Monday, August 3, 2009

The Pains of Hell - Part Deux

Here is the promised sequel to yesterdays Pains of Hell by Saint Anthony Mary Claret.

A Hundred Kingdoms

"Ah!" you would say, "If you offered me a hundred kingdoms I would never be so foolish as to accept your brutal terms, regardless of how grand your offer might be, even if I were sure that God would preserve my life during those moments of suffering."

Second, I ask you: If you already had possession of a great kingdom and were swimming in a sea of wealth so that nothing was wanting to you, and then you were attacked by an enemy, were imprisoned and put in chains and obliged to either renounce your kingdom or else spend a half-hour in a hot furnace, what would you choose? "Ah!" you would say, "I would prefer to spend my whole life in extreme poverty and submit to any other hardship and misfortune, than suffer such a great torment!"

A Prison of Eternal Fire

Now turn your thoughts from the temporal to the eternal. To avoid the torment of a hot furnace, which would last but a half-hour, you would forgo all your property, even things you are most fond of; you would suffer any other temporal loss, however burdensome. Then why do you not think the same way when you are dealing of eternal torments? God threatens you not just with a half-hour in a furnace, but with a prison of eternal fire. To escape it, should you not forgo whatever He has forbidden, no matter how pleasant it can be for you, and gladly embrace whatever He commands, even if it be extremely unpleasant?

A most terrible thing about Hell is its duration. The condemned person loses God and loses Him for all eternity. Now, what is eternity? O my soul, up to now there has not been any angel who has been able to comprehend what eternity is. So how can you comprehend it? Yet, to form some idea of it, consider the following truths:

Eternity never ends. This is the truth that has made even the great saints tremble. The final judgment will come, the world will be destroyed, the earth will swallow up those who are damned, and they will be cast into Hell. Then, with His almighty hand, God will shut them up in that most unhappy prison.

From then on, as many years will pass as there are leaves on the trees and plants on all the earth, as many thousands of years as there are drops of water in all seas and rivers, as many thousands of years as there are atoms in the air, as there are grains of sand on all the shores of all seas. Then, after the passage of this countless number of years, what will eternity be? Up to then there will not even have been a hundredth part of it, nor a thousandth – nothing. It then begins again and will last as long again, even after this has been repeated a thousand times, and a thousand million times again. And then, after so long a period, not even a half will have passed, not even a hundredth part nor a thousandth, not even any part of eternity. For all this time there is no interruption in the burnings of those who are damned, and it begins all over again.

Oh, a deep mystery indeed! A terror above all terrors! O eternity! Who can comprehend thee?

The Tears of Cain

Suppose that, in the case of unhappy Cain, weeping in Hell, he shed in every thousand years just one tear. Now, O my soul, recollect your thoughts and suppose this case: For six thousand years at least Cain has been in Hell and shed only six tears, which God miraculously preserves. How many years would pass for his tears to fill all the valleys of the earth and flood all the cities and towns and villages and cover all the mountains so as to flood the whole earth? We understand the distance from the earth to the sun is thirty-four million leagues. How many years would be necessary for Cain's tears to fill that immense space? From the earth to the firmament is, let us suppose, a distance of a hundred and sixty million leagues.

O God! What number of years might one imagine to be sufficient to fill with these tears this immense space? And yet – O truth so incomprehensible – be sure of it, as that God cannot lie – a time will arrive in which these tears of Cain would be sufficient to flood the world, to reach even the sun, to touch the firmament, and fill all the space between earth and the highest heaven. But that is not all.

If God dried up all these tears to the last drop and Cain began again to weep, he would again fill the same entire space with them and fill it a thousands times and a million times in succession, and after all those countless years, not even half of eternity would have passed, not even a fraction. After all that time burning in Hell, Cain's sufferings will be just beginning.

This eternity is also without relief. It would indeed be a small consolation and of little benefit for the condemned persons to be able to receive a brief respite once every thousand years.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ahh fire and brimstone! *flees to the arms of my patron saint St. Francis to play with a wolves and lepers and be understanding and bring light to dark and all that.*

Whew anyway. He kinda lost me there with the tear drama...but if I understood him correctly, I think I liked his point about how one would choose to be poor etc. than burn in hell...thus people should be okay with their lot in life and doing without the things that tempt them, instead of whining and giving in. And then...going to hell. I think.

- L