Beatific Vision is the eternal, direct perception of God enjoyed by those who have died in a “state of grace” or have undergone the final purification or theosis also called purgatory and are now in heaven before the very presence of the HOLY ONE enjoying his supreme happiness and blessings forever .
St. Thomas Aquinas defined the Beatific Vision as the ultimate end of human existence.
“ Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.”
C. S. Lewis, a protestant theologian has this to say about the doctrine of purgatory:
"Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age, the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to him?”
In his book, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, Pope Benedict XVI describes purgatory as a fiery encounter with the Lord and his mercy, as a transformation, he says:
“ Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where man is forced to undergo punishment in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy." Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
In Matthew 12:32 Jesus clearly teaches that some sins are forgiven after death.
“ And whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whoever speaks against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
"I implore you, brothers to pray whenever you come here and invoke the Father and Son in all your prayers so that they might save Agape (the person in the tomb) forever" Catacomb of Priscilla
The word Purgatory, like the words Bible, Trinity, and Incarnation is not in the Bible. However, All Christians subscribe to the truths inherent in these words although the words themselves do not appear in Scriptures per se.
The teaching about a final purification called purgatory, however, is well supported not only by the Scriptures but also by the living Tradition of the Church’s Magisterium, Early Christianity, and the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.
“ Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.”
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned . The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:
“ As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.”
1472 To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence . Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the "temporal punishment" of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.
To this day, devout Jews , when a Jewish person's loved one dies, pray a prayer known as the Mourner's Kaddish for eleven months after the death for the loved one's purification. This prayer is also recited on the anniversary of the person’s death.
A. All sin is an offense against God , his love and the bond of love and communion we have with each other. Sin is also an offense against our own dignity bestowed upon us by the creator.
B. Sin rejects the gift of sanctifying Grace . This grace infuses us with the very life of God, without grace holiness of life, friendship with God, and eternal life is impossible.
C. All sin is not equal in the eyes of God , in the First letter of John 5:16-18, the scriptures describes two categories of sin, one that leads to death and one that does not lead to death. Catholic theology classifies these sins as mortal or venial sins.
D. Mortal sin is a radical separation , a premeditated rejection of God’s friendship and love . Mortal sin is the conscious embracement of that which we know and understand to be seriously sinful, the consent and surrender of the will and intellect to evil in thoughts and actions.
E. Mortal sin can be the result of one free act against God or as the result of a constant deterioration of our fundamental option for God through a pattern of choices that seriously impair and erode the grace of God in us to the point of extinction.
F. The end result of mortal sin is the radical separation from God’s saving presence in this life and in the life to come. We call this eternal state of damnation and torment hell.
G. Having freely rejected the transforming power of God’s love, man is eternally destined to be consumed and tormented by the very falseness he submitted to in life in the masquerade form of hedonistic pleasure, pride, self-idolatry, contempt, greed, adulation finally revealed in its true and absolute form as: hopelessness, despair, loneliness, evil, selfishness, madness, deception, emptiness and pain. There is no escape, forgiveness, hope, or salvation in hell.
H. Venial sins on the other hand are less serious sins, they do not destroyed our communion with God and neighbor but rather weaken our disposition to charity stalling our spiritual growth and the practice of virtue and goodness.
I. Venial sins may lead to mortal sin if left unchecked . Venial sins are the result of our carelessness, our lack of prudence in our daily actions. They reveal a lack of self- reflection, rush decision, moral disorder and poor judgment.
J. Venial sins are sins we commit sometimes out dumb stupidity or just simply blind negligence in our daily actions. Venial sins do not deprive us of communion and friendship with God. These sins can be repaired with God’s grace and an attitude of penance.
K. Unlike mortal sin, venial sins do not eternally separate us from God. However, All sin, mortal or venial has consequences .
L. All sin mortal or venial merits punishment either eternal or temporal. In the case of venial sins these consequences are called temporal punishment.
M. These are the vestiges of our carelessness that manifest themselves even after sin has been forgiven. A hurtful insult in a moment of anger can have a lasting impact on the psychic of someone we love even after being forgiven by that person. The sin is forgiven but the lasting hurt that we cause needs to be expiated.
N. In the sacrament of reconciliation God manifests his willingness to forgive our sins whether they are mortal or venial. However, God does not exonerate us from its consequences. All sin demands not only true contrition but also satisfaction (repair). If not enough for instance, to say sorry, I broke your window by accident, repaying for that window is also necessary to correct the damage caused.
O. Temporal punishment due to sin demands satisfaction , purification, expiation, penance and conversion, - all of these qualities together manifest a deep desire to leave the traces of the old man behind and be transformed and configured in the person of Christ through his love, grace and mercy.
P. This temporal punishment due to sin according to St. Augustine will be expiated by some only in this life, others in this life and in the life to come and others after death.
