Friday, 20 March 2015

The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. On the Means of Relieving the Suffering Souls. Part 19.


§ 35. Holy Mass is Essentially a Propitiatory Sacrifice for the Faithful Departed.

186. Christian artists have illustrated very beautifully an idea of the holy Fathers, representing the angels as gathering in golden vases the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ during its presence on the altar, and pouring it as a refreshing dew into the flames of Purgatory. By the power of this Blood numbers of souls are purified and then soar up into the realms" of eternal bliss.—By His Precious Blood our Savior restored the honor of His Heavenly Father and brought redemption and salvation to mankind. In virtue of His divinity it was of infinite value and atoned for our guilt, immense as it was. The bond of charity, sanctified in this Blood, now binds us more intimately to God than before. The souls in Purgatory are souls ransomed and purified in the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ and bearing the indelible mark of His grace, souls for whom the Supreme Judge has already prepared the immortal crown of victory. The whole mystic body of Christ, the Catholic Church in all her three branches, is quickened and penetrated, sanctified and kept united with God by the all-pervading, supernatural power of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. This Blood is still being shed every moment on the altars of the New Dispensation ; it is still being offered in Holy Mass for the benefit of both the living and the dead. Who, then, can doubt that the Suffering Souls in Purgatory receive consolation from this sacred oblation ?

187. The Holy Sacrifice of Mass is a propitiation and atonement, in virtue of its very nature and by the ordinance of Christ. The Council of Trent teaches: "The Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrifice of the Cross are one and the same Sacrifice, because in both the Minister offering and the Victim offered are the same; the manner of offering alone is different. Hence it is justly offered, according to the tradition of the apostles, not only for the sins, punishments, atonements and other needs of the living, but also for the departed in Christ who are not yet entirely purified." —In Holy Mass we celebrate the work of our redemption : The Sacrifice of the Mass is in truth the unbloody renewal of the death of Christ; it is the representation and continuance of His Sacrifice on the cross. The object of this Sacrifice therefore is to make us individually partakers of the various effects of the sacrificial death of Christ. This being its object, it must of necessity also make us sharers of the sin-destroying power of Christ's death; that is, it must make us partakers of the atonement rendered for us by our Savior's death on the cross. In other words, the Sacrifice of the Mass must be a Sacrifice of Propitiation. The Holy Scripture frequently mentions, as being effects of the sacrificial death of Christ, the blotting out of sin, release from the curse of sin, destruction of its bondage, and reconciliation with God. Moreover our Lord solemnly declared at the institution of Holy Mass, that His Body would be given and His Blood shed "unto the remission of sins." (Matth. xxvi. 28.)

188. Concerning the sublimity of Holy Mass, St. Alphonsus Liguori says: " The work of our redemption is renewed in every Mass; and this is done so effectually, that if Jesus had never died on the cross, the celebration of one Mass would have procured for the world the same benefits that were realized by the death of Jesus on the cross." St. Augustine declares that we are not allowed to entertain the least doubt concerning the aid given by the prayer of the Church and the Holy Sacrifice; and then he adds these words: "This ordinance has been delivered to us by the Fathers, and it is observed to-day in the whole Church —that this Sacrifice be offered up for all those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, and whose souls are remembered during the oblation."—St. Monida's only wish at her death, her only prayer was, that her sons might remember her at the Lord's altar. St. Augustine relates that prayers were said and the Holy Sacrifice was offered for her after her death. St. Cyrillus of Jerusalem calls Holy Mass a Sacrifice of Propitiation, and adds, "For the departed, even though they be sinners, (that is, even though they have died in venial sin), we offer our prayers to God. And not only our prayers do we offer for them, but we do infinitely more: we offer up Christ, th€ Victim for our sins, thereby to obtain from the God of mercy propitiation for ourselves and for them."

189. This propitiatory effect is inherent in the Sacrifice of the Mass itself; that is, it is produced in virtue of its celebration, without regard to the spiritual state of the celebrating priest, be he saint or sinner. If they, for whose benefit Mass is celebrated, are well disposed and capable of receiving its effects, they are sure of obtaining the fruit of atonement and release of punishment; and this is true, according to the doctrine of theologians, as regards both the living and the dead. Hence, to share in the effects of Holy Mass, the state of grace is necessary. For as long as a person is in the state of mortal sin and an enemy of God, he is not capable of receiving even the least remission of punishment. But the Suffering Souls are always in the highest degree capable of receiving the atoning effects of this Holy Sacrifice; for they, are elect children of God, possessing an inalienable right to heaven; they are just and holy souls, loving nothing besides God, and are consumed by a most agonizing thirst to be admitted to His beatific vision. God's wisdom, justice and mercy ordain to what degree their sufferings shall be diminished or abbreviated.

190. As a Sacrifice of Propitiation Holy Mass therefore has the power, and by the ordinance of Christ it is its ^object, infallibly and directly and in virtue of its own efficacy to efface temporal punishment of sin. That this effect does not detract from the value of the sacrifice of the cross, but that its infinite power and efficacy is rather emphasized thereby, is obvious to everyone having a true comprehension of Catholic doctrine. The Church does not teach that by the sacrifice of Christ on the altar the treasure of redemption merited by His sacrifice on the cross is increased or receives new value, but that the unincreasable and inexhaustible price of redemption paid for us through the sacrifice of the cross is individually applied to us and made our own in Holy Mass. Christ's treasury of grace ever remains the same; but this grace is distributed and applied to the souls of men in Holy Mass. And this will continue as long as there are souls, here and in the next world, capable and in need of salvation. Consequently the fruits of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass are in general the very same as those acquired by our Lord on the noble tree of the cross. What was merited on the cross for all mankind is intended to be made the property of the individual in Holy Mass; it is therefore a continual Sacrifice of Propitiation.

191. The Sacrifice of Mass possesses an infinite efficacy which can neither be increased nor diminished by man, because Jesus Christ is at the same time the Minister and the Victim of the Sacrifice. For this reason it is a means of obtaining from God the most sublime gifts, in general and in particular. If Mass is celebrated for the Suffering Souls, there is no doubt that one Holy Sacrifice possesses of itself more power than is necessary to release at once all souls detained in Purgatory, as the Council of Trent teaches: "The fruits of the bloody sacrifice on the cross are distributed and received most profusely through the unbloody Sacrifice of the Mass."

Can we be astonished, when reflecting on the propitiatory powers of Holy. Mass, that by it many souls are delivered at once from Purgatory? St. Nicholas of Tolentino saw a great number of Suffering Souls in a field, who all united in imploring him to celebrate Holy Mass for them. After having done so for eight days, it was revealed to him that the souls he had seen were all released. — St. Anthony of Padua relates: Blessed John of Alverina once offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on All Saints Day. At the consecration, while holding the sacred Body of our Lord in his hands, he ardently implored the Heavenly Father, by the Blood and the merits of His only Son, to release the Souls from Purgatory; and behold! he saw a great number of these holy souls, like sparks of fire escaping from a furnace, soaring up triumphantly to the heavenly kingdom.