Posts Tagged ‘Purgatory’

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The Maccabee – Locating Purgatory

October 3, 2011

The Maccabee – Locating Purgatory

‘Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’

– Jeremiah 23:29

 

The Location of Purgatory

Use of the word “Purgatory” (in Latin purgatorium) as a noun appeared perhaps only between 1160 and 1180, giving rise to the idea of Purgatory as a place (what Jacques Le Goff called the “birth” of Purgatory),

– Purgatory, Wikipedia

Most scholars believe that, at the beginning of Christianity, Purgatory was imagined as a completely spiritual realm with no physical location. The early Church Fathers saw Purgatory as a process of purification which most souls underwent before going on to Heaven. The exact doctrine, as promulgated by the earliest Christian theologians, saw Purgatory as a ‘condition or process of purification or temporary punishment’ rather than a physical location, which is meant for the souls of deceased to be purified in preparation for their eventual salvation and entrance into Heaven.

In 1999 Pope John Paul II declared that the term Purgatory does not indicate a place, but “a condition of existence”.

– Purgatory, Wikipedia

However, the theory of Purgatory as being a process, rather than a place, simply reflects the complex intellectual theology of Christian experts rather than the beliefs of common folk as they have actually been throughout the centuries. It seems far more likely that Purgatory has its deeper roots in the Jewish world of the dead, called the Sheol, and the Greco-Roman world of the dead, known as Hades, places sanctified by Jesus Christ when ‘He descended into Hell.’ In both places, it was believed to be specifically located underground in what was generically called the Underworld, a dark world of ghosts (souls), a place most everyone went to after death, before moving on to Paradise, called the “Heart of Abraham’ by the Jews, alternatively designated as ‘Elysium’ by the Greeks and the Romans. In other words, the road to Heaven was considered to be down and through rather than above and upwards. One source notes aptly:

The envisioning of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory as places in the physical universe was never a Church doctrine. Nonetheless, in antiquity and medieval times, Heaven and Hell were widely regarded as places existing within the physical universe: Heaven “above”, in the sky; Hell “below”, in or beneath the earth. Similarly, Purgatory has at times been thought of as a physical location.

– Purgatory, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thus, it should seem more than obvious that Purgatory has always been thought of as having a general location, namely below the earth and buried ‘six feet under’, to put it bluntly. Saint Frances de Sales hit it on the nail when he claimed Purgatory to be below the earth. Nonetheless, there has been numerous different speculations as to where the world of Purgatory is actually located. Some of them can be described as follows:

 

Precise Location of Purgatory

I. Under the earth

II. In the air

III. By the graves of the dead

IV. Near Church altars

V. Amid past places and occurrences of sin

The general consensus of today is that Purgatory was considered by the early Church Fathers as a condition or process that had no exact material location. Even so, by the Middle Ages, discussion of the precise location of Purgatory once again became a topic of interest. One scholar in particular claims the following:

Medievalist Jacques Le Goff defines the “birth of purgatory”, i.e. the conception of purgatory as a physical place, rather than merely as a state, as occurring between 1170 and 1200.

– History of Purgatory, Wikipedia

According to the French historian Jacques Le Goff, the conception of purgatory as a physical place dates to the 12th century, the heyday of medieval otherworld-journey narratives and of pilgrims’ tales.

– Purgatory, Encyclopedia Britannica

 

Indeed, throughout the Middles Ages, ‘The idea of purgatory as a physical place became widespread on a popular level.’ The contention that Purgatory truly did have a location ‘was defended also by some theologians.’ However, most scholars today tend to assume that ‘the conception of purgatory as a geographically situated place is largely the achievement of medieval Christian piety and imagination.’ Located below are just a few examples of Purgatory as a place rather than just a process, condition, or metaphysical state of being.

In Search of Purgatory

– ‘The legend of St Patrick’s Purgatory’ (Tractatus de Purgatorio Sancti Patricii) which was originally written by Hugh of Saltry, also known as Henry of Sawtry, claimed that the entrance to Purgatory was located on a remote island in Ireland.

– Another Purgatory legend contended that the ‘entrance to Purgatory’ was located in ‘a cave on the volcanic Mount Etna in Sicily

– In his work called ‘Purgatorio’, Dante described Purgatory as ‘a seven-story mountain situated’ on the exact opposite end of the world from the actual city of Jerusalem,

– In 1220, Caesarius of Heisterbach, a Cistercian monk and preacher, theorized ‘that purgatory could be in several places at once.’

