Monday, 31 May 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XIX

The State of Grace and of Disgrace with God.
“Man knoweth not the price thereof.” – Job, xxviii. 13.
Dignity to which the Grace of God raises us.
If, says the Lord, thou wilt separate the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth.1 They who know how to distinguish what is precious from what is vile, are like God, “who knows how to refuse the evil and to choose the good.” Let us examine how great a good it is to be in the grace of God, and how great an evil to be in enmity with God. Men do not understand the value of divine grace. Man knoweth not the price thereof.2 Hence, they exchange it for vanity, for a little earth, or for a beastly pleasure; but it is an infinite treasure, which makes us worthy of the friendship of God. For, says the Wise Man, she is an infinite treasure to men, which they that use become the friends of God.3 Hence, a soul in grace is the friend of God. The Gentiles, who were deprived of the light of faith, deemed it impossible for a creature to attain to the friendship of God; and they, who were guided only by the light of nature, could scarcely think otherwise; for, as St. Jerome says, Friendship either finds or makes equals.”4 But God has declared in several places in the holy Scriptures, that by means of this grace we become his friends if we observe his law. You are my friends I f you do the things which I command. I will not now call you servants, . . but I have called you friends.5 Hence, St. Gregory exclaims: “O goodness of God! We do not deserve to be called even servants, and he condescends to call us friends.”6
How fortunate would the man esteem himself, who should have the king for his friend! In a vassal, it would be temerity to presume to seek the friendship of his sovereign; but it is not temerity in a soul to aspire to the friendship of its God. St. Augustine7 relates that two courtiers entered into a monastery of hermits, and that one of them began to read the life of St. Antony the Abbot. He read, and in reading his heart became gradually divested of worldly affections. Turning to his companion, he said: “What do we seek? We can hope for nothing more than the friendship of the emperor. And through how many perils do we reach this greater danger? And how long will this last?” Friend, fools that we are, what do we seek? The most we can expect to gain in the service of the emperor is, to become his friends: and should we succeed in gaining his friendship, we shall expose our eternal salvation to greater risk.. It is with difficulty we can ever become the friends of Caesar: “but, if I wish, I am this moment the friend of God.”
Whosoever, then, is in the state of grace is the friend of God. He also becomes the son of God: You are gods, and the sons of the Most High.8 This is the great gift which we have received from the divine love through Jesus Christ. Behold, says St. John, what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us—that we should be called, and should be, the sons of God.9 Moreover, the soul in the state of grace is the spouse of God. I will espouse thee to me in faith.10 Hence the father of the prodigal, when his son returned, ordered a ring to be put on his finger, in token of his espousal. Lastly, the soul becomes the temple of the Holy Ghost. Sister Mary d’Oignies saw a devil go out from an infant who was receiving baptism, and the Holy Ghost enter with a multitude of angels.
Affections and Prayers.
Therefore my God! when my soul had the happiness of being in Thy grace, it was Thy friend, Thy child, Thy spouse, and Thy temple; but, by committing sin, it lost all, and became Thy enemy and the slave of hell. But I thank Thee, O my God, for giving me time to recover Thy grace. I am sorry above all things for having offended Thee, O infinite Goodness! and I love Thee above all things. Ah! receive me again into Thy friendship. For Thy mercy’s sake do not reject me. I know that I deserve to be banished from Thy face; but, by the sacrifice which He offered on Calvary, Jesus Christ has merited for me mercy and pardon. Thy kingdom come. My Father (it is thus Thy Son has taught me to call Thee),—My Father, come with Thy grace to reign in my heart; grant that I may serve Thee alone, that I may live for Thee alone, and that I may love Thee alone. And lead us not into temptation. Ah! do not permit my enemies to tempt me so that I may be conquered. But deliver us from evil. Deliver me from hell; but deliver me first from sin, which alone can lead me to hell. O Mary pray for me, and preserve me from the great misfortune of ever seeing myself in sin and deprived of the grace of thy and my God.
Advantages that the Grace of God Procures for us,
St. Thomas of Aquino says that the gift of grace surpasses every gift that a creature can receive, since it is a participation of the divine nature.11 And before him, St. Peter said the same: that by these ye may be made partakers of the divine nature.12 So great things Jesus Christ has merited for us by his Passion: he has communicated to us the same splendor that he received from the Father: And the glory which Thou hast given to Me, I have given to them.13 In fine, a soul in the state of grace is one thing with God. He, says St. Paul, that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.14 The Redeemer has said that in a soul that loves God, the Three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity dwell. If any one love Me, my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and we will make our abode with him.15
So great is the beauty of a soul in the state of grace, that God himself extols it. How beautiful art thou! how beautiful art thou!16 The Lord appears never to take eyes off the soul, that loves, him, nor,to close his ears to its petitions. The eyes of the Lord are upon the just: and His ears unto their prayers.17 St. Bridget used to say that a man could not behold the beauty of a soul in the grace of God, without dying through joy. And St. Catharine of Sienna, seeing a soul in the state of grace, said that she would willingly have given her life to prevent that soul from losing such beauty. Hence she kissed the ground on which priests walked, because through them souls recover the grace of God.
