Cleansing Fire: Purgatory

Revelation 21: 27: But nothing unclean will enter [Heaven], nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

When we talk about life after death, often people think that you either go to Heaven or Hell. Hell is a place of eternal fire, damnation, punishment, and pain. Heaven, on the other hand, is with God, where all the Saints and Angels may be in His Holy presence eternally. It is a place of joy and beauty.  Only the pure may enter Heaven.  As it states in the book of Revelations, “ nothing unclean shall enter Heaven”. It is important to know that all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven (CCC1030).

Purgatory is not so much of a place as it is a process. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
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.
Purgatory had not been named because it’s not necessarily a place, rather a step one may have to go through in order to be purified and enter the kingdom.  The name ‘Purgatory’ is what the Church called this step.

I would like to now examine briefly references to  Purgatory in the Old Testament.  The Old Testament is filled with sacrifices made to God for the souls of the dead. In Maccabees 12, we can see Judas, commander of Israel, makes sacrifice, which becomes part of tradition: He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this, he acted very well and honorable, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been foolish to pay for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin. ( 2 Maccabees 43-45)

At the end of our lives, or eternal destination is presented to us when we are judged. We either go to Heaven, or Hell, by our own free will given to us.  Corinthians 3 explains this idea beautifully in the passage below.

Corinthians 3:11-15:  For no one can lay any foundation other than one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— The work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work has been done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

How we choose to live our lives determines this. What we build ourselves up with will be tested, no matter what. Should Heaven be our reward, but we are still unclean with venial sins, then first we must be purified. Nothing that is stained with sin will enter into Heaven.

1 Peter 3: 17-20:  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be in God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison.

Spirits in prison. Lets examine this closely.  What exactly could this mean? Well, Christ would not have gone to Hell. Those spirits are already damned.  If he went to Heaven, those souls would already be pure, and Heaven is no prison, rather it is a Kingdom.  There must be a place in between. Prison is to be seen as a place of cleansing, of rehabilitation, but also of punishment. This punishment is not out of anger or hate, rather just as a parent would punish his child for doing something wrong, so we too deserve to be punished in order to be made better people.

Jesus affirms that we will make atonement for every sin in Matthew 5:25-26: Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

Rest assured, we must be thankful that there IS Purgatory! God will cleanse us so that we can be pure and perfect, just as we should be if we are to be with Him eternally. Does a bride not bathe and beautify her body, mind, and spirit when she presents herself to the groom? We too must be pure when we enter Heaven, and we must pray that should we not enter Heaven, that we may be purified in Purgatory before entering the Kingdom.

The prayer below is a prayer by St. Gertrude for souls in Purgatory. Christ came to her and showed her all the souls leaving purgatory and entering Heaven when she said this prayer.

Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen.

-Catholic Ruki

Please Check out these resources!

This Link is an address by Blessed John Paul II. Check it out!

This Sermon on Purgatory is  Astounding. Listen to the Story of Pope Innocent III and  Saint Lutgarda and other stories.


About catholicruki

Married. Mother. Catholic.

Posted on November 13, 2012, in Brown Scapular, Catechism, Catholic, Confession, death, faith, Purgatory, The four last things and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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