The Hell There Is
St. Matthew 25: Verses 1-12
Two of the after-life destinations have been covered. First, Heaven with the treatise and commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 5 through 7 and on Purgatory with St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 3. Now there is one other destination that is important to consider, if out of fear itself for one's immortal soul and that is Hell. This nether region is what Jesus focuses on in the Gospel as we return to St. Matthew and chapter 25 with the first twelve verses that sets the stage for what Our Lord is conveying in waking the people to the reality of damnation beginning with the parable of the five wise virgins and the five foolish, the latter of which were not ready when the Bridegroom, Who is Christ, when He came. We do not know the hour and therefore must assure our souls are in the state of Sanctifying Grace or we could suffer eternal damnation as St. Thomas treats the possibilities of the damned souls in Part One.
In this work of God from the Gospel of St. Matthew I employ not only the well-known Haydock Commentary, but also the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Please note, while I attribute to Aquinas what is shown below, it should be acknowledged that it comes from the part of the Summa that was completed after his death by a Dominican theologian and friend of Saint Thomas (Supplement) using Saint Thomas' commentary on the "Fourth Book of the Sentences" or "Sentences" (Quatuor libri Sententiarum)].
I am using this to bring before the reader the undeniable reality of Hell and the possibility that each and every one of us can go there. In the texts of the Summa what is in parenthesis has been put there by Thomas himself, that which is in brackets by the editor of New Advent's online version of the Summa on Hell unless "J.G." is added at the end which would be something I insert. The only things I would insert would be a brief definition of a word that may not be readily known. In most cases I only do this if it was a word I didn't understand or was not 100% sure I knew the exact meaning. My inserts should not be looked at as being definitive as the desired meaning of the word as intended by Aquinas could be quite different. You will note in this first installment St. Thomas' words are in black, mine in blue, Haydock Commentary in green and Christ's words from Sacred Scripture always in red.
I would like to note that when Thomas speaks of "the philosopher" he is speaking of Aristotle. The most difficult thing about studying the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas the scholastic terminology he uses. (If anyone has a list of the definitions of scholastic terminology please write me at the address link at the end of this presentation.) His writings are quite clear if those words are understood. Ambiguity and Aquinas don't mix.
Lastly, for brevity and easy reading I sometimes gave Thomas Aquinas' answers to objections without giving the objections so when you see a sentence that seems to be obscure it is a response to a particular objection. I suggest checking the source itself at the following link (SUMMA) for clarification.
Some prefer to think that the unbaptized children will depart Limbo (which they believe will no longer exist) and go to Heaven (rather than Limbo which is the hem of Hell and will exist for as long as Hell exists i.e. forever) at the end of time though Thomas clearly avoids suggesting such a novel thought because it is an article of faith that Original Sin prevents one from obtaining the Divine Vision. Having had a miscarriage myself (through my wife) I understand why they would think this way. But enjoying an eternity of perfect natural happiness is far better than never having existed. These children do have a good eternity which is far better than the life we endure on our pilgrimage. The Church strongly urges the Baptism of children as shortly after birth as possible with good reason, as an eternity of perfect natural happiness, though satisfying and enjoyable, falls far short of the Beatific Vision. Their earthly parents, when in Heaven, will not be saddened by this as they will be keenly in tune with the Justice and Mercy of God, and perhaps they will foresee that had their children lived some time past the age of reason they may have merited eternal punishments.(See footnote below) Thomastic theology on this issue, as will be seen later in this presentation, will make you feel better about their end should you believe such an end is an injustice. For proof that the Limbo of Children is eternal let us see what the Angelic Doctor says:
On the contrary, Even as temporal punishment in purgatory and eternal punishment in hell are due to actual sin, so temporal punishment in the limbo of the Fathers and eternal punishment in the limbo of the children were due to original sin. If, therefore, hell and purgatory be not the same it would seem that neither are the limbo of children and the limbo of the Fathers the same.
