Monday, 19 December 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 188.



Dante and Virgil approach the Central Well, at the bottom of which lies the Ninth and final Circle of Hell. The classical and biblical Giants—who perhaps symbolize pride and other spiritual flaws lying behind acts of treachery[94]—stand perpetual guard inside the well-pit, their legs embedded in the banks of the Ninth Circle while their upper halves rise above the rim and can be visible from the Malebolge.

For then shall be fulfilled this saying of Job: "The delight of the wicked shall be changed into worms" (Job xxiv. 20); which according to St. Gregory will happen, when the remembrance of their past pleasures shall be an increase of their present torments: when they shall call to mind the days they have seen, and those they now see; thus unhappily experiencing, at their own cost, that, for things of so short a continuance, they suffer miseries which shall never have an end. Then they will plainly see how the enemy has deceived them, and being now, though too late, sensible of their folly, they will begin to make use of these words in the book of Wisdom : " We fools have wandered out of the way of truth, and the light of justice has not shined upon us, and the sun of understanding has not rose upon us. We have wearied ourselves in the way of wickedness and destruction, we have walked through hard ways; but as for the way of the Lord we have not known it;" Wisd. v. 6, 7. These are to be the perpetual complaints of the damned, this their repentance, this their sorrow; but all to no purpose, for the time of improving is now past.

The due consideration of these things cannot but excite us to the love of virtue. And, therefore, St. Chrysostom often makes use of these arguments in his homilies, to exhort us to it In one of them he says, " That you may prepare your soul in time, to be the temple and abode of God, call to mind the dreadful day when we are to appear before the throne of Jesus Christ, to give an account to him of all our actions. Consider in what manner this Lord will come to judge the living and the dead. Consider how many thousands of angels will attend him. Imagine you already hear the sound of that frightful but irrevocable sentence, which Jesus Christ will pass against the world. Consider that, as soon as this sentence shall be given, some will be tumbled headlong into outward darkness; others, though they have taken a great deal of pains for the preserving of their virginity, shall have the gates of heaven shut out them; some shall be tied up like bundles of weeds, and flung into the fire; others again shall be delivered up as a prey, to the worm which will never die, and condemned to everlasting wailing and gnashing of teeth." We are all of us convinced of the truth of these things; why then do not we, whilst we have time, cry out with the prophet, "Who will give water to my head, and fountains of tears to my eyes, and I will weep day and night?" Jer ix. i. Let us, therefore, hasten and endeavor, before it is too late, to prevent the judgment by a confession of our sins: it is written: " Who shall confess to you, 0 Lord, in hell?" Ps. vi. 6.

Let us consider, further, that God has given us two eyes, two ears, two feet and two hands, that, if we should happen to lose the use of any one of these members, the other may still serve us. But he has given us but one soul, so that, if we lose that, we have no other left us to enjoy eternal glory. Let it, therefore, be our main concern to preserve it, for this soul must be one day saved or damned with the body for ever, and must appear before the tribunal of our great God, where, if you would excuse yourself, saying, you were dazzled with the false glittering of money, the judge will answer, that he forewarned you of this danger, when he said, "What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, if he loses his own soul?" Matt xiv. 26. Should you say, the devil seduced me, he will tell you, that Eve did not clear herself by saying, it was the serpent that deceived her; Gen. iii.

Look into the Scriptures, and consider the prophet Jeremiah's vision: first he saw a watching-rod, and then a great cauldron boiling over a hot fire, to signify how God dealt with men. First he threatens, and then, if that will not do, punishes them. Nor is it to be doubted, but that he who will not submit to the correction of the rod, shall be made to undergo the torture of the cauldron. Read but the Gospel, and you will see that nobody offered to intercede for those unhappy wretches whom our Saviour condemned. Brothers did not speak for their brothers, nor friends for their friends; the father did not stand up for his son, nor the son for his father. But what do I speak of these, who were sinful men, since neither Noe, Daniel or Job, notwithstanding all their virtue and piety, will be able to alter the sentence once given by the judge? Ezech. xxvi. See whether any one durst so much as open his mouth in favor of him, who was turned away from the wedding-dinner; Matt, xxii. 11, 12, 13, and xxv. 11, 12, 13. See whether any body ever spoke one word for that servant who would not trade with the talent his master intrusted him with. Which of all those five virgins, that could not get any admittance into heaven, ever found any one that undertook to plead her cause? Jesus Christ himself called them fools, for managing themselves so unwisely as, after having despised the delights of the flesh, and extinguished the fire of concupiscence, nay, after having observed the great precept of virginity, to neglect the commandment of humility, which seems to be much easier, and to take a pride in their chastity. Consider whether the rich man, who took no pity on Lazarus, could obtain one single drop of water, which he begged of the patriarch Abraham, as poor a comfort as it was, to mitigate those scorching flames that so tormented him; Luke xvi.