THE FOUR LAST THINGS

PART II---THE LAST JUDGMENT

Chapter 5. The Appearance of Christ's Cross in the Heavens

WHEN all mankind are assembled in the valley of Josaphat, the prediction of Our Lord will be fulfilled: "Men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole earth." For they will be in such anxiety and terror in anticipation of the approaching judgment that, if such a thing were possible, they would faint away. They will look up to the heavens continually with fear and trembling, and every moment that the coming of the dreaded Judge is delayed will serve to increase their apprehension of this advent. At length the heavens will be opened, and the sign of Christ's triumphant victory, the sign of the holy cross, will be carried down by a host of angels and exhibited to the whole world.

These are Our Lord's words in regard to this mystery: "The powers of heaven shall be moved and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then shall all tribes of the earth mourn" (Matt. xxiv. 29, 30). The Catholic Church teaches us what this sign will be, which is to appear in heaven: The sign of the cross will appear in heaven, when the Lord shall come to judgment. All the Fathers concur in interpreting this sign which will be displayed in the heavens as cross of Christ. Although the cross whereon Our Lord suffered is now divided into innumerable little pieces, into particles even, yet by divine power it will once more form a complete whole. It will be carried down from heaven by the angels with solemn pomp; and the angels who bear it will be followed by others, who, as the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, maintains, will carry all the other instruments of the Passion; that is to say, the pillar, the lance, the scourges, the hammer, the iron glove, the dice, the scarlet robe, the white robe, the seamless tunic, the holy winding-sheet, the vessel containing myrrh and all the other instruments that were employed during the Passion, and the object of this will be to make manifest to the whole world how many and manifold were the pains Christ suffered for our sakes.

Now when all mankind behold the holy cross and all the other sacred instruments of the Passion shining like the sun at midday, for the cross of Christ will gleam with a light of unexampled brilliance, those who are waiting below will stand in trembling fear and woeful lamentation. For the sight of the holy cross and the other instruments of torture will recall to their mind all the grievous pains that Our Lord endured, and indeed in so forcible and vivid a manner, that His whole Passion will seem to be re-enacted before them. Then the bitterest remorse will fill the heart of the wicked. But this remorse, how great and how deep soever it may be, will be futile. It comes too late. This remorse is the companion of despair. In their anguish of soul and their despair they will exclaim with Cain, the violent death: "My iniquity is greater than that I may deserve pardon;" or with Judas, who betrayed his Lord and Master: "I have sinned, in betraying innocent blood." Yes, all the lost will concur in exclaiming, "Alas ! we have sinned in betraying innocent blood. We have tortured, we have crucified, we have put the Son of God to death by our sins." Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, for they will perceive how grievously they have offended against God, but the cries of mourning and despair prevailing everywhere will be in vain. What will the unfortunate heathen say, who have never heard, never known anything about Christ's Passion? They will bitterly bewail and lament their ignorance, `saying: "Alas ! we unhappy ones, had we but known this, we should never have come to this misery. Had we but known that the great and infinite God did and suffered so much for us, how grateful we should have been to Him, how willingly we would have served Him ! We were deluded by our false gods. We saw in them no virtues, only vile and vicious deeds. Against the promptings of conscience we imitated their vices, and hence we are damned. We cannot complain, or think ourselves wronged by the holy and just God, because we are amongst the reprobate. If only we had hearkened to the voice of our conscience, this would not have been our fate."

But what will those say who put Christ to death? Pilate, Caiphas, Annas, the high priest, as well as some others who cried: "Crucify Him I " and "His blood be upon us and upon our children," all who took part in the cruel, atrocious crime of crucifying their God, will at the sight of the sacred instruments of the Passion shriek aloud in despair and desire to be annihilated. And cursed upon even by the damned, they will stand there, branded as a God killer, objects of hatred to the whole world.

It is not my intention to discuss what bad Christians, who have blasphemed the Son of God by word or deed, will feel at that time; for brevity's sake I leave thee, reader, to meditate upon it for thyself. Only one thing I would ask of thee; reflect upon this, what thou wouldst say, what thou wouldst most deeply regret, if thou wert amongst the number of the damned, and didst then perceive that thou hadst been the cause of Christ's sufferings and hadst crucified Him by thy sins. Couldst thou now feel in thy heart something of the contrition which would then pierce thy soul, assuredly thou wouldst never again for the remainder of thy life commit any heinous sin. Couldst thou now mourn over the sufferings of Christ with expressions of such poignat sorrow as would then rise to thy lips, thou wouldst infallibly obtain the remission of thy sins. Wherefore, frequently adore thy crucified Savior, call to mind His sufferings for thy sake, and recite the following prayer: O faithful Redeemer of the world, who didst endure such unspeakable sufferings for me, a miserable sinner, I pray Thee let not Thy bitter Passion and Thy death upon the cross be unavailing for me. Impress the remembrance of them deeply upon my heart, that I may have them ever before my mind, and may avoid sin which was the cause of Thy suffering. Thus when Thy cross, shall appear bright and shining in the heavens on the Day of Judgment, may it not be to me a sign of damnation, but of salvation, a sign of Thy mercy and of Thy love. Amen.

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