Is there literal physical fire in Purgatory? Video and Thomas Aquinas

The Eastern Orthodox often reject the Latin doctrine of Purgatory based on the Latin tradition of “physical fire” purifying souls in purgatory.

The Latin phrase used by Thomas Aquinas and others is “corporal fire.” For example:

I answer that, In Purgatory there will be a twofold pain; one will be the pain of loss, namely the delay of the divine vision, and the pain of sense, namely punishment by corporeal fire. (STh Supp. App I. q. 2, a. 5)

The Latin is ignis corporalis. The “corporeal fire” of Purgatory is one of the doctrines that the Greek Orthodox objected to during the Second Council of Lyons (1274). Saint Thomas Aquinas was discharged to defend the doctrine at this council, but he died on the way. Saint Bonaventure was sent in his stead (and Bonaventure died at the end of Council).

I very rarely disagree with Saint Thomas Aquinas, but I do disagree here – but I will offer a Benedict XVI suggestion that might provide a unique solution.

How can “corporeal fire” purify an immaterial non-corporeal soul in Purgatory? This is a metaphysical problem. You cold corporeal fire under an immaterial soul all day long and it would not touch the soul. And yet Thomas is insistent on the fire of Purgatory (and Gehenna) as corporeal.

Pope Benedict, in his Encyclical Spe Salvi, writes:

Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Savior. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgment. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves (Pope Benedict, Spe Salvi 47).

This goes along with the teaching of Moses that “the Lord your God is a consuming fire” (Deut 4:24). If Christ Himself is the purifying fire, then here’s the twist: Christ is corporeal! He is resurrected. So a Christian might in fact say that the fire of purgatory is “corporeal” if in fact we are referencing the resurrected corpus Christi.

burning bush icon

Is the particular judgment when we stand face to face with the resurrected Christ the burning fire of love that hurts, burns, cleanses, and restores the soul alive with sanctifying grace but lacking full sanctification at death. I think so.

I think all of this can be held along with holding (as do I) that Purgatory is “located” not in Heaven with the Beatific Vision but in the Infernus or Sheol.

Here’s my video on Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Four Regions of Hell:

Question: Comments are open. Please share your thoughts. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Pope That Rejected Christ: Pope Marcellinus

According to legend, Saint Marcellinus was like Saint Peter in three ways:

  1. He was a Pope
  2. He denied Christ publicly
  3. He repented and died a martyr’s death
Pope Marcellinus offering incense with Saint Peter behind him.

Pope Marcellinus offering incense with Saint Peter behind him.

Lets take a look at his life:

  • The Liber Pontificalis records that during Diocletian’s persecution (AD 303) Marcellinus was captured and commanded to offer incense to the Roman idols.
  • Fearful of death, he scattered incense to the false gods.
  • Remorseful after a few days, he confessed his faith of Christ.
  • He was captured again, stayed true to Christ and received martyrdom.
  • Marcellinus was buried on 26 April 304 in the cemetery of Priscilla, on the Via Salaria, 25 days after his martyrdom.

These details are hotly debated. For example, Saint Augustine of Hippo (died AD 430) denies that Pope Marcellinus offered incense to idols – although he knows of the story and the accusation (see St Augustine, Against Petilian 2.202). The Church Historian Eusebius does not mention it at all.

However, scholars have noted that the pontificate of “Marcellinus” is notably omitted in the Roman “Chronograph” of AD 336. He had undoubtedly been the bishop of Rome, so this absence on the list reveals some doubt about his status as Bishop of Rome.

I wish that we had a way to know the truth of the matter.

I incorporated Pope Marcellinus into my best-selling historical fiction novel: Sword and Serpent: A Historical Retelling of Saint George and the Dragon. The novel features Saint George visiting Pope Marcellinus hiding in a cavern-like catacomb and receiving a sword from him (which will eventually become the sword of King Arthur). The novel has received great reviews and a shining endorsement from Father Dwight Longenecker. I hope you enjoy it. You can get a copy on amazon.com (or check out the 340 reviews) by clicking here.

sword and serpent look inside

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What is the Sword That Pierced Mary’s Soul?

In Luke 2:35, Saint Simeon prophesied to Mary “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

What is this sword?