I answer that, The limbo of the Fathers and the limbo of children, without any doubt, differ as to the quality of punishment or reward. For children have no hope of the blessed life, as the Fathers in limbo had, in whom, moreover, shone forth the light of faith and grace. But as regards their situation, there is reason to believe that the place of both is the same; except that the limbo of the Fathers is placed higher than the limbo of children, just as we have stated in reference to limbo and hell (5). See Article 6. Whether the Limbo of Children is the Same as the Limbo of the Fathers.
When putting this together I could not help thinking of Mother Teresa and her plight. She did a ton of natural good in her life and after hearing the sermon on the bottom of this link by Father Ephrem Cordova, CMRI, entitled "Mother Teresa Canonized" (which speaks to all the reasons she should not be canonized were a true Pope to consider it) I believe that her life-long devotion to works of mercy gave her the grace to have a good death with a valid Priest administering Last Rites to her. But we should never count on that. Besides, how many of us will do as much good for the poor as she did?
Now let us go to the Source, the Words of the Son of God Himself in the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 25.
1 Then shall the kingdom of Heaven be like to ten virgins, who, taking their lamps, went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride.
Verse 1. Ten virgins. By these are signified all mankind. By the bridegroom, Christ; by the bride, the Church; by oil, grace and charity. (Witham) --- The kingdom of Heaven is not unfrequently compared to the Church militant; which, as it is composed of both just and wicked, reprobate and elect, is deservedly compared to five wise and five foolish virgins: the wise constantly aspiring after their blessed country; the foolish, with all their fasts and austerities, wishing to procure nothing more than the empty esteem of men. (St. Gregory) --- Went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride; in the Greek, it is simply, before the bridegroom. The custom among the Jews was, that the bridegroom should go to fetch his spouse, and conduct her with solemnity to his house. (Bible de Vence) --- This was the conclusive ceremony, and done in the night-time. The young women of the vicinity, in order to do her honor, went to meet her with lighted lamps. Modern travelers inform us, that this custom still obtains with the eastern nations, particularly the Persians. Hence the Latin phrase, ducere uxorem: to marry.
2 Now five of them were foolish, and five were wise.
3 But the five foolish, having taken their lamps, took no oil with them:
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels, with the lamps.
Verse 4. But the wise took oil. Under this parable, we have the state of all Christians in their mortal pilgrimage justly delineated. The wise took oil in their lamps, the necessary qualifications of grace and charity, joined with divine faith, and an additional supply of oil in their vessels; i.e. they laid up in store for themselves a solid foundation of good works. St. Gregory teaches, that by the lamps, faith is meant; and by the light, good works. Hence he concludes that the bad, although they have lamps, i.e. faith, no less than the good, shall be excluded; because their lamps are out, i.e. their faith is dead, without charity and good works to enlighten them. (hom. xii.) --- St. Augustine also declares, that these lighted lamps are good works, viz. works of mercy and good conversation, which shine forth before men. (ep. 120. chap. xxxiii.) --- And, that this oil is a right inward intention, directing all our works to the greater glory of God, and not to the praise of ourselves in the sight of men. (Idem. ibid.) --- The foolish virgins had a little oil in their lamps at first, sufficient to shine before men, by some little external shew of piety, or certain works done through fear, profit, or human respects; but had made no provision of oil in their vessels, i.e. in their hearts and conscience, no provision of solid piety and charity, by means of which they might, like the prudent virgins, produce good works to salvation. (Jansenius)
5 And while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
Verse 5. And while the bridegroom (Jesus Christ) tarried, i.e. delayed His coming, and thus protracted the time of repentance, they all slumbered and slept; viz. they all died. Hence St. Paul, nolo vos ignorare de dormientibus. But the reason why Jesus Christ says they slumbered is, because they were to rise again: and by the expression, whilst the bridegroom tarried, Christ wishes to show us that a very short time will elapse between his first and second coming. (St. Jerome)
6 And at midnight there was a cry made: Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet Him.
Verse 6. There was a cry. So shall we all have to rise again at the sound of the last trumpet, to meet our judge, either like the wise virgins, who having their oil ready, and their lamps trimmed and burning, soon prepare themselves to give in their accounts to their Lord; or, like the foolish, who having made no provision of the oil of good works, are compelled to seek it at the time they are to be judged. (St. Augustine) --- It is said he will come at midnight; i.e. when least expected.
