Thursday, 16 August 2012

Teresa Higginson on judgement and purgatory: Part III

Continuing from the previous letter to Fr. Powell on purgatory:

Bootle, December 19th 1880
In honour of the Seat of Divine Wisdom I will try to put clearly before you what I understand concerning those truths you told me to ask our dear Blessed Lord about.
In the two previous letters which I have written I appeared to contradict myself and thus raised a theological difficulty by saying in one that all guilt of sin was remitted by the last act of the will, and in the other that when a soul saw herself in God she then detested them, I mean her sins and imperfections, and by that act of perfect charity all the sin was remitted.  You told me also to ask our dear Lord Jesus Christ how in the cases of persons who die in an unconscious state and are not able to make an act of contrition.

And this is what I understand, that no person ever dies without having a full consciousness to detest sin, that when all the earth has faded away from the soul, before its entire separation from the body, sees its true position and knows all that is revealed of God, and in this knowledge (which light was purchased by the darkness our Lord endured in His last moments) she renounces sin which she sees is the only thing which can keep her from at once possessing and enjoying God, who alone is worthy to be loved and desired.

With time all merit so far as we are concerned ends; when the soul leaves the body the will has no more freedom: it is passive, it wills or desires nothing but what God ordains, but the act of sorrow and the desire of God is mostly excited through a selfishness, I mean because she sees her loss and mourns over the cause of it; and through the infinite merits of the Redemption these wounds are healed, and when healed God shows them to the soul that she may know and see on her entrance into eternity why she is to suffer, and after that she no more looks to herself or her sufferings nor the reasons of them, for if she were to behold them she would be driven to despair; but these imperfections and weaknesses which are in the soul are not sins but the effect of sins: they are as it were so much rust that covers over the real metal and which is burnt off it (the soul) in the furnace of divine love.

So in like manner through neglected graces and not trying really to know God here, the soul is enveloped in a mist or fog or veil, which prevents to light of God actually shining in the soul, and the soul being weak (as a person with sore eyes cannot look at the sun) so the soul feels her weakness and unfitness to enjoy God and stand in the light of His dazzling Beauty and awful Purity.  And if she were compelled to remain thus, a dreadful condition would be hers, for a pain more terrible than many purgatories would arise within her.

O how the holy souls admire the mercy and love of God in allowing them thus to suffer in the fire of purgatory, and the greater the knowledge and love of the good God, the more intense their longing and the greater their pain; yet these unutterable pangs do not prevent them enjoying a most holy peace and an excessive joy, which is not prevented by their suffering, and as the mist and rust is cleared off the soul and the light of God shines in more powerfully, the greater the impetuosity within the soul.  And the fire does not lesson their suffering, nor indulgences nor prayers nor alms nor even the Holy Sacrifice: it only diminishes the time of duration, if we may call it time beyond the grave.  For the purer the soul becomes the more clearly it see and knows and therefore enjoys God, and this love which consumes it is the great cause of pain, I mean the more it loves the greater it suffers.  O my Father there are not words to express what I would say.

Then with regard to the other question: how it is by the act of perfect Charity which the soul makes on beholding God in the essence of His infinite perfections it is not freed from all punishment, as our holy Mother the Church teaches in an act of perfect contrition remits not only sin but also punishment due to it.  So it does if it is made while we have the power of free will, that is before death; but after death we cannot merit, no more than we can sin.  And it is this very charity with the knowledge of imperfection in the soul that makes up its purgatory, and as soon as the impediment which hinders God from shining in the majesty of His glory into the soul is removed, then though she were left in purgatory it would cease to cause any pain, for she would have attained that purity which God had given her at Baptism.

If I have not answered all I will do so again...

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