Author Topic: Purgatory or Something Like It  (Read 11728 times)

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Offline Linus7

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Purgatory or Something Like It
« on: December 17, 2003, 11:30:27 PM »
This is a confusing topic for me.

What are we Orthodox to believe?

I know this topic has probably been treated ad nauseam here. I wanted to bring it up again because of the following from the 1672 Orthodox Confession of Dositheus:

Decree XVIII

We believe that the souls that have fallen asleep are either at rest or in torment, according to what each hath wrought; - for when they are separated from their bodies, they depart immediately either to joy, or to sorrow and lamentation; though confessedly neither their enjoyment, nor condemnation is complete. For, after the common resurrection, when the soul shall be be united with the body, with which it had behaved itself well or ill, each shall receive the completion of either enjoyment or of condemnation  forsooth.
And such as though involved in mortal sins have not departed in despair, but have, while still living in the body, repented, though without bringing forth any fruits of repentance - by pouring forth tears, forsooth, by kneeling while watching in prayers, by afflicting themselves, by relieving the poor, and in fine by showing forth by their works their love towards God and their neighbor, and which the Catholic Church hath from the beginning rightly called satisfaction - of these and such like souls depart into Hades, and there endure the punishment due to the sins they have committed. But they are aware of their future release from thence, and are delivered by the Supreme Goodness, through the prayers of the Priests, and the good works which the relatives of each do for their Departed; especially the unbloody Sacrifice availing in the highest degree; which each offers particularly for his relatives that have fallen asleep, and which the Catholic and Apostolic Church offers daily for all alike; it being, of course, understood that we know not the time of their release. For that there is deliverance for such from their direful condition, and that before the common resurrection and judgment we know and believe; but when we know not."[/b]

Sounds a lot like Purgatory.

What do you all think?

Dositheus was a 17th-century Patriarch of Jerusalem.

I realize bringing up this topic is risky for me, since I have recently spent some time arguing for the primacy of St. Peter and his successors and am now probably under suspicion for being a closet RC.

Honestly, though, I have no agenda to push here. I am wondering what we are supposed to believe happens after death.

If there is some kind of Purgatory, I am afraid I will probably be stuck there for a long long time!

Do me a favor, everyone. If you recommend a book to me, please post a distillation of its contents. There are so many books I want to read that whatever you recommend will likely be way down on my waiting list, and I am interested in a more immediate collection of thoughts on this issue.

Thanks!  ;D
« Last Edit: December 17, 2003, 11:31:35 PM by Linus7 »
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Offline Anastasios

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2003, 11:45:16 PM »
A good book is Life after Death by Met Hierotheos.

The Orthodox Church does not teach a form of purgatory but does clearly teach that we do not enter heaven or hell until the final judgment, hence we are in a waiting place until then, and perhaps our state could be changed.  Also, progression towards God is infinite and we are never "filled" but always growing more and more into God (theosis) so prayers can help that way.  Also, prayers can help lessen the suffering of people in hell, becuase hell is not a static place lacking God but rather a place where people realise God's love as their rejection of it.  Once in hell, always in hell, but perhaps less pain.

If you wnat to know why in the 17 century the Orthodox Church leened towards either Protestantism (Lukaris) or Catholicism (Moghila, Council of Jerusalem, etc) instead of forming theology in its own context, I suggest you read the book Eustratios Argenti by Kallistos Ware, which you can get via interlibrary loan from your local public library.

anastasios
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Past posts reflect stages of my life before my baptism and may not be accurate expositions of Orthodox teaching. Also, I served as an Orthodox priest from 2008-2013, before resigning.

Offline Linus7

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2003, 12:04:48 AM »
Thanks, anastasios.

I read somewhere that the confessions of Dositheus and Peter Moghila were written in response to Protestantism.

Are you saying Dositheus' account of the intermediate state is inaccurate and represents an aping of RCism?
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Offline Byzantino

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2003, 12:10:33 AM »
I really doubt it refers to Purgatory because the Orthodox refuted such a doctrine at Ferrara-Florence a few centuries earlier. I think rather it's saying that the souls of those in the part of Hades reserved for the impenitent and unrighteous can "cross over" to the place of the blessed.
I have a book by Elder Cleopa Ilie who said the same thing, which to my knowledge is very wrong; there is no second chance after death.

I was stuck on this issue too but as usual the Fathers came to the rescue. The idea of a purifying fire after death was held by a very small handful of Fathers (St. Cyprian and Pope St. Gregory the Great are the only two I can think of) The overwhelming majority held to the belief expounded by Christ in Luke 16:19-31, Abraham's bosom. St. Irenaeus used it against the Gnostics to refute re-incarnation, Tertullian wrote about it and also refuted the idea of any "crossing over," so too did Hippolytus, who clearly set out the doctrine of the state of the dead and says nothing about a "purgatory." I found the Orthodox stance to be in line with the Fathers on this doctrine.


Offline Linus7

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2003, 12:23:46 AM »
I really doubt it refers to Purgatory because the Orthodox refuted such a doctrine at Ferrara-Florence a few centuries earlier. I think rather it's saying that the souls of those in the part of Hades reserved for the impenitent and unrighteous can "cross over" to the place of the blessed.
I have a book by Elder Cleopa Ilie who said the same thing, which to my knowledge is very wrong; there is no second chance after death.

