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nature eclipses of the sun and moon occur at different periods; in this case, however, such will be simultaneous. From heaven. It is not said that they shall fall upon the earth. They shall, as it were, cease to exist, be void of light. Shall be shaken-a fitting metaphor from the
First Thought.—It seems to be plainly our Lord's meaning that as the world grows older, bringing the second coming of the Master nearer, things are to grow continually worse for the faithful. The tribulation of outward affliction and persecution shall no sooner cease than the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light.
1. Our Lord is the Sun. We are not to forget that after He had endured all the pains of His passion, He was called upon to experience upon the cross the horror of great darkness, the sense of being forsaken of God. There have been trying times for believers often in the past, but almost always special compensations of grace and the sense of the divine nearness have been vouchsafed also. In the last days it would seem that the compensations are to be fewer; and the faithful may always feel that they are living in the last days. If such experiences be ours we are to take heed not to doubt. Though
the days be all dark days, we know in Whom we have believed; we can never be persuaded that He has either ceased to reign, or has lost interest in His people.
2. The Church is the moon. In the last days the Church is likely often to seem to fail. We dream sometimes of the onward progress of Christ's religion until the whole population of the globe acknowledges Him Lord; but such a time shall never be realized save in the day of judgment, when even His enemies will be compelled to own His sovereignty. In the past the Church has been always marvellously brought through her most grievous trials, as the persecutions, the rebellion of heretics against her, and the devices of the secular powers to limit her authority. We are to look for less and less of such deliverances for her as the last times approach; her ancient glories will be obscured more and more; her divisions so great that she will no longer be able to speak with a living voice; there will be no ideal Church left us but that we can gather from her past, no clear utterance as to faith and morals save that which was spoken long ago. Nevertheless, we are not to be disheartened, that ideal is indelible, and that utterance stands as the pronouncement of the Lord Himself.
Second Thought. The Master adds that the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. These seem to stand mystically for the strength and stay which the believer may always find in personal devotion. For though we may not disparage in any wise the outward Church and her ordinances, nor belittle the supreme importance of our union with Christ through the sacramental system, it is most true that were we deprived, through no fault of our own, of outward life in the Church, and of all resort to the sacraments, we could yet find most intimate communion with God, and fullest wealth of grace through prayer alone. The stars may stand for that peace and sure tranquillity of the soul which is its consolation and light in the darkest night of tribulation. So it is a very grievous thing when the stars fall, when the joy of praying goes out of our life, and the peace and gentle light which come from meditation on the things of God. Yet we are not to murmur or to doubt even under such conditions.
Nor though the powers that are in heaven be shaken by Satan's malice, the supernatural helps by which we have ever been uplifted and sustained, the consciousness of our communions, the assurance of pardon in our confessions. Because they are shaken they are not over
whelmed or even crippled. Their quaking only tells the impotence of the power of evil to overthrow them in any wise; we are but the more confident in their unfailingness because we have seen them tested and standing firm.
Third Thought. There is a much needed caution in all these matters. Very often the loss of supernatural helps and the sense of God's nearness is the result of our failure to be loyal to the Master.
1. The Sun is darkened for us, it may be, because we are tolerating sin in our hearts; or because of indifference to the divine things, our lives being choked by the cares, and riches, and pleasures of this world; or because we are not honestly trying to walk by faith rather than by sight.
2. The moon, that is the Church, does not give her light for us, because we are not docile, walking obediently in her ways; we fail to render her due support and to further her work; we are quick to set up our own will in opposition to her precepts; we refuse to be bound by her decisions upon the Faith and morals. It is easy to render dim the light of the moon by taking lanterns of our own to guide our steps.
3. It may be also that the stars of heaven
fall for us because we will not go out under them in the darkness of the night, seeking peace and consolation. We fail to turn to our prayers, and to quiet meditation on the celestial things in our dark hours, persuading ourselves that we need earthly consolations.
4. The powers of heaven, the consciousness of the sacramental Presence, and the calm which absolution ought to bring us, are shaken, too often because we are not persistent in cultivating intimacy with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; nor are we zealous and watchful to preserve the cleanness which has been granted our souls in the confessional.