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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

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

Yesterday, I wrote about hell...more today regarding time in hell. Basically, it is eternal, and not subject to solar time or the time of purgatory, which has an end and is of a different type of time, as seen in the last post. 

Here is the other post yesterday on hell.

We are in the state of the "way", writes Garrigou-Lagrange. Death is the state of termination.

I have heard many Catholics tell me someone can repent after death. No...this has never been the teaching of the Church. Death ends all choices. It ends the journey, the way.

One leaves solar time and enters into another state of time, either heaven, hell, or purgatory. 
Maybe a short definition of hell from Garrigou-Lagrange is necessary before getting to time in hell.

Hell signifies properly the state of the damned souls, of demons first, then of men who die in the state of mortal sin and are consequently condemned to suffer eternally. Secondly, it signifies also the place where condemned souls are detained.

This is a problem today-the denial that people go to hell if they are in mortal sin.

Those who teach that there are no people in hell are, simply, heretics. One should be concerned for their souls.

Here is the great Dominican on this:

The existence of hell was denied in the third century by Arnobius who, following the Gnostics, held that those who are reprobated are also annihilated. This error was renewed by the Socinians of the sixteenth century. In ancient times, further, the Origenists, especially in the fourth century, denied the eternity of punishment in hell, because they held that all the reprobate, angels and men, would finally be converted. This error was taken up again by liberal spirits, particularly among the Protestants. The rationalists say the eternity of suffering is in contradiction to the wisdom of God, to His mercy, and to His justice. They imagine that suffering must be proportioned to the time necessary for committing the fault, and not to the gravity of the perpetual state wherein the soul finds itself after it has left the world with grievous and unrepented sin.

The Athanasian Creed and many councils affirm as a dogma of faith the existence of heaven, the eternity of punishment, both of loss and of pain, and likewise the inequality of suffering proportioned to the gravity of the faults committed and left unrepented.

So far, so good. One may look at Garrigou-Lagrange's book for all the Scriptural references to hell, as that is not the focus of this post.

I shall return to the question of justice again, but want to move on to time in hell.

Here is Garrigou-Lagrange again:

... if beatitude, the recompense of the just, is eternal, it is surely right that the suffering due to obstinate malice should also be eternal. One is the recompense for merit, the other the punishment for demerit. As eternal mercy shines forth on one side, so the splendor of eternal justice shines on the other. St. Paul says: "What if God willing to show His wrath (or to avenge His justice) and to make His power known, endured (or permitted) with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, that He might show the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He has prepared unto glory?" [238] Since justice, like mercy, is infinite, each demands to be manifested in a duration without limit.

Moving towards understanding time in hell...

Medicinal suffering ordained for the correction of those who are guilty, is indeed temporary. But death and lifelong imprisonment are punitive sufferings, not meant for the correction of him who is thus punished. They become medicinal, indeed, but only for others, who are thus turned away from crime. In this sense hell has saved many souls. The fear of hell is the beginning of wisdom. [246] 

An objection: Pain, being contrary to nature, cannot be eternal. St. Thomas answers: "Pain is contrary to the soul's nature, but it is in harmony with the soul as soiled by unrepented mortal sin. As this sin, being a permanent disorder, lasts forever, the pain due to the sin will also last forever." [247] 

Time in hell is time in eternity.

St. Thomas [248] proceeds: Eternal punishment manifests God's inalienable right to be loved above all else. God, good and merciful, has His delight, not in the suffering of the damned, but in His own unequaled goodness. The elect, beholding the radiance of God's supreme justice, are thereby led to thank Him for their own salvation. "God, [249] willing to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, that He might show the riches of His glory in the vessels of mercy which He hath prepared unto glory." [250] 

Infinite goodness is the source both of mercy and of justice: of mercy, because it is essentially self-communicative, of justice, because it has an inalienable right to be loved by all creatures.

This is what I learned in my moment of particular judgment in 2011. 

What created hell? God's justice, God's power, God's wisdom, God's love. Such is Dante's inscription on the gate of hell:

Through me the way into the doleful City, through me the way into the pain eternal, through me the way to people lost to pity. Justice did move Creator mine supernal, made me that power divine by evil hated, wisdom supreme and first love sempiternal. [251] 

I allow a description before returning to time..
Let Lacordaire conclude: "Had justice alone created the abyss, there might be remedy. But it is love, the first love sempiternal, which made hell. This it is which banishes hope. Were I condemned by justice, I might flee to love. But if I am condemned by love, whither can I turn?

"Such is the fate of the damned. Love, that gave His blood for them -- this Love, this same Love, must now curse them.

