Why on earth is it a good idea to think about, let alone meditate on hell?? The answer is simple - in order to avoid it. If we open our minds to the reality of this horrible place, and that we are only one mortal sin away from hell, we are more highly motivated to avoid sin & practice virtue. In our little struggles and strivings toward God, He who is Holy and Immortal will kindly bend Himself to us and pour His gracious love into our souls and strengthen it against the powers of hell. He will grant us the ability to avoid hell if we seek Him. "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you."
If we were perfect, we would love God for His own sake - this is the ideal we strive for. BUT - fear of hell is a good start on the spiritual path, so let us attempt to instill in our hearts a holy and reverent fear of hell. Seek God who we pray will kindle in us great faith and a lively hatred of all sin.
One of my favorite books, The Four Last Things (Fr. Martin von Cochem, O.S.F.C. TAN Books) provides many excellent meditations on hell:
"According to St. Bridget 'The heat of hell-fire is so great that if the whole world were wrapped in flames, the heat of the conflagration would be as nothing in comparison with it.'...Remember this O sinner and lay it well to heart. When thou seest a fire, call to mind the fire of hell. And since thou couldst not endure to put thy hand for a single moment into that fire, think what the heat of hell-fire must be..if thou canst bear this, how will thou bear the other? The damned will one day be cast body and soul into the huge awful furnace of hell, into the immense lake of fire, where they will be surrounded by flames. There will be fire below them, fire above them, fire all around them. Every breath will be a scorching breath of a furnace. These infernal flames will penetrate every portion of the body, so that there will be no part or member, within or without, that is not steeped in fire.
How despairing will be the cries, how agonizing the shrieks that will ascend from this bed of torture! 'Woe to us miserable creatures! Woe to us a thousand times! We are tortured in this flame! The excruciating pain pervades every member of our body, the intolerable agony leaves us no rest! If only we could die, if only we could die so as to escape this horrible torture! Alas this wish is all in vain! Dead as far as the life of the soul is concerned, dead because we have forfieted grace, the mercy of God-we are condemned to live on, to live forever and ever!"
We must pray for God's mercy on that fateful last day of Judgement. We must pray and pray for the conversion of poor sinners whose fate lies in those awful flames. Have pity on your fellow man who knows not of the mercy and love of God - who is at such great risk of casting himself headlong into the flames of hell when he sees with the eyes of his soul how rotten with sin he is at his particular judgement. Invoke our Blessed Lady, entrust yourself to her - she saves more souls from hell than we can know is this life!
Hail O Resurrection of mankind; Hail o Downfall of the demons! Hail O you who crushed the error of deceit; Hail O you who exposed the fraud of idols! Hail O Bride, and Maiden ever pure! O Thou who are Immaculate, destined before all time to be the Holy Tabernacle of the New Covenant - Ora Pro Nobis Maria!
Of course we are not perfect. But do you think we really must be perfect to love God? And would fear of hell motivate a person to love anyone, much less God? Not very good psychology, don't you think.
Imperfect creatures though we are, can we not love God for his beauty, his wisdom, his boundless compassion in sacrificing his only begotten son for a fallen and largely ungrateful world? To me that seems like much better psychology.
What do you think?
You have a point, but many of us must start somewhere. I remember in my conversion, I started out with one thought - the fear of hell and the rather certain reality that hell is exactly where I was headed if I didn't straighten out my life. When you really let the reality of the place SINK IN, and know that you will be there for all eternity if you die not in a state of grace - this was the motivation and the primary reason I went to that first big confession. I did not want to go to hell. Love of God, His wisdom, His compassion....you know I didn't come to know this about God nor to fully appreciate it until I was in a state of grace long enough for Him to teach me.
Fear of hell is not the goal, as I said, it is a good start along the spiritual path. One of the great errors of this age is the loss of a sense of sin and I suspect in many the disbelief in the reality of the existence of hell and that souls ACTUALLY go there. We should fear this. Our blessed Mother showed hell to the seers of Fatima did she not? Meditating on hell is only one part of growing closer to God and we ought to fear it and fear going there. Thinking of committing a grave sin? Think of hell and know that you can and will go there if you die prior to sacramental confession...there are many good spiritual benefits to be had from fear of hell.
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