You can’t keep a good man down

2 04 2009

vcarmen_de_beniajan_general

Some historical notes on the Catholic view of the afterlife

Recently, a challenge has been put to me to expound the Catholic position on such things as the Immaculate Conception, purgatory, the cult of the saints, etc., in the face of other people’s approaches to the same questions. I am not a theologian, nor do I strive to do theology on this blog. However, it seems to me, just from a historical standpoint, that to ask a question such as “how did the doctrine of purgatory develop?” is a bit strange. Did purgatory emerge all of a sudden in the fifth century, built by God at the behest of theologians and churchmen so that Catholic soteriology would make more sense? Did people have absolutely no concept of life after death in the Church, or did they believe that their prayers for the dead were nothing other than a hollow tradition to be preserved to maintain external form?

On the contrary, “doctrinal development”, if we can call it that, is not the result of detached theological reflection, but rather a reaction of the people to certain phenomena that have always been there. The cult of the saints did not emerge out of theological reflection; it emerged and continues to go strong because the saints answer our prayers. The system, in a sense, works. So in many, many instances, if you want to blame anyone for the doctrines that Protestants find unpalatable, don’t blame the theologians or clerics. Blame the people themselves.

The doctrine of purgatory and the treasury of merits are not theological positions legislated in the name of ideological clarity. The afterlife is a reality of the physical and spiritual world, not just a legalistic category. We often tend to think, in our age of sterilized death, that our prayers merely “help” the dead in their process of going to be with God. That is the case, but it is not the whole story. In my readings of history, Catholic prayers for the departed often PROTECT us from the dead. Many of the ghost stories that are to be found throughout Europe and Latin America are of souls in Purgatory being let out at night and going on the rampage, knocking stuff over and letting the cattle free, and so forth. There was one instance, in Russia of all places, of a bishop being beaten down by souls in the “middle state” since he suspended a priest who would say prayers for them at the cemetery. Praying for the dead in all ancient cultures is seen as an obligation whose non-fulfillment can lead to retribution by those dwelling in the next life.

The origins of purgatory, even in Patristic thought, comes from such ghost stories, and are a product of the intuition in the ancient world that once you were dead, you may not be necessarily done here. Many early Catholic visions of the afterlife had a sort of “wandering Jew” feel to them: souls would have to wander the earth for a specific amount of time because of some sin. Other folk Catholic theories emerged to further explain the process. The Italian version of purgatory was called St. Joachim’s Bridge, which was made of the milk of the Madonna, but had blades, thorns, and other sharp objects through which the soul had to traverse to make it to the other side. Many did not, and they were the cause of trouble for those still on this side of death. In Italy as well, the hierarchy had to condemn the practice of cutting a hole in the roof of the dying person’s house to facilitate the journey of the soul out of the body.

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I hearken back as well to my own experiences as a child when I witnessed the Day of the Dead when visiting relatives in Mexico. The making of altars and the popular belief that the dead return on that night to be with their families is not something that some would find orthodox, but neither can anyone definitively say that it doesn’t happen. We are so used to the dead being separate from us in this society that we can easily ask, “well, how do we know there is a purgatory?” In other societies, there is a visceral sense that one has to help the dead, that a soul could be in trouble, and that one still has obligations to them in this life. The fact that many American converts to Catholicism or veterans of the spiritual suburban wasteland cannot grasp that is something that I cannot simply help them with. I can only tell them to study more history.

At one point, the Church decided to “clean up” the Catholic afterlife in terms of purgatory by a simple Tridentine decree which states that there is a Purgatory and our prayers help the souls there. There also seems to be fire involved. But little else is known definitively about these things unless one believes in the private revelations to saints and other figures of Catholic history.

When talking about this field of Catholic thought, we must be aware that we are dealing with a very real state of human existence that has always been there. The idea that purgatory was “discovered” at some point smacks of rationalism. Maybe people called it something else, but the fact that some souls suffer in the afterlife predates Christian times, and is a fundamental truth of our existence as human beings.


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55 responses

15 04 2009
Lucian

this compulsion to build themselves up by putting everyone else down, this need to tell the rest of Christendom how heretical and wrong-headed it is

Are You talking about this? ๐Ÿ˜€

15 04 2009
Lucian

Diane,

I like explaining stuff and talking about stuff. (And I still don’t understand how what I said is belittling or dissing Catholicism — the disproving part I get). But I don’t think that it could be called ‘disproving’ in today’s Catholicism: I’m merely explaining how the Western faith ‘evolved’ or ‘developed’ (does any Catholic present here [except for Kepha] have a problem with Newman? If so, then let him speak now … or forever hold his [or her] peace). ๐Ÿ˜

14 04 2009
diane

OK, I just can’t stay away. ๐Ÿ™‚ That’ll learn me to check the box for e-mail alerts!

I think what we have here is a failure to communicate. ๐Ÿ™‚ And it may have something to do with the fact that Lucien is Romanian…I mean, maybe it’s partly a language thing. Please don’t get me wrong, Lucian: Your English is a thousand gazillion times better than my non-existant Romanian!

But anyway, suffice it to say that Catholic Teaching is not even remotely what Lucian seems to conceive it to be.

