As Advent approaches, we find our thoughts turning towards the annual  preparatory exercises associated with it but we must also recognise that when one door opens, it has usually been preceded by another door closing.  So it is, that the Church has now ‘closed’ another Liturgical Calendar year and is beginning another.
While the approach of Christmas can and should bring peace and hope to our hearts and homes,  we must not forget another aspect of Church thought/teaching, which encourages us to reflect upon the Eschatological elements of the season,   about which we should regularly be mindful.  Eschatology is that part of theology concerned with death, judgement, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.   This is not precipitate us into morbidity or despair, but to assist us in being always aware of our mission and purpose here in this world, knowing that one day we will present ourselves before God and make an account of our lives,  the use we made of His gifts to us and our efforts made to bring others to that realisation and to the knowledge and love of God.
The Eschatological elements are also known as “the four last things” Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.  Sadly, in the world today there is very little recognition or admission of sin.  It seems that we have arrived at a state of existence where, actually, there is nothing sinful anymore.  In fact, the word sin is really a bit archaic and anyone who still refers to it, is deemed a bit odd or judgmental.  It really is a very sad state of affairs, because when we cease to acknowledge that there is a right and a wrong, then man has become his own authority and judge, choosing his own path, which in today’s climate of apathy and vice, will ultimately lead to his eternal demise.

One thing is certain and all mankind knows it to be true, that we must one day leave this world.   Deep within each soul lies a sense of justice which  tells us  that there must be an ultimate reckoning, for no one can cheat the moral law and get away with it or suffer undeserved injustices throughout life and not be justly compensated. Since this ultimate justice does not seem to be accomplished in this life, there must be “a continuation of the story”.  Thus the second of the Four Last Things, judgment, is also widely known. As Scripture says, “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb 11:6). The final judgment is an encounter with Christ.

Most men also know that justice distinguishes the good from the evil and, therefore, that after death there must be separate destinies for us — rewards for good and punishments for evil. Thus mankind also usually believes in some form of heaven and hell.

There are  two eternal destinies: union or disunion with God. Each one of us will be either with God or without him forever. Our basis for believing in the reality of hell is exactly the same authority as our basis for believing in the reality of heaven: Christ, his Church, and her scriptures.  In fact, Jesus warned us repeatedly about the existence of such a place with utmost seriousness about it.   Sacred Scripture makes reference to “hell”, on more than 50 occasions.  There is no reincarnation, no “second chance” after time is over. There is no annihilation, no end of the soul’s existence. There is no change of species from human being to angel or to anything else.  We must all bear the scrutiny of Our dear Lord, who loved us and gave His life for us and asked us simply to love Him in return.

Excerpts taken from the Sequence of the Requiem Mass, should call to mind the gravity of the situation we face when our eyes close on this world and are immediately opened unto the next…

  • Oh what fear man’s bosom rendeth, 
  • When from heaven the judge descendeth, 
  • Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth,
  • Through earth’s sepulchers it ringeth,
  • All before the throne it bringeth.
  • Death is struck and nature quaking,
  • All creation is awaking,
  • To its judge an answer making.
  • Lo the book exactly worded,
  • Wherein all hath been recorded,
  • Thence shall judgement be awarded.
  • When the Judge his seat attaineth,
  • And each hidden deed arraigneth:
  • Nothing unavenged remaineth.
  • What shall I frail man be pleading?
  • Who for me be interceding?
  • When the just are mercy needing?
  • King of majesty tremendous,
  • Who does free salvation send us,
  • Font of pity then befriend us.
  • Think kind Jesus, my salvation,
  • Caused thy wondrous incarnation:
  • Leave me not to reprobation.
  • Faint and weary thou hast sought me:
  • On the cross of suffering bought me:
  • Shall such grace be vainly brought me?
  • Righteous judge for sin’s pollution,
  • Grant thy gift of absolution,
  • Before the day of retribution.
  • Guilty now I pour my moaning:
  • All my shame and anguish owning:
  • Spare, O God my suppliant groaning.
  • Through the dying thief forgiven,
  • Thou to me a hope has given.
  • Lo, that day of tears and mourning,
  • from the dust of earth returning.
  • Man for judgement must prepare him,
  • Spare O God, in mercy spare him.
  • Sweet Jesus Lord most blest,
  • Grant the dead eternal rest.

We do indeed have a wonderful Lord and Saviour, born to us at Christmastide…let us seek and beseech Him daily, to assist us in living our lives in a manner worthy of eternal reward and  when our day of meeting dawns…may He not find us unprepared.

 

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