A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Heaven's Bathroom

I finally finished two of the many books on my "What I'm reading" shelf, and I have correspondingly allowed myself to move on to a new book, Peter Kreeft's Three Philosophies of Life. I picked up the book because I am currently interetested in reading interpretations of the Song of Songs, and this book, which treats the Song as a philosophical text, seemed to offer a unique approach.

I'm only two pages into the book, and I've already found a delightful Kreeftian phrase to carry with me. Kreeft, you see, considers Ecclesiastes to be the book of the philosophy of vanity- and vanity is located in Hell. The Song of Songs he reads as the book of the philosophy of love, and love of course is located in Heaven, because God is love. And that leaves Job as the book of suffering, which Kreeft locates not in Hell, but in purgatory, on the grounds that "Suffering is not the essence of Hell, because suffering can be hopeful. It was for Job. Job never lost his faith and his hope (which is faith directed at the future), and his suffering proved to be purifying, purgative, education: it gave him eyes to see God" (9). This is an interesting statement, but it was not what caught my attention. The phrase that made my day occurred in Kreeft's footnote on the word purgatory:

Note to Protestant readers: please do not throw this book away just yet. I am not presupposing or trying to convert anyone to the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. Here I mean by Purgatory any suffering that purges the soul. It begins in this life. If it is completed in the next, you can just as well call it Heaven's bathroom. A sanctification by any other name would smell just as sweet. (8)

Purgatory as Heaven's bathroom. . . I like it. It works. When people hear purgatory, they tend to think of cleansing fire and suffering. I don't deny that there are valid reasons for thinking of these things in conjunction with purgatory, but I am of the school that thinks we would have an easier time of explaining purgatory if we talked about it in terms of soap: perhaps even in Leon ard Vander Zee's terms of Gospel Soap, if I may borrow from the Reformed Church.

For Catholics, then, purgatory is the bathroom of Heaven, where we are given the final application of Gospel Soap. I know that I have a tendency to simplify -perhaps to oversimplify- but it seems to me that in this case, it really is that simple.


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