Sunday, March 4, 2012

Raising Our Eyes and Our Hopes

The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, 1881

By: Father Charles Arminjon
Sophia Institute Press

“Reading this book was on of the greatest graces of my life.”

-St. Therese of Lisieux

Preface: If Christians are to attract souls to Christ, even amid the personal, social and political problems each day brings, they have to be a people of hope. And one of the best ways to inspire hope within us is to frequently meditate on heaven, our final destiny. Even when the Roman empire was falling in the fourth and fifth centuries, the early Christians were looking ahead to the kingdom of heaven while pagans were looking behind, longing for the glory days of Rome. When we consider in depth what heaven is- and the joys it will bestow on the souls who choose to go there -sacrifices become easier and suffering is made more bearable. We hold back less and give more. In fact, it is even true to say that we love with greater intensity when we consider that heaven is love's reward.

Fr. Charles Arminjon is one of the most articulate on this subject. He provides insights for meditation; a kind of meditation which is desperately needed. After all, how often do we read or hear about heaven?

Excerpt: The Mysteries of the Future Life:

Our destiny is an enigma, which reason alone cannot explain; but faith elevates our thoughts, strengthens our courage, and inflames our hope.

It tells us: have no fear; you are not wandering along some lost and uncertain path. Beyond our mortal years, there is a new life, of which the present one is only a representation and an image. On this earth, we are travelers; but, beyond the stars and all space, our heritage and native land is found up above.

Pilgrims and exiles, we now live under tents; in the world to come, the Lord will build us permanent dwelling-places.

The fool, who has no understanding of our destiny and our hopes, accuses the Creator of injustice, pointing out signs of imperfection in the designs of divine wisdom. He is like a savage or an inhabitant of a remote island who one day goes into one of our building yards. There he sees stones scattered about, material lying on top of one another, work men carving metals, and cutting away marble; and in the spectacle presented by this activity, he sees only a picture of confusion and ruin. He does not know that the apparent disorder will, one day, engender an order of admirable perfection.

In the same way, we err in our judgments on the conduct of God toward men; we see nothing more than a pointless harshness in the mystery of suffering; we bear the burden of life without courage or dignity, because we do not know how to raise our eyes and our hopes above the limited sights and perspectives of the present life, and because we do not reflect upon their destiny and end.

Our destiny of the possession of God and eternal life; to live in that abode from which all evil is absent and where we enjoy a multitude and abundance of every good, a place that is commonly called heaven.

Heaven: this is the torch before which the vivid appeal of earthly things fades, the light that, by transforming our judgments, make us cherish poverty, sickness, and the insignificance of our state of life as a good, and makes us regard riches, the glamour of honors, the favor and praise of the world as an evil. The thought and expectation of heaven impelled Paul to face the most arduous labors and the most formidable perils, giving him a superabundance of joy amidst his sufferings and afflictions. The thought of heaven enkindled a holy thirst for martyrdom among the confessors and made the indifferent to worldly honors and comforts.

When the beheld the royal pomp and the magnificence of courts, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, Anthony and their life were filled with aversion and, with disdain in their hearts, they exclaimed: Earth, how vile you appear to me when I contemplate heaven!

Consider the traveler who returns from distant lands, bathed in perspiration and exhausted by his long journey. He walks painfully, bent over with fatigue and leaning upon his stick, but, once he reaches the summit of the hill, and discerns, far away in the distance, at the farthest horizon and merged with the clouds, the steeple of his hamlet, the roof that saw his birth and the trees that shaded his childhood games- at once all weariness fades away and, finding again the vigor of his youth, he runs as if on wings.

In the same way, when our constancy weakens and we no longer feel equal to the sacrifices that the law of God requires of us, let us life our eyes and turn our thoughts and hearts toward our heavenly homeland…