Monday, February 18, 2008
The DOGMA of Purgatory
Warning long, deep post. Not for the faint of heart, nor those looking for light reading.
I have been thinking a lot about the dogma of Purgatory. I know someone who claims to be a Byzatine Rite Catholic. He says he does not believe in Purgatory, however, the "Eastern churches have always prayed for the dead." Last time I heard a dogma was a belief the whole Church must believe.
"...according to a long-standing usage a dogma is now understood to be a truth appertaining to faith or morals, revealed by God, transmitted from the Apostles in the Scriptures or by tradition, and proposed by the Church for the acceptance of the faithful. It might be described briefly as a revealed truth defined by the Church... A dogma therefore implies a twofold relation: to Divine revelation and to the authoritative teaching of the Church." http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05089a.htm
Let us go on with Purgatory. Purgatory in the teaching of the Church is a place of cleansing or purifying. It is not, as I have read on some mistaken protestant websites, a place for a "second chance" at Heaven. Here is what it says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
"III. THE FINAL PURIFICATION, OR PURGATORY
1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608
1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611
606 Cf. Council of Florence (1439):DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563):DS 1820; (1547):1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336):DS 1000.
607 Cf. 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7.
608 St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4,39:PL 77,396; cf. Mt 12:31.
609 2 Macc 12:46.
610 Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274):DS 856.
611 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 1 Cor. 41,5:PG 61,361; cf. Job 1:5."
This praying for the dead came from ancient Jewish sources, as many of the Traditions of the Church did. Much of the ceremony and symbolism of the Church today came from the roots of the original (Jewish) Apostles. The original twelve chosen were "Simon, whom He named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholiomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor." (Luke 6:14-16) In Acts 1:15-26, we see the process by which the eleven choose Matthias to replace Judas. And we read about Saul's (Paul's) conversion in Acts 9. We see the 12 at Pentecost and Paul are all Jewish and all chosen to spread the Gospel. All also learn from the Septuagint from their youth in the temple or local rabbinical school. The Septuagint includes all the books of the Old Testament included in the "Catholic" versions of the Bible. Many, many of which are referred to and quoted in the New Testament.
Later much of the traditional Greek and Roman symbolism crept into the ceremonial aspects of the Church. For instance, Churches used to be built so that the Priest faced East while offering the prayers of the Eucharist. Prayer was said facing East, the direction of the rising sun. This symbolized the coming of the Son of God as it had once symbolized the coming of Appolo in the Greek religion. So, symbolism was used to Her advantage by the Church to draw new believers to Her.
However, beliefs in what happens in the afterlife came from the early Christians, the early Church Fathers, and their traditions. Later, these beliefs would be recorded and witnessed to by the inspired Scriptures (which were put together and preserved under the guidance of the Holy Spirit by the Jesus' Church--later called "Catholic" which means universal). The doctrine of Purgatory is from Apostolic times.
Clement of Alexandria said:
"The believer through discipline divests himself of his passions and passes to the mansion which is better than the former one, passes to the greatest torment, taking with him the characteristic of repentance for the faults he may have committed after baptism. He is tortured then still more, not yet attaining what he sees others have acquired. The greatest torments are assigned to the believer, for God's righteousness is good, and His goodness righteous, and though these punishments cease in the course of the expiation and purification of each one, "yet" etc." (Patres Groeci. IX, col. 332 [A.D. 150-215]).
"If a man departs this life with lighter faults, he is condemned to fire which burns away the lighter materials, and prepares the soul for the kingdom of God, where nothing defiled may enter. For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (I Cor., 3); but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God; or on account of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones? Neither is this just. It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood, and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works." (Patres Groeci. XIII, col. 445, 448 [A.D. 185-232]).
