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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and Time Part One--Purgatory

This post is one on time-temporal, (solar time), and eternity. The concepts are not new.

First of all, let us look at purgatory. There are many misconceptions about indulgences regarding time.

I want to clear that up first. When one does an indulgence through a prayer, let us say, of thirty days, 
it does not mean thirty days off of purgatory, but the equivalent of a real penance lived out in life for thirty days.

For example, in the Catholic cultures before the Protestant Revolt, a priest could ask a person to go on a pilgrimage to Canterbury or Walsingham, for sixty days, walking or so on, for adultery. This penance had a time connected to the mortification. 

Later on, when the Church could not realistically expect the penitent to live out the penance in real time, because of wars and persecution, Rome decided on prayer penances. Therefore, a prayer which has a "thirty day indulgence" means the saying of it takes the place of a thirty day penance. These penances would have been fasts, scourgings, pilgrimages, and so on.

Garrigou-Lagrange, again, comes to the rescue concerning time in eternity or outside the world. These quotations are from Life Everlasting.

 Here is his introduction to the question of purgatory, which I tackle first. My comments are in blue.

How Long Must Souls Remain in Purgatory? [435] 

Purgatory itself will last until the last judgment. [436] "And these shall go into everlasting punishment, but the just into life everlasting." [437] Purgatory will then be no longer. The last of the elect will find, before dying, sufficient purification. "There will arise false Christs and false prophets, and they will perform great prodigies, even so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect." [438] A little before this text we read: "Unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved, but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened." [439] The end of the world will come when the number of the elect is complete. Then purgatory will have an end.

But if the question regards the duration of purgatory for a particular soul, we can but answer that the punishment will be longer and more intense according to the expiation required. [440] Suffering corresponds to guilt, and its duration corresponds to the rootedness of sin. Thus one soul may suffer long, but with less affliction than another, whose more intense affliction brings earlier deliverance.

Let us illustrate by an analogy. Punishment on earth, say scourging, may be severe and brief, whereas imprisonment may be long and less severe. In the spiritual order, too, penance for a grave sin may be brief and severe, while for faults less grave but more deeply rooted, it may be long and mild.

Dominic Soto [441] and Maldonatus say that purgatory is so severe, and the suffrages of the Church so efficacious, that no soul remains there more than ten or twenty years. Theologians, all but unanimously, reject this view. Souls converted at the last moment, after a life of grave disorder, remain in purgatory much longer than ten or twenty years. Theological opinion, in general, favors long duration of purgatorial purification. [442] Private revelations mention three or four centuries, or even more, especially for those who have had high office and great responsibility.

I pray for souls in purgatory and have asked Mary to use the prayers to free those in purgatory longest. Years ago, I had the sense that one soul for whom I was praying had been in purgatory since the 1500s.

Garrigou-Lagrange explains purgatorial time as "discontinuous"  not solar, time.

To escape false imagining, let us again recall that purgatory is not measured by solar time, but by eviternity and discontinuous time. Discontinuous time, we have seen is composed of successive spiritual instants, and each of these instants may correspond to ten, twenty, thirty, sixty hours of our solar time, just as a person can remain thirty hours in ecstasy absorbed by one sole thought. Hence there is no proportion between our solar time and the discontinuous time of purgatory. But if it be revealed that a soul has been delivered from purgatory at a definite instant of our time, it means that this instant corresponds to the spiritual instant of its deliverance.

The closest events I have experienced as discontinuous time were both times of sorrow.  I went through three weeks of intense grief in 1995. I was so taken up in grief, that not only did I lose 40 pounds through stress and not eating, but I had no concept of time. I had to force myself to go through the needed actions of the days, as I had a seven year old boy.

Time was eaten up by an out-of-time experience of severe grief.

Again, in 2011, when I had a brief experience of my particular judgment, I was out of time. My guess is that this grief of realizing how one sin offends Almighty God lasted two and a half-hours, but it did not seem that long. In both of these instances, my experience was of  a "perpetual present".

Here is Garrigou-Lagrange on discontinuous time and "eviternity".

We must distinguish three kinds of duration: time, eternity, and an intermediate kind of duration, which is called eviternity.

On earth our duration is measured by continuous time, which is itself the measure of continuous movement, especially of the apparent movement of the sun. It is thus that we distinguish hours, days, years, and centuries. When the soul is separated from the body and is not yet beatified, it has a double kind of duration: eviternity and discontinuous time. Eviternity measures what is immutable in angels and separated souls. It is the measure of their substance, of their natural knowledge of self and God. Eviternity excludes succession. It is a perpetual present. Yet it differs from eternity, because it has had a beginning, and because it is united to discontinuous time which presupposes past and future.

