Objective truth series – Reflection #19
“With fear and trembling work out your salvation.” (Phil. 2; 12).
In our last reflection, we addressed what it means to have an eternal perspective of life, namely, to live for our last end. We must work out our salvation every day, and at no waking moment can we stop laboring at this crucial task.
But what in particular do we think about when considering the salvation of our soul? It would seem that if we really penetrated the reality that we can lose our souls, we would tremble and quake. This reality is what St. Paul is admonishing us about in his Epistle to the Philippians. We simply cannot take our salvation for granted.
We speak of fear and trembling. One can speak of two kinds of fear—servile fear and filial fear. Servile fear is the fear of being punished for an evil we’ve done, i.e., as a slave’s fear of his master. Filial fear is the fear a son has towards his father because the son does not want to displease his father. Filial fear is based on love.
As Catholics we are taught from our childhood to fear hell as a place of punishment and torment. However, God expects us to have filial fear of Him and that we will want to please Him always.
We know that we owe God everything, and that we owe Him gratitude for everything He has done for us. We further know that we do not fear God’s Justice enough and we do not love God as we ought. For example, St. John Chrysostom when referring to the sins of rash judgment, anger, and detraction as being such general vices among men, says, “What hopes of salvation remain for the generality of mankind, who commit without reflection, some or other of these crimes, one of which is enough to damn a soul?”
This quote gives one pause and invokes fear. What hope do we have of salvation when we are so guilty of so many crimes against Our Dear Lord? Naturally, compunction should seize our hearts. Compungere, which means the sting of conscience, should be what we want in order to weep for our sins. We should consider these words of Our Lord, “Many sins are forgiven her, because she has loved much,” which refer to St. Mary Magdalene who was washing His feet with her tears [St. Luke 7; 47]. This quote, coupled with St. Peter’s words, “Charity covereth a multitude of sins,” [1st St. Peter 4:8] should make us want to weep for our sins in order to console Our Lord and Our Lady for the many sins and insults we have committed against them.
Especially in these times of the great apostasy and chastisement, we should want to pray and weep for the offenses that are continually being hurled against Our Lord and Our Lady. We know that we deserve the punishments of a chastisement for our sins. Our Lord and Our Lady have told us of the necessity of penance. Our Lady of Fatima insisted on us praying the Rosary and performing sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and for peace to be obtained through the Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart.
Our Lady’s remedy is not unlike what St. John Chrysostom recommended during his times. As Alban Butler summarizes St. John Chrysostom’s books On Compunction, he notes how St. John prescribes a life of mortification and penance as an essential condition for maintaining a spirit of compunction. Butler refers to St. John Chrysostom’s analogy that water and fire are not more contrary to each other than a life of softness and delights is opposed to compunction. In the same vein, Butler relates how Chrysostom states that a love of pleasure renders the soul heavy and altogether earthly; but compunction gives the soul wings, by which she raises herself above all created things. St. John Chrysostom mentions, too, how Our Lord blesses those who mourn for their sins.
With all of the above in mind, let us not forget to turn to Mary, our Mother of Sorrows, and ask her to teach us about the malice of sin and how much pain we have caused her Divine Son. She, better than all mankind put together, understands the massive weight of sin that her Beloved Son bore. Her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart was pierced with a sword of sorrow. She was a first-hand witness of the sufferings of Our Lord. This is why tradition teaches that she is the Co-Redemptrix and the Queen of Martyrs because she stood at the Foot of the Cross offering herself in union with her Divine Son.
So, begging Our Lord through Our Lady for the gift of tears of compunction, we pray that our hearts can melt. If we ponder the Passion of Our Lord, the innocence of Our Lady, and how we have both afflicted Our Lord and Our Lady, perhaps our cheeks would be moistened as we say the following:
Oh, if only we could full keep,
The love of Our Lord and Lady deep,
In our minds, each day and night,
How would we bear the sight?
Of so much grief, for this blest pair,
For their sorrow, beyond compare,
Attend and see if there like be,
Sorrow that pierced the heart of she,
Who was chosen to watch her Son,
And stay with her, beloved One,
While journeyed He, each step with pain,
The ground covered, with precious Stain
If tears could well up, as we see,
Each awful wound endured by Thee,
But could our hearts melt like wax,
Tears of Thee, Lord, would we dare ask?
Yeah, Lord Thy heart did yield wax-like,
Poured out like water, without dike,
The nails dug deep, Thy wrist and feet,
With growing love, could our hearts beat?
If tears could flow in rivers too,
But woe to us they are so few,
Beg we do now, for an increase
And weeping let us, never cease.
Our sins have caused Thee, pain so great,
We cannot full appreciate,
What our malice has done to Thee,
And the price of, iniquity.
And with fear then, do let us quake,
Seeing what Thou, bore for our sake,
Not displease Thee, in any way,
Working to save, our souls each day.
Mary, our Mother of sorrow,
Assist us with each new morrow
Without thee, we cannot endure,
And our love cannot, be pure.
Mary, us, with compunction fill,
With melted hearts our tears can spill,
Such a gift, we do not deserve,
From the right path, let us not swerve!
 Of course, our catechism teaches us that the three conditions for mortal sin are: 1) it must be a serious matter or considered to be a serious matter; 2) sufficient reflection; and 3) full consent of the will. See, e.g., Baltimore Catechism #3, Q.282. St. John Chrysostom here alludes to sinners becoming callous to their grievous vices.