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What the Angelic Doctor Taught on the Nature & Purpose of Purgatory

What the Angelic Doctor Taught on the Nature & Purpose of PurgatoryWhat the Angelic Doctor Taught on the Nature & Purpose of Purgatory

Those who revoke Purgatory speak against the justice of God.

— St. Thomas Aquinas, ST, Supplement, Appendix 2, 1

Does torment exist?

Some who repudiate the existence of purgatory cite Revelation 14:13: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth.’ Blessed definitely, ’ says the Spirit,’ that they may rest from their strives, for their deeds be complied with! ’” The Catechism represents it clear, nonetheless, that hell exists as a place of cleansing or purgation( 1030-1032 ).

St. Thomas Aquinas explains that the poem from Revelation refers to the labor of working to gain spiritual merit, but does not address the labor of stand to be purified from blasphemy. Any person whose soul is in purgatory has died in charity and qualities the eternal honor of sky, but only after having been purified of any remaining venial sins. A person in torment may also bear the effects of mortal sins that ought to have forgiven, but for which the person has not yet built contentment through atonement. Revelation confirms that “nothing unclean shall enter” heaven( 21:27 ).

Thomas further clarifies Church teaching on purgatory with another piece from Scripture and a line from the Eastern Church Father St. Gregory of Nyssa( A.D. 335-394 ). Scripture tells us, in reference to Judah Maccabee, that “it was a holy and pious thought” that “he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin”( 2 Macc. 12:45 ). Thomas develops that there is no need to pray for the someones in heaven, since they already have their compensation. Neither is a need to pray for those in hell, because they can no longer be freed from their blasphemies.

Yet those who have died in charity can never sustain everlasting death, since charity makes all guilts( Prov. 10:12 ), and all the persons who follow Christ will have eternal life( John 11:26 ). Gregory of Nyssa says that the person who loves and believes in Christ, but dies before his guilts have been washed away, “is set free after fatality by the fire of Purgatory.”

Here, God’s justice is become clear. He has provided the purify flames of torment so that protagonists who die still adulterated by blasphemy may become clean in the blis. Further, He has provided a conveys whereby we, through our devotions as the Church Militant on earth, may cure tightened the bonds of sin of the Church Suffering in purgatory, so that they might sooner rest eternally with God in heaven. Such prayer is, indeed, “a holy and pious thing.”

This article is from Dr. Vost’s latest book, Aquinas on the Four Last Things.

Are spirits cleansed and damned within the same place?

While the existence of purgatory is an substantiated belief of the Church, made clear especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent( CCC 1031 ), Thomas tells us that “nothing is clearly stated in Scripture about the situation of Purgatory , nor is it possible to offer convincing debates on this question.” In other paroles, the Bible does not tell us exactly where purgatory is. Still, Thomas declares that some beliefs are “of no account” — for example, the relevant recommendations that purgatory is somewhere above us because the state of the souls in purgatory lies between those living on earth and God in heaven. Nonsense, says Thomas, since those someones are not punished for being above us, “but for that which is lowest in them, namely sin.”

Thomas notes that it is “probable, ” according to accounts made by holy men and countless private tellings, that “there is a twofold sit of Purgatory.” One place is according to the “common law.” This place is below us and near blaze, so the same fire miseries both the someones being purged and the people that are damned in inferno, though the damned, being of lower quality, are confided to the lowest place. Thomas obligates the important distinction that while the attacks of blaze serve to afflict the damned, the volleys of purgatory, while pain, serve primarily to cleanse someones from blasphemy.

The second place of hell is according to a special “dispensation, ” whereby, “as we read, ” someones are sometimes penalise in various places so that the living may learn from them, or those spirits themselves may be “succored[ comforted ], help to ensure that their punishment being made known to the living may be mitigated through the devotions of the Church.”

Indeed, we can all hope that we will never know firsthand where in hell the damned reside, and that, should we come to know purgatory’s location( or locations) firsthand, we will not reside there very long!

Are the stings of hell greater than any soreness of this life?

In Purgatory there will be a twofold aching; one are likely to be the anguish of loss, namely the retardation of the gues vision, and the anguish of gumption, namely punishment by corporeal burn. With is in relation to both the least pain of Purgatory outdoes the greatest pain of this life.

