Saturday, 17 July 2010

Preparation for Death - Consideration XXVI

The Pains of Hell.
“And these shall go into everlasting punishment.” – Matt, xxv. 46.
The Pain of Sense.
In committing sin, the sinner does two evils. He abandons God, the Sovereign Good, and turns to creatures. For My people have done two evils. They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and have digged to themselves cisterns—broken cisterns—that can hold no water.1 Since, then, by turning to creatures the sinner offends God, he will be justly tortured in hell by the same creatures by fire, and by devils: in this punishment consists the pain of sense. But because his greatest guilt and the malice of his sin consists in turning his back on God, his principal torment, his hell, will be the pain of loss, or that pain arising from having lost God.
Let us first consider the pain of sense. It is of faith, that there is a hell. In the middle of the earth there is a prison reserved for the chastisement of rebels against God. What is this hell? It is what the glutton who was damned called a place of torments.2 A place of torments, where all the senses and powers of the damned will have their proper torment, and where, the more a person has offended God by any sense, the more he will be tortured in that sense. By what things a man sinneth, by the same also he is tormented.3 As much as she hath glorified herself and lived in delicacies, so much torments and sorrow give ye to her.Apoc. xviii. 7. The sight will be tormented with darkness. A land, says Job, that is dark, and covered with the mist of death.4 How pitiable the condition of a man who is shut up in a dark cave for forty or fifty years, or during his whole life! Hell is a dungeon closed up on every side, into which a ray of the sun, or of any other light, shall never enter. He shall never see the light.5 The fire of this world sends forth light; but the fire of hell is utterly dark. The voice of the Lord divided the fire.6 In explaining these words, St. Basil says, that the Lord will separate the light from the fire, so that this fire will burn, but will not illuminate. Albertus Magnus expounds them more briefly, and says that God “will divide the flame from the heat.”7 The very smoke that issues from that fire shall form a storm of darkness which, according to St. Jude, will blind the damned. To whom the storm of darkness is reserved forever.8 St. Thomas teaches that the damned have only the light which serves to increase their torments.9 In that glimmering light they will see the deformity of their associates, and of the devils, who will assume horrible forms in order to increase the terrors of the damned.
The sense of smell will also be tormented. How painful to be confined in a close room along with a putrid corpse! Out of their carcasses, says the Prophet Isaias, shall rise a stink.10 The damned must remain in the midst of so many millions of the reprobate, who, though forever alive to pain, are called carcasses on account of the stench which they send forth. St. Bonaventure says, that if the body of one of the damned were placed on this earth, it would, by its stench, be sufficient to cause the death of all men. Miserable fools! the greater the number of the damned in hell, the more insufferable will be their torments. “There,” says St. Thomas, “the society of the reprobate will cause, not a diminution, but an increase of misery.”11 Their sufferings are more intolerable on account of the stench, on account of the shrieks of the damned, and on account of the narrowness of the place. In hell, they will be one over the other, like sheep gathered together in the winter. They are, said David, laid in hell like sheep.12 They will be even like grapes pressed under the wine-press of God’s wrath. And he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty.13 From this will arise the pain of immobility. Let them become immovable as a stone.14 Thus, in whatsoever position the damned will fall into hell after the last day, in that they must remain, without ever changing their posture, and without ever being able to move hand or foot, as long as God will be God.
The sense of hearing will be tormented by the unceasing howling and wailing of those miserable beings, who are sunk in an abyss of despair. The devils will torment the damned by continual noises. The sound of dread is always in his ears.15 How painful to a person longing for sleep to hear the groans of a sick man, the barking of a dog, or the screams of an infant! But, oh! how miserable the condition of the damned, Who must listen incessantly for all eternity to the clamor and cries of the companions of their torments! The damned will be tormented by a ravenous hunger. They shall suffer hunger like dogs.16 But they never will have a morsel of bread. Their thirst will be so great that all the waters of the ocean will not be able to quench it; but they will never be allowed a single drop. The rich glutton asked for a drop of water; but he has not as yet had it, and he never, never will have it.
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my Lord! behold at Thy feet one who has so much despised Thy grace and Thy chastisements! Miserable should I be, O my Jesus! if Thou hadst not taken pity on me. How many years should I be in that fetid furnace; in which so many of my companions are now burning! Ah, my Redeemer! why does not this thought make me burn with Thy love? How can I ever again think of offending Thee? Ah, my Jesus! may I never more displease Thee. Strike me dead a thousand times rather than permit me ever again to insult Thee. Since Thou hast begun, complete the work. Thou hast taken me out of the abyss of so many sins, and hast so lovingly called me to love Thee. Ah! grant that I may spend for Thee all the time which Thou now givest me. How ardently should the damned desire a day or an hour of the time granted to me! And shall I continue to spend it in offending Thee? No, my Jesus! through the merits of that blood, which has hitherto delivered me from hell, do not permit it. I love Thee, O Sovereign Good! and because I love Thee I am sorry for having offended Thee. I wish never more to offend Thee, but to love Thee forever. Mary, my Queen and my Mother! pray to Jesus for me, and obtain for me the gift of perseverance and of his holy love.