How many treasures of merits can a soul in the state of grace acquire? Each moment it can merit an eternity of glory. St. Thomas teaches that every act of love merits for the soul eternal life.18 Why then should we envy the great ones of the earth? If we are in the grace of God, we can constantly acquire far more greatness in heaven. A certain lay-brother of the Society of Jesus, as Father Patrignani relates in his Menologies, appeared after death, and said that he and Philip the Second, King of Spain, were in the enjoyment of glory; but that his glory in heaven was as far superior to that of Philip, as that monarch was raised above him on this earth. Moreover, he alone who has experienced it, can conceive the peace which a soul in the grace of God enjoys in this life. O taste and see that the Lord is sweet.19 The words of the Lord cannot fail. Much peace have they that love thy law.20 The peace of a soul that is united with God, surpasses all the pleasures that the senses and the world can give. The peace of God which surpasseth all understanding.21
Affections and Prayers.
O my Jesus! Thou art the good pastor, who allowed Thyself to be slaughtered in order to give life to Thy sheep. When I fled away from Thee, Thou didst not cease to follow and seek after me; Thou receivest me now that I seek Thee, and cast myself with a penitent heart at Thy feet. Give me again Thy grace, which I have miserably lost through my own fault. I am sorry for it with my whole heart; I would wish to die of sorrow at the thought of having so often turned my back on Thee. Pardon me through the merits of the painful death which Thou didst suffer for me on the cross. Bind me with the sweet chains of Thy love, and do not permit me ever more to fly away from Thee. Since I have merited the eternal torments of hell, give me strength to bear with patience all the crosses which Thou sendest me. Since I have deserved to be for eternity under the feet of the devils, make me embrace with love all the contempt and insults which I shall receive from men. Finally, make me obedient to all Thy holy inspirations, and give me grace to conquer all human respect for the love of Thee. I am resolved henceforward to serve Thee only: let others say what they please, I will serve Thee alone, O my most amiable God! Thee only do I wish to please. But give me Thy aid, without which I can do nothing. I love Thee, O my Jesus! with my whole heart, and I trust in Thy blood. Mary, my hope! assist me by thy prayers. I glory in being thy servant, and thou dost glory in saving sinners who have recourse to thee. Come to my relief and save me.
Enmity with God.
Let us now see the misery of a soul that is in enmity with God. It is separated from God, his sovereign good. Your iniquities, says the prophet Isaias, have divided between you and your God.22 Hence the soul is no longer his, and he is no longer its God: You are not my people and I will not be yours.23 The soul not only belongs no longer to God, but God even hates it and condemns it to hell. God does not hate any of his creatures; he does not hate the wild beast, the viper, or the toad. Thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made.24 But he cannot refrain from hating sinners. Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity.25 Yes; God cannot but hate sin, which is diametrically opposed to his will; and in hating sin he must necessarily hate the sinner who is united to his sin. But to God the wicked and his wickedness are hateful alike.26
O God! if a man has for his enemy a monarch of the earth, he cannot sleep, he is every moment in dread of death. And how can he who is the enemy of God enjoy peace? He may escape the vengeance of his sovereign by concealing himself in a wood, or by taking refuge in a distant country. But who can fly from the hands of God? Lord, says David, if I shall ascend into heaven, if I shall hide myself in hell, wheresoever I go, Thy hand can reach me. If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I descend into hell, Thou art present. . . Even there also shall Thy hand lead me.27
Poor sinners! they are cursed by God, cursed by the angels, cursed by the saints, cursed also every day on earth by all priests and religious, who, in reciting the divine office, proclaim them accursed. They are cursed who decline from thy commandments.28 Moreover, the soul that is at enmity with God has lost all its merits. Should a man be equal in merit to St. Paul the Hermit, who lived forty-eight years in a cave; to St. Francis Xavier, who gained ten millions of souls to God; or to St. Paul the Apostle, who, according to St. Jerome, surpassed in merit all the other apostles—that man if he commit a single mortal sin, loses all. All his justices which he hath done shall not be remembered.29 Behold the ruin which the enmity of God produces: it transforms the child of God into the slave of Lucifer; his beloved friend into an enemy whom he sovereignly hates; and the heir of heaven into one condemned to hell: St, Francis de Sales used to say that, were the angels capable of weeping they should shed tears of pity at the sight of a soul that commits mortal sin and loses the divine grace.
