Lenten Edition 2012

Sermon on the Mount
Part Eleven

    What better preparation during Lent than to studyd the passages of St. Matthew 7: 13-14 which say so much of what to expect once we pass this mortal vale of tears. It is an excellent dissertation on the Last Four Things, specifically Purgatory and more specifically Hell for there are, sadly, more than a few who are in for a terrible surprise when they do kick off and think it will be smooth sailing, forgetting that they chose the wide path strewn with roses, a path that leads directly to the infernal regions. This part deals with details of just exactly what kind of punishment one might expect and where they could very well spend their eternity if they have not entered by the "Narrow Gate."

    For the eleventh part of The Sermon on the Mount I will cover just two verses 13 and 14 of Chapter 7. Though it may only be two verses, it covers a lot as you'll see and covers the punishment of hell. Thus I should like to continue to produce the commentaries only, without adding related Scripture to it. The reason for this, rather than skipping over the context, (we have read and interpreted chapter 5, 6 and the first twelve verses of 7) is to get the meaning, without overwhelming the senses with a multiplication of electrical ink. As always the first commentary under each verse is generally from Father Leo George Haydock, author of the Haydock Commentary, where credit is given to the commentator at the end of the commentary, while the rest are from Saint Thomas Aquinas' Catena Aurea or "Golden Chain", where the credit is given at the beginning. I have cleaned up the commentary for easier reading, deleting the long names of the works they have come from, but leaving you with the name of the proposed commentator alone. The name "Psuedo-Chrysostom" is from a work that was once, but wrongly, attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, and "Gloss", I believe, is generally from commentaries found in the margins of the Scripture translation. When it comes to "St. Gregory" I suppose the source(s) could be any number of "Gregory's" - most likely St. Gregory the Great - though, as far as I can tell the on-line version of this great work of Saint Thomas Aquinas does not share this information:

    Part eleven deals with questions one might ask on what happens to a soul after death in respect to his destination and the parameters for the sentence for each soul as the Fathers and Doctors of the Church have discerned.

13 Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who enter by it.

Enter ye in at the narrow gate, &c. The doctrine of these two verses needs no commentary, but deserve serious attention. (Witham)


    It has passed from natural things to human affairs that whenever one thing rises up against another, it suffers some detriment therefrom. For we observe in natural things that when one contrary supervenes, the other acts with greater energy, for which reason "hot water freezes more rapidly," as stated in Meteor. i, 12. Wherefore we find that the natural inclination of man is to repress those who rise up against him. Now it is evident that all things contained in an order, are, in a manner, one, in relation to the principle of that order. Consequently, whatever rises up against an order, is put down by that order or by the principle thereof. And because sin is an inordinate act, it is evident that whoever sins, commits an offense against an order: wherefore he is put down, in consequence, by that same order, which repression is punishment.

    Accordingly, man can be punished with a threefold punishment corresponding to the three orders to which the human will is subject. In the first place a man's nature is subjected to the order of his own reason; secondly, it is subjected to the order of another man who governs him either in spiritual or in temporal matters, as a member either of the state or of the household; thirdly, it is subjected to the universal order of the Divine government. Now each of these orders is disturbed by sin, for the sinner acts against his reason, and against human and Divine law. Wherefore he incurs a threefold punishment; one, inflicted by himself, viz. remorse of conscience; another, inflicted by man; and a third, inflicted by God.


    We may speak of sin in two ways: first, in its essence, as such; secondly, as to that which is accidental thereto. Sin as such can nowise be the punishment of another. Because sin considered in its essence is something proceeding from the will, for it is from this that it derives the character of guilt. Whereas punishment is essentially something against the will, as stated in the I, 48, 5. Consequently it is evident that sin regarded in its essence can nowise be the punishment of sin.

    On the other hand, sin can be the punishment of sin accidentally in three ways. First, when one sin is the cause of another, by removing an impediment thereto. For passions, temptations of the devil, and the like are causes of sin, but are impeded by the help of Divine grace which is withdrawn on account of sin. Wherefore since the withdrawal of grace is a punishment, and is from God, as stated above (Question 79, Article 3), the result is that the sin which ensues from this is also a punishment accidentally. It is in this sense that the Apostle speaks (Romans 1:24) when he says: "Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart," i.e. to their passions; because, to wit, when men are deprived of the help of Divine grace, they are overcome by their passions. In this way sin is always said to be the punishment of a preceding sin.

    Secondly, by reason of the substance of the act, which is such as to cause pain, whether it be an interior act, as is clearly the case with anger or envy, or an exterior act, as is the case with one who endures considerable trouble and loss in order to achieve a sinful act, according to Wisdom 5:7: "We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity."

    Thirdly, on the part of the effect, so that one sin is said to be a punishment by reason of its effect. In the last two ways, a sin is a punishment not only in respect of a preceding sin, but also with regard to itself.


