Last Things: ChristOnTheAltar

Selections of Christ on the Altar regarding death, judgment, hell, heaven, and purgatory.

(Pg. 499) Our God is holy and the source of all holiness; into Whose kingdom nothing defiled shall enter. Our God is infinitely beautiful, Whose presences above in heaven can satisfy our thirst after happiness. He is also just, returning to every one according to his works: punishing the wicked with torments everlasting, rewarding the just with endless and incomprehensible delights. God, the beginning and end of rational creatures, may be certainly known by the natural light of human reason, by means of created things. “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Rom. i. 20). But it pleases His wisdom and bounty to reveal Himself and the eternal decrees of His will to mankind by another and a supernatural way, as the apostle says: “God, who at sundry time and in divers manners spoke in times past to the father by the prophets; last of all, in these days hath spoken to us by His Son (Heb. i. 1,2). 

Eternal thanks to Jesus Christ, Who has taught us, concerning the nature of God, that which our human reason never could have made known to us. It is Jesus Christ Who had revealed to us the existence of three divine persons in one substance – “Baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” He revealed to us that the Father begets the Son (John [1:]1-18): that the Son or Word was in the beginning; that He is God: that the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father and receiveth from the Son (John xv. 10; xvi. 14).  

Jesus Christ has revealed to us the love of the Father, Who gave us His Son to save us; the love of the Son, Who died for our redemption; the love of the Holy Ghost, Who teaches all truth, gives light to our minds, and fills our hearts with divine love. It is Jesus Christ Who taught us that God has created us for the possession of Himself in heaven; that we should love Him and consider Him as our Father

(Pg. 758-762) The wicked servant who would not have compassion on his fellow servant was delivered by his angry master to the torturers until he should pay the debt. Almighty God, our Creator and Master, being infinitely just, will reward the just in heaven, but He will also punish His enemies in the world to come; and as the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, let us speak first of the existence of hell. 

1. There is nothing so common as to hear expressions like the following: “There is not hell.” “God is too good to damn a soul, to send it to hell.” “No one ever came from hell to tell us what there is there.” “How could God, all-merciful, punish sinners in everlasting fire?” 

We answer at once: There is a hell, there is a future punishment reserved for sinner. Let us look at this subject with the light of reason. It is undeniable that the greater part of men now believe in the existence of hell. How could they be brought to believe it unless suppose that God revealed it? 

All the nations have believed in future punishment. Pagan philosophers believed and taught this doctrine. Pagan poets described the different torment of the wicked. All Christian sects till quite recently believed in future punishments. Is it possible that all mankind erred in this point? 

There is a hell. God is infinite in all His perfections. He is infinitely merciful, He is also infinitely just. If He does not punish the wicked in the next world, then we make Him unjust and unholy. We make Him unjust, for the wicked here below generally enjoy the greater share of pleasures; we make Him also unholy, as we suppose that He looked with equal indifference upon the just and upon the sinner. To deny the existence of hell is to make God less holy than men; for men punish sin and reward virtue. 

Again, if we admit that there is a place of reward, we must also admit a place of punishment. To deny the existence of future punishment is to deny the wisdom of God. He has given us a law. That law had to be sanctioned. Men should be deterred from violating it by the threat of punishment, as they are encouraged to observe it by promise of reward. No, it will not do to say that there is no hell. God has written in the very heart of man, that we are bound to serve our Creator, that this is the object of our life, that if we obey Him we shall be rewarded, that if we do not obey Him we shall be punished. Nay, the doctrine of eternal punishment is in keeping with the dictates of reason and the feeling of the human heart; for we feel that we are immortal, and consequently that the rewards and punishments of men after death shall last forever. 

There is a hell. But you say that no one ever came from there to teach us concerning it. By what authority do you teach us that there is no hell? The Church of Christ had existed eighteen hundred years before there arose a sect which denied the existence of hell, and why did they start this doctrine? The answer is easily given: Men violate the law of God, yet they feel that they are immortal; and when they stop to think of the future, terrified at the thought of punishment, they find it convenient to say that there is no hell, hoping thus to bring themselves, and silence the voice of their conscience.  

You say that no one ever came from hell. In this you speak the truth, and you should therefore endeavor so to live as to escape being condemned to hell. 

You say that no one ever came from hell. But there is One Who appeared on earth, Who has given you life and intelligence – Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made man. He came, and He proved His divine mission by miracle and prophecies. He healed the sick, cast out devils, calmed the storms, raised the dead to life, and by His own power arose full of life from the grave three days after His death. What did He teach? He taught men to serve God, that they might escape “hell fire,” “the Gehenna of fire,” “the place of torments,” “the fire that is never extinguished.” 

No, no; you are the man who is not to be believed. You are much too late to be the teacher of mankind. The Catholic Church has been commissioned by Jesus Christ to teach all nations, and therefore the Church cannot go astray; now the Church has ever taught, it teaches now, and will forever teach, that there is a hell, a place of future punishment for the wicked. There is a hell; we believe in its existence as firmly as we believe in the existence of God. 

