Ambrose commentary on the text, and Sermo xx in Ps. Jerome , Comm. Augustine Enarration on Psalm 37 , St. Gregory Dial. See also St.
Thomas , "Contra Gentes,", IV, For a discussion of the exegetical problem, see Atzberger, "Die christliche Eschatologie", p. Tradition This doctrine that many who have died are still in a place of purification and that prayers avail to help the dead is part of the very earliest Christian tradition. Tertullian "De corona militis" mentions prayers for the dead as an Apostolic ordinance, and in "De Monogamia" chapter 10 he advises a widow "to pray for the soul of her husband, begging repose for him and participation in the first resurrection"; he commands her also "to make oblations for him on the anniversary of his demise," and charges her with infidelity if she neglect to succour his soul.
This settled custom of the Church is clear from St. Cyprian , who P. IV, col. His answer is: "the believer through discipline divests himself of his passions and passes to the mansion which is better than the former one, passes to the greatest torment, taking with him the characteristic of repentance for the faults he may have committed after baptism. He is tortured then still more, not yet attaining what he sees others have acquired. The greatest torments are assigned to the believer, for God's righteousness is good , and His goodness righteous, and though these punishments cease in the course of the expiation and purification of each one, "yet" etc.
IX, col. In Origen the doctrine of purgatory is very clear. If a man departs this life with lighter faults, he is condemned to fire which burns away the lighter materials, and prepares the soul for the kingdom of God , where nothing defiled may enter.
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Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God ; or on account of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones? Neither is this just.
It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works. The Apostolic practice of praying for the dead which passed into the liturgy of the Church , is as clear in the fourth century as it is in the twentieth.
Cyril of Jerusalem Mystagogical Catechesis V. Gregory of Nyssa P. That same fire in others will cancel the corruption of matter, and the propensity to evil. I, col. Nor can we pass over the use of the diptychs where the names of the dead were inscribed; and this remembrance by name in the Sacred Mysteries -- a practice that was from the Apostles was considered by Chrysostom as the best way of relieving the dead Homily 41 on First Corinthians , no. The teaching of the Fathers , and the formularies used in the Liturgy of the Church , found expression in the early Christian monuments, particularly those contained in the catacombs.
On the tombs of the faithful were inscribed words of hope , words of petition for peace and for rest; and as the anniversaries came round the faithful gathered at the graves of the departed to make intercession for those who had gone before. At the bottom this is nothing else than the faith expressed by the Council of Trent Sess. XXV, "De Purgatorio" , and to this faith the inscriptions in the catacombs are surely witnesses.
In the fourth century in the West , Ambrose insists in his commentary on St.
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Paul 1 Corinthians 3 on the existence of purgatory, and in his masterly funeral oration De obitu Theodosii , thus prays for the soul of the departed emperor : "Give, O Lord , rest to Thy servant Theodosius , that rest Thou hast prepared for Thy saints. I loved him, therefore will I follow him to the land of the living ; I will not leave him till by my prayers and lamentations he shall be admitted unto the holy mount of the Lord , to which his deserts call him" P. Augustine is clearer even than his master.
He describes two conditions of men ; "some there are who have departed this life, not so bad as to be deemed unworthy of mercy, nor so good as to be entitled to immediate happiness " etc. Thus at the close of the fourth century: not only were prayers for the dead found in all the Liturgies , but the Fathers asserted that such practice was from the Apostles themselves; those who were helped by the prayers of the faithful and by the celebration of the Holy Mysteries were in a place of purgation; from which when purified they "were admitted unto the Holy Mount of the Lord ". So clear is this patristic Tradition that those who do not believe in purgatory have been unable to bring any serious difficulties from the writings of the Fathers.
The passages cited to the contrary either do not touch the question at all, or are so lacking in clearness that they cannot offset the perfectly open expression of the doctrine as found in the very Fathers who are quoted as holding contrary opinions Bellarmine "De Purg. Duration and nature Duration The very reasons assigned for the existence of purgatory make for its passing character. We pray , we offer sacrifice for souls therein detained that " God in mercy may forgive every fault and receive them into the bosom of Abraham " Apostolic Constitutions ; and Augustine City of God XXI.
