A READING FROM A SERMON BY BLESSED GUERRIC OF IGNY
Be ready to go and meet the Lord, O Israel, for he is coming. You too must be ready, for at a time when you do not expect it the Son of Man will come. Nothing is more certain than that he is coming, nothing more uncertain than when he is coming. So far is it from being our province to know the times and seasons which the Father has appointed by his own authority, that not even to the angels who stand in his presence is it granted to know that day and hour.
As for our own last day, it is most sure that this will come upon us, but most unsure when, or where, or from what quarter it will come. All we know is that, as the traditional saying has it, ‘what is knocking at the door of the elderly lies in ambush for the young’. Death which lurks in ambush is the more to be feared in that it can the less be seen and guarded against. There is only one security, and that is never to feel secure. Thus our fear, prompting us to watch ourselves carefully, keeps us always prepared until fear gives way to security, not security to fear. How beautiful a thing it is, how blessed, not merely to face death without anxiety, but through the testimony of a good conscience to triumph gloriously in it! Then, alas, you will see people like me trembling, seeking a reprieve but not getting it, wishing to buy the oil of repentance for a lamenting conscience but finding that there is not enough time.
It belongs to our human condition, I know, to quail before the wrench of death, since even the perfect are unwilling to have the old body stripped off and would rather wish to have the new body put on over it; while those who are not conscious of any sin, knowing that they are not thereby justified, must dread the verdict of which they are still ignorant. Yet whether my distress arises from my human feelings or from my falling short in holiness or from my fear of judgment, I can say with the righteous psalmist: You, O Lord, will be mindful of your mercy; you will display your tender love and faithfulness and snatch my soul from the midst of the young lions. Then after my dismay sleep will come at once and I shall find rest.
Do you, then, Lord, rise up to meet me as I run to meet you. Since I have not the strength to scale your summits unless you stretch out your right hand to me whom your hands have made, rise to meet me, and see whether there is any sinful way in me. If you find any sinful way at all, then take it from me; grant me the grace to live by your law and lead me in the way of eternity, that is, in Christ who is the way by which we journey and the eternity which is our journey’s end: an undefiled way and a blessed dwelling place.
Bd Guerric of Igny, Sermo 3 de adventu Domini (PL 185, 18-20), from Word in Season 1