Friday, 31 July 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 23.

Hans Raphon Kristus v predpekli (1499).

VI. Other parts of the Scripture are in consonance with the article in the Apostles' Creed and the other passages heretofore quoted. For example, such is that verse of St. Paul to the Ephesians, (iv. 9.) where the Apostle says : " Now that He ascended, what is it, but because He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth." Such also is the passage in Ecclesiasticus (xxiv. 45.) which reads thus : " I will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth, and I will behold all that sleep, and will enlighten all that hope in the Lord." Many Fathers explain this passage of the descent of Christ into hell. Though it is not found in the Greek text, it acquires great value, because it may be taken as the tradition of the early Christians, who handed down this version, which they may have received from those who went before them; and also because it is found in the Vulgate edition. These passages are explained of the descent of Christ into hell; the first has evident reference to it.
They who refuse to admit that Limbo existed under the earth, shall not be able to evade the force of those arguments by saying that the soul of Christ descended Into hell, or the lower parts of the earth, by Its operation or Its effect, but not in Its sub stance. Nor do they improve their position, when they continue the objection, and pretend that the soul separated from the body, cannot exist in a place, unless by operation.

Bellarmine and Collet very deservedly condemn as erroneous, the notion of those who dream that the soul of Christ descended into hell or Limbo only by operation. I have said that this notion is deservedly condemned ; first, because if it be said that the soul of Christ descended into hell in effect, or by reason of Its having operated there, it should be likewise said that He was at the same time on earth, in the earthly paradise, in Limbo, and in heaven ; for in each of these places He produced some effect. He gave grace to men on earth, consolation to the prophets Henoch and Elias in the earthly paradise, glad tidings of their redemption to the souls of the ancient fathers in Limbo, and joy to the angels in heaven. Secondly, the soul of Christ descended in the same manner, that is, as substantially into hell, as did his body into the grave. For the Fathers and Councils speak in the same way, and employ the same language of His abode in hell, as they do of His abode in the grave. But His body did not descend into the grave by mere effect or metaphorically: it descended into it and dwelt there for three days, truly, properly, and substantially. So also did His soul, truly, properly, and substantially, descend into hell or Limbo, and dwell there for the like number of days.

But, even though it were granted that the soul of the Redeemer did not descend there in reality, and in substance—which would be false—but only by operation, this concession would not affect the existence of Limbo. If His soul descended there by operation, therefore Limbo existed. We cannot conceive a place, in fact it would be impossible for us to conceive it, in which the soul of Christ could operate, unless such a place existed. Therefore, those opponents of the existence of Limbo, who granted the descent there of the soul of Christ by operation, have by this fact admitted, though unintentionally, the existence of it.
As to the rider which they attach to their objection, that the soul after separation from the body can exist in a place only by operation ; we can retort that this would prove too much. It would p.rove that the souls of the blessed are not at present in heaven, and that the souls of the damned are not in hell. Many of those who deny the descent of Christ to Limbo would shrink from this conclusion ; or, at least, they would not like to go so far as to say that there are no souls at present in enjoyment, or suffering.

It would be gratuitous to assert, as has been done in the past, that a soul cannot be in a corporeal place, unless by some operation which it would per form there. There is no reason why a soul should not be in a place in its essence or substance. This is a finite thing; and as such is necessarily present in one place, and in no other, unless it may be constituted there by God. Moreover, the soul, while in the body, is in a place. And although it cannot while in this life be present in a place, otherwise than by an operation or movement dependent on the body, it can, however, after separation from the body, by the ordination of God and supernaturally, be present in a place, even on this earth, appear to, and address us; as Samuel was present at Endor, and appeared to, and addressed Saul.

Some, following St. Augustine, find another difficulty in the sixteenth chapter of St. Luke, where it is said, that there was a great chaos between the rich man, who was buried in hell, and Lazarus, who was reclining in the bosom of Abraham. The just of old after death were said to recline in the bosom of Abraham. But the bosom of Abraham, or the place where the just rested in the other life before the Ascension of Christ, was far removed from hell. A great chaos existed between the two places.

To clear away this difficulty, it should be held in mind, that the hell of the damned is far lower than Limbo. There is a great chaos between them, so that it is not allowed to pass from one to the other place. But this great chaos—this great gulf that exists between them, does not prevent both from being under the earth. The interior of the earth is quite large enough to admit a great chaos between two places in it.