1. Our Lord and Redeemer, desiring to find us prepared, warns
us of the evils that are to accompany the end of the world, so that He
may keep us from the love of it. He makes known the disasters that
will herald its approaching end, so that should we be unwilling to serve
God in times of tranquility, we may, made fearful by these happenings,
at least be anxious concerning the judgment now at hand.
For a little prior to this passage of the holy Gospel which you, my
Brethren, have just heard, the Lord forewarned us, saying: Nation shall
rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be great
earthquakes in divers places, and pestilences, and famines (Lk. xxi.
10). Then having said certain other things in between, He adds this warning
which you have just now heard: There will be signs in the sun, and in
the moon, and the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason
of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves. From among
all these things we now see that some have already come to pass; the others
that now fill us with dread are to come in the future.
For we behold nation rising against nation, and their distress prevails
upon the earth, more now in these our times than we have read of in history.
You are aware how frequently we have heard from other parts of the world
that earthquakes have devastated innumerable cities. Pestilences we suffer
without ceasing. Signs in the sun and moon and stars we have not yet clearly
beheld: but that these are not far off we gather from the alteration of
Just as before Italy was given over to be smitten by the heathen sword,
we beheld fiery hosts in the sky, and saw him glittering there who was
afterwards to shed the blood of humanity. Extraordinary confusion of the
waves has not yet risen. But since much that was foretold has happened,
we cannot doubt that the events which remain shall come in time, for the
witness of what has been fulfilled is the pledge of that which is to follow.
2. We tell you these things, dearest Brethren, in order that your souls
may awaken to an eagerness for security, and lest you become torpid in
a security that is false, and become lax through ignorance of Christian
truth, but rather that you may become solicitous, and that anxiety may
strengthen you in doing good, reflecting on this which the voice of the
Redeemer added: Men withering away for fear and expectation of
what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of the heavens
shall be moved.
Whom else does the Lord call by the name of Powers of heaven unless
the Angels, the Archangels, the Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, and
Powers, who at the Coming of the Just Judge will then appear visibly to
our eyes, to the end that they may sternly exact an account of that which
the Invisible Lawgiver now patiently suffers? Whereto is added: And
then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power
and majesty; as though He were openly to say: they shall see Him come
in power and majesty to Whom, Present in lowliness, they turned a deaf
ear, and so the more sharply will they then feel His severity, the more
they now refuse to humble their hearts before His patience.
3. Since these words were directed at the reprobate, He then turns to
speak words of comfort to the elect. For He says: When these things
come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption
is at hand. It is as if the Truth openly warns His Elect by saying:
when the evils of this world mount up, when dread of the judgment is shown
even by the trembling powers, lift up your heads, that is, be joyful in
your hearts, because the world, of which you are not friends, is drawing
to its end; the redemption you have been seeking is coming close. In Scripture
the head is often used for the soul, because as the members are ruled by
the head, so thoughts are governed by the soul. To lift up your heads therefore
means to raise the heart to the joys of the heavenly fatherland.
They, therefore, who love God, are bidden to be glad, and to rejoice,
because of the end of the world; since soon they will meet Him Whom they
love, and that is passing away which they have never loved. Far be
it then from any of the faithful who desire to see God that they should
grieve over the stricken world, which we must know will end in these catastrophes.
For it is written: Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this
world, becometh an enemy of God (Jas. iv. 4). Who therefore does
not rejoice at the approaching end of the world, testifies that he is its
friend, and by this he is revealed as an enemy of God.
But let this be far from the faithful, far from the hearts of those
who believe through their faith that there is another life, and who love
it in very deed. Let them grieve over the ruin of the world who have
planted the roots of their hearts deep in the love of it, who neither look
for the life to come, nor are even aware that it is. But we who have
learned of the joys of our heavenly home must hasten to it as speedily
as we may. We should desire to go there with all haste, and to arrive
by the shortest way. And with what miseries does not the world urge
us forward? What sorrow, what misfortune is there, that does not
press upon us? What is this mortal life but a way? And what
folly would it be, let you carefully consider, to be weary with the fatigue
of the way, and yet not eager to finish the journey!
That the world is to be trodden on, and despised, Our Redeemer then
teaches us, by a timely similitude: Behold the fig tree and all the
trees: when they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh.