I was stuck on this issue too but as usual the Fathers came to the rescue. The idea of a purifying fire after death was held by a very small handful of Fathers (St. Cyprian and Pope St. Gregory the Great are the only two I can think of) The overwhelming majority held to the belief expounded by Christ in Luke 16:19-31, Abraham's bosom. St. Irenaeus used it against the Gnostics to refute re-incarnation, Tertullian wrote about it and also refuted the idea of any "crossing over," so too did Hippolytus, who clearly set out the doctrine of the state of the dead and says nothing about a "purgatory." I found the Orthodox stance to be in line with the Fathers on this doctrine.



Please allow me to play "devil's advocate" and realize that I am seeking to learn here; I have no hard position on Purgatory.

Here's a quote from the book, Mark of Ephesus and the Council of Florence, by Orthodox writer Constantine S. Tsirplanis:

"From the Greek as well as from the Latin statements related to Purgatory, it is clear that both Churches, Greek and Latin, basically agree there is a middle state of souls after death . . . It is evident particularly from Mark's own replies, that the Greeks did not consider Purgatory an issue serious enough to divide the two Churches. As a matter of fact, even the Greek prelates at Ferrara-Florence disagreed among themselves over the question of Purgatory . . . One should remember that the Greek prelates in general were unprepared for the Purgatory disputes; that even today there is no official doctrine on Purgatory in the Eastern Church" (Quoted in James Likoudis' The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy, pp. 169-170; underlining mine).

I have also read the Elder Cleopa's book. I really like it. Unfortunately, a friend borrowed my copy and has not yet returned it!

So, is Purgatory (or something like it) a matter of opinion in the Orthodox Church or a matter of dogma that has been defined one way or the other?

Seems like the former from what I have seen so far.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2003, 12:26:03 AM by Linus7 »
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Offline Byzantino

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2003, 12:37:30 AM »
I've seen quite a different account about the discussion between St. Mark of Ephesus and the Latins at that Council from another source, where the Orthodox present gave a brilliant exegesis of 1 Cor 3:15.

It'd be good to to see the entire quote by Tsirplanis, although I have read the documents on James Likoudis' webpage in support of the RC position on a number of issues and I don't find him reliable. I came across the same misrepresentations and downplaying of facts unfriendly to RC that are common among the works of other RC internet apologists. He quotes from spurious Canons to support the idea of papal supremacy, downplays the influence of the pseudo-Isidoreans and "Thesaurus of Greek Fathers" and judges Orthodoxy through RC lenses, which basically amounts to us being semi-Protestant schismatics.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2003, 12:49:14 AM by Byzantino »

Offline Byzantino

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2003, 12:40:13 AM »
Also the idea of purgatory doesn't meet the criteria espoused by St. Vincent of Lerins in determining truth from heresy: only what has been believed everywhere, always, by all (quod ubique, quod semper, quad ab obnibus creditum est.)

Offline Anastasios

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2003, 01:30:07 AM »
Byzantino,

No, it is absolutely true that one could cross over from the waiting place for hell to that of heaven because God can do what he pleases.  There is no second chance, but there also is God's mercy.

anastasios
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Past posts reflect stages of my life before my baptism and may not be accurate expositions of Orthodox teaching. Also, I served as an Orthodox priest from 2008-2013, before resigning.

Offline Byzantino

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2003, 02:16:40 AM »
Quote
No, it is absolutely true that one could cross over from the waiting place for hell to that of heaven because God can do what he pleases.  There is no second chance, but there also is God's mercy.


I'm confused...can you clarify for me? If the Fathers say there's no confession in Hades, how can they cross over to Heaven? Does it mean that some will not know their fate until the Final Judgement?

Thanks!


Offline Byzantino

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2003, 02:19:43 AM »
"In Hades there is no repentance....So while the way ofmercy is open, brethren, let us entreat God with full atonements." (Cyprian adv. Novatian.)

I think i see what you're saying...it's up to God.

Offline prodromos

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2003, 05:49:02 AM »
I think that one of the biggest problems with purgatory is how closely tied the doctrine is/was with the practice of selling indulgences. I think we would all agree that indulgences are not in line with Orthodox belief.

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Offline Byzantino

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2003, 05:56:40 AM »
I always wondered why there were no quotes from the early Fathers on the doctrine of indulgences.

Offline Father Peter

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2003, 06:07:03 AM »
Isn't it the case - and I'm willing to be contradicted - that in the Orthodox conception there is the idea of a certain refining, even purifying, after death, not as a fully developed purgatory but as a concept.

Even that is, I guess, a theological opinion in the Fathers rather than a doctrine.

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Offline Linus7

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2003, 08:59:06 AM »
Also the idea of purgatory doesn't meet the criteria espoused by St. Vincent of Lerins in determining truth from heresy: only what has been believed everywhere, always, by all (quod ubique, quod semper, quad ab obnibus creditum est.)

Are we sure it doesn't meet St. Vincent's criteria? It certainly seems a whole lot of Christians believed (and believe) in some sort of refining process after death.

