from the annals of history unto our current day
Meditations by Rev. John Wyse
from the book
'Devout Exercises: Compromising Meditations and Visits to the Sanctuaries of the Blessed Virgin for Every Day in the Month of May'
On the Sin of the Angels
The meditation of to-day will take us a step further, in the work of examining the state of our souls. Having seen that man has but one end in life, and that everything else is merely a means to that end, whether it brings us pleasure or suffering, and consequently to be embraced with equal submission and cheerfulness, it follows, that he who does not carry out this rule in his actions, is offending God, or in other words committing sin. Sin, therefore, is the great and only evil of the world, and the whole energies of a religious mind are required to rid one's self of it. Thus let us endeavour, first, to obtain some knowledge of the nature of this great evil, by contemplating the fruits of sin in the fall of the angels from heaven. Let us go back a little with the mind of our faith, and look into that wondrous space of time, when God created heaven and filled it with angels. What can be conceived happier and more enjoyable, than the state of those spirits ? Their beauty was such, that no mortal could have gazed upon it without dying for joy. Their wisdom was so great and so clear, that the wisdom of Solomon, though divinely infused, was yet a very ignorance compared to it. The utmost amount of happiness was their portion of an existence, which knew not pain or sorrow. Added to this, they possessed the fullest and most intimate knowledge of God, and were linked with Him in a perfect bond of love and friendship. Such, and even far beyond these, were the gifts and graces of the angels; yet such gifts and graces did those angels abuse. They would not serve God, as He willed they should - they sinned, and were punished. Now, let us consider the quality and nature of their punishment.
These unhappy angels were changed, in one instant, from the most beautiful of beings into the most horrible devils - from the loveliest and most beloved of the children of God, into the objects of His eternal hatred.
They were cast down from their seats in heaven, into the very bottom of the abyss of hell: and there, from that moment they have endured, are enduring, and will ever endure, all that it is possible to suffer - the biting and sorrowful remorse for the past, the most fearful despair of the future. Instead of the bright intellect of their first existence, a darksome night lies as a curse upon their blurred understandings, whilst their entire powers are eaten up with the flame of a fire, that burns without destroying.
This direful punishment was the effect of God's justice. Had it pleased Him to grant the falling angels but a moment of time, without doubt they would have instantly repented of their sin, and have served and loved Him to all eternity. But the justice of God would not allow it. They received no mercy.
And there was no atonement for this sin. These miserable spirits had burned for more than four thousand years, before Christ became man to redeem the world. Did their punishment end then? Oh, no. That loving Saviour, Who shed so many tears over the city of Jerusalem, shed no tear for them. That Heart of Jesus, pierced and wrung, Whose Precious Blood flowed in streams for us - that tender heart had not one single throb for them. Unfortunate - thrice unfortunate spirits! they sinned but for a moment, and their punishment is for ever, for ever, and for ever.
Now may we cast one glance into that fiery prison which holds them. Behold their frightful look and appearance, so terrible that man cannot even fancy it without horror: behold their pains and agonies, so great that no human mind can conceive them. And when we have looked upon them, let us say to ourselves - these cursed beings, these hideous objects - these monsters, were they not once the chosen children of God? were they not, in their entrancing beauty, the very masterpieces of His almighty power - the inmates of heaven? What have they done then, to suffer such misery? They committed a sin. But their sin was momentary - a single sin, one sinful thought - a sin of disobedience: and for that one sin, already they have been burning near six thousand years in hell. And who has passed a sentence so severe, and so awful, upon them? God! O most terrible of truths: Almighty God Himself! But God is infinitely just, and infinitely good and merciful. It follows, then, that sin is the most dreadsome evil, since it is accompanied by so terrible a punishment. If such is the fate of the angels of heaven for one sin, what are we to think when we look to our own sins? Which, indeed shall excite in us the greatest astonishment, the rigour of God's justice to the fallen angels, or the fulness of His mercy to us? Those beautiful ones of heaven commit but a single sin, and they are cast for ever into hell: and we, who are but dust of the earth, have committed sins without number - and yet He has had mercy on us! and again we committed sin, once more we abused His mercy, and again did He spare us. Even now, as we stand here, is He not stretching out the arms of His love towards us? O patience, admirable and enduring, of the Lord Our God! May His Name be ever praised for it!