2. What is hell? In the answer to this question, again consult your own reason. It will tell you that hell must be a place horrible torments. In heaven, God all-merciful, almighty, uses His wisdom and power to reward His friends – those who have done His will whilst on earth. Oh, how magnificent must that place be which has been prepared by the hand of God! How beautiful the kingdom purchased by the Blood of Christ!  But hell is the place where the Almighty punishes those who have slighted Him, who abused life, abused all the blessings of creation, resisted the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, rendered useless for themselves the Blood of Jesus Christ, by which they were redeemed. Let us go in the spirit of Calvary, look at the bleeding body of Jesus Christ hanging from the cross, and say what punishment the man deserves who by his sins does all he can to renew the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ! 

(Pg. 818) Those souls go to purgatory which depart from this world being guilty of venial sins, or not having entirely atoned for past transgressions; for nothing defiled can enter the heavenly Jerusalem, and these poor souls will in this case be saved, but it must be by fire. From this it follows that the number of souls who must be purified in purgatory is very great indeed, for many die guilty of venial sins not forgiven, and many, alas! die without having performed a penance proportionate to their sins. From the said principle it is evident also that there exists a great difference in the condition of those poor prisoners, some having to undergo lighter punishments, and of shorter duration, than others who may have committed a greater number of sins, or sins of a darker kind. It is equally clear that when any soul leaves her mortal body, no one of us can tell what its condition is in the next world. 

(Pg. 460) It is not at all necessary to exhort devout Christians to have Mass offered for souls in purgatory. This act of charity is dear to their hearts, and they know that this practice will be extremely beneficial to them, because those souls, being sure of going to heaven, will not fail to pray for them. St. Peter Damian, being left an orphan when he was quite young, was taken by one of his brothers, who ill-treated him, hardly giving him the necessaries of life. The young orphan having found a small sum of money, gave it to a priest, that he might say Mass for the souls in purgatory. He greatly needed this money himself, but preferred to part with it for the welfare of the poor suffering souls. But from the time of that heroic action everything seemed to favor the poor orphan. He was adopted by another brother, who was as kind to him as the first had been cruel. By this brother he was sent to school and prepared for the priesthood. He afterwards became a cardinal, and one of the great lights of the Catholic Church.  

(Pg. 557) [The prayer of a devout soul passing into heaven]

O holy Catholic Church, my mother, thou didst accomplish well towards me the work which thy Founder commanded thee to accomplish. Through thee I received at my baptism the sacred character of a child of God. Thou didst teach me to know my Creator, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Through thee I was given to know Jesus Christ my Redeemer, and the doctrine which He taught and the end for which I was created. Thou didst strengthen my soul to heal it from its infirmities in thy life-giving sacraments. Within thy sacred wall I found the table Jesus Christ has prepared for me against the demons who hated me. The heavenly bread of the grand banquet, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, which I received from Thy holy priests, was my joy, my comfort, my nourishment through life, and my pledge of a glorious resurrection. That sacred Bread I received only a few hours before my death. My soul was prepared for its last struggle by the prayers of Thy Priest and the sacred unction. The sacrifice of the Mass has been offered for the rest of my soul, my relatives and friends kneel now around my coffin before the altar, and unity their prayers to those of Jesus Christ, that I may obtain perpetual light and rest. Let my remains be now placed in blessed ground, under the shelter of the blessed cross. I believe in the resurrection of the body, and in life everlasting! 

(Pg. 806) The spectacle which we have every Sunday before our eyes in our churches is the counterpart of that which is seen in the court of God in heaven. Our church edifices, though often poorly built, lacking in ornaments, are after all the house of God, in which He loves to accept our adorations and prayers; they are, as it were, the tabernacle of the desert: the house of God in heaven is the one prepared by His Almighty hands from the foundation of the world. In the churches of our exile on earth I see many who are poor and afflicted; in heaven there is no sorrow; but in our churches on Sundays there are many saintly souls, as there are multitudes of saints in heaven. There are angels praying and adoring with us in our churches, as there are millions of heavenly spirits standing before God in heaven. In our churches we are in the presence of the Lamb, and so are the saints in heaven; but the saint in heaven adore and praise, they have no more need of prayer. We in our churches kneel down and pray to the Lamb of God to have mercy on us; but as the saints and angels participate in the vision and glory of the Word Incarnate, so we in our churches receive the bread of angels: the blessed inhabitants of heaven invite us to follow them, and the Son of God from His tabernacle invites us to come and partake of His bread. This is the bread which gave sanctity to the saints, which will also preserve your souls and bodies unto life everlasting.

(Pg. 809) The saints looked up to heaven and thought that all they could bear or do in this world was too small a price to be paid for the acquisition of heaven; but they also looked upon Jesus Christ, Who, being equal to God, became obedient unto the death of the cross, in order that through His sacred blood He might obtain for them the inheritance of heaven. They understood the blessedness of the elect from the price which was paid for their salvation. They knew, and we also should remember, that one prayer of Our Lord, or one drop of His blood was more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world, and that He had spent all His life and spilt all His blood for them. The saints knew, and we also should remember, that the Son of God loveth each man as tenderly as if he alone was in the world; that His Sacred Heart was so filled with sorrow for men that He loved them from eternity. Is there any other consideration more proper to make us appreciate the greatness of the joys of the saints in heaven? … None but God can describe the glory prepared for the elect. Our faith tells us that Almighty God will make it His special work for all eternity to administer to the delight and the joy of the elect in heaven; that Almighty God will bend all the powers of His divine wisdom and omnipotence to that one end.

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