– Some prominent scholars claim that Peter the Lombard, who died in 1160, ‘to have contributed significantly to the birth of purgatory in the sense of a physical place.’

– Francis de Sales, a Christian Saint, insisted that Purgatory was located beneath the Earth

– In the Divine Comedy, Dante had his Purgatory as a mountain with seven levels, with each level corresponding to one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

– In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI discussed Saint Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510), stating ‘that in her time the purification of souls (Purgatory) was pictured as a location in space. Nonetheless, she ‘saw Purgatory as a purifying inner fire, such as she experienced in her profound sorrow.’

– After His crucifixion, Jesus Christ is assumed to have ‘descended into Hell,’ and then, with His angels, is presumed to have attacked the stronghold of the Greco-Roman god Hades, along with the Devil. According to some, His presence in Hell sanctified the area, thus creating Purgatory.

Given everything, it must be concluded that, if there truly are spiritual realms of existence, then Purgatory is one of them, a definite ‘place’ in the metaphysical world, a land of the dead filled with the ghosts of those who have passed away, who are patiently awaiting entrance into Heaven.

May the LORD God bless you in the name of St. Judas Maccabaeus.

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The Maccabee – The Holy Spirit, Purgatory and the Holy Ghost

September 23, 2011

‘Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’

– Jeremiah 23:29

The doctrine of Purgatory, still an essential aspect of Roman Catholic Christianity as well as Orthodox Judaism, continues to be one of the most common sense Judeo-Christian traditions ever known. For almost two thousand years, the Catholic Church has believed that, just as Hell is meant for the very wicked and evil, Heaven is for the Saints and Martyrs of the world, individuals so righteous and perfect they most certainly merit immediate admittance into Paradise. Likewise, the Church has also taught that, because the vast majority of people are a complex mixture of goodness and evil, most Christian (and Jewish) believers will be going to Purgatory when they die, to a dark ghost world traditionally located below the earth, before they are allowed to move onward to the Kingdom of Heaven. This teaching is in accordance with what the Bible states about the LORD God. It reads as follows:

Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keeps covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments unto a thousand generations.

– Deuteronomy 7:9

The best way to understand Purgatory is to use the analogy of a tree. For just as a tree has numerous branches, some of which reach high up in the sky (Heaven), it also has roots that reach deep down into the earth (Purgatory). Science has shown that both roots and branches are necessary for the life of the tree. The branches (Heaven) are necessary to absorb the life-giving light of the sun, just as the roots (Purgatory) are essential for the collection of water. Without the branches (Heaven) the tree would be unable to sustain itself and grow, while without roots (Purgatory), the wind would be able to blow the tree over, causing it to perish.

The souls of the deceased may be likened to drops of water who fall down like rain (death) which are first taken up by the roots (Purgatory) and then finally make their way upwards to the branches (Heaven) which hang high above the earth. A tree (Afterlife) requires both roots (Purgatory) and branches (Heaven) in order to thrive and prosper.

Considering the fairly recent loss of Christian faith among the intellectual elites of both Europe and North America, it should be obvious that the tree of traditional Christianity has become somewhat sickly and may, in fact, be in real danger of perhaps dying. Indeed, the direst threat to the Christian religion happens to be coming, not from Jews or Muslims, but from sceptics, scoffers, and other apostates who are increasing in numbers and show an ever-increasing hostility to all things religious, especially Christianity. Many of them come from Protestant ancestry whose forefathers rejected Purgatory centuries ago. Is there a connection between the Protestant denial of Purgatory and the growing threats to Christian faith throughout the world? Yes there is, as two different sources clearly indicate:

The transformative event…which made it possible to repudiate tradition…in early-modern English and European culture-an event successfully obliterated from modern memory by early, deliberate acts of forgetting and by the decision of Renaissance politicians and gentry to rewrite history-was the abolition of Purgatory.

– Hamlet and the Ghost of Purgatory: Forgetting the Dead, by Anthony Low, Culture Wars Magazine

Modernism seem[s] inversely parasitic on religion, and Christians object to it because it seems to deny the continuing vitality of their religion. Christianity still thrives, but at the margins, where it has been put by political leaders and cultural arbiters….In this essay I shall argue that crucial, irreversible steps in that direction were taken by the Chantries Act and Royal Injunctions of 1547 and by the Church of England’s declaration, in the Edwardian Prayerbook of 1549, that Purgatory did not exist and consequently that Christians should not mourn or pray for their dead.

