Sunday, April 10, 2011

Death, Hell and Stuff

I am a Catholic, I believe in Hell.

I don't know about demons with red-hot pokers, it would seem terrible enough to be separated from God for all eternity without the addition of the imagery of a medieval torture chamber. In fact that imagery I think only makes the doctrine more difficult for the doubters and believers too. Christ speaks of weeping and teeth gnashing but no pokers, pincers or tubs of boiling oil. Pain comes from the absence of God, "My heart is restless until it rests in thee" eternal restlessness, that is the torture but it comes from within, rather than from another source.

Since the fall separation from God and restlessness is the the default position for mankind, we dwell amongst the dead. Without Christ all we can long for is oblivion.

The modern mantra: we have to believe hell exists but we don't have to believe anyone is there, doesn't ring true with Jesus' own words about the "narrow way", many being called yet few being chosen or about the imagery he uses of dividing sheep and goats or even wise and foolish virgins.

In his new book the Pope reminds us that the early Christians called themselves "Those who are alive", or simply "the Alive", to distinguish themselves from those who did not know Christ, the Resurrection and the Life and therefore remained dead.

Though we cannot limit God's mercy to the Church, the Sacraments or even to direct knowledge of Christ; for the New Testament Salvation, knowing Christ, comes with membership of the Church through baptism. It does not come from moral goodness but from God's free gift, and man's free choice to accept it or not.

Acceptance, and therefore the willingness to conform ones life to Christ brings Life, rejection, merely leaves us where the rest of mankindness is, amongst the Dead.

The continual choice placed before us is Life or Death, the continual call and prayer of Christ is, "Come forth", come out of the grave, out of the company of the Dead, out of the place of decay and corruption.

18 comments:

pelerin said...

Food for thought indeed - thank you Father. I remember hearing a homily years ago in which the Priest told us that even people like Hitler may not be in hell. People can be saved at the last minute of course but I think we all came away thinking that if Hitler can be saved then none of us has to worry!

It brought back reminders of my Calvinist RE teacher that we are all saved regardless of what we do due to Christ's action on the Cross and Faith alone. This set me thinking more deeply. What was the point of 'doing good' if it did not matter. The discovery of 'by Faith fruitful in good works' seemed to me a definite 'Eureka' moment and far more logical .

For some strange reason for the last few days I have not been able to see any of the pictures on your site although your mention of devils with red hot pokers gives me a good idea of the one you have chosen here. The videos are accessible but there are no illustrations just very small grey rectangles. Does anyone else have this problem - other blogs I follow are as normal.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Sorry about no pictures, I haven't done anything.

Anagnostis said...

I don't think Hell is "separation from/absence of" the God who is "present everywhere, filling all things". Rather, the Divine Fire is experienced as bliss or agony according to one's disposition towards it.

Also, the idea of "mercy" itself has become rather restricted and attenuated within the penal-forensic model. Mercy is not simply being "spared", but being healed and made whole (the root of the word in Greek is the same as that for "oil"). This gives a much larger meaning to "Lord, have mercy!" than simply "groveling" (cf RA Knox); it's beseeching God to make us by Grace what He is by nature. It's asking God to be what He is.

epsilon said...

Death, Hell and Stuff - powerful stuff, Father!

"The continual choice placed before us is Life or Death, the continual call and prayer of Christ is, "Come forth", come out of the grave, out of the company of the Dead, out of the place of decay and corruption."

We can hear this sort of stuff for a whole lifetime before it makes any real impact. Thank God there are some priests saying it. Let's pray that more have the courage to spell it out to us.

BTW, No probs with the pics here either pelerin

Patruus said...

The concept of Hell as separation from God, is thus expressed by a contemporary author from another tradition: "Hell is remoteness from the All-Merciful. The more the distance, the thicker the veils, the less mercy penetrates, and the more opaque the shadows. The fire of Hell is black. Paradise, on the other hand, is the proximity of the All-Merciful. It is flooded with light, everything in it is luminous, the veils are transparent, and souls are immersed in the ocean of mercy." (Man and the Universe, An Islamic Perspective, Mostafa al-Badawi, 2010 edition, page 153.)

