Thursday, 23 July 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 16.


Dives and Lazarus

II. The limbus of the fathers is proved to be under the earth.

Lessius, a theologian of great erudition, says that it is of faith that the limbus of the fathers is under the earth. It is unnecessary to observe that when he speaks thus, he is to be understood as speaking of divine faith, or of a matter that is contained in the Scripture or tradition, as distinguished from Catholic divine faith, or a matter not alone contained in the Scripture or tradition, but also defined by the Church. But the Church has never defined the situation of limbus, though this may be contained in the Scripture or tradition.

I. The subterranean location of the limbus of the fathers is proved from the Book of Genesis : (xxxvii., 35.) " I will go down to my son into hell" These are the words of Jacob, a just and holy man, in reference to his son Joseph, who was likewise just and holy. Both after death descended into hell. They did not enter heaven, for it is evident that heaven is not understood by the word hell. Nor by hell are we to understand the grave. Though hell is sometimes used for the grave, it cannot be understood in this sense here. Jacob did not believe his son was in the grave. He supposed that a wild beast had devoured him, and being under this impression he could not hope to go down to, or to join him in the grave. One who is devoured by a wild beast finds not a grave, in which the ashes of his relatives can commingle with his.

II. Another proof of the subterranean situation of the limbus of the fathers is taken from the first Book of Kings. (xxviii) Saul sought a woman with a divining spirit to bring up to him Samuel, who was dead and buried. She replied : " I saw gods (the soul of Samuel) ascending out of the earth." Thus the soul of the prophet, which was in limbo, was seen to ascend out of the earth. This is a strong evidence to sustain the opinion that limbus is under the earth. But as some do not admit that Samuel did in truth appear, it will be necessary to dwell a while on this subject, and to lay before the reader the arguments which demonstrate his real apparition.
What follows is the full text in which this remark able apparition is recorded. Saul, having consulted God, and having been found unworthy to receive an answer, changed his dress, and went in disguise to consult a pythoness 1 at Endor. " He (Saul) said to her : ' Divine to me by thy divining spirit, and bring me up him whom I shall tell thee.' . . . And the woman said to him : ' Whom shall I bring up to thee?' And he said: 'Bring me up Samuel.' And when the woman saw Samuel she cried out with a loud voice, and said to Saul: ' Why hast thou deceived me ? for thou art Saul.' And the king said to her : ' Fear not: what hast thou seen ? ' And the woman said to Saul: ' I saw gods ascending out of the earth.' And he said to her: ' What form is he of ?' And she said : ' An old man cometh up, and he is covered with a mantle.' And Saul understood that it was Samuel, and he bowed himself with his face to the ground, and adored. And Samuel said to Saul: 'Why hast thou disturbed my rest, that I should be brought up ? ' And Saul said : * I am in great distress : for the Philistines fight against me, and God is departed from me, and would not hear me, neither by the hand of prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest show me what I shall do.' And Samuel said: ' Why askest thou me, seeing the Lord has departed from thee, and is gone over to thy rival: for the Lord will do to thee as he spoke by me, and he will rend thy kingdom out of thy hand, and will give it to thy neighbour, David ; because thou didst not obey the voice of the Lord, neither didst thou execute the wrath of his indignation upon Amalec. Therefore hath the Lord done to thee what thou sufferest this day. And the Lord also will deliver Israel with thee into the hands of the Philistines, and to-morrow thou and thy sons shall be with me, and the Lord will also deliver the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.' And forthwith Saul fell all along on the ground, for he was frightened with the words of Samuel."
Now, in what sense are we to understand this whole passage ? In what light are we to view it ? Does it indicate merely a phasm, a fancied apparition, in order that Saul, with the permission of God, may be deceived, or rather the true and real apparition of Samuel ? There have been four different opinions held on this subject.

1. The more common opinion of the fathers, interpreters, and theologians is that Samuel in reality appeared to Saul, and addressed him. They who hold this opinion, however, differ as to the power that called up Samuel. Some maintain that the apparition was directly caused by the power of God, and not by the art of the magician. Others attribute it to the magic evocation of the pythoness. But while they differ as to the manner of the apparition, they agree as to the truth of it.

2. Some thought it was a phasm or fancied apparition of Samuel, but not Samuel himself, nor the demon simulating him. They said that this phantom was either immediately produced by God, or by angels, at His command.

3. Others, like Tertullian, St. Jerome, St. Basil the Great, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and many more, whose opinion appears probable to Natalis Alexander, say that it was not Samuel himself, but the demon representing or assuming his form, that appeared. These writers think that the demon deceived at the same time Saul and the pythoness.

4. Finally, there is another opinion which says that the whole thing was a fraud by which Saul was deceived. The diviner, while in fact she saw nothing, feigned to see Samuel. But Calmet, writing on the passage, says that this opinion is rash, dangerous, and contrary to the sacred text.

1 A diviner, or one who fortells future events, or discovers secret things by preternatural means, is sometimes called a python. He is so called because he was accustomed to deliver his answers after the manner in which the oracles of idols were delivered, and as the oracles of Apollo were the most famous, he is hence called a python. A diviner is also called a ventriloquist, because he used to endeavour to speak after the manner of ventriloquists. Some attain great perfection, without magic, in the art of ventriloquism. But the diviner or magician practises it with diabolic invocation, and under diabolic influence.