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Nicholas responded to my short essay on Christ teaching the doctrine of purgatory in the Gospel of Matthew.
It needs to be clarified in accord to Catholic theology that Christ has already paid the debt of our original sin; however, as exemplified by St. Paul in 1 Cor. 13, because we are still scarred by concupiscence we may need to cleanse ourselves of sin before entering into the Kingdom of Heaven.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, 11 for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. 15 But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.[1]


Nicholas claims that he proves a lack of clarity, of course, this is false. In regards to my prior post, I broke down Christ’s teaching in my eschatological assertion that according to Mt. 5: 5:23-26 that there will be an accuser, a judge, and price to be paid for not settling our sins here on earth. Now in the comments section, there was mention of Maccabees, but I wish to refrain from that point, as I did in the original essay for the reason that book is disputed within the canon between Protestants and Catholics. However, Luther and his contemporary reformers did keep the title in the appendixes as it does have value in understanding the beliefs of Judaism in the period.

Regardless, my response here is to disprove a lack of clarity, which as I claimed, Jesus says there will be an accuser, a judge, and penance (payment). Of course, for the purpose of showing clarity, it would be wise to seek the wisdom of the Church Fathers. I think here, as I am about to give a talk at my parish on various Church Father will state my introduction of said fathers:

““The Church Fathers are those great Christian writers who passed on and clarified the teaching of the apostles from approximately the second through the eighth centuries.”[2] I believe this to be a very distinct and thorough definition but if one is looking for a more generalized definition, Catholic Apologist provides a more generalized definition explaining, “In time, the concept (Church Fathers) came to be applied in a general way to those who shaped the faith and practice of the Church in its earliest centuries. They became “Fathers” not only for their own age but for all ages that would follow. Some of these—the ones who heard the preaching of the apostles themselves or lived very shortly after the time of the apostles—came to be called the “Apostolic Fathers” or “Sub-Apostolic Fathers.” Together with the Fathers of later ages, they were important witnesses to the apostolic Tradition.[3]

Also, as Chalcedon’s connection with John Henry Newman, as well as my budding respect for the man, I’ve included his view on the importance of what the Father’s claim:

“When they (the Church Fathers) speak of doctrine, they speak of them  as being universally held. They are witnesses to the fact of those doctrines having been received not here or there, but everywhere. We receive those doctrines which they thus teach, not merely because they teach them, but because they bear witness that all Christians everywhere then held them…they do not speak of their own private opinion; they do not say, ‘This is true, because we see it in Scripture’—about which there might be differences of judgment—but, ‘this is true, because in matter of fact it is held, and has ever been held, by all the Churches, down to our times without interruption, ever since the Apostles.”[4]


After stating the importance on the Church Fathers thought in forming orthodox Christian theology, it would be prudent to take a look at what they actually have to say about this passage, as proof that I’ve not created a supposition out of then air which lacks clarity in thought, as well as not all orthodox Christian theology is found jumping out of canon, but can be located in its subtleness. 

Fortunately, the great Saint, theologian, and scholar Thomas Aquinas has already compiled s document with views of Church Fathers in a commentary of the Gospels called Catena Aurea.

In regards to this particular passage: St. Augustine writes of the judge, which, of course, is the Son of God, The Christ Jesus:

Whosoever then shall not have been reconciled in this life with God through the death of His Son, shall be by Him delivered to the Judge, that is, the Son, to whom He has committed all judgment.[5]


In the comment section of the previous essay, as I was commenting during my breaks at work, and did not have the material readily available to make certain my assertions, I did error in regards to St. Ambrose speaking in regards to Mt. 5 23-24; however, the passage has a correlating passage in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 12:57-59 in which Ambrose does share his thoughts on the accuser. 

