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Monday, 9 December 2013

Thoughts on Death in Advent Part Three

Advent is a penitential liturgical season, which is one reason the liturgical color is purple, not merely reminding all of us to get physically ready for Christ, but to get spiritually ready for His Coming, both for the particular and for the final judgments. The readings leading up to Advent revealed this emphasis and some during Advent do as well. The comfort of the coming of Christ, the beautiful passages on the Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, are balanced by those readings on repentance.

When meditating on death, one perceives layers of meaning.

The first step in thinking on death is thinking about death and what could lead up to it. Such things as illness and suffering have been set aside in some countries by euthanasia, which is sad and, of course, immoral, as suffering can be the last stages of purification before one sees God.

St. Francis of Assisi called death Sister Death in his famous prayer, The Canticle of the Sun, as death would bring him to God.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.

No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.

St. Alphonsus Ligouri sees a fast death as not a mercy, but a punishment. The great saint has many sermons on sin, the particular and final judgments. Pray for time and I pray for those, now in Belgium and the Netherlands, who are not allowed time, or who chose to shorten their time of suffering.

I have written before on this blog that some friends of mine have experienced a bit of their particular judgment already, seeing all the sins of their past lives and being given time to repent. Such graces could belong to all of us, if we ask for these.

Here is one of his thoughts:

Hence, according to St. Chrysostom, God is more to be feared when He bears with sinners, than when He instantly punishes their sin. And why? Because, says St. Gregory, they to whom God has shown most mercy shall, if they do not cease to offend Him, be chastised with the greatest rigor. The saint adds that God often punishes such sinners with a sudden death, and does not allow them time for repentance. And the greater the light which God gives to certain sinners for their correction, the greater is their blindness and obstinacy in sin. "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than, after they had known it, to turn back" – II Pet. 2:21. Miserable the sinners, who, after having been enlightened, return to the vomit. St. Paul says, that it is morally impossible for them to be again converted. "For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated-have tasted also the Heavenly gifts. . . and are fallen away, to be renewed again to penance" – Heb. 6:4