REMORSES OF THE DAMNED
“Their worm dieth not.”
According to St. Thomas [Aquinas], this worm, which dieth not, is to be understood of remorse of conscience, which shall eternally torment the damned in hell. The remorses which shall gnaw the hearts of the reprobate shall be many; but the most excruciating shall be:
- first, the thought of the trifles for which they are damned;
- secondly, the thought of the little which they were required to do in order to save their souls; and
- thirdly, the thought of the great good which they have lost.
After Esau had eaten the pottage of lentils for which he had sold his birthright, the Scripture says that, through sorrow and remorse for the loss, he “roared out with a great cry” (Genesis 27:34). O, how shall the damned howl and roar at the thought of having, for a few momentary, poisoned pleasures, lost an eternal kingdom of delights, and of having condemned themselves forever to a continual death! Hence they shall weep far more bitterly than Jonathan did when he saw himself condemned to death by his father for having eaten a little honey. “I did but taste a little honey, and, behold, I must die” (1 Samuel 14:43). O God! What torture shall each of the damned feel in thinking that he was the cause of his own damnation! At present, our past life appears to us but a dream, a moment. But what shall he who is in hell think of the fifty or sixty years which he spent on this earth, when he shall be in the abyss of eternity, and, after the lapse of a hundred and a thousand millions of years, shall see that his hell only commences? But were these fifty or sixty years all years of pleasure? Perhaps a sinner living without God always feels happy in his sins. How long do the pleasures of sin last? Only for a few moments. All the remaining hours of the man who lives in enmity with God, are full of pains and bitterness. But what shall these moments of pleasure appear to the unhappy damned? How shall he view that last sin in particular, by which he brought himself to perdition? Then he shall say, “For a miserable, brutal pleasure, which lasted but a moment, and which was scarcely indulged when it vanished like air, I must burn in this fire, in despair and abandoned by all, as long as God shall be God– for all eternity.
Affections and Prayers
Lord, enlighten me, that I may feel the injustice which I have done thee, and the eternal chastisements I have deserved, by offending thee. My God, I feel a great remorse for having offended thee; but this pain consoles me. Hadst thou sent me to hell, as I deserved, the thought of the trifle for which I was damned should be the hell of my hell. But now, this remorse, I say, consoles me; because it encourages me to hope for pardon from thee, who hast promised to pardon all who repent. Yes, my Lord, I repent of having outraged thee. I embrace this sweet pain of remorse. I even entreat thee to increase it, and to preserve it in my heart till death, that I may always weep bitterly over the offenses I have offered to thee. My Jesus, pardon me. O my Redeemer, who, to procure mercy for me, hadst not mercy on thyself, but didst condemn thyself to die through pain in order to deliver me from hell, have mercy on me. Grant that my remorse for having offended thee may keep me always sorrowful, and, at the same time, inflame my whole soul with love for thee, who hast loved me so tenderly, who hast borne with me so patiently, and who now, instead of chastising me, dost enrich me with thy lights and graces. I thank thee, O my Jesus, and I love thee. I love thee more than myself. I love thee with my whole heart. Thou knowest not how to despise a soul that loves thee. I love thee. Do not banish me from thy face. Receive me, then, into thy friendship, and do not permit me evermore to lose thee. Mary, my mother, accept me for thy servant, and bind me to Jesus, thy Son. Ask him to pardon me, to give me his love and the grace of perseverance till death.
Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).
Art for this post on the remorses of the damned: Eternal Clock, Robbert van der Steeg, 25 March 2009, CC-SA 2.0 Generic, Wikimedia Commons.