December 28, 2009

Reading of the Day

Preparation for Death
St. Alphonsus Liguori XXVI (1758)

What is this inferno? It is the place of torment[...]And the more someone has offended God in some way, the more torments he will suffer [...]The sense of smell will be tormented. What punishment would it be to find oneself closed in a room with a rotten corpse [...] The damned must reside amidst many millions of other damned souls, alive for the punishment, but cadavers for the stench they give off [...] They will suffer all the more (I say) for their stench, for the screaming, for the crowds, because in hell, they will be one on top of the other, like sheep crowded together in winter time [...] from this then will come the punishment of immobility [...]since the damned soul will then fall into hell on the last day, so he will have to remain, without ever changing it's place and without being able to move his foot, or his hand, as long as God is God.
His hearing will be tormented with the continuous cries of those poor desperate souls. The demons will clamour continuously[...]what punishment is it when one wants to sleep and one hears an invalid who complains continuously, a dog barking, a little child crying?
Wretched damned, who must hear the noise and cries of those tormented constantly and for all eternity! the throat will be tormented with hunger, the damned will be hungry as wolves [...] but he will never have so much as a crumb of bread. He will feel such thirst, that not even all the water in the sea would be enough to slake it, but he will not have so much as a drop; the glutton ask for a drop, but he hasn't had it yet, and he never, will [...]
The punishment that most torments the senses of the damned is the fire of hell, which torments the torch [...] in this land punishment by fire is the worst of all, but there is a great deal of difference between our fire and that of hell, which St. Augustine has said makes ours seem as if painted [...] therefore the wretched will be surrounded by fire, like wood inside a furnace. The damned soul will find himself within an abyss of fire below, an abyss above, an abyss all around him. If he touches, sees, breathes, he does not touch, see or breath anything but fire. He will exist in fire like a fish in water. But this fire will not only surround the damned, it will enter into his guts to torment him from within. His body will become entirely made of fire, so that his guts will burn inside his stomach, his heart inside his chest, his brain inside his scull, his blood inside his veins, even his bone marrow inside his bones; each damn soul will become a furnace of fire [...] If hell were not eternal, it would not be hell. The punishment that does not last for long, is not much of a punishment. On an infirm man you may lance an abscess, on another gangrene breaks out; the pain is great, but because it ends quickly it's no great torment. But what punishment would it be, if that cut or that operation with fire continued for a week, for an entire month? When the punishment is very long, even when it is light, like discomfort in the eyes, or the pain of a great weight, it becomes unbearable. But why stop at pain? Even a play or music that lasts too long, or continues for an entire day, would be unbearably tedious. And what if it lasted a month? or a year? What would hell be like? It is not the place where one watches the same play, or hears the same music; there is not only a discomfort in the eyes, or a great weight; one does not feel merely the torment of a cut, or a hot iron, but rather all the torments, all the pain, and for how long? for all of eternity[...]
[...]death in this life is the thing most feared by sinners, but in hell it will become the most desired[...] and how long will their misery last? for ever and ever [...], the damned will ask the demons; where is the night [...] where does it end? Where do these shadows lift, where do these cries, this stench, these flames, these torments end? And they will answer; 'Never, Never.' And how long will it last? 'for ever and ever'.

-quoted from "On Ugliness" by Umberto Eco


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