The Fire of Hell.
The pain which most severely torments the senses of the damned arises from the fire of hell, which tortures the sense of touch. The vengeance on the flesh of the ungodly is fire and worms.17 Hence, in passing sentence, the Lord makes special mention of it. Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire.18 Even in this life, the pain of fire is the greatest of all torments; but according to St. Augustine, our fire, compared with the fire of hell, is but painted fire.19 St. Vincent Ferrer says, that in comparison with the fire of hell our fire is cold. The reason is, that the fire of this earth has been created for our use; but God has made the fire of hell purposely to torment the damned. As Tertullian remarks: “Fire which is made for the use of man in this world, is very different from that which is used for the justice of God.”20 The wrath of God lights up this avenging fire. A fire is kindled in my rage.21 Hence, the Prophet Isaias calls the fire of hell the spirit of heat. If the Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Sion . . . by the spirit of burning.22 The damned will be sent, not to the fire, but into the fire. “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire.” Thus, like a piece of wood in the furnace, they will be surrounded by fire. They will have an abyss of fire below, an abyss of fire above, and an abyss of fire on every side. If they touch, or see, or breathe, they touch, and see, and breathe nothing but fire. They will live in fire, like a fish in water. But this fire will not only surround the damned, but will also enter into their very bowels to torment them. Their bodies will become all fire. Thus, this fire will burn the bowels, the heart, the brain, the blood within the veins, and even the marrow within the bones. Each of the damned will be in himself a furnace of fire. Thou shalt make them as a furnace of fire.23
Some cannot bear to walk under a strong sun, or to remain in a close room before a large fire; they cannot endure a spark that flies from a candle; and still they fear not the devouring flames of hell. Which of you, says the Prophet Isaias, can dwell with devouring fire?24 As a wild beast devours a lamb, so the fire of hell devours the damned; but it devours them without ever causing death. “Fools,” says St., Peter Damian, addressing the unchaste, “continue, continue to indulge your flesh; a day will come when your impurities, like pitch, will nourish and increase within your bowels the flame which will torment you in hell.”25 St. Jerome says that this fire will bring with it all the pains and torments to which men are subject on this earth—pains in the sides, in the head, in the bowels, in the nerves. In this fire the damned will suffer even the pain of cold.26 Let him, says Job, pass from the snow waters to excessive heat.27 But we must always keep in mind, that all the torments of this earth are, as St. Chrysostom says, but the shadow of the pains of hell.
The powers of the soul will also have their proper torment. The damned will be tormented in the memory by the remembrance of the time which was given to them in this life, that they might save their souls, and which they spent in procuring their own damnation; by the remembrance of the graces which they have received from God, and of which they have not profited. They will be tormented in the understanding by thinking of the great good which they have lost in losing heaven and God, and that this loss is forever irreparable. In the will, by seeing that they will be refused whatsoever they ask. The desire of the wicked shall perish.28 The miserable beings will never have anything which they desire, and will be forever afflicted with the eternal torments which they abhor. They would wish to be rid of these torments, and to enjoy peace; but in these torments they will forever remain, and peace they will never find.
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my Jesus! Thy blood and Thy death are my hope. Thou hast died to deliver me from eternal death. Ah, Lord! who hast partaken more of Thy merits than I, who have so often deserved hell? Ah! do not allow me to live any longer ungrateful to the great graces Thou hast bestowed upon me. Thou hast delivered me from the fire of hell, because Thou wishest me to burn, not in that tormenting fire, but with the sweet flames of Thy love. Assist me, then, that I may satisfy Thy desire. Were I now in hell, I could never more love Thee. But since I am able to love Thee, I wish to love Thee. I love Thee, O infinite Goodness! I love Thee, O my Redeemer! who hast loved me so tenderly. How have I been able to live so long in forgetfulness of Thee? I thank Thee for not having been forgetful of me. Hadst Thou forgotten me, I should now either be in hell or without sorrow for my sins. This sorrow which I feel in my heart for having offended Thee, and my desire to love Thee ardently, are gifts of Thy grace, which still assist me. I thank Thee for them, O my Jesus! I hope for the future to give Thee the remainder of my life. I wish to think only of serving and pleasing Thee. Remind me always of the hell I have deserved, and of the graces Thou hast bestowed upon me, and do not permit me ever again to turn my back upon Thee, and to condemn myself to that pit of torments. O Mother of God! pray for me a sinner. Thy intercession has delivered me from hell. Deliver me also, O my Mother, by thy prayers, from sin, which alone can again condemn me to hell.