So you also when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the
kingdom of God is at hand. This is as if he were openly to say: as
from the fruit on the trees you know that summer is near, so from the ruin
of the world you may know that the kingdom of God is likewise near. From
which it may be truly gathered that the fruit of the world is ruin. To
this end it arises, that it may fall. To this end it germinates, that whatever
it has brought forth from seed will be consumed in disaster. But happily
is the Kingdom of God compared to summer, because then the clouds of our
sadness will pass away, and the days, of our life shall be resplendent
in the glory of the eternal Sun.
4. All this is confirmed under a mighty pledge, when the sentence is
added in which He says: Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not
pass away, till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away,
but my words shall not pass. Nothing of this world is more durable
than the heavens and the earth, and nothing in the order of nature passes
away more quickly than speech. Words, as long as they are incomplete, are
not yet words. Once completed, they cease utterly to be; because they cannot
be perfected save in their own passing away. Therefore He says: Heaven
and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass. As if he were
openly to say: all that seems to you enduring and unchangeable, is not
enduring and without change in eternity. And everything of mine that seems
to pass away, is enduring and without change: because my speech, that passes
away, utters thoughts (sententiae manentes) which endure for ever.
5. See, my Brethren, already we begin to perceive something of that
of which we have been hearing. The world is oppressed by new and ever-increasing
miseries. How many survive of the innumerable multitude of men you
may see, yet each day new scourges beset them, sudden disasters fall on
them, new and unheard of disasters arise. Just as the body in youth
is vigorous, the heart strong and steady, the shoulders upright, and the
lungs vigorous, but in old age the figure is no longer upright, the shrunken
neck is bowed, the chest labours with frequent sighs, strength fails us,
and the speaker is impeded by a faltering breath. Although feebleness
is yet absent, yet infirmity in our bodily senses is now our normal state
of health. So in its early years, the world flourished as in its
pristine strength, vigorous to propagate the offspring of mankind, blooming
in the health of its bodies, fat with the richness of life. Now it
is falling into its own old age, and, as if near to death, is oppressed
with growing miseries.
Do not then, my Brethren, love that which you know cannot endure.
Keep before your minds the apostolic counsels wherein we are admonished:
Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If
any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him (1
Jn. ii. 15). The day before yesterday, Brethren, you heard that an
ancient plantation was uprooted by a sudden storm, that houses were destroyed,
churches razed to their foundations. How many were there, safe and
well on the previous evening, who believed that in the morning they would
fulfil some task, yet that very night were they of a sudden overtaken,
caught in the trap of this disaster?
6. But we must carefully keep in mind that in the doing of these things
it is the Invisible Judge that moves the breath of the faintest breeze,
that awakens the storm from even one small cloud, or razes the foundations
of so many buildings. But what shall happen when the Judge shall
visibly appear, and when His anger burns against the wicked, if we cannot
now endure His wrath when he inflicts upon us the least tempest?
Before the face of His wrath what flesh shall stand, if He it is that moves
the wind, and shakes the earth, incites the storms, and lays low so many
buildings? Paul reflecting on this severity of the Judge to come,
says to us: It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living
God (Heb. x. 31). The psalmist gives voice to the same reflection:
God shall come openly, Our God, He shall not be silent, and round about
shall be a mighty tempest (Ps. xlix. 3). Tempest and fire shall
accompany the severity of this justice, because the tempest shall search
out those whom the fire will burn.
Beloved Brethren, keep that day before your eyes, and then whatsoever
may seem burthensome will become light in comparison. Of that day is it
said by the mouth of the prophet: The great day of the Lord is near,
it is near and exceeding swift; the voice of the day of the Lord is bitter,
the mighty man shall there meet with tribulation. That day is a day of
wrath, a day of tribulation and distress, a day of calamity and misery,
a day of darkness and obscurity, a day of clouds and whirlwinds, a day
of trumpet and alarm (Soph. i. 14-16). Of this day the Lord has spoken
by the mouth of the prophet Aggeus (Ag. 11. 22): Once again and I shall
move not alone earth, but heaven.
Behold, as we have said, He moves the tempest, and the earth cannot
endure it. What will it do when He moves the heavens? ‘What
can we say of the terrors we now see, except that they are but heralds
of the wrath to come? And let us keep in mind that these present
afflictions are as far below the last tribulations, as is the person of
the herald below the majesty of the judge he precedes. Reflect with
all your mind upon this day, my dearest Brethren. Remedy what is
now defective in your present life. Amend your ways. Conquer
evil temptations by standing firm against them. Repent with tears of the
sins you have committed. For the more you make ready against the
severity of His justice by serving Him in fear, the more serenely shall
you behold the Coming of that Eternal Judge, Who with the Father, and the
Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, world without end. Amen.