7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said to the wise: Give us of your oil: for our lamps are gone out.
Verse 8. For our lamps are gone out. Thus too many trusting to their faith alone, and leading a tepid indifference life, are negligent in preparing themselves by good works for the coming of the bridegroom. But when they perceived themselves called away from this life, to go and meet their judge, they then begin to find their lamps extinguished, and to think of procuring for themselves the oil of good works, by bequeathing their effects to the poor. Though we ought not to despair of the salvation of these, still there is great room to fear; for, a death-bed repentance is seldom sincere, more seldom, or never perfect, and always uncertain. (Jansenius)
9 The wise answered, saying: Lest there be not enough for us and for you, go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
Verse 9. Go ye rather to them that sell. The wise virgins do not there advise the foolish to go and buy, but upbraid them for the poor store of good works they have laid up. They had before only sought the praises of men in their good actions, and therefore are answered by the wise: "go now to those to whom you have given all your actions; go and see what their praises will avail, what peace of conscience they can give you: and, if they have praised you, and made you esteemed in the eyes of men, see if they can do the same before God." (St. Augustine)
10 Now while they went to buy, the Bridegroom came: and they who were ready, went in with Him to the marriage, and the door was shut.
Verse 10. And the door was shut. After the final day of judgment, there will be no room for prayers and good works. (St. Jerome) --- For, after having received those within its walls, who have put on in some degree the nature of the angels, the gate to the city of bliss is closed for ever. (St. Augustine)
11 But at last came also the other virgins, saying: Lord, Lord, open to us.
12 But He answering said: Amen, I say to you, I know you not.
St. Thomas on whether the
bodies of the damned will rise again with their deformities
It is written (1 Corinthians 15:52): "The dead shall rise again incorruptible"; where a gloss says: "The dead, i.e. sinners, or all the dead in general shall rise again incorruptible, i.e. without the loss of any limbs." Therefore the wicked will rise again without their deformities.
Further, there will be nothing in the damned to lessen the sense of pain. But sickness hinders the sense of pain by weakening the organ of sense, and in like manner the lack of a limb would prevent pain from affecting the whole body. Therefore the damned will rise again without these defects.
Deformity in the human body is of two kinds. One arises from the lack of a limb: thus we say that a mutilated person is deformed, because he lacks due proportion of the parts to the whole. Deformities of this kind, without any doubt, will not be in the bodies of the damned, since all bodies of both wicked and good will rise again whole. Another deformity arises from the undue disposition of the parts, by reason of undue quantity, quality, or place--which deformity is, moreover, incompatible with due proportion of parts to whole. Concerning these deformities and like defects such as fevers and similar ailments which sometimes result in deformity, Augustine remained undecided and doubtful as the Master remarks. Among modern masters, however, there are two opinions on this point. For some say that such like deformities and defects will remain in the bodies of the damned, because they consider that those who are damned are sentenced to utmost unhappiness wherefrom no affliction should be rebated. But this would seem unreasonable. For in the restoration of the rising body we look to its natural perfection rather than to its previous condition: wherefore those who die under perfect age will rise again in the stature of youth, as stated above (Question 81, Article 1). Consequently those who had natural defects in the body, or deformities resulting therefrom, will be restored without those defects or deformities at the resurrection, unless the demerit of sin prevent; and so if a person rise again with such defects and deformities, this will be for his punishment. Now the mode of punishment is according to the measure of guilt. And a sinner who is about to be damned may be burdened with less grievous sins and yet have deformities and defects which one who is about to be damned has not, while burdened with more grievous sins. Wherefore if he who had deformities in this life rise again with them, while the other who had them not in this life, and therefore, as is clear, will rise again without them, though deserving of greater punishment, the mode of the punishment would not correspond to the amount of guilt; in fact it would seem that a man is more punished on account of the pains which he suffered in this world; which is absurd.