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The Greek word is ῥομφαία {rhomphaia} and it means sword or javelin. Here’s the full definition:

ῤομφαία, ῤομφαίας, ἡ, a large sword; properly, a long Thracian javelin (cf. Rich, Dict. of Antiq. under the word Rhompaea); also a kind of long sword usually worn on the right shoulder (Hesychius ῤομφαία. Θρακιον ἀμυντηριον, μάχαιρα, ξίφος ἤ ἀκόντιον μακρόν; (Suidas 3223 c. (cf. ῥεμβω to revolve, vibrate)); cf. Plutarch, Aemil. 18); (A. V. sword): Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:12, 16; Revelation 6:8; Revelation 19:15, 21; σου δέ αὐτῆς τήν ψυχήν διελεύσεται ῤομφαία, a figure for ‘extreme anguish shall fill (pierce, as it were) thy soul’, Luke 2:35, where cf. Kuinoel. (Josephus, Antiquities 6, 12, 4; 7, 12, 1; in Ev. Nicod. 26 the archangel Michael, keeper of Paradise, is called ἡ φλογινη ῤομφαία. Very often in the Sept. for חֶרֶב; often also in the O. T. Apocrypha.)

Swords are violent weapons that are formed not to hunt animals, but to kill men. In the Jewish mind, the sword is a physical weapon but it is very frequently used as a metaphor for the tongue. The tongue sends out lethal words that strike men down. Even Christ in Revelation is depicted with a sword coming from his mouth to slay His enemies (listen to my podcast on Christ’s mouth-sword here: Revelation 19: Eucharist and Mouth Sword mp3).

Mary’s soul is slain in two ways:

  1. Sword as Tongue: The evil words spoken against Christ during His ministry and up to His death rip open the soul of Mary who perfectly knows that He is the innocent and immaculate Lamb of God who only loves mankind and seeks to save it. Every hostile word toward Christ, thrusts a sword through her soul.
  2. Sword as Piercing of Christ her Son: Ultimately, when her eyes see Christ’s pure flesh pierced with nails and His dead chest pierced with the lance, her own soul is pierced with love for Christ and for those whom He died for: every single human person.

Simeon says that this piercing of Mary is a “sign of contradiction.” I think this refers to Isaiah 7:14 where a sign is given a “a virgin shall bear a son.” This is a sign of “contradiction” because virgins are not mothers.

The manifest love of the Son for his Virgin Mother is at the cross when He proclaims, “Behold your mother.” Her love is also most manifest at the cross. And for each human person, our love should be most manifest at the foot of the cross.

and a sword will pierce through your own soul also,
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.

Notice how the piercing of Mary’s soul reveals the “thoughts of the many hearts.” It’s my personal conviction (not teaching of the Church) that the way a person speaks of the Blessed Virgin as a quiet mother and co-sufferer with Christ reveals their heart.

  • Show me someone who has a very gentle and respectful appreciation for Mary’s suffering, I’ll show you a very holy person “that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”
  • Show me someone who denigrates Mary and says, “Yeah, but she ain’t special or anything,” and I’ll show you a bitter and lost person “that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”

Today, place your mind’s eye on Jesus pierced on the cross and ask for the gift to feel part of what His Mother felt as she looked upon Him making the perfect sacrifice for the entire human race.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Was St Simeon in Luke 2 also the Son of Hillel the Rabbi?

Ever since I wrote The Crucified Rabbi, I continue to come across great rabbinical insights into Catholicism. Once recent example is the probability that the Simeon in Luke’s G0spel is the famous Simeon ben Hillel – son of the famous Rabbi Hillel.

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Here’s the passage from Luke:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” – Luke 2:25-35

Simeon is the first explicit prophet of Mary’s sorrow at the crucifixion and piercing of Christ: “a sword shall pierce through your own soul also.”

Simeon ben Hillel was the son of Hillel the Elder. When Hillel died, Simeon took over as President of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.Hillel did not die until about 10 AD. Simeon was likely active at the Temple during this time, but I doubt he was an “old man.”

At first I thought this was proof that Simeon could NOT be Hillel’s son, since the Simeon in Luke 2 is an “old man” but Simeon ben Hillel would have been a middle aged man. And then I noticed that Luke never calls Simeon “old.” I read it over and over. It’s not there in Luke’s text. Simeon is not necessarily old in Luke 2. I’ve seen so many paintings of the Presentation and of Simeon as an old grey bearded priest that I’ve assumed that he was “old,” but the text doesn’t say it.

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So could Simeon in Luke 2 be Simeon ben Hillel? Perhaps.

Saint Simeon pray for us to Christ our Lord and Mediator!

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Why was Mary purified at the Temple? And did she receive Sacraments?

