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The end of the present world

on Sunday, 01 May 2011. Posted in Homilies

Here are some excerpts from a book of homilies released in 1881 by Father Charles Arminjon (1824-1885). Fr. Arminjon was a French priest from Chambery, France, who preached many conferences and homilies – the most famous of which form the basis for his book, “The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life.” The profound wisdom evidenced by Fr. Arminjon’s preaching made a great impact on the life and spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux.

 

ApocalypseThe Persecution by the Antichrist

The end of the world, and the subsequent final coming of the Son of God, will happen unexpectedly, with the rapidity of lightning, rending the clouds as it darts from east to west. St. John Chrysostom said, “The earthquakes and the chilling of charity are, as it were, the forerunners and omens of that terrible event.”

St. Paul said, “We beg you, brothers, not to be so easily agitated or terrified… into believing that the day of the Lord is here… since the mass apostasy has not yet occurred nor the man of lawlessness has been revealed… before the end of the world, there will appear on earth a profoundly evil man, invested with a quasi-superhuman power, who, challenging Christ, will wage an impious and foolish war against Him. Through the fear this man will inspire, and, particularly, by his stratagems and seductive genius, he will succeed in conquering almost the entire universe; he will have altars erected to himself and will compel all peoples to adore him.

St. Paul designates this great adversary by a noun, calling him a man: “the man of sin, the son of perdition.” What may be safely asserted of this man of iniquity is that, right from his most tender years, he will be completely possessed by the spirit and genius of the Devil. The lion of the abyss, which, in the last ages of mankind, God will unleash in His inscrutable justice in order to punish the infidelity of men, will unite himself with him in a certain way, infusing him with the fullness of his evil… His hatred for God will be so violent, his aversion for every good work so invincible, and his association and commerce with the spirit of darkness so close and continual that, from his cradle to his last breath, he will remain immutably hostile to all divine invitations, and grace from above will never penetrate his heart.

St. Thomas tells us that, in his person and works, he will reveal himself as the reverse of the Son of God, and will parody His miracles and works. The adversary of the last times, then, will not only set himself up as the avowed, personal enemy of Jesus Christ: he will aim openly to dethrone Him, to replace Him in the homage and veneration of men and have directed to himself the worship and glory that are due to the Creator alone. He will declare, says St. Thomas, that he is the supreme, eternal being, and, by virtue of this, he will ordain that honors and a cult of worship shall be accorded to him. Thus, he will have priests, he will have sacrifices offered to him, he will demand that his name should be invoked in oaths, and that men should use it to guarantee the security of treaties.

St. Thomas characterizes this delegate of Satan by calling him “the fountain of evil”: the prince and instigator of all the covetousness of the flesh and all the aberrations of the mind – so much so that the masters of lies and architects of evil who have followed one another in the course of the ages will seem, by comparison with this man, mere pygmies beside a giant. If you ask why Divine Providence will allow him to exercise such power and seduction, St. Paul the Apostle gives us the reason: “Because they have not opened their hearts to the truth in order to be saved. In punishment, God is sending them a perverse spirit which leads them to give credence to falsehood, so that all who have not believed the truth but have delighted in iniquity will be condemned.”

As he succeeds in overcoming the saints by a persecution carried to the extreme limit, he will simultaneously give free rein to all kinds of licentiousness, and there will be no freedom except for evil… He will be a master of the occult sciences and in the art of magic, and, through the agency of demons, he will perform wonderful deeds, which deluded men will take for true miracles.

The first of these miracles mentioned by St. John will be an apparent resurrection… Secondly, the man of sin will make fire come down from heaven, in order to create the belief that he is the master of nature, the ruler of seasons, and that he has dominion over the sky and the stars… Thirdly, he will make a statue speak; demons will use a tree or a lifeless piece of wood as an instrument, with whose aid they will utter their fabrications and false oracles… Then, by an incomprehensible judgment of God, the freethinkers and the great skeptics of the last times will take these impostures and conjuring tricks seriously… Lastly, it is written that the pride of the man of sin will be boundless.

He will make away with the Cross and every religious symbol; as Daniel again declares, he will substitute abominable rites for the Christian sacrifice in every church. Pulpits will be silent; teaching and education will be lay, compulsory, and godless. Jesus Christ will be banished from the child’s cradle, from the altar where spouses are united, from the bedside of the dying. Over the whole surface of the earth, worship of any god other than this Christ of Satan will not be tolerated.