Whoever has sinned but once, mortally, in his life may speak thus truly to his soul: "I have offended a God that has loved me more than thousands and millions of the noblest of beings -- a God, that has sheltered me with His almighty arm, even in the midst of my sins - a God, that still proffers me a tender love, despite my sins: and, O my soul, how couldst thou have despised and scorned so great a love? and canst thou yet continue to sin in His sight? Oh no: I see how great an evil sin is - and what must mine have been in Thy sight, O Jesus! My God, my Saviour, I acknowledge my sins, I hate them, I curse them from this hour." Thus may we all discourse with our souls: for who can sin again before heaven, if he thinks of the lost angels, and the long night of their punishment in hell? Have we not perhaps deserved the same, not once, but hundreds of times? and where might we be now, were it not for the infinite mercy of God? Let us leave nothing undone, to avoid in future so great an evil. But when sin, with its thousand allurements, seduces and tempts us, to whom then shall we recur for help? to whom, but to the most Blessed Mary ever a Virgin, conceived without sin?
If God so hates sin, and if the only bar to His love is sin, how must He not love her, whose soul was never stained with its approach! If again, our good God has loved us so much, notwithstanding our sins, what love can we imagine too great for Mary, who never either by original or actual sin gave Him cause to reject her ? Let us then call confidently upon Our Blessed Lady, and beseech her to obtain for us a freedom from this great evil, to keep us from the occasions of sin, to procure us grace to resist it, to watch over us, to guard us, to pray for us, and never to desist in the assistance she gives us, till she has brought our souls, sinless and white as we received them in baptism, to the eternal gates of heaven.
VISIT TO A SANCTUARY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
Whither, at present, can we better speed to pay our spiritual visit to Mary, than to the glorious church of St. Peter in Home? The Eternal City is conspicuous for its devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and any one who has been there, is well cognizant of the filial love and genuine piety of the Roman people in this regard. They call her affectionately "Mamma mia," or "My Mother," or else they address her reverentially by the title of "Madonna," or "My Lady," and withal so unrestrainedly and naturally, that it is easy to see how perfectly a part of his very system, is love for Mary, to an inhabitant of Rome. Everything is done there, that can be done to honour the Blessed Virgin: her numerous churches are thronged: the devotions and novenas in her honour well attended: the public business is regulated by the sound of the bell, that rings out the Ave Maria: the very atmosphere of Rome breathes devotion to Mary: and although the principal church of Rome, the Cathedral of the world, is not dedicated to her, it yet glories in the guardianship of Mary. It was in this church on the 8th of December, in the year of grace 1854, amid the acclamations of thousands, and surrounded by the representative bishops of all countries in the world, that our Holy Father the Pope, in virtue of the power given him by Christ, defined and proclaimed that Mary ever Virgin, the Mother of God, had been conceived without sin, that she had formed an exception to the common rule of the children of Eve, that she had never known the great evil - sin. O glorious church of St. Peter, glorious because of its noble expanse and majestic proportions: doubly glorious because the Cathedral of the Vicar of Christ on earth, and as containing the relics of the holy Apostles: but thrice glorious, because beneath its vast dome, and within its hallowed walls, were first heard those words, which publicly recognized and proclaimed, as an article of faith, the brightest gem in the crown of Mary! Let us travel there in spirit, and praise God, that so great a glory has been conferred on His Church in these days: and let us bless that sanctuary of Mary, whose privilege it was to receive first the divine accents, as like the manna of old they descended to us from heaven.
PRAYER OF SAINT ALPHONSUS
O my immaculate Lady! I rejoice with thee, on seeing thee enriched with so great a purity. I do thank, and resolve always to thank, our common Creator for having preserved thee from every stain of sin: and I firmly believe this doctrine, and am prepared even to lay down my life, should this be necessary, in defence of this thy so great and singular privilege of being conceived without sin O most sweet, most amiable, immaculate Mary, thou who art so beautiful in the eyes of thy Lord, disdain not to cast thine eyes of compassion on the wounds of my soul, loathsome as they are. Behold me, have pity on me, heal me . . . O thou, who from the first moment of thy life didst appear pure and beautiful before God, pity me, who not only was born in sin, but who again since baptism have stained my soul with crimes. What favour will God ever refuse thee Who chose thee for His Daughter, His Mother, and Spouse, and therefore preserved thee from every stain, and in His love preferred thee to all other creatures? Amen.
Return to the Third Meditation . . . Proceed to the Fifth Meditation. . .