Thursday, November 4, 2010

Prayer, purgatory on earth

According to the common teaching of theologians, and of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the chief pain of purgatory is the delay of the beatific vision. The soul suffers immensely for she knows that she will soon see God. She loves God intensely and desires to be with him. She is confirmed in good and so has a certain hope of heaven; but she knows too that she would already be enjoying life everlasting, if only she had prepared herself more on earth. Thus, the primary suffering of purgatory is the waiting – it is this waiting which is most purifying.
It is also the teaching of theologians that the suffering of purgatory is generally much greater than the suffering experienced on earth. Thus, to endure a little suffering on earth with a true spirit of contrition and love, and with the intention of offering that pain for the purification of one’s soul, is to gain a great advantage – a little pain on earth can avoid a great deal of suffering in purgatory. Hence, we ought to desire to live out our purgatory as much as possible while still on earth! The primary means we can do this is through prayer.

Prayer and pain
St. John of the Cross offers a beautiful poem on the suffering which a soul experiences when she desires more and more to see God. In this poem, he continually returns to the words, “I die because I do not die.” What he means here is that he dies (i.e. he suffers intensely) because he is not yet able to go to heaven (and so, he awaits bodily death). St. John of the Cross had tasted something of the sweetness of the Lord in his mystical experiences of prayer, but he suffered greatly because he could not yet achieve the culmination of prayer which is heavenly bliss.
Prayer develops in the soul a taste for the things of heaven. Having tasted these heavenly realities (even if only indistinctly), the soul desires more and more to be united to God in glory. However, she yet knows that she must remain on earth until death, and this separation causes an intense pain. Having experienced something of the goodness of the Lord, nothing on earth can bring the soul consolation and even the Blessed Sacrament only increases the pain she feels; since the closer she comes to Christ, the more she desires heaven and the more she realizes that she must wait for death. And yet, the soul in love with God is filled with an immense joy which overflows into good works – there is interior peace, but also great pain.
This longing which true prayer causes in the soul is a “quasi-purgatory” on earth – an intense suffering which is caused by love waiting to be fulfilled. Like purgatory, the pains of prayer are purifying: as the soul yearns more and more for God, she is all the more separated from sin and even from the occasions of sin. Desiring union with Christ, the soul becomes like Christ. And this suffering, though probably not quite as great as the most intense suffering in purgatory, is yet much more valuable and effective than the pains of purgatory – for, if even small sacrifices on earth save us much pain in purgatory; how much more does the painful longing which comes from prayer bring us quickly to heaven!
We may go a step further and say that just as the pains of purgatory far exceed all earthly suffering, so too the pains inflicted upon the soul who yearns to see God far exceed all physical pains. As the delights of prayer are greater than all carnal delights, so the pains which come from prayer are incomparably greater than all carnal suffering! However, do not be afraid of prayer on this account. Though there is a pain and true suffering, it is yet sweet! It is a pain which we would desire never to cease, except in the consummation of prayer in the joy of heaven.

Stanzas of the soul that suffers with longing to see God, by St. John of the Cross
I live, but not in myself,
and I have such hope
that I die because I do not die.
1. I no longer live within myself
and I cannot live without God,
for having neither him nor myself
what will life be?
It will be a thousand deaths,
longing for my true life
and dying because I do not die.
2. This life that I live
is no life at all,
and so I die continually
until I live with you;
hear me, my God:
I do not desire this life,
I am dying because I do not die.
3. When I am away from you
what life can I have
except to endure
the bitterest death known?
I pity myself,
for I go on and on living,
dying because I do not die.
4. A fish that leaves the water
has this relief:
the dying it endures
ends at last in death.
What death can equal my pitiable life?
For the longer I live, the more drawn out is my dying.
5. When I try to find relief
seeing you in the Sacrament,
I find this greater sorrow:
I cannot enjoy you wholly.
All things are affliction
since I do not see you as I desire,
and I die because I do not die.
6. And if I rejoice, Lord,
in the hope of seeing you,
yet seeing I can lose you
doubles my sorrow.
Living in such fear
and hoping as I hope,
I die because I do not die.
7. Lift me from this death,
my God, and give me life;
do not hold me bound
with these bonds so strong;
see how I long to see you;
my wretchedness is so complete
that I die because I do not die.
8. I will cry out for death
and mourn my living
while I am held here
for my sins.
O my God, when will it be
that I can truly say:
now I live because I do not die?


Shane Kapler said...

Oh my goodness - what an incredible post! This is so RICH!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Praise the Lord that it has been helpful to you! St. John of the Cross continues to provide the Church with a wealth of spiritual insights! Blessings to you.

elderchild said...

The brethren of The Messiah are but "aliens and pilgrims while the earth" for their "citizenship is in Heaven"!

So it is that they are exhorted to:

“Love Not The World”

”For the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one”.......(I John 5:19)

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world will pass away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of The Only True GOD will abide for ever.”(IJohn2:15-17)

“If you were of the world, the world would love it’s own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his Master. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.” (John15:19-20)

“Where do wars and fighting among you come from? Do they not come of your lusts that war in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is to be at enmity with The Only True GOD? Therefore whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of The Only True GOD.” (James 4:1-4)

“The world cannot hate you; but the world hates Me, because I testify that the works of this world are evil.” (John 7:7)” and “The Messiah gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of The Only True God, Our Father.”(Gal 1:4)

The Messiah testified: “If the world hates you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”(John 5:18) Truly, Truly, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life in this world shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall have it unto life eternal.” (John 12:24-25)

John testified: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hates you.” (I John 3:13) “ James testified, “Whoever would be a friend of this world is the enemy of GOD”(James4:4)

"Come Out of her, MY people"!

Global warming, polluted air, land and waters, toxic wastes, sexual perversion, evil inventions of destruction, greed, hate, carnal warfare, dis-ease(no-peace),,etc,, are all destructive processes that have their root in “the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life” all of which fuel the fires of mankind’s “imag”ination ;-(

"Come out from among them and be separate"!

Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it's systems of religion, for "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one" indeed and Truth......

Truth IS, a lie never was and is not.......

Abide in Truth....... francis

Anonymous said...

I have often contemplated how we will experience time if we have to go to purgatory to be purified. By all accounts we will spend our time in purgatory living in serial time as we do now on earth. Once we are free and purified and join our Father in Heaven we will live in the fullness of time (Eternity). Experiencing the past, present and future all being experienced at once. Just another big thing to look forward too once we obtain perfection. Msgr Pope has a good blog on the subject of time:

Nittia Ollyanza said...
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