I must admit that I need to study this subject. I was hoping there was a readily available, definitive Orthodox answer; that was what was so neat about the Confession of Dositheus, which I gathered from Pelikan was a generally accepted Orthodox confession.

I can't go for the whole indulgences thing and, frankly, am not interested in it.

I am interested in whether or not there really is the sort of middle state after death described by the Patriarch Dositheus in his confession.
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Offline Αριστοκλής

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2003, 01:02:35 PM »
The following is my personal belief of what Orthodox eschatological teaching is based on my gleanings over the years. If I err, I am sure my brethern will not withhold correction.
Upon death of the physical body (also called "sleep") the soul of the departed proceeds to a time-place (which I shall call a 'state') where it is preliminarily judged by its actions and faith while 'alive with the body' and then provisionally assigned a reward or punishment based on that judgement. This 'state' (I believe) is the 40 days following death - hence the period of prayer for the departed souls with which we are all so familiar.
Those deemed to a reward "go to heaven", those meriting punishment "go to hell" where each enjoys only a FORETASTE of the rewards or punishment so earned in life on earth. The term 'foretaste' is used in that the soul, being separate from its body, is not able to experience the FULLness of heaven or hell. The soul experiences the reward "in part"
AFTER the Second Coming of our Lord, when all bodies are resurrected and the soul rejoined with its body, the final terrible judgement, The Last Judgement, is render by Christ and those in hell then experience the full blast of fiery hell and those in heaven are able to fully perceive the Glory of the Lord (theosis). This is Christ's judgement and His mercy at that time is besought by our prayers.
It also follows that there is no cross-over in this preliminary heaven or hell (parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man), but as Final Judgement has not yet been rendered, we continue to pray for the departed (in either 'place') both directly and through the intercessions of the saints and the Theotokos.
As to the initial 'state' (which I have assumed is the first 40 days) when the preliminary judgement is rendered, I believe this is where the Slavic traditions place their "aerial toll-houses". The Greeks do not teach this, but I have been told by both Greek and Russian priests that I MAY believe in them. They are not dogma- if that's the right term.
Now, I know our friend Serge has often used the terms "upper and lower" hell, and he likens the upper to "purgatory" (I think that's what he does, apologies if I'm wrong here) and he holds it is the Orthodox version of the Roman Catholic purgatory. Indeed many pre-Christian Hellenic terms were used to describe Christian teaching to the Hellenistic peoples of the day and "Hades" is one of them; but I believe the term is used to describe only the forestate time/place. The soul really is in hell, but not able to feel the full punishment yet. The soul really is in heaven but not able to perceive the Lord in full Glory. This does not define a separate "place" to me.
As is stated by our Lord, "there are many rooms in the house of My Father" leads one to PERHAPS believe in some 'degrees' of heaven and hell both - some type of purgatory-in-existence, but not "place". I much prefer the reduced or not-yet-full experience of the "Foretaste" instead of yet more separate (and speculative) "places". In fact I believe this idea of separate place(s) is the basis of Latin purgatory. But I've not studied the Roman Caths teaching as the Orthodox is clear to me.

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Offline Linus7

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #15 on: December 18, 2003, 05:00:41 PM »
Aristokles -

So, as I understand it, you are saying that Serge would probably agree with the quote from the Confession of Dositheus above, but you would not.

Right?

None of the souls consigned to punishment have any hope of release?

I am not arguing. I really don't have a position on this issue. I'm just trying to acquire one.
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Offline prodromos

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #16 on: December 18, 2003, 05:42:49 PM »
Something that you might find of interest.

The English word "cemetery" comes from the Greek word "+¦+++¦++++-ä+«-ü+¦++", the root of which is "+¦+++¦+++¼+++¦+¦" (sleep)

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Offline Byzantino

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2003, 07:27:52 PM »
I've found that this quote from Hippolytus mirrors what many of the other Fathers had to say on the afterlife:

"Now we must speak of Hades, in which the souls of both the righteous and the unrighteous are detained. Hades is a place in the creates system, rude, a locality beneath the earth, in which the light of the world does not shine. And since the sun does not shine in this place, there is necessarily perpetual darkness there. This place has been destined to be, as it were, a guardhouse for souls. The angels are stationed there as guards distributing temporary punishments for characters, according to each one's deeds. And in this locality there is a certain place set apart by itself, a lake of unquenchable fire, into which we suppose no one has ever yet been cast....But the righteous (who will obtain the incorruptible and unfading kingdom) are indeed presently detained in Hades, butnot in the same place with the unrighteous. For to this locality there is one descent, at the gate of which we believe an archangel is stationed with an army. And when those who are conducted by the angels who are appointed unto the souls have passed through this gate, they do not all proceed down one and the same path. Rather the righteous are conducted in the light toward the right. Andbeing hymned by the angels stationed at the place, they are brought to a locality full of light. And there all the righteous persons from the beginning dwell. They are not ruled by any necessity. Rather, they perpetually enjoy the contemplation of the blessings that are in their view. Also, they delight themselves with the expectation of other blessings, ever new. In fact, they consider the new blessings as ever better than the first ones. And that place brings no labours for them. In that locale, there are neither fierce heat, cold, nor thorns. But the faces of the fathers and the righteous are seen to be always smiling, as they wait for the rest and eternal revival in heaven that follow this location. And we call this place by the name of "Abraham's bosom."