"Just think! 'Tis God who came down to you, who took on your own nature, who spoke your language, healed your wounds, raised your dead to life. 'Tis God who died for you on a cross. And shall you still be permitted to blaspheme and mock, to enjoy to the full your voluptuousness? No. Deceive not yourselves: love is not a farce. It is God's love which punishes, God's crucified love. It is not justice that is without mercy it is love. Love is life or death. And if that love is God's love, then love is either eternal life or eternal death." [252] 

The dogma of hell shows us the immense depths of the human soul, absolute distinction between evil and good, against all the lies invented to suppress this distinction. It shows us also, by contrast, the joys of conversion and eternal beatitude.

The Latin word, damnum, which we translate by "loss," signifies damage
. The pain of loss means the essential and principal suffering due to unrepented sin. This pain of loss is the privation of the possession of God, whereas that of sense is the effect of the afflictive action of God. The first corresponds to guilt as turning away from God, whereas the second corresponds to guilt as turning toward something created. [253]

We note, in passing, that infants who die without baptism do not feel the absence of the beatific vision as a loss, because they do not know that they were supernaturally destined to the immediate possession of God. We speak here only of that pain of loss which is conscious, which is inflicted on adults condemned for personal sin, for mortal sin unrepented. Let us see in what it consists, and what is its rigor.

Besides the pain of loss hell inflicts also a pain of sense. We shall speak here of the existence of this pain, of what it is according to Scripture, of the nature of the fire in hell, and of its mode of action. [276]

The pain of loss is clearly affirmed in the Gospel: "Rather fear Him that can destroy both soul and body in hell." [277] The existence of this pain follows, as St. Thomas [278] says, from the truth that mortal sin not only turns man away from God, but turns him also to a created good preferred to God. Mortal sin, therefore, deserves a double suffering, first, the privation of God, secondly, the affliction which comes from creatures. The body, too, which has taken part in sin and has found in sin a forbidden joy, must share the suffering of the soul.

In what does the pain of sense consist? Scripture [279] tells us by describing hell as a dark prison, as a place of tears and gnashing of teeth. Further, it speaks of fire and sulphur. [280] 

In these descriptions two connected ideas always recur; that of imprisonment, and the pain of fire. Theologians insist as much on the one as on the other, because each explains the other. We read: [281] "The king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet and cast him into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.... The hell of unquenchable fire." [282] 

OK back to time...but one must understand that the fire of hell is corporeal, not merely spiritual. This changes the definition of fire, as well as time, for the soul in hell, as opposed to the soul in purgatory.

The common doctrine is that the fire of hell is a real fire. This view is based on the accepted position in the interpreting of Scripture, that is, we are to admit metaphorical language only when comparison with other passages excludes the literal sense, or when literal sense involves an impossibility. [283] Neither of these two conditions is here realized. In this sentence, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels," [284] the entire context demands a realistic interpretation. As the good go to eternal life, so you go to the fire prepared for the demon and his angels. This fire punishes, [285] not only souls, but also bodies. [286] The apostles [287] too speak with the same realism. St. Peter [288] takes as type of punishment in hell that fire which fell from heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah. The metaphorical interpretation, wherein the fire is a figure of chagrin or remorse, is contrary to the obvious sense of Scripture and tradition.

The Fathers generally, with the exception of Origen and his disciples, speak of a real fire, which they compare to terrestrial fire, or even to corporeal fire. Thus St. Basil, St. Chrysostom, St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great. [289] A. Michel, [290] after a long examination of these texts, concludes: "When the Fathers simply affirm traditional belief, they speak without hesitation of a hell of fire. But when they discuss the difficult question of this fire's mode of action, we can notice some hesitation in their thought."

This fire, says St. Thomas, [291] is a corporeal fire, of the same nature as fire on earth, differing from it only accidentally, since it has no need of terrestrial fuel. It is dark, without flame, lasts forever, burns bodies without destroying them. [292] 

Its Mode of Action
How can corporeal fire cause pain in a soul separated from its body, or in pure spirits like the demons? Theologians answer in general: "It can do this as an instrument of divine justice, just as the sacraments, for example, the water of baptism, produce in the soul that spiritual effect which is grace. Those who have scorned the sacraments, instruments of God's mercy, suffer the instruments of divine justice.

Like the matter of the sacraments, the fire of hell produces a spiritual effect as well as being real.

Theologians here divide into two camps, as they do for the sacraments, some maintaining a physical causality, others only a moral causality. A moral cause, like prayer, which we address to someone to persuade him to act, does not produce directly the effect desired, it only inclines the agent capable of producing the act to realize it. If it be thus with the fire of hell, it would not produce effectively that which is attributed to it. The effect would be simply and solely produced by God.

