternity.” – Eccl. xii. 5.
Man is a Traveller on Earth.
Seeing that on this earth so many miscreants live in prosperity, and that so many saints live in tribulations, the very Gentiles, by the sole aid of the light of nature, have known this truth,—that, since there is a just God, there must be another life, in which the wicked are punished and the good rewarded. But what the Gentiles learned by the light of reason, we Christians know by faith. We have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come.1 This earth is not our country; it is for us a place of passage, from which we shall soon go to the house of eternity. “Man shall go into the house of his eternity.” The house, then, dear reader, which you inhabit, is not your house; it is a hospital, from which you will soon, and when you least expect, be dislodged. Remember that when the time of death has arrived, your dearest relatives will be the first to banish you from it; and what will be your true house? The house of your body will be a grave, in which it will remain till the day of judgment; but your soul will go to the house of eternity—either to heaven or to hell. St. Augustine tells you that you are a stranger, a traveller, a spectator.2 It would be foolishness in a traveller to spend all his patrimony in purchasing a villa or a house in a country through which he merely passes, and which he must leave in a few days. Reflect, says the saint, that in this world you are only on a journey; fix not your affections on what you see; look and pass on, and labor to procure a good house, in which you will have to dwell forever.
Happy you, if you save your soul! Oh! how delightful is heaven! All the princely palaces of this world are but stables compared with the city of paradise, which alone can be called the city of perfect beauty. There you will have nothing to desire; for you will be in the society of the saints, of the divine Mother, and of Jesus Christ, and will be free from all fear of evil; in a word, you will live in a sea of delights, and in unceasing joy, which will last forever. Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.3 This joy shall be so great, that at every moment for all eternity it will appear new. But unhappy you, if you are lost! You will be confined in a sea of fire and of torments, in despair, abandoned by all, and without God. And for how long? Perhaps, after the lapse of a hundred thousand years, your pains will have an end? A hundred and a thousand millions of years and ages will pass by, and your hell will always be at its commencement. What are a thousand years compared with eternity? Less than a day which is gone by. A thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday, which is past.4 Would you wish to know the house which will be your dwelling for eternity? It will be that which you merit, and which you choose for yourself by your works.
Affections and Prayers.
Then, O Lord! behold the house which I have deserved by the life which I led. Alas! it is hell, in which, from the first sin I have committed, I ought to dwell, abandoned by Thee, and without having it ever in my power to love Thee. Blessed forever be Thy mercy, which has waited for me, and which now gives me time to repair the evil I have done. O my God! I will no longer abuse Thy patience. I am sorry above all things for having offended Thee, not so much because I have merited hell, as because I have outraged Thy infinite goodness. Never more, my God! never more will I rebel against Thee; I desire death rather than offend Thee. O my Sovereign Good! were I now in hell, I could never love Thee, nor couldst Thou love me. I love Thee, and wish to be loved by Thee; this I do not deserve, but Jesus merits it, because he has offered himself to Thee in sacrifice on the cross, that Thou mightest be able to pardon and love me. Eternal Father! give me, then, for the sake of Thy Son, the grace to love Thee, and to love Thee intensely. I love Thee, O my Father! who hast given me Thy Son. I love Thee, O Son of God! who didst die for me. I love thee, O Mother of Jesus! who, by thy intercession, bast obtained for me time for repentance. O Mary! obtain for me sorrow for my sins, the love of God, and holy perseverance.
Man can Secure Eternal Happiness.
