Search Results for Purgatory
Purgatory In Catholicism, the afterlife state in which souls undergo temporary punishments as a result of venial and forgiven mortal sins. These may be quite unpleasant, but aren’t nearly as terrible as the eternal torment of hell. The purgatorial soul is purified in preparation for heaven and the Beatific Vision. 2 Mac. 12:46 is upheld by Catholics as scriptural support for Purgatory. Scholars suggest that the idea of purgatory has deep roots in various world religions and mythologies. » Buddhism, Evil, Mortal Sin, Reincarnation, Saint, Soul, Venial Sin
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Church Fathers is the title usually given to those regarded as the brightest theological lights in the early Christian Church.
Influential and usually learned Christian thinkers contributing to the formation of Church dogma, aspects of their writings are often cited as supportive “truths” within the contemporary Roman Catholic Catechism.
The Church Fathers are considered exemplars of holiness and are usually, but not always, canonized. Tertullian (160–225) is a good example of a leading Christian who was never canonized.¹
The study of the Fathers’ writings is known as Patristics, although the Church Fathers fall into two periods, the Apostolic and the Patristic.
Since the 17th-century the Apostolic Fathers have been designated as those who wrote just after the New Testament period, to include Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Hermas, Polycarp and Papias. This list also includes the anonymous writers of the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle to Diognetus, Clement and the Didache.
The well-known theologian Origen (184–254) was too far interested Platonism and ideas similar to reincarnation to be taken as a Church Father. He was excommunicated by the Church but his work continues to interest scholars. And sort of slipping in the back door, as it were, Origen’s writings are often included in compilations under the heading, “Church Fathers.”
The Patristics wrote up to the 8th-century, to include Isidore of Seville (7th-century) and John of Damascus (8th- century).
Feminists point out that there are no Church Mothers, perhaps because of the sexist environment of the early Christian era. This type of discrimination persists through the ages and, so they say, remains in many contemporary religious and secular organizations.
¹ Tertullian also demonstrates that the Church Fathers could be quite harsh against their opponents, in this case, the early Gnostics. As the British philosopher of religion, John Hick, points out in Evil and the God of Love, Tertullian wrote scathing attacks against the Gnostics.
- Reading the Fathers: Clement of Rome (simuliustusetpeccator.com)
- Women priests and the Church censure of Father Bill Brennan (peaceandbread.com)
- History of Philosophy and the Early Church (patristicsandphilosophy.wordpress.com)
- Read the Fathers: Polycarp of Smyrna (simuliustusetpeccator.com)
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- Reading the Fathers: Epistle To Diognetus (simuliustusetpeccator.com)
- Guides to the Early Church Fathers (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Abortion & Reincarnation (pathwaytoascension.wordpress.com)
- History of purgatory (divinelightblog.wordpress.com)
Christianity is the religion based on the life, teachings, moral example, crucifixion and resurrection of the New Testament figure, Jesus Christ. Jesus was the son of a young Jewish woman, Mary, who conceived while engaged to her carpenter fiance, Joseph. The Jesus story tells us that Mary didn’t have sexual relations with Joseph but, instead, was visited by the angel Gabriel who told her that she’d become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit—a calling which Mary willingly accepted. So technically, Joseph was Jesus’ foster father.
Founded in Jerusalem, the Christian religion emerged from the Jewish scriptural tradition, which Christians today call the Old Testament. Jesus, in fact, is seen by his followers as the long awaited prophet promised in Jewish scriptures.
As with contemporary Christianity, Early Christianity was shaped by the Jesus story. But this isn’t all. There’s also the living grace which believers claim to experience. So rather than their religion being a dry routine based on some distant past event, believers say they can feel the Holy Spirit acting in their lives, here and now.¹
These two elements – the teachings and example of the earthly Christ along with the perceived guidance and indwelling love of the heavenly Christ – forged an unshakable belief in many of Christ’s early followers.
Some early Christians believed that Christ’s promised return – signalling the end of the world – was imminent. In one letter St. Paul chastises believers for not working due to their misguided belief about the end-times occurring within their lifetimes (2 Thessalonians 3:10, Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32).
The religion spread throughout the Mediterranean’s Gentile (non-Jewish) population for about 20 years after Christ’s death. It was declared an “illegal assembly” under Roman Law. And the tyrant Nero publicly blamed Christians for the great fire in Rome of 64 CE.
