In What True Wisdom Consists

presentation4.jpg (114022 bytes)
Presentation in the Temple - by Gerbrand van den EECKHOUT - from the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest . . .

 

"Behold this Child is set for the Fall, and for the Resurrection
of many in Israel" - Luke 2:34.

 

In What True Wisdom Consists

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

angelbar.gif (3645 bytes)

Such was the Language of Holy Simeon, when he had the Consolation to hold in his hands, the Infant Jesus. Among other things which he then Foretold, he declared that "this Child was set for the Fall and the Resurrection of many in Israel". In these Words, he Extols the Lot-of the Saints, who, after this Life, shall Rise to the Life of Immortality in the Kingdom of Bliss; he deplores the Misfortune of Sinners, who, for the Transitory and Miserable Pleasures of this World, bring upon themselves Eternal (∞) Ruin and Perdition. But, notwithstanding the Greatness of his own Misery, the Unhappy Sinner, reflecting only on the Enjoyment-of Present Goods, calls the Saints Fools, because they seek to Live in Poverty, in Humiliation, and in Self-Denial. But, a Day will come, when the Sinners shall see their Errors, and they shall say: "We Fools esteemed their Life, Madness, and their End, without Honor" - Wisdom 5:4. We Fools: behold how they shall Confess that they themselves have been Truly Fools. Let us examine, in what True Wisdom consists, and we shall see, in the First Point, that Sinners are Truly Foolish, and in the Second, that the Saints are Truly Wise.

 

First Point
Sinners are Truly Foolish

What Greater Folly can be conceived, than to have the Power-of being Friends-of God, and to-Wish to be His Enemies? Their Living-in Enmity with God, makes the Life-of Sinners, Unhappy in this World, and purchases-for them an Eternity (∞) of Misery, hereafter. Saint Augustine relates that Two (2) Courtiers of the Emperor, entered a Monastery of Hermits, and that One (1) of them began to read the Life-of Saint Anthony. "He Read", says the Saint, "and his Heart was Divested of the World". He Read, and in Reading, his Affections were detached-from the Earth. Turning to his Companion, he exclaimed: "What do we Seek? The Friendship of the Emperor is the Most we can Hope for. And through how many Perils, shall we arrive at still Greater Danger? Should we obtain his Friendship, how Long shall it Last?". Friend, said he, Fools that we are, what do we seek? Can we expect more in this Life, by Serving the Emperor, than to Gain his Friendship? And should we, after so many Dangers, Succeed in making him our Friend, we shall Expose ourselves to Greater Danger of Eternal (∞) Perdition. What Difficulties must we Encounter, in-order-to become the Friends of Caesar. "But, if I wish, I can in a Moment, become the Friend of God". I can acquire His Friendship by endeavoring-to recover His Grace. His Divine Grace is that Infinite (∞) Treasure, which makes us Worthy of His Friendship. "For She is an Infinite Treasure to Men; which they that use, become the Friends of God" - Wisdom 7:14.

The Gentiles believed it Impossible-for a Creature to become the Friend-of God; for, as Saint Jerome says, Friendship makes Friends 'Equal'. "Amicitia pares accipit, aut pares facit". But Jesus Christ has declared, that if we observe His Commands, we shall be His Friends. "You are My Friends, if you do the things that I Command you" - John 15:14.

How Great then is the Folly of Sinners , who, though they have it in their Power to Enjoy the Friendship of God, Wish to Live-in Enmity with Him. The Lord does not Hate any of His Creatures: He does not Hate the Tiger, the Viper, or the Toad. "For Thou Lovest all things that are, and Hatest none of the things which Thou hast Made" - Wisdom 11:25. But, He necessarily Hates Sinners. "Thou Hatest all the Workers of Iniquity" - Psalm 5:7. God cannot but Hate Sin, which is His Enemy and Diametrically Opposed-to His Will; and therefore, in Hating Sin, He necessarily Hates the Sinner who is United-with his Sin. "But to God, the Wicked and his Wickedness, are Hateful alike".

The Sinner is Guilty of Folly in leading a Life, Opposed-to the End for which he was Created. God has not Created us, nor does He Preserve our Lives, that we may Labor-to acquire Riches or Earthly Honors, or that we may Indulge-in Amusements; but that we may Love and Serve Him in this World, in-order-to Love and Enjoy Him for Eternity (∞), in the Next. "And the End, Life Everlasting" - Romans 6:22. Thus the Present Life, as Saint Gregory says, is the Way by which we must reach Paradise, our True Country. "In the Present Life we are, as it were, on the Road, by which we Journey to our Country" - Homily.