Lucian, another question, if I may: I appreciate the beauty of your semi-reversion story, and I found it very moving. But, if you are so happy in your revived appreciation of the beauty and power of Orthodoxy, why are you spending so much time and energy trying to diss, disprove, and belittle Catholicism? When I reverted to my Catholic Faith, I can assure you that I felt absolutely no urge to visit the fora of Protestants and Orthodox in order to bash their beliefs. To this day I never visit Orthodox blogs, except for extremely irenical, ecumenical ones, and even that I do very rarely (probably because there are so few irenical Orthodox blogs — LOL).

What is it with the Orthodox? (she asked semi-rhetorically) Why can they not simply enjoy thir own tradition, with all its beauty and grandeur? Why do they feel this urge toward contradistinction — this “anti” urge, this compulsion to build themselves up by putting everyone else down, this need to tell the rest of Christendom how heretical and wrong-headed it is? Why do they, in particular, feel this compulsion to bash Rome? Rome feels no similar urge to bash the Orthodox. Is not the “anti” urge, the need to bash, a sign of some basic insecurity? Calling Dr. Freud! ๐Ÿ˜‰

LOL! And now, I must get back to work.

14 04 2009
e-nonymous

“The fact that You still insist on the Eucharist not healing our body and blood is also continuing to be problematic”

Who said anything about the Eucharist not healing our body and blood?

That’s a non-sequitur if ever there was one.

It seems you didn’t read my last post to you.

14 04 2009
Lucian

e-nonymous,

I’ve already provided You (and anyone here) with several links (and a few Biblical passages) in my comments, dealing precisely with this issue. (The fact that You still insist on the Eucharist not healing our body and blood is also continuing to be problematic).

14 04 2009
diane

Oy! This discussion is getting a little too heated for me, LOL.

Seriously, though — “patristic Protestants”? I’m with e-nonymous on this one: What an unfair, insulting, and highly selective criticism. Can we “Internet Catholics” do nothing right? LOL!

In any event, I think I’m cutting out at this point…which is rather too bad, because I’m growing quite fond of Lucian.

14 04 2009
e-nonymous

Lucian,

“And what stain would that be? What kind of stain is that, which neither confession, nor even communion (!) can blot away? To my knowledge, it is a most serious sin to disbelieve the forgiving power of Christ in confesion and communion.”

That’s exactly the point of the purgation — the cleansing of any remaining stain on the soul of a believer so that he may enter into Heaven on account of Christ’s healing power & forgiveness, since no unclean thing can ever enter into it.

It seems your animosity may be more towards the term itself (i.e., ‘Purgatory’) rather than to this final purgation.

Christ’s forgiving power is (and, more precisely, consists of) exactly this — accomodating the very entry of the soul of the faithful believer into heaven.

This purgation of any remaining stain on the soul is, in actuality, a result of Christ’s very forgiveness.

Unless, of course, you mean to say that all those believers who did not happen to confess their sins upon/before death go straight to Hell or that these will — in spite of the filth of their sins on their souls — nevertheless be allowed into Heaven even if they happen to carry the stain of sin on their souls.

In any case, both seem unreasonable to me.

Although, if you should happen to think the latter, I will have to take the matter up with the author of Revelations and complain to him how he could dare say that nothing unclean could enter Heaven when, in fact, Lucian just happens to say with such dogmatic force & infallible strength that even if unclean, such souls are still permitted entry into the Kingdom regardless. ;^)

14 04 2009
e-nonymous

“But then again, many โ€œconservativeโ€ Catholics donโ€™t realize what a disservice they do when โ€œdefendingโ€ the faith: sometimes it just makes us look like better, โ€œmore Patristicโ€ Protestants. If that is the religion yโ€™all are peddling, you can keep it.”

Sure —

After all, what benefit can a neocon ever offer especially to one of such traditionalist schismatic tendencies?

At any rate, I take it my flair for mediaeval literature and the figures of the time might very well render me ill equipped to wrestle with such mastery of the Catholic Faith?

If only it weren’t from somebody who, although quite frankly provides much curious reading, indulges far too often and ever too deeply in the supersitions of his and other cultures to the very detriment of mistaking these as part of genuine Catholic Faith.

There is something to be said concerning St. More’s christological faith that actually frowned on such superstitious nonsense which even extended insofar as those popular pieties of his times that had originated from such as these that, unfortunately, continues even in our day as your own practices so duly profess.

14 04 2009
Lucian

I think I just have to share this one with You guys! ๐Ÿ˜€

14 04 2009
diane

LOL, well, all I can say is: Please don’t play softball near my house.

I think your link got lost, BTW. ๐Ÿ™‚

14 04 2009
Lucian

If you hit a softball through my living-room window and then ask my forgiveness, I will certainly forgive you from my heart. But I will still expect you to pay for a new window.

No, You won’t. (Luke 15:20-32; Luke 23:43)

Again, I ask: Do you think most Christians, at the point of death, are fully purified from their sinful passions? Do you think they harbor absolutely no ill will toward anyone? Do you think they have no enmities, no jealousies, no grievances, no grudges? Of course they do!

Here’s what St. John Damascene had to say about this. And here’s what another John, -the one coloquially called Chrysostom-, had to say about it.

14 04 2009
diane

And Arturo–I’d heard that story re standing on bishop’s head before. it’s a good ‘un, but I’m not sure how it undercuts what e-nonymous and I have been engaged in here. Again, maybe I’m just dense. ๐Ÿ™‚

14 04 2009
diane

Lucian: Forgive me; I just saw your post about your reversion…I apologize for assuming you had not yet answered my question. ๐Ÿ™‚

14 04 2009
diane

Hi, Arturo. Color me dense, but I am afraid I found your comment far more weirdly esoteric and incomprehensible than either e-nonymous’s or mine. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But, be that as it may, I strongly disagree that Purgatory is “dead” on the ground.

