THE FOUR LAST THINGS ---- DEATH, JUDGMENT, HELL and HEAVEN
FATHER MARTIN VON COCHEM, O.S.F.C.
Father Martin von Cochem was born at Cochem, on the Moselle,
in the year 1625, and died at Waghausel in 1712.
“Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.”
HOLY REDEEMER LIBRARY
Nihil Obstat: Thomas L Kinkead, Censor Liborium
Imprimatur: Michael Augustine --- Archbishop of New York (New York October 5, 1899)
Copyright, 1899, by Benziger Brothers
PART IV. ON HEAVEN.
III. On the Joys of Heaven (Continued).
WITH regard to the spiritual joys of the redeemed in Heaven, they are in such great abundance, that in speaking of them one does not know where to begin or where to end. Think of the spiritual consolations granted to eminent servants of God in this world. We know concerning some Saints that their life on earth was more that of Angels than of men, so frequently were they favoured with ecstasies, visions, interior lights, and Divine consolations of all kinds. And yet all these favours were but as a drop out of the boundless ocean of celestial sweetness. What rapture it will be for holy souls in Heaven to drink from the fountain-head, and draw freely from the inexhaustible source of all felicity! All the powers of the mind, the understanding, the memory, the will, the imagination, every thought, every desire, the whole intellectual being, elevated and perfected by God Himself, will be fully satisfied, and will add to and heighten the joys of the soul.
With the understanding the blessed will behold all created things in the light of God, and thoroughly penetrate the secrets of nature. It is recorded of King Solomon that "God gave to Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, as the sand that is on the seashore. And the wisdom of Solomon surpassed the wisdom of all the Orientals and of the Egyptians, and he was wiser than all men. He also spoke three thousand parables, and his poems were a thousand and five. And he treated about trees from the cedar that is in Lebanon unto the hyssop that cometh out of the wall ; and he discoursed of beasts, and of fowls, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And they came from all nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who heard of his wisdom" (3 Kings iv. 29-34).
We have never heard of wisdom equal to this, nor can we cease to wonder at the wide range and astuteness of this great king s understanding. Yet compared with the wisdom of the least of the Saints in Heaven, it ranks no higher than does the knowledge possessed by a child of three years old beside the erudition and wisdom of the most learned of men. For all the operations of nature, all the powers of the universe are open and revealed to the least of the Saints in Heaven. Nothing is hidden or mysterious in his eyes. He knows all that the Holy Trinity has accomplished from all eternity, in how marvellous a manner the Heavens and the earth were created out of nothing, how wisely all has been ordered and maintained from the beginning to the end of time. He knows how the Son of God was begotten of the Father before all ages; he knows how the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son. He knows how Christ was born of an earthly mother without violation of her virginity; he knows all that Our Lord did and suffered during His whole life, and how each Saint and servant of God lived for God and laboured in His service. All that is mysterious and incomprehensible to us in the Holy Scriptures, the mysteries of religion and of nature, he understands without a moment s reflection. Hadst thou been on earth but a simple, illiterate peasant, on thy entrance into Heaven thy eyes would be opened, and thou wouldst see clearly and understand all things perfectly. What joy, what happiness this knowledge and clear insight will be to thee I What grateful thanks thou wilt render to God for it!
Secondly, in as far as their memory is concerned, the blessed will also find fullness of joy in Heaven, for it will, like the understanding, be enlightened by God; and all the events of their past life will be as fresh and as distinct to their remembrance as if they beheld them inscribed on tablets before their eyes. Then they perceive by what a marvellous way God led them to their eternal goal, how mercifully He pardoned their transgressions, how He succoured them in the hour of temptation, and how He made all things work together for their good.
This retrospect will arouse in the heart of each one the holiest gratitude towards God and oft-times they will give expression to it thus: O my God, whom I love above all things, how great are the gifts and graces Thou hast bestowed upon me, how generous Thou hast been towards me, how often Thou hast rescued me from the danger of falling into sin, how mercifully Thou hast preserved me from eternal damnation, and how wonderfully Thou hast guided me in the way of salvation ! How can I sufficiently praise and magnify Thine infinite bounty? How can I sufficiently thank Thee and adore Thee for the benefits Thou hast lavished on me?
Thirdly, the will of each one of the blessed will be crowned with felicity, and kindled with the love of God and of the blessed in whose company he is.
The noblest pleasures a man can enjoy come from his will. A man is happy when all succeeds with him according to his wishes; when he acquires and possesses all that his heart can desire; when he is generally esteemed and praised by his fellow-men; when he loves, and is loved by the object of his affections. This and much more besides is the portion of the blessed, but in the highest degree and in the greatest possible perfection.
The love of God for them, and their love of Him is so profound, that they are inflamed and consumed with Divine charity, that their will resembles a live coal, glowing with light and heat, until it is absorbed by the fire of which it is a part. So it is with the Saints in Heaven; imbued with Divine charity, they burn and shine in the light of God, and reflect His image more and more. St. John says: "We know that when He shall appear we shall be like to Him, be cause we shall see Him as He is" (i John iii. 2).