    It is written (Matthew 25:46): "These shall go into everlasting punishment"; and (Luke 3:29): "He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, shall never have forgiveness, but shall be guilty of an everlasting sin."

    As stated above (Article 1), sin incurs a debt of punishment through disturbing an order. But the effect remains so long as the cause remains. Wherefore so long as the disturbance of the order remains the debt of punishment must needs remain also. Now disturbance of an order is sometimes reparable, sometimes irreparable: because a defect which destroys the principle is irreparable, whereas if the principle be saved, defects can be repaired by virtue of that principle. For instance, if the principle of sight be destroyed, sight cannot be restored except by Divine power; whereas, if the principle of sight be preserved, while there arise certain impediments to the use of sight, these can be remedied by nature or by art.

    Now in every order there is a principle whereby one takes part in that order. Consequently if a sin destroys the principle of the order whereby man's will is subject to God, the disorder will be such as to be considered in itself, irreparable, although it is possible to repair it by the power of God. Now the principle of this order is the last end, to which man adheres by charity. Therefore whatever sins turn man away from God, so as to destroy charity, considered in themselves, incur a debt of eternal punishment.

    Punishment is proportionate to sin in point of severity, both in Divine and in human judgments. In no judgment, however, as St. Augustine says is it requisite for punishment to equal fault in point of duration. For the fact that adultery or murder is committed in a moment does not call for a momentary punishment: in fact they are punished sometimes by imprisonment or banishment for life--sometimes even by death; wherein account is not taken of the time occupied in killing, but rather of the expediency of removing the murderer from the fellowship of the living, so that this punishment, in its own way, represents the eternity of punishment inflicted by God.

    Now according to St. Gregory it is just that he who has sinned against God in his own eternity should be punished in God's eternity. A man is said to have sinned in his own eternity, not only as regards continual sinning throughout his whole life, but also because, from the very fact that he fixes his end in sin, he has the will to sin, everlastingly. Wherefore Gregory says that the "wicked would wish to live without end, that they might abide in their sins for ever."

    Even the punishment that is inflicted according to human laws, is not always intended as a medicine for the one who is punished, but sometimes only for others: thus when a thief is hanged, this is not for his own amendment, but for the sake of others, that at least they may be deterred from crime through fear of the punishment, according to Proverbs 19:25: "The wicked man being scourged, the fool shall be wiser." Accordingly the eternal punishments inflicted by God on the reprobate, are medicinal punishments for those who refrain from sin through the thought of those punishments, according to Psalm 59:6: "Thou hast given a warning to them that fear Thee, that they may flee from before the bow, that Thy beloved may be delivered."

    God does not delight in punishments for their own sake; but He does delight in the order of His justice, which requires them.

    Although punishment is related indirectly to nature, nevertheless it is essentially related to the disturbance of the order, and to God's justice. Wherefore, so long as the disturbance lasts, the punishment endures.


    If this were the case (sin incurring a dept of punishment infinite in quantity i.e. without limit to severeness. See the following website: [quantity] - JG), the punishments of all mortal sins would be equal; because one infinite is not greater than another.

    Punishment is proportionate to sin. Now sin comprises two things. First, there is the turning away from the immutable good, which is infinite, wherefore, in this respect, sin is infinite. Secondly, there is the inordinate turning to mutable good. In this respect sin is finite, both because the mutable good itself is finite, and because the movement of turning towards it is finite, since the acts of a creature cannot be infinite. Accordingly, in so far as sin consists in turning away from something, its corresponding punishment is the "pain of loss," which also is infinite, because it is the loss of the infinite good, i.e. God. But in so far as sin turns inordinately to something, its corresponding punishment is the "pain of sense," which is also finite.

    It would be inconsistent with Divine justice for the sinner to be brought to nothing absolutely, because this would be incompatible with the perpetuity of punishment that Divine justice requires, as stated above (Article 3). The expression "to be brought to nothing" is applied to one who is deprived of spiritual goods, according to 1 Corinthians 13:2: "If I . . . have not charity, I am nothing."

    Duration of punishment corresponds to duration of fault, not indeed as regards the act, but on the part of the stain, for as long as this remains, the debt of punishment remains. But punishment corresponds to fault in the point of severity. And a fault which is irreparable, is such that, of itself, it lasts for ever; wherefore it incurs an everlasting punishment. But it is not infinite as regards the thing it turns to; wherefore, in this respect, it does not incur punishment of infinite quantity.


    Gregory says, that certain slighter sins are remitted after this life. Therefore all sins are not punished eternally.

