Time and Eternity

The Redemptorist Father Geiermann discusses time and eternity.

Time is the measure of duration. Time began when ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth’, and it will terminate with the renovation of the world on the Last Day.”

“The mistakes of the past may be remedied in the present. . . . The priceless value of the present moment is evident when we consider time in relation to man’s final destiny. One moment sanctified by the tears of repentant love will unlock the gates of heaven to the greatest sinner. Every moment spent in God’s service will be a precious jewel in man’s diadem of glory. But even a single moment spent in sin may rob the longest life of its treasures of grace and merit.”

Eternity is the total and perfect possession of an interminable life. As time is the measure of change, so eternity is the measure of permanency. Though this permanency belongs primarily to God, it applies also to the immortality of angels and men.”

“In heaven ‘eternal rest’ emphasizes the security of happiness in this permanence of life. There the human mind will see God face to face, recognizing Him as the one necessary Being, the infinite Truth, the only real Good, and the perfect Beauty. In God man will contemplate the wonder and harmony of His works, and the love, mercy, and justice of His dealings with His creatures. At the same time the human heart will overflow in an ecstasy of delight in the possession of the infinite Good and Beauty, while every other faculty will enjoy the pleasure and security of this interminable life. The pleasures of the elect will be further enhanced by the friendship of all the children of God in the mansions prepared for them from the beginning of the world.”

“In hell, however, ‘eternal misery’ is stamped on the interminable life of the reprobate. There the mind will brood over the vast misfortune of losing God and heaven for ever. . . . Like Dives, the reprobate see the happiness of the blessed, and are consumed with remorse and despair because it will ever be beyond their reach. . . . As the blessed enjoy the variety and intensity of the happiness of heaven according to their merit, so the reprobate will endure the variety and intensity of the pains of hell according to the measure of their sin.”

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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The Last Judgment

Father Pegues continues his discussion of the events which are expected to take place at the end of the world. Here he describes the Last Judgment, as portrayed in the Treatise on the Last Things (Summa Theologica III Suppl., 87-99).

Father Pegues states that when the dead are raised at the end of the world they will “immediately be in presence of the Sovereign Judge,” Who is Jesus Christ. And He will present Himself “under the form of His sacred humanity in all the glory which is due to His union with the Person of the Word.” Every human person will see the Judge, but “only the elect whose souls enjoy the beatific vision” will see “the glory of His divine nature.”

Those who have had the use of reason during their earthly lives will be judged. “The good will be placed on the right hand of the Judge to hear His sentence of benediction; and the bad on His left hand to receive His sentence of malediction.”

This judgment will “bring confusion to the lost.” The event will be an “inexpressible torture for them, because behind every sin, especially mortal sin, there is hidden pride; and on the day of judgment they will be forced to confess all before the Sovereign Judge, who will leave nothing hidden.” All the evil they have done “will be brought to light: all that was committed in their individual and private life, or in the family or in the society. . . . All consciences will be laid bare to the gaze of all instantaneously.” The consciences of the just and all their life will also be made manifest to all, “but this will be a triumph for their humility in life.”

“To those on His right Jesus Christ will say: ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father, and possess the Kingdom prepared for you from the constitution of the world.’ To those on His left He will say: ‘Depart from Me, ye accursed, into hell fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.'”

The happiness of the elect will be “increased by the fact that their bodies are now united to their souls.” There will be “distinct places for the elect in heaven”; and “the degree of charity or of grace” will determine their “degree of glory.”

Humans have something angels do not have: a human nature, as does Jesus Christ. “The elect therefore will have certain intimate relations with Jesus Christ which the angels have not.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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The General Resurrection – Part 2 of 2

Father Pegues continues his discussion of the four perfections that will be given to the glorified bodies of the blessed in the next life. We have mentioned the first perfection (impassibility) in the previous post. We will now discuss the remaining three: subtlety, agility, and clarity.

Subtlety will consist in “a superlative perfection of the body due to the influence of the glorified soul; this influence will impart to the body something so pure and ethereal that it will cease to have that heaviness or density that it has now on earth; but this property in no way detracts from the true nature of the body as though it thereby becomes unreal, aeriform, or a phantom. The glorified body cannot occupy the same place as another body, for it retains always its own dimensions or quantity, and consequently it will always be in a place and in space.”

