Monday, August 24, 2009

C. S. Lewis Believed in Purgatory

From the Holy Souls Crusade website:

- C.S.Lewis, Letters To Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer, chapter 20, paragraphs 7-10, pages 108-109

"Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age, the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to him?

I believe in Purgatory.

Mind you, the Reformers had good reasons for throwing doubt on the 'Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory' as that Romish doctrine had then become.....

The right view returns magnificently in Newman's DREAM. There, if I remember it rightly, the saved soul, at the very foot of the throne, begs to be taken away and cleansed. It cannot bear for a moment longer 'With its darkness to affront that light'. Religion has claimed Purgatory.

Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would in not break the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first.' 'It may hurt, you know' - 'Even so, sir.'

I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. But I don't think the suffering is the purpose of the purgation. I can well believe that people neither much worse nor much better than I will suffer less than I or more. . . . The treatment given will be the one required, whether it hurts little or much.

My favorite image on this matter comes from the dentist's chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am 'coming round',' a voice will say, 'Rinse your mouth out with this.' This will be Purgatory. The rinsing may take longer than I can now imagine. The taste of this may be more fiery and astringent than my present sensibility could endure. But . . . it will [not] be disgusting and unhallowed."


John Thayer Jensen said...

I was brought up completely without any religious context at all. When I was 27, completely out of the blue, I came to Christ - no, He came to me - and I was converted. The context was Protestant - was, in fact, the 'Jesus Movement' in Honolulu (this was 1969).

I was a University grad student so had access to a library. I began to read intensely.

I spent the next 25 years as a Protestant. The Lord gave me the unspeakable gift of becoming a Catholic in 1995.

But it was in 1970, reading everything by (amongst others) C. S. Lewis that I could get my hands on, that I read this passage. It pierced my heart.

During my Protestant years, when I was a Calvinist, I read Lewis in secret, with feelings of guilt, rather as though I were looking at forbidden material (for I knew how un-Calvinistic he was) - but I was thirsty and hungry. And this passage - telling me what I knew I needed - to be cleansed - that, above all, protected me from the worst of Protestantism.

It brings tears to my eyes still. I pray for Lewis's soul daily.

Athos said...

Jeff Hendrix here. I recall, too, that Lewis wrote wryly to Sister Penelope (CSMV) to visit him in the hereafter if "prison visitation" is allowed. Cheers