Please pardon me if I bristle a bit at being called an Internet Catholic merely because I happen to be posting on the Internet. (Isn’t everyone in this conversation, er, posting on the Internet? ;-))

I am not some sort of cyber-wraith; I am a flesh-and-blood human being with a very rich parish life — and not in some quirky little Tridentine chapel, either. (If anything, our parish leans a tad too much to the left — oh horrors!!) Yet we pray for the souls of the departed in the prayer intentions at every Sunday Mass. We celebrate November as the month of all souls, with prayers every day for our dear departed. Purgatory and the afterlife are very real for us.

Perhaps you are simply too young to appreciate this. Pardon me if that sounds condescending; please let me explain: Once one reaches a certain age, one has lost parents, relatives, friends, acquaintances — sometimes it seems as if death is everywhere. Well, if one is Catholic, one reacts to all of this by…praying for the dead. I’m only in my 50s — not at death’s door quite yet — but I have lost so many people, and you can bet your bippy I pray for their souls on a very regular basis!

Perhaps it’s different out West, but, here in the South, the doctrine of Purgatory is very much alive and well. Seeing as it is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church, it can never “go out of style” even if some people find it embarrassing or whatever.

Moreover, dogma does matter. The Christian Faith is not all mystical-shmystical blather.

I see your point about the universal paranormal experiences etc. etc. But “folklore / cultic religion” and theology are not counter-posed to each other. The one does not somehow obviate the other, as you seem to suggest.

Perhaps you are reacting against your own formerly too-rigid / too-cataphatic past. As I have never had those experiences — have never been in SSPX or whatever — I don’t think I can be tagged with some label you’ve created based on your own background. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thank you!

Diane

14 04 2009
Arturo Vasquez

There is a rather strange flavor that I find to these conversations, especially coming from the Catholic side. To be blunt and quite honest, purgatory as a doctrine in the Church is quite dead, at least on the ground level in developed countries. Most Catholics have no idea of what really happens in the afterlife, or at least think that they go straight to Heaven since they “can’t be that bad, right”. I reference in this regard the “automatic canonization” funerals celebrated in white vestments, complete with lit Paschal candle.

In this regard, Internet Catholics’ defense of purgatory seems like a labyrinthine exercise similar to the Talmudic discussions of Temple rituals: things that don’t really go on anymore, or are not supposed to anyway, but we have to defend them since they are “on the books”. A waste of time, if you ask me. Also, I can only express disbelief at e-nonymous’ position of purgatory “not being a place”. My grandmother would smack you if you said something like that to her face. But then again, many “conservative” Catholics don’t realize what a disservice they do when “defending” the faith: sometimes it just makes us look like better, “more Patristic” Protestants. If that is the religion y’all are peddling, you can keep it.

In any case, the main point of the post was to assert the reality of life after death, and its affects on the living. To die in the state of sin or in the midst of a traumatic experience creates the ontological fact of a need for purification and expiation of some sort, be it the Catholic version of temporal punishment for forgiven sins or something else. Granted, Lucian did bring up the part in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom where the Sacrifice is offered FOR the Virgin Mary, and not just in commemoration of her. (Mimesis itself can be seen as a form of expiation for the dead.) One can here interpret this as the principle of epikstasis in St. Gregory of Nyssa: the prayers push Mary up towards God “from glory to glory”, just as one Orthodox interpretation of the sinlessness of Mary is that her path was actually prepared by her ancestors in a way that builds on history and not as a radical departure from history as one can interpret the theological principles behind the Immaculate Conception. (Again, this is one interpretation, not THE interpretation.) Nevertheless, the prayers for the dead benefit the dead, as many, many, many example of Orthodox hagiography and folklore clearly point out. How they do it is something the Orthodox Church, and the rest of the Christian East, is blissfully agnostic about.

One such tale is found in John Moschos’ Spiritual Meadow. A negligent monastic novice died and his spiritual father was fearful about the fate of his soul. In a vision, the old monk was taken to a flaming lake of fire in Hell, where he saw the deceased novice’s head poking out of the fiery lake.

“Oh my boy,” the old monk upbraided the young man, “see here your negligence has gotten you.”

“Yes, father,” responded the novice, “but because of your prayers I am standing on the head of a bishop”.

That is something, at least.

Most importantly, from this existential affect of sin we get the hauntings, the apparitions of the dead, and other paranormal phenomena that are the basis of worldwide folklore and is the real foundation of cultic religion, not theological principles that emerge later. We live in a world that wishes to silence the dead and not face the ontological reality of our life as incarnate spirits. I think in such a context, any defense of purgatory as a theological concept is a moot point.

14 04 2009
diane

Lucian: NO Catholic disbelieves in the forgiving power of Christ. Please do not misrepresent our beliefs. That is the sin of calumny…non? ๐Ÿ˜‰

You may want to Google “Divine Mercy Devotion” or “Divine Mercy Novena” (now ongoing) to see exactly how profoundly Catholics believe in God’s gratuitous mercy!

Nonentheless…even after sin is completely forgiven by the Grace of God via Confession and Communion, some of its effects and consequences remain. That is why David had to suffer the loss of his firstborn by Bathsheba even though/i> God had already completely forgiven him (as Nathan made clear).

