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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

With Death All Ends

February 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Lent, Meditations: Seasonal, Preparation for Death

WITH DEATH ALL ENDS

“An end is come; the end is come.”
(cf Ezekiel 7:6)

By worldlings, they only are esteemed happy, who enjoy the pleasures, the riches, and pomps of this world; but death puts an end to all these earthly goods. “For what is your life? It is a vapor which appeareth for a little while” (cf James 4:15). The vapors exhaled from the earth, when raised in the air and clothed with light by the sun, make a splendid appearance; but how long does their splendor last? It vanishes before the first blast of the wind. Behold that grandee! Today he is courted, feared, and almost adored; tomorrow he is dead, despised, reviled, and trampled on. At death we must leave all things. The brother of that great servant of God, Thomas à Kempis, took complacency in speaking of a beautiful house which he had built for himself: a friend told him that it had one great defect. “What is it?” said he. “It is,” replied the other, “that you have made a door in it.” “What?” rejoined the brother of à Kempis, “is a door a defect?” “Yes,” answered the friend, “for through this door you must be one day carried dead, and must leave the house and all things.”

Death, in fine, strips man of all the goods of this world. O, what a spectacle to behold a prince banished from his palace, nevermore to return to it, and to see others take possession of his furniture, of his money, and of all his other goods! The servants leave him in the grave, with a garment scarcely sufficient to cover his body. There is no longer anyone to esteem or flatter him, no longer anyone to attend to his commands. Saladin, who had acquired many kingdoms in Asia, gave directions, at death, that, when his body should be carried to the place of burial, a person should go before holding his winding-sheet suspended from a pole, and crying aloud, “This is all that Saladin brings with him to the grave.”

When the body of the prince is laid in the tomb, his flesh falls in pieces; and behold, his skeleton can be no longer distinguished form that of others. “Contemplare sepulchra,” says St. Basil, “vide utrum poteris discernere quis servus, quis dominus fuerit.” “Contemplate the sepulchres of the dead, and see if you can distinguish who has been a servant and who has been master.” Diogenes appeared one day, in the presence of Alexander the Great, to seek with great anxiety for something among the bones of the dead. Alexander asked him what he was in search of. “I am looking,” replied Diogenes, “for the head of Philip, your father. I am not able to distinguish it: if you can find it, show it to me.” “Si tu potes, ostende.” Men are born unequal; but after death, all are equal, “Impares nascimur,” said Seneca, “pares morimur.” And Horace says that death brings down the sceptre to the level of the mattock. “Sceptra ligonibus aequat.” In a word, when death comes, the end comes, all ends; we leave all things; and of all that we possess in this world, we bring nothing to the grave.

DomenicoMorelliElAngelDeLaMuerteTheAngelOfDeathAffections and Prayers

My Lord, since thou givest me light to know that whatever the world esteems is smoke and folly, grant me strength to detach my heart from earthly goods, before death separates me from them. Miserable that I have been! How often, for the miserable pleasures and goods of this earth, have I offended and lost thee, who art an infinite good! O my Jesus, my heavenly Physician, cast thy eyes on my poor soul, look at the many wounds which I have inflicted on it by my sins, and have pity on me. If thou wishest, thou canst make me clean. “Si vis potes me mundare.” I know that thou art able and willing to heal me; but, in order to heal me, thou dost wish me to repent of the injuries which I have committed against thee. I am sorry for them from the bottom of my heart. Heal me, then, now that it is in thy power to heal me. “Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee” (Psalm 41:5). I have forgotten thee; but thou hast not forgotten me; and now thou makest me feel that thou wilt even forget the injuries I have done thee, if I detest them. “But, if the wicked do penance…I will not remember all his iniquities” (cf Ezekiel 18:21-22). Behold, I detest my sins, I hate them above all things. Forget, then, O my Redeemer, all the displeasure I have given thee. For the future, I will lose all things, even life, rather than forfeit thy grace. And what can all the goods of this earth profit me without thy grace?

Ah, assist me; thou knowest my weakness. Hell will not cease to tempt me: it already prepares a thousand attacks to make me again its slave. No, my Jesus, do not abandon me. I wish to be henceforth the slave of thy love. Thou art my only Lord: thou hast created and redeemed me; thou hast loved me more than all others; thou alone hast merited my love; thee alone do I wish to love.

 

Editor's Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori's “Preparation for Death” (1758).

Art: El ángel de la muerte [The Angel of Death], Domenico Morelli, 1897, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Judy Silhan

    Excellent prayer of repentance, another great tool with which I can enrich my relationship with my Lord.

  • DianeVa

    Now this is a counter-cultural way to prepare for Easter in this season of Lent! But so necessary! Perhaps meditating on death makes Lent easier? Thanks Dan!

    • LizEst

      Yes, after all, we start out receiving ashes with “You are dust and unto dust you shall return!” It is a call for humility and sounds the note for conversion of heart.

  • Joan

    “Thou hast loved me more than all others…”. A great reminder of all that really matters.

  • Alan Thomas

    Title is a little frightening at the outset, there’s nothing on the kingdom of God, but is out of context so I suppose the desired effect is achieved in getting attention, but shame – is misleading and never quite completes the study of John 14 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

    • LizEst

      Hi Alan, Thanks for your comments and for joining us here. These titles come from St. Alphonsus Liguori…so your quibble is with the Saint! Ha!

      Seriously, if you have read just this one meditation, this is our Lenten series (we started it yesterday). And, you are correct in that it was, indeed, written to get our attention. We will have one of these every day except Sundays and solemnities, with the exception that there will be one on Passion Sunday. The whole thing wraps up Wednesday of Holy Week. These are very sobering reflections, developing the “preparation for death” very slowly over the course of Lent. They are not for the faint of heart. In today’s meditation, St. Alphonsus has not said everything he is going to say about the subject. So, stay tuned, be a companion along the journey and follow along with the rest of us. We welcome your participation! God bless you!

  • Thank you, Dan for this most appropriate Post. Yes, Lent is the time to remember that momentous end of our lives when one’s soul leaves the body and immediately stands before God…….Oh Merciful Jesus, may I remember this Moment every single day of my life and pray You shall then be, not my Just Judge, but my Merciful Saviour, Amen

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