However the unrighteous are dragged toward the left by angels whoare ministers of punishment. These souls no longer go of their own accord. Rather, they are dragged as prisoners by force. And the angels appointed over them hurry them along, reproaching them and threatening them with an eye of terror, forcing them down into the lower parts. And when the souls are brought there, those appointed to that task drag them on to the vicinity of Gehenna. And those who are so near [to Gehenna] hear incessantly its agitation, and they feel the hot smoke. And when that vision is so near, as they see the terrible and excessively glowing spectacle of the fire, they shudder in horror at the expectation of the future judgement, already feeling the power of their punishment. And again, when they see the place of the fathers and the righteous, they also suffer punishment merely from seeing this, For a deep and vast abyss is set there in the midst, so that neither can any of the righteous in sympathy think to cross it, nor do any of the unrighteous dare to cross it.

I think I have said enough on the subject of Hades, in which all souls are detained until the time that God has determined. And then He will accomplish a resurrection of all - not by transferring souls into other bodies - but by raising the bodies themselves." (Hippolytus of Rome - Discourse on Hades, quoted from A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, by David Bercot.)



"Regarding the illusive purgatory of the Roman Catholics, neither evidence nor testimony exists in Holy Scripture or in the Holy Tradition to support such a teaching. Holy Scripture makes clear only two places: paradise and hell. In the Tradition of the Holy Fathers purgatory is not accepted. For example, St. Anthony the Great says: "It is foolishness for someone to believe that there exists a third place in the other life." While St. Augustine writes: "There does not exist any intermediary place, for when someone is not with Christ it is impossible for him to be in any other place except with the devil." Furthermore, we know that the Fifth Ecumenical Synod of Constantinople condemned Origen, Didymus the Blind and Evagrius Ponticus for their teaching that the future torments and punishments will have an end. If the Church had some knowledge of the existence of purgatory wouldn't She have then made mention of it as an exception apart from of the existence of heaven and hell?" (Elder Cleopa of Romania: The Truth of Our Faith, p. 131.)

Offline Linus7

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2003, 10:46:23 PM »
Good post, Byz. I have read The Truth of Our Faith several times. It's a great book.

What did St. Augustine mean by the following quote?

"Some will be saved through a purifying fire; for a long or short period depending on the extent to which they were attached to things which do not endure" (Enchiridion, 1, Chapter 68).

Or St. Basil the Great?

"When God delivers the spirit from earthly attachments by his avenging fire, it is a benefit for the soul . . . God does not threaten it with utter ruin, but he indicates the soul's purification, according to the words of the Apostle: 'If any man's work is burnt up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire' " (Commentary on Isaiah, 10:20).

St. Maximus wrote the following in his Questions and Doubts on the Church, the Liturgy, and the Soul of Man (Question 10):

"This purification does not concern those who have arrived at a perfect love of God, but those who have not reached complete perfection, and whose virtues are mixed in with sins. These latter will appear before the tribunal of judgment, and, following an examination of their good and evil actions, they will be tried as by fire; their bad works will be expiated by just fear and pain."

Perhaps we are not talking about a third place but rather a middle state, which consists of a fiery trial of unknown duration, but which duration depends on the individual and his or her works.
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Offline Byzantino

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #19 on: December 19, 2003, 12:05:00 AM »
Linus,

Perhaps it's the same divine "purifying fire" that purifies us during this life? Just an opinion. I just find all those passages and quotes that I used to use to defend Purgatory to be unconvincing and quite shallow. I see it as a fruit of the legalistic theology of "satisfaction" and psyche of the Latin medieval world. Even if the Patristic quotes you provided do give credence to a Latin purgatory, we can hardly say that such beliefs were across the board; isolated instances can be found of all sorts of beliefs - Hilary, for instance, strongly opposed anyone who believed the Theotokos remained a virgin after giving birth to Christ. The earliest Fathers, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, touched on the topic of the afterlife in a good number of treatises, none mention anything about a purgatory.

I understand that there are different levels of the vision of God in the next life. The purer soul sees God more fully; some will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven, some will be least, as Christ said. So we offer our prayers so that God may increase the glory of some and ease the pains of others.

One of the things I love about Orthodox theology is its apophatic approach - we can say what isn't, not only say what is. :)
« Last Edit: December 19, 2003, 12:06:54 AM by Byzantino »

Offline Linus7

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #20 on: December 19, 2003, 12:16:33 AM »
I kind of wish we could get away from the idea that we have to choose between the Latin idea of purgatory and nothing.

Isn't there another, an Orthodox, alternative?

It seems the Fathers, at least some of them, speak of a "purifying fire" through which those of us who are less than perfect will have to pass. From what I can see, they say that the duration of this fiery trial depends on the state of the individual who is subjected to it.

That's kind of like purgatory, but not exactly the same thing, and not necessarily a third place. And it certainly says nothing about any strange "indulgences" or things like that.