BTW I have no problem seeing the pictures on your site.

pelerin said...

Thank you Father for letting me know that you have not done anything different to your blog. It must be from this end. Strangely I had a look at earlier posts and from the 25th March backwards the pictures are all there but from the 28th there are none. Between these two dates something strange has happened. I do miss your always well-chosen illustrations !

Aaron Saunderson-Cross said...

This makes me think of Deuteronomy 11:26: "Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods which you have not known."


That's quite strong language, and for us perhaps the blessing is remaining in Communion with the Church through observing her moral teachings (always looking to Christ); and the curse, perhaps, if we are through grave sin and impenitence drawn asunder from the Church and the eternal beatitude she faithfully promises.

May God continue to bless His Church!

georgem said...

pelerin, sometimes weird things happen to IE when there's been an update. I've downloaded mozilla firefox and if I get blanks in IE when I click on a link or a pdf, I switch to mozilla.
If you already know this, apologies, but I hope this helps.

De Liliis said...

Those who are alive.. those who are not.. makes for deep thought.. thank you father.


'And he said to them: You are from beneath, I am from above. You are of this world, I am not of this world.

Therefore I said to you, that you shall die in your sins. For if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sin.'

John 8:23-24

Inspirational Quotes from the Saints

Keystone said...

First visit; great topic.
Both the Post and the comments are worthy of new comment.

The Post notes absence of God rather paramount to Hell itself, as opposed to demonic torture.

The Bible instructs otherwise.
Of all the people living in the years Christ walked Earth, few folks recognized Him as Messiah and Lord.

But one group, consistently recognized the Son of God; indeed, they were the ONLY group I have found that recognized Christ immediately: the demonic!

"When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake in the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed came from among the tombs to meet him. They were so violent that nobody could travel on that road. They cried out, “What are you going to do with us, Son of God? Have you come to torture us before the time of judgment?” Far off in the distance a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons pleaded with him, “If you throw us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