If you hit a softball through my living-room window and then ask my forgiveness, I will certainly forgive you from my heart. But I will still expect you to pay for a new window. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s a similar principle.

Again, I ask: Do you think most Christians, at the point of death, are fully purified from their sinful passions? Do you think they harbor absolutely no ill will toward anyone? Do you think they have no enmities, no jealousies, no grievances, no grudges? Of course they do! Most of us fail in love — and the saints and mystics who have seen Purgatory report that it is a school of love.

Yes, the penitent is completely forgiven; that is why he is saved. (Purgatory is for the saved; it is not some sort of “second chance” or trial-by-demons a la the Toll Houses.) But, even though the penitent is fully forgiven, he is not fully purified. And, because he is not fully purified — of all his petty grudges and lack of forgiveness toward others, etc. etc. — he must undergo purgation before he can enter Heaven. For, indeed, no unclean thing can enter Heaven.

Some people are purified while they are still on this earth — both by ascesis and by suffering. Most of us, however, will not be fully purified until after death. That is why “it is a good and righteous thing to pray for the DEAD, that they may be LOOSED from their sins” — a verse that makes absolutely no sense outside of the context of the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.

BTW, you still haven’t told us whether you’re a convert. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I find it distressing that you admire the bigoted ravings of Energetic Processions. But you’re young; there’s hope. ๐Ÿ™‚

Nathan had already made clear that the Lord had completely forgiven him (David).

14 04 2009
Lucian

but the stain that yet remains in the soul of the departed.

And what stain would that be? What kind of stain is that, which neither confession, nor even communion (!) can blot away? ๐Ÿ˜ To my knowledge, it is a most serious sin to disbelieve the forgiving power of Christ in confesion and communion. (And -to my knowledge- the Catholics believe the same).

If not, my apologies in advance.

Apologies accepted. (It’s true though that the guys at Energetic Procession were of great help to me when I had some troubles regarding Who exactly the subject of the OT Theophanies was [the Father or the Son?]; and regarding the ‘OK-ness’ of the icons of the Holy Trinity). I also read their blog religiously ๐Ÿ˜‰ , and enjoy it very much [they rarely blog, but when they do, it’s usually good stuff]. — So You can definitely count me as being in their “crowd”. ๐Ÿ™‚

you think of purgatory as being a place; Purgatory can perhaps be better grasped as being a state

That’s how I understand Heaven and Hell also: and I didn’t mean to imply that You do otherwise as far as Purgatory is concerned … it’s just that we believe that there’s no such state (yet we pray for our departed nonetheless).

14 04 2009
diane

Sigh re the misconceptions about Purgatory: If people are going to blast our beliefs, they could at least do us the courtesy of finding out what those beliefs actually are — rather than attacking caricatures and strawmen.

Forgive my rant. It gets so old. In fact, it gets so old that I’m basically over it. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

14 04 2009
e-nonymous

“e-nonymous, Iโ€™m Orthodox. ”

I thought I had anticipated that with my 00:23:58 post.

“We regard the fact that Catholics think that even departed souls that died communed should stay for a certain time in Purgatory because they arenโ€™t yet clean because of a lack of either enough contrition and/or fulfillment of the (earthly) penitential canon as problematic (logically, theologically, canonically, traditionally, patristically, etc). ”

That’s not the case at all.

It’s not because of any sort of ‘lack of contrition’ or ‘fulfillment of earthly penitential canon’, but the stain that yet remains in the soul of the departed.

Again, you think of purgatory as being a place; yet, this is only due to a fiction created by Dante who himself did not even intend to convey as the reality that is purgatory.

Purgatory can perhaps be better grasped as being a state of purgation, that, again, as Scripture itself has it: “though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15).

I don’t see how such a state of purgation as this which, in all likelihood given even certain scriptural passages, would not actually be found necessary prior to entry into the Kingdom in which no unclean thing can enter, and, furthermore, could actually be deemed so theologically unsound or even unnervingly incomprehensible, when these are the very elements which comprise of that very patrimony inherited from the early church on forward (contrary to what you have so alleged), and subsequently passed on from generation to generation, and, for the most part, reside essentially & quite prominently on the basis of both Scripture & Tradition — even if these should happen to have been solely localized within the Tradition of that God-forsaken Western Church we Latins happen to continue thereunto our allegiance.

“Quick question, if I may: Are you cradle Orthodox or convert Orthodox?”

If Lucian should happen to belong to Photios’ crowd, he might most likely be one of those formerly Protestant folk who, although converted to the Orthodox faith, still happen to subscribe to the same brand of anti-catholicism as the case prior to conversion.

If not, my apologies in advance.

14 04 2009
Lucian

Diane,

I’m sorry, I understood Your question as meaning: “how does someone find out what the tenets of the Orthodox faith are?” … not: “how do You know Orthodoxy is the true religion?”.

Iโ€™m Cradle Catholic and a revert.

I identify very much with Your own situation: I was born and raised Orthodox (just like pretty much anyone else here in Romania), but I wasn’t a practicant (again: just like pretty much anyone else here in Romania). I didn’t lose my faith or anything like that … but I didn’t go to Church either (for the third time: just like pretty much anyone else here in Romania). Until I discovered Orthodoxy in all its power, beauty, and splendor about a dozen years ago: that’s I became very interested in it.

Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t a religious wish-wash prior to that: I was born in communist Romania, and I was raised by my God-fearing grand-mother: I knew eversince I can remember that this might mean martyrdom, and I was prepared to give my life for Christ: God meant everything to me. ๐Ÿ˜ But the Sunday-service was just so boring … ๐Ÿ˜€ (Though I was also equally aware of the sinfulness of that feeling of boredom).

14 04 2009
diane

Lucian…you’re Orthodox? You coulda knocked me over with the proverbial feather. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Re the Mormons: They say Mormonism’s a given. You don’t have to demonstrate it; you’ll just know it’s true by the “burning in your bosom.”

But the Bible is not that anti-rational. It says, “Always be ready to give reasons for your faith.” Again, that’s where that evidence thing comes in.

Quick question, if I may: Are you cradle Orthodox or convert Orthodox? Just curious. (And to lay all cards out on the table): I’m Cradle Catholic and a revert.

14 04 2009
Lucian

e-nonymous,

I’m Orthodox.

The Mormons say the same thing.

That the Orthodox faith is a given? Or that the Mormon faith is a given?

14 04 2009
diane

e-nonymous: That’s why I always pray for deceased parents and relatives of my Protestant friends. I figure they come under the heading: “…and all those souls who have no one else to pray for them.”

Now I will have to add deceased Orthodox to my prayer list. Who knew? ๐Ÿ˜‰

14 04 2009
e-nonymous

Lucian (and Fearsome Comrade),

Sure — nothing can be more heretical than praying for the dead.

Sorry, but although you and Fearsome Comrade might much prefer callously tossing the dead bodies of your dearly loved ones into the grave right after their deaths, we Latins prefer to do such awful things like praying for them as well as performing funeral rites.

We’re just silly that way — especially when it comes to the dearly departed like members of our own family who just happened to die from the ignominy of cancer and the sort.

I know — what should we expect? Yes, yes — we might as well be vainly casting our hopes for our beloved since, after all, we are in actuality praying for the repose of their souls to nothing more than a merciless God who does not dwell in the Eternal Present, no?

14 04 2009
diane

LOL! The Mormons say the same thing. ๐Ÿ˜‰

14 04 2009
Lucian

How do you know?

In the same way in which everybody knows something: the Orthodox faith is a given.

14 04 2009
diane

Regarding Revelations, Purgatory is not implied there…

With all due respect: How do you know? Do you possess the charism of infallibility?

As I have always observed, when people reject the real papacy and the real Magisterium, they always seem to set themselves up as a species of Super Pope and Magisterium-Unto-Themselves. It never fails. ๐Ÿ˜‰

14 04 2009
Lucian

๐Ÿ™‚

You are a lady, and You are older than me (I’m only a quarter-century yrs old).

Regarding Revelations, Purgatory is not implied there, nor do the few Fathers that wrote commentaries on the Book of Revelations see it as either written down or implied there anywhere.

The purification or purgation in which we believe is fasting, abstinence, and Holy Communion. We do not believe that the souls of the departed for which we pray are in Purgatory. We regard the fact that Catholics think that even departed souls that died communed should stay for a certain time in Purgatory because they aren’t yet clean because of a lack of either enough contrition and/or fulfillment of the (earthly) penitential canon as problematic (logically, theologically, canonically, traditionally, patristically, etc).

Furthermore, the Orthodox prayer-reality is “backwards” than Your logic (and Catholic rationalistic/scholastic theology) would have us believe:
– the guys who need our prayers the most (pagans, Jews/Muslims, heretics, schismatics) get none from us (though we do believe that if they led a righteous life, according to the Gospel they had in their hearts, they will be redeemed by Christ in Hell, just like the pre-Christian Jews and pagans).
– the guys whom we pray for at any Liturgy, and whom we mention every time when offering the Eucharist, are those that are already sanctified :

Priest [silently]: Again, we offer this spiritual worship for those who reposed in the faith, forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and for every righteous spirit made perfect in faith
Priest [loudly]: … most especially for our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary

Regarding the “depositum fidei”: Catholicism seems to be OK if something is there contained only in seed-form, as it were (i.e., Purgatory is there in the faith-deposit as an undeveloped seed, thus explaining why neither Orthodox, nor Monophysites, who broke off from Rome, know of such a doctrine).

Now, if You want to consider me, an Orthodox, a frozen-in-time glimpse of what Catholicism was like before it rightfully developed such dogmas under divinely-infallible Papal guidance and supervison, then that’s fine by me, I guess… but if You’re arguing that such teachings are explicitely found anywhere in the Fathers, (let alone in Scripture), I think that the evidence in such a case is far from `overwhelming` (so as not to say “unextant”, or use other such apophatic terms).

14 04 2009
diane

Lucian, I don’t understand your argument. Have you never heard of historical evidence?

We Catholics draw on the data of Scripture and the Fathers because these data in fact support our case. Both Scripture and the Early Church Fathers do attest the doctrine of Purgatory. You keep insisting that the doctrine did not exist in the first millennium, but you do not offer one shred of evidence to back up this assertion.

All defined dogma in the Catholic Church comes from the primitive Depositum Fidei. Not one lick of it is a later invention or innovation, much less a post-Schism fabrication. I can’t help wondering where you get your information re Catholic beliefs. From Jack Chick tracts, perhaps? Seriously!

Similarly, I do not understand your airy dismissal of e-nonymous’s citation from Revelation. Have you ever heard of implications? “Nothing unclean shall enter Heaven” means that we must be purified before we enter Heaven. Well, do you think you will be fully purified before death? Do you think you will have undergone complete theosis before you breathe your last breath? When you lie on your deathbed, will you counsel your friends and relatives not to pray for you once you’re gone because you are already perfect and need no further (post-death) prayers?