– Hamlet and the Ghost of Purgatory: Forgetting the Dead, by Anthony Low, Culture Wars Magazine

Tragically, many forms of Protestant Christianity continues to deny the existence of Purgatory. This is in total disregard for the ancient evidence that the religious doctrine of Purgatory was existent before the advent of Christianity and has its roots in pre-Christian Judaism,  Purgatory was not the invention of the Catholic Church, but was merely the continuation of pre-existing Jewish theology. Early Protestants denied this calling it a fiction created by the Catholic Church, a mere ‘Romish Doctrine’. One source notes the following:

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

– The Book of Common Prayer, Article 22, Church of England

One should also remember that, at first, Martin Luther freely accepted the doctrine of Purgatory only to change his mind later on, mainly due to political reasons. In addition, the great Christian thinker C.S. Lewis is on record stating that he too believed in Purgatory, even though he was an English Protestant by birth and upbringing. Thus, it seems quite a shame that the vast majority of Protestant Christians have remained in denial in Purgatory for nearly the past 500 years. In truth, it was not meant to be this way as one source noters aptly:

Theo Brown suggests that when the Anglican Church promulgated its repudiation of “The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory” in the first Book of Common Prayer (1549), the bishops did not intend to dispose of Purgatory altogether, but only to correct well-known abuses.

– Hamlet and the Ghost of Purgatory: Forgetting the Dead, by Anthony Low, Culture Wars Magazine

Given the current violence, immorality, and aitheism of today’s society, it seems more than obvious that the Holy Spirit of the modern era is not good at all, but evil, and may well be a vampire, a demon, or some other form of evil spirit in disguise. For the this reason, it is time for the world, and for the English language, to return to the tradition of referring to the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost, which emphasize its links to the age-old realm of Purgatory.

After the English Reformers dispensed with Purgatory, however, it was no longer clear to anyone where ghosts came from. Educated people were inclined to doubt their existence, or to think that they were demons in disguise. There was, nevertheless, a great popular outburst of superstitious ghost lore among the common people beginning at mid-century. Theo Brown amply documents this outbreak and associates it with the sudden abolition of Purgatory.

– Hamlet and the Ghost of Purgatory: Forgetting the Dead, by Anthony Low, Culture Wars Magazine

Protestant Today —> Protestant Tomorrow

Heaven or Hell —> Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell

The Holy Spirit —> The Holy Ghost

Throughout the world, belief in ghosts, namely the immaterial spirits of the dead, has been been a standard aspect of numerous different cultures, including those who were not distinctly Judeo-Christian. For the Catholic Church, both before and after the Protestant Reformation, the constant occurence of ghost sightings by the common people signified a sure sign in the continued existence of Purgatory. Put simply, ghosts were believed to come from Purgatory, the Underworld of Christianity. Two different sources state the following:

Before the Reformation, it was common belief among everyone from theologians to peasants that if ghosts appeared to the living they came from Purgatory, not from Heaven or Hell.

– Hamlet and the Ghost of Purgatory: Forgetting the Dead, by Anthony Low, Culture Wars Magazine

Purgatory would become the prison in which ghosts were normally incarcerated, though they might be allowed to escape now and then to briefly haunt those of the living whose zeal in their behalf was insufficient.

– Birth of Purgatory, by Jacques Le Goff

It is to be hoped that the continued Protestant denial in Purgatory will soon come to an end. This act could well cause a resurgence in the Christian faith throughout the world, as more agnostics and other waverers finally accept the common sense Christian doctrine of Purgatory, which means salvation for the many, rather than the few. It’s time for Protestantism to admit they made a grave mistake and are now back to share in the eternity which is the Catholic Christian faith.

The abrupt and, to a large degree, forcible dismantling of Purgatory at mid-century, together with its deep psychic resonances among the common people, its elaborate cultural associations, and its extensive institutional supports, had drastic consequences for society and for the individuals who formed and were formed by society. Before the Reformation, few countries had a deeper investment (financial, cultural, and spiritual) in Purgatory and in commemoration of the dead than England. After the Reformation, few countries turned their backs more abruptly on Purgatory and, with it, on their own dead.

– Hamlet and the Ghost of Purgatory: Forgetting the Dead, by Anthony Low, Culture Wars Magazine

May the LORD God bless you in the name of St. Judas Maccabaeus.

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