If Mary was immaculate and without sin, why was she “purified” in Luke 2? Also, would she have been Baptized, Confirmed, and have received Extreme Unction? Read on for answers:

February 2 marks the 40th day from Christmas, and as Saint Luke tells us, Mary and Joseph presented Our Infant Lord at the Temple on the 40th day after his birth.

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There are 2 things happening here:

  1. Leviticus 12 states that when an Israelite woman gives birth she becomes ritually unclean:
    1. if child is a boy, she is unclean 7 days after birth and that her uncleanness endures for an additional 33 days due to the flow of her post-partum blood flow. So after 40 days, she is presented herself at the Temple to be purified and readmitted to the liturgical life of Israel.
    2. if child is a girl, she is unclean 14 days after birth and that her uncleanness endures for an additional 66 days due to the flow of her post-partum blood flow. So after 80 days, she is presented herself at the Temple to be purified and readmitted to the liturgical life of Israel.
    3. Jesus is male and so the timeline is 40 days. Dec 25 + 40 days = Feb 2.
  2. The woman is to bring a sacrifice to the Temple to dedicate the son or daughter:
    1. Ideally, she brings a lamb.
    2. However, “if she cannot lay her hand on a lamb fit to be offered, she must bring two turtle-doves or two young pigeons, one as a burnt-sacrifice and one by way of amends.”
    3. Mary, being poor, brought two doves – but in reality she brought THE Lamb of God.

There are two theological conundrums here:

  1. Jesus is the Son of God. Why would he need sacrifice offered for Him?
  2. How could Jesus, the Pure One, make Mary impure through birthAnd isn’t Mary immaculate and entirely pure?

The answer is found in the Baptism of Christ. Christ submitted to Baptism not because he needed grace or the remission of Original Sin, but because He wanted to unite himself to sinners while at the same time instituting the Sacrament of Baptism.

Christ indeed submitted to every law of Moses so as to fulfill the Old Law perfectly (hence, we Christians do not need to submit the ceremonial and judicial precepts of Moses – like not eating pork).

Mary and the Rites of the Old Law and New Law

The same is true of Mary – both for the Old Law and the New Law. She submitted to the entire Old Law even though she knew that her Son fulfilled the Law and stood above the Law as God. She beautifully conformed to His pattern and example. Same goes for Joseph.

It is Catholic tradition that Mary was full of grace and that she did not need the sacraments, but that she submitted to the rites and sacraments of the New Law – namely that she was baptized, confirmed, and fervently received the Eucharist – even though all the graces were already present within her.

There is a tradition that Christ only baptized two persons by His own hand: Peter and Mary. Peter then baptized the other 11 Apostles and then the 12 Apostles baptized the multitudes.

Catholic commentator Cornelius Lapide even speculates that Mary received Extreme Unction from the hand of an Apostle before her Dormition, even though she didn’t need it since corruption could not touch her. Lapide is clear that she would have never gone to confession, however. Confession requires the matter of actual sins committed in order for the form of absolution to be proclaimed. Mary had nothing at all to confess.

Question: Are you humbled that Jesus and Mary submitted to rules and rites that she did not need? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

PS: Joy and I were once able to attend Mass with Pope Benedict XVI (when we were not yet Catholics) on February 2 for the feast of the Presentation of Christ. It was a moment of conversion for us to Catholicism – since I in that moment came to know that I was not in communion with the Successor of Saint Peter.

7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas in 2017

Happy feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

If you wish that you had that intellectual edge in discussing and debating Catholicism, Thomas Aquinas is your best resource. And yet, most Catholics feel intimidated by Thomas Aquinas because they have been wrongly introduced to him and his writings. It doesn’t need to be that way. Thomas Aquinas expressly stated that he wrote for “beginners in theology.”

I’ve assembled over 100 video lessons to help you answer skeptics, Evangelicals, Mormons, Muslims, atheists, and fallen away Catholic through the lens of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Since it is his feast day, I want to share one with you:

Here is a free sample video on “7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas”. Like all of our New Saint Thomas Institute HD video lessons, it is short, to the point, and provides you practical and tangible theological education:

If you’d like to join the New Saint Thomas Institute, you can take more classes like this, receive access to hundreds of free Catholic books by the saints and Fathers and follow our clear and organized curricula in:

  1. Certificate in Catholic Philosophy and Thomistic Studies
  2. Certificate in Catholic Theology
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  4. Certificate in Church History: Church Fathers
  5. Certificate in Church History Medieval Theology
  6. Certificate in Church History: Modern (coming 2017)
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The CATHOLIC (not Protestant) Perspective on Paul

Happy Feast Day of Saint Paul!

