Morning Meditations for Thursday after Ash Wednesday ~ St Alphonsus Liguori

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Morning Meditation

THE TERRORS OF THE DYING MAN AT THE THOUGHT OF THE APPROACHING JUDGMENT

How shall a dying man who has spent his life in sin, be able in the midst of the pains, the stupefaction, and the confusion of death, to repent sincerely of all his past iniquities? O God, what terrors and confusion will seize upon the unhappy Christian who has led a careless life, when he shall find himself overwhelmed with sins and the fear of Judgment, of Hell and Eternity And how should he not tremble who has offended God by many mortal sins and has done no penance for them!

I.

Consider the fear which the thought of Judgment will cause in the mind of a dying man, when he reflects that in a very short time he must present himself before Jesus Christ, his Judge, to render an account of all the actions of his past life. When the awful moment of his passage out of this world into another, out of time into eternity, arrives, then will there be nothing so tormenting to him as the sight of his sins. St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, being ill, and thinking of Judgment, trembled. Her confessor told her not to fear. “Ah, Father,” she replied, “it is an awful thing to appear before Jesus Christ as our Judge!” Such were the feelings of this holy virgin who was a Saint from her infancy. What will he say who has frequently deserved hell?

The Abbot Agatha after many years of penance trembled, saying, “What will become of me when I shall be judged?” And how should he not tremble who has offended God by many mortal sins, and yet has done no penance for them! At death, the sight of his crimes, the rigour of the Divine judgments, the uncertainty of the sentence to be pronounced upon him–what a tempest of horror and confusion will these raise around him! Let us be careful to throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus Christ, and secure our pardon before the arrival of our accounting day.

Ah, my Jesus and my Redeemer, Who wilt one day be my Judge, have pity on me before the day of justice. Behold at Thy feet a deserter who has often promised to be faithful to Thee, and has as often again turned his back upon Thee. No, my God, Thou hast not deserved the treatment Thou hast hitherto received at my hands. Forgive me, O Lord, for I desire truly to change and amend my life. I am sorry, my Sovereign Good, for having despised Thee: take pity on me.

II.

Then will be decided the great affair of our eternal salvation. Upon this decision will depend our being either saved for ever, or lost for ever, our being happy or miserable for all eternity. But, O God, each one knows this, and says, “Yes, so it is.” But since it is so, why do we not leave all to attend only to our sanctification, and to the securing of our eternal salvation?

My God, I give Thee thanks for the light which Thou hast given me. Remember, O Jesus, that Thou didst die for my salvation; grant that when I first behold Thee I may see Thee appeased. If hitherto I have despised Thy grace, I now esteem it above every other good. I love Thee, O Infinite Goodness, and because I love Thee I am sorry for having offended Thee. Hitherto I have forsaken Thee, but now I desire Thee and seek Thee; grant that I may find Thee, O God of my soul! Mary, my Mother, recommend me to thy Son, Jesus.

Spiritual Reading

MORTIFICATION: ITS NECESSITY AND ADVANTAGES

Let us consider each act of self-denial as a work that will prepare us for Paradise. This thought will sweeten all our pains and all our toils. How pleasing is the fatigue of a journey to him who is assured that he shall obtain possession of all the territory through which he travels! It is related in the Lives of the Fathers of the Desert, that a certain monk was anxious to exchange his cell for another nearer to the fountain from which he was accustomed to draw water, but as he was one day going to the fountain he heard his steps counted by a person behind him. Turning round, he saw a young man who said: “I am an Angel: I count your steps that none of them may be without a reward.” The monk immediately abandoned the intention of changing his cell; and even wished it to be more distant from the water, that he might be able to acquire greater merit.

Mortified Christians enjoy peace and content in this life, as well as in the next. What greater happiness can a soul possess than to know that by her mortifications she pleases God. The very privation of earthly pleasures, and even the pains of penance, are so many spiritual delights to a loving soul. Love cannot be at rest. He that loves God cannot live without giving continual proofs of his affection. Now, a soul cannot give a stronger proof of its love for God than the voluntary renunciation of earthly pleasures for His sake, and the oblation of its pains to Him. A Christian enamoured of Jesus Christ feels no pain in his penitential works. “He that loves God,” says St. Augustine, “labours not.” “Who,” says St. Teresa, “can behold his God covered with wounds and harassed by persecutions, without embracing and even desiring a portion of his Saviour’s sufferings?” Hence St. Paul exclaimed that he wished for no other delight or glory than the Cross of the Redeemer. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Gal. vi. 14). Again he says that the crucifixion of the flesh is the test by which the true lovers of Jesus Christ may be known. They that are Christ’s have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences. (Gal. v. 24). Worldlings go in search of sensual gratifications, but the followers of Christ seek only corporal austerities.

In conclusion, imagine that death is at hand, and that as yet you have done but little for Paradise. Strive from this day forward to mortify yourself as much as possible, at least by abstinence from the pleasures that self-love seeks. Endeavour to profit by every opportunity of mortification. Let not the part of a good gift overpass thee. (Ecclus. xiv. 14). Consider every occasion of self-denial as a gift which God bestows upon you, that you may be able to merit greater glory in another life; and remember that what can be done today may not be possible tomorrow, and time that is past never returns.

To animate your fervour in the practice of mortification, I shall here place before your eyes, in his own words, what St. John Climacus saw in a monastery called the Prison of Penitents. “I saw,” says the Saint, “some of them standing the whole night in the open air, to overcome sleep. I saw others with their eyes fixed on Heaven, and with tears, begging mercy from God. Others stood with their hands bound behind their shoulders, and their heads bowed down, as if they were unworthy to raise their eyes to Heaven. Others remained on ashes, with their heads between their knees, and beat the ground with their foreheads. Others deluged the floor with their tears. Others stood in the burning rays of the sun. Others, parched with thirst, were content with taking a few drops of water to prevent death. Others took a mouthful of bread, and then threw it out, saying that they who have lived like animals are unworthy of the food of men. Some had their cheeks furrowed by continual streams of tears; and others had their eyes sunken. Others struck their breast with such violence, that they began to spit blood. And I saw all with faces so pallid and emaciated, that they appeared to be so many corpses.” The Saint then concludes by saying that notwithstanding their fall, he considered them, on account of their penitential rigours, more happy than those who had never sinned and never done penance. What shall be said of those who have fallen and have never atoned for their crimes by expiatory works?

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