But the Misfortune of the Greater Part-of Mankind is, that, instead of following the Way of Salvation, they Foolishly walk-in the Road to Perdition:

Some have a Passion for Earthly Riches, and, for a Vile Interest, they Lose the Immense Goods of Paradise;

Others have a Passion for Honors and for a Momentary Applause, they Lose their Right to be Kings in Heaven;

Others have a Passion for Sensual Pleasures, and, for Transitory Delights, they Lose the Grace of God, and are Condemned to Burn Forever (∞), in a Prison of Fire.

Miserable Souls! if, in Punishment of a certain Sin, their Hand was to be Burned with a Red-Hot-Iron, or if they were to be Shut-up for Ten (10) Years in a Dark Prison, they certainly would Abstain-from it. And do they not Know that, in Chastisement of their Sins, they shall be Condemned to remain Forever (∞) in Hell, where their Bodies, Buried in Fire, shall Burn for all Eternity (∞)? Some, says Saint Chrysostom, to Save the Body, choose to Destroy the Soul; but, do they not Know that in Losing the Soul, their Bodies shall be Condemned to Eternal (∞) Torments? "If we Neglect the Soul, we cannot Save the Body".

Human Being/Person
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)

Natural
Order

Supernatural
Order

Natural Body/
Sensual Appetite/
Sex Drive
(Subordinate-Partner)

Natural Soul/
Rational Appetite/
Reason
(Dominant Partner)

Sanctifying Grace/
Infused Virtues and Gifts of the
Holy Spirit

 

In a Word, Sinners Lose their Reason, and Imitate Brute Animals, that follow the Instincts-of Nature, and seek Carnal Pleasures, without ever Reflecting-on their Lawfulness or Unlawfulness. But, to Act in this Manner is, according to Saint Chrysostom, to Act not like a Man, but like a Beast. "Hominem illum dicimus", says the Saint, "qui imaginem hominis salvam retinet: quae autem est imago hominis? Rationalem esse". To be Men, we must be Rational; that is we must Act, not according-to the Sensual Appetite, but according-to the Dictates of Reason. If God gave to Beasts the use of Reason, and if they Acted according to its Rules, we should say that they Acted like Men. And it must, on the other hand, be said that the Man whose Conduct is Agreeable-to the Senses, but Contrary to Reason, Acts like a Beast. He who follows the Dictates of Reason, Provides-for the Future. "O that they would be Wise and would Understand, and would provide for their Last End" - Deuteronomy 32:29. He looks to the Future - that is, to the Account he must Render, at the Hour of Death, after which he shall be Doomed to Hell or to Heaven, according to his Merits. "Non est sapiens", says Saint Bernard, "qui sibi non est.

Sinners think only-of the Present, but regard not the End, for which they were Created. But, what will it Profit them to Gain all things, if they Lose their Last End, which alone can make them Happy? "But One Thing is necessary" - Luke 10:42. To Attain our End, is the only Thing necessary for us; if we Lose it, all is Lost. What is this End? It is Eternal (∞) Life. "Finem vero vitam aeternam". During Life, Sinners care little for the Attainment-of their End. Each Day, brings them nearer-to Death and to Eternity (∞); but they Know not their Destination. Should a Pilot, who is asked 'Whither' he is going, answer that he did not Know; would not all, says Saint Augustine, Cry-out that he was bringing the Vessel to Destruction? "Fac hominem perdidisse quo tendit, et dicatur ei: quo is? et dicat, nescio; nonne iste navem ad naufragium perducet?" The Saint then adds: "Talis est qui currit praeter viam". Such are the 'Wise' of the World, who Know how to-Acquire Wealth and Honors, and to Indulge-in every kind of Amusement; but Know not how to Save their Souls. How Miserable the Rich Glutton, who, though able to Lay-up Riches, and to Live Splendidly, was, after Death, Buried-in Hell! How Miserable Alexander the Great, who, after gaining so many Kingdoms, was Condemned to Eternal (∞) Torments! How Great the Folly of Henry the Eighth, who Rebelled against the Church, but seeing at the Hour of Death, that his Soul should be Lost, cried out in Despair: "Friends, we have Lost all!" O God, how many others now Weep in Hell, and exclaim: "What hath Pride profited us? or what Advantage hath the Boasting of Riches brought us? All those things are Passed Away, like a Shadow" - Wisdom 5:8-9. In the World, we made a Great Figure - we enjoyed Abundant Riches and Honors; but now all is Passed-away like a Shadow, and nothing Remains for us, but-to Suffer and Weep for Eternity (∞). Saint Augustine says, that the Happiness which Sinners enjoy in this Life, is their Greatest Misfortune. "Nothing is more Calamitous than the Felicity of Sinners, by which their Perverse Will, like an Internal Enemy, is Strengthened".