When I was Protestant, we relished in the belief that the Apostle Paul was thoroughly Protestant. We considered him to be the proto-Martin Luther. We believed that Paul taught:

  • justification by faith alone
  • once saved always saved
  • authority of Scripture alone (no Tradition)
  • sacraments as symbolic

However, there were always those little verses in Paul that made me feel uncomfortable. Here were things that we tried to ignore:

  • Paul rejoiced in being celibate – I didn’t know any celibate Protestant pastors that spoke like Paul did
  • Paul called himself “Father” in relation to his converts – he once refers to his ministry as “priestly”
  • he speaks of baptism transformative and saving
  • he speaks of obedience and good works quite often
  • he holds out the possibility that he might forfeit his own salvation through infidelity

This passages kept bubbling up until at last I saw that Protestantism couldn’t hold all the tension within these passages…and so I became Catholic.

After entering the Catholic Church, I wrote a simple and systematic explanation of nearly every major Catholic doctrine within the writings of Saint Paul. Not only does the book walk you step by step through Paul’s thoroughly sacramental and ecclesial theology, it also includes an appendix with all the verses in Paul – a kind of Pauline cheat sheet for Catholic theology. This appendix will save you hours of time looking for passages. It already arranged for you.

To celebrate Saint Paul’s own conversion, this book is half price today (and down to only $0.99 on Kindle): The Catholic Perspective on Paul. This is a great resource for anyone interested in Apologetics, Pauline theology, New Testament studies, or for anyone who wants to become familiar with Paul’s letters. Check out the Table of Contents and read a free sample here:

If you’ve read the book already, please leave a review by clicking here. I’d love to read your thoughts and I’d be grateful for your review.

Saint Paul, pray for us.

Happy Feast Day of Saint Paul,

Taylor Marshall

The Eastern Orthodox on Divorce and Remarriage

How do the Eastern Orthodox handle divorce and remarriage? It seems that the trajectory of Pope Francis is to move toward the practice of the Patriarch of Constantinople – to say that divorce and remarriage is objectively wrong, but allowable on a case by case basis.

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I’m rather amazed that neither side is currently examining (and boldly appealing to) the Eastern practice. It’s likely only a matter of time, so I thought I’d try to put some things together in the timeline.

Deacon Daniel Gordon Dozier (Eastern Catholic) helped me find some primary sources on this matter.

  • Patriarch Alexius I of Constantinople (Patriarch from 1025-1043) no longer upheld the practice of suspending priests who blessed second marriages after divorce. Patriarch Alexius, however, only allowed second marriages to the innocent party in a separation. That is, if the husband abandoned a wife, she (but not him) could have a second church wedding while that offending husband still lived. And vice versa.
  • Archbishop Cyril Vasil, S.J. observes that in 1086 (after the schism with Rome), the Byzantine Empire made the Orthodox Church the “only institution with legal competence for the celebration of matrimony…As a consequence the Eastern Church had to conform its practices to State and civil legislation (a regretful consequence of caesaropapism). Then once civil legislation began to allow divorce and successive remarriages, the Eastern Church was obligated to recognize these practices.”
  • It seems to me as the Eastern Church fell away from union with Rome, it inevitably followed the secular practice of the Empire.

It’s notable that the initial changes in practice happened in Constantinople while Rome and Constantinople were in formal union (even if only for a few decades). It was the successor of Alexius I, Michael Cerularius who formally established schism between Rome and Constantinople in 1054. The practice was officially changed in 1086. So the entire process seems to have taken about 50 years in Constantinople.

Question: What do you think? Will the Eastern Orthodox practice become part of this debate on divorce and remarriage at Rome? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

With whom would you eat dinner with from the Bible? (excepting Jesus and Mary)

So you’re praying one afternoon and Christ appears to you and says that you will be allowed to have dinner that night with one person from the Bible. He or she will be able to speak your language and discuss whatever you desire.

Who would you pick? Jesus and Mary are excepted and your pick must be human (ie, no angels).

Options include:

  • Adam
  • Eve
  • Moses
  • Ruth
  • David
  • Solomon
  • Esther
  • Isaiah
  • Malachi
  • Joseph
  • John the Baptist
  • Peter
  • Paul
  • John
  • Mary Magdalene
  • or anyone you choose.

Your choice could even be a villain, if you like, such as Pharaoh, Jezebel, or even Judas. But your choice must be from the Bible.

Question: Who would you choose and why? What would you ask them? I’ll reveal my answer after several people have left comments below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.