Hence others say with more reason, that He Who fashioned nature will wholly restore the body's nature at the resurrection. Wherefore whatever defect or deformity was in the body through corruption, or weakness of nature or of natural principles (for instance fever, purblindness [complete blindness], and so forth) will be entirely done away at the resurrection: whereas those defects in the human body which are the natural result of its natural principles, such as heaviness, passibility, and the like, will be in the bodies of the damned, while they will be removed from the bodies of the elect by the glory of the resurrection.
Since in every tribunal punishment is inflicted according to the jurisdiction of the tribunal, the punishments which in this temporal life are inflicted for some particular sin are themselves temporal, and extend not beyond the term of this life. Hence although the damned are not pardoned their sins, it does not follow that there they will undergo the same punishments as they have in this world: but the Divine justice demands that there they shall suffer more severe punishment for eternity.
There is no parity between the good and the wicked, because a thing can be altogether good, but not altogether evil. Hence the final happiness of the saints requires that they should be altogether exempt from all evil; whereas the final unhappiness of the wicked will not exclude all good, because "if a thing be wholly evil it destroys itself," as the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 5). Hence it is necessary for the good of their nature to underlie the unhappiness of the damned, which good is the work of their perfect Creator, Who will restore that same nature to the perfection of its species.
Slowness of movement is one of those defects which are the natural result of the principles of the human body; but deformity is not, and consequently the comparison fails.
Aquinas on whether the
bodies of the damned will be incorruptible
It is written (Apocalypse 9:6): "In those days men shall seek death, and shall not find it, and they shall desire to die, and death shall fly from them."
Further, the damned will be punished with an everlasting punishment both in soul and body (Matthew 25:46): "These shall go into everlasting punishment." But this would not be possible if their bodies were corruptible. Therefore their bodies will be incorruptible.
Since in every movement there must needs be a principle of movement, movement or change may be withdrawn from a movable in two ways: first through absence of a principle of movement, secondly through an obstacle to the principle of movement. Now corruption is a kind of change: and consequently a body which is corruptible on account of the nature of its principles may be rendered incorruptible in two ways. First by the total removal of the principle which leads to corruption, and in this way the bodies of the damned will be incorruptible. For since the Heaven is the first principle of alteration in virtue of its local movement, and all other secondary agents act in virtue thereof and as though moved thereby, it follows that at the cessation of the heavenly movement there is no longer any agent that can change the body by altering it from its natural property. Wherefore after the resurrection, and the cessation of the heavenly movement, there will be no quality capable of altering the human body from its natural quality. Now corruption, like generation, is the term of alteration. Hence the bodies of the damned will be incorruptible, and this will serve the purpose of Divine justice, since living for ever they will be punished for ever. This is in keeping with the demands of Divine justice, as we shall state further on (3), even as now the corruptibility of bodies serves the purpose of Divine providence, by which through the corruption of one thing another is generated.
Secondly, this happens through the principle of corruption being hindered, and in this way the body of Adam was incorruptible, because the conflicting qualities that exist in man's body were withheld by the grace of innocence from conducing to the body's dissolution: and much more will they be withheld in the glorified bodies, which will be wholly subject to the spirit. Thus after the general resurrection the two aforesaid modes of incorruptibility will be united together in the bodies of the blessed.