Q. We call this state of purification and expiation (satisfaction) from all vestiges of sin “purgatory” or final theosis. It is this process that frees us from any trace of sin, imperfection, from any remnant of selfishness and radically opens us to charity and communion with Him who is all Holy.
“ The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, [who just died] for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me-- the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day--and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.”
Note: Paul speaks of Onesiphorus only in the past tense , wishes blessings upon his house, and mercy for him on the day of judgment, supporting the common interpretation that Onesiphorus had at this point died. In this particular case, St. Paul is praying for one who was deceased, which does support the Judeo-Christian practice of praying for the dead and the notion of Purgatory.
What is the meaning of fire in relation to purgatory?
Isaiah 6: 6-7
“ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven."
In the Old and New Testament fire is a symbol of God’s purifying, transforming grace.
The Fathers of the Church when speaking of purgation used the symbol of the fire. To describe God’s refining, purifying action after death.
Some Fathers speak of a literal fire some speak of spiritual fire like Clement of Alexandria, they all concur fire is a divine instrument.
Zechariah 13:9 I will lead that third into the fire, and refine them as silver is refined, test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name and I shall listen; and I shall say: These are my people; and each will say, "Yahweh is my God!"
Malachi 3: 2-3
"But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.
"He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.
1 Corinthians 3:13-15
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Luke 16:19-31 - in this story, we see that the dead rich man is suffering but still feels compassion for his brothers and wants to warn them of his place of suffering. But there is no suffering in heaven or compassion in hell because compassion is a grace from God and those in hell are deprived from God's graces for all eternity. So where is the rich man? He is in purgatory. (ScriptureCatholic)
The following slides are only a minute sample of the vast testimony of the Early Church in the belief of final purification and the practice of praying for the dead.
Clement of Alexandria
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. ( Patres Groeci. IX, col. 332 [ A.D. 150-215]).
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. For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (I Cor., 3); but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? 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. (Patres Groeci. XIII, col. 445, 448 [A.D. 185-232]).
“ The citizen of a prominent city, I erected this while I lived, that I might have a resting place for my body. Abercius is my name, a disciple of the chaste shepherd who feeds his sheep on the mountains and in the fields, who has great eyes surveying everywhere, who taught me the faithful writings of life. Standing by, I, Abercius, ordered this to be inscribed; truly I was in my seventy-second year. May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it pray for Abercius (Epitaph of Abercius [A.D. 190]).
The faithful widow prays for the soul of her husband, and begs for him in the interim repose, and participation in the first resurrection, and offers prayers on the anniversary of his death ( Monogamy 10 [A.D. 213]).
“ It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory; it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the Day of Judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord (Letters 51:20 [A.D. 253]).”
Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition, next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep. For we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn sacrifice is laid out (Catechetical Lectures 23:5:9 [A.D. 350]).
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice [Job l:5), why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them (Homilies on First Corinthians 41:5 [A.D. 392]).
Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment (The City of God 21:13 [A.D. 419]).
That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain purgatorial fire (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity l8:69 [A.D. 421]).
"If a man distinguish in himself what is peculiarly human from that which is irrational, and if he be on the watch for a life of greater urbanity for himself, in this present life he will purify himself of any evil contracted, overcoming the irrational by reason. If he have inclined to the irrational pressure of the passions, using for the passions the cooperating hide of things irrational, he may afterward in a quite different manner be very much interested in what is better, when, after his departure out of the body, he gains knowledge of the difference between virtue and vice and finds that he is not able to partake of divinity [2 Peter 1:4] until he has been purged of the filthy contagion in his soul by the purifying fire. " [ Sermon on the Dead, A.D. 382]
St. Epihanius of Salamis
"Useful too is the prayer fashioned on their behalf [of the deceased], even if it does not force back the whole of guilty charges laid to them. And it is useful also, because in this world we often stumble either voluntarily or involuntarily, and thus it is a reminder to do better." [ Panarion, Against All Heresies c. 375 A.D.]
"But also, when God will judge the just, it is likewise in fire that he will try them. At that time, they whose sins are uppermost, either because of their gravity or their number, will be drawn together by the fire and will be burned. Those, however, who have been imbued with full justice and maturity of virtue, will not feel that fire; for they have something of God in them which will repel and turn back the strength of the flame." [ Divine Institutes, 7:21:6, A.D. 307.]
Christianity from its very beginning has always subscribed in teaching and praxis to the belief of a final purification after death called Purgatory.
Purgatory reveals God’s divine justice as an existential, transforming, purifying encounter with God’s mercy.
Scriptures reveal God as Holy, nothing impure shall enter his presence.
Man is called to abandon sin and adopt conversion, to live behind the old man and put on the new man. This process begins at baptism and continues in the life to come in the form of expiation for lesser sins.
Our prayers for dead reveal our bond of communion and charity with them. Our prayers comfort them and strengthen them.
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