Advent thoughts: Purgatory

I’m not sure why, as Advent begins, I’m thinking so much about Purgatory, but here I am. Purgatory.

We tend to think of Purgatory as a place of punishment, where the “payment” of our sins is exacted. You know – the analogy of the kid breaking the window: the vandalism is forgiven, there is no prosecution of criminal charges, but the kid still has to make restitution.

I’m not satisfied with that analogy. Never have been. I always dismissed my discomfort as being remnants of Protestant theology – that Christ not only forgave the debt, he marked it “Paid in Full” with his sacrifice on Calvary.

Besides, as I have been thinking in recent days, it’s Purgatory – whose root is “Purge” – which means not to punish, but to clean! You’ve eaten something you ought not, you’re prescribed a purgative – not for punishment but to clean the poison out of your system.

Purgatory does just that. After all, when we die, we don’t cease being ourselves – with our loves, affections, habits, and attachments. We carry those things with us, because they are attributes of our heart.

Too many of those attachments are not proper to bring into the presence of God. Habits – of thought and behavior – that have held us in their grip while we live on this earth have to be purged from our hearts. Things we loved that are not consistent with Divine Love – they have to be released once and for all.

“For he is like a refiner’s fire,” goes the alto Aria in Handel’s Messiah – from Malachi 3:2-3 – and the refiner’s fire is the white-hot fire that burns the dross from fine metals, leaving only the pure metal behind.

That’s what Purgatory does, it is the fire of God’s love that burns out the residue and dirt from our earthly lives.

Some of us experience forms of purgation on earth: sickness, sorrows, losses that leave us somehow purer and closer to God than we were before. We think in terms of hell when we suffer – “He’s been to hell and back,” I’ve heard it said of people who’ve been through intense sufferings – but in fact this is part of the great Purgation that scours us down to the fundamentals.

That is not to say that the process is completed on earth. For some, maybe, the saints – those people who love with such single-minded passion that all else fades into insignficance… Perhaps they get immediate admittance into Heaven. But I’m not ready, and I don’t know of anyone who is – except maybe Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who served God by sheer dint of will when her emotional dimension was full of dark and her Lord felt far, far away.

But we can welcome these experiences as part of our preparation for meeting God face to face, in Heaven. This Advent, when we are focused, in the liturgical season, on preparing for His Coming, let us embrace the purgations we experience here below, and even embrace voluntary mortifications in order to hasten that process – of the sort we associate with Lent.

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Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Does this mean I can start playing Chriatmas music now?

Actually, I’ve been singing Christmas music for weeks! – Chorale prep, you know.

Last night was the first performance of Handel’s Messiah with the Carolina Ballet. First time I’ve done it with them, but this is a long-standing tradition with the Master Chorale.

I have to admit, the thought of a major religious oratorio like Messiah being choreographed to ballet seemed a bit like sacrilege, but I was so very impressed. The dance moves, the costuming – everything was well-integrated into the textual elements of the work. The ballet is appropriate, compatible, joyful and reverent, from the first prophetic arias (our tenor and bass actually perform those arias of Part One on stage with the dancers!) to the final glorious “Amen!” where the Messiah Ascends into Heaven (with the help of a cable).

We’re in the orchestra pit, so we had to be broken up into mini-choirs for the weekend. I’m back on tap for Saturday’s matinee, and I’m really looking forward to it!

Meantime – y’all enjoy the turkey, and don’t forget to really thank God for all His blessings and provisions to you and yours.

Yeah, I’ll join in!

After checking with several friends with military connections and specialties in Middle Eastern “stuff” –
I hereby join the group of bloggers celebrating this as Victory in Iraq Day – No sense in letting BHO take credit for something that W has won through diligence, hard work, determination and just plain clean vision. Damn the liberals who have made it tough for our Nation to fight this war – and win it! May they be consigned to a place in Punishment of having to watch never-ending replays of the incidents of 9/11, the beheading of American soldiers and reporters, and all the other evidence of why we HAD to be in Iraq.

May God protect our troops and keep them safe – and allow them to complete the ENTIRE mission – because it’s been publicized, no thanks to our mainstream media, that as soon as we pull out, Al Quaeda is going back in with a vengeance.

Praying for the safety of our troops –
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host –
by the Divine Power of God –
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

Lavender blue, dilly, dilly – etc.

you are lavender
#E6E6FA

Your dominant hue is blue, making you a good friend who people love and trust. You’re good in social situations and want to fit in. Just be careful not to compromise who you are to make them happy.

Your saturation level is very low – you have better things to do than jump headfirst into every little project. You make sure your actions are going to really accomplish something before you start because you hate wasting energy making everyone else think you’re working.

Your outlook on life is bright. You see good things in situations where others may not be able to, and it frustrates you to see them get down on everything.

the spacefem.com html color quiz

Laura, Warrior Princess – It’s Official

A woman praying in solitude can do amazing things, but a woman praying as part of a deliberate army – much more.

Today I have been enrolled in St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Militia Immaculata. I’ve just put myself on the front lines.

When I was contemplating becoming a Catholic, the single most difficult aspect was Marian theology. I’d heard that Catholics worshipped Mary, and although my head knew they did not, and understood the difference, a lot of behaviors by good Catholics sure felt like some kind of idolatry, and made me exceedingly uncomfortable.

It really makes a lot of sense, though, this business of Marian devotion. When Mary was greeted by the Angel, he addressed her by her title: “Full of Grace.” It wasn’t a courtesy – the angel was identifying Mary and her deepest, her innermost character. From her conception, she had been filled with God’s grace in preparation of this immense privilege – of being the woman to give birth to the Messiah, to be the Ark of the New Covenant.

Jesus of Nazareth, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, came to earth through a woman – and that woman’s Fiat, her “Yes,” is so integral and so far-reaching a part of God’s plan of salvation that we lose a significant portion of it in ignoring it – and her.

He came to us through her, and to this day she is actively involved in bring us to Him. As the woman clothed with the sun (Rev. 12) is identified as Mary, whose firstborn is Jesus, we are her other children – hers by adoption, according to the language of St. Paul. She is our mother, and she assists in our spiritual re-birth, in our discipleship and our total journey toward Heaven. She intercedes for us even as she interceded on behalf of the poor couple in Cana, who had run out of wine at their wedding feast.

Her few recorded words serve as instruction (“Do whatever he tells you!”) and example (“Be it done to me according to thy word”) – and as inspiration (the great hymn of praise, the Magnificat, in Luke 1)

King Solomon, a type of Christ, placed his mother on a throne (I Kings 2:19). Mary sits on a throne, also, crowned with the glory her Son gives to her – and there she intercedes for us all.

As the woman clothed with the sun, Mary is not some frightened potential victim of the Devil – she is obedient to God in all things – and being the bearer of the one who will crush the head of the serpent, she is intimately engaged in the great battle which rages around us now. She – and her Son – will be victorious in the end, but there is no better example we can have of obedience to God, or help in attaining that obedience – or of fidelity or strength. She was with her Son from the time of the Angel’s Visitation (see that painting in my heading, again) – until and through the birth of the Church. The only significant event she is not recorded being present for? – the Last Supper, when her Son instituted the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Priesthood.

If she is the handmaid of the Lord, then in being her handmaid, we do well in serving Him.