The contraries of which bodies are composed are conducive to corruption as secondary principles. For the first active principle thereof is the heavenly movement: wherefore given the movement of the heaven, it is necessary for a body composed of contraries to be corrupted unless some more powerful cause prevent it: whereas if the heavenly movement be withdrawn, the contraries of which a body is composed do not suffice to cause corruption, even in accordance with nature, as explained above. But the philosophers were ignorant of a cessation in the heavenly movement; and consequently they held that a body composed of contraries is without fail corrupted in accordance with nature.
This incorruptibility will result from nature, not as though there were some principle of incorruption in the bodies of the damned, but on account of the cessation of the active principle of corruption, as shown above.
Although death is simply the greatest of punishments, yet nothing prevents death conducing, in a certain respect, to a cessation of punishments; and consequently the removal of death may contribute to the increase of punishment. For as the Philosopher says, "Life is pleasant to all, for all desire to be . . . But we must not apply this to a wicked or corrupt life, nor one passed in sorrow." Accordingly just as life is simply pleasant, but not the life that is passed in sorrows, so too death, which is the privation of life, is painful simply, and the greatest of punishments, inasmuch as it deprives one of the primary good, namely being, with which other things are withdrawn. But in so far as it deprives one of a wicked life, and of such as is passed in sorrow, it is a remedy for pains, since it puts an end to them, and consequently the withdrawal of death leads to the increase of punishments by making them everlasting. If however we say that death is penal by reason of the bodily pain which the dying feel, without doubt the damned will continue to feel a far greater pain: wherefore they are said to be in "everlasting death," according to the Psalm (48:15): "Death shall feed upon them."
The Angelic Doctor on whether the
bodies of the damned will be impassible
[impassible - not subject to pain or injury - J.G.]
It is written (1 Corinthians 15:52): "And we shall be changed": and a gloss says: "We--the good alone--will be changed with the unchangeableness and impassibility of glory."
Further, even as the body co-operates with the soul in merit, so does it co-operate in sin. Now on account of the former co-operation not only the soul but also the body will be rewarded after the resurrection. Therefore in like manner the bodies of the damned will be punished; which would not be the case were they impassible. Therefore they will be passible.
The principal cause of the bodies of the damned not being consumed by fire will be the Divine justice by which their bodies will be consigned to everlasting punishment. Now the Divine justice is served also by the natural disposition, whether on the part of the passive body or on the part of the active causes; for since passiveness is a kind of receptiveness, there are two kinds of passion, corresponding to two ways in which one thing is receptive of another. For a form may be received into a subject materially according to its natural being, just as the air receives heat from fire materially; and corresponding to this manner of reception there is a kind of passion which we call "passion of nature." In another way one thing is received into another spiritually by way of an "intention," just as the likeness of whiteness is received into the air and in the pupil: this reception is like that whereby the soul receives the likeness of things: wherefore corresponding to this mode of reception is another mode of passion which we call "passion of the soul." Since therefore after the resurrection and the cessation of the heavenly movement it will be impossible for a body to be altered by its natural quality, as stated above (Article 2), it will not be possible for any body to be passive with a passion of nature. Consequently as regards this mode of passion the bodies of the damned will be impassible even as they will be incorruptible. Yet after the heaven has ceased to move, there will still remain the passion which is after the manner of the soul, since the air will both receive light from the sun, and will convey the variety of colors to the sight. Wherefore in respect of this mode of passion the bodies of the damned will be passible. But the glorified bodies, albeit they receive something, and are in a manner patient to sensation, will nevertheless not be passive, since they will receive nothing to distress or hurt them, as will the bodies of the damned, which for this reason are said to be passible.
The Philosopher is speaking of the passion whereby the patient is changed from its natural disposition. But this kind of passion will not be in the bodies of the damned, as stated above.
