And Lucifer approached the Throne, and from across the abyss there came a clamor, a wailing bereft of beauty, tone, and voice, as though a malignant choir had become suddenly awash in boiling oil.
“Oh Great One,” he began, he who had been known throughout history as the Tempter, but who could tempt no more, “Oh Great One, we, the damned, have one last boon to bid of you.”
To a soul, the Saved looked on and listened in silent awe. This same swine had harangued them, each and all, their lives long, full of sweet contempt for God and the things of God. Like the Gadarene herd he had filled them with hate and falsehood whenever he could. In the panorama that had just ended – the Judgment – they had seen and heard his every overture to every human creature, unceasing through every moment in human history. They had heard his lies. Nothing but lies. He now slimed and slithered before the Divine Throne.
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Could it be possible that he was now telling the truth?
“Oh Great One,” he snarled (for his voice had been reduced to ash, leaden tones eternally bereft of love or loveliness of any sort, no longer disguised as on earth with the lovely lilt of lying), “we the damned beg You to grant us one last wish. We beseech You, do not cast us eternally into the pit of fire.”
What? Reverse Divine Judgment? The souls of the Saved murmured in bewilderment: “How dare he!”
“Damn us, yes,” writhed the groveling husk of a fallen angel. (The Saved relaxed somewhat, but wondered still). “But allow for us that damnation will not be endless. Give us Hope, Oh Almighty One, that we will one day, perhaps long hence, cease to be. That our being, that our natures, that our suffering will not be eternal.
“We know we have merited damnation. Damn us, then, damn us to the Hellfire, damn us moaning, weeping, and gnashing our teeth. But do not damn us forever. Annihilate us. Evaporate us. Will us undone.
“We are of no more use to You now, to You and Yours. Our damnation and the fear of it prodded many a soul to Salvation. But now … It is finished. What purpose do we serve? In one moment of the abysmal darkness, burned by Your searing anger, without salve, without Salvation, we suffer utterly. Your Holy Will, Your perfect Justice, has been fulfilled. What does it serve to prolong your victory endlessly into eternity?
“Do not heal us, Oh Great one, for we cannot be healed. Do not pity us. Do not hate us. Yes, You hate our sins, but You created us, how can You hate us? Annihilate us, then. Have Divine Pity on us. Allow us to cease to be. Do not send us howling into eternal agony. Give us the Hope of the damned – that damnation will end. Even though our suffering might last a billion years, let us know that it will end, that we too shall finish. As Your Divine Son’s life ended in consummation and fullness, let ours end in darkness and emptiness. Consummatum sit.”
The Blessed looked over Satan’s singed wings towards the abyss, crammed full of the damned. In that glowing darkness each Saint caught glimpse of a familiar eye, brimming with tears. A loved one from earth. An enemy they had tried to befriend. A slighted one who could not forgive.
The hearts of the Blessed were stirred. Reminiscences of earthly feelings – pity, sadness, consolation – welled up in their spiritual eyes. Could they cry? Could they suffer at the specter of such suffering? Could they muster the … Charity? … to relent, to ease, to lighten the eternal pain of damnation?
Silence. A great silence. God the Creator surveyed all of His created ones. He was being asked to allow that damned portion of His eternal creation, made in His image and likeness, to disappear, forever. Eternal spirits would cease to be, would cease to be eternal. His law would be rewritten … No, amended … out of pity, charity, even … love … of the damned.
The Blessed stirred: “Does the Great One love even the lost,” they wondered, “even now?”
Satan spoke once more. Had he not spoken, of course, eternal history might have been … otherwise. So thought a few among the Blessed – for a moment all too brief to describe. And so thought the damned … forever.
“Oh Great One,” he simpered on, his efforts at eloquence availing him nothing, “Oh Great One, You have attacked me and questioned my character; I will not do the same. I ask that you look not to the past, but to the future. Your Mercy and Goodness are perfection itself. And so too Your Justice. Let it be said, in Heaven and in Hell, that Your Divine Will was most perfectly fulfilled in this, that we the damned received our just desserts, and that You relented in Your anger and allowed us to be no more. Even though it be a million years that we wallow in the black fire of deceit and hatred in hell, let us know that it will end. Let the Blessed know that we, whom they loved (for they did – every one of us here was loved by one of them) have benefited from Your most supreme act of Love, Your forgiveness of our ….”
At that moment – well, there are no “moments” in eternity; it is all one eternal moment – at that word a sound appeared like cosmic thunder, a light of such terrifying color, a welling up of being so tremendous manifested itself throughout the heavenly realm. The Blessed saw it as awesome power and brilliance. The damned saw it as a violent, churning, searing wave, rolling towards them across the abyss from that distant shore of the Divine Presence, a terrifying, dark, roaring, burning, screaming wave of hopelessness.