Thomists, on the other hand, and with them many other theologians, maintain here, as in the case of the sacraments, a physical, instrumental causality, exercised by the fire of hell on the souls of the condemned. It is difficult indeed to explain its mode of action. St. Thomas [293] and his best commentators hold that the fire of hell receives from God power to afflict the condemned spirits. The fire ties and binds them, hinders their activity, somewhat like paralysis or intoxication. This subjection to a corporeal element is a great humiliation for immaterial beings. This explanation is in harmony with the texts of Scripture [294] which describe hell as a prison where the damned are retained against their will.

Retained against one's will for all time is punishment, indeed.

But how can this fire, after the general resurrection, burn the bodies of the damned without consuming them? That it does so is affirmed by tradition and Scripture. [295] St. Thomas [296] holds that the bodies of the damned, though they are incorruptible and unalterable, still suffer in some special fashion, as, for example, the sense of hearing suffers from hearing a high, strident voice, or as the taste suffers from a bitter flavor. [297] 

Difficulty in explaining how this fire acts, is not a reason for denying the reality of that action. Even in the natural order it is difficult to explain how exterior objects produce in our senses an impression, a representation in the psychological order, which surpasses brute matter. Hence it is not surprising that preternatural effects should be still more difficult to explain.

The pain of sense, as all tradition affirms, is not the principal pain. That which is essential in the state of damnation is the privation of God Himself, and the immense void which this privation causes in the soul, a void which manifests by contrast the plenitude of life everlasting, of which the present meritorious life is the prelude. [298]

So, just as a person chooses to stay in mortal sin for years, and years, and years while on earth, the punishment of hell mirrors that obstinacy. I have skipped much on pain here, but one can look at the link for more information at the bottom of the page.

 A very probable position, upheld by many theologians, is that God will not let die in sin those who have committed only one mortal sin, especially if there is a question of a sin of frailty. Final impenitence would thus be restricted to inveterate sinners. As St. Peter says: "God dealeth patiently for your sake, not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should return to penance." [308] God moves men to conversion. Hell is the pain of obstinacy. [309] 

We cannot understand eternity, the foreverness of hell or heaven. We cannot understand the corporeal pain or the spiritual pain which accompanies the endless time of hell. 

Pope Benedict XII, in 1336, in Benedictus Deus, clarified the state of souls in heaven or hell, particular and final judgment. The souls are in heaven or hell, but not the bodies until the Second Coming, the Final, General Judgment.

On the Beatific Vision of God

Benedictus Deus
Constitution issued by Pope Benedict XII in 1336

By this Constitution which is to remain in force for ever, we, with apostolic authority, define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints who departed from this world before the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and also of the holy apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins and other faithful who died after receiving the holy baptism of Christ- provided they were not in need of any purification when they died, or will not be in need of any when they die in the future, or else, if they then needed or will need some purification, after they have been purified after death-and again the souls of children who have been reborn by the same baptism of Christ or will be when baptism is conferred on them, if they die before attaining the use of free will: all these souls, immediately (mox) after death and, in the case of those in need of purification, after the purification mentioned above, since the ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ into heaven, already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment, have been, are and will be with Christ in heaven, in the heavenly kingdom and paradise, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the passion and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and see the divine essence with an intuitive vision and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature by way of object of vision; rather the divine essence immediately manifests itself to them, plainly, clearly and openly, and in this vision they enjoy the divine essence . Moreover, by this vision and enjoyment the souls of those who have already died are truly blessed and have eternal life and rest. Also the souls of those who will die in the future will see the same divine essence and will enjoy it before the general judgment.

Such a vision and enjoyment of the divine essence do away with the acts of faith and hope in these souls, inasmuch as faith and hope are properly theological virtues. And after such intuitive and face-to-face vision and enjoyment has or will have begun for these souls, the same vision and enjoyment has continued and will continue without any interruption and without end until the last Judgment and from then on forever.

(On hell and the general judgment)
Moreover we define that according to the general disposition of God, the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin go down into hell immediately (mox) after death and there suffer the pain of hell. Nevertheless, on the day of judgment all men will appear with their bodies "before the judgment seat of Christ" to give an account of their personal deeds, "so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body" (2 Cor. 5.10).

So, there is a mysterious moment in time, the Second Coming of Christ, the Final or Last Judgment, when the bodies of all will be joined to the souls, which have already, if the persons were dead, been in heaven or hell. Purgatory ends.

The distinction of the time between the particular judgment and the final one is the topic of the next post in this three part series as it deals with time in heaven and time in hell.

to be continued...