It would also make sense of the portion of The Confession of Dositheus that I quoted in the OP.
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Offline Anastasios

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #21 on: December 19, 2003, 12:26:52 AM »
I kind of wish we could get away from the idea that we have to choose between the Latin idea of purgatory and nothing.

Isn't there another, an Orthodox, alternative?

It seems the Fathers, at least some of them, speak of a "purifying fire" through which those of us who are less than perfect will have to pass. From what I can see, they say that the duration of this fiery trial depends on the state of the individual who is subjected to it.

That's kind of like purgatory, but not exactly the same thing, and not necessarily a third place. And it certainly says nothing about any strange "indulgences" or things like that.

It would also make sense of the portion of The Confession of Dositheus that I quoted in the OP.

I just don't get why you think there needs to be an alternative? I mean, so what if they have something extra.  Doesn't mean we need it.

There is heaven and hell, and the "vestibules" or "waiting chambers" of each, which are not separate "places."

Purification for those in heaven continues forever.  You don't get purified THEN enter heaven like Latins teach; no, you are continuously purified.

There is no satisfaction to be offered, either.  When your sins are forgiven, they are forgiven.  You don't have anything owed to God.  You do have to be purified in your mind (nous) but that is an ongoing, and eternal, process.  The more you purify yourself in this life, the more you will experience God's love in heaven.

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Past posts reflect stages of my life before my baptism and may not be accurate expositions of Orthodox teaching. Also, I served as an Orthodox priest from 2008-2013, before resigning.

Offline Anastasios

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #22 on: December 19, 2003, 12:28:24 AM »
"The saved as through fire" verse in Corinthians just means that if you are working against God (as all sinners are) your work may be burnt up and revealed to be nothing, while you might be saved by God's grace, but only through being tested and being graced.  The point is, try to leave behind a legacy of works in the Lord.

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Offline Linus7

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #23 on: December 19, 2003, 12:39:34 AM »
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anastasios: There is no satisfaction to be offered, either.  When your sins are forgiven, they are forgiven.  You don't have anything owed to God.  You do have to be purified in your mind (nous) but that is an ongoing, and eternal, process.  The more you purify yourself in this life, the more you will experience God's love in heaven.

Fair enough. But maybe the fire isn't for satisfaction but rather for purification.

Anyway, here's a question that perhaps you can answer. I have wondered about this for some time.

If all our sins are forgiven, why must we die at all?

I don't mean anything beyond the question itself. I'm not trying to argue or make a point. I have just wondered about that.

BTW, since I have now actually surpassed your number of posts, oh my Emperor, I figure I have enough indulgences to automatically get out of Purgatory!  ;D
« Last Edit: December 19, 2003, 12:40:02 AM by Linus7 »
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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #24 on: December 19, 2003, 12:42:40 AM »
Linus,

IIRC, Fr Tom Hopko once said that we need to die in order to be resurrected; even if we are spiritually reborn in this life (which we actually must be in order to rise bodily) we must bodily die in order to bodily rise, as a participation in the Cross of Christ.

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #25 on: December 19, 2003, 03:21:02 AM »
Aristokles -

So, as I understand it, you are saying that Serge would probably agree with the quote from the Confession of Dositheus above, but you would not.

Right?

I would not.

Quote
None of the souls consigned to punishment have any hope of release?

Not until Final Judgement. We pray that our prayers, our love, and our forgiveness will move Christ in His mercy.

Quote

I am not arguing. I really don't have a position on this issue. I'm just trying to acquire one.

Nor am I arguing.  Sometimes discerning the consensus of Orthodox opinion on issues is difficult and sometimes difficult even from one source. As an example, my deacon has recently loaned me the book by Met Hierotheos, Life after Death, but with the warning that as good as it is, even there he will seem to contradict himself from one chapter to the next. I've not started it yet and welcomed taking a "snapshot" of my own belief (via my post) of what Orthodox opinion is before I do read it.

As to the rest of this thread with 'purifying fire', please count me out of having any opinion. You are on your own there, my friend :)

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #26 on: December 19, 2003, 11:00:12 AM »
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Aristokles: As to the rest of this thread with 'purifying fire', please count me out of having any opinion. You are on your own there, my friend

Well, don't count me as having an opinion on this either!

I find it confusing.

What I am getting out of it is that the Orthodox Church has not spoken with any kind of single voice on this issue and that there are a variety of opinions out there, each with as valid a claim to legitimacy as the others.

The only agreement seems to be that neither the Latins nor the Protestants have it exactly right.

Now, if we only knew what "exactly right" was . . .  ???
« Last Edit: December 19, 2003, 11:03:03 AM by Linus7 »
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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #27 on: December 19, 2003, 11:04:52 AM »
Well it's not Orthodox to have everything 'exactly right'. That was what has led the West astray and countless heretics as well. If Orthodoxy hasn't spoken then it is because it is not something that we can or should speak loudly about.

There are lots of other things that do not need to be 'exactly right' because they are also a mystery.

I know what I deserve when I die and I know how I should live. I don't need to know much else. I have enough trouble with the little I do know. Over on other threads I am aware that pride easily creeps into my posts. I think I know more than someone else, can argue better than someone else, am about to stomp them into the ground, etc etc.