    As stated above (Article 3), a sin incurs a debt of eternal punishment, in so far as it causes an irreparable disorder in the order of Divine justice, through being contrary to the very principle of that order, viz. the last end. Now it is evident that in some sins there is disorder indeed, but such as not to involve contrariety in respect of the last end, but only in respect of things referable to the end, in so far as one is too much or too little intent on them without prejudicing the order to the last end: as, for instance, when a man is too fond of some temporal thing, yet would not offend God for its sake, by breaking one of His commandments. Consequently such sins do not incur everlasting, but only temporal punishment.

    Sins do not differ infinitely from one another in respect of their turning towards mutable good, which constitutes the substance of the sinful act; but they do differ infinitely in respect of their turning away from something. Because some sins consist in turning away from the last end, and some in a disorder affecting things referable to the end: and the last end differs infinitely from the things that are referred to it.

    Original sin incurs everlasting punishment, not on account of its gravity, but by reason of the condition of the subject, viz. a human being deprived of grace, without which there is no remission of sin.


    It is written (2 Samuel 12:13-14): "David said to Nathan: I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said to David: The Lord also hath taken away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Nevertheless because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme . . . the child that is born to thee shall die." Therefore a man is punished by God even after his sin is forgiven: and so the debt of punishment remains, when the sin has been removed.

    Two things may be considered in sin: the guilty act, and the consequent stain. Now it is evident that in all actual sins, when the act of sin has ceased, the guilt remains; because the act of sin makes man deserving of punishment, in so far as he transgresses the order of Divine justice, to which he cannot return except he pay some sort of penal compensation, which restores him to the equality of justice; so that, according to the order of Divine justice, he who has been too indulgent to his will, by transgressing God's commandments, suffers, either willingly or unwillingly, something contrary to what he would wish.

    Have you ever wondered; "why these [bad, inconvenient, unfortunate] things always happen to me"? Perhaps we have just read the answer to that question. Some motivation to detach ourselves from our own will. No?

    This restoration of the equality of justice by penal compensation is also to be observed in injuries done to one's fellow men. Consequently it is evident that when the sinful or injurious act has ceased there still remains the debt of punishment.

    But if we speak of the removal of sin as to the stain, it is evident that the stain of sin cannot be removed from the soul, without the soul being united to God, since it was through being separated from Him that it suffered the loss of its brightness, in which the stain consists, as stated above (Question 86, Article 1). Now man is united to God by his will. Wherefore the stain of sin cannot be removed from man, unless his will accept the order of Divine justice, that is to say, unless either of his own accord he take upon himself the punishment of his past sin, or bear patiently the punishment which God inflicts on him; and in both ways punishment avails for satisfaction.

    Now when punishment is satisfactory, it loses somewhat of the nature of punishment: for the nature of punishment is to be against the will; and although satisfactory punishment, absolutely speaking, is against the will, nevertheless in this particular case and for this particular purpose, it is voluntary. Consequently it is voluntary simply, but involuntary in a certain respect, as we have explained when speaking of the voluntary and the involuntary (6, 6). We must, therefore, say that, when the stain of sin has been removed, there may remain a debt of punishment, not indeed of punishment simply, but of satisfactory punishment.

    Just as after the act of sin has ceased, the stain remains, as stated above (Question 86, Article 2), so the debt of punishment also can remain. But when the stain has been removed, the debt of punishment does not remain in the same way, as stated. The virtuous man does not deserve punishment simply, but he may deserve it as satisfactory: because his very virtue demands that he should do satisfaction for his offenses against God or man.

    When the stain is removed, the wound of sin is healed as regards the will. But punishment is still requisite in order that the other powers of the soul be healed, since they were so disordered by the sin committed, so that, to wit, the disorder may be remedied by the contrary of that which caused it. Moreover punishment is requisite in order to restore the equality of justice, and to remove the scandal given to others, so that those who were scandalized at the sin may be edified by the punishment, as may be seen in the example of David quoted above.


    It is written (Job 4:7, seqq.): "Who ever perished innocent? Or when were the just destroyed? I have seen those who work iniquity . . . perishing by the blast of God"; and St. Augustine writes that "all punishment is just, and is inflicted for a sin."

    As already stated (6), punishment can be considered in two ways--simply, and as being satisfactory. A satisfactory punishment is, in a way, voluntary. And since those who differ as to the debt of punishment, may be one in will by the union of love, it happens that one who has not sinned, bears willingly the punishment for another: thus even in human affairs we see men take the debts of another upon themselves.

    If, however, we speak of punishment simply, in respect of its being something penal, it has always a relation to a sin in the one punished. Sometimes this is a relation to actual sin, as when a man is punished by God or man for a sin committed by him. Sometimes it is a relation to original sin: and this, either principally or consequently--principally, the punishment of original sin is that human nature is left to itself, and deprived of original justice: and consequently, all the penalties which result from this defect in human nature.

