Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why We Believe in the Purgatorial Fire

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1. We believe in the purgatorial fire on Scriptural and Patristic grounds. Belief in the fire of Purgatory is not dogmatically binding (note the non-insistence of it to the Holy Greek Fathers at the Ecumenical Council of Florence, as well as the definition of the Ecumenical Council of Trent in session 25), but it is much more likely to be true than the contrary opinion.

2. Pace the Doctor St. John Chrysostom the Great [Homily 9 on First Corinthians], St. Paul the Apostle is not talking about the preservation of the existence of the damned because "he will be saved" in Greek is "sothesetai" which indicates eternal salvation, not merely continued existence. "Suffer loss" is "zemiothesetai" in Greek, from the root "zemioo" which indicates punishment; cf. Ex 21:22 and Prov 19:19. "Yet so" in Greek is "houtos" which translates to "in the same manner," so St. Paul the Apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, teaches that the soul realizes its eternal salvation in the same manner via a cleansing fire.

3. In Jude 23 God snatches people from the fire, but people in Heaven are not in the fire and God does not snatch the damned from Hell. In Wis 3:5-6 God tries and disciplines the departed faithful by fire so that they might be pure and able to enter Heaven. In Sir 2:5 the analogy is drawn between the testing of gold in the fire and the testing of acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. The damned are not acceptable and those already in Heaven are not in a testing, i.e. purifying, fire.

4. Those Western Fathers who spoke of a purifying fire include St. Cyprian of Carthage, Archbishop St. Ambrose the Great of Milan (Doctor), Hieromonk St. Jerome the Great of Stridon (Doctor), Bishop St. Augustine of Hippo (Doctor of Grace), Lactantius, St. Caesar of Arles, and Pope St. Gregory I the Great of Rome (Doctor). The Eastern Father St. Gregory of Nyssa, one of the three Cappadocian Fathers and a Doctor of the Syro-Malabar and Chaldean Catholic Churches, spoke of a purifying fire.

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