Is there hope after death?

For those in heaven or hell, NO!, but for the souls in Purgatory it is a time of hope with certitude of reaching the realm of glory. Many try to dismiss this realm of the universe, yet most of us will have to pass through this state because at our death we will not be completely conformed to God's will. Purification of the soul is required by God's holiness, justice and wisdom - "Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God." (Mt. 5:8)

Many think of purgatory as punishment and it is that; but this is also the work of God's great love for us. At the moment of death the soul sees ever more clearly that God is its sovereign good and happiness. At the same time the soul is pierced with the agony and longing for the beloved and its inability to reach it causes severe suffering. This is the work of God's love which is experienced as a purifying fire in the soul. God's love is so real and incessant causing these souls to run with joy into this purifying fire so to embrace more quickly the beloved. (Martin Jugie, Purgatory, Roman Catholic Books, Fort Collins, CO., 1949, pp. 48-50)

Upon entering Purgatory the souls are instantly purified of venial sins, evil inclinations and disordered habits, in other words, the human soul is made whole or holy. The sufferings they have to endure are expiatory. They suffer willingly the punishment imposed by God's justice -"You are just, Lord, and your judgments are right." (Ps119:137) Probably the pains in purgatory gradually diminish till the day when the vision of God will be revealed like the sun emerging from the cloudy sky.

Nature of Purgatory?

God creation is a unity with different dimensions. The universe we experience coming through our senses is limited to certain wavelengths of the spectrum but there are dimension of the universe which our embodied spirits cannot detect. Some think that purgatory is only a state of the soul but the soul has to be somewhere because it cannot be everywhere. At death the unpurified soul enters a different dimension of the universe but does not leave the creation. Like the angels human beings are part of the cosmic order and do not exist outside this order. So, souls or intelligent human entities in Purgatory have to be somewhere. Due to the social nature of man these souls must form a variety of social groups having in common the "Purgatorial fire", both internal and external, as a constant influence on their souls similar to the presence and effect of gravity on our bodies. "The souls in Purgatory know each other. This does not necessarily suppose being gathered in one place, for ... spiritual substances are not subject to the laws of material space. Spirits must have a means of communication absolutely unknown to us." (Ibid., Purgatory, p. 41) Souls in Purgatory love each other, console each other and rejoice with those is departing for the heavenly realm.

Do the souls in Purgatory suffer from external "fire"?

The general consensus of the Church Father, Councils and Theologians is Yes!

But the question arises, how can material fire cause pain to the soul which is immaterial? Christ speaking about the last judgment said: "Then he will say to those to the left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Mt 25:41) So, this "fire" is able to inflict pain on pure spirits. Avicenna (980-1037) a Persian physician and philosopher maintained that the soul being immaterial could not suffer from the material fire of hell. He was a Muslim and did not believe in the resurrection. St. Thomas Aquinas reflected on this and wrote, "Whatever we may say of the fire that torments the separated souls, we must admit that the fire which will torment the bodies of the damned after the resurrection is corporeal, since one cannot fittingly apply a punishment to a body unless that punishment itself be bodily." (Summa, Part III supplement, Q. 97, Art. 5) He further elucidated, "It is clear that the fire of hell is of the same species as the fire we have, so far as the nature of fire is concerned. But whether that fire subsists in its proper matter, or if it subsists in a strange matter, what that matter may be, we know not. " (Ibid., #6) Of course this fire is "strange matter" unknown to us because it can inflict pain without destroying the body. It must be like the fire which Moses saw at the burning bush which was not consumed. Further, theologians consider the fire of Purgatory as the same fire as that of hell and some envision Purgatory as border of hell.

In our scientific world view we are very aware of different kinds of "fire". There is chemical fire (candle burning), Atomic fire (the sun and stars), microwave radiation (microwave cooking), etc. We also know that matter and energy are two aspects of the same reality which make up our universe. So, just because we cannot explain scientifically the purgatorial fire it does not mean it does not exist. The fire of Purgatory/Hell is probably some radiation of matter/energy able to interact with the soul and cause suffering.

On earth, hope is mixed in with fear and anguish. There is no fear in purgatory but only a joyful awaiting for the certain reward. With full and certain joy, the soul sings with the psalmist:

'I rejoiced when they said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the LORD."

(Ps 122:1)

 

Let us pray:

O Lord God Almighty,
I pray Thee by the Precious Blood which Thy Divine Son Jesus shed in His bitter crowning with thorns,
deliver the souls in Purgatory,
and in particular that one amongst them all which would be the last to depart out of those pains,
that it may come to praise Thee in Thy glory and bless Thee forever.
Amen.

 

11. Hope is No More