What will Purgatory be like? I've often wondered about this very question and I think it's one worth pondering today, the Feast of All Souls.
From the Daily Roman Missal - "The Church, after celebrating the feast of All Saints, today prays for all who, in the purifying suffering of purgatory, await the day when they will join in their company. The celebration of the Mass, which re-enacts the sacrifice of Calvary, has always been the principal means by which the Church fulfills the great commandment of charity toward the dead. We can also relieve their sufferings through our prayers, suffrages, and penances. Even after death, links with our fellow travelers are not broken."
For this reflection on purgatory, we may do well to meditate on Heaven and Hell first.
In Heaven, we are told, we will spend eternity with God. In my own mind it is a never-ending Sunday. It is an eternal day of warmth and beauty. It is a time of great rejoicing and fellowship with those we loved on this earth and those we never knew but will. We may meet or be welcomed by those who, while we were on earth, we never expected to be there for God's mercy is boundless.
In Hell, we are told, we will spend eternity without God. Yet, not wholly without Him for that is part of the torment that we have chosen for ourselves. His loving presence will forever be there but out of our reach. In my own mind it is a never-ending night. It is a night of cold and lonesomeness. It is a night that absorbs all the senses. One may cry out but the sound will go nowhere. One may cry out a second time not remembering if he last cried out a mere second before or thousands of years ago.
In Purgatory, we are told, we will spend time being purified, our sins will be expurgated, separated from our souls. In my own mind it is a never-ending early morning. The sun has not yet risen but the pale light is beginning to grow over the distant horizon. It is both a place of great sorrow for sin and great joy at the promise to come. It contains, in a sense, Heaven and Hell. Joy and Sadness. Hope and Despair. Warmth and Coldness. Light and Darkness. In Purgatory we are like St. Peter in that time between the cock crow on Good Friday and the breakfast of fish with the Lord by the sea, by that charcoal fire (a subtle reminder). Purgatory is like that time between a sickness and recovery when the worst has passed, the suffering remains, but hope and healing grow.
The Feast of All Souls should not be a focus on death and darkness. Rather, it should be a focus on the Merciful Love of God. In his great goodness he allows those in Heaven to intercede for those of us still on pilgrimage through this "vale of tears." Their intercession strengthens and sustains us. In his great goodness he allows us to do the same for those in Purgatory.
Think of that! We have the ability to help those in Purgatory be released from that cold pre-dawn into the eternal light of Heaven. There are so many ways to help those who have gone before us like our friends, relatives, and even enemies. We can pray for them, offer our sacrifices for them and most importantly, as mentioned above, have Masses offered for them. Even after death, links with our fellow travelers are not broken.
Think of that! Those souls soaring into the eternal day then interceding for you and me before the throne of God. Those souls who are eternally thankful for our charity asking God for the graces we need to join them.
Yesterday we asked all of the Holy Angels and Saints to, pray for us! Today, the souls in purgatory echo that request! The cry out to you and me, "Pray for us!"
Today's Prayer after Communion from the Daily Roman Missal - Lord, in this sacrament you give us your crucified and risen Son. Bring to the glory of the resurrection our departed brothers and sisters who have been purified by this holy mystery. Grant this through Christ our Lord. AMEN!!!
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