Purgatory (Upddated

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  • 1.An Historical and Contemporary Analysis

2. BA, MA, MA, Ed. S. 3. The term Purgatory comes from the infinitive form of the Latin purgare, to purify. The belief in Purgatory is rooted in Roman Catholic tradition. It is this authors purpose to examine the teaching of the Church from its earliest beginnings, tracing its historical and theological development by the early Church Fathers, and the political influences which led to its codification as dogma in Church councils. 4. The concept of a place of purgation for souls whose lives have been morally mediocre should make sense philosophically for Christians. The reasoning is simple: A person, who, in his or her life has knowledge of Christs call to perfection (Matthew 5:48) and chooses not to heed that call wholeheartedly, enters into the next life hampered by a spiritual uncleanness. This state of the soul who has not rejected God totally demands cleansing. 5. Protestantism has dismissed the concept of Purgatory, due to its belief that Christs redemptive act on the Cross assures salvation for those who accept Christ as their savior. Protestantism generally rejects the effectiveness of good works as a necessary condition for salvation, focusing instead on faith in Christ and His love for those who accept Him. 6. Luther, in his famous 95 theses, questioned the abuses of indulgence-selling. On October 31, 1517 nailed 95 statements he wished theologians to debate to the castle door, which served as the black-board of the University of Wittenberg on which all notices and university functions were displayed. The same day he sent a copy of the Theses with an explanatory letter to Archbishop Albert (Albrecht) of Magdeburg and Mainz. 7. This is a picture I took of the door when I was in Luther-Stadt Wittenburg in 2005. 8. Later in his life, Luther espoused the doctrine of the sleep of the soul upon ones death, using this idea as a refutation of Purgatory and the veneration of saints. While Luther is not always consistent, the predominant note running all through his writings is that the souls of the just sleep in peace, without consciousness or pain. Luther initially accepted the belief in Purgatory. In 1519 he even said that its existence was undeniable. By 1530 he had changed his mind; he said that Purgatory could not be proven to exist from biblical passages. Later that year he rejected the concept of Purgatory entirely. 9. Catholicism, while considering the existence of Purgatory to be dogma, has, at least in its liturgy, moved away from earlier concepts of Purgatory as a temporary Hell to one of lesser concern for the ordinary member of the faithful. Purgatory is rarely, if ever, mentioned at wakes or funerals. In the official liturgical prayers, while implied, the term is never used. 10. The focus in the New Testament is the Good News of Jesus redemption found in the four gospels, as well as the Gospel of Resurrection found in the writings of St. Paul. The early Christian preachers, especially St. Paul, simply were not concerned with Purgatory. 11. In the Old Testament, prayer and sacrifice of expiation for the dead appear only in the last two centuries before Christ. Before this time no acts of worship directed toward the dead seem to have existed.The only OT passage that can be cited in support of the doctrine of Purgatory is 2 Mc 12.39-45. According to the text, when Judas Machabee and his men made arrangements for the fitting burial of the soldiers of his army who had died near Adullam, it was discovered that they had worn pagan amulets, contrary to the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law. 12. According to the traditional interpretation of this passage, the inspired author believed that those who had otherwise led good lives were purified by prayer and sacrifice from their sins. This essentially is the Catholic doctrine on Purgatory. If, however, as many modern exegetes hold, the author regarded these sacrifices as necessary for the eschatological resurrection of the dead soldiers, then these passages do not directly refer to the doctrine of Purgatory. 13. It would be St. Augustine (354-430) who would, among the Church Fathers, be especially influential in promoting the idea of Purgatory . Tertullian, Origen, Cyril, Basil, Cyprian, Ephram, Ambrose, John Crysostom, Caesarius of Arles, and Gregory the Greatall gave witness to the early belief in Purgatory. 14. St. Gregory (540-604) gives a concise argument in his Dialogues for the existence of Purgatory: Each one will be presented to the Judge exactly as he was when he departed this life. Yet, there must be a cleansing fire before judgment, because of some minor faults that remain to be purged away. 15. The period from Augustine and Gregory to the appearance of Dantes Divine Comedy in the 14th century was a time of stagnation in the development of the eventual existence of Purgatory as dogma with the Councils of Lyon II, Florence, and Trent. Stagnant as the development of the dogma of Purgatory was, it was also an age of imagination and creative thought, with ideas ranging from two hells to two heavens, to cleansing fire (not that of Hell) even after the Day of Judgment. A museum was even opened to house objects brought back from a cleansing place by visionaries during this period. (How these objects survived the cleansing fire is not clear!) 