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

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Spiritual Reading


The judgment sat and the books were opened. (Dan. vii., 10). The books of conscience are opened, and the Judgment commences. The Apostle says, that the Lord will bring to light the hidden things of darkness. (1 Cor. iv., 5). And, by the mouth of His Prophet, Jesus Christ has said: I will search Jerusalem with lamps. (Soph. i., 12). The light of the lamp reveals all that is hidden.

“A judgment,” says St. Chrysostom, “terrible to sinners, but desirable and sweet to the just.” The Last Judgment will fill sinners with terror, but will be a source of joy and sweetness to the elect; for God will then give praise to each one according to his works. The Apostle tells us that on that day the just will be raised above the clouds to be united to the Angels, and to increase the number of those who pay homage to the Lord. We shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air. (1 Thess. iv., 16).

Worldlings now regard as fools the Saints who led mortified and humble lives; but then they shall confess their own folly, and say: We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints. (Wis. v., 4). In this world, the rich and the noble are called happy; but true happiness consists in a life of sanctity. Rejoice, ye souls who live in tribulation; your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (Jo. xvi., 20). In the valley of Josaphat you shall be seated on thrones of glory.

But the reprobate, like goats destined for the slaughter, shall be placed on the left to await their last condemnation. On the Day of Judgment there is no hope of mercy for poor sinners. The greatest punishment of sin for those who live in enmity with God is to lose the fear and remembrance of the divine judgment. Continue, continue, says the Apostle, to live obstinately in sin; but in proportion to your obstinacy, you shall have accumulated for the Day of Judgment a treasure of the wrath of God. But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath. (Rom. ii., 5).

Then sinners will not be able to hide themselves; but, with insufferable pain, they will be compelled to appear in judgment. “To lie hid,” says St. Anselm, “will be impossible — to appear will be intolerable.” The devils will perform their office as accusers, and, as St. Augustine says, will say to the Judge: Most just God, declare him to be ours, who was unwilling to be yours. The witnesses against the wicked shall be: first, their own conscience — Their conscience bearing witness to them (Ib. ii., 15); secondly, the very walls of the house in which they sinned shall cry out against them — The stone shall cry out of the wall (Hab. ii., 11); thirdly, the Judge Himself will say — I am the judge and the witness (Jer. xxix., 23). Hence, according to Saint Augustine, “He who is now the witness of your life shall be the judge of your cause.” To Christians particularly He will say: Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida; for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. (Matt. xi., 21). Christians, He will say, if the graces which I have bestowed on you had been given to the Turks or to the Pagans, they would have done penance for their sins; but you have ceased to sin only with your death. He shall then manifest to all men their most hidden crimes. I will discover thy shame to thy face. (Nah. iii., 5). He shall expose to view all their secret impurities, injustices and cruelties. I will set all thy abominations against thee. (Ezech. vii., 3). Each of the damned shall carry his sins written on his forehead.

What excuses can save the wicked on that day? Ah! they can offer no excuses. All iniquity shall stop her mouth. (Ps. cvi., 42). Their very sins will close the mouth of the reprobate, so that they will not have courage to excuse themselves. They shall pronounce their own condemnation.

The Sentence of the Judge

Jesus Christ, then, will first turn to the Elect, and with a serene countenance will say: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matt. xxv., 34). He will then bless all the tears shed through sorrow for their sins, and all their good works, their prayers, mortifications, and communions; above all, He will bless for them the pains of His Passion and the Blood shed for their salvation. And, after these benedictions, the Elect, singing Alleluias, shall enter Paradise to praise and love God for all eternity.

The Judge shall then turn to the reprobate, and pronounce their condemnation in these words: Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. (Ib. 41). They shall then be forever accursed, separated from God, and sent to burn for ever in the fire of hell. And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just into life everlasting. (Ib. 46).

After this Sentence, the wicked shall, according to St. Ephrem, be compelled to take leave for ever of their relatives, of Paradise, of the Saints, and of Mary the divine Mother. “Farewell, ye just! Farewell, O Cross! Farewell, O Paradise! Farewell, fathers and brothers: we shall never see you again! Farewell, O Mary, Mother of God!” Then a great pit shall open in the middle of the valley: the unhappy damned shall be cast into it, and shall see those gates shut which shall never again be opened. O accursed sin! to what a miserable end will you one day conduct so many souls redeemed by the Blood of Jesus Christ. O unhappy souls! for whom is prepared such a melancholy end. But let us have confidence, for Jesus Christ is now a Father, and not a Judge. He is ready to pardon all who repent. For us men and for our salvation, He came down from Heaven and was made man.

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