57 ¶“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper.”[6]

 For this particular passage, St. Ambrose writes, “Ambrose. Or our adversary is the devil, who lays his baits for sin, that he may have those his partners in punishment who were his accomplices in crime; our adversary is also every vicious practice. Lastly, our adversary is an evil conscience, which affects us both in this world, and will accuse and betray us in the next. Let us then give heed, while we are in this life’s course, that we may be delivered from every bad act as from an evil enemy. Nay, while we are going with our adversary to the magistrate, as we are in the way, we should condemn our fault. But who is the magistrate, but He in whose hands is all power? But the Magistrate delivers the guilty to the Judge, that is, to Him, to whom He gives the power over the quick and dead, namely, Jesus Christ, through Whom the secrets are made manifest, and the punishment of wicked works awarded. He delivers to the officer, and the officer casts into prison, for He says, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness. (Matt. 22:12.) And he shews that His officers are the angels, of whom he says, The angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; (Matt. 13:49.) but it is added, I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence till thou hast paid the very last mite. For as they who pay money on interest do not get rid of the debt of interest before that the amount of the whole principal is paid even up to the least sum in every kind of payment, so by the compensation of love and the other acts, or by each particular kind of satisfaction the punishment of sin is cancelled.[7]

Now there are several elements to tease out here.

#1 St. Ambrose indicates that Satan is the accuser of which Christ speaks. In fact, his protégé, St. Augustine admits it to be a possibility:
“Augustine. (Serm. in Mont. i. 11.) Let us see who this adversary is to whom we are bid to be benevolent, It may then be either the Devil, or man, or the flesh, or God, or His commandments. But I do not see how we can be bid be benevolent, or agreeing with the Devil; for where there is good will, there is friendship, and no one will say that friendship should be made with the Devil, or that it is well to agree with him, having once proclaimed war against him when we renounced him; nor ought we to consent with him, with whom had we never consented, we had never come into such circumstances,[8]


If one takes a closer look at Aquinas’ commentary, we do not find anything in regards to the payment in Matthew’s commentary. However, in regards to Luke’s passage, we find quite a bit from the Venerable Bede on the topic in which Bede writes:

“If I paid every man every thing, I come to the officers and answer with a fearless heart, “I owe them nothing.” But if I am a debtor, the officer will cast me into prison, nor will he suffer me to go out from thence until I have paid every debt. For the officer has no power to let me off even a farthing. He who forgave one debtor five hundred pence and another fifty, (Luke 7:41.) was the Lord, but the exactor is not the master, but one appointed by the master to demand the debts. But the last mite he calls slight and small, for our sins are either heavy or slight. Happy then is he who sinneth not, and next in happiness he who has sinned slightly. Even among slight sins there is diversity, otherwise he would not say until he has paid the last mite. For if he owes a little, he shall not come out till he pays the last mite. But he who has been guilty of a great debt, will have endless ages for his payment.[9]


Again, I must assert that logically “the prison” cannot be hell because In the context of Jesus’ words when one pays the penny, they will be released, the judgment of hell is final. Furthermore, I would hope that it being heaven is quite obvious. Now, as Nicholas has concluded, the early church understanding of these topics does provide substantial evidence for the practice of penance which would also indicate, albeit, I’ll admit, circumstantial evidence of state in which penance would be needed to purify the soul. I hold firmly that all of this is more than enough evidence to point to clear theological discourse of purgatory in the Gospels. And, in the sentiment of John Henry Newman, for one to conclude that there isn’t enough evidence, let that one also claim clear and precise theological evidence for the Holy Spirit in scripture. Of course, this is not to discount the person in the Trinity, it only serves as an example that one has to look for more textural imagery for some concepts.

[1] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), 1 Co 3:10–15.

[2] D’Ambrosio, 2.

[3] Jimmy Akin, The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church (San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers, 2010), 23.

[4] Dave Armstrong, Quotable Newman (Sophia Press: Manchester, 2012), 169-70.

[5] Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 1 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841), 182.

[6] The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), Lk 12:57–59.

[7] Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, 473.

[8] Ibid, 181–182.

[9] Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Luke, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 3 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1843), 474.

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