Cruel and barbaric persecutions at the hands of the pagan Romans followed but the religion continued to spread. While some Christians denied their belief in Christ when threatened with horrendous torture and death, a good number willingly – some even joyously – went to their deaths at the hands of the pagan Romans.
The graceful and heroic courage of Christians being fed alive to lions in the Colosseum at Rome impressed some of the more sensitive Romans, leading to their conversion to this new monotheistic religion. Conversions didn’t just take place among the poor, as commonly believed. By 96 CE the radical egalitarianism of Christianity became increasingly apparent as members of the Roman Imperial family also converted away from their pagan past. By the end of the 2nd-century, Christianity had spread into Britain.
Why was Christianity so successful?
Some sociologists suggest that the Christian message gave hope of eternal reward to the powerless and oppressed. In other words, it’s a religion for losers. But historians more correctly note that the religion cut across all class lines, fostered warm communal love and complete forgiveness for past wrongs, along with the promise of power over demons and everlasting life in heaven. Theologians add that the spiritual power of the living Christ has always been present among believers in the form of the Holy Spirit, giving life, love and direction to their religious worship.
In 313 CE Constantine issued an edict of toleration in Milan, enabling Christians to worship without fear of persecution. In 381 CE Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire.
Some Christian sects in early Christianity emphasized either Christ’s humanity at the expense of his Divinity, or conversely, his Divinity at the expense of his humanity. The Church took great pains to officially resolve these as “heresies.”
Christianity continued to expand through the Roman empire. When the Western empire fell in 476 CE, the barbarian invaders were converted.
During the so-called Dark Ages, the Papal court fell into disrepute. Several Popes become blatantly corrupt. Murder, intrigue and absurd rationalizations for grave evils abounded. The flame of Christianity, however, was kept alive in the European monasteries. Monks by and large were disgusted with the scandalous and violent practices of the Papal court.
In the East, Christianity continued as ‘Byzantium’ until overrun my Muslim invaders in 1453 CE.
The Orthodox Church had become split by the 11th-century. Apart from subtle theological differences, the Western Church recognized the Pope while the Eastern Church did not.
Several additional heresies were squelched by the Western Church but the 16th-century rise of the Reformers and the Counter-Reformation created a decisive split between Protestants and Roman Catholics.
Protestant Churches, themselves, began to splinter, with many new denominations rising up, usually at the bidding of some charismatic reformer claiming to rekindle the “original truth” of Christianity.
Despite doctrinal differences among various branches of Christianity in the 21st-century, almost all Christians believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. This is the belief that God reveals himself in three ‘persons’ of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three distinct persons are said to be equal, eternal and also a unity, sharing the same substance.
Today Christianity is a world-wide religion of over 2.2 billion followers, largely the result of colonization and missionary work among various Christian denominations.
¹ Problems arise when different believers claim opposing ‘truths’ based on the apparent experience of the Holy Spirit. Quite possibly some individuals mistake a kind of vital, perhaps even biochemical, energy for the true love and peace of the Holy Spirit.
- History of purgatory (divinelightblog.wordpress.com)
- Can’t we just work together? (tolivelifetothefull.wordpress.com)
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- Changing the Face of Christianity Reports on the State of Christianity Today (prweb.com)
- rants: a pagan or atheist at heart? (christiannoob.wordpress.com)
- Our Righteousness in Christ (missiontopapua.wordpress.com)
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- What Happened to the Old-Fashion Religion? (5ptsalt.com)
- Christianity Is Not a Religion!!!! (encounterss.wordpress.com)
- The Uniqueness of Christianity: 12 Objections Answered (insightscoop.typepad.com)
The definition of evil is informed by one’s core beliefs, and different kinds of arguments try to explain its existence.
Some materialists and scientists scoff at the idea of evil as if it were an antiquated legacy from a superstitious past.
Violent criminals are usually described in the news in psychiatric terms. Murderers are often reported as having a mental illness instead of being possessed by the devil. However, sometimes callous murderers are called “monsters” so the idea of evil can creep in to our essentially scientific worldview.
Meanwhile, savage tyrants and warlords are often viewed through a historical or, perhaps, political lens.
Evil in Christian theology
A basic theological distinction exists between natural evil and moral evil. Natural evil includes “acts of God” such as floods, earthquakes and avalanches. Moral evil is a conscious human choice to turn away from God’s will and participate in some action harmful to self and possibly others.
