Every Moment we approach Death

4last.jpg (224113 bytes)
The Four Last Things and the Seven Deadly Sins - by BOSCH, Hieronymus - from Museo del Prado, Madrid . . . . . . .
The circular layout with God in the centre represents God's all seeing eye: No sin goes unnoticed. In the corners
of the image appear the "Four Last Things" (the last four stages of life): Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.

 

The active study of the four last things
and the deep consideration of them,
is the thing that will keep you from sin.

--Saint Thomas More

 

 Every Moment we approach Death


by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

It is appointed. It is certain, then, that we are all condemned to death. We are born, says Saint Cyprian, with the halter round our neck; every step we take brings us nearer to death. My brother, as your name has been one day entered in the Register of Baptisms, so it will be one day entered in the Register of Deaths. As in speaking of your ancestors you say: "God be merciful to my father, to my uncle, to my brother", so others shall say the same of you. As you have heard the death-bell toll for many, so others shall hear it toll for you.

But what would you say if you saw a man on his way to the place of execution jesting, laughing, looking about in every direction, and thinking only of comedies, festivities, and amusements? And are not you on your way to death? What is the object of your thoughts? Behold in that grave your friends and relatives, on whom justice has already been executed. How great is the terror and dismay of a man condemned to die, when he beholds his companions suspended on the gallows! Look then at these dead bodies. Each of them says to you: Yesterday for me; today for thee. The same is said to you by the portraits of your deceased relatives, by the memoranda-books, the houses, the beds, the garments, which they have left.

To know that you must die, that after death you will enjoy eternal glory or suffer eternal torments, that on death depends your eternal happiness or eternal misery, and, with all this before your eyes, not to think of settling your accounts, and of adopting every means of securing a happy death, is surely the extreme of folly. We pity those who meet with a sudden and unprovided death; why then do we not endeavor to be always prepared? We too may die suddenly and without preparation. But, sooner or later, with or without warning, whether we think or do not think of it, we shall die; and every hour, every moment, brings us nearer to our end, which shall be the last illness that will send us out of the world.

At every age, the houses, the streets, the cities are filled with new people; the former inhabitants are borne to the grave, their last resting place. As the days of life have ended for them so a time will come when neither I nor you, nor any one alive, will live any longer on this earth. Days shall be formed and no-one in them. We shall all then be in eternity, which shall be for us either an eternal day of delights, or an eternal night of torments. There is no middle way; it is certain and an article of faith, that either one lot or the other will be ours.

 

Prayer

My beloved Redeemer! I would not dare to appear before Thee, did I not see Thee hanging on the Cross, lacerated, despised, and lifeless, for the love of me. My ingratitude has been great; but Thy mercy is still greater. My sins have been very grievous; but Thy merits exceed their enormity. Thy wounds, Thy blood, and Thy death are my hope. I deserved hell by my first sin: to that sin I have added so many other offences. And Thou hast not only preserved my life, but Thou hast also invited me to pardon, and hast offered me peace with so much mercy and so much love. How can I fear that Thou wilt drive me away, now that I love Thee and desire nothing but Thy grace? Yes, my dear Lord, I love Thee with my whole heart, and I desire only to love Thee. I love Thee, and I am sorry for having despised Thee, not so much because I have deserved hell, as because I have offended Thee, my God, Who hast loved me so tenderly.

O my Jesus, open to me the bosom of Thy goodness; add mercies to mercies. Grant that I may be no longer ungrateful to Thee: change my whole heart. Grant that my heart, which has once despised Thy love, and has exchanged it for the miserable delights of this earth, may now be entirely Thine, and may burn with continual flames for Thee. I hope to gain Paradise, that I may always love Thee. I cannot enjoy in that kingdom a place among the innocent - I must remain among the penitents; but though among these, I wish to love Thee more than the innocent. For the glory of Thy mercy, make all Heaven behold so great a sinner inflamed with an ardent love. I resolve henceforth to be all Thine, and to think only of loving Thee. Assist me with Thy light and with Thy grace to execute this desire, which Thou in Thy goodness hast inspired.

O Mary! thou who art the Mother of Perseverance, obtain for me the grace to be faithful to this my promise.

 

Amen