But the greatest misery is that the angels would, if it were in their power, weep; and the sinner weeps not. “A Christian,” says St. Augustine, ‘if he loses a sheep or any other valuable animal, weeps over the loss, and neither eats nor sleeps; but when he loses the grace of God, he eats and sleeps, and sheds not a single tear.”
Affections and Prayers.
Behold, O my Redeemer! the miserable state to which I have brought myself. To make me worthy of Thy grace, Thou didst spend thirty-three years in toil and pains; and I, for the poisoned pleasure of a moment, have despised and lost it. I thank Thy mercy, which still gives me time to recover it if I wish. Yes, I wish to do everything in my power to regain. it. Tell me what I must do in order to obtain Thy pardon. Dost Thou wish me to repent? O my Jesus! I am sorry with my whole heart for having offended Thy infinite Goodness. Dost Thou wish me to love Thee? I love Thee above all things. Hitherto I have unfortunately employed my heart in loving creatures and vanities. From this day forward I will live only for Thee; I will love only Thee my God, my treasure, my hope, my strength. I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.30 Thy merits, Thy wounds, O my Jesus! shall be my hope and my strength; from Thee I hope for strength to be faithful to Thee. Give me then, O my Redeemer! the gift of Thy grace, and do not permit me ever again to depart from Thee. Divest my soul of all worldly affections, and inflame my heart with Thy holy love. Kindle in it the fire of Thy love. Mary, my Mother! who wert always on fire with divine love, make me burn like thee with the love of God.

1“Si separaveris pretiosum a vili quasi os meum eris.” – Jer. xv. 19.
2“Nescit homo pretium ejus.” – Job, xxviii. 13.
3“Infinitus enim thesaurus est hominibus: quo qui usi sunt, participes facti sunt amicitiæ Dei.” – Wisd. vii. 14.
4“Amicitia pares aut accipit, aut facit.” – In Mich. 7.
5“Vos amici mei estis, si feceritis quæ ego precipio vobis. Jam non dicam vos servos . . . vos autem dixi amicos.” – John, xv. 14.
6“O mira divinæ bonitatis dignatio! Servi non sumus digni nominari, et amici vocamur.” – In Evang. hom. 27.
7Conf. l. 8. c. 6.
8“Ecce dii estis, et filii Excelsi omnes.” – Ps. lxxxi. 6.
9“Videte qualem charitatem dedit nobis Pater, ut filii Dei nominemur, et simus.” – 1 John, iii. 1.
10“Sponsabo te mihi in fide.” – Osee, ii. 20.
11“Donum gratiæ excedit omnem facultatem naturæ creatæ, cum sit participatio divinæ naturæ. – 1, 2, q. 112, a. 1.
12“Ut per hæc efficiamini divinæ consortes naturæ.” 2 Pet. i. 4.
13“Et ego claritatem, quam dedisti mihi, dedi eis.” – John, xvii. 22.
14“Qui adhæret Domino, unus spiritus est.” – 1 Cor. vi. 17.
15“Si quis diligit me, . . . Pater meui diliget eum. et ad eum veniemus, et mansionem apud eum faciemus.” – John, xiv. 23.
16“Quam pulchra es, amica mea. quam pulchra es!” – Cant. iv. 1.
17“Oculi Domini super justos, et aures ejus ad preces eorum.” – Ps. xxxiii. 16.
18“Quilibet actus charitatis meretur vitam æternam.” – 1, 2, q. 114, a. 7.
19“Gustate, et videte quoniam suavis est Dominus.” – Ps. xxxiii. 9.
20“Pax multa diligentibus legem tuam.” – Ps. cxviii. 165.
21“Pax Dei, quæ exsuperat omnem sensum.” – Phil. iv. 7.
22“Iniquitates vestræ diviserunt inter vos et Deum vestrum.” – Isa. lix. 2.
23“Vos non populus meus, et ego non ero vester.” – Os. i. 9.
24“Diligis omnia quæ sunt, et nihil odisti eorum quæ fecisti.” – Wis. xi. 25.
25“Odisti omnes qui operantur iniquitatem.” – Ps. v. 7.
26“Similiter autem odio sunt Deo impius et impietas ejus.” – Wis. xiv. 9.
27“Si ascendero in cœlum. tu illic es; Si descendero in infernum, ades . . .; etenim illuc manus tua deducet me.” – Ps. cxxxviii. 8, 10.
28“Maledicti, qui declinant a mandatis tuis.” – Ps. cxviii. 21.
29“Omnes justitia ejus, quas fecerat, non recordabuntur.” – Ezek. xviii. 24.
30“Diligam te, Deus, fortitudo mea.” – Ps. XVii. 2.

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