If the tree fall to the south or to the worth, in what place soever it shall fall there it shall be.5 Wheresoever the tree of your soul will fall at death, there will it remain forever. There is no medium; you will be forever a king in heaven, or a slave in hell; forever in bliss, in an ocean of delights, or forever in despair in a pit of torments. In contemplating the fate of the rich glutton, who was esteemed happy in this world because he was rich, but was afterward confined in hell; and the condition of Lazarus, who was regarded to be miserable because he was poor, but was afterward raised to the glory of heaven, St. John Chrysostom exclaimed: “O unhappy felicity, which dragged the rich man to eternal misery! O happy infelicity, which brought the poor Lazarus to the happiness of eternity!”6
Of what use is it to torture yourself, as some do, saying; Who knows whether I am among the predestined or not? When the tree is cut down, where does it fall? It falls on the side to which it inclines. Brother, to what side do you incline? What sort of life do you lead? Labor always to incline to the south; preserve your soul in the grace of God; fly from sin; and thus you will save your soul, and will be predestined. And in order to avoid sin, keep always before your eyes the thought of eternity, which St. Augustine calls “the great thought.”7 This thought has led so many young men to abandon the world, and to live in deserts, in order to attend only to the care of the soul; and they have secured eternal life. And, now that they are saved, they will rejoice for all eternity at having sought during life nothing but the salvation of their souls.
Father M. Avila converted a certain lady, who lived at a distance from God, by saying to her: “Madam, reflect on these two words—always and never.” In consequence of a thought which be had one day of eternity, Father Paul Segneri could not sleep for several nights; and from that day forward gave himself up to a more rigorous life. Drexelius relates that a certain bishop was encouraged to lead a holy life by the thought of eternity, and by repeating within himself, “I stand every moment at the gate of eternity.”8 A certain monk shut himself up in a cave, and did nothing else but exclaim, O eternity! O eternity! “He. who believes in eternity,” said Father Avila. “and does not become a saint, should be confined in a madhouse.”
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! have mercy on me. I know that in committing sin I condemned myself to an eternity of torments; and I have been content to resist Thy will, and to incur this punishment. Ah, my Lord! pardon me; I am sorry for my sins from the bottom of my heart. I do not wish ever more to oppose Thy holy will. How miserable should I be, hadst Thou taken me out of life during my career of sin! I should at this moment be condemned to remain forever in hell, to hate Thy will. But now I love it, and wish forever to love it. Teach me and give me strength henceforth to do Thy will. I will no longer resist Thee, O infinite Goodness! This grace only do I ask; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Enable me to do Thy will perfectly; and I ask nothing more. And what, O my God! dost Thou desire, but my welfare and my salvation? Ah, eternal Father! hear my prayer, for the love of Jesus Christ, who has taught me to pray continually to Thee. In his name I ask this grace—thy will be done, thy will be done. Happy me if I spend the remainder of my life and if I end my days doing Thy will. O Mary! happy thou, who hast always done the will of God perfectly! obtain for me, through thy intercession, the grace to do his will during the remainder of my life.
Man shall go into the House of his Eternity.
Man shall go into the house of his eternity.”9 The prophet says man shall go, to show that each shall go to the house to which he wishes to go: he shall not be carried to it, but will go of his own accord. It is certain that God wills the salvation of all men, but he will not save us by force. He has placed before each of us life and death; whichsoever we choose, will be given us.10 That which he shall choose, shall be given him.11 Jeremias likewise says, that the Lord has given us two ways in which to walk; one the way of heaven, the other the way of hell. Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.12 The choice rests with us. But, how will he who wishes to walk in the way of hell, be able to reach heaven? All sinners wish for salvation, and in the mean time they, by their own choice, condemn themselves to hell, with the hope of being afterward saved. But who, says St. Augustine, can be found so foolish as to take poison with the hope of escaping death?13 And still so many Christians, so many fools, kill their souls by sin, saying: I will hereafter think of a remedy. O delusion, which has sent so many souls to hell!
Let us not be so foolish; let us reflect that eternity is at stake. In erecting a house in which he expects to live for the remainder of his life, a man spares no trouble in seeking a healthful site, and submits to great toil and fatigue in endeavoring to make the house commodious and airy. And why are men so careless when there is question of the house in which they must dwell for eternity? The business for which we labor, says St. Eucherius, is eternity; there is not question of a house more or less commodious, more or less airy; but there is question of being in a place full of delights, among the friends of God, or in a pit of all torments, in the midst of an infamous crowd of abandoned miscreants. And for how long? Not for twenty nor forty years, but for all eternity. This is a great point; it is not a business of little moment; it is an affair of infinite importance. When Thomas More was condemned to die by Henry VIII, his wife Louisa went to him for the purpose of prevailing on him to yield to the wishes of the king. He said to her: “Tell me, Louisa, how many years could I, who am now so old, expect to live?” “You might,” answered Louisa, “live for twenty years, more.” “O foolish woman,” rejoined the holy man, “do you want me, for twenty years of life on this earth, to forfeit an eternity of happiness, and to condemn myself to an eternity of torments?” (Sander, Schism. angl.)
