The Shortness-of Life
by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori
First Point - Death Comes Quickly
What is your Life? It is Vapor, which is Dissipated-by a Blast-of Wind, and seen no-more. All Know that they must
Die; but the Delusion-of many is, that they imagine Death as Far-off, as-if it were
Never to-Arrive. But Job tells us that the Life-of Man is Short.
"Man Born of a Woman, Living a Short Time
who Cometh-forth like a Flower, and is Destroyed" -
This Truth, the Lord commanded Isaiah to-Preach-to the People.
All Flesh is Grass
Indeed, the People is Grass. The Grass is Withered, and the Flower is
Fallen" - Isaiah 40:6-8.
The Life-of Man is like the Life-of a Blade-of Grass; Death comes, the Grass is Dried-up; Behold,
Life-ends, and the Flower-of all Greatness, and of all Worldly Goods, Falls-off.
"My Days", says Job, "have been Swifter than a Post" -
Death, Runs-to meet us, more-Swiftly-than a Post, and we, at every
Moment, Run-towards Death. Every-Step, every-Breath, brings us Nearer-to our End.
"What I Write," says Jerome, "is so much Taken-away from Life".
"During the Time I Write, I Draw near-to Death".
"We all Die, and, like the Waters that Return no-more, we Fall-into the Earth" - 2Kings 14:14.
Behold how the Stream flows-to the Sea, and the passing-Waters, never Return! Thus, my Brother, your Days pass-by, and you
approach-Death. Pleasures, Amusements, Pomps, Praises, and Acclamations, pass-away; and what remains?
We shall be Thrown-into a Grave, and there we shall Remain-to Rot,
Stripped-of All-things. At the Hour-of Death, the Remembrance-of the Delights-enjoyed, and of all the Honors
acquired-in this Life, will Serve-only to-Increase our Pain and our Diffidence-of obtaining
Eternal Salvation. Then the Miserable Worldling will say:
"My House, my Gardens, my Fashionable Furniture, my Pictures, my Garments, will in a little-Time, be no-longer mine, and only the
Grave Remaineth-for me".
Ah! At that Hour, all Earthly Goods are Viewed only-with Pain, by
those who have had an Attachment-for them. And this Pain will Serve only-to Increase the
Danger-of their Eternal Salvation; for we see by-Experience, that Persons attached-to
the World, Wish at-Death, to Speak only-of their Sickness, of
the Physicians to be called, to-attend them, and of the Remedies which may Restore their Health. When anyone Speaks-of the State-of the
Soul, they soon grow-Weary, and Beg to be allowed Repose. They Complain-of
Headache, and say that it Pains them to-Hear any-one Speak. And if they sometimes
answer, they are Confused, and know not what to say. It often happens that the Confessor gives them
Absolution, not because he knows that they are Disposed-for the
Sacrament, but because it is Dangerous to Defer it. Such is the
Death-of those, who think but-little, of-Death.
Second Point - The Lighted Candle at Death
King Ezechiah said, with Tears:
"My Life is Cut-off, as by a Weaver; while I was yet Beginning, He Cut me off" - Isaiah 38:12.
Oh, how many have been Overtaken and Cut-off by Death, while they were Executing and Arranging Worldly
Projects, Devised-with so-much Labor! By the Light-of the Last Candle, all things in this World, Applause, Diversions,
Pomps, and Greatness, Vanish. Great Secret-of Death! It makes us see, what the Lovers-of this World, do
not see. The most-Princely Fortunes, the most-Exalted Dignities, and the most-Superb Triumphs, Lose all their Splendor, when Viewed-from the Bed-of
Death. The Ideas that we have Formed, of certain False Happiness, are then changed-into Indignation-against
our own Folly. The Black and Gloomy Shade-of Death, then Covers and
Obscures every Dignity, even that-of Kings and Princes.
At Present, our Passions make the Goods-of this Earth appear Different, from-what they are in Reality.
Death Takes-off the Veil, and makes them Appear what they Really-are -
Smoke, Dirt, Vanity, and
Wretchedness. O God! Of what use are Riches, Possessions, or Kingdoms, at-
Death, when nothing remains but a Wooden Coffin, and a Simple Garment, barely sufficient to-cover the
Body? Of what use are the Honors, when they all End-in a Funeral Procession and Pompous Obsequies, which will be Unprofitable-to the
Soul, if it be in Hell? Of what use is Beauty, when after
Death, nothing remains but Worms,
Stench, and Horror, and in the End, a little Fetid Dust?
"He hath made me", says Job, "as it were a Byword of the People, and an Example before
them" - Job 17:6.
