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Penances and purgatory

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  • Bob White
    Hello Liturgy-l, This is tangentially liturgical and related to a couple of questions I was asked in the course of some teaching on Luther and the Reformation:
    Message 1 of 4 , Oct 28, 2007
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      Hello Liturgy-l,

      This is tangentially liturgical and related to a couple of questions
      I was asked in the course of some teaching on Luther and the
      Reformation:

      Are there listings medieval and/or contemporary of

      1) specific times to purgatory is to be endured for specific sins
      2) recommended penances for specific sins (on this one I am aware of
      the existence of a number of "Penitential Books" from the middle
      Middle Ages.


      --
      Bob mailto:rwhite84@...

      It isn't that they can't see the solution.
      It is that they can't see the problem.
      --G.K. Chesterton
    • dlewisaao@aol.com
      On #2, try the Raccolta. David Lewis In a message dated 10/28/2007 9:30:13 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, rwhite84@neo.rr.com writes: This is tangentially
      Message 2 of 4 , Oct 28, 2007
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        On #2, try the Raccolta.

        David Lewis



        In a message dated 10/28/2007 9:30:13 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
        rwhite84@... writes:

        This is tangentially liturgical and related to a couple of questions
        I was asked in the course of some teaching on Luther and the
        Reformation:

        Are there listings medieval and/or contemporary of

        1) specific times to purgatory is to be endured for specific sins
        2) recommended penances for specific sins (on this one I am aware of
        the existence of a number of "Penitential Books" from the middle
        Middle Ages.





        ************************************** See what's new at http://www.aol.com


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • thomas@laudasion.org
        Penances and their relation to purgatory are complex and confusing. They need to be viewed in historical context. Historically, penances are imposed by
        Message 3 of 4 , Oct 30, 2007
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          Penances and their relation to purgatory are complex and confusing. They
          need to be viewed in historical context. Historically, penances are imposed
          by judicial acts by Church authority. In the early Church, this would
          actually be a court of sorts, with the bishop presiding. Later the
          authority was delegated to priests (though still not all priests), and
          eventually,done normally in more private fora (e.g. confessionals). Days of
          penance were just that, days of an ecclesiastical sentence for some
          violation of moral or ecclesial discipline. Various penitential books
          contained standardized sentences to assist judges (i.e. priests) in imposing
          sentences. This answers your second question (yes).

          Sentences were often vary long. Often sentences could be reduced by various
          pious acts, a sort of time off for good behaviour. Often these reductions
          were also standardized in various books of indulgences. Herein lies the
          link which produces the association that people make with purgatory.
          However, it is important to remember that the original concept of
          indulgences, or penance for that matter, was not fundamentally applied to
          the concept of purgatory. The ideas might have been their or even assumed
          (debatable point, won't go into it), but these were basically judicial terms
          for judicial acts of discipline in order for a definetly earthly community.

          Enter Purgatory. Whatever its pedigree, the concept of Purgatory matured
          and developed over the years. The idea that our earthly behaviour effects
          our purification in the afterlife recieved more attention and thought. It
          was recognized that the results of sin had a spiritual dimension beyond the
          concrete legal sentences of penances and indulgences. Further, it was
          recognized that the system of penances and indulgences were fundamentally
          aimed at spiritual life, even if they were applied to earthly affairs. What
          you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and what you loose on earth will
          be loosed in heaven and all that. Thus, while penances may be hard, they
          were intended, ultimately, for the salvation of souls, including the soul of
          the one sentenced. Indulgences certainly reduced the temporal suffering of
          penance, but they were intended also to facilitate the conversion, the
          rehabilitation, the repentence, of the wayward Christian. In fact, as the
          Church was seen as having been granted authority both on earthly life and
          afterwards, these sentences and grants consequently were recognized as
          having particular importance in this effort.

          Over time, imposition of penances as public sentences became uncommon, even
          rare. Penances became most associated with private sessions with priests.
          The privacy of these sessions became protected by a "seal", a binding law
          prohibiting priests from divulging the contents of the communications to
          outsider. In short, they took on the form of private devotions. The
          penances were often seen as primarily private acts aimed at increasing the
          piety of the indiviudal on his personal spiritual journey. The connection
          with earthly life became obscure at best, and thus the connection to the
          spiritual life was emphasized and became a greater source of theological
          attention. The connection with Purgatory was explored more and more. While
          the Council of Trent advised against speculation about the nature of
          Purgatory, this does not seem to have detered many theologians and pious
          writers.

          As Penance was maintained in a spiritualized form, indulgences were also
          maintained. As both were formally sanctioned Ecclesiastical judgements the
          books spelling them out and authorizing them remained intact. Some
          indulgences had greater "value" than others. While this made since in the
          original form, reducing days of a sentence, people now only associated
          Penance and Indulgences with Purgatory. Popular devotion applied the days
          listed on the various Indulgences to "days" of Purgatory, although no such
          connection was ever intended.

          After the Second Vatican Council, the books of indulgences were revised and
          an attempt was made to relieve some of this confusion, while preserving the
          basic theology. How effective this has been on the level of popular devotion
          is debatable. But this may explain why the first question is "no", as the
          books never were intended to be applied to "specific times to purgatory is
          to be endured". There are, however, both medieval and contemproary books of
          indulgences. The latter is relatively easy to access in both Latin and
          English. I am not aware of modern penitentials however.

          thomas.









          Bob White writes:

          > Hello Liturgy-l,
          >
          > This is tangentially liturgical and related to a couple of questions
          > I was asked in the course of some teaching on Luther and the
          > Reformation:
          >
          > Are there listings medieval and/or contemporary of
          >
          > 1) specific times to purgatory is to be endured for specific sins
          > 2) recommended penances for specific sins (on this one I am aware of
          > the existence of a number of "Penitential Books" from the middle
          > Middle Ages.
          >
          >
          > --
          > Bob mailto:rwhite84@...
          >
          > It isn't that they can't see the solution.
          > It is that they can't see the problem.
          > --G.K. Chesterton
          >
        • Douglas Cowling
          ... Perhaps the best popular outine of the doctrine of purgatory in the late medieval period was written by none other than Dorothy L. Sayers, the murder
          Message 4 of 4 , Oct 30, 2007
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            On 10/30/07 2:53 PM, "thomas@..." <thomas@...> wrote:

            > Penances and their relation to purgatory are complex and confusing. They
            > need to be viewed in historical context. Historically, penances are imposed
            > by judicial acts by Church authority.

            Perhaps the best popular outine of the doctrine of purgatory in the late
            medieval period was written by none other than Dorothy L. Sayers, the murder
            mystery novelist, for her translation of Dante's "Divine Comedy" for Penguin
            books. The translation isn;t my favourite but her introductions and
            commentraries throughout are a theological education on the subject of hell,
            purgatory and heaven. Her example of breaking a vase and original sin is
            wonderfully written. She almost convinced me of the theological necessity
            for purgatory!


            Doug Cowling
            Director of Music
            St. Philip's Church, Toronto
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