O God! give me light. If eternity were a doubtful matter, or only resting on a probable opinion, we ought to make every effort in our power to lead a good life, lest, should the doctrine of eternity be true, we should expose ourselves to the danger of being eternally miserable; but it is not doubtful, but infallibly certain; not a mere opinion, but a truth of faith. “Man shall go into the house of his eternity.” “Alas!” says St. Teresa, “the want of faith is the cause of so many sins, and of the damnation of so many Christians.” Let us then always enliven our faith, saying: “Credo in vitam æternam.” I believe that after this life there is another which never ends. And with this thought always before our eyes, let us adopt the means of securing eternal salvation. Let us frequent the sacraments; let us make meditation every day; and let us reflect on eternal life; let us fly from dangerous occasions. And, if necessary, let us leave the world; for, to make ourselves sure of eternal life, no security can be too great.
Affections and Prayers.
There is, then, my God! no medium; I must be forever happy, or forever miserable; either in a sea of joys. or in a sea of torments; either forever with Thee in heaven, or forever separated at a distance from Thee in hell. And this hell I know for certain I have so often deserved; but I also know for certain that Thou dost pardon all who repent, and that Thou rescuest from hell all who hope in Thee. Of this Thou assurest me. He shall cry to me . . . I will deliver him, and will glorify him.14 Pardon me, then. O Lord! pardon me immediately, and deliver me from hell. O Sovereign Good! I am sorry above all things for having offended Thee. Restore to me Thy grace as soon as possible, and give me Thy holy love. Were I now in hell, I could never more love Thee; I should have to hate Thee forever. Ah, my God! what evil hast Thou done to me that I should hate Thee? Thou hast loved me unto death. Thou art worthy of infinite love. O Lord! do not permit me to be ever separated from Thee. I love Thee, and will always love Thee. Who shall separate me from the charity of Christ?15 Ah, my Jesus! sin alone can separate me from Thee. Ah! through the blood which Thou didst shed for me, do not permit me to be ever separated from Thee. Strike me dead, rather than suffer me to lose Thy love. “Ne permittas me separari a te.” Mary, my queen and my Mother! assist me by thy prayers; obtain for me death and a thousand deaths, rather than that I should be separated from the love of thy Son.

1“Non habemus hic manentem civitatem, sed futuram inquirimus.” – Heb. xiii. 14.
2Hospes es, transis et vides.
3“Lætitia sempiterna super caput eorum.” – Isa. xxxv. 10.
4“Mille anni ante oculos tuos, tamquam dies hesterna quæ præteriit.” – Ps. lxxxix. 4.
5“Si ceciderit lignum ad austrum aut ad aquilonem, in quocumque loco ceciderit, ibi erit.” – Eccles. xi. 3.
6O infelix felicitas, quæ divitem ad æternam infelicitatem traxit! O felix infelicitas, quæ pauperem ad æternitatis felicitatem perduxit.
7Magna cogitatio.
8“Omni momento ad ostium æternitatis sto.” – De Damn. Rog. c. 10 § 3.
9“Ibit homo in domum æternitatis suæ.”
10Ante hominem vita et mors.
11“Quod placuerit ei, dabitur illi.” – Ecclus. xv. 18.
12“Ecce ego do coram vobis viam vitæ et viam mortis.” – Jer. xxi. 8.
13“Nemo vult sub spe salutis ægrotare.” – Ad Petr. De fid. c. 3.
14“Clamabit ad me . . . eripiam cum et glorificabo eum.” – Ps. xc. 15.
15“Quis ergo nos separabit a charitate Christi?” – Rom. viii. 35.

About This Blog

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP