Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bellarmine on Eternal Felicity

Today is the Feast of St. Roberto Bellarmino, known as Robert Bellarmine in English; from the fact that he has a standard Anglicized version of his name, you can tell that he was fairly well known -- notorious, in fact, for he was widely considered the polemicist for the Catholic Church against the Reformation. The following is from one of his non-polemical works, The Eternal Felicity of the Saints, and summarizes the book. This is my modernization of a seventeenth century translation.

In the first place, then, we considered Eternal Felicity under the name of the Kingdom of Heaven, yet as having this most great difficulty from the Word of God annexed to it, namely, The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent bear it away (Mt 11).

We afterward considered the same felicity under the name of the City of God, or the Heavenly Jerusalem; and there also we found no small difficulty, for those who are citizens of this world cannot be citizens among the saints; for it is very hard to live in the world and not be of the world.

In the third place, we considered the same felicity under the name the House of God, in which there are many rooms; and we noted that the door or gate of this house is most narrow, and that it cannot be penetrated or entered into without great labor.

Fourthly, we considered the same place of beatitude under the name of Paradise; but withal we considered with how high a price (not of gold or silver but) of tears and blood Our Lord, the Martyrs, the Confessors, and all the saints, both men and women, bought this Paradise; for we read, Christ ought to suffer, and so enter into his glory (Lk 24).

In the fifth place we considered the same felicity under the name of Treasure hidden in a field; and we no less showed that this treasure could not be possessed by one who found it unless to purchase it he sold all things he had (Mt 13).

Sixthly, we considered the same under the name precious Pearl, or Margarite, for the obtaining of which the buyer also ought to spend all the goods he has in order to purchase it.

Seventhly, we considered the same under the name of a daily Wage, which is not given to any save those who labor diligently and daily in the Vineyard.

Eighthly, we considered the same under the name or title of the Great Supper, and we saw that they are not reputed worthy of that supper whose affections are enthralled with temporal benefits and pleasures.

Ninthly, we have considered the same under the appellation of the Joy of Our Lord, to which only those are admitted who with great pains and labor multiply the Talents entrusted to them, those who did not do this being cast into outer darkness.

Tenthly, we considered the same under the title of a Princely Marriage, from which everyone was excluded who were given to sloth and idleness and who did not daily watch in the exercise of good works and the expectation of the Heavenly Bridegroom.

In the eleventh place, we considered the same under the name of a Prize or Reward, which only those took hold of who ran the race speedily and incessantly toward that Prize, and even then not without great toil and labor.

In the twelfth and last place, we considered it under the name of a Crown, which only they deserved who, most courageous in fight, overcame their enemies.

Now, in whatever way you turn yourself, and under whatever name you consider Eternal Felicity, you will find that it cannot be obtained unless in pursuing it you labor with all your strength both of mind and body.

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