Monday, 5 December 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 183.



§ II. If the circumstances which go before death are so frightful, what must those be which follow it? Death has no sooner closed the sick man's eyes, than he is brought before the judgment seat of Almighty God, to render his accounts to him, who will avenge himself with severity and terror for the crimes which have been committed against him. For the understanding of this, you are not to inquire of the men of the world, who, living in Egypt, that is, in darkness and ignorance, are always exposed to mistakes and errors. Ask the saints, who dwell in the land of Jessen, where the light of this truth shines always in its full vigor. They will tell you, not only by their words, but by their actions, how terrible this account will be.

For David, though so holy a man, was so prepossessed with this fear, and with the just apprehensions of the account he was to give, that he begged of God, saying, " Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight no man living shall be justified;" Ps. cxlii. 2. Arsenius was a great saint, who had lived a very virtuous and rigid life for several years in the desert; and yet, finding that he had but a very little time to live, was seized with such apprehensions of this judgment, that his disciples, who were all gathered together about him, perceiving it, asked him this question : " Father, are you afraid now ?" To which the holy man made answer: " This is no new fear, which you observed in me, my children; it is what I have been sensible of all my lifetime." They write that St. Agatho, when he was near his death, was seized with the same apprehensions, and, being asked what he could be afraid of, who had lived so virtuously, said, "Because the judgments of God are quite different from those of men." St. John Climachus gives us another no less dreadful example of a holy monk, which, being very remarkable, I will here relate it in the saint's own words. " There was a certain religious man," says he, " called Stephen, that lived in this place, after having spent a great many years in a monastery, where he was in much repute, on account of his tears and fasting, and where he had enriched his soul with several other excellent virtues ; but having an extreme desire to lead a solitary and retired life, he built himself a cell at the bottom of mount Horeb, where the prophet Elias had the honor to see God. This man, notwithstanding his great austerity and rigor, thinking that what he did was not enough, but aspiring to a more rigid and severe way of living, went to another place called Siden, where some holy anchorets lived. Here he continued for some years in the severest and strictest life imaginable, destitute of all human comfort and conversation, having seated his hermitage about three score and ten miles from any town. But the good old man, towards the end of his life, came back again to his first cell, at the foot of mount Horeb, having there with him two disciples that were natives of Palestine, who had retired thither not long before he came back. Within a few days after his return, he fell into his last sickness. The day before he died, being in a kind of ecstasy, but with his eyes open, and gazing first on one side of his bed, and then on the other, just as if he saw persons there, who made him give an account of his life, he answered so loud that every person could hear him, sometimes saying,  Yes, I confess it: that is true; but I have fasted so many years in atonement for the sin. Sometimes he was heard to say,  That is false; you wrong me; I never did any such thing.' Immediately after,  As to that, I acknowledge it. You are in the right, but I have bewailed the same, and have done penance for it, by serving my neighbor upon such and such occasions.' Then again he cried out, 'That is not true; you are all impostors.' But to other accusations, he answered, 'It is true, and I have nothing to say to that point, but that our God is a God of mercy.' Certainly this invisible judgment, being so severe, could not but be terrible and frightful. And what ought to make it more dreadful, they laid such crimes to his charge as he had never been guilty of. O my God! if a hermit, after about forty years spent in religious and solitary life, after having obtained the gift of tears, declared that he had nothing to say for himself, as to some sins that are brought against him, what will become of such a miserable and unhappy wretch as I am ? Nay, what is yet more, I have been credibly informed by several, that, whilst he lived in the desert, he used to feed a leopard with his own hands. He died as he was giving this account of himself, leaving us in an entire uncertainty of the end of this judgment, and of the sentence that was passed on him." Thus far St. John Climachus. By this, we may plainly see, what apprehensions a man that has lived idly and carelessly must be in, when he comes to die, since such great saints as these have been so hard put to it at- that moment.