THE FOUR LAST THINGS ---- DEATH, JUDGMENT, HELL and HEAVEN
FATHER MARTIN VON COCHEM, O.S.F.C.
Father Martin von Cochem was born at Cochem, on the Moselle,
in the year 1625, and died at Waghausel in 1712.
“Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.”
HOLY REDEEMER LIBRARY
Nihil Obstat: Thomas L Kinkead, Censor Liborium
Imprimatur: Michael Augustine --- Archbishop of New York (New York October 5, 1899)
Copyright, 1899, by Benziger Brothers
PART II. THE LAST JUDGMENT.
II. On the Resurrection of the Dead.
THE reader will perhaps not take what has been said in the preceding chapter much to heart, because he cherishes the hope that he will not be alive during that awful period. But what we are now about to speak of concerns every one, whoever he may be. Wherefore let him read it attentively and ponder it seriously.
The first event that will follow upon the end of the world is the general resurrection of the dead. All men, whoever they may be, and whenever and wherever they have lived, not excepting infants whose existence has been but one brief moment, will rise again. With the solemn blast of a trumpet God will cause all men to be summoned to the Last Judgment. Concerning this Christ says: "He shall send His Angels with a trumpet and a great voice; and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest parts of the Heavens to the utmost bounds of them" (Matt. xxiv. 31). And St. Paul says: "We shall indeed all rise again, but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible: and we shall be changed" (i Cor. xv. 51, 52).
After the vast conflagration God will send out His Angels, who will blow so mighty a blast upon their trumpet, that it will re-echo throughout the whole world. The sound of this trumpet will be so solemn that it will cause the earth to tremble. Its powerful voice will awaken the dead, calling on them: "Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment! Arise ye dead, and come to judgment! Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment!" Loud, continuous, and most solemn will be the blast of that trumpet.
How terrified all the evil spirits and the souls of the lost will be when they hear this call! They will howl and mourn, for the fatal hour has come at last, the hour they have looked forward to so long, and with such unutterable dread. There will be such a commotion in Hell, such raving and raging and fury, that one might imagine the devils were all tearing one another to pieces. "Alas, alas!" they will shriek in their despair. "How can we possibly stand before the countenance of our angry Judge! How can we possibly endure the shame, the agony that will be our portion! Could we only remain here, how gladly would we do so, great as are the torments we have now to endure!" But vain are all their wishes, futile are all their struggles.
They cannot choose, but must obey the voice of the trumpet. The general resurrection begins while its sound still re-echoes over the whole globe. Do not pause to ask how this can be, for we know that it will be so, on the irrefragable authority of God’s omnipotence and His word which cannot deceive.
However long ago the body of a man may have crumbled into dust, whatever changes it may have passed through, every portion and every particle will unite to form again the same body which was his during his lifetime. "And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hell gave up their dead that were in them" (Apoc. xx. 13).
Consider this solemn truth, O Christian, for it concerns thee closely. As certainly as thou now livest, so certainly wilt thou one day rise again from the grave. Place this awful moment vividly before thee. Even if thou wert pious, and shouldst end thy days in the grace of God, yet, according to the testimony of Holy Scripture and of the Catholic Church, fear and trembling will lay hold upon thee. Considering how inconceivably rigorous God will be in His judgment of men, even the just will have cause to fear in appearing before His tribunal, as we shall presently show. And if good and just men are afraid, what will be the fear that thou, poor sinner, wilt feel, when the trumpet calls thee to judgment! Wherefore amend thy ways, and make thy peace now with thy strict Judge, by works of penance, while there Is yet time. Now in order that thou mayst prepare thyself for that terrible hour of resurrection, we will describe first the resurrection of the good, and then that of the reprobate.
Awakened by the solemn sound of the trumpet all the souls of the just will come down from Heaven, and, accompanied by their guardian Angels, betake themselves to the spot where their remains were interred. The graves will be open, and in them the bodies will be seen lying, incorrupt but yet lifeless. The body of every good man will rest in the grave as if he were asleep; it will be blooming as a rose, fragrant as a lily, shining as a star, fair as an Angel and perfect in every member. What will the soul say when she beholds the body appertaining to her lying before her in such beauty? She will say: "Hail, blessed and beloved body, how I rejoice once more to rejoin thee ! How lovely thou art, how glorious, how pleasing, how fragrant ! Come to me, that I may be wedded to thee for all eternity." Then through the power of God the body will be reunited to the soul, and in that same instant return to life.
O my God, what will be the astonishment of the body when it finds itself alive again, and moulded in so beauteous a form! Soul and body will greet each other lovingly and embrace each other affectionately with heartfelt emotion. The soul will speak thus to the body: "How earnestly I have longed for thee, how I have desired to see this day! Now I will conduct thee to the regions of heavenly bliss that we may rejoice together for evermore." And the body will answer: "Welcome, dearest soul; it is indeed a heartfelt joy to me to be with thee again. The greater the pain our past separation caused me, the greater the delight our present reunion affords."