The Pain of Loss.
But all these torments are nothing, compared with the pain of loss. Hell does not consist in the darkness, stench, shrieks, and fire; the pain which constitutes hell is, the pain of having lost God. “Let torments,” says St. Bruno, “be added to torments, and let them not be deprived of God.”29 And St. John Chrysostom says that a thousand hells are not equal to this pain.30 According to St. Augustine, if the damned enjoyed the vision of God, “they should feel no pain, and hell should be converted into a paradise.”31 To conceive some notion of this pain, consider that, should a person lose a jewel worth a hundred crowns, the loss would occasion great pain, but were the jewel worth two hundred crowns, his pain is doubled; and if it were worth four hundred crowns, the pain is still greater. In a word, the pain which he suffers increases in proportion to the value of what he has lost. What have the damned lost? They have lost God, who is an infinite good. Hence St. Thomas says that the pain of the damned is, in a certain manner, infinite.32
This pain is dreaded only by the saints. St. Ignatius of Loyola used to say: Lord, I am willing to bear every pain, but not the pain of being deprived of Thee. But because they live in the midst of darkness, sinners who are content to live for months and years without God do not understand this pain. However, they will know at death the great good which they lose. At its departure from this world, the soul, as St. Antonine says, instantly sees that it has been created for God.33 Hence it will suddenly rush forward to embrace its Sovereign Good: but, if it be in sin, God will cast it off. If a dog sees a hare, what efforts does he not make to break his chains and seize his prey. At its separation from the body, the soul is naturally drawn to God, but sin drags it away and sends it to hell, at a distance from him. Your iniquities, says the Prophet Isaias, have divided between you and your God.34 The entire, then, of the hell of the damned consists in that first word of the sentence of their condemnation—Depart from Me, you cursed. Go, Jesus Christ shall say; I do not wish you ever again to see my face. When Absalom heard that David condemned him never more to appear before him, he said: Tell my father either to permit me to see his face, or to put me to death.2 Kings, xiv. 24. To one of his grandees, whom he saw guilty of irreverence in the church, Philip II. said: “Do not dare ever again to appear in my presence.” So great was the pain which the nobleman felt, that, after having returned home, he died of grief. What will be the anguish of the reprobate at the hour of death, when God will say to him: Begone; I will never see you again! I will hide my face from thee; . . . all evils and afflictions shall find them.35 On the day of judgment Jesus Christ will say to the reprobate: You are no longer mine; I am no longer yours. Call his name not, my people; for you are not my people, and I will not be yours.36
With what pain does a son at the death of a father, or a wife at the death of a husband, say: My father, my husband, I shall never see you again! Ah! if we now heard the wailing of one of the damned, and asked him why he weeps so bitterly, his answer would be: I weep because I have lost God, and shall never see him more. Perhaps the miserable man can love God in hell, and can resign himself to his will? No, if he could do this, hell would not be hell. The unhappy being can never resign himself to the divine will. Neither can he love his God; he hates and will hate him forever; and his hell will consist in the conviction that God is an infinite good, and that he is compelled to hate him, while he sees that he is worthy of infinite love. When St. Catharine asked a devil who he was, he said: “I am that wicked wretch that is deprived of the love of God.”37 The damned will hate and curse God; and in cursing God, they will also curse the benefits he has conferred upon them; they will curse the benefits of creation, of redemption, of the sacraments, particularly the sacraments of baptism and penance, and, above all, the most holy sacrament of the altar. They will hate all the angels and saints, but especially their angel-guardians and their holy advocates, and above all the divine Mother. But they will principally hate the Three Divine Persons, and among them they will hate in a special manner the Son of God, who once died for their salvation; they will curse his wounds, his blood, his pains, and his death.
Affections and Prayers.