God forgive me for thinking I know anything. If I really knew then I'd live differently.

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #28 on: December 19, 2003, 11:17:09 AM »
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peterfarrington: Well it's not Orthodox to have everything 'exactly right'.

Well, it seems in this case you are EXACTLY RIGHT!

 ;D
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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #29 on: December 19, 2003, 11:25:09 AM »
I love reading books about Orthodox spirituality because I finish the first chapter and realise there is no point going on till I have put it into practice, and the chances of me doing that are slim. I know so little and have achieved so little, but I do not despair, I am grateful that I have achieved anything by the grace of God.

If I'd remained an evangelical I'd be a pastor somewhere by now. But in Orthodoxy I'm grateful to be a subdeacon.

That not having everything exactly right is what I meant in other threads by the seeming disorganisation of Orthodoxy - as a positive thing. Others do look at us and wonder why we don't worry that there are so many loose ends. But life is a mystery and what we know is a lot less than what we know we don't know.

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #30 on: December 19, 2003, 11:38:36 AM »
Well the Catholic Church's belief is 1. there is a state of purification and 2. prayer is helpful for those in it.  I do not believe this conclicts with the substance of Eastern belief but only the expression of it.  I believe the best way to look at it is this: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory are not places but how humans experience the Trinity.  For those who loved God in life it is bliss, for those who hated God it is torment, for those who loved but imperfectly there is joy but purficiation of their imperfection.

From the CCC:

III. THE FINAL PURIFICATION, OR PURGATORY

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607


As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:


Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611

606 Cf. Council of Florence (1439):DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563):DS 1820; (1547):1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336):DS 1000.
607 Cf. 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7.
608 St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4,39:PL 77,396; cf. Mt 12:31.
609 2 Macc 12:46.
610 Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274):DS 856.
611 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 1 Cor. 41,5:PG 61,361; cf. Job 1:5.
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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #31 on: December 19, 2003, 12:04:20 PM »
Deacon Lance -

Thanks for that very informative post. That sounds a lot like what Dositheus had to say (minus the bit about indulgences).

Perhaps you could explain the RC view of indulgences?

Since it appears we Orthodox are free to hold varying opinions on this issue, I must say I am leaning toward what Dositheus wrote in his Confession, which seems to square with what some of the Fathers wrote about the purifying fire.

I am sure I will get jumped on for saying that, but that is how I am leaning, anyway.
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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #32 on: December 19, 2003, 12:29:43 PM »
Quote
Perhaps you could explain the RC view of indulgences?

Not to interrupt Fr Lance, but this seems easy to answer. Indulgences are simply the western Catholic version of mitigations of/substitutions for canonical penances, something the Church East and West did in the early centuries. These were quite severe too. They do not refer to 'time off' purgatory.
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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #33 on: December 19, 2003, 12:55:54 PM »
Thanks Deacon Lance!

Of course paragraph 1030 directly contradicts Orthodox eschatology by saying that you have to be purified first, THEN enter heaven.

Orthodoxy teaches that the purification is eternal.

If the two sides sat down and talked about it, perhaps they could reach an agreement.  I would agree with Serge that a lot of the time on this issue the folk customs got substituted for good dogmatics.

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #34 on: December 19, 2003, 01:32:35 PM »
Quote
Perhaps you could explain the RC view of indulgences?

Not to interrupt Fr Lance, but this seems easy to answer. Indulgences are simply the western Catholic version of mitigations of/substitutions for canonical penances, something the Church East and West did in the early centuries. These were quite severe too. They do not refer to 'time off' purgatory.

Can you explain that a little further?

I am not sure I quite understand it. How did such mitigations or substitutions work?

I'm afraid my idea of indulgences is the one I imbibed as a Lutheran, and I have done little to correct it.
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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #35 on: December 19, 2003, 01:42:37 PM »
I think the way it works is like this.  In the good old days, you would be assigned some sort of penance to perform before you could be admitted to communion after committing some sin.  The penance might be to do X for 7 years.  By doing the indulgenced act, you might be able to take a year off that.  So if you see certain RC prayers before a certain date marked "300 days indulgence" or (my favourite, because I don't know exactly what length of time this is, and I have something that says this) "seven years and ten quarantines", what that means is that reciting that prayer, under the usual conditions, would take away that much penance under the old system.  Someone will correct me if I'm wrong, I may have botched that up a bit.
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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #36 on: December 19, 2003, 01:59:45 PM »
Quote
In the good old days, you would be assigned some sort of penance to perform before you could be admitted to communion after committing some sin.


The way it works is you 'accept' your penance; you don't have to finish it before going to Communion again. Finishing it before being readmitted to Communion was how the severe canonical penances of the early Church worked.

Quote
The penance might be to do X for 7 years.
 

Actually, that's how the early Church worked - the penance for lots of sins was you couldn't go to Communion for literally years.

Quote
By doing the indulgenced act, you might be able to take a year off that.  So if you see certain RC prayers before a certain date marked "300 days indulgence" or (my favourite, because I don't know exactly what length of time this is, and I have something that says this) "seven years and ten quarantines", what that means is that reciting that prayer, under the usual conditions, would take away that much penance under the old system.  Someone will correct me if I'm wrong, I may have botched that up a bit.


