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partakers of His greatness, for there is nothing precious in the eyes of God except that which He is Himself, and therefore the soul, when it loves, fears not death, but rather desires it. 1
Père Grou, S.J., expresses the same idea, though in somewhat different words, when he writes :
As the love of God is their principal and indeed their only employment here, they see in the passage from this life only a happy change, which will assure to them the possession of God and the ineffable bliss of loving Him foi all eternity. It is not that they have a positive assurance of their salvation, but they have a firm faith and trust in God, and their conscience bears witness to their constant fidelity to Him.?
Our conclusion, then, is, that if we wish to be really happy in life, and still more happy in death, and supremely happy for all eternity in Heaven, we must do our best to increase more and more in the love of God. We should strive continually to increase our love. All our intentions, all our actions, must tend to this end, and we should make it the object of all our prayers and practices of piety. To pray ; to frequent the Sacraments; to exercise works of charity ;
; to suffer all the pains and sorrows of this life, solely with the view of increasing in us this holy love! That, indeed, is to love God with all our strength. To gain that love is to gain all that is worth having both for time and for eternity.
JOHN S. VAUGHAN.
1 Vol, üipp. 59, 60.
* Op. cit. p. 246.
CARDINAL BILLOT ON THE 'LIVING
By Rev. J. DONOVAN, S.J.
CARDINAL BILLOT, in one of his masterly series of studies which have been appearing these last two years in the Études, contributes an argument on the ‘ Living Remnant of i Thessalonians iv. 15, which well deserves consideration. The argument is that of an acute theological thinker, an expert in the subtlest processes of eliciting evidence from our sacred books, accustomed to appeal from text to context and to utilize every available clue in the search after meaning.
His Eminence's first care is to define clearly St. Paul's purpose in composing the famous pericope on the parousia. St. Paul's thesis may be gathered from his own words; and we get our orientation from the somewhat abrupt introduction : "We would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep.'
Be it observed, in passing, how vivid must have been faith in the resurrection in the minds of those who apparently spoke habitually of their deceased brethren, not as dead but as 'sleeping. This use of the word became so general that the last resting-place was subsequently called a 'dormitory' or koluntýplov, with which nowadays we are familiar under the name of cemetery.
The precise nature of the ignorance, to which reference is made above, is not directly stated; but, as Cardinal Billot points out, it may be gathered from the remark immediately following, and from the general trend of the theme discussed. It would seem that some at least of the Thessalonian neophytes fancied their dead would somehow miss the pageant of the parousia ; that, being in their tombs, the dead could have no part in the triumph of the second advent. They were, most probably, acquainted with what we read in St. Matthew's Gospel (xxiv. 30, 31): "The Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven shall send forth His angels
and they shall gather together the elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.'
This picture would be before their minds, but they seem to have understood it as being applicable only to the living. And thus they were grief stricken over the fate of the departed.
Such erroneous views, doubts, misgivings, it is manifestly the Apostle's intention to dispel : that you may not sorrow like the rest who have no hope. The vast masses of the pagan world, seated in darkness, who turn deaf ears to the Gospel message—they may be suffered to grieve over their dead, because to them death is the end of all things. Their horizon is bounded by the shadows of death. Not so the Christian, who inherits from Christ the privilege of a glorious resurrection ; the horizon of his hope extends indefinitely beyond the confines of death. If we believe, ' the Apostle continues, that Jesus died and rose again, so, most assuredly, 'will He bring with Him those who went to sleep in the Lord.'
Participation in the glory of the Lord's triumphant return is assured to all κοιμηθέντες διά του Χριστού-to such as went to their rest, by the assistance, i.e., through the instrumentality of Christ. Thus St. Paul takes a first step towards dissipating doubt and consequent sadness, by recalling to his converts the resurrection to glory of the electa resurrection which is at once their special prerogative and also their sure pledge of a share in the splendour of the parousia.
Here we have a first measure of solace presented to the weeping neophytes.
With this preamble, the Apostle next proceeds to advance a second statement which seems to constitute the specia thesis, and is by some regarded as the principal message of the whole Epistle. It is to the effect that the living remnant at the great day of Assize will not have precedence over the dead. As Prat puts it : 'St. Paul's real purpose in writing is to correct the false idea which these Thessalonians entertained concerning the (supposed) inferiority of deceased Christians in comparison with the living. This is the theme St. Paul now sets himself to develop ; this is the lesson, the special message, to be driven home and impressed on the mind of his readers, as an antidote to 'the sadness of them that have no hope. His main contention does not touch, neither is it concerned with, the date of the parousia. Indeed, the question of date or time is explicitly repudiated
later on as wholly foreign to his present purpose. All he is here contending for is the negation of precedence on the part of the living over the dead, amid the grandeur and solemn pomp of the parousia.
