Meditation for Saturday
by St. Alphonsus Liguori


The Eternity of the Pains of Hell

I.

Consider that the torments of hell will never terminate. The damned suffer in every way, and they suffer eternally. A hundred years of suffering will pass away, a thousand will pass away, and hell will still be only at its beginning. A hundred thousand and a thousand million of years will pass, and hell will still begin anew. Were an angel to be sent to one of the damned, informing him that, after as many million of ages have expired as there are drops of water in the sea, leaves upon the trees, and grains of sand on the seashore or upon the earth, he should be delivered from hell, this news would fill him with inconceivable joy. For although he would be compelled to suffer for an innumerable multitude of ages, still he would be able to say: The time will come when my sufferings will end. But alas! As many ages will really expire, and hell will be only at its beginning. Nay, this number of ages may be multiplied as many times as there are grains of sand on the earth, drops of water in the ocean, and leaves on the trees, and, at the close of this immense period, hell will begin again. There is not a wretch in that abode of torments, that would not willingly make this proposition to the Almighty. "Increase, O Lord, as much as Thou pleasest, my torments, prolong the duration of them to any extent Thou pleasest, provided they may terminate." But no: this termination will never be granted. It would be an alleviation, if the unfortunate sufferer could flatter himself with the hope that perhaps the Lord would one day have compassion on him and deliver him from hell. But alas! He will always keep the sentence of his eternal reprobation before his eyes, and will see that all these pains, this fire, this despair, these lamentations, will never cease, will never end. O hell! O eternity! How can men believe in you and yet continue in sin?

II.

Christian soul! pay attention to these truths: remember that hell is for you, if you live in sin. This horrible furnace is already kindled under your feet, and numbers throughout the world are falling into it, whilst you are reading this. Reflect, that if the same misfortune ever befalls you, it will be irreparable; if ever, then, you did deserve hell, thank God with all your heart for his mercy in having spared you. Weep over your sins; employ every possible means of securing your salvation; frequently approach the sacraments; read daily some pious book, entertain a sincere devotion to the Blessed Virgin, recite every day the Rosary, and fast every Saturday in her honor; be firm and resolute in resisting the beginning of temptation, invoking frequently the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary; flee from all occasions of sin; in short, use your utmost endeavors to avoid eternal misery, remembering that there cannot be too great security where eternity is at stake. Consider what numbers of men have hidden themselves in deserts, and shut themselves up in caverns, in order the more effectually to secure their eternal welfare. And what are you doing? Oh! give yourself sincerely to God, and say to him from your heart: Lord, behold I am now Thy servant: ready and willing to do whatever Thou commandest me. Mary, assist me.

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