Monday, February 23, 2009

This Miserable and Naughty World

To-day we celebrate him who named himself Peter the Sinner, Petrus Peccator.  Having gone to confession (myself certainly a sinner, all too allured by the deceits of sin), I appreciate more than before his Collect, and a curious parallel in the BCP, which see further below:
Concede nos, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: beati Petri Confessoris tui atque Pontificis monita et exempla sectari; ut per terrestrium rerum contemptum æterna gaudia consequamur. Per...

(Grant us, we beg, almighty God, to follow the admonitions and example of blessed Peter Thy Confessor and Pontiff, that by contempt of earthly things we may obtain eternal joys.  Through...)
Do recall, the Imitation notes that some persons are so wretched that they would, if they could, live ever on earth - even as vile beggars - and never long for heaven; and that the punishment of hell is everlasting precisely because unrepentant sinners would rather sin forever than give up sin and turn to the Lord or desire to come nigh unto Him, even though willy nilly they will at death face Him: and, God avert, if unrepentant themselves turn away into eternal perdition.  Anyone who has struggled with sin - that is, the entire human race - knows the enslaving effect and attraction of evil, of choosing an apparent or disordered good over or in contradiction to the Supreme Good, God.  Hence, we must mortify ourselves, subdue our unruly passions which would else drag us to destruction, and indeed have contempt for transient and terrene things, all which shall pass, and which in the last analysis are unworthy of and unable fully or eternally to satisfy us, who have immortal souls, whose very bodies shall one day rise to life forever - or ever to abide in eternal death.  No, we must not hate our bodies (as the world claims Christian fools do), but rather so treasure them that we preserve them from being one day consumed forever in hell, that they will instead be perfected and deified in Christ with Him in the heaven where the Trinity reigns world without end.

Hence my reference above to the second-last prayer in the 1662 B.C.P.'s Visitation of the Sick, which, interestingly enough - and I believe it's by Jeremy Taylor - would make an excellent prayer for the dead, even alluding to purgatorial purifications, if offered after the final falling asleep of a Christian:
A commendatory Prayer for a sick person at the point of departure.
ALMIGHTY God, with whom do live the spirits of just men made perfect, after they are delivered from their earthly prisons*: We humbly commend the soul of this thy servant, our dear brother, into thy hands, as into the hands of a faithful Creator, and most merciful Saviour; most humbly beseeching thee, that it may be precious in thy sight. Wash it, we pray thee, in the blood of that immaculate Lamb, that was slain to take away the sins of the world; that whatsoever defilements it may have contracted in the midst of this miserable and naughty world, through the lusts of the flesh, or the wiles of Satan, being purged and done away, it may be presented pure and without spot before thee. And teach us who survive, in this and other like daily spectacles of mortality, to see how frail and uncertain our own condition is; and so to number our days, that we may seriously apply our hearts to that holy and heavenly wisdom, whilst we live here, which may in the end bring us to life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ thine only Son our Lord. Amen.
[* Cf. the same phrase, carnis ergastulo, in one of the O.P. hymns for the feast of St Dominic their Patriarch - it's not a denial nor devaluation of the flesh, but shews how in this fallen world it must be accorded only a relative and not an absolute worth, in line with Our Lord's own words that it is better to save the soul even if the body perish.]

Yes, Lord, "teach us... how frail and uncertain our own condition is; and so to number our days, that we may seriously apply our hearts to that holy and heavenly wisdom, whilst we live... which may in the end bring us to life everlasting".  For this, we need a right and well-ordered contempt of worldly things - lest they fascinate, entrap us, and draw us away from the high road to heaven, through, with and in Him Who is our only Way, Truth and Life.

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