Then he said to the demons, “Go away,” and they came out and went into the pigs. The whole herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and drowned. Those who tended the pigs ran into the city and told everything that had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole city came out and met Jesus. When they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region."
~~~Matthew 8:28-34

The last sentence is a homily of its own, but all that precedes notes the demonic, their fear of God, never a fear to approach Him (Genesis the garden; Book of Job, etc).

Christ left the land of the Chosen (Jews) and made ministry in the land of the Gentiles (today's Jordan). The demonic were dispatched, first to the pigs (food for Gentiles, but not Jews), then drowned pigs, which could hold no demonic spirit....releasing them from the pigs to ???
Thus, a need for Hell, which is even worse than the absence of God.

In comments, I note this line:
"What was the point of 'doing good' if it did not matter."

If I plant a pumpkin seed. I get pumpkins, not apples. If I plant a wheat seed, I do not get grapes.

The Vine and Branches is clear in noting that as we cling to the Vine of Christ, we do not produce bad fruit of any kind, but the fruit that resembles the Vine itself. Good works result from attachment to the Vine of Christ.

Many have it the other way around and do good works (the result) to get into Heaven (Vine Source).
Who among us could do enough good works to become greater than the Vine? HE always was, is, will be....while we are but a slice of infinity for an entire lifetime.

All who ever lived had a soul installed. The choice of the soul, in its lifetime determines eternal destiny.

The demonic torture; the Bible is replete with it in Old and New Testatment. There is no reason to suspect this will change in Hell.

Last, the "narrow gate" gives pause for thought; the vast majority of souls created appear to have chosen detachment from the Vine, to their own detriment.

But it is all about God, not us.
He has chosen to surround Himself Heavenly with those who exhibit genuine love, as HE IS. Genuine love is a choice....it is not imitation,... for ulterior motives.

Paul addresses "Grace" and whether we should sin more, so that more grace would abound? He also buries the notion, for we are dead to sin and alive in Christ...the Vine, from which we produce new seeds of good works.

He is the ONLY "Get-Out-of-Hell" card we have. Surprisingly, all of the cards in the deck are THAT card, yet few choose to draw the card for themself.

These folks....are the joy of satan eternally. It would be better to not have been created, than to choose this destiny for yourself.

A true homily on Hell would scare the Hell out of everybody!
More scary, Hell is growing faster than Heaven, given the choice of mankind to decline the card of life, Jesus Christ.

pelerin said...

georgem - I appreciate your comment but I am still a novice when it comes to computers - I don't even know what IE refers to! Shall have to look it up. As far as I know I am on Mozilla Firefox already and always stay on Google. Perhaps I should try another search engine (I have learnt those words!)

georgem said...

Sorry pelerin, should have said Internet Explorer = search engine. There's also one called Opera. Perhaps all you need to do if mozilla has become corrupted is to uninstall and reinstall.
There are some really good guides online for computer idiots like me. I type in "why do/why can't I . . . . . " and as often as not the answer is there.

PS Father, I'm not hijacking the blog - honest.

Richard said...

Pelerin, the Calvinist attitude was nicely satirised in the early 19th century by James Hogg in his novel "The Confessions of a Justified Sinner".

Rusticus said...

A very thought-provoking post, Father.

It is unfortunate (to say the least) that the very real possibility of eternal damnation has been glossed over or even totally dismissed during the last 40 years or so. Jesus Christ descended to earth and died horribly to save us from just such a fate - not simply to teach us to be generally "nice" to each other!

De Liliis said...

'Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able.'

Luke 13:23-24

Michael said...

Flames and Stuff
A subtle, nuanced look at the concept of hell Father Ray.
From www...
"The Book of Acts contains the record of the apostolic preaching, and the history of the first planting of the church among the Jews and Gentiles, and embraces a period of thirty years from the ascension of Christ. In all this history, in all this preaching of the disciples and apostles of Jesus, there is no mention of Gehenna. In thirty years of missionary effort, these men of God, addressing people of all characters and nations, never, under any circumstances, threaten them with the torments of Gehenna, or allude to it in the most distant manner."

Someone said the post-mortem existence must be a kind of personal virtual reality. My hell would contain crawling, brightly colored insects but, for my entomolgist son, that would be his heaven!

Gigi said...

Flames and stuff indeed!
My mother's Catholic schooling in rural Northern Ireland, many moons ago, coloured her vision of Hell. A furnace of unspeakable but vivid pain and cruelty. Eternal damnation was translated as misery without respite or ending.
My father's education was rather more refined in a leafy merchant-town in the Ardennes; he gently told me that Hell was eternity away from God, from those we had loved and apart from Love itself. He painted eternal damnation for me as being left in desolation and complete rejection, with your wrong-doings and your regrets. Futility.
My father's imagery may seem wishy washy in comparison to my mother's fire and brimstone; but it literally (hopefully) scared the Hell out of me!
My father was a placid and amazingly good-humoured man and I think his analogy for me is easily illustrated by my childhood view of him. My Dad was so reasonable: if I did something that made him explode, it must have been something truly awful and distressing to him. Because he was, and still is, my hero, I craved his encouagement and approval. The absolute punishment from my Dad for me was never going to be a clip round the ear. His dismissal of me and the look or tone of disappointment could make me weep far more than any stinging slaps.
Now I'm apparently an adult, my idea of Hell is to be cast away from Love, from Beauty, from the joy of Life, from Hope. Therefore, to be kept away from God. To be faced with my own worthlessness and the pain I have inflicted on others. It is terrifyingly bleak to me.
De Liliis, thank you for those words from John: "Therefore I said to you, that you shall die in your sins. For if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sin."
Hmm. Sorry for waffling on. I'm still off the cake, chocolate and biscuits for Lent you see...

De Liliis said...

Welcome Gigi.. Thanks be to God..

I find myself spiritually benefitted by reading the fire and brimstone, a la the Irish, such as Fr. Furniss provides.

It urges me to work harder. To think of the true importance of what is going on.

I agree I think though a quiet, and placid telling about the loss of love definitely might get through more solidly than a good deal of description at times.

God keep us and save us!