To understand this, one must forget about continuous time.

Discontinuous time, then, is opposed to continuous or solar time. It is found in angels and separated souls, as the measure of successive thoughts and affections. One thought lasts for one spiritual instant. The following thought has its own spiritual instant. To illustrate: here on earth a person in ecstasy can remain two solar hours, or many hours, in one sole thought which represents to it one sole spiritual instant. Similarly, history characterizes different centuries, for example, the thirteenth or the seventeenth, by the ideas which predominate in each of these centuries. Thus we speak of the century of St. Louis, of the century of Louis XIV. Hence a spiritual instant, in the lives of angels and separated souls, can last many days, even many years, measured by our solar time, just as a person in ecstasy can remain thirty successive hours absorbed in one single thought.

Not being a person who is holy enough to experience what St. Teresa of Avila did in her Unitive State, ecstasies outside of time, I have not experienced the one single thought moment except in the two events above. Now, the souls in heaven experience time in a different manner than those in purgatory. All is in the Present Moment.

In beatified souls there is added to this double duration (eviternity and discontinuous time) also that of participated eternity, which measures their beatific vision of the divine essence and the love which results from this vision. This is one unique instant, an immovable eternity, entirely without succession. Yet this participated eternity differs from that of essential eternity which is proper to God, just as effect differs from cause. Participated eternity had a beginning. Further, the essential eternity of God measures everything that is in God, His essence, and all His operations, whereas participated eternity measures only the beatific vision and the love which follows. Eternity is like the invisible point at the summit of a cone, whereas continuous time is pictured by the base of this cone. Eviternity and discontinuous time are between these two, the one like a circular conic section, and the other like a polygon inscribed in this circular section.

So, time in purgatory is not like time in heaven. It has a beginning and an end. One is aware of purgation, and the goal, heaven. Eviternity is the status of time in purgatory. But, one's entire being is fixed on God. 

Continuous time flows without cessation. Its present flows continually from past to future. Our present life involves a succession of hours, in work, prayer, sleep. Eternity, on the contrary, is a continual present, without past or future, a unique instant of life which is possessed entirely and simultaneously. Eviternity approaches eternity. It permits us to conceive better the immutability of the life of the separated soul, not beatified, or not yet beatified: the immutability of knowledge which it has of itself, the immutability of the will fixed on its last end, good or evil.

When we pray and go into silence, learning to live in the Present Moment of God on earth, we are beginning to experience the eternity of God as we shall in heaven. This is the vertical movement of the soul within the horizontal time of work, sleep, eating and so on.

I learned this over the years by immersing myself in the Benedictine way. A monastic day allows one to concentrate on the vertical while being in the horizontal.

So, today, as usual, I got up, got dressed, made my bed, threw some clothes in the washing machine, went up to the chapel and said Lauds and a few other Third Order Prayers, as well a some intercessory prayers. Then, I came downstairs to eat breakfast, clean bathrooms, and so on. I say prayers at noon and at three...etc. making the day both horizontal and vertical, entering into the Benedictine way of being in silence as much as possible, (yesterday, I had to show the house to several people, which meant the schedule was out of kilter and I had to talk more than usual), returning to vertical time when I could. This is the discipline of the monastic and prayer become one in silence, so that one learns to be in the Present Moment of God even while cleaning bathrooms. Prayer continues over into work if one is in silence.

Let us recall here the words of St. Augustine: "Unite thyself to the eternity of God, and thou thyself wilt be eternal. Unite thyself to the eternity of God. Watch with Him the events which come to pass below you." [182] Let us watch the successive moments of our terrestrial life, not only along the horizontal line of time which runs between the past and the future, but also on the vertical line which binds them at each instant to immovable eternity. Thus our acts will be more and more meritorious, more and more filled with love of God, and thus will pass from time into eternity, where they remain forever written in the book of life.

These different kinds of time, on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven, permit us to distinguish also in the present life two kinds of time: one corporeal, one spiritual. Corporeal time, solar time, measures the duration of our organism. Thus measured, one is eighty years of age, an old man; but, measured by spiritual time, his soul may remain very young. Thus, as we distinguish three ages of corporeal life, infancy, adult age, and old age, so in the life of the soul, we distinguish three ages, namely, the purgative life of beginners, the illuminative life of those who are progressing, the unitive way of those who are perfect.

EXACTLY! This purgation can last years-for Mother Teresa of Calcutta, fifty years...for John of the Cross only about ninety days.....

Perseverance is key...Purgation on earth and purgatory are "medicinal" punishments, states Aquinas--back to G-L:

This spiritual kind of time may explain salvation in unexpected quarters. Some great act, never retracted, has borne fruit.

