Perdition and Salvation

Perdition and Salvation June 15, 2022

Lawrence OP:  Benvenuto di Giovanni’s The Harrowing Of Hell /flickr

Malice harms and threatens to destroy the one who holds it. Malice turns us away from love, and so, since God is love,  so long as we hold onto malice, we cut ourselves off from God.  Our malice, our hate, our rejection of love creates a barrier between us and God, and so, we close ourselves off from all that God would love to give us, including, and especially, the grace which we need in order to experience beatitude. For heaven, the kingdom of God, is the kingdom of love; love abounds in grace. God, loving us, is willing to raise us up, not only to perfect us in accordance to our nature, but to help us transcend it, but God does so in such a way so as to make room for us and our own choices. God does not force us to accept the love and grace which is being offered. Love is not love if it imposes upon us in that fashion. This is not to say God will not to what can be done to entice us to receive all that love, for God will do everything to appeal to us so we accept that love, but God still has made room for us to make the choice for ourselves. And as long as we deny God’s love, we deny for ourselves the bounty and glory which we can have if we accept it in our lives. Inasmuch as we reject that love, we reject all the good intended for us, and so we create, as a result, our own private little hell.

Nonetheless, love is greater than hate; love is never-ending, indeed, it is eternal. Hate can and will come to an end, and when it does, love can take over, purifying those who once held onto malice from all of its remnants, healing them from the wounds which it caused them, so that in the end, the evil of malice will be extinguished and all that will be left is the good which the evil tried to destroy. Thus, as St. Jerome explained, perdition is real, but it must never be understood as annihilating what is good; it is about bringing evil to an end, so that what is left can be saved:

Besides, note what he says in the following verse: ‘Let them be shamed and put to rout forever, let them be confounded and perish’; let them cease to exist as far as their evil is concerned, but let the good in them be saved. Notice that this perdition does not signify annihilation but salvation. [1]

Sin attempts to corrupt and destroy all things. It is important for us to understand what sin is and what it is not. It is not a thing in and of itself, but rather, it is the result of a defective moral act on our part. Once it is established, it continues to have no substance of its own; rather, it acts as a parasite, partaking of the good of a host which it slowly corrupts and destroys,  until at last, if it is not stopped, the good it emerged from is eliminated,  and then the sin has nothing left to consume and so ends up annihilating itself. Thus, sin leads to its own perdition; it is like a snake turning upon its tail, eating itself up. Eventually, then, sin will come to an end, either by being resisted and overcome in that fashion, or by its own self-destruction. What is left from the wake of its elimination will be freed from its influence, from its contamination; this remnant, then, can be given grace by God, so that through that grace, what has been harmed by sin can be restored back to the condition it was before sin came upon it. Thus, as some good remains, so God has  something left to save.

So long as someone holds on to sin, they hold onto malice, for sin is the violation of love; and thanks to that malice, they will experience the corruption of sin for themselves, an experience which will seem as if it were a punishment. For the truth of the matter is that every sin has its own consequences, its own path towards destruction, and so its own “punishment,” either in this life, or in the “after-life”:

Now God provides in His compassion that a man will taste this punishment either while he is journeying on the road or when he reaches its end; then, by reason of His rich mercies, a man will pass through punishment as a recompense; but through rest [only] as an earnest, so that the interest on the good [deeds done] does not eat away its own capital: but for evil [deeds], yes – as it is said: He who is chastised here eats away his own Gehenna. [2]

All humanity suffers for what they have done contrary to the dictates of love, but love does not let humanity perish due to its malice, and so, because we have fallen into error and wounded by our own sins, Jesus the Good Samaritan comes to us and lifts us all out of the pit of hell that we have made for ourselves:

But the Samaritan raised him up. For the Samaritan is the Son of God, made incarnate in the shrine of the Holy Spirit, that is, in the immaculate Virgin, without any of the blindness of Adam, which human nature has as a result of sin. And He raised Adam and all his race from the pit of hell. [3]

As it is malice which leads us to our own experience of hell, we must avoid malice. This means, we should hope for the salvation of all. If we do not, if we wish to send someone to hell, no matter what reason we give for doing so, we have malice in our hearts and so will end up experiencing, insofar as we hold onto that malice, that which we wish for others:

And thus, a really prudent man is eager to help all whom he can in order that he may increase his fruits by the merits of all who are won to God through him. But if he plans anyone’s damnation or rejoices over the fate of one who perishes, a man necessarily perishes himself before he cause another to be lost; and the perdition which he wishes to another begins with his own ruin.[4]

This is not to say we should accept injustices. Of course we must fight against them and condemn them when we see them. But we must do so with the hope that we can bring them to an end, and that all those affected by them, including those who held onto them and promoted them, can be brought out of their grip and saved. That is, we should hope all injustice comes to an end, so that the good which they corrupted and tried to destroy could be set free and made whole. This is why we can wish that all evil comes to its own perdition, that is, we can hope that all such evil, all such injustice in the world, is brought to an end. But we must wish more than this. This is only half of the equation. We must hope that all the wounds injustices have inflicted upon creation will be covered up and healed by grace; for in this fashion, evil will not have the final say. We must hope for this, not only for others, but for ourselves; for the hope of salvation includes a hope for our own transformation, a hope that we will be set free from any and all evil which is within our hearts. We should seek to be made pure, that is, to truly embrace love, so that we can then receive the bounty of love, the bounty of the kingdom of God.

Evil will perish, it will come to its end, but love never ends; malice will suffer the perdition of its own making, and when this happens, that which was enslaved by it will find itself set free, free to love and be loved, free, that is, to experience the glory of eternal life, the life of eternal love itself.

 


[1] St. Jerome, The Homilies of Saint Jerome: Volume I (1-59 On the Psalms). Trans. Marie Liguori Ewald, IHM (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 1963), 119 [Homily 16].

[2] Saint Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian. Trans. Monks of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Rev. 2nd ed (Boston, MA: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 2011), 278 [Homily 32].

[3] St. Hildegard of Bingen, “Letter 164r” in The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen. Volume II. Trans. Joseph L Baird and Radd K Ehrman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 116,

[4] Julianus Pomerius, The Contemplative Life. Trans. Mary Josephine Suelzer, PhD (Westminster, MD: The Newman Bookshop, 1947), 159.

 

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