I have refrained from providing patristic texts supporting the doctrine of Purgatory because (a) I didn’t want to get dragged into yet another interminable tussle with an anti-Catholic Orthodox; and (b) you are just as capable of Googling as I am. But, when I get a chance, I will spare you the trouble of consulting Mr. Google and furnish a few texts for your consideration. Of course, I expect you will insist that these texts do not actually mean what they plainly say. And, at that point, I will shake the dust from my feet. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thanks, BTW, for the deference you show to my advanced age. LOL! ๐Ÿ™‚

Diane, reaching for her Geritol

14 04 2009
Lucian

e-nonymous,

that nothing unclean shall ever enter the Kingdom of Heaven means just that.

And whatโ€™s with the initial-capped โ€œYouโ€ and โ€œYourโ€?

Because English has no respect-pronouns (like Romanian, for instance), and it’s very awkward calling people you’ve never met, many of whom are far older than yourself (like You, for instance), “you”. The capitalisation follows the German sie/Sie.

I also have a hard time understanding what exactly was it in my comments that You found to be either so disrespectful, spiteful, hateful, or offensive. I simply said that the notion of Purgatory follows from the idea that the penitential canon *has to* continue after one’s death, *regardless* of whether that person died communed or not, otherwise one cannot be cleaned or purged.

And the notion of indulgence means what we call epitimy, or lessening of canon (hence why an indulgence, when applied to a soul in Purgatory, lessens his canon, thereby shortening the time he has to spend there). And I’ve also said *that* we don’t believe that (nor do the Monophysites for that matter, who broke off from us some 500 yrs before our Great Schism), and I’ve also explained *why* we don’t believe that.

I also don’t understand why is it exactly that You want to show the formerly-unextant dogma of Purgatory to be present there in the writings of the Fathers of the first millennium, when Roman Catholic dogma itself does not require of it (as well as others; or any, for that matter) to be so.

14 04 2009
diane

e-nonymous, I like your style, LOL! ๐Ÿ˜‰

14 04 2009
diane

LOL, you certainly are winsome, Mr. Lucian. So, do you think Catholics consult the pope personally every time they need to look up an historical reference?

And what’s with the initial-capped “You” and “Your”? I mean, even once I achieve theosis, I won’t be, strictly speaking, divine. Heck, I’m not even royalty. It’s nice of you to honor me as such, however.

As for the rest of your argument, such as it is: Asserting don’t make it so, Dear Heart. ๐Ÿ˜‰ That’s why I referred you to Mr. Google. There’s this little thing called evidence….

๐Ÿ™‚ ‘Bye for now!

Diane

14 04 2009
e-nonymous

Lucian,

“โ€œButโ€ nothing. (As for the cleansing Youโ€™re speaking of, I havenโ€™t got the faintest idea where You got that from. Where did You read this original innovation?).”

You need to blame the guy who wrote Revelations about that — He was the one who said that nothing unclean shall enter Heaven in Rev 21:27.

Thanks for indulging us heretical latins with your most blessed eastern orthodox presence!

If only you could move us out of our blasted popery and into the awesomeness that clearly is eastern orthodox!

13 04 2009
Lucian

… or do You perhaps think that I sound too much like some sort of a neo-Arian when I dare say regarding the teaching [innovation] of Purgatory that “there was a time when IT was not” ? 8)

13 04 2009
Lucian

Just ask Mr. Google. ๐Ÿ˜‰

That Your new Pope? I’m sorry, I din’t knew Benedict has either passed away or retired. (An anti-Pope, then, perhaps?)

Sung to the tune of โ€œSailing, Sailingโ€

As if I have the faintest clue what that is.

And yes, it was affirmed in both East and West in the first millennium

Affirmed? In what way? The Newman way? Or the Sinatra way?

The lack of Purgatory is a tenet of the Orthodox Faith, based solidly upon both Scripture and Tradition. And yes, its mention is lacking in both East and West in the first millennium. And yes, there is documentary proof of this. — Just ask Mr. Google. ๐Ÿ˜‰

13 04 2009
diane

LOL! Lucian, my friend, I wasn’t asking you anything, much less expecting an answer. It was a rhetorical question. Purgatory is a defined dogma of the Catholic Faith, based solidly upon both Scripture and Tradition. And yes, it was affirmed in both East and West in the first millennium. And yes, there is documentary proof of this. Just ask Mr. Google. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And you, bro, might receive a more polite response if you didn’t think it incumbent upon yourself to visit Catholic blogs in order to attack Catholicism. Ya think? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Diane

(Sung to the tune of “Sailing, Sailing”):

Trolling, trolling,
Over the Catholic boards!
Though “free” from Rome,
We froth and foam
At clueless Papist hordes!

Ohhhhh!

Trolling, trolling,
Never let up a smidgen!
We’d rather bait
The Church we hate
Than practice our own religion.

“Don’t pinch it; it’s copyright.” — Psmith in Leave It to Psmith

13 04 2009
Lucian

If that aintโ€™ Purgatory, I sure in heck would like to know what it is.

And You might even get Your answer if You would first bother asking it politely, and secondly actually paying attention to what people say or write.

13 04 2009
diane

Sorry for typos…was in a hurry. Buona Pasqua!