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They were "not so good as to be entitled to eternal happiness ". Still, for them "death is the termination not of nature but of sin " Ambrose , "De obitu Theodos. Are the souls detained in purgatory conscious that their happiness is but deferred for a time, or may they still be in doubt concerning their ultimate salvation?
The ancient Liturgies and the inscriptions of the catacombs speak of a "sleep of peace", which would be impossible if there was any doubt of ultimate salvation. Some of the Doctors of the Middle Ages thought uncertainty of salvation one of the severe punishments of purgatory.
History of purgatory
Bellarmine , "De Purgat. Bonaventure gives as the reason for this elimination of fear and of uncertainty the intimate conviction that they can no longer sin lib. IV, dist. Thomas dist. For them "the night has come in which no man can labour", and Christian tradition has always considered that only in this life can man work unto the profit of his own soul. The Doctors of the Middle Ages while agreeing that this life is the time for merit and increase of grace, still some with St.
Thomas seemed to question whether or not there might be some non-essential reward which the souls in purgatory might merit IV, dist. Bellarmine believes that in this matter St.
Thomas changed his opinion and refers to a statement of St. Thomas "De Malo", q. Whatever may be the mind of the Angelic Doctor , theologians agree that no merit is possible in purgatory, and if objection be urged that the souls there merit by their prayers , Bellarmine says that such prayers avail with God because of merit already acquired "Solum impetrant ex meritis praeteritis quomodo nunc sancti orando pro nobis impetrant licet non merendo" They avail only in virtue of past merits as those who are now saints intercede for us not by merit but by prayer.
Purgatorial fire At the Council of Florence , Bessarion argued against the existence of real purgatorial fire, and the Greeks were assured that the Roman Church had never issued any dogmatic decree on this subject. In the West the belief in the existence of real fire is common. Augustine Enarration on Psalm 37 , no.
Gregory the Great speaks of those who after this life "will expiate their faults by purgatorial flames," and he adds "that the pain be more intolerable than any one can suffer in this life" Ps.
Following in the footsteps of Gregory , St. Thomas teaches IV, dist. Bonaventure not only agrees with St. Thomas but adds IV, dist. How this fire affects the souls of the departed the Doctors do not know , and in such matters it is well to heed the warning of the Council of Trent when it commands the bishops "to exclude from their preaching difficult and subtle questions which tend not to edification', and from the discussion of which there is no increase either in piety or devotion " Sess.
XXV, "De Purgatorio". The number of "days" that were attached to indulgences were not understood as shortening time in purgatory, but as easing the purification after death by an amount analogous to the shortening of an earthly penitential period by the number of days indicated. Fourth, because some people were confused by thinking purgatory was shortened by a set number of days with an indulgence, the Church abolished the "day" figures attached to indulgences specifically to eliminate this confusion. Fifth, the reason that the "days" were never understood to be days of literal time off in purgatory is that the medieval theologians, such as St.
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Purgatory
Thomas Aquinas, those living at precisely the period when the "days" were attached to indulgences, were very clear about the fact that time does not work the same way in the afterlife as it does here. So the Church has never said that purgatory involves the same kind of time as we experience here on earth, or even time at all. Thus Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, no theological liberal, writes that purgatory may involve "existential" rather than "temporal" duration cf. Thus 2 Maccabees endorses praying for the dead that they may be loosed from the consequences of their sins for it must be the consequences of sin that are in mind since the saved are not sinning in the afterlife.
The doctrine can also be supported from numerous passages in the New Testament, but more fundamentally and this is what you should point out to the Protestant , it can be derived from the principles of Protestant theology alone. You see, Protestant are very firm in fact, insistent about the fact that we continue sinning until the end of this life because of our corrupt nature.
However, they are equally firm if you press them about the fact that we will not be sinning in heaven because we will no longer have a corrupt nature. This purification may take no time, but as we have seen, this is no barrier to the doctrine of purgatory. Well, this may be true. The Church teaches that purgatory is the final purification, but not that it occurs in any special region in the afterlife.
The final purification may take place in the immediate presence of God to the extent that God's presence may be described in spatial terms. In fact, in his book on eschatology, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger describes purgatory as a fiery, transforming encounter with Christ and his love:. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God [i. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process.