Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks so much. JL
January 26, May 27, September 26
Chapter 7: On Humility
The first degree of humility, then,
is that a person keep the fear of God before his eyes
and beware of ever forgetting it.
Let him be ever mindful of all that God has commanded;
let his thoughts constantly recur
to the hell-fire which will burn for their sins
those who despise God,
and to the life everlasting which is prepared
for those who fear Him.
Let him keep himself at every moment from sins and vices,
whether of the mind, the tongue, the hands, the feet,
or the self-will,
and check also the desires of the flesh.
Not just the ascent to humility, but every aspect of the spiritual
journey may be improved by meditating on the ends to which our
actions will lead us. How many times does a parent tell a child who
is discouraged and about to quit that the child must think of the
reward (bike, whatever,) at the end of the efforts. "How nice it will
be to have that!" Precisely! It is not just children whose flagging
spirits can be bolstered by recalling the achievement to come!
A great deal of the monastic struggle is just plain distastefully
hard and unpleasant.. Fail to lighten the load a bit by recalling the
joys to come and you heighten the chances of failure. Heaven is real
or our lives mean nothing at all. Trust it's reality, think about
that reality, remind yourself of the wonders at hand.
I write the following as one who has come as close as
possible to believing that absolutely everyone is in heaven as the
limits of Roman Catholic orthodoxy allow. We must believe hell
exists. It is real, it may be empty and we must (out of charity,)
hope to find it so, but hey, we COULD be wrong. Wouldn't be very
nice, but it is just slightly possible that the spheres and wheels of
eternal reward do not spin on the axis of our opinion! Nothing says
things have to be the way we personally think they will be. Nor do
the many visions of hell seen by saints seem to bear out this hope.
They saw people there, alas.
Hell is as real as heaven. Choices as real as those which lead to
heaven can lead to hell. No one can WIN their own salvation, that has
been done once for all by Christ, but anyone at all can LOSE their
salvation. Choose something really dumb which would lead to hell and
it is not a wise practice to assume one will have leisure to repent.
Maybe. Maybe not. A well-timed 18-wheeler truck may just have your
name on its front fender before lunch today. We never know.
[But even in the event of that 18-wheeler, we never know what happens between
God and the soul in the last moments, when we can no longer perceive any
activity or change. Pray and fondly hope that all may be saved in the
mystery of that hidden time!]
I'll bet all of us have done things we would NOT want to do within
seconds of death and facing God. That's what these meditations on
hell and heaven are about. They point out forcefully to us that we
ought not to do things that would put us in that sort of bind.
It's not at all about figuring out whether or not hell exists, it does.
The issue is not who is or isn't frying therein, we have no way of
knowing. All those ideas are railroad sidings which lead to nowhere.
Don't park your train in a dead end. It's a waste of precious time.
Think on heaven and think on hell. If either one (and it's usually
hell,) makes you crazy, balance your thinking. One of the surest
signs of the devil's hands in the mud of our thoughts is loss of
serenity.. Truly divine things, even when unspeakably hard, do not
produce the same haunting, panicky feeling that Satan can bring out
of even the tiniest things. Another key is discouragement. If your
obsessed focus is discouraging, that's bad news.
It is, however, crucially important to think on our ends. Don't freak out
on the road to heaven, because Jesus said: "I am the Way." As such,
all the road to heaven is heaven (as St. Catherine of Siena said,)
even when it seems otherwise, because Jesus IS that Way. On the
other hand, rightly and wisely freak out like crazy on any path of action that
leads away from heaven, away from Christ. That is a scary road, indeed!
Love and prayers,
St. Mary's Monastery