Thursday, 9 July 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 4.



It does not follow, from the words of Machabees, "For if he had not hoped that that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead," that the soul dies with the body and is raised with it to life again. The mind of the sacred writer is to prove, from the "resurrection of the body the immortality of the soul, which he says can be assisted by our prayers, if it is not free from every stain of sin. It was the custom . among the Jews to connect the dogma of the resurrection with the immortality of the soul. To admit one was to admit the other; and, on the other hand,, to deny one was to deny the other. , This was not unreasonable; for, as the soul is a part of man, it is only natural to conclude that the providence of God, Who disposes all things in the utmost order, would not oblige the soul to live for ever without the body, the partner of its labours. Hence, to prove the resurrection of the dead to the Sadducees, who denied it, our Lord uses these words of Exodus 3:6 " I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," to which He adds from Himself: " He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.'' (Matt, xxii., 32.) because the soul lives after the death of the body, (for He is the God of the living), He argues the resurrection. He supposes one dogma to follow the other, as did the Jews. The connection in this text is this: because He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose souls are not dead but living, the body shall rise again. In a similar sense St. Paul speaks when he says : " What doth it profit me if the dead rise not again ? Let us eat and drink, for to morrow we shall die."( I Cor. xv. 32.) The apostle tells us we may live like the impious, who have no faith in the resurrection, and clearly pre-supposes the soul to be mortal, unless the body rise again. For, if he presupposed the soul to be immortal without the resurrection, it would be for its eternal profit to lead a good life and to practice mortification. Hence Christ and His apostles speak on the hypothesis, as in use among the Jews, that the soul is mortal, unless the dead rise again ; and it is on the same hypothesis the historian of the Machabees writes, when he describes it to be superfluous and vain to pray for the dead without hope in their resurrection.

It will be of no advantage to those who dissent from the doctrine of Purgatory to say that the whole text, if canonical, would show that our prayers are also of advantage to those who die in mortal sin, as they for whom Judas wished to offer sacrifice died in this deplorable state. This conclusion is come to, because, " under the coats of the slain," were found "the donaries of the idols," which the Jews were forbidden to covet or appropriate. (Deut. vii. 25) In a word, it may be objected to us that the text proves too much, and consequently, according to the philosophical adage, that it proves nothing. The least reflection will show us how futile is this objection. What proof have we that those soldiers died in mortal sin ? They may have been in bona fide ignorance of the law prohibiting them from taking or appropriating such donaries. Or, if they were aware of it, they may have repented for their crime, when the vengeance of God overtook them and before they breathed their last. Moreover, it may be, that they took these things through mere avarice, which may be only a venial sin. It was the part of a charitable and pious man, such as Judas Macchabaeus, to presume that one or other of these excuses was in their favour and exempted them from eternal damnation.

II. Another proof of the belief in Purgatory in the Old Law is found in (Tobias iv. 17, 18) wherein is recorded the custom of giving alms for the dead. After saying: "Eat thy bread with the hungry and the needy, and with thy garments cover the naked ;" the " elder Tobias continues to exhort his son : " Lay out,, thy bread and thy wine upon the burial of a just man." What do these words mean ? Simply this :, after the death of a just man, give alms to the poor, that they may offer up their prayers to God in his favour. Tobias could not mean to have his son place bread and wine on his grave for the use of the just man himself. This was a Pagan custom which —we should not even suspect such a pious man to advise or encourage. If such a superstitious practice existed among the Jews in His time it would not have escaped the censure of our Divine Lord, Who so often reproved the Pharisees for lighter faults. The Fathers interpreted the words of Tobias in the same sense that we do. Let us instance St. Chrysostom, (Homil. 32, in Matt.) who asks: "Why do you call together the poor after the death of your friends ? Why do you, entreat the elders that they may pray for them ?" It was from a conviction that there was such a state as Purgatory, that the custom existed in the Church in olden times, according to which the relatives of a deceased person instituted a banquet, of which they sent some to the poor, to pray for his soul.

III. Our doctrine is further sustained by the words of Ecclesiasticus (vii. 37.) " Restrain not grace from the dead." This grace cannot be for the body of the dead, but for his soul; and how can it affect his soul but by wiping off its stains ? The sacred writer would have us afford the dead the benefit of our alms, prayers, and sacrifices ; and he wrote about two hundred years before Christ.