13 04 2009
diane

Of course there’s a Purgatory. The Orthodox denial thereof is silly and polemical: “The Latins affirm this; therefore we must deny it.” Eastern Fathers and saints believed in Purgatory (which has absolitely nothing to do with Toll Houses, BTW: Sould in Purgatory are saved, know they are saved, and do not have to answer to demons for anything; they have already been judged by Christ in the Particular Judgment.

“It is a good and righteous thing to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.” If that aint’ Purgatory, I sure in heck would like to know what it isw.

Once again, polemics and bigotry blind people to truths they would otherwise embrace — that is, if they weren’t blinded by polemics and bigotry. I am past being diplomatic about such attacks on the True Faith.

10 04 2009
triunepieces

So then, how does sorteriology of the those who are free from either the corruption and/or poor logic of the doctrine of purgatory explain the presence of ghosts? (You might not take such spirits seriously, but I do.) I don’t think categorizing all paranormal phenomena as supernatural workings of demons or angels is going to cut it for me. No, I don’t think Dr. Peter Venkman qualifies as a council father. Yet, what do you do with the anecdotal evidence of a middle state when your doctrine denies its possibility? Perhaps there’s a reason why our doctrine of purgatory cannot be separated from that primitive genre. What if the Church suffering did appear, like Jacob Marley, and demanded our prayers? How uncharitable not offer up a petition to the Father, who stands outside of time, and outside of space. Is it not an extension of “Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven?” to say “Lord, welcome your servant.”

9 04 2009
Fearsome Comrade

thatโ€™s the post-factum rationale: the original gut-reaction was based on clerical corruption.

The “post-factum rationale” is in the Augsburg Confession, which was written in 1529. So actually, it was developed in the midst of the controversy.

Then what about the mournerโ€™s kaddish of the Ancient Jews which modern-day Jews continues to this day?

“Jewish tradition” and “divine command” are not equivalent terms in Lutheran theology. Even Jesus didn’t seem to regard every Jewish tradition of his day as being spoken by his Father. Weird, huh?

8 04 2009
Lucian

Purgatory has nothing to do with the Canon of the Church

That’s precisely from where the whole idea comes from: the continuance of the penitencial canon after one’s death.

but, more precisely, it concerns the latter which happens to occur for those still tainted by sin upon death.

“But” nothing. (As for the cleansing You’re speaking of, I haven’t got the faintest idea where You got that from. Where did You read this original innovation?).

7 04 2009
e-nonymous

Lucian,

You’re speaking strictly concerning Canon, but that is an entirely different matter from the need for final sanctification prior to entry into the Kingdom.

Purgatory has nothing to do with the Canon of the Church but, more precisely, it concerns the latter which happens to occur for those still tainted by sin upon death.

It’s not a “canon” of the Latin church. It’s not even a “place”. It’s merely the ‘final washing’ (if you like) of the remaining stain on the soul so that it can enter into Heaven, since nothing unclean can enter it (as even the Book of Revelation cites).

This is an unfortunate result of folks having bought into the fiction that contained in Dante’s works, which even Dante himself did not intend (but that’s another discussion entirely).

As to another matter, I don’t find prayers for the dead at all contrary to God since even our Jewish elders had performed the ancient practice of the mourner’s kaddish for several generations, eminating from even the ancient times of the Old Testament itself.

Unless, of course, you subscribe to some sort of replacement theology where anything seemingly ‘Old Testament’ just won’t do.

7 04 2009
Lucian

E-nonymous,

what I’ve presented is the common pre-schism belief of all Christendom, which we share even with the Orientals and Nestorians, and which was still theoretically canonical in the West in Luther’s own time (as a Catholic confessor, he knew what he was talking about in his Theses). All canons cease in the face of death: that’s not “rumination”, that’s the Church’s historical teaching. That’s why not even the Catholics deny communion to their dieing. Otherwise, they (and us) should’ve denied them communion for not fulfilling their penitential canon, and refrain from offering Liturgies or Masses for them after their departure BEFORE the post-mortem time of their penance would’ve been over. (To offer a Mass for someone = to commune the departed with the Body and Blood of Christ in the afterlife). So, a logical question: do You *constantly keep on communing* people here on earth with the Eucharist BEFORE they have fulfilled the time of their canon? If not, then why break this logical rule for the departed? Are their souls not still alive? (Matthew 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38). Why do You commune them on their death-bed, and after-wards keep on saying Masses for them constantly after their departure, though the days of their canon are not *yet* finished? (It makes no logical sense, does it?).

7 04 2009
e-nonymous

“God has commanded us to pray for many things, but the judgment of the departed is not one of them.”

Then what about the mourner’s kaddish of the Ancient Jews which modern-day Jews continues to this day?

Also, I find Lucian’s as well as “Sunday is not Part of Lent” Kepha (no wonder they have 1st Sunday of Lent, 2nd Sunday of Lent… 5th Sunday of Lent!) ruminations concerning Purgatory which is just about as erroneous as the entry here.

Although there was one part that Kepha brought up that is 1/2 correct and that is as regarding sanctification.

Moreover, ‘Purgartory’ being an actual place is all bull.

That is merely an invention of Dante.

Purgatory need not be a place but the final stage of purification (sanctification, if you like) of unclean souls prior to entering into the Kingdom which no unclean thing could enter otherwise.

