I shall write one more after this to complete a little trilogy. Of course, it shall be labeled "What is Heaven?" This follows, from last week, "What is Hell?". This is a re-post from The Guild blog. But, it is a good reminder here as well.
But, before heaven, one must be purified.
Christ Himself, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, stated this:
48 Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect
And in answer to this question, Christ listed a rather daunting list of criteria for perfection:
Mark 10:17 Douay-Rheims
17 And when he was gone forth into the way, a certain man running up and kneeling before him, asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may receive life everlasting?
Christ answered with a list most of us know we have not accomplished. The list is not a "pick and choose" list, but an "all" list. Here is the whole passage from Matthew:
Matthew 19:16-22 Douay-Rheims
16 And behold one came and said to him: Good master, what good shall I do that I may have
17 Who said to him: Why asketh thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt
enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit
adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness.
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith to him: All these I have kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me?
21 Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor,
and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me.
22 And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions.
Only the perfect see God and this new age idea, rather popular in England, that one does not have to pursue purgation of the mind, senses, soul and heart, as well as the heresy of universal salvation, has created a sub-Catholic culture which emphasizes still, an "I'm OK, you're OK" mindset, which is deadly.
Purgatory is simply the purgation of the senses and the spirit which one did not agree to while on earth.
All of us are called to perfection. Those who are canonized saints found this perfection on earth. Many suffered terribly for that unity of God before they died.
Those of us who do not cooperate with the gifts of the Spirit, daily examining our consciences and repenting, yes, daily, will see a time of purgation.
No one should say, "I shall be glad if I make it to purgatory." Or worse, no one should deny purgatory. What people do not think about is that if they are not purified, they are weakening the Church from within. If we are running around out of imperfection and sin, thinking we are doing good deeds in the Church and not detached from seeking comforts, we are simply "doing our own thing" and not God's "thing".
Only those who reach the Illuminative State, such as SS. Benedict, Francis, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, Therese of Lisieux and so on can do the great works of building the Kingdom of God without egotism.
But, this state should be our goal are well. This state is not impossible. On the contrary, it is the state to which all the baptized are originally called.
Most of "our" works are either "our" works and not God's or tainted by self-centered-ness and our predominant fault, which must be attacked and cleansed out of us before we die if we are to enter heaven.
The predominant fault is discussed at length on my blog, when I did an unpacking of Garrigou-Lagrange and other writers on perfection and in the Doctors of the Church series on perfection. Over 600, more than 10% of my postings are on the subject of perfection. This is the hidden fault from which we must be purged in order for the virtues and gifts of the Spirit to be fully implemented in our lives. We cannot even experience the life of the virtues on earth without purgation.
One of the great regrets we shall have if we do not bend to this purgation on earth and enter after-death purgation is the loss of merit we shall see we could have obtained if we had agreed to our purgatory on earth. We shall see the good things we could have done in the state of illumination and unity we did not accomplish, because of our sins and predominant fault.
Purgatory is not just about punishment for mortal and venial sins. It is about being made perfect so that we can see God. "Only the perfect see God." This means complete death of the ego.
I can share one section here which may help those who doubt purgatory, for the teaching is that we are all called to perfection.
By charity we become the temples of the Holy Ghost: "The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us." (18) Lastly, the more we love God, the more we know Him by that entirely supernatural, quasi-experimental knowledge that is divine wisdom. This is what made St. Paul say to the Ephesians (3: 17-19): "Being rooted and founded in charity, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth: to know also the charity of Christ, which surpasseth all knowledge; that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God."
St. Paul is speaking here not only to privileged souls, but to all the faithful. After meditating at length on these words in the presence of God, can we say that the infused contemplation of the mysteries of faith is not in the normal way of sanctity? Care must be taken before formulating a negative proposition of this sort, for we must remember that reality, especially the reality of the interior life such as it is willed by God, is richer than even the best of all our theories. Philosophical and theological systems are often true in what they affirm and false in what they deny. Why is this? Because reality, as God made it, is far richer than all our limited and narrow conceptions.
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in our philosophy." (19)
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in our philosophy." (19)
To deny this would be to lose the meaning of the mystery, which is identified with contemplation. To deny it would be to impoverish singularly the words of St. Paul which we have just quoted: "Being rooted and founded in charity, you may be able to comprehend, with all the saints," that is, with all Christians who reach perfection, "what is the breadth and length and height and depth" of the mystery of Christ. . . especially of His love, and "that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God." (20)
St. John gives us the same doctrine, particularly in his First Epistle (4: 16-21): "God is charity: and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him. . . . And this commandment we have from God, that he who loveth God love also his brother." Likewise St. Peter writes in his First Epistle (4: 8): "But before all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves: for charity covereth a multitude of sins." Christ said of Magdalen: "Many sins are forgiven her, because he hath loved much." (21) . . .
According to this doctrine, perfection does not consist chiefly in humility, nor does it consist especially in poverty, nor in acts of worship or of the virtue of religion, but it lies primarily in the love of God and of one's neighbor, which renders the acts of all the other virtues meritorious. "Poverty itself," says St. Thomas, "is not perfection, but the means of perfection. . . . But since the means are sought not for their own sake, but for the sake of the end, a thing is better, not for being a greater instrument, but for being more adapted to the end. Thus a physician does not heal the more, the more medicine he gives, but the more the medicine is adapted to the disease." (22)
The Church has not "done away" with purgatory. Here is a section from the CCC:
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