The risen body of Christ passed through doors, not on account of its subtlety; rather, “this was a miracle and was performed by the divine power of Jesus Christ.”

Agility in the glorified body is “a certain perfection in the body derived from the glorified soul whereby the body will obey in the most marvelously ready manner all the movements of the soul which is its motive principle.” The blessed in heaven will use the power of agility “when they have to come to the judgment of Jesus Christ on the last day, and when they ascend to heaven with Him.”

Clarity means that “the splendour of the soul will shine as it were through the body, so that the body will be as it were luminous and transparent; but this will not detract from the natural colour of the body, but will rather harmonize with it, imparting to it the most exquisite beauty.” Clarity will not be the same in all, but rather, will be “proportioned to the degree of glory proper to each soul.” For this reason, St. Paul speaks (1 Cor 15:41) of “a variety among the glorified bodies: ‘One is the glory of the sun, another of the moon, and another the glory of the stars. For star differeth from star in glory.'”

In the next life, “death will be no more.” This is true of all human bodies: those in heaven as well as those in hell. As for the latter, they “will have none of the four qualities of the glorified body.”

Children who die without baptism “will rise in the most perfect state of a human being in nature, but without the properties of the glorified body;” and “they will never suffer any sorrow or pain.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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The General Resurrection – Part 1 of 2

The Dominican Father Thomas Pegues ponders the events which are expected to take place at the end of the world. He follows the discussion presented in the Treatise On The General Resurrection, which is found in the Supplement to St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica (III Suppl., 69-86).

Father Pegues writes: “The end of the world will be immediately followed by two great events, namely, the resurrection and the judgment.” St. Paul teaches (1 Thes 4:16-17) that, on that day, Jesus Christ, Who is the Judge of the living and the dead, will descend from heaven in glory; and the dead will rise from their tombs; and all people, those still alive at the time of Christ’s coming and those raised from their tombs, will stand before the Judge.

The bodies of the just will be “instantaneously transformed and become glorious. They will be the same bodies with this difference, that there will be no imperfections or troubles or sicknesses such as they were subject to on earth; on the contrary, these bodies will have perfections that will in some sense spiritualize them.” These perfections are impassibility, subtlety, agility, and clarity.

Impassibility is “that property of the glorified body whereby the soul has perfect dominion over the body in such wise that no defect and no suffering or sickness whatsoever can be in the body.” Every glorified body will be impassible, but the power of impassibility “will be proportioned to the glory of the soul, which will be different according to the degree in which the soul participates in the beatific vision.” The glorified body will not be devoid of sensibility. On the contrary, it will possess “a sensibility that is exquisite in the highest possible degree, with no admixture whatsoever of imperfection. Hence the eye of the glorified body will see in an incomparable degree more readily and more piercingly than in this life; the ear will have a sensitiveness without compare. So with all the other senses; each will attain its object with an intensity of perfection impossible for us now to imagine, and this without an object ever injuring the sense as so often happens in this life.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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Occasions of Sin and Remorse

Father Geiermann concludes his discussion of things that trouble the soul by explaining how proximate occasions of sin come about:

“The proximate occasion of sin is the opportunity of committing that sin to which one is strongly tempted. Three things combine to make an occasion of sin proximate: (1) inclination, (2) temptation, (3) an opportunity.”

A temptation “is easily aroused and greatly intensified when it follows the inclination of a bad habit,” and “it is most severe when it affects man’s predominant passion, or the defects of his temperament and character.” In such cases, there is “less prompt and less decisive resistance from the will.”

“By wilfully exposing himself to the proximate occasion of sin, or by remaining in it unnecessarily when it presents itself, man (1) withdraws himself from the influence of grace; (2) makes himself unworthy of the special protection of divine Providence; and (3) incurs the guilt of the sin by heedlessly exposing himself to it.”

Lastly, Father Geiermann mentions the devastating effects of sin, which begin to be felt even in the present life as remorse: “Remorse of conscience is that sadness of heart which all suffer who act contrary to the dictates of their conscience. It is a self-reproach and condemnation for having done wrong. When man seeks his happiness in the honors, riches, or pleasures of life, his conscience becomes his first accuser.”

