Monday, 13 July 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 7.



I. ONE of the earliest of the Fathers whom we find speaking of Purgatory is Tertullian, who was born, a little after the middle of the second century, and died about the year 220. When speaking of certain apostolical traditions, he says: (Lib. de Cor., c. 3.) "We make yearly offerings (or sacrifices) for the dead, and for the feasts of the martyrs." Describing the duty of a faithful widow to her deceased husband, he says :(Lib. de Monog., c. 10.) " She prays for his soul, and begs repose for him and his company in the first resurrection, and offers (sacrifice) on the anniversary days of his death. For if she does not these things, she has, as much as lies in her, divorced him." From this we see that it was a public custom in the days of Tertullian to offer up prayer and sacrifice for the dead, and to impetrate eternal rest for them.

II. St. Clement of Alexandria, whose death is likewise assigned to the year 220, says (Strom, i. 7, pp. 794, 865.): that by punishment after death men must expiate the least sin before they can enter heaven.

III. Origen, in many parts of his works, (L. 5, Contra Cels., p. 242 ; Hom. 28 in Num. ; Hom. 6 & 8 in Exod , &c.) teaches that all souls are purified by fire before they enter y  heaven, unless they are so pure as not to need

IV. St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, and disciple of Tertullian, who laid down his life for the faith in 258, bears witness to the same doctrine. He makes mention (Ep, i., Ed. Oxon. See Fleury, t. 2, p. 273.) of the usual practice of offering sacrifice for every deceased Christian. He makes a distinction, however, in the case of martyrs, who do not need prayer or sacrifice, as martyrdom washes away not only all sin, but also all the temporal punishments due to it. "It is one thing to be cast into prison not to be released till the last farthing is paid, and another thing through the ardour of faith immediately to attain to the reward : it is very different by long punishment for sin to be cleansed a long time by fire, and to have purged away all sin by suffering." (Ep. Cypr. ep. ad. Antonian.)

Again, (Ep. 66, alias 17.) he uses the following language, as clear as the sky above us, in favour of Purgatory : " The bishops, our predecessors, decreed that no brother, when dying, should name a clergyman to the guardian ship or care of his property, and if anyone should do this, that there should not be an offering made for him, nor sacrifice celebrated for his rest : for he does not merit to be named at the altar of God in the prayer of the priests, who from the altar wished to draw away priests and ministers .... And there fore since Victor, contrary to the rule laid down for priests in the Council, has dared to constitute Geminius Faustinus, a priest, his guardian (administrator), let there be made by you no offering or prayer for his rest (dormitione)" These words speak as loud as a trumpet for the existence of Purgatory. They tell us that it was the custom to offer prayer and sacrifice for the dead ; and that, not today or yesterday, not in the sixteenth century, or the middle ages, but more than sixteen centuries ago, in the age of St. Cyprian, aye and long before it, from the very dawn of the Christian church, for he tells us that it was the custom in the time of the bishops who went before him.

V. Arnobius, an African philosopher, and a Convert from paganism, who lived in the end of the third century, speaks of the assemblies of the Christians as follows (Lib. 4 contra gent): " In these the supreme God is prayed to, peace and pardon are begged of him for kings, magistrates, friends, and enemies, both the living and those who are delivered from the body" Peace and pardon were not asked for the saints, who do not need them, nor for the damned, to whom they cannot reach. Therefore this peace and pardon were invoked on those who were in a middle state.

VI. Lactantius (Lactant. i., 7, Instit., chap. 21.) teaches that after death the soul has to be purified by fire, unless it may have been already purified.

VII. St Basil (In Psalm 7.)  whose period belongs to the third and fourth century", says ; " I consider that the active athletes of God, who have fought bravely with in visible enemies during all their life, when arrived at the end of life, shall be examined by the prince of the world, so that if they may be found to have retained either wounds after the contests, or any stains or relics of sin, they should be detained but if they may be found without wounds and stains, as victorious and free, they would be translated by Christ to rest. Therefore, David prays for the present and the future life" Then, according to St. Basil, whilst some are immediately translated by Christ to rest, more of the faithful are detained at the end of life. The latter are not detained for ever, since they were active athletes of God, who retained some stains or relics of sin, for whom, in the future life, prayer was offered up. Hence they are detained only for a while. But that place, in which the souls of the faithful are detained till they have expiated every vestige of sin, which is laid to their account at death, is what we call Purgatory. Again, in the same writer, or who ever may be the author of the treatise on the 9th chap, of Isaias, who was held for a long time to be St. Basil, we have not only the thing that is meant, but even the very name of Purgatory. He speaks of a sin that deserves " that the purgatorial fire may entirely feed on and devour it. "Lest there may be a doubt as to his meaning, he adds : " It does not threaten utter ruin altogether, but it means cleansing (innuit purgationem) according to the opinion of the Apostle : 'But he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.' " Here is Purgatory, which is nothing else than a place in which sin is devoured, not for the utter ruin of the sinner, but for the cleansing of sin. Thus he who dies with certain sins in his conscience shall be saved by fire.