The thesis of this Pauline passage is clearly set forth by Cardinal Billot as follows:
The glorious resurrection of those who died in the faith and charity of Christ is the necessary consequence of Christ's own resurrection. Hence there are no grounds for bewailing their lot, as though, from the dust of the tomb, they were not to be restored to a happy immortality. That is his [Paul's] first point. His second follows, to wit, that the living re
. siduum, at the last day, will have no advantage over the dead, as regards participation in the glory of the parousia. For the sleepers 'shall awaken from their sleep unto immortal life; whereas the living remnant shall enter by rapid change, admitting of no lasting pause, into life eternal
; and then all together, all at the same time-living remnant and 'sleepers innumerable-shall be borne away to meet their Lord, from whom henceforth they shall never be separated. Such is the teaching of St. Paul, who combated and eliminated the false idea held by his neophytes on the subject of the dead.
Proof of the thesis propounded is a brief and simple statement of the course events will follow on the great day of the Lord. Are they to be interpreted literally or as symbols? The answer is God's secret, as Father Prat wisely observes. At any rate two tableaux are presented : first, that of the dead rising again and being restored to life ; and secondly, that of the living remnant rapidly hurried away, and both together ushered into the glorious presence of their King.
'At the word of command, at the sound of the Archangel's voice, at the trumpet call of God, the Lord shall descend from heaven. This solemn descent in power and majesty is the prelude to awe-inspiring, manifestation of might. “And the dead in Christ shall rise first : then we that shall be alive, that shall be left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air : and so shall we ever be with the Lord.' -Και οι νεκροί εν Χριστώ αναστήσονται πρώτον έπειτα ημείς-οι ζώντες-οι περιλειπόμενοι . αρπαγησόμεθα.
Two parallel statements introduce on the scene two classes of persons having an equal share in the parousia. These two statements are rendered by means of a special literary device of balance and parallelism, particularly affected by Greek littérateurs. Blass has remarked that St. Paul was a master of Greek prose; the balance, harmonious structure, and sonorous endings of his periods, did not escape the notice of this Demosthenic critic.
The sentence quoted furnishes a good instance of chiasmus, and thus provides us with absolutely safe means of picking out the contrasted or paralleled words. It is seen at once that έπειτα corresponds to πρώτον, οι ζώντες, οι περιλειπόμενοι balance against οι νεκροί; and the word which precisely corresponds to εν Χριστώ is ημείς.
The chiasmic schema makes the above parallelism absolutely certain. Let us now scrutinize each statement and each class of persons separately. As Cardinal Billot has already performed this task, his words may be quoted here.
First as regards the dead (oi vekpoi), who are they? Evidently not absolutely all indiscriminately, not all lying in the earth at the second coming. Among these are many destined to the resurrection of damnation; whereas Paul has in mind those who rise again unto life and unto eternal glory. Hence St. Paul is not speaking of the dead universallythe countless millions who will then have gone before to join the great majority. He is speaking only of οι νεκροί εν Χριστώ or of oι κοιμηθέντες drà tou Xplotoûnthose who went to their repose in Christ. In this way does he designate the elect, the predestined. These alone, in the words of the Apostle, are spoken of as rising first.' These then are the first category mentioned as sharing in the glories of the parousia.
And the living remnant left on earth at the great day, and mentioned as also sharing in the triumph-who are they? At any rate they are represented as a remainder, shall we say, an insignificant number in comparison with the numberless multitudes who once peopled this earth and passed away. Should this liviny remnant' be regarded as the total population of the globe still left at the time when the first premonitory symptoms herald the great day of Assize ? Assuredly not; for among them are to be found impenitent sinners, unbelievers, reprobate, who, far from being borne heavenwards will be left behind at the universal cataclysm.
As were the days of Noah,' so spoke the Lord (Matt. xxiv. 37-41), ‘so shall be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days, which were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they knew not until the flood came and took them all away ; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. Then shall two men be in the field ; one is taken and one is left: tu o women shall be grinding at the mill, one is taken and one is left.'
Such is the separation of living from living at the world's last hour. No more than there was question of the universality of the dead in the previous clause, is there here question of the universality of the living in the exactly parallel words οι ζώντες, οι περιλειπόμενοι. Hence the clamant need for some qualifying determinative which shall supplement the sense parallelism, as it will complete the