“During life man may smother the voice of conscience by plunging still deeper into vice and dissipation. At the hour of death, however, his remorse will be intensified by contemplating the emptiness of his life and the terrors of the approaching judgment. This remorse of conscience will be the greatest torment of the reprobate in hell. The Saviour calls it ‘their worm that dieth not’ (Mark 9:43). Like a worm gnawing at their heart, it will continually remind them (1) that it was so easy for them to save their souls; (2) that they lost the ‘reward exceeding great’ through their own fault; (3) that they did this for the vanities of this fleeting life. Thus their outraged consciences will obtain justice by tormenting them for ever and ever.”

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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Bad Will and Vices

Continuing his discussion of things that trouble the soul, Father Geiermann addresses the problem of bad will and the vices that flow from it:

He writes: “As good will is indispensable for salvation, so bad will is sure to lead to reprobation. Bad will arises from insincerity of mind, fickleness of heart, and indecision of the will regarding the work of salvation.”

Insincerity aims at human ends and is a slave of human respect. It serves God in prosperity, but fails in the day of adversity.”

Fickleness of heart prompts man to act from the impulse of passion rather than from principle. It is willing to say, ‘Lord! Lord!’ but not to labor and suffer to break the fetters of sin, and so never really desires to lay up treasures in heaven.”

Indecision of will disqualifies man for the resolute, persevering endeavor of a true child of God. It makes man a slave of circumstance, and permits him to drift into sin and vice without being seriously tempted by the enemies of his soul.”

“A vice is a habit of sin. It results from a misuse of man’s free will. It will grow out of his evil inclinations if he does not oppose it resolutely by acquiring the opposite virtue.”

“As virtue is the golden mean, vice is ordinarily found at either extreme of every virtue. There are seven vices, however, which are the source of many others. They are pride, avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth, and are usually called capital sins.”

“The majority of mankind are actuated more by instinct and passion in daily life than by reason. They find it difficult to restrain their animal propensities and easily become the slave of avarice, lust, gluttony, intemperance, and sloth. Those on the other hand who try to govern their daily lives according to the dictates of reason find it more difficult to regulate their ambition. They easily permit their inordinate self-love to exaggerate their excellence and puff them up with pride. In consequence they easily become vain and inordinately desirous of the honors of life. Christians can best master their ambition by converting it into zeal for the glory of God and the welfare of souls.”

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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Temptation

Father Geiermann continues his discussion of things that trouble the soul. Here he considers temptations and the role the devil plays in leading us into sin.

“A temptation is an impulse given to the will by the flesh, the world, or the devil to commit sin.”

The flesh tempts man in three ways: (1) by the concupiscence of the eyes to seek the riches, pleasures, and comforts of life; (2) by the concupiscence of the flesh to indulge in sensual gratifications; (3) by the pride of life to seek worldly honor, fame, and influence.”

The world tempts man in two ways: (1) by inspiring him with slavish fear or human respect; (2) by pandering to his passions.”

The devil usually tempts man (1) by intensifying the allurements of the flesh and the world; (2) by inciting his carnal appetites to evil.”

“Though [evil spirits] can not influence man’s mind and heart directly, they can inflict great harm on them through his senses and his passions.”

“The devil may act on man’s external senses (1) by an illusory sensation and make a corresponding impression on the imagination and memory; (2) by a corporeal apparition, as he appeared to the Saviour in the desert.”

“He may act directly on man’s internal senses (1) by inciting the instinct to carnal desires; (2) by effacing virtuous impressions from the imagination and memory; (3) and impressing vicious images in their stead; (4) by fixing such vicious impressions deeply upon the internal senses. In this way the devil distracts the mind of a child of God, harasses his will, and inclines his heart to sin, counteracts the past effects of grace and virtue, blinds man to the blessings of the present, and tempts him to sin.”

The devil is shrewd, cautions Geiermann, for he “does not shock man, but easily leads him to hold, that, as his influence can not be easily detected, it has been much overrated, especially in modern times.”

“God permits man to be tempted (1) to test his good will; (2) to ground him in humility; (3) to stimulate his fervor; (4) to detach him from earthly things and center his affections on spiritual things; (5) to give his virtue a healthy growth; (6) to give him an opportunity of merit and reward; (7) to teach him to advance in the spiritual life.”

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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