— St. Thomas Aquinas, ST, Supplement, Appendix 1, 2, 1

In this quotation, Thomas expands upon Augustine’s declaration that “this fire of Purgatory will be more severe than any pain that can be felt, insured, or thoughts in this world.” The soul’s pain of losing the see imagination of God will be greater than any ability of loss of earth because the more we want something, the more we decline when it is absent.( Any person who has lost a loved one can attest to this kind of pain .) Yet in hell, our overwhelm desire to see God is completely undiluted. The soul’s desire is not hindered or agitated by things of their own bodies. Further, the feeling knows that had it not been held back by the value of guilt, it would already have achieved the “Sovereign Good, ” as Thomas makes it. Therefore, the feeling agonizes most intensely because the delay of torment obstructs it from its ultimate goal.

The soul’s pain of sense in hell does not refer to a hurt or harm itself, but to the sense thereof. “The more sensitive a thing is, ” Thomas illustrates, “the greater the anguish is generated by that which hurt it.” We know from experience that hurts foisted upon the most sensitive parts of our torso cause the greatest pain. Because all bodily perceptions was derived from the mind, it follows that the most exquisite pain is declined when the feeling itself is hurt.

Therefore, Thomas concludes that the soreness of hell, both of loss and of appreciation, surpass all the aches we knowledge during man.

Do souls in hell decline their penalty freely?

This is an interesting question with, perhaps, a surprising rebuttal, for we cannot imagine choosing to suffer such immense agony. Testify advocating the answer is no includes the stories in Gregory’s Dialogues about people in torment who appear to the living and ask to be set free. Thomas says the answer is yes, but this requires precise thinking about just what makes an act voluntary.

First, an accomplishment may be voluntary as an absolute play of the will. In this sense, the very theme of penalty is contrary to the nature of the will, which ever searches the good, and not pain or reward. Second, an deed may be voluntary as a conditional act of the will, as when a person happily experiences some sting or sanction because it allows him to obtain a good he could not attain otherwise. Thomas provides the simple example of submitting to agonizing surgical procedures to restore our health and the extreme example of martyrs, who submit to bodily demise to find their remuneration in heaven. It is in this second sense that the sanctions in purgatory are voluntary, since the someones know they will someday set free and secure their objective of sky. This we see in the many tales of souls in torment which seems to be parties on earth and ask for prayers to quicken their purification.

Does the fuel of hell pay the debt of punishment for sin?

Thomas notes that as the sanction one voluntarily accepts in this life serves as satisfaction to atone the remorse of sin, all the more so will the more shameful hurtings of purgatory atone for the debt of punishment for guilts. Anyone in debt is freed by paying what he owes. The indebtednes incurred by guilt is the debt of punishment, and a person is freed from that indebtednes by undergoing the punishment. Therefore, the answer is yes: “The punishment of Purgatory purifies from the debt of punishment.”

Are some someones liberated from torment before others?

Some argue that because more-grievous blasphemies authorize more-severe rewards, more-serious sinners would be punished more severely in torment, but all someones would sustain for the same amount of era. Thomas explanations with an interesting observation about a line from the writings of “the Apostle”( St. Paul) comparing venial sins to lumber, straw, and hay( 1 Cor. 3:12 ): as lumber remains longer in a shell than straw and forage, some kinds of venial sins will be punished longer than the other members of the volleys of torment. Some venial sins “cling” to us more persistently than do others, as we are more lowered to indulge in them repeatedly, and “since that which clings more persistently is more slowly purified, it follows that some are tormented in Purgatory longer than others, for as much as their desires were drenched in venial sins.” Further, the severity of punishment corresponds to the amount of guilt, while the period corresponds to how securely the blasphemy has made seed in the soul. Therefore, some souls may invest longer in purgatory, but suffer less, and vice versa.

This article is an excerpt taken from Dr. Vost’s latest bible, Aquinas on the Four Last Things: Everything You Need To Know About Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. It is available as an ebook or paperback from your favorite bookseller or online through Sophia Institute Press.

image: Saints Peter the Martyr and Thomas Aquinas Refute the Heretics, detail of the Active and Triumphant Church, Santa Maria Novella Dominican church in Florence via Zvonimir Atletic/ Shutterstock.com

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