Duns Scotus classified “intrinsic evil” as acts that are inherently evil and accordingly prohibited. But intrinsically evil acts are not evil because they are prohibited.
In Christian theology evil is often seen as a necessary component of God’s plan of salvation. Here one accepts as an article of faith that God permits evil for some greater good, beyond the comprehension of mere mortals (see Isaiah 55:8-9).
A Christian school of thought, begun by Irenaeus and popularized by John Hick, argues that evil is permitted, but not caused, by God. Why, one might ask, would an all-powerful God permit evil? According to the Irenian school, the answer lies in the idea of ‘soul making.’ A soul freely choosing to abstain from evil is of greater value than one that automatically avoids evil like a programmed robot. The free soul apparently better glorifies God than would a sinless automaton.
Although evil may ravage, test and torment good souls living on earth, the true goal of our finite, earthly life is to be made worthy of eternal heavenly life. According to this perspective the evils of the world act as a crucible. Souls not succumbing to but resisting evil are purified and strengthened toward the good. Evil, then, is necessary. It acts as a kind of hammer that pounds out the soul’s impurities.
God permits some evils lest the good things should be obstructed.
Another Christian argument, influenced by Plato‘s idea of the Forms, is given by St. Augustine. Augustine sees evil as a privatio boni—the absence of good. According to this view, since God is good, evil must be where God is not present. Therefore God doesn’t create evil. It’s a choice. But the theological debates get complicated here, and some ask whether Augustine’s theodicy holds up for both natural and moral evil.
Different branches of Christianity hold different views about what happens to evil souls in the afterlife. Some Churches damn sinners eternally. Martin Luther, for instance, believed that some souls are predestined for hell. Meanwhile, some contemporary Christians pray for the liberation of souls in hell while others do not.¹ And the Catholic Purgatory is neither heaven nor hell, but a difficult preparation for heaven.
Evil in non-Christian religions
Evil in Islam is similar to that of Christianity. But for Muslims it is evil to suggest that Christ is one with God (John 10:30). And the prohibitions in the Koran differ from those of the New Testament. Notably, killing is permitted in the Koran in some circumstances (see http://www.yoel.info/koranwarpassages.htm and http://www.islamreview.com/articles/jihadholywarversesinthekoran.shtml), whereas the very thought of killing is denounced in the New Testament. Many branches of Christianity do, however, entertain the idea of a Just War.
In Hinduism a different view of evil is presented. Evil is permitted to maintain a proper balance of sacred heat or power (tapas) within the universe. Aspects of Hinduism speak to the reality of hell for evildoers. But evil in Hinduism is mostly viewed in terms of personal ignorance and spiritual development, making hellish punishments temporary instead of eternal.
According to this perspective, the evil soul reincarnates on earth until it is cleansed of the ignorance that influenced it to commit bad deeds. This differs dramatically from the Catholic view that souls in hell are eternally damned and, strangely enough, would never want to leave. Unlike the Christian, the Hindu aspires to transcend apparently relative ideas about good and evil through an experiential knowledge of universal truth.
Accordingly, the goal of Hinduism differs from both Christianity and Islam. For the Hindu, heaven is a halfway house on the road to ultimate realization. The reincarnating soul may enjoy periodic visits to different heavens but, though the round of rebirth, it eventually transcends all heavens and ultimately achieves the greatest good of the Brahman. A similar but in some ways different view of evil is presented in Taoism.
An interesting but often overlooked question is whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu heavens and hells are identical in character. The celebrated Romanian scholar Mircea Eliade notes that heavens and hells are described differently among world religions. But do they all feel the same? We can’t really know but my guess is NO.
Most cultures around the world at some point in history have seen evil as a cause of mental or physical illness. This view is prevalent in Shamanism. And some religious writers, such as the Catholic, Michael Brown, say they feel the presence of evil almost anywhere.
And on the inferiority of evil as compared to good, W. H. Auden writes in A Certain World:
Good can imagine Evil; but Evil cannot imagine Good.
