Spiritual Reading for the First Sunday of Advent ~ St Alphonsus Liguori

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St. Jerome spent his days in the Cave of Bethlehem in prayer and penance, and trembled at the thought of Jesus coming at the Last Day to judge the world.

At present God is not known and, therefore He is as much despised by sinners as if He could not avenge, whenever He pleases, the injuries offered to Him. The wicked looketh upon the Almighty as if he could do nothing. (Job, xxii., 17). But the Lord has fixed a day, called in the Scriptures, the day of the Lord, Dies Domini, on which the Eternal Judge will make known His power and majesty. The Lord, says the Psalmist, shall be known when he exerciseth judgment. (Ps. ix., 17). On this text St. Bernard writes: “The Lord, Who is now unknown while He seeks mercy, shall be known when He executes justice.” The Prophet Sophonias calls the Day of the Lord a day of wrath — a day of tribulation and distress, a day of calamity and misery. (Soph. i., 15).

This day shall commence with fire from the heavens which will burn the earth, all men then living, and all things upon the earth. And the earth and the works which are in it shall be burnt up. (2 Pet. iii., 10). All shall become one heap of ashes.

After the death of all men, the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again. (1 Cor. xv., 52). St. Jerome used to say: “As often as I consider the Day of Judgment, I tremble. Whether I eat or drink, or whatever else I do, that terrible trumpet appears to sound in my ears, ‘Arise ye dead, and come to judgment'”; and St. Augustine declared, that nothing banished earthly thoughts from him so effectually as the fear of the Judgment.

At the sound of that trumpet the souls of the Blessed shall descend from Heaven to be united to the bodies with which they served God on earth; and the unhappy souls of the damned shall come up from hell to take possession again of those same bodies with which they offended God. Oh! how different the appearance of the former, compared with that of the latter! The damned will appear deformed and black, like so many firebrands of hell; but the just shall shine as the sun. (Matt. xiii., 43). Oh! how great will then be the happiness of those who have mortified their bodies by works of penance! We may estimate their felicity from the words addressed by St. Peter of Alcantara, after death, to St. Teresa: “O happy penance! which merited for me such glory!”

After the Resurrection they shall be summoned by the Angels to appear in the Valley of Josaphat. Nations, nations in the valley of destruction, for the day of the Lord is near. (Joel, iii.,14). Then the Angels shall come and separate the reprobate from the Elect, placing the latter on the right, and the former on the left. The Angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from among the just. (Matt. xiii. 40). Oh! how great will then be the confusion which the unhappy damned shall suffer! This punishment alone, says St. Chrysostom, would be sufficient to constitute a hell for the wicked. Brother shall be separated from brother, husband from wife, son from father.

But, behold! the heavens are opened — the Angels come to assist at the General Judgment, carrying, as St. Thomas says, the Standard of the Cross and the other instruments of the Passion of the Redeemer. The same may be inferred from the Twenty-fourth Chapter of St. Matthew: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn. (xxiv. 30). Sinners shall weep at the sight of the Cross; for, as St. Chrysostom says, the nails will complain of them — the Wounds and the Cross of Jesus Christ will speak against them.

Most holy Mary, the Queen of Saints and Angels, shall come to assist at the Last Judgment; and lastly, the Eternal Judge shall appear in the clouds, full of splendour and majesty. And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty. (Ib). Oh, how great shall be the agony of the reprobate at the sight of the Judge! At their presence, says the Prophet Joel, the people shall be in grievous pains. (Joel, ii). According to St. Jerome the presence of Jesus Christ will give the reprobate more pain than hell itself. “It would,” he says, “be easier for the damned to bear the torments of hell than the presence of the Lord.” Hence on that day, the wicked shall, according to St. John, call on the mountains to fall on them and to hide them from the sight of the Judge. And they shall say to the mountains and the rocks: Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. (Apoc. vi., 16).

*The Spiritual Reading should, if possible, be read at some quiet, convenient time on the particular day for which it has been selected.

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