Also from Origen:
"As John stood near the Jordan among those who came to be baptized, accepting those who confessed their vices and their sins and rejecting the rest ... so will the Lord Jesus Christ stand in a river of fire next to a flaming sword and Baptize all those who should go to Paradise after they die, but who lack purgation... But those who do not bear the mark of the first Baptism will not be baptized in the bath of fire. One must first be Baptized in water and Spirit so that, when the river of fire is reached, the marks of the baths of water and Spirit will remain as signs that one is worthy of receiving the Baptism of fire in Jesus Christ." (Origen, Commentary on Luke, 24th Homily, before 253 A.D)
"That allegory of the Lord [Matt. 5:25-26] . . . is extremely clear and simple in its meaning . . . [beware lest as] a transgressor of your agreement, before God the judge . . . and lest this judge deliver you over to the angel who is to execute the sentence, and he commit you to the prison of hell, out of which there will be no dismissal until the smallest even of your delinquencies be paid off in the period before the resurrection. What can be a more fitting sense than this? What a truer interpretation?" (The Soul 35 [A.D. 210]).
"This place, the Bosom of Abraham, though not in Heaven, and yet above hell, offers the souls of the righteous an interim refreshment until the end of all things brings about the general resurrection and the final reward." (Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4:34, before 220 A.D.)
"Indeed she [a widow] prays for his [her husband's] soul and asks that he may, while waiting, find rest; and that he may share in the first resurrection [Heaven]. And each year, on the anniversity of his death, she offers the Sacrifice [i.e., has a Mass said for him]." (Tertullian, On Monagomy, 212 A.D.)
John Chrysostom whose name means "golden mouth" said:
"Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice [Job l:5), why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them" (Homilies on First Corinthians 41:5 (A.D. 392)).
"Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment" (The City of God 21:13 [A.D. 419]).
"In the other life there will be two fires, a 'devouring and consuming' one for the incorrigible, and for the rest, a fire that 'sanctifies' and 'does not consume, like the fire of the forge,' a 'prudent, intelligent' fire which penetrates the soul that passes through it." (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 8.6, c. before 215 A.D.)
St. Basil the Great ...
"...and if they [i.e., Christians who die] are found to have any wounds from their wrestling, any stains or effects of sin, they are detained. If, however, they are found unwounded and without stain, they are, as unconquered, brought by Christ into their rest." (Basil, Homilies and Psalms, 370 A.D.)
And St. Basil's own brother, St. Gregory of Nyssa declares ...
"...he [the departed soul] is not able to partake of divinity until he has been purged of the filthy contagion in his soul by purifying fire." (Sermon on the Dead)
Also, I found a list of these Biblical references for the Catholic belief in a place of purification called Purgatory. It is for cleansing; it is NOT the same as Hell nor is it a place of second chances. If you go to Purgatory, you ARE going to Heaven:
from Concordance: Last Things
Heb 12:14; Rev 21:27 Purification necessary for heaven
Mt 5:26; Lk 12:58-59 An intermediate state of purification
Lk 12:47-48 Degrees of expiation of sins
2 Mac 12:45 Can be aided by prayer
1Cor 3:15 Salvation; but only as through fire
1 Cor 3:15; Mt 5:25-26 Temporary agony
1 Pet 3:19 Christ preached to spiritual beings
Rev 21:27 Nothing unclean shall enter heaven
2 Mac 12:43-46 Sacrifice for the dead
2 Cor 5:10; Rev; 5: 2;3 Rev; 5:23; Phil 2:10; Matt 18: 23-25 Luke 23:42 A reality beyond the two realms of Heaven and Earth a place between or near
Mt 12:32 No forgiveness in this age nor in the age to come.
Col 1:24; 2 Sam 12:14 "Extra" suffering.
After all that, I do believe all the Dogmas of the Church including this one. It is something that makes sense when contemplating the Justice of God. He is pure. We must be pure to enter His house. It is like this: Jesus washed away our sin just as we wash the dirt from our clothes. But after awhile, the clothes have stains that remain and get dingy even after washing many times. We then use bleach to destroy the stains. That is what purgatory is--bleach for our souls. It will make us as clean as we can possibly be to enter the Bridegroom's House--Heaven.