6 04 2009
Lucian

Hey, Kepha,

apropos the gut-based rejections I was talking about with Josh, here’s something from my own back-yard 8) meant to spoil Your blessed peaceful lenten time. 8)

6 04 2009
Lucian

Kepha,

Alexandria was in the West, not in the East. (That’s why the Orientals cross themselves in the same direction You do; that’s why their vestments look so much like Yours; that’s why there was so much in-fighting between the two cities in antiquity; that’s why they used the same Marian theology [Deipara and Theotokos]; etc).

Secondly, Clement and Origen aren’t so much Eastern, as they are hellenistic philopsophers. (Eastern was the 5th Council which condemned Origenism; Eastern was Photios who wrote against certain of Clements teachings, and when the reasons for his criticism become known, his name was silently struck down from our Calendars).

Josh,

that’s the post-factum rationale: the original gut-reaction was based on clerical corruption. (You may compare Lutheranism with Buddhism or with the Essenes based on this perspective). [And Anglicanism was based on another gut-driven “reason”: namely divorce].

6 04 2009
kepha

It is so wierd how the East and the West came to different conclusions about the role of penance, especially when two Eastern fathers (Clement and Origen) played an important role for the West.

6 04 2009
Fearsome Comrade

The origins of purgatory, even in Patristic thought, comes from such ghost stories

Chemnitz goes into great detail about the ghost stories of the 5th, 6th, etc centuries that led to the development of the doctrine of purgatory. Also, you neglected Origen, who brought Plato’s conception of the afterlife into Christian thought, which is the intellectual seed of purgatory. Those Fathers that were the most prone to speculating about some kind of remedial punishment in the afterlife were heavily influenced by Origen.

What I find interesting is that you admit this, while most Catholic apologists strenuously deny it and try to make the case that purgatory is simply a necessary rational deduction from the Gospels. Your Catholicism is very much of the sort that Chemnitz addresses at great length in his apologetic writings, the sort that most Catholics claim is a gross misrepresentation and never really existed.

The Protestant refused to pray for the dead because the Priests earned much money from such things

Protestants don’t pray for the dead because prayer is based on the command and promise of God. God has commanded us to pray for many things, but the judgment of the departed is not one of them.

4 04 2009
Lucian

The Eastern understanding is that no purgatory was necessary for the right-hand thief. (Luke 23:43). The fruits of penance is the changed heart (repentance = meta-noia = change of mind). Since he truly changed his soul, he continued his happy existence in the peace of God after his death, and not in pain or torment of any kind. If he would’ve lived, he would’ve obviously had to let that faith grow and that repentace blossom into good deeds, but since he had no such oportunity, because of a very objective reason, we don’t say that he somehow had to suffer, or be tortured, or anything like that, in the immediate after-life, so as to satisfy or appease the wrath or anger of a dispassionate God. To say that the dieing penitent has to undergo post-mortem toils because he was objectively unable to fulfill his penance in this life is as strange to Orthodox canonists’ ears as is was to Luther 500 yrs ago: all canons stop in the face of death (even Luther says as much in his 95 Theses).

3 04 2009
kepha

Lucian,

The Roman understanding of Purgatory, as well as Indulgences, come from the understanding that penance (or the “fruits of repentance”) is a necessary part of repentance. Both repentance and penance are necessary for sanctification. Purgatory is where the final repentance, penance, and sanctification take place.

What is the Eastern understanding?

2 04 2009
Lucian

Cute, but none of those who pray for their dead believe in Purgatory, except for the Catholics. The doctrine of Purgatory is based on the fact that God has to punish people for their sins (retribution). Now, there are penitential canons which the Priest (Catholic and Orthodox) gives to the person after confession to do before communing. And in the face all death, all such canons drop (for obvious reasons; for both Catholic and Orthodox). But the Catholics say that the soul that departed in such a state has to still be purified, because God can’t simply forgive (Anselmian atonement). So, instead of the canon which he was not able to fulfill on earth for his sins, he has to pass through Purgatory in the subsequent afterlife, to be cleaned as through fire (First Corinthians 3:15). — Luther himself speaks clearly about this in his Theses.

Now, the Orthodox were not influenced by Anselm; St. John Chrysostom’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 3:15 sees it as a reference to the eternal flames of hell (saved = spared = not destroyed [by the flames] … but having to suffer them [without ever being consumed] for all eternity); we don’t believe that God “has to” do anything; we don’t believe that we have to “pay” anything to God; we don’t believe that forgiveness is given to us through punishment or suffering [see the Parable of the Prodigal son]. We’re just not legalistic in our approach.

The Protestant refused to pray for the dead because the Priests earned much money from such things … but -that again- they earn just as much, if not even more money, for praying for living people … so why don’t they just quit praying for the living as well?

2 04 2009
MCH

Some of my relatives on my mother’s side erect an ofrenda on the terrace, complete with generous servings of rice, liquor, and assorted religious articles because it was believed that All Hallows’ Eve opened up the gates of Purgatory, and the dead were free to wander the earth. During this time, the suffering souls would visit their homes to check up on their families and to beg for prayers. If the family of the deceased turned out to be neglecting them, this could be the source of major bad luck (or possibly even death) because the souls might just throw a fit. Perhaps that is one reason why that side of the family, even if most of them are Protestant, continue the tradition of keeping vigil at the tombs of their beloved come All Souls’ Day.

2 04 2009
Mack Ramer

Please pray for us, the veterans of the spiritual suburban wasteland.

2 04 2009
Akzoul

This is the heresy of the Toll Houses of Seraphim Rose.

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