¹ See this excellent discussion: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=329730
- The freewill defense (St. Augustine of Hippo): Part 1 (thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com)
- One’s Good and the Other is Evil (conservativetickler.wordpress.com)
- Why God Won’t Allow Me to Heaven (ichosethebluepill.wordpress.com)
- A Scene from “Doctor Faustus” (alyssajmammano.wordpress.com)
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- What is evil? (andrewejenkins.wordpress.com)
- Random Musings: the concept of a ‘just war’ (jmatthanbrown.wordpress.com)
- A reading from the Church Fathers: Love the Sinner Hate the Sin (gingerjar2.wordpress.com)
According to Catholic teaching, mortal in is a grave rebellion against the Laws of God, made with full knowledge and consent, and which cuts the soul off from sanctifying grace.
The official Catholic teaching is that unforgiven mortal sins condemn a person to hell. But there’s much debate among lay Catholics as to whether this really is true or not.¹
Biological, psychological and societal factors can lessen the seriousness of otherwise mortal sins if full knowledge and consent is not present.
¹ See, for instance http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=493159
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Also known as metempsychosis and transmigration, reincarnation is a manmade theory based on beliefs found in different philosophical systems and religions, including ancient Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Jain, African and New Age perspectives.
Reincarnation usually involves ideas of karma and grace. It’s believed that after the death of the physical body, the soul (or in some schools, temporary personality attributes) returns for another birth.
In most traditions the self is on an evolutionary path from unconsciousness to consciousness–that is, from lower to higher, or gross to subtle forms of consciousness.
In some branches of contemplative Hinduism, the soul is said to begin in the mineral world and then move upward to the vegetable and animal kingdoms. Eventually it takes birth as a human being. After learning about and practicing good ethics from innumerable human incarnations, the soul may reincarnate in astral and heavenly realms before reaching ultimate liberation, awareness and bliss.
But bad ethical choices send the evolutionary process into reverse. If a human being abuses their freedom, they may reincarnate backwards into the animal kingdom or possibly further down into one of various temporary hells.
According to popular wisdom it’s often said that God provides perfect punishments and rewards for one’s deeds. So generally speaking, if one makes good ethical choices in an embodied life, one gains merit and reincarnates into a more auspicious life the next time around.
However, if one makes bad ethical choices, one returns to a less auspicious life. Again, the alleged purpose of reincarnation is to instruct the soul, preparing it for an ultimately perfect, eternal existence. The exact nature of this perfection is described differently among various schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Taoism.
Once complete liberation is achieved, the soul (or temporary personality attributes) no longer returns to a body, gross or subtle. This idea is expressed in an old Taoist tale, paraphrased as follows:
A man had led a dissolute life and reincarnates as a horse. After a few years the horse grows weary of being whipped by his masters, refuses to eat and dies. He then returns as a dog. Despising this incarnation the dog bites his master’s leg who has him destroyed. He returns as a snake. By now he’s finally learned his lesson. One must play out the hand one is dealt, patiently seeing it through to learn how to be virtuous. As a reformed soul, the snake avoids doing harm to other animals by eating berries and tries to keep itself out of danger. But one day the snake mistakenly dies under the wheel of a cart. Pleading his case before the King of Purgatory, he finds himself reborn a man—a reward for his good intentions (Raymond Van Over, ed. Taoist Tales, New York: Meridian Classic, 1973, pp. 52-53).
According to this view, suicide is like ‘skipping school’ (in the cosmic sense) and causes regression to a less desirable birth.
But not all believers in reincarnation would take this attitude. Some believe that the very same kind of life situation would arise again, as if the suicide is forced to repeat the same cosmic classroom he or she didn’t pass the first time around.
Meanwhile some New Age thinkers say that every life is consciously chosen prior to birth.
In most Asian religions God’s grace can mitigate or even erase the effects of bad karma, a fact often overlooked in specious critiques of reincarnation.
African pre-colonial tribal beliefs about reincarnation differ from Asian variants. African ancestors are believed to reincarnate into one or several descendents to give a particular family more power. Somewhat similar to the Asian idea, however, the African Ibo believe that one chooses between two bundles before birth – one bundle holds auspicious fortune, the other inauspicious. While the spirit tries its best to choose a favorable incarnation, a formerly evil person undergoes a difficult incarnation as a human or animal.
In contrast to the belief in reincarnation, the Old Testament says that evil actions are repaid with evil, but not through reincarnation. Evil begets evil through one’s offspring:
The Lord…a God merciful and gracious…forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 34:7).
For when they were not yet born, nor had done any good or evil…not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said to her: The elder shall serve the younger.
The Christian New Testament view of the body and its relation to the afterlife is expressed in I Corinthians 15; 51-52; 2 Corinthians 5:1; I Thessalonians 4:14; John 3: 4-7.
