4. Final Purification Melody: "God of Mercy and Compassion"
a) Is there Purgatory?
First of all purgatory is based on the awareness of the holiness of God:
"Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean." (Ps 24:3-4)
God is the infinite desire of the human heart and of such Holiness (Purity of Essence) that nothing imperfect can stand the brilliance of His Purity. See Cardinal Newman's insight into our imperfections.12
Second, we pray for the dead implies a belief in Purgatory. In 2 Maccabees, we read an interesting story. Judas Maccabeus went to bury the dead fallen in battle and discovered under their tunics amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia. Realizing that these men had been killed because they had disobeyed God's Law, they prayed that God would forgive these men. Judas Maccabeus took up a collection among his soldiers and sent it to Jerusalem for an expiatory sacrifice. "Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from their sins."(2Mac 12:46).
Third, Christ said, "Whoever says anything against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."(Mt. 12:32) The logical implication is that there is forgiveness in the world to come.
If the dead are in heaven, they do not need our prayers.
If the dead are in hell, our prayers cannot help them.
But, if they are on the path of purification, our prayers will shorten their sufferings.
b) What is the cause of suffering in Purgatory?
The first cause of the pain of Purgatory is an intense desire for God of whom they are temporarily deprived. Here Ps 12:2 gives appropriate expression to this longing:
"My soul is thirsting for God, the God of my life;
when can I enter and see the face of God?"
The second cause of pain is "real fire".
c) Is Purgatory a place? St. Thomas Aquinas sees an affinity between the Spirit World and the Corporeal World because the corporeal is ruled by the spiritual. "They are in place by contact of power, that is by their operation or, in the case of punishment, by their being acted upon."13
d) Is there real fire in Purgatory? In the universe we have experience of fire: 1) chemical fire caused by the rapid interaction between matter and oxygen and 2) atomic fire caused by the splitting or fusion of atoms and in both cases light and heat are the products (fire). 3) Fiery core of the earth caused by radioactive decay of Uranium and other Radioactive elements. Further ( E=mc2) helps us to realize the energy and matter are two aspects of the same reality. Therefore, it is possible to envision a fire which would be an interaction between matter and energy, a different fire from the ones we are familiar with, capable of holding souls in place. Purgatory, therefore, can be envisioned as an invisible dimension of the universe where matter/energy interact in such a way as to clothe souls in fire. St. Thomas Aquinas noted that the fire of hell [Purgatory] was different from fire as we know it because it does not need to be kindled or fueled.
e) But, how can a soul be burned? St. Thomas Aquinas observed that a spirit can be united to a body in two ways: 1) As the form of matter, 2) as a mover is united to the moved or as a thing placed is united to the place. Julian, Bishop of Toledo said: "If the incorporeal in a living man is held by the body, why shall in not be held after death by corporeal fire?" Further, Christ at the last judgment will say: "Out of my sight, you condemned, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devils and his angels" (Mt. 25:41). Now, spiritual entities have no bodies yet they are said to suffer the torments of fire. If this is true of angelic spirits, it will certainly also be true for human souls.