Today I'd like to look at one of the most understood doctrines of the Catholic Faith: Purgatory.
The doctrine of purgatory is something that a lot of non-Catholics struggle with, yet in a somewhat odd twist, it was actually one of the first Catholic doctrines I came to believe in during my journey back to the Catholic Church.
Unfortunately, purgatory is also one of those doctrines which also appears to be very poorly understood. The root of this doctrine lies in the fact that although we have been washed clean in baptism, we still sin. A lot of this is tied up with the reformed understandings of justification and sanctification.
Note here that it says these men were a€?justa€?, but they were afterwards a€?made perfecta€?.
From this we establish that, at judgment, people may a€?suffer lossa€? through fire, even though they will ultimately be saved.A  Whata€™s being described here doesna€™t sound like either heaven or hell a€“ it must be something else, a third option. I think this is particularly important to me because there is a rather bitter feud between two members of my family, both of whom are believers.
There is much more to be said about purgatory, but I will instead just touch upon praying for the dead.
Prayers are not needed for those who are in heaven and cannot help those who are in hell, so one can only conclude that these prayers must help those in a place other than those first two options. Now, most non-Catholics will not accept this as evidence since at the Reformation 2nd Maccabees and several other books were taken out of the Bible by the reformers (that's a blog entry for another time). The document then traces the story of Salvation History and how God revealed Himself to our first parents, Abraham, Moses and the prophets.
Then, quoting the Epistle to the Hebrews, it says "now at last in these days God has spoken to us in His Son" (Heb 1:1-12). This revelation was the final, definitive revelation and covenant and, despite what Mormanism and Isalm teach, "we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ". The next chapter examines specially how God's revelation of Himself has and is transmitted to mankind. This Sunday's Gospel comes from Matthew, Chapter 5, the section from the Sermon on the Mount known as "The Beatitudes".
Here Jesus gives us hope - hope that injustices of this world will eventually be made right by God. Jesus spent much of his ministry years speaking about the Kingdom of God and in the beatitudes we see the difference between the Kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God is the difference between night and day.
Today I would like to look at a word that is generally considered to be something of a dirty word in much of the Christian world: "Tradition". Even in the secular world, particularly in "young" countries such as the United States, the very word "Tradition" seems to conjure up for many people images of things antiquated, outmoded, out-of-date and out-of-touch.
When this mindset is brought into Christianity, it naturally assumes that "Christian tradition" is superfluous baggageA which has beenA accidentally accumulated over the course of Christian history. I have regularly heard the whole concept of "tradition" immediately and completely dismissed with this passage cited as justification. In fact, the production of the New Testament doesn't really seem to have been particularly high priority for the Early Church.


So this leaves us with the question: if you had lived during those early years, how would you have known the truth about God and Jesus Christ?
So, the book of Acts tells the story of this oral transmission from the Apostles and A Paula€™s letters also describe how this Tradition was a€?preacheda€? and a€?hearda€?. The English word a€?traditiona€? comes from the Latin which literally means a€?to pass ona€?.
Sacred Tradition would not have been a new concept to the first Christians as the idea has strong roots in Judaism.A  Rabbi Jacob Neusner has much to say about the oral Torah in his books about the Mishnah and the Talmud. You would expect the custodians of this living Tradition to be those whom the Apostles taught and to whom they entrusted their ministry. As you'll see from the categorization of this entry, this is an "apologetics" post since I am defending the use of the writings of the Early Church Fathers in demonstrating the historicity and veracity of the Catholic Faith. The problem with writing a defence of anything is that, even with the best will in the world, it's easy to still come across as though you're attacking those to whom you are responding. So, if you're reading this post and you feel that it comes across as Protestant-bashing then I'm truly sorry. On the occasions when I've been engaged in apologetics with non-Catholic Christians I've often mentioned the Early Fathers. A For example, I have often come across Catholics and ex-Catholics that seem to believe that hell is still possible for those in purgatory. Indeed, it's true - the word "purgatory" does not exist in the Bible, but then again, neither does "Trinity" or "Hypostatic Union", yet non-Catholics believe in both of those doctrines. A Although we have been infused with the Holy Spirit we still find sin attractive and have disordered desires ("concupiscence") and continue, at least to some degree, to place created things ahead of the Creator. A Indeed, the concept of there only being two options (heaven and hell) isn't compatible with Scripture itself ( 1 Peter 3:19). A I am sure that a particular work of God's grace is going to have to take place within both of them before they will be ready to worship in front of the same throne (Rev 21:27). A However, even if one were to degrade their status to "Apocrypha" then it at least demonstrates the Jewish practice of praying for the dead. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. A As God reveals Himself, He does this in both words and deeds, the deeds "manifest[ing] and confirm[ing] the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them". A This hope of future freedom gives slaves and prisoners new strength and, as Pope Benedict wrote, "The one who has hope lives differently" (Spe Salve #2). Those outside of Catholic and Orthodox worlds seem to generally consider "tradition" to be, at best, superfluous and, at very worst, "unbiblical".
Relying on earthly wisdom rather than on the Lord, they lived according to the world's standards, rendering their worship of God meaningless, simply lip-service and devoid of real faith. A During Jesus' ministry years, if you had wanted to know the truth about God where would you have gone?
A The first Pauline Epistle didn't appear for about 20 years; the first Gospel for about another 15 years after that, the last book another 35 years after that and it's hundreds of years before the canon is officially ratified by the Church. Paul who lived in Ephesus forA three years preaching and teaching, yet in the record of Sacred Scripture we just get one letter to that community of just six chapters.


A So when Jesus told them toA a€?preach the Gospela€¦teach all I have told youa€¦be my witnessesa€?they were commands to pass on Tradition.
A The Fathers were theologians (very early ones too) and as such, had personal opinions and made mistakes.
A Clearly, some kind of perfection must take place in us before we enter heaven because a€?nothing unclean shall enter heavena€? (Revelation 21:27). A Moreover He confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal.
A This is particularly important for anyone to understand the the Catholic viewpoint - Christ's commission was to go and teach, not to write a book that would exhaustively record everything He said and did. A We are told "in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, handing over to them the authority to teach in their place". I think most Christians, when they're reading any kind of commentary on Scripture, particularly if it's from the Gospels will skip over Scripture citations. Jesus promises rewards for the meek, satisfaction for those hungering forA righteousnessA and comfort for those who now mourn. A This is the same charge that Jesus brings against the Pharisees - they have just been going through the motions.
A "Apostle" literally means "sent" and this was what happened, they were sent to teach the world all that Jesus had taught them. A Jesus was the source of this sacred deposit and His Spirit would be the means (2 Tim 1:13-14). A However, where the fathers speak of what theya€™ve been taught, where there is consensus and when the fathers speak with one voice *then* we can say that ita€™s Tradition.
I can well believe that people neither much worse nor much better than I will suffer less than I or more. A This has happened every generation since, "and so the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time.
In their zeal they had become so focussed on the external practices of their faith that they had lost the very heart of it. A If one were trying to capture all that in written form, that's going to be a pretty big book!
A If it is just a lone voice and an opinion which is rejected by the rest, then it is not accepted by the Magisterium as Tradition.
Unfortunately, like Catholics, our separated brethren haven't read much of the Early Church Fathers either!
A It then goes on to introduce Sacred Scripture, saying "The commission was fulfilled, too, by the Apostles and apostolic men who under the inspiration fo the same Holy Spirit committed the message of salvation to writing". A Therefore the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter". A One of my hopes for this blog is that it will encourageA both groups to read the Fathers and learn more about our common heritage.



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