Skip to comments.Beginning Catholic: Catholic Purgatory: What Does It Mean? [Ecumenical]
Posted on 08/13/2008 9:02:31 AM PDT by Salvation
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Re your post #80: wow! BIG bookmark!
Well, you're the doc: why don't they give painkillers for PT then?
I think I disagree (but this is just moi, don't take this too seriously) with what I guess to be your understanding the objective nature of the "debt", for which pain is the currency of payment.
There is indeed a debt to God for sin. And Jesus paid it.
It helps me to be all Aristotelian and Thomist about this: An act of sin is not only against God, against my neighbor and against justice itself, it is also "against" me the sinner.
As my misuse of my arm led to its weakness, so each sin weakens the will to virtue and against sin. The Hot Fudge Sundae I yield to today, the cigar I smoke, will just make it harder for me to resist similar indulgences tomorrow (or, in my case, later on today ....)
Part of the "Wrath of God" on such sins is exclusion from Justification (the part Christ took care of). ANOTHER part is that can't fit in my pants, I have reflux when I bend over to tie my shoes, and then I have a stroke or an infarction. Or my sense of taste is compromised, and then I get cancer of the tongue, can't taste at all, and either just die or can't use my tongue for what it was meant for.
In the health side of the analogy, what I want is to be able to eat well, to be able to be healthy, to have my heart and my brain work. (Or to taste and breathe and speak.) Then I am WELL.
In the heaven side of the analogy, what constitutes perfection and purity and all that is no longer to be drawn to sin or to be wishy-washy about virtue but rather to see sin for what it is and to loathe it and to be able to practice the virtues I admire.
The "debt", or one aspect of it, is as functional as the inevitable bad healing and subsequent debridement (debriding? what do I know?) needed after a burn. It's not that the skin grafts and all are just the payment of a debt or the enduring of a punishment for playing with fire. They are a required part of getting well, they are the necessary remedy and restoration after the damage one does to oneself when playing with fire.
I'm trying here for a concept of the organic, non-juridical, aspect of the carnal or temporal debt of sin. IF we agree with Luther at least part of the way on simul justus et peccator, we have the problem of what is going to happen to the peccator if nothing unclean can pass into the heavenly Jerusalem.
And our answer is, he's going to be purged.
So the pain is not - okay you were seven smacks up 'side the haid and one slug to the gut worth of naughty, so pay up. It's more you did this much damage to yourself, now this is what you have to go through for that damage to be repaired.
Pain, pain in animals, pain in babies, pain in adults ... who can understand it? The Buddha said that life is painful and that pain a rises from clinging. Well, that's nice.
But it does seem that here in the fallen world, love and pain go hand in hand, and even the Mahayana Buddhists know that. To love my child is to know that pain of her growing up, or to face the painful tragedy of her not growing up! To love my wife is to suffer with her.
But disordered actions and choices seem all the more associated, ultimately with pain. The feeling of guilt is painful, so to confront knowingly and with attention my own sinfulness, my particular sins, is painful. To receive forgiveness essentially involves the pain of contrition, does it not? To give up self-indulgence, which in manny cases as undertaken in a futile effort to avoid pain, or at least discomfort, seems essentially to involve confronting the pain and discomfort one sought to avoid.
Say I am a coward.
Okay, say it again.
How DARE you!
No wait, I mean suppose I do a cowardly thing, and my friend takes the rap because I let an unjust conviction stand.
Well, other than the obvious reference to Good Friday, it seems to me that I will have to learn to love courage and truth more than my own comfort and ease if I am to be free in any meaningful way from cowardice.
So I can see the lovely angels encouraging me. "Dawg, you love God, and truth and courage? You want to love them more than your own comfort, right? You know that in the past you preferred your ease to them, do you not? Okay, go roll in that poison ivy, offering that suffering not only as a token of your contrition for poltroonery but as a way to build up your courage. And don't get any ideas. Today it's Poison Ivy, but as soon as you stop itching it'll be, ah, let me think, I have it, broken glass."
This is not an amount of "punishment" determined by the naughtiness of my cowardice in a tit-for-tat way. It is, as it were, basic training for heaven. (Not to mix metaphors or anything ...)
One more attempt: A friend was quite the sexual libertine in his youth. He wrenched sexual intercourse out of its proper context. Casanova laid his thousands but this guy his ten thousands (if HALF of what he says is true). IHS smacked him up 'side the haid, and now he is devout, and chastely married and has been for some 35 years.
Without going into detail, making whoopee isn't quite as whoopee as it used to be, for lots of reasons, some, but not all, having to do with the ravages of time.
He is almost distraught! Well, why make such a fuss, why be so distressed at what is almost inevitable? Can't we guess?
He enjoyed sex out of its proper context. In doing so he exhibited a massive defect of charity and temperance, and probably some other vices. All those Christian graces which would properly carry him through aging and marital differences, which would even sanctify them to him ... all those graces he despised. And now, we might say, the bill is coming due.
But it's not, "Okay, so many wild nights, therefore we sentence you to so many units of pain." It's more, "You have not used the gifts God gave you which would have born more easily you through this time. You have not developed the virtues and graces which this time requires. So now when it's harder, you must do what would have been easier then. The reward of charity and temperance is worth it, but you won't much enjoy getting there."
Sorry for the length. I hope you find it worth it.
In sum, I am rejecting too rigid an adherence to the idea that purgatory is about paying a moral debt in the currency of pain, so that such and such a sin gets so many pain quanta assigned to it. Rather I am saying that for fallen humanity, purity and virtue come at the cost of pain, as physical strength is acquired and maintained through discomfort, and the sooner one pays for them, the lower the cost.
Mine is not so much a contradiction as another metaphor which I hope fills out the underlying truth of the thing.
You gotta read the Purgatorio (largely because it's the work that made me fall in love with Dante.)
I'm wanting to pray for the speedy and as easy as possible accomplishment of purgation, how's that?
Anyway I still stand by my distinction between useful and useless or less useful suffering. In any event I'm trying to get away from the notion of quanta of pain as recompense for quanta of sin.
I wish you were MY doctor. I didn't get no pain killers, unless you count ibuprofen.
In my Catholic grammar school (back in the late 50s), we were always encouraged to pray, "Lord, send me here my purgatory!" It might be tad old-fashioned -- at any rate, I haven't heard it in years!
As a convert who sort of fell in love with Purgatory through Dante, I didn't have the whole picture.
But I'm getting it, little by little. Here's what I wrote to a friend yesterday:
You obviously bear a great big P branded on your forehead. (At least one as do I!) You have been given the chance to work it off now rather than in Purgatory. And, in the incredible mercy of God, you have not only been given purgative suffering but a loving Lord who will take all suffering offered to Him and use it for the salvation of the world.Seems like a pretty good deal to me! And it explains why, as we advance in decrepitude, God allows to have all sort of new and interesting pains.
It is actually a prayer that God in His mercy foreshorten the need for the suffering. At this hour, language fails me, so I will badly oversimplify it as a request that a judge reduce sentencing, or that the teacher let the student out of detention early.