That sounds about right.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2003, 02:10:16 PM by Serge »
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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #37 on: December 19, 2003, 02:03:11 PM »
Quote
In the good old days, you would be assigned some sort of penance to perform before you could be admitted to communion after committing some sin.


The way it works is you 'accept' your penance; you don't have to finish it before going to Communion again. Finishing it before being readmitted to Communion was how the severe canonical penances of the early Church worked.

Quote
The penance might be to do X for 7 years.
 

Actually, that's how the early Church worked - lots of sins meant you couldn't go to Communion for literally years.

Quote
By doing the indulgenced act, you might be able to take a year off that.  So if you see certain RC prayers before a certain date marked "300 days indulgence" or (my favourite, because I don't know exactly what length of time this is, and I have something that says this) "seven years and ten quarantines", what that means is that reciting that prayer, under the usual conditions, would take away that much penance under the old system.  Someone will correct me if I'm wrong, I may have botched that up a bit.


That sounds about right.

Okay. I understand that now in terms of earthly penances and readmission to Communion.

How do indulgences apply to purgatory?
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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #38 on: December 19, 2003, 02:15:13 PM »
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How do indulgences apply to purgatory?

I think it has to do with applying the 'merits' (uniquely western Catholic term) of one's prayer to the souls there rather than to oneself. Put more simply, one is praying for the dead.
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Offline Deacon Lance

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #39 on: December 19, 2003, 03:27:28 PM »
What Reader Serge and Phil have said are pretty accurate.  The idea of indulgence then got applied to the state of final purification or purgatory when it became conceived of as an actual place where you spent x amount of time in order to be purified and satisfy the temporal punishment due to sin so that one could behold God.

Originally an indulgence was reserved to pilgrimages, but in order to be fair to those who couldn't make them certain prayers were allowed to be substituted instead.  So make pilgrimage x or say prayer x and x days, quarantines or years would remitted from one's stay in puragtory.  In other words any sin had a required amount of penance to go with it.  One had to satisfy it either here or in purgatory.

However, an indulgence, once gained, could be saved for oneself or applied to a deceased loved one.  In this way indulgence=prayer for the dead.

It got screwed up when they started the practice of substituitng alms for prayers.  Combine that with an often ignorant and superstitious populace and immoral clerics out to get rich and you have a system that resembles pagan Rome more than Christian Rome and the scene is set for the Reformation.

The Catholic Church has since clarified its teaching on these things and purgatory is conceived of as a state and not an actual place.  The term indulgence is still used but gone are days and years, they are termed plenary or partial and they are gained by any sincere prayer not just ones in the Enchiridion.  For example the most common way to get an indulgence these days is to make a Confession, receive Communion and offer an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the intention of the Holy Father.

All in all I believe that the underlying basis-penance is good for us, prayer for the dead is effacious-is sound but the idea of quantifying it is distasteful to the Eastern soul.

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #40 on: December 19, 2003, 11:55:49 PM »
Thanks for the info, Deacon Lance, Serge, and Mor Ephrem.

This has been an enlightening thread for me.
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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #41 on: December 20, 2003, 04:29:01 AM »
Thank you. I've often wondered about purgatory because the nuns would always say that a 300 day indulgence would be applied to time off in purgatory, but then the priest would say that 300 days is man's relative time but God's time is eternal, so we would be left confused and mystified.
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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #42 on: December 21, 2003, 02:20:00 AM »
Byzantino,

Quote
I really doubt it refers to Purgatory because the Orthodox refuted such a doctrine at Ferrara-Florence a few centuries earlier. I think rather it's saying that the souls of those in the part of Hades reserved for the impenitent and unrighteous can "cross over" to the place of the blessed.
I have a book by Elder Cleopa Ilie who said the same thing, which to my knowledge is very wrong; there is no second chance after death.

I don't think this is a "second chance", so much as a recognition that those who leave this world without a perfect love of Christ, or a sound sundering of their attachment to sin and the world, are not totally beyond the pale of God's mercy and the lot of the blessed in eternity...however, they are in need of "some work" still, and this will be worked out somehow by God.

I'm also not even sure if the "no second chances after death" remark is entirely accurate.  While there is some form of "particular judgement" after death, as far as I can tell the final judgement does not occur until the Last Day - hades and gehenna are not the same place, despite what many popularly believe (what most people popularly call "hell" in fact refers to gehenna, which as of yet no one has been consigned to.)

Though I'm sure it'll come as a shock for many here, I'm not fundamentally opposed (nor do I perceive Orthodoxy to be fundamentally opposed) to the basic idea behind "purgatory" - rather (upon reading St.Mark of Ephesus' refutation of this teaching) it are some of the details which the RCC has dogmatized about this basic condition which are terribly problematic (often because they go beyond what we can say with any certainty...a big no-no in Orthodox theology, which tends to prefer silence in such situations, or at least not having the pretense to certainty where it is lacking).

RC "Purgatory" includes...