Then the soul will speak again, and say to the body: "Blessed be thou, my chosen companion, who hast been so faithful to me. Blessed be thy senses and all thy members, for they have ever abstained from evil." And the body will reply: "Be thou rather blessed, O dearest soul, for it was by thy instigation I did so, and thou didst incite me to all that was good. It is to thee that I owe my present felicity, therefore I praise and magnify thee, and I will praise and magnify thee to all eternity." Thus body and soul will rejoice together with inexpressible satisfaction.
Then the holy guardian Angels will congratulate these blessed beings and exult with them over their joyous resurrection. In all cemeteries, and places where many persons are buried, the blessed will arise first with resplendent glorified bodies. That they will take the precedence over the others may be gathered from Christ s words, when He says: "Wonder not at this; for the hour cometh, wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that have done good things shall come forth to the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment" (John v. 28, 29).
And as in every graveyard there are many persons to rise again, and amongst these a considerable proportion will be good and just, imagine the pleasure it will be to them to see one another again, arrayed in such shining glorious bodies.
God grant that I be counted amongst the number of these happy individuals ! How heartily will I thank Him if He grant my request!
The resurrection of the wicked will follow immediately upon that of the just; but oh, how different will it be! In every burying-ground all the lost souls will assemble whose bodies have been interred there, and they will be compelled again to assume them and reunite themselves to them. But what will be the reluctance, the disgust wherewith they will do this ! When the soul sees her own body, she will shrink back from it with the utmost repulsion, so hideous will it be, and she will feel that she had rather go straight to Hell than again unite herself to it. For the bodies of the reprobates will resemble devils more than men, so frightful, so loathsome, so offensive will they be. Yet, however the soul resists and opposes the reunion with her body, now so hideous, she must submit to it, for God compels her to it.
Who can depict the despair that takes possession of the body when, reanimated by the return of the soul, it awakens to a consciousness that it is lost forever. With a shriek of rage it will exclaim: "Woe is me, woe is me to all eternity! Better were it for me a thousand times never to have been born, than to have come to this resurrection of misery!" Then the soul will rejoin: "Thou accursed body, I have already for several hundred years had to endure the torments of Hell, and now I must return with thee to the everlasting burning. Thou art to blame for all this misfortune; I gave thee good counsels, but thou wouldst not follow them. Therefore thou art forever lost. Alas for me, unhappy soul that I am! Alas for me, now and for ever more! Thou hast been the means of bringing me to this endless misery. Therefore I execrate the hour in which I first came to dwell with thee." And then the body will answer the soul after this manner: "O accursed soul, what right hast thou to anathematize me, when thou art thyself the cause of all this wretchedness? Thou shouldst have ruled me more firmly and held me back from evil, for it was with this object that God united thee to me. Instead of associating thyself with me in works of penance, thou didst revel with me in sinful pleasures. It is for me, therefore, to curse thee to all eternity, because thou art the one who hast brought us both to everlasting perdition." Thus soul and body will mutually anathematize each other.
Such are the unhappy circumstances that will attend the resurrection of the bodies of the damned in all graveyards and cemeteries when they leave the grave and enter upon a second life.
And now, reader, endeavour to imagine the shame and confusion which will weigh those poor creatures to the ground when first they see each other again. Husband and wife will meet, brothers and sisters, parents and children, friends and acquaintances; those who have lived in the same town or the same village and have known each other from childhood. Their shame will be so overwhelming that they would prefer to endure any physical torture than be exposed to it. And their bodies will be so hideously ugly, so disgusting in appearance, that they will shudder at the sight of one another. Who can describe the mourning and lamentation that will prevail amongst these hapless creatures! Their misery is indeed unutterable.
Bethink thyself, whoever thou art who readest or hearest this, what awful despair would seize upon thee if thou wert amongst the number of these lost souls. In what piteous tones thou wouldst bewail with them thy hapless fate. "Alas! what have we done? Woe to us most miserable ones; would that we had never been born! Cursed be thou, my wife, who didst provoke me to sin! Cursed be you, my children, who are the cause of my damnation! Cursed be you, my friends and acquaintances, for you were the occasion of this calamity that has come upon me! Cursed forever be all those who have been partners of my life and partners of my sin!"
Think over this, O sinner, and let your hard heart be softened.
Whenever you pass by the cemetery of the place in which you live, remember that perchance thou mayst ere long be laid there to rest in the grave until the general resurrection.
Wherefore make such good use of the brief period of life, that thou mayst be numbered among the just, and arise with them to everlasting felicity, and not with the reprobate to everlasting torments. Pray often thus in thy heart: "O most compassionate Lord Jesus, I implore Thee for the sake of Thy bitter Passion and death, and through the Last Judgment at which Thou wilt be the Judge of the whole world, grant me grace to live in such a manner that at the resurrection I may arise with joy and not with shame." Amen.