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athgarvan

In November each year we Christians turn our thoughts to death and the next life.

In the early Church the concepts that after death souls are already being punished or are experiencing a provisional form of bliss, gradually developed into the concepts of  hope, heaven, hell and purgatory.

With death, our life-choice becomes definitive. Our choice takes on a certain shape. There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought, but cannot such people be seen in certain figures of our own history?

On the other hand there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and fully open to their neighbours - people for whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God brings to fulfilment what they already are.

Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life. For the great majority of people, I suppose, there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, this openness is covered over by ever new compromises with evil. But the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul. Question: At death, will all the impurity such people have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter?

St. Paul tells us that if we have stood firm on the foundation of Jesus Christ and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death (1 Cor 3:12-15). Our encounter with Christ is the decisive act of judgement. If we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love, our judgement by God will surely be based on that hope.

Comments

(Anonymous)

Purgatory etc.

A few entries from Brian Grenier's Attend unto Reading:

02 November—All Souls’ Day
The custom of offering prayers and anniversary Masses for the faithful departed was widespread in the early Church. In the beautiful concluding paragraph of his Confessions, St Augustine exhorts his readers to pray for his deceased mother: ‘O Lord, my God, inspire thy servants … that whosoever readeth these confessions may at thy altar remember thy servant Monica, with Patricius her husband, through whose flesh thou broughtest me into the world … ’ Traditionally the Church invites us during the month of November, especially on All Souls’ Day, to express our prayerful solidarity with our deceased brothers and sisters in the faith.
03 November—Purgatory
Generations of preachers and catechists in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church emphasised the terrifying penal quality of purgatory. However, in the churches of the East purgatory was presented not in terms of punishment but as an experience of posthumous spiritual growth. In the spirit of St Catherine of Genoa’s writings, we can affirm that, apart from the happiness of the blessed in heaven, there could be no happiness comparable with that of the souls in purgatory. We may see it as a kind of antechamber where, conscious of our earthly shortcomings, we eagerly await entry into heaven.
04 November—Death of Friends
The death of one’s close relatives and long-standing friends is one of the trials of growing old. It can happen in the case of the very elderly that their circle of family members and cherished friends all but disappears. In those circumstances our Christian faith is a comfort to the bereaved, assuring us that those who live in the Lord never see each other for the last time. On the death of a very dear friend, St John Chrysostom remarked, ‘We loved you and we lost you. You are no longer where you were, but you are wherever we are.’
05 November—Farewells
Prior to his departure for Jerusalem where persecution and imprisonment awaited him, Paul farewelled the elders of the church of Ephesus at Miletus (Acts 20:17-38) in one of the most poignant episodes in the New Testament. ‘There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again.’ As we age, we have to face many farewells as friends and loved ones pass away. However, we do not grieve for them ‘as others do who have no hope’ (1 Thess 4:13).

Re: Purgatory etc.

Thank you for that. Plenty of material to reflect on in your fine contribution.