- the idea that "purgatory" is a place distinct from Paradise or Hades; a "third place" where those in the "state of grace" await final purging.  If such a place exists, why don't we read about it in Sacred Scripture?

- the idea that the primary matter to be dealt with in those who are repenting of sins is legal satisfaction, or the payment of something "owed" to God; in reality, such can be forgiven instantaneously by God (as the "11th hour" Saints demonstrate - for example, the "good thief" crucified next to the Saviour), where as it is the state of the heart (it's coolness towards God, and it's love of sins) which is the source of alienation...and this is what penances and punishments of varying sorts try to mend.  It is the false medieval Latin/Anslemite view, which opens the door to further absurdities (such as "indulgences").  It is because Orthodoxy does not understand the "value" of punishment/penance the same as the RC's do, that while the Church confesses to believe prayers and Liturgies can somehow assist the plight of the departed who may be suffering, She does not know precisely how they do so.

As for Patriarch Dositheus' confession, while it is obviously labouring under Latin categories of thought, these have the consequence of making his remarks overly narrow and incomplete (or at least lacking the subtlety of a more "Orthodoxly phrased" work) than actually incorrect.  The problem is picking apart how the language is being used, and what is intended by the text in question.

For example, he does speak in legal terms (perhaps more so than would be normal in an Orthodox context in any other period), but this is not entirely without precedent (Scripturally or Traditionally), and certainly not beyond the pale - particularly when you come to realize that the "legal paradigm" he is using to discuss the notion of "remission of sins" is not identical to that of Roman Catholicism.  For example...

Quote
We believe that the souls that have fallen asleep are either at rest or in torment, according to what each hath wrought; - for when they are separated from their bodies, they depart immediately either to joy, or to sorrow and lamentation; though confessedly neither their enjoyment, nor condemnation is complete.

This is totally Orthodox - the belief that while the dead receive something of a foretaste of what they will likely reap at the Final Judgement, this judgement has not yet occured (the final separation of the blessed from wicked); what they receive is a foretaste, appropriate to the condition they left this life in.

Quote
And such as though involved in mortal sins have not departed in despair, but have, while still living in the body, repented, though without bringing forth any fruits of repentance - by pouring forth tears, forsooth, by kneeling while watching in prayers, by afflicting themselves, by relieving the poor, and in fine by showing forth by their works their love towards God and their neighbor, and which the Catholic Church hath from the beginning rightly called satisfaction - of these and such like souls depart into Hades, and there endure the punishment due to the sins they have committed.

First thing to note, is that no theoretical/imagined place is being concocted here - they are said to go to "hades", like those who know nothing but despair (and who will face the dreadful verdit on the Last Day.)

While the language of "paying up" sounds unnerving to Orthodox ears, it is not "wrong" (but definately very narrow).  The mending of sins comes with a price - we cannot avoid this.  For some blessed people it is one which can be "paid" in an instant, selfless act of love (like the thief on the cross next to Christ, who resigned himself to his fate, and wholeheartedly believed in our Lord, and humbly entreated Him for a place in His Kingdom - which was certainly more faith than any of the Apostles had at that point, and definately more than the impious Jews who were hurling insults at the Lord of All).  Or it may require a life time of sacrifices and works, to "pay" what is necessary so as to mend what our sins have wrought in our hearts and in our lives.  What is implicit here (and clearly stated by the Fathers), is that any language of "satisfaction" has nothing to do with paying up to God's offended ego.  That is Anslem's idea, which is as neat and tidy as it is wrong.

Keep in mind, that the Holy Scriptures themelves use this language of "payment" and "ransom" - Christ certainly "paid" a very very high price for the redemption of mankind; His very Body, marked with impious strikes and lashes, His very Blood, shed for the remission of sins.   Perhaps it is because of the predominance of Anslemism in western Christendom (which all of us are touched by, one way or another) that any language of a penal/legal nature in regard to the redemption is hard not to read through said (Anslemian) filter.  However, such thoughts never occured to the Fathers (particularly the Latin ones) who often spoke in such a way, let alone the Holy Scriptures themselves.

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #43 on: December 21, 2003, 07:59:39 AM »
Nice post, Seraphim Reeves. I keep reading it to find where it departs from my understanding and cannot find it doing so at any point.

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Offline The Caffeinator

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Re:Purgatory or Something Like It
« Reply #44 on: December 21, 2003, 07:28:57 PM »
Quote
Thank you. I've often wondered about purgatory because the nuns would always say that a 300 day indulgence would be applied to time off in purgatory, but then the priest would say that 300 days is man's relative time but God's time is eternal, so we would be left confused and mystified.

I haven't read this whole thread, so forgive me if this is repeat, but I read on another board the meaning of the "300" days in the three hundred day indulgence. Of course, now indulgences are either partial or plenary, but the time periods given for indulgences didn't mean time off from purgatory. It wasn't a three hundred day get-out-of-jail-free card. Rather, it represented the amount of daily penance that would have been needed to gain the indulgence in the early Church. You can see the problem with this, and why it is no longer used.

EDIT I see that this is indeed repeat.  :-[
« Last Edit: December 21, 2003, 07:49:10 PM by The Caffeinator »