16. For a particularly thorough and impressive scholarly work on the growth of the concept of Purgatory, from the time of the early Church writers to the end of the 12th century, I recommend The Birth of Purgatory written in French by Jacques Le Goff, and translated into English by Arthur Goldhammer, published by the University of Chicago Press in 1986. 17. Catholicism split into two parts in a major development in 1054. Although there had always been an uneasy relationship between Christians in the Eastern Empire, with its capital in Constantinople (today Istanbul, Turkey), and the Western Empire, with its capital in Rome, an issue of how the Holy Spirit proceeded from the other persons in the Trinity (the filioque controvesy) plus a confrontation as to who held primal authority in the Christian church brought the Catholic church to its first major split since the Oriental Orthodox broke from the Church following the Council of Chalcedon in 451. 18. Patriarch Michael I Celarius of Constantinople had a letter written to a Eastern bishop which found its way to Pope Leo IX wherein the patriarch claimed the title ecumenical patriarch and referred to Pope Leo as a brother rather than father. The major issue Michael wrote about concerned the use of unleavened bread at the Eucharist, which practice had been approved by the pope. Legates from the pope were to meet with the dallying Michael, but Pope Leo died on April 19, 1054. Although the legates authority legally ceased at the popes death, on July 16, the three legates entered the church of the Hagia Sophia during the liturgy on a Saturday afternoon and placed a Bull of Excommunication on the altar. The legates left for Rome two days later, leaving behind a city in a frenzy. The papal bull was burned and the Great Schism began. 19. The filioque controversy preceded the excommunication. Filioque is a Latin word meaning and the Son which was added to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed by the Church of Rome in the 11th century. This inclusion in the creed regarding the Holy Spirit thus states that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Its inclusion in the Creed would seem to have been a violation of the canons of the Council at Ephesus in 431, which forbade and anathematized any additions to the Creed of the Council of Nicea, a prohibition which was reiterated at Constantinople IV in 879880. This word was not included by the Council of Nicea nor of Constantinople, and most in the Orthodox Church consider this inclusion to be heresy. However, a regional council in Persia in 410 introduced one of the earliest forms of the filioque in the Creed; the council specified the Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son. Coming from the rich theology of early East Syrian Christianity, this expression in this context is authentically Eastern. Therefore, the filioque cannot be attacked as a solely Western innovation, nor as something created by the pope. 20. Before his death, Leo IX sent a letter to Michael, in 1054, wherein he cites the "Donatio" to show that the Holy See possessed both an earthly and a heavenly imperium, the royal priesthood."Leo IX assured the Patriarch that the donation was completely genuine, not a fable, so only the apostolic successor to Peter possessed that primacy and was the rightful head of all the Church. 21. (Donatio Constantini) is a forged decree by which the emperor Constantine supposedly transferred authority over Rome and the Western part of the empire to the Pope. Composed probably in the 8th century, it was used, especially in the 13th century, in support of claims of political authority by the papacy. However, an Italian priest, Lorenzo Valla and Renaissance humanist, is credited with first exposing the forgery with solid arguments in 14391440. 22. As a general rule, all Eastern Christians do not use the word Purgatory. This includes both Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians. The word Purgatory is specific to the Latin tradition. In the Medieval West, many popular theologians defined Purgatory as a specific place of suffering. It was popular to tally periods of time that people spent in Purgatory for various offences, which led to the practice, prior to the 95 theses of Luther, of granting years, if not centuries, of exemption from time spent in Purgatory through the purchase and granting of indulgences. 23. In the Catholic understanding, two points are necessary dogma concerning Purgatory. 1) There is a place of transition/transformation for those en-route to Heaven. 2) Prayer and good works (including almsgiving) are efficacious for the dead who are in th