Some suggest that the Catholic notion of purgatory was created as a Christian counterpart to the temporary process of punishment and purification as found in non-Christian theories of reincarnation.
» Anatman, Anthroposophy, Avatar, Cayce (Edgar), Chinmoy (Sri), Deva, Fenris, Free-John (Da), Gawain (Shakti), Hell, Hermes Trismegistus, Karma, Meno, Origen, Ram Dass, Parvati, Plato, Ramacharaka (Swami), Republic, Roberts (Jane), Samsara, Skandhas, Theosophy, Transmigration, Werewolf, Pythagoras
The idea of the soul has innumerable meanings around the world and throughout history.
A distinction is often made between an individual soul and a world soul. Some regard the soul as a multiple entity, as in ancient Egyptian religion or the contemporary views of the trance channeler Jane Roberts/Seth.
Others insist the soul is single.
Some say the soul is the conceptual “I” that apparently remains constant throughout life.
Plato viewed the soul as single but containing multiple functions.
Aristotle saw the soul as a partly rational and partly irrational function governing bodily needs, desires and actions that disappears at death. Soul is also envisioned as a spiritual, self-motivating and eternal agent or substance.
St. Thomas Aquinas insists it is united to the body but not of the body. For Aquinas it “operates through corporeal organs” with its “proper function” being “in the understanding.”
In much of Hinduism the soul reincarnates, ultimately to merge with God, as a drop of water returns to the ocean from whence it came. In this sense, individuality is temporary at best. Ramanuja‘s Visistadvaita school of Hinduism is an important exception to this idea. For Ramanuja individual souls (jivas) emerge from and ultimately rest within God (Brahman), retaining some aspect of their individuality, existence and, therefore, reality.
The anatman doctrine of Buddhism contends that the idea of a soul is just a conceptual illusion and, in reality, does not exist.
Catholics believe that the soul is created by God at the moment of human conception, a view that has sparked intense debate among pro-life and pro-choice groups. Concerning death and the afterlife, Catholic believers say the soul rises to heaven or is purified in purgatory in preparation for heaven or descends to eternal hell.
In music “soul” refers to a form of music originating in America that blends gospel music with rhythm and blues. Although soul music was created by black Americans, its contemporary offshoots are composed and performed by anyone, anywhere.
» Afterlife, Anatman , Arjuna, Atman, Augustine (St.), Ba, Bhagavad-Gita, Brahman, Carvaka, Dhammapada, Evil, Faith and Action, Fasting, Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand), Heaven, Hell, Hermes, Intercession, Jainism, James (William), Jin, Jiva, John of the Cross (St.), Ka, Kabbala, Karma, Karma Transfer, Kowalska (St. Maria Faustina Helena), Leibniz (Gottfried, Wilhelm), Magic, Mantra, Meno, Michael (St.), Moksha, Mortal Sin, Origen, Orphism, Plato, Platonism, Pollution, Postmodernism, Proclus, Psyche, Purgatory, Pythagoras, Radha, Ramakrishna (Sri),Reincarnation, Religion, Republic, Sacks (Oliver), Saint, Samkhya, Samsara, Shaman, Song, Soul Loss, Spirit, Tramp Souls, Transmigration, Venial Sin, Visistadvaita, Voodoo, Winnowing, Yoga, Zombie
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(Latin sanctus = sacred ) The word saint has several meanings.
In everyday usage, saints are unusually kind, ethical people who perform good works on a local or grand scale which most everyone can appreciate.
The term also denotes the faithful Jews of the Bible and the body of Christian believers.
Moreover, saints may be Buddhist arhats (monks having achieved Nirvana) and bodhisattvas (monks forgoing entry into Nirvana in order to help others reach that threshold).
Saints also refer to Taoist, Confucian and Hindu sages and gurus (Skt. guru = teacher), African and Amerindian elders, as well as the Shamans of Central and Southeast Asia, Oceania, North America and the Arctic.
In Islam the righteous departed are said to mediate between heaven and Earth.
Robert Ellsberg regards great figures like Galileo Galilei, Leo Tolstoy, Stephen Biko and Dante Alighieri as saints in his book, All Saints.
Some believe that all public figures called “saints” are equally holy but this view arguably is more of a human hope than God’s assessment of individual holiness.
