Sunday, November 1, 2009

Diarrhea and Purgatory : An All Souls Day Offering (?)

I was sidelined by diarrhea in the last couple of days and during those times of ordeal, there are two things I cannot put down : a roll of toilet paper and a write-up on Eschatology by Edward Schillebeeckx. The material speaks about heaven, hell, and yes, purgatory (which is I think related to diarrhea for it came from the Latin ‘purgare’ meaning “to cleanse").

Whenever I go and visit my departed loved ones at the San Jose Public Cemetery when a was a teenager I always wonder : “Ilang kaluluwa kaya mula sa mga puntod na ito ang pinarurusahan sa impiyerno?” (How many of these souls are made to suffer in hell?) It was the time when I was still unaware that purgatory, hell and heaven are not places but are state of being. That they are state of being that cannot be easily described by an ordinary believer without using theological and spiritual lenses. Those were the wild days of my life finding ourselves snatching food offerings from the tombs of wealthy people,- specially Chinese, for our own Halloween party that often us cause us, you’ve guessed it right, diarrhea.

But there is really a place or estate of being called hell where God punishes evil or bad souls? First, according to Schillebeeckx, “All men have faults and imperfections and no one is as sinless as Jesus Christ. Even if we do good most of the time in our lives, we are still sinners. Even if a person dies in a state of grace, he or she remains a sinner”. Thus, God’s forgiveness is our final ticket to heaven.

But if someone rejects God and the idea of eternal bliss with the Lord, who do evil in a definitive way, who do evil with final intent, their physical death is also their absolute end. That is what I’ve learned from said Belgian theologian while lying on my bed and sitting on you-know-where.

This state of being of a sinner who refused to ask forgiveness of God would end even their own spiritual existence. They cannot have the grace of God for all eternity. And this is as damning as the picture of hell being painted into our imagination by our teachers in Religion subject when we were young. Or what was depicted in the Bible as a “lake that burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8). Hell in this notion is an eternal separation from a blissful and divine relationship with God. And this spiritual death is not a punishment. Ours is a loving God and not a revengeful God, if I may repeat.

On this view of purgatory, Schillebeeckx has this to say : “God’s first act of love in heaven is an act of illumination. God projects his light on human beings, illuminates them and purifies them. It is a kind of rooting in God, the first moment of the beatific vision. So all men and women go through purgatory before entering into the beatific vision of God”. And prayers from us the living, especially during All Saints day or All Souls Day is imperative in this purification process.

This is unthinkable : while joy and happiness pervades in House A (heaven) there should be people in a not far away House B (hell) on the point of expiring in the midst of infernal and eternal suffering. For Schillebeeckx, the final fulfillment is exclusively positive. There is no negative eschaton like the eternal suffering of souls. It is against the nature of God who is love for human beings to be punished for all eternity.

Thought-provoking, isn’t it? Next time, I will also read the writings of notable theologians who opposed or made revisions on this point like Karl Rahner and Tielhard De Chardin. Including other readings regarding Eschatology.

That is only if diarrhea engulfed me again…

(Photo : Inquirer.Net)


  1. Here, we have a diarrhea-ing theologian! (MS)

  2. "hell and heaven are not places but are state of being."....this was the same belief my wife a Baha'i (Baha'i Faith) was explaining to me a Christian, which I really understand now, but don't get me wrong Sir Norman I was not under diarrhea at those time, maybe just a little bit constipated, lol. more power Sir.