The Rich Man, the Captain, the Minister-of-State, Dies; his Death
is the General Topic-of Conversation; but if he has led a Bad Life, he will become "a
Byword-of the People, and an Example before them". As an Instance-of the Vanity-of the World, and even of
the Divine Justice, he will Serve-for the Admonition-of others. After Burial, his
Body will be Mingled-with the Bodies of the Poor.
What Profit has he Derived-from the Beautiful Structure-of his Body, which is now but a
Heap-of-Worms? Of what use are the Power and Authority, which he Wielded, when his Body is now
left, to Rot in a Grave, and his Soul,
has perhaps, been sent-to Burn-in Hell? Oh, what Misery! To be
the Occasion-of such Reflections to-others, and not to have them for his own Profit! Let us then Persuade ourselves, that the Proper
Time for Repairing the Disorders-of the Soul,
is not the Hour-of Death, but the Time-of
Health. Let us Hasten-to do now, what we shall not be able to do at that Hour. "Time
is Short". Everything soon Passes-away, and Comes-to an End; let us therefore Labor-to employ all things,
for the Attainment-of Eternal Life.
Third Point - Importance of the Last Moment
How Great, then, the Folly of those who, for the Miserable and Transitory Delights-of this Short Life,
exposes themselves to the Danger-of an Unhappy
Eternity (∞). Oh! How important is that Last Moment, that
Last Gasp, the Last Closing-of the Scene! On it depends an Eternity (∞),
either of all-Delights or of all Torments - a Life-of
Eternal (∞) Happiness or of
Everlasting (∞) Woe.
Let us consider, that Jesus Christ submitted-to a Cruel and
Ignominious Death, in-order-to Obtain-for us, the Grace-of a
Good Death. That we may, at that Last Moment,
Die in the Grace-of
God, is the Reason-why, He gives us so-many Calls,
so-many Lights, and Admonishes us by so-many
Antisthenes, though a Pagan, being asked what was the Greatest
Blessing, which Man could Receive, in this World, answered, "A Good Death".
And what will a Catholic say, who Knows-by Faith, that at
the Moment-of Death, Eternity
(∞) Begins, and that at that Moment, he lays hold-of,
One (1) of Two (2) Wheels, which Draws-with it, either Eternal
(∞) Joy or Everlasting
(∞) Torments? If there were Two (2)
Tickets in a Lottery, on One of which might be written Hell and on the Other
Heaven, what care would you not take, to-Draw that which gives you a Right-to Paradise, and
to-avoid the Other, by which you would Win a Place-in Hell!
O God! How the hands-of those Unhappy Men Tremble, who are Condemned-to
throw the Dice, on-which their Life or Death, depends! How Great will be your
Terror, at the Approach-of that Last Hour, when you will say: On this Moment,
depends my Life or Death, for Eternity; on this depends whether I shall be Forever Happy, or Forever in Despair!
Saint Bernardine-of-Sienna relates, that at Death, a certain Prince exclaimed, with
Trembling and Dismay:
Behold, I have so many Kingdoms and Palaces in this World; but if I Die this Night, I know not what Apartment shall be
Brother, if you Believe:
that you must Die,
that there is an Eternity (∞),
that you can Die only Once (1), and
that if you then Err, your Error will be
Forever (∞) Irreparable,
why do you not Resolve-to begin-at this Moment, to do all in your Power, to-Secure a
Saint Andrew-Avellino, said-with Trembling:
The Thought-of the Uncertainty-of being Damned or Saved,
filled Saint Louis-Bertrand with so-much Terror, that he could not Sleep during the Night, because of
this Thought, which would Suggest-to him: "Who knows whether thou wilt be Lost"? And will not you, who have Committed
so-many Sins, Tremble?
Oh! Hasten to-apply a Remedy in-Time. Resolve to give yourself Sincerely-to God,
and begin from this Moment, a Life which, at the Hour-of
Death, will be to you a Source, not of Affliction, but of
Consolation. Give yourself to-Prayer, Frequent the
Sacraments, Avoid all Dangerous Occasions, and, if necessary,
Leave the World, Secure-to yourself Eternal Salvation, and be persuaded-that,
to Secure Eternal Life , no Precaution can be too-Great.
- End of Liguori Sermon -
My Crucified Jesus,
I will not Wait till Death to Embrace Thee;
I Embrace Thee at this Moment.
I Love Thee above all things;
and because I Love Thee,
I Repent with my Whole Heart
of all the Offences and Insults
I have Offered to Thee,
Who art Infinite Goodness;
and I Purpose and Hope, with Thy Grace,
to Love Thee always,
and Never-more to Offend Thee.
Through the Merits of Thy Passion
I ask Thee to Assist me.