Saturday, January 26, 2008

Purifying Purgatory

~It is such a joy to have the Pontificator back writing again. Here is his latest, Purifying Purgatory
Suffering is both the instrument and consequence of our sanctification. Just as the addict must experience, and indeed embrace, terrible pain in the process of withdrawing himself from his drugs, so the sinner suffers pain and distress as he detaches himself from bondage to worldly goods. When viewed from the perspective of God and his justice, how else can this suffering be understood except as “punishment.” But the punishment is not primarily or exclusively retributive: its purpose is the sanctification and perfection of the sinner. The punitive dimension must be interpreted through the medicinal purpose of purgatorial suffering. “Punishment” in this context should therefore be recognized as a form of analogical speech. The torment individuals suffer in Purgatory varies, Bonaventure explains, “according as they took with them from their earthly life more or less of what must be burned away. … The more deeply a man has loved the things of the world in the inner core of his heart, the harder it will be for him to be cleansed.” With Augustine and Caesarius of Arles, Bonaventure affirms that the sufferings of Purgatory exceed the sufferings of our present life, but “because those who are being cleansed possess grace which now they cannot lose, they neither can nor will be completely immersed in sorrow, or fall into despair, or be moved to blaspheme.” Two hundred years later St Catherine of Genoa would remind the Church that though the sufferings of the poor souls may be great, their joy and happiness is greater still: “No happiness can be found worthy to be compared with that of a soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise; and day by day this happiness grows as God flows into these souls, more and more as the hindrance to His entrance is consumed.”

Following long-standing Western opinion, Bonaventure believes that God has ordained a physical fire as the instrument of purification. “The fire of purgatory is a real fire,” he states, “which, however, affects the spirit of the just who, in their lifetime, did not sufficiently atone and make reparation for their sins.” The question of the nature of the purgatorial fire was raised at the Council of Florence, the Greeks insisting upon a symbolic understanding. The council wisely avoided settling this question.

The sufferings of Purgatory are punitive precisely as medicinal, sanctifying, and transformative. They effectively cleanse the soul and render it fit for glory. Punishment ends at the moment the soul is prepared for perfect union with the God who is love...


Jeff said...

Posted some of this on my Muslim forum that I spend a lot of time on.

In case you care to see:

Argent said...

God bless you, Jeff, for your kind and gentle witness there. May it bear fruit. Thanks too for putting the link here. I found it surprisingly civil compared to some of the Protestant/Catholic forums that I've visited.

Jeff said...

The face we show them simply must be the Face of Our Blessed Redeemer Jesus Christ. They must see His Face.

If the road of Truth is blocked, we must try the roads of Goodness and of Beauty.

You say "may it bear fruit." Oh, my goodness, you have no idea how much fruit it is bearing. All that is required is Patience. Leaving things absolutely in God's hands. After all, what does it matter if it takes generations; or if it takes our blood.

God has not abandoned, Christ will never write off these beautiful people for whom He died. And this is a moment of great opportunity for us Catholics who are always far, far stronger than we think we are.