THE PRESENT LIFE IS A JOURNEY TO ETERNITY
“Man shall go into the house of his eternity.”
cf Ecclesiastes 12:5
Seeing that on this earth so many miscreants wallow in prosperity, and that so many saints live in tribulations, the very Gentiles, by the sole aid of the light of nature, have known this truth – that, since there is a just God, there must be another life, in which the wicked are punished and the good rewarded. But what the Gentiles learned by the light of reason, we Christians know by faith. “We have not here a lasting city; but we seek one that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). This earth is not our country; it is for us a place of passage, from which we shall soon go to the house of eternity. “Man shall go into the house of his eternity.” The house, then dear reader, which you inhabit, is not your house; it is a hospital, from which you shall soon, and when you least expect, be dislodged. Remember that, when the time of death shall have arrived, your dearest relatives will be the first to banish you from it. And what shall be your true house? The house of your body shall be a grave, in which it will remain till the day of judgment; but your soul shall go to the house of eternity–either to heaven or to hell. St. Augustine tells you that you are a stranger, a traveler, a spectator, “Hospes es, transis et vides.” It would be foolishness in a traveler to spend all his patrimony in purchasing a villa or a house in a country through which he merely passes, and which he must leave in a few days. “Reflect,” says the saint, “that in this world you are only on a journey; fix not your affections on what you see; look and pass on, and labor to procure a good house, in which you shall have to dwell forever.”
Happy you, if you save your soul! O, how delightful is heaven! All the princely palaces of this world are but stables compared with the city of paradise, which alone can be called the city of perfect beauty–“civitas perfecti decoris” (Ezekiel 27:3). There you shall have nothing to desire; for you shall be in the society of the saints, of the divine mother, and of Jesus Christ, and shall be free from all fear of evil; in a word, you shall live in a sea of delights, and in unceasing joy, which shall last forever. “Everlasting joys shall be upon their heads” (cf Isaiah 35:10). This joy shall be so great that at every moment for all eternity it shall appear new. But unhappy you, if you are lost! You shall be confined in a sea of fire and of torments, in despair, abandoned by all, and without God. And for how long? Perhaps, after the lapse of a hundred thousand years, your pains shall have an end? A hundred and a thousand millions of years and ages shall pass by, and you hell shall be always at its commencement. What are a thousand years compared with eternity? Less than a day which is gone by. “A thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday, which is past” (Psalm 90:4). Would you wish to know the house which shall be your dwelling for eternity? It shall be that which you merit, and which you choose for yourself by your works.
Affections and Prayers
Then, O Lord, behold the house which I have deserved by the life which I led. Alas! It is hell; in which, from the first sin I have committed, I ought to dwell, abandoned by thee, and without having it ever in my power to love thee. Blessed forever be thy mercy, which has waited for me and which now gives me time to repair the evil I have done. O my God, I will no longer abuse thy patience. I am sorry above all things for having offended thee, not so much because I have merited hell, as because I have outraged thy infinite goodness. Nevermore, my God, nevermore will I rebel against thee; I desire death rather than offend thee. O my Sovereign Good, were I now in hell, I could never love thee, nor couldst thou love me. I love thee, and wish to be loved by thee; this I do not deserve; but Jesus merits it, because he has offered himself to thee in sacrifice on the cross, that thou mightst be able to pardon and love me. Eternal Father, give me then, for the sake of thy Son, the grace to love thee, and to love thee intensely. I love thee, O my Father, who hast given me thy Son. I love thee, O Son of God, who hast died for me. I love thee, O mother of Jesus, who, by thy intercession, hast obtained for me time for repentance. O Mary, obtain for me sorrow for my sins, the love of God, and holy perseverance.
Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).
Art: Landscape with Travelers, Nicolas-Antoine Taunay, before 1830, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.