In Catholicism, the canonized saint leads an exceedingly holy and humble life serving God, is often persecuted, may be martyred and performs by the power of God at least two verified miracles.
Catholic sainthood often involves the idea of intercession. Intercession is the belief that God’s divine power and grace may be mediated by one soul to other souls on Earth, purgatory and hell.
Catholics also believe in the communion of saints, the idea that all souls, except for the damned, are united in a “mystical body” with Christ as head. From this we can see that the idea of interconnected souls is not necessarily something of the occult (unless one views Catholicism as a Satanic cult, which some do).
Another essential element of the Catholic faith is the belief that individuals cooperate with God’s Plan of Salvation through vocal and mental prayer (i.e. interior contemplation).
Prayerful saints cooperate with the Divine Plan but do not effect salvation through their own power.
Some Protestants object by saying that the Catholic saint is just a manmade god or goddess. Catholics reply to this charge that saints are friends and servants of God, not a god nor God.
Many Protestant Christians pray for other people yet object to the Catholic idea of interceding saints. To this Catholicism replies: If someone on Earth can pray for another on Earth, why can’t someone in heaven pray for another person on Earth?
According to Catholic teaching there are many unrecognized saints. These unsung heroes of the spirit are said to achieve a great degree of spiritual purity without ever having set foot in a monastery or abbey.
This is good to remember. Otherwise we might misunderstand some individuals in contemporary society not primarily concerned with sex, wealth or raising a family.
Considering the great diversity of individuals and spiritual paths throughout the world, to insist on rigid criteria for sainthood seems both arbitrary and, considering the world today, unwise.
» Brahman, Clairaudience, Confucianism, Faith and Action, Fasting, George (St.), God, Goddess vs. goddess, Great Mother, Guru, Heaven, Hinduism, Holy Rosary, Icon, Intercession, James (William), Jewish Mysticism, Karma Transfer, Koran, Meditation, More (St. Thomas), Mysticism, Numinous, Social Darwinism, Solitude, Targ, Taoism, Russell, Vivekananda (Swami), Wisdom, Yogi, Yogini
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Vergil or Virgil, properly, Publius Vergilius Maro (70-19 BCE).
Vergil was a Roman poet who studied studied philosophy in Rome before gaining status as a court poet.
His unfinished Aeneid was commissioned by the emperor Augustus to honor Rome’s origins.
Vergil’s grave was treated as a sacred site for centuries and from the Middle Ages up to recent times his Latin works became standard fare for educational institutions throughout Europe.
The poet Dante called Vergil, il nostro maggior poeta (“our greatest poet”)¹ and placed him prominently in his Divine Comedy as a guide leading him through several layers of Hell and upward to Purgatory.
And J. B. Trapp notes that
In the third canto of Purgatorio, Dante’s great mentor reproaches him for his faint trust:
Non credi tu me teco e ch’io ti guidi?²
But Vergil was replaced by Beatrice as Dante’s guide at the gates marking the entrance of Paradise. Quite simply, Vergil could not continue upwards due to his uncoverted pagan roots.
According to legend the apostle Paul wept over Vergil’s grave because he was so close to gaining the opportunity of becoming a Christian.
¹M. C. Howatson, ed. The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, Second Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989, p. 595.
²J. B. Trapp, “The Grave of Vergil,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 47, (1984: 1-31), p. 1.
» Aeneas, Aeneid, Blessed Isles, Furies, Sibyl
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In Old Testament farming this is the separation of the edible grain from the chaff–that is, the inedible stalks and husks (Ruth 3:2).
The grain was either raked with a “winnowing fork” or thrown into the air where the breeze would blow away the chaff but not the heavier grain.
Similar agricultural methods are still used in the 21st century in the Near East, Africa and Asia.
The image of winnowing is found several times in the Old Testament, symbolizing the dispersion of Israel during the exile. It is also used as a metaphor for the judgment of Yahweh.
In the New Testament, which for many Christians fulfills the Old Testament, the image of winnowing designates a final judgment and eternal separation of good souls that enter heaven and evil souls that descend to hell.
Along these lines, John the Baptist await the Messiah (Jesus) who holds a winnowing fork (or fan) to clean the threshing floor, gather the good wheat and throw the useless chaff into the eternal fires of hell.
His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).
Catholic teaching has to some degree elaborated on this ancient view of ‘salvation vs. damnation’ with the idea of purgatory.
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