Ah, my God! Thou then art my supreme and infinite Good and I have so often voluntarily lost Thee! I knew that in committing sin I gave Thee great displeasure, and that I lost Thy grace; and with this knowledge I have consented to sin! Ah! if I did not see Thee, O Son of God, nailed to the cross in order to die for me, I should not have courage to ask or hope for pardon from Thee. Eternal Father! look not on me, but behold Thy beloved Son, who asks mercy for me; hear him, and pardon me. I ought at this moment to be in hell, without any hope of being ever more able to love Thee, or to recover Thy lost grace. My God! I am sorry above all things for the injury I have done Thee in renouncing Thy friendship, and despising Thy love for the miserable pleasures of this world. Oh! that I had died a thousand times, rather than have offered Thee so great an insult! How could I have been so blind and foolish! I thank Thee, O my Lord! for giving me time to repair the evil I have done. Since, through Thy mercy, I am not in hell, and can love Thee, O my God! I wish to love Thee. I will wait no longer to convert myself entirely to Thee. I love Thee, O infinite goodness! I love Thee, my life, my treasure, my love, my all. Remind me always, O Lord! of the love which Thou hast borne to me, and of the hell which I have deserved, that this thought may continually excite me to make acts of love, and to say always, I love Thee, I love Thee, I love Thee. O Mary, my Queen, my hope and my Mother, if I were in hell, I could never more love thee. I love thee, O my Mother! and in thee, after Jesus, I trust that I shall never again cease to love my God and thee. Assist me; pray to Jesus for me.

1“Duo enim mala fecit populus meus: me dereliquerunt, fontem equæ vivæ; et foderunt sibi cisternas, cisternas dissipatas, quæ continere non valent aquas.” – Jer. ii. 13.
2“In hunc locum tormentorum.” – Luke, xvi. 28.
3“Per quæ peccat quis, per hæc et torquetur.” – Wis. xi. 17.
4“Terram tenebrosam, et opertam mortis caligine.” – Job, x. 21.
5“Usque in æternum non videbit lumen.” – Ps. xiviii. 20.
6“Vox Domini intercedentis flammam ignis.” – Ps. xxviii. 7.
7Dividet a calore splendorem.
8“Quibus procella tenebrarum servata est in æternum.” – Jud. 13.
9“Quantum sufficit ad videndum illa quæ torquere possunt.” – Suppl, q. 97, a. 4.
10“De cadaveribus eorum ascendet fœtor.” – Isa. xxxiv. 3.
11Ibi miserorum societas, miseriam non minuet, sed augebit.
12“Sicut oves in inferno positi sunt.” – Ps. xlviii. 15.
13“Et ipse calcat torcular vini furoris iræ Dei.” – Apoc. xix. 15.
14“Fiant immobiles quasi lapis.” – Exod. xv. 16.
15“Sonitus terroris semper in auribus illius.” – Job, xv. 21.
16“Famem patientur ut canes.” – Ps. lviii. 15.
17“Vindicta carnis impii, ignis et vermis.” – Ecclus. vii. 19.
18“Discedite a me, maledicti, in ignem æternum.” – Matt. xxv. 41.
19In cujus comparatione, noster hic ignis depictus est.
20“Longe alius est ignis qui usui humano, alius qui Dei justitiæ deservit.” – Apolog. c. 48.
21“Ignis succensus est in furore meo.” – Jer. xv. 14.
22“Si abluerit Dominus sordes . . . in spiritu ardoris.” – Isa. iv. 4.
23“Pones eos ut clibanum ignis.” – Ps. xx. 10.
24“Quis potent habitare de vobis cum igne devorante?” – Isa. xxxiii. 14.
25“Veniet dies, imo nox, quando libido tua vertetur in picem, qua se perpetuus ignis in tuis visceribus nutriat.” – De Cœlib. sac. c. 3.
26In uno igne omnia supplicia sentiunt in inferno peccatores.
27“Ad nimium calorem transeat ab aquis nivium.” – Job, xxiv. 19.
28“Desiderium peccatorum peribit.” – Ps. cxi. 10.
29“Addantur tormenta tormentis, ac Deo non priventur.” – Serm. de jud. fin.
30“Si mille dixeris gehennas. nihil par dies illius doloris.” – Ad pop Ant. hom. 48.
31“Nullam pœnam sentirent, continuo infernus converteretur in paradisum.” – De Tripl. Hab. c. 4.
32“Pœna damnati est infinita, quia est amissio boni infiniti.” – 1. 2. q. 87, a. 4.
33“Separata autem anima a corporis gravamine, intelligit Deum summum bonum et quia ad illum est creata.” – P. 4, t. 14, c. 5, § 10.
34“Iniquitates vestræ diviserunt inter vos et Deum vestrum.” – Isa. lix. 2.
35“Abscondam faciem meam ab eo, et invenient eum omnia mala.” – Deut. xxxi. 27.
36“Quia vos non populus meus. et ego non ero vester.” – Os. i. 9.
37Ego sum ille nequam privatus amore Dei.

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