Some people build their lives upon the right "foundation"- faith in Christ, according to verse yet they live out that faith only in very imperfect ways. Their good works are mixed with many lesser sins, which is why St. Paul says their works consist merely of "wood, hay, or stubble. The works, therefore, "burn" up in that fire. In other words, they are condemned.
But of course, works cannot actually burn. That is why St. Paul clarifies in verse 15 that if any man's works "burn" he shall "suffer loss. Paul goes on to say "but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. That would imply that this passage is talking about the final judgment day, as the soul escapes the judgment of his works on the Last Day without being scorched by the flames of judgment himself.
But such is not the probable meaning of the passage, given the unanimous testimony of the western Fathers of the Church along with some of the eastern Fathers, as we shall see. Moreover, it is hard for the Protestant reading of this passage to make sense of verse "he shall suffer loss.
Are souls on the final judgment day to go weeping into heaven, suffering loss in the sense of penitential sorrow because of their imperfect works and imperfect repentance during their time on earth? There is no hint of such a spectacle on the Last Day in Scripture! It seems more likely that the traditional reading of the western Fathers is the correct one here: The passage refers not to the final judgment day, but to the particular judgment that each soul faces at the moment of death, as a preparation for the final judgment.
The "loss" that such imperfect Christian souls will "suffer" at their particular judgment is therefore their penitential sorrow at that time, mixed with ardent longing for God, as the soul is made to realize, in the light of God's particular judgment, that its earthly service of God, and its love for Him, was weak, partial, and compromised. Such are the purifying sufferings of souls in purgatory. Notice again, however, that these purgatorial sufferings are mentioned by St. Paul as a matter of divine judgment and justice, as well as a matter of purifying and salvation. There is a mystery here, indeed.
There seems to be an intermediate state after death where souls receive cleansing, purifying punishment after death, to make up their moral debt to God for their imperfect service and half-hearted repentance while on earth on the order of divine justice. And yet at the same time on the order of God's merciful love this state also heals and purifies the soul of its remaining spiritual defects, in order to prepare the soul for the joys of heaven!
And lest you think that this teaching is merely a peculiarity of the Latin-speaking Fathers of the Church, let me close this installment with some quotes from some of the ancient Fathers of the Greek-speaking east, who state or imply the same teaching. Take, for example, St. Cyril of Jerusalem 4th century : "By offering God our supplications for those who have fallen asleep, if they have sinned, we Notice that we are said by St.
Cyril to offer Christ in the Eucharist for the sins of the faithful departed, to render God "favorable" to them, in other words, to obtain the completion of their divine pardon. Saint John Chrysostom 5th century wrote in his Third Homily : "The apostles did not ordain, without good reason, a commemoration of the departed to be made during the celebration of the mysteries; for from it the deceased draw great gain and help. Why should our prayers for them not placate God, when besides the priest, the whole people stand with uplifted hands while the august Victim [that is, Jesus Christ in the Eucharist] is presented on the altar?
True, it is offered only for such as departed hence in faith. Finally, St.
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Maximus the Confessor 7th century wrote in his work Questions and Doubts page 90, : "Those departing this life not fully perfect must expiate that which is bad in their balance of good and bad as if by fire" the Greek here literally says, "as if they were being burned". All this should be evidence enough, from both Scripture and Sacred Tradition, that the teaching of the Church concerning purgatory includes both a "penal" and a "remedial" dimension. In other words, it involves both the clearing of our remaining moral debt to God and the final healing and sanctification of the soul on its journey into the Heart of Divine Love.
How can both of these things be true at once? In the old days, Catholic catechists sometimes so heavily emphasized the "penal" aspect of purgatory that it seemed a matter of divine justice alone, and not of God's merciful love I have even heard elderly friends tell me how their Catholic schoolteachers would threaten unruly schoolboys with lurid descriptions of the fires of purgatory! On the other hand, many contemporary presentations of the doctrine do not mention its "judicial" aspect at all. They view purgatory as just a happy place for getting cleaned up on the way to heaven!
The mystery of purgatory is deeper than either of these caricatures. We will continue next week to explore the wonder of purgatory, with the help of the saints, the Fathers, and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. We shall need to explore more carefully what this remaining "moral debt" to God might be that is taken away in purgatory, what the tradition means by the purifying "fire" of purgatory, how we can help the souls in purgatory, and what all this tells us about the merciful love of our Savior.
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When we use the phrase "The Divine Mercy" in prayer, do we know what or who we are actually talking about? Stackpole tries to clear up some verbal confusion here. Robert Stackpole finishes his stroll through the phrases used in the Chaplet, illuminating their meaning. All rights reserved. Skip to main content.
Marian Fathers. Part 2: The Mystery of Purgatory.
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Robert Stackpole's response to a Protestant student in one of his theology classes who recently asked him to defend the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. Read part one. By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD Oct 27, All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve that holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
The trouble begins, however, when we unpack what each side means by the nature of the "purification" that happens in this intermediate state between earth and heaven. The ecumenical Council of Lyons of , for example, defined that purification process as follows: If those who are truly penitent die in charity before they have done sufficient penance for their sins of omission and commission, their souls are cleansed after death in purgatorial or cleansing punishments.
In order that they be relieved from such penalties, the acts of intercession of the living benefit them, namely the sacrifices of the Mass, prayers, alms, and other works of piety which the faithful are wont to do for the other faithful, according to the Church's practice. Howard Edington. Torrey, Congregational evangelist and pastor. The greatest lack today is not people or funds. The greatest need is prayer.
The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ. Her whole existence then has a missionary character. Her conduct as well as her words will convince the unbelievers and put their ignorance and stupidity to silence.
Missions is the purpose of the church. It is rooted in the character of the God who has come to us in Christ Jesus. Thus, it can never be the province of a few enthusiasts, a sideline or a specialty of those who happen to have a bent that way. It is the distinctive mark of being a Christian. Simpson [ missionary hymns by Simpson ]. Marsh also attributed to Bobby Richardson. The command to go everywhere and preach to everybody is not obeyed until the will is lost by self-surrender in the will of God. Living, praying, giving and going will always be found together.
Missions of Fire and Mercy: Until Death Do Us Part
Stuart Holden. I would rather go and obey God than to stay here and know that I disobeyed.
It is not God who does not call. It is man who will not respond!
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He wills missions. He commands missions. He demands missions. He made missions possible through His Son. He made missions actual in sending the Holy Spirit. It may have been Dutch missionary Justinian von Welz Nearly years later, it was Hudson Taylor who really popularized the use of the phrase "Great Commission" to describe Matthew Page of missions slogans, classic scripture passages and faces from the "crowd of witnesses": PDF format. Never pity missionaries. Envy them [ more quotations ] What does God's Word say about missions? Christ's Great Commission in Matthew 28 is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Bible is chock-full of missionary material! When you use this material, an acknowledgment of the source would be appreciated.