The likeness of the agent [efficient cause - J.G.] is in the patient [any being that is changed by an agent - J.G.] in two ways. First, in the same way as in the agent, and thus it is in all univocal [wholly the same (heat, heat; fire, fire) - J.G.] agents, for instance a thing that is hot makes another thing hot, and fire generates fire. Secondly, otherwise than in the agent, and thus it is in all equivocal [wholly different (thought of a house vs. the material house itself) - J.G.] agents. In these it happens sometimes that a form which is in the agent spiritually is received into the patient materially: thus the form of the house built by the craftsman is materially in itself, but spiritually in the mind of the craftsman. On the other hand, sometimes it is in the agent materially, but is received into the patient spiritually: thus whiteness is materially on the wall wherein it is received, whereas it is spiritually in the pupil and in the transferring medium. And so it is in the case at issue, because the species which is in the fire materially is received spiritually into the bodies of the damned; thus it is that the fire will assimilate the bodies of the damned to itself, without consuming them withal.
According to the Philosopher, "no animal can live in fire." Galen also says "that there is no body which at length is not consumed by fire"; although sometimes certain bodies may remain in fire without hurt, such as ebony. The instance of the salamander is not altogether apposite, since it cannot remain in the fire without being at last consumed, as do the bodies of the damned in hell. Nor does it follow that because the bodies of the damned suffer no corruption from the fire, they therefore are not tormented by the fire, because the sensible object has a natural aptitude to please or displease the senses, not only as regards its natural action of stimulating or injuring the organ, but also as regards its spiritual action: since when the sensible object is duly proportionate to the sense, it pleases, whereas the contrary is the result when it is in excess or defect. Hence subdued colors and harmonious sounds are pleasing, whereas discordant sounds displease the hearing.
Pain does not sever the soul from the body, in so far as it is confined to a power of the soul which feels the pain, but in so far as the passion of the soul leads to the body being changed from its natural disposition. Thus it is that we see that through anger the body becomes heated, and through fear, chilled: whereas after the resurrection it will be impossible for the body to be changed from its natural disposition, as stated above (Article 2). Consequently, however great the pain will be, it will not sever the body from the soul.
Whether every act of will in the damned is evil?
An obstinate will can never be inclined except to evil. Now men who are damned will be obstinate even as the demons [Cf. I, 64, 2]. Further, as the will of the damned is in relation to evil, so is the will of the blessed in regard to good. But the blessed never have an evil will. Neither therefore have the damned any good will.
A twofold will may be considered in the damned, namely the deliberate will and the natural will. Their natural will is theirs not of themselves but of the Author of nature, Who gave nature this inclination which we call the natural will. Wherefore since nature remains in them, it follows that the natural will in them can be good. But their deliberate will is theirs of themselves, inasmuch as it is in their power to be inclined by their affections to this or that. This will is in them always evil: and this because they are completely turned away from the last end of a right will, nor can a will be good except it be directed to that same end. Hence even though they will some good, they do not will it well so that one be able to call their will good on that account.
The words of Dionysius must be understood of the natural will, which is nature's inclination to some particular good. And yet this natural inclination is corrupted by their wickedness, in so far as this good which they desire naturally is desired by them under certain evil circumstances [Cf. I, 64, 2, ad 5].
Evil, as evil, does not move the will, but in so far as it is thought to be good. Yet it comes of their wickedness that they esteem that which is evil as though it were good. Hence their will is evil.
The habits of civic virtue do not remain in the separated soul, because those virtues perfect us only in the civic life which will not remain after this life. Even though they remained, they would never come into action, being enchained, as it were, by the obstinacy of the mind.
In the second installment I will deal with verses 13 through 30 on the parable of the five talents and how the foolish man wasted his and how man is accountable for all he does.
Footnote: Those parents who use chemical conception/birth prevention (subjective culpability aside), all of which are abortafacient, could very well have their eternity negatively altered for preventing a child from going to Heaven practically as soon as he comes into existence due to their selfish abuse of the marriage right. There is a distinct possibility that the best such parents can hope for (without considering prayer, penance and mortification that potentially could rectify or improve the situation) is a lesser degree of glory in Heaven should they make it there.