Christmas in Purgatory

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday 3 Advent (Year 2):

Et quis poterit cogitare diem adventus ejus, et quis stabit ad videndum eum? ipse enim quasi ignis conflans.
And who shall be able to think of the day of his coming? and who shall stand to see him? for he is like a refining fire.
Happy Christmas: we’re doomed, here in the wealthy, bullying west. We’re doomed. But I hope it is to our salvation. How can that be? Yesterday’s post didn’t rant about our personal doom: but rather about the doom of this unhealthy culture of consume and die in which we are engulfed. We are so busy building it up because we can that we never even stop to ask if we should. (We shouldn’t. God’s got a way out. Through him:

  • The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. – Exodus 13:21
  • and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, O LORD, are in the midst of this people, for You, O LORD, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. – Numbers 14:14
  • who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go. – Deuteronomy 1:33
  • Then He led them with the cloud by day And all the night with a light of fire. – Psalm 78:14
  • then the LORD will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. – Isaiah 4:5
  • At the morning watch, the LORD looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion. – Exodus 14:24
  • It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. – Genesis 15:17
  • “I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. – Daniel 7:9
  • “Then the LORD spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form–only a voice. – Deuteronomy 4:12
  • “So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, – Deuteronomy 4:15
  • “Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? – Deuteronomy 4:33
  • “The LORD spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire, – Deuteronomy 5:4
  • “You said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives. – Deuteronomy 5:24
  • “He wrote on the tablets, like the former writing, the Ten Commandments which the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the LORD gave them to me. – Deuteronomy 10:4
  • “Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. – Deuteronomy 4:36
  • ‘For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? – Deuteronomy 5:26
  • Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. – Exodus 19:18
  • And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. – Exodus 24:17
  • For behold, the LORD will come in fire And His chariots like the whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire. – Isaiah 66:15
  • May our God come and not keep silence; Fire devours before Him, And it is very tempestuous around Him. – Psalm 50:3
  • “From the brightness before Him Coals of fire were kindled. – 2 Samuel 22:13
  • From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds, Hailstones and coals of fire. – Psalm 18:12

God’s way out is passing us through his refining fire. This is the very meaning of Purgatory: the refining fire of God’s love, making us pure. Will it hurt, mostly. But we will be blessed to know the pangs of love.
And when there is something here, that is not for our salvation, be it drugs, sex, politics, a relationship, television, whatever; it will take fire to burn it out of us. We are doomed: we, the collective, cultural matrix we’ve built up. Each of us, inside it, are the icons of God, but you can’t tell me the world we have made is that at all. We are doomed.
If we die with this wrapped around us, God love will still take care of it. 
But if we pass through the Jihad (Syrian Catholic), the Ascesis (Greek Catholic), the Podvig (Slavic Byzantine Catholic), the holy Struggle of purification here, while we’re alive: we can offer it all up to God and, maybe, prevent others from falling into the same traps, the same pains, the same struggles as we. 
There is one last reference: too those who have rising beyond the fire:

And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. – Revelation 15:2

For those who, by grace, make it through… and grace is only more fire… there is glory.

Author: Huw Richardson

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He has worked in tech (mostly) since 1999 and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.