Sunday, February 23, 2014

Have We Earned the Divine Wrath?

Here is the 4th lesson from vigils for Septuagesima Sunday (today):

From the Book upon Noah’s Ark by St Ambrose, bishop Chap, iv.

We read that the Lord was angry. It is in the thoughts, that is to say, in the knowledge of God, that man being put on earth and weighted with the body cannot be without sin, for earth is the home of temptations, and the flesh is a bait for corruption. Yet man had a reasonable soul, and his soul had power to control his body; and, being so made, he made no struggle to keep himself from falling into that from whence he would not return. God’s thoughts are not as man’s thoughts; in Him there is no such thing as change of mind, no such thing as to be angry and then cool down again. These things are written that we may know the bitterness of our sins, whereby we have earned the Divine wrath. To such a degree had iniquity grown that God, Who by His nature cannot be moved by anger, or hatred, or any passion whatsoever, is represented as provoked to anger.

This struck me as such an in-a-nutshell summation of what is going on in our society today. It’s as if this observation has been carried out to the extreme in the modern world. Though man has a “reasonable soul” as St. Ambrose tells us, reason seems to have bowed completely to the bait of the flesh. How much more can we see today that “we have earned the Divine wrath”?

The fifth lesson continues with the reading from St. Ambrose:

And God threatened that He would destroy man. He said I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth; both man and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air. What harm had the animals done? For man’s use had they been created, and, when man was wiped away, they were of use no longer. And there is an higher reason. Man is a living soul, capable of reason, who may be described as a living animal, subject to death, and endowed with reason. When then the highest animal is gone, why should the lower branches remain? Why should anything be saved alive, when righteousness, the basis of salvation, is to be no more?

I had never thought of it this way! The ancients were certainly not as enamored of animals as modern man, were they?! At least, I doubt there were “animal rights” groups insisting on treating animals as if they had exactly the same importance as humans. I’ll bet no one berated Ambrose for saying that if humans are wiped off the face of the earth, there is no need for animals! Here we see a proper subjection of animals to man, since God created animals for man’s use. What a concept.

The sixth reading continues:

But more effectually to condemn the rest of men, and to manifest the goodness of God, it is written that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Here we learn also that the sin of his neighbour casteth no shadow on the righteous, when he is kept as a stock from whence the whole race are to spring. He is praised, not because he was of a noble race, but because he was a just man and perfect. The stock of a just man yieldeth men of just souls; for virtues, like blood, are hereditary. Among men are some families illustrious for honourable pedigrees, and so there are also races of souls whose comeliness is the lustre of virtues.

So Noah, even though he was in the world, was not of the world. He shows us that it is possible to be “a just man and perfect”.  And I am particularly interested in the Saint’s contention that “the stock of a just man yieldeth men of just souls; for virtues, like blood, are hereditary.” I have seen evidence of this many times; generational curses do exist, I think – though not in a vacuum. If parents are not living a Godly life, and do not practice the virtues, then how will their children ever learn?

I don’t mean that this has to be an overt teaching where the parent verbally articulates and teaches appropriate behavior and morals; no, it is a “lived” teaching. No matter how much we try to hide our sins, they are made manifest especially to our children, it seems to me. Without our even talking about our spiritual shortcomings, we see our children adopt the same issues! And the same is true of virtuous behavior. Parents who live according to God’s laws, who have a firm grasp of their Catholic identity, and who truly know right from wrong pass this way of existing along to their children. Sometimes, such parents are even rewarded by seeing their children act virtuously even though they haven’t been “taught” to do so.

At least, that's how I see it...

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

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