In the instant before it struck, a voice came to them. It was a voice they dimly recognized – every one of them – from earthly life, one which they had heard, and most often ignored. It was a voice they had cringed to hear when, at the moment of their judgment, they had confronted the Risen Lord in His power and Majesty, and had fled instantly – for they knew they could not stay. Writhing in the pit, they listened to the Voice:
“Begone, Satan. You who tempted my Son in the Desert and on the Cross, would now tempt Me? You who whispered in the ear of every one of my children that forgiveness was a lie, would now ask for it? You who hated my Son, and yours who rejected Him, every one freely and knowingly, would now, in eternity, ask that Our Eternal Promise be corrupted in the name of forgiveness?
“Each and all of you damned souls had within your reach the means of eternal life. No one was beyond the reach of My infinite Mercy. Freely by your wills, you actively rejected Divine Forgiveness. Every single human that lacked the means to choose Me, because of youth, or impairment, or ignorance, is here with Me. No one of you is damned that did not damn himself, Satan, and you most of all, and your damned legions, to whom I gave perfect vision of all Truth.
“And now you would ask me to alter the Plan which I showed to you, which I created, which underlies all of Salvation History, in the name of forgiveness.
“Satan, wretch, you would have Me confirm that my Son’s forgiveness from the Cross was imperfect. That somehow I must now perfect His imperfection, to overrule His imperfect Word with a perfection more suitable to your situation. More cognizant of your unique, eternal circumstance. More compassionate in the light of your suffering. Poor Satan. Mistreated, abused, misunderstood. You self-indulgent, squalid, sewer of lies!
“Lucifer, you whose will defied Me at the moment of your creation, fully aware, fully to blame, look, you, for the last time, on my Divine Son, who is blameless, who is perfect, who is love, Whom you have persecuted, mocked, and hated throughout history. You would have me rule that His death was insufficient, that His charity is imperfect, that your plan – more “progressive” than Mine which I announced at Creation, and again at the gates of Eden – that yours more fully reflects the Divine Goodness than my own.
“You now request that I reject my Son’s Judgment, and that I alter it, perfect it, make it more mature, more understanding, more “Christian” than Christ Himself.
“And so, Satan, in your last moment of Salvation History – for henceforth is eternity, and you shall tempt no more – at your last moment you ask me to undo what I have done, to lie, and to annihilate my eternal creations, the souls of the wicked, to please your simpering Satanic lust for nothingness. Conniver to the last! Hateful without end! Fountain of lies!
“Begone, Satan! You and yours shall rot for eternity in the fires of hell. You shall know your guilt, your rejection of all that is Holy, your embrace of your own squalor. Know that I am God. Know that my Son, Whom you tempted, Whom you have hated since the beginning of the cosmos, is King, that His Blessed Mother has crushed your head beneath her heel, and that your punishment will be eternal, even as your hatred has been eternal. His Sacrifice is perfect; it needs no perfecting from the damnable likes of you!
“You vile wretch. My Divine Son told you in the desert, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord they God.’ But here you do vainly vaunt upon Us your last temptation, and dare to tempt God Himself. Begone, you vessel of filth, you vile pit of smarm and vain cunning. Behold the damned, who have never before known the likes of the hatred they have for you now. You are squalid companions forever. Go to them and with them into everlasting fire.
“Rise up, abyss, and shield the Blessed forever from this ghastly specter which I in my justice permit to endure eternally. You damned, know that you prepared this Hell for yourselves in your earthly life, harboring your hate and hardening your hearts against my Son. You embraced Satan, his works, and his lies, and now you would have me embrace them too, in the name of Mercy. Behold my Son, your Judge. His Mercy endures forever. And you who rejected Him will inherit my Justice, which also endures throughout eternity.
“You have asked for mercy in the name of hope, a false mercy and a false hope. Lies. Begone, to begin your chosen path through eternity. Live on to know the depths of your sins, the breadth of your wickedness, and the hatred of those who go with you. For here alone is Love. Here alone is friendship. Here alone is goodness. May your natures ever remind you of your squalid, wicked wills and the grief they have spawned.
“You have been judged. On earth you hated Christ. At the Judgment you fled Him in fear. Begone. You have damned yourselves, and have nothing to blame but yourselves and your selfish wills, hateful and deceitful to the end. I have spoken.”
The screaming damned heard in horror these last words as the wave washed over them and swept them into eternal darkness and loathing. And nothing was ever known of them, or thought of them, again.
“Come, my Beloved Son, let us take Our children into the land that we have prepared for them, since before the foundation of the world. Oh Spirit of Love, envelop all our children and bring them ever upward, ever inward, to their eternal reward.”