In 'Fine', the Words of Solomon are fulfilled, with-regard-to all who Neglect their Salvation: "Mourning taketh hold-of the Ends-of Joy" - Proverbs 14:13. All their Pleasures, Honors, and Greatness, End in Eternal (∞) Sorrow and Wailing. "Whilst I was yet but Beginning, he cut me off" - Isaiah 38:12. Whilst they are Laying the Foundation-of their Hopes-of realizing a Fortune, Death comes, and Cutting the Tread-of Life, deprives them of all their Possessions, and sends them to Hell, to Burn Forever (∞) in a Pit of Fire. What Greater Folly can be Conceived, than to wish to be Transformed-from the Friend-of God, into the Slave-of Lucifer, and from the Heir-of Paradise to become, by Sin, Doomed to Hell? For the Moment a Christian commits a Mortal Sin, his name is written-among the Damned. Saint Francis de Sales said, that if the Angels were Capable-of Weeping, they would do nothing else than Shed Tears at the Sight-of the Destruction which a Christian, who commits Mortal Sin, brings upon himself.

Oh! how Great is the Folly of Sinners, who, by Living-in Sin, Lead a Life-of Misery and Discontent! All the Goods in this World, cannot 'Content' the Heart of Man, which has been Created-to Love God, and can find no Peace, out of God. What are all the Grandeurs and all the Pleasures of this World, but "Vanity of Vanities"?, - Ecclesiastes 1:2. What are they but "Vanity, and Vexation of Spirit"? - ibid 4:16. Earthly Goods are, according to Solomon, who had experience of them, Vanity of Vanities; that is, mere Vanities, Lies and Deceits. They are also a "Vexation of Spirit": they not only do not 'Content', but they even Afflict the Soul; and the more-Abundantly they are Possessed, the Greater the Anguish which they Produce. Sinners Hope to find Peace in their Sins; but what Peace can they Enjoy? "There is no Peace to the Wicked, saith the Lord" - Isaiah 48:22. I Abstain-from saying more at the Present Time, on the Unhappy Life of Sinners; I shall speak of it in Another Place. At present, it is enough for you to Know that God gives Peace to the Souls who Love Him, and not to those who Despise Him. Instead of Seeking to be the Friends-of God, Sinners Wish to be the Slaves of Satan, who is a Cruel and Merciless Tyrant to all who Submit-to his Yoke. "Crudelis est et non miserebitur" - Jeremiah 6:23. And if he promises Delights, he does it, as Saint Cyprian says, not for our Welfare, but that we may be the Companions-of his Torments in Hell: "Ut habeat socios poenae, socios gehennae".

 

Second Point
The Saints are Truly Wise

Let us be Persuaded that the Truly Wise are those who Know how to Love God, and to gain Heaven. Happy the Man to whom God has given the Science of the Saints. "Dedit illi scientiam sanctorum" - Wisdom 10:10. Oh! how Sublime, the Science which Teaches us to Know how to Love God, and to Save our Souls! Happy, says Saint Augustine, is the Man "who Knows God, although he is Ignorant of other Things". They who Know God, the Love which He Merits, and how to Love Him, stand not in-need-of any other Knowledge. They are Wiser than those who are Masters-of many Sciences, but Know not how to Love God. Brother Egidius, of the Order of Saint Francis, once said to Saint Bonaventure: "Happy you, O Father Bonaventure, who are so Learned, and who, by your Learning, can become more Holy than I can, who am a Poor, Ignorant Man". "Listen", replied the Saint, "if an Old Woman knows how to Love God better than I do, she is more Learned, and more Holy, than I am". At hearing this, Brother Egidius exclaimed: "O poor Old Woman! poor Old Woman! Father Bonaventure says that if you Love God more than he does, you can Surpass him in Sanctity".