In His impenetrable designs, God will allow men to undergo this supreme, terrible trail in order to teach them how great the power of the Devil is, and how immense their weakness; He desired to announce it to us that that we might prepare ourselves even now to sustain it, by having recourse to Him through prayer, and by providing ourselves with the spiritual weapons of charity and faith. In addition, the Antichrist is destined to bring out, in its splendor, the fidelity and constancy of those whose names are written in the Book of Life, those whom all his violence and wiles will not succeed in daunting.

On the other hand, it is certain that the duration and bitterness of this persecution will make it the ultimate criterion for discerning the elect from the reprobate since it will also be the ruin of many whose perseverance will fail; thus, it will be a test “destined to be the downfall and the rise of many… so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.” Again, St. John speaks of a strange, mysterious character that all, “both small and great, rich and poor, slave and freeman,” will be forced to have on their right hand or on their forehead; this mark will a sign of apostasy, attesting that all those who bear it, whether to the please the master, or escape his wrath, have renounced the true Christ and enlisted forever under the banner of His enemy.

Those who bear this degrading mark will enjoy the advantages of fortune in abundance; they will have high salaries, the public offices, and multiplicity of pleasures and of all desirable possessions; but those who refuse to clothe themselves with this abominable seal will be outlawed. It is written that “no man might buy to sell anything unless he was first marked with the name of the beast or with the number that stood for its name.”

Hence, it follows that the point when Christ will no longer be present on our altars, offering Himself as a victim to His Father’s justice in order to offset men’s crimes, is to be reckoned from the day when the Antichrist has obtained universal dominion; but, until that day, and during the time taken by the Antichrist to achieve his kingship, the Sacrifice of the Mass will continue to subsist. St. John tells us that, in a language he does not make known to us, the name of the beast is expressed by the number 666.

St-Therese-of-Lisieux“Reading this book was one of the greatest graces of my life.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Paul tells us that God is faithful, for He has made a pact with temptation and does not permit man to be tested beyond his strength. Here, the temptation will exceed the normal conditions and laws of mankind. It befits the mercy of God that the remedy should be proportionate to the extent of evil. Now, the means of succor foretold is the most superhuman and extraordinary, the most alien to the rules of history and the ordinary workings of Providence, of all those that heaven has sent man since the Incarnation.

Just when the tempest is at its most violent, when the Church is leaderless, when the unbloody Sacrifice has everywhere ceased and everything seems humanly lost, two witnesses, St. John tells us, will be seen to arise. “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the abyss shall make war against them and shall overcome them and kill them.” St. John does not tell us what the fate of the Antichrist will be, but St. Paul teaches that “the Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of His mouth and annihilate him by manifesting His own presence.”

At the outset, what is certain and should be taken in faith is that, of all the persecutions the Church has had to suffer, that of the Antichrist will be the most terrible and the most violent. First, because this persecution will be general, and will extend over the whole earth. Secondly, this persecution will be the most severe and violent of all because it will be inspired not by superstitions or fanaticism, nor by a blind attachment to the worship of idols, as were the persecutions unleashed by the pagan emperors. Its purpose will not be to assuage pride, or to satisfy an unbridled lust for power, like the persecution of Mohammed. It will a persecution inspired solely by the hatred of God, in which God and His Christ will be directly challenged, and its sole objective will be the exterminations of the Divine Kingdom, and complete annihilation of Christianity and of all positive religion.

Thirdly, this persecution, which will mark the last ages, will be waged with an irresistible seductiveness, “insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect.” Fourthly, he will fill all men with admiration by his genius, and by the amazing rapidity of his elevation to the height of fortune and omnipotence. Fifthly, the persecution under the Antichrist will be the bloodiest and most barbarous of all those which Christianity has ever suffered. Finally – the last feature of the persecution under the Antichrist – it will be so violent that is will succeed in making almost the entirety of Christians apostatize.

The end of the present worldSt. Augustine tells us that, in the reign of the Antichrist, these will be multitudes of martyrs who will display a heroic constancy, and also a number, more or less large, of confessors who will manage to escape into caves and high or sheer mountains, and God will see to it that these sanctuaries shall elude the vigilance and investigations of the persecutors, and will not permit the Devil to point them out to them.

The triumph of the wicked one will be of short duration, but the consolations that follow will be universal, abundant, proportionate to the extent of the tribulations the Church will have suffered. “And then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and loud voices in heaven cried out; the voices of angels and of virgins, together with the voices of confessors and holy martyrs, will hail Christ with praise and acclamations, giving thanks for His victory over the Antichrist, and for the extermination of the wicked.”

Fr. Charles Arminjon

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