I knew a young Jew, the son of an Austrian banker, in Vienna. He had decided on a lawsuit against the greatest adversary of his family, a lawsuit that would have enriched him. He suddenly recalled this word of the Pater Noster, which he had sometimes heard: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." He said to himself: "How would it be if, instead of carrying on this lawsuit, I would pardon him?" He followed the inspiration, forgave completely, renounced the lawsuit. At that same moment he received the full gift of faith. This one word of the Our Father became his pathway up the mountain of life. He became a priest, a Dominican, and died at the age of fifty years. Though nothing particularly important appeared in the remainder of his life, his soul remained at the height where it had been elevated at the moment of his conversion. Step by step he mounted to the eternal youth which is the life of heaven. The moral runs thus: One great act of self-sacrifice may decide not only our whole spiritual life on earth but also our eternity. We judge a chain of mountains by its highest peak.

I know of two moments which changed my life because of a decision based on Scripture. The first was losing all my six years of work on a doctorate because I had to be a whistleblower for a teacher doing evil and I was blackballed by his friends, including my dissertation advisor. Choosing truth over comfort became the way back to complete awareness of truth, increasing discernment and clarity of mind as well as of the soul.

The second was giving my son to God willingly and freely, allowing him to follow Christ in his vocation and me to suffer detachment, which taught me about relying on Divine Providence and living in humility. I had to do this act of the will of detachment again recently regarding living in England, my true home. I have given this up, trusting that God will find a way, if it is His Will. So, I live in the Present Moment again, following self-denial in order to find God within.

These types of decisions, in real time, take us out of time and place us in the Present Moment. The more we do this daily, the more the Present Moment becomes a way of life. If one is practicing the Present Moment of living in God, one understands these passages of Garrigou-Lagrange more clearly.

Back to purgatorial time....

After long discussions and wide historical researches on this particular point, it seems wise to conclude with St. Robert Bellarmine and Suarez as follows: "Although the existence of fire in purgatory is less certain than that of fire in hell, the doctrine which admits a real fire in purgatory must be classified as a sententia probabilissima. Hence the contrary opinion is improbable." [424] 

Both the last two popes before Francis stated that purgatory is not a place. However, we cannot deny a fire-like purgation. These statements were confusing to some and seem to contradict the long teaching of purgatorial fire, as well as visions of purgatory. Basically, one experiences fire either outside of us or inside, like a terrible purging of the mind, imagination, and will, which is like unto real fire.

Aquinas states this about place. "Incorporeal things are not in place after a manner known and familiar to us, in which way we say that bodies are properly in place; but they are in place after a manner befitting spiritual substances, a manner that cannot be fully manifest to us." [St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Supplement, Q69, a1, reply 1]

Back to G-L:

This view rests on seven reasons: first, the consent of scholastic theologians. Second, the authority of St. Gregory the Great. [425] Third, the authority of St. Augustine. [426] Fourth, the concordant testimonies of St. Cyprian, St. Basil, St. Caesarius, of the liturgy, which begs refreshment for these souls. Fifth, the unanimous decision of the Latin fathers at the Council of Florence. Sixth, the very probable foundation found in First Corinthians. [427] Seventh, particular revelations, for example, those of St. Catherine of Ricci. She suffered forty days to deliver a soul from purgatory. A novice, touching her hand, said: "But, my mother, you are burning." "Yes, my daughter," she replied, "this fire is not seen, but it consumes like a burning fever."

Real fire is a possibility for purgatory, but interior fire is a certainty.

How can fire cause suffering in souls separated from their bodies? As we said above, [428] fire is an instrument of justice, as baptismal water is an instrument of grace. A soul which has refused the instruments of mercy must suffer from the instruments of justice.

I have been in terrible fevers, especially during the swine flu epidemic in America in the 1970s. When one is in delirium, as I was, one has a very high fever and one feels "out of time."

One cannot be "with" those in the room, or house. One is isolated in pain and suffering. Purgatory is like this, only much, much worse, because one has seen God and lost Him again. Only the perfect see God. All sins and tendencies toward sin must be purged from the person. 

The mode of this action remains mysterious. This fire has the power to bind the soul, [429] that is, to hinder it from acting as it would and where it would. It inflicts on the soul the humiliation of depending on a material creature. An analogy is seen in paralyzed persons who cannot act as they would.

More information may be found here-- Council of Florence, Decretum pro Graecis:  DS 1304; Council of Trent, Decretum de iustificatione:  DS 1580; Decretum de purgatorio: DS 1820). Look at this website for more.

to be continued....