This excited the Envy of Saint Augustine, and made him Ashamed-of himself. "Surgunt indocti", he exclaimed, "et rapiunt coelum". Alas! the Ignorant Rise-up, and Bear-away the Kingdom of Heaven; and what are we, the Learned of this World doing? Oh! how many of the Rude and Illiterate are Saved, because, though Unable to Read, they Know how to Love God; and how many of the Wise of the World are Damned! Oh! Truly Wise were Saint John of God, Saint Felix of the Order of Capuchins, and Saint Paschal, who were Poor, Lay Franciscans, and unacquainted-with Human Sciences, but Learned-in the Science of the Saints. But the Wonder is, though Worldlings themselves are Fully Persuaded of this Truth, and constantly Extol the Merit of those who Retire-from the World, to Live only to God, still they Act as if they Believed it not.

Tell me Brethren, to which Class do you Wish to Belong - the Wise-of the World, or to the Wise-of God? Before you make a Choice, Saint Chrysostom advises you to go to Graves of the Dead. "Proficiscamur ad sepulchra". Oh! how Eloquently, do the Sepulchres of the Dead, teach us the Science of the Saints, and the Vanity of all Earthly Goods! "For my part", said the Saint, "I see nothing but Rottenness, Bones and Worms". As if he said: Among the Skeletons, I cannot distinguish the Noble, the Rich, or the Learned; I see that they have all become Dust and Rottenness; thus all their Greatness and Glory have passed-away like a Dream.

What then must we do? Behold the Advice-of Saint Paul. "This therefore I say, Brethren; the Time is Short; it remaineth, that . . . they that use this World be, as if they used it not; for the Fashion of this World passeth away" - 1Corinthians 7:29-31. This World is a 'Scene', which shall Pass-away and End very soon; the Time is very short. During the Days of Life that remain, let us endeavor to Live like Men who are Wise, not according-to the World, but according-to God; by attending-to the Sanctification of our Souls, and Adopting the Means of Salvation; by Flying-from Dangerous Occasions; by Practicing Prayer; joining some Pious Sodality; Frequenting the Sacraments; Reading every Day a Spiritual Book; and by Daily hearing Mass, if it be in our power; or at least by-visiting Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and some Image-of the most Holy Mary. Thus we shall be Truly Wise, and shall be Happy for Time and Eternity (∞).

 

- End of Liguori Sermon -

 

Prayer for the Graces Necessary for Salvation

Eternal Father, Your Son has Promised that You will Grant us all the Graces which we ask for in His Name. In the Name and Merits of Jesus Christ, I ask the following Graces for myself and for all Mankind. Please give me a Lively Faith in all that the Church Teaches. Enlighten me, that I may know the Vanity of the Goods of this World, and the Immensity of the Infinite Good that You are. Make me also see the Deformity of the Sins I have Committed, that I may Humble myself and Detest them as I should.

Give me a Firm Confidence of Receiving Pardon for my Sins, Holy Perseverance, and the Glory of Heaven, through the Merits of Jesus Christ, and the Intercession of Mary. Give me a Great Love for You, that will Detach me from the Love of this World, and of myself, so that I may Love none other, but You.

I Beg of You a Perfect Resignation to Your Will. I Offer myself entirely to You, that You might do with me, and all that belongs to me, as You Please.

I Beg of You a Great Sorrow for my Sins.

I ask You to give me the Spirit of True Humility and Meekness, that I may Accept with Peace, and even with Joy, all the Contempt, Ingratitude and Ill-treatment I may receive. At the same time, I also ask You to give me Perfect Charity, which shall make me wish well to those who have done Evil to me.

Give me Love for the Virtue of Mortification, by which I may Chastise my Rebellious Senses and oppose my Self-Love. Give me a Great Confidence in the Passion of Jesus Christ and in the Intercession of Mary Immaculate. Give me a Great Love for the Blessed Sacrament, and a Tender Devotion and Love to Your Holy Mother. Give me, above all, Holy Perseverance, and the Grace always to Pray for it, especially in Time-of Temptation, and at the Hour-of Death.

Finally, I recommend to You the Holy Souls of Purgatory, my Relatives and Benefactors, and in a special manner I recommend to You all those who Hate me or who have in any way Offended me; I Beg You to Render them Good, for the Evil they have done or may wish to do me. Grant that, by Your Goodness, I may come One Day to sing Your Mercies in Heaven; for my Hope is in the Merits of Your Blood and in the Patronage of Mary. Mary, Mother of God, Pray to Jesus for me.

Amen