In the love of God and in union with Him they find such ineffable delight that, inebriated by the sweetness of Divine charity they lose themselves in Him.
There is no greater happiness upon earth than to love and be loved, and the more tender, pure and ardent this love is, the greater the joy and delight it affords us. Now the love of Heaven, the love of the redeemed for God and for one another, is the most tender, the most pure, the most ardent affection, an affection infinite and boundless; consequently it is a source of immense delight and happiness unspeakable. May the God of all grace make us partakers of this love, and we shall then know by experience that of which words fail to convey an idea. No one will be privileged to partake in this love, unless here below he lives in the love of God, and dies in His friendship. Let us therefore strive to increase within us this Divine charity, that we may be admitted hereafter to the full enjoyment of His love.
The beatific vision of the Divine countenance is a joy above all joys, a delight far surpassing all the celestial pleasures of which we have spoken. Without this all other joys would lose their savour, they would be changed to bitterness. On one occasion, when the devil was speaking by the mouth of a person who was possessed, he said: "If the whole Heavens were a sheet of parchment, if the whole ocean were ink, if every blade of grass were pen, and every man on earth a scribe, it would not suffice to describe the intense, immeasurable delight which the vision of God affords to the blessed." And at another time he said that if God would but vouchsafe to grant him the privilege of beholding His Divine countenance for a few moments, he would, if it were possible, gladly bear in his own person all the torments of Hell until the Day of Judgment. This teaches us that if a man spent his whole life in works of most severe penance, and after his death were permitted only for one instant to gaze on the face of God, he would have received an ample recompense for all his mortifications.
Now consider how transcendent must be the bliss which the Saints derive from the contemplation, the enjoyment, the possession of the supreme God! If to gaze on the Divine countenance for one passing moment is a joy beyond all that a life of pleasure offers to the world ling, what rapture will it be to gaze for evermore, with undimmed eyes, on His infinite beauty, what rapture to call this supreme Good one s own for all eternity!
God is a being in whom all that is most admirable and desirable exists in the highest degree. In Him is all that most attracts and fascinates us; clemency, beauty, justice, compassion, wisdom, majesty, every sweet and sublime attribute in its fullest perfection. From God proceeds all grace, all that we need for our spiritual and temporal welfare, all the happiness, the joy, the repose, the consolation, all the benefits and blessings which His creatures enjoy in Heaven and on earth. And when the redeemed enter upon the contemplation of this infinite Good, upon the possession of this source of all that is to be loved and admired and longed for, their joy will indeed be full. What unspeakable delight it will afford them to understand the mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of the Holy Eucharist!
What unspeakable delight it will be to them to comprehend how God can be invisible Himself, and yet see everything ; how He can Himself be unmoved, and yet the source of all motion; how He can be Himself immutable, and yet the author of all change. These and many other mysteries will be made clear to the blessed in the light of God, and this fount of knowledge will not be exhausted to all eternity. The more they know God, the more will their desire to know Him better increase, and of this knowledge there will be no limit and no defect.
Thus they will ever hunger, and yet be perfectly satisfied; this rich treasury will ever be open to them, and never will they exhaust all the wealth it contains.
Meditate frequently on this subject, O reader, and excite within thy soul an earnest desire to enjoy God forever and ever.
O my God and my all ! Who art infinite beauty, infinite sweetness, infinite bounty ! With all my heart I long after Thee. As the hart pants for the water-brooks, so my soul thirsts for Thee, the mighty and living God; when shall I come and appear before Thy presence? When will it be my happy lot to behold Thee, to enjoy Thee forever? I venture to hope that this joy may be mine; I humbly hope and trust in Thy infinite goodness, for Thou dost reject no one who comes to Thee with a contrite and loving heart. -How rich, how happy, how joyful shall I be when I shall have this supreme Good for my own possession 1 I shall embrace Thee with reverent affection, I shall lose myself in Thee, when once I have Thee for my own.
I am ready, I am desirous, O my God, to do all that lies in my power, to render myself worthy to be admitted into Thy presence. I am prepared to suffer all that my weak nature will enable me to bear. I am prepared to withdraw from the world, to renounce all earthly things in as far as the duties of my position permit. I am prepared to labour as far as in me lies, for Thy service ; and this I will do in the hope of winning Thee, the infinite and eternal Good, and beholding for evermore Thy infinite beauty. Nay, even did I know that I should be lost, I would still love Thee. For I do not love Thee because I hope for eternal salvation through Thee, but I love Thee because Thou art perfect Beauty and infinite Goodness, worthy to be the sole object of our affections and aspirations.
Thus believing and thus hoping, I desire to live and die, and I call the Angels and Saints to witness to the truth of what I say.
And in attestation of the same I repeat with heart and voice:
My God, I love Thee, not because I hope for Heaven thereby;
Nor because they who love Thee not
Must burn eternally.
Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as Thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord.