DOGMATIC AND SCHOLASTIC - THE VARIOUS QUESTIONS CONNECTED WITH IT CONSIDERED AND PROVED.
CHAPTER XIII. THE PLACE WHERE PURGATORY IS. Part 11.
But, if "having loosed the sorrows of hell," be taken as implying that Christ was loosed from the sorrows of hell, a doubt will naturally arise as to how this could happen. How could He be loosed from the sorrows or pains of hell, to which He was not subject ? It will help to clear away this doubt or difficulty to know that the Greek text has " loosing," or " when he would loose from the sorrows of death ;" and that the Syriac has "from the cords of death" He was delivered by the power of God from the sorrows or cords of death. Others, once they are caught by them, are bound by the cords of death till the day of judgment, when their bodies shall rise out of the grave. Jesus Christ, however, when He arose the third day, was, by the Divine power, loosed or freed from the cords of death.
This was foretold for Him by the prophets, and especially by the Psalmist, David, (Ps. xv. 1o. Act. ii., 27.) who, speaking in His person a thousand years before He came, said : "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt thou give thy holy one to see corruption."
An interesting question is raised as to whether souls can leave the place in the other life in which they are.
1. Theologians answer this question in the first place by saying that souls can, with the permission of God, leave for awhile, not only heaven, but even the subterranean receptacles or limbi. So souls can leave heaven, Purgatory, the limbus of infants, and hell, either to supplicate the suffrages of the living, or to render them assistance, or to inspire them with salutary fear. Ecclesiastical history, as well as St. Augustine, supply us with grave examples, which indicate that souls have left all these places, if we except the limbus of infants.
2. It is quite certain that many souls have been restored to this life, either from the limbus of the fathers or from Purgatory. The Gospel makes mention of three persons who were raised by our Divine Lord from death to life. The prophets Elias and Elisaeus in the Old, and the apostles Peter and Paul in the New Law, raised the dead to life. There are also instances in ecclesiastical history of persons having been recalled to life at the prayer of some of the saints. There is no doubt that many at least of these faithful souls had been in Limbo or Purgatory. No doubt, too, they remained after their resurrection confirmed in grace; so that no inconvenience could result from their restoration to the troubles of this world. Thus they would not, by any chance, be exposed to suffer the loss of that salvation, which they had before merited by their perseverance in good works till death. The restoration to life of such persons was nothing more than a change of prison or of the place of exile. When they died a second time, their souls returned to their former prison or exile, or, as the case may be, to heaven. If the soul had been in Limbo, and died again before the Ascension of Christ, it re turned to that prison ; but if it did not die till after the Ascension, it went to heaven. If it had been in Purgatory, and if it paid the temporal debt due of it after being restored to this life and before it died again, then in the case in which the second death took place before the Ascension of Christ, it went to Limbo; in the case in which the second death took place after the Ascension, it was received into heaven.
3. It must be held that no one has been restored to this life out of heaven or hell. It would be a very inconvenient and incongruous thing, if a soul were brought back to this world from heaven. This would be transferring it from a life of everlasting bliss to a life of misery. Moreover, the souls in heaven are confirmed in their present enjoyment. They have meted out to them their measure of glory, and are assured of its possession for ever. On the other hand, they who are in hell, stand condemned for ever to that prison. Out of hell there is no redemption. However, a doubt on this point may arise in the mind of some one, because, as history testifies, many pagans have been raised from the dead. Even we have it on the testimony of St. Ambrose (Serm. 90.) that St. Agnes restored to life the son of the prefect, Sempronius, who had been slain by the devil for having attempted to violate her chastity. Still, in the face of these instances, we must hold that no one has been ever restored to this life from hell, any more than from heaven. Hence, as St. Thomas (In 4, dist. 45, Q. 2, Ar. 2.) teaches, those persons who died in impiety or mortal sin, and were afterwards raised to life, were not in the interval in hell. By the special providence of God, they were not judged and condemned to hell after death, although their iniquity would have deserved eternal punishment.
4. There is neither a return to life nor a permanent departure out of the limbus of infants or hell. The souls of infants who die without baptism, are condemned to perpetual exile from God; and the souls of the reprobate are condemned to burn for ever in the fire of hell. So, from both these places, there is no lasting departure. The souls that are in them shall ever endure their exile or punishment. On the contrary, there was a permanent departure from their place of temporal exile or punishment for the souls of the Fathers of old. They were liberated from their limbus, and were assumed into heaven. There is also a permanent departure for the souls in Purgatory. As soon as they have satisfied the jus tice of God, they are emancipated from that prison of fire, and assumed into the kingdom of God's glory.