VIII. St. Epiphanius, who lived in the fourth and the beginning of the fifth century, relates that when Aerius, a bad Arian priest, denied prayers for the dead, this heresy was condemned by the whole Church, and its author numbered amongst the heretics. Speaking (Haer.
75) on this subject, the saintly bishop says : " As to the rite by which the names of ours are pronounced, what can be more useful than it: what more opportune, or truly more worthy of admiration." Further on he says; "But the prayers that are offered up for the dead are useful to them . . . I say that the Church, which has received that rite handed down to it from our ancestors, of necessity per forms it." Behold a doctrine, than which there is nothing more useful, which the Church of necessity holds and practises, which, even in the fourth century, had come down from our ancestors, but which Protestants, if you except, perhaps, a few Ritualists, look at in the light of fiction.

IX. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in his instruction to Catechumens (Catech. 9, 5. 328) on the liturgy, tells them that they should pray for the emperor and all the living, that they should name the martyrs and saints to commend themselves to their prayers, and that then they should make mention of the faithful departed, to pray for them. "We remember," he says, "those that are deceased ; first, the patriarchs, apostles, and martyrs, that God would receive our supplications through their prayers and intercession. Then we pray for our fathers and bishops, and in general for all among us who are departed this life, believing that this will be the greatest relief to them, for whom is offered up the holy and tremendous victim which lies on the altar." These words were quoted by Eustratius in the sixth, and Nico the monk in the tenth century. St. Cyril illustrates the value of such prayer for the dead by the comparison of a whole nation who should, in a body, address their king in favour of some persons whom he may have banished, and, at the same time, offer him a crown. The holy father continues : " Will not he grant them a remission of their banishment ? We, in like manner, offering our prayers for the dead, though they are sinners, do not offer a crown, but Christ sacrificed for our sins, studying to render the merciful God propitious to us and to them."

X. The next, in the order of time, of the Fathers that we find speaking of Purgatory, is St. Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, whose death occurred in 397. With the approval and applause of the faithful, he often commended to God the souls of the emperors, Theodosius and Valentinian, and others. In his funeral oration on Theodosius—that great and mighty emperor—he prays in these words: " Give perfect rest to thy servant Theodosius, that rest which thou hast prepared for thy saints.'' (Da Requiem perfectam servo tuo Theodosio, requium illam quam praeperasti sanctis tuis.) " I loved him ;" he says, "therefore I follow him into the country of the living. Neither will I forsake him, till by tears and prayers I shall bring the man whither his merits call him, unto the holy mountain of the Lord." He speaks of most solemn obsequies and sacrifices for the dead, on the third, seventh, and thirtieth days after their departure. In his epistle to Faustinas, who indulged in immoderate grief at the death of his sister, he writes : "I do not think your sister ought to excite your tears, but your prayers ; nor that her soul is to be dishonoured by weeping, but rather recommended to God by sacrifices."

XI. St. Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople as is known to all the world, who ended his life in exile in 407, names it (De Sacerd. i., 6, p. 424, ed. Montfaucon.) amongst the grave and dread obligations of a priest, " that he is the intercessor with God for the sins both of the living and the dead'' In the third Homily,  (Chap, i., Epist. ad Philip, n. 4)  he says: " It is not in vain that this rule has been laid down by the apostolical laws, that the memory of those who are deceased should be made in the venerable and terrible mysteries. It was known that from this they had much gain, much utility ; for during that time in which the whole people stand with extended hands .... how shall we not appease God, praying for them. And this only with regard to those who have died in the faith. But the Catechumens are not worthy even of this consolation, but are destitute of every help, one only excepted. But what is this ? It is lawful to give alms to the poor for them, and from this they receive some refreshing." In the latter portion, he refers to the ancient discipline of his church, according to which it would not be lawful for her ministers to offer up, in her name, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, or her public offices, for those who died without baptism, or separated from her communion. It is allow able, however, to give alms for them, and to perform private acts of devotion in their favour. But this only on the supposition that they may have died in the friendship of God. In another Homily, (Hom. 41 or 51., in Epist. i ad Cor.) when inculcating what people should do in favour of the dead, St. Chrysostom says: "Help him, not by tears, but by prayers, supplications, alms, and oblations. For these have not been rashly devised; nor is it in vain that in the divine mysteries we remember the dead, appearing in their behalf, praying the Lamb who has taken away the sins of the world, that thence comfort may reach them. Nor is it in vain that he, who stands at the altar while the revered mysteries are performed, cries out: Let us pray for all those who have slept in Christ. Let us not fail to succour the departed ; for the common expiation of the world is offered." He adds : "These things are done by the ordination of the Spirit." Here, in eloquent language, we are taught our duty to the dead—we are taught to pray, to give alms, and to offer sacrifice for them: and this duty is laid upon us not by the invention, or self interest of man, but by the Spirit of God.

XII. " Other husbands," says St. Jerome, " strew violets, roses, lilies, and purple flowers on the tombs of their wives ; our Pammachius waters the holy ashes and venerated bones with the balm of alms . . . . knowing that it is written : as water extinguishes fire, so does alms, sin.'' So wrote St. Jerome, who died in 420, to one Pammachius on the death of Paulina, the wife of the latter. In his opinion, according to the teaching of his day, alms extinguishes the sins of the dead, as water extinguishes fire. He must refer to those who are in Purgatory alone; for in heaven there is no sin, whilst in hell there are sins, but they can never be extinguished.