    Nevertheless we must observe that sometimes a thing seems penal, and yet is not so simply. Because punishment is a species of evil. Now evil is privation of good. And since man's good is manifold, viz. good of the soul, good of the body, and external goods, it happens sometimes that man suffers the loss of a lesser good, that he may profit in a greater good, as when he suffers loss of money for the sake of bodily health, or loss of both of these, for the sake of his soul's health and the glory of God. In such cases the loss is an evil to man, not simply but relatively; wherefore it does not answer to the name of punishment simply, but of medicinal punishment, because a medical man prescribes bitter potions to his patients, that he may restore them to health. And since such like are not punishments properly speaking, they are not referred to sin as their cause, except in a restricted sense: because the very fact that human nature needs a treatment of penal medicines, is due to the corruption of nature which is itself the punishment of original sin. For there was no need, in the state of innocence, for penal exercises in order to make progress in virtue; so that whatever is penal in the exercise of virtue, is reduced to original sin as its cause.

    Such like defects (blindness, deafness, loss of limb, etc. - JG) of those who are born with them, or which children suffer from, are the effects and the punishments of original sin, as stated above (Question 85, Article 5); and they remain even after baptism, for the cause stated above (85, 5, ad 2): and that they are not equally in all, is due to the diversity of nature, which is left to itself, as stated above (85, 5, ad 1). Nevertheless, they are directed by Divine providence, to the salvation of men, either of those who suffer, or of others who are admonished by their means--and also to the glory of God.

    Temporal and bodily goods are indeed goods of man, but they are of small account: whereas spiritual goods are man's chief goods. Consequently it belongs to Divine justice to give spiritual goods to the virtuous, and to award them as much temporal goods or evils, as suffices for virtue: for, as Dionysius says, "Divine justice does not enfeeble the fortitude of the virtuous man, by material gifts." The very fact that others receive temporal goods, is detrimental to their spiritual good; wherefore the psalm quoted concludes (verse 6): "Therefore pride hath held them fast."


    It is written (Ezekiel 18:20): "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father." If we speak of that satisfactory punishment, which one takes upon oneself voluntarily, one may bear another's punishment, in so far as they are, in some way, one, as stated above (Article 7). If, however, we speak of punishment inflicted on account of sin, inasmuch as it is penal, then each one is punished for his own sin only, because the sinful act is something personal. But if we speak of a punishment that is medicinal, in this way it does happen that one is punished for another's sin. For it has been stated (7) that ills sustained in bodily goods or even in the body itself, are medicinal punishments intended for the health of the soul.

    Wherefore there is no reason why one should not have such like punishments inflicted on one for another's sin, either by God or by man; e.g. on children for their parents, or on servants for their masters, inasmuch as they are their property so to speak; in such a way, however, that, if the children or the servants take part in the sin, this penal ill has the character of punishment in regard to both the one punished and the one he is punished for. But if they do not take part in the sin, it has the character of punishment in regard to the one for whom the punishment is borne, while, in regard to the one who is punished, it is merely medicinal (except accidentally, if he consent to the other's sin), since it is intended for the good of his soul, if he bears it patiently.

    With regard to spiritual punishments, these are not merely medicinal, because the good of the soul is not directed to a yet higher good. Consequently no one suffers loss in the goods of the soul without some fault of his own. Wherefore Augustine says, such like punishments are not inflicted on one for another's sin, because, as regards the soul, the son is not the father's property. Hence the Lord assigns the reason for this by saying (Ezekiel 18:4): "All souls are Mine."

    Both the passages [(Exodus 20:5): "I am . . . God . . . jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me"; and (Matthew 23:35): "That upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth."] quoted should, seemingly, be referred to temporal or bodily punishments, in so far as children are the property of their parents, and posterity, of their forefathers. Else, if they be referred to spiritual punishments, they must be understood in reference to the imitation of sin, wherefore in Exodus these words are added, "Of them that hate Me," and in the chapter quoted from Matthew (verse 32) we read: "Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers."

    The sins of the fathers are said to be punished in their children, because the latter are the more prone to sin through being brought up amid their parents' crimes, both by becoming accustomed to them, and by imitating their parents' example, conforming to their authority as it were. Moreover they deserve heavier punishment if, seeing the punishment of their parents, they fail to mend their ways. The text adds, "to the third and fourth generation," because men are wont to live long enough to see the third and fourth generation, so that both the children can witness their parents' sins so as to imitate them, and the parents can see their children's punishments so as to grieve for them.

    Those who are near of kin are said to be punished, rather than outsiders, for the sins of others, both because the punishment of kindred redounds somewhat upon those who sinned, as stated above, in so far as the child is the father's property, and because the examples and the punishments that occur in one's own household are more moving. Consequently when a man is brought up amid the sins of his parents, he is more eager to imitate them, and if he is not deterred by their punishments, he would seem to be the more obstinate, and, therefore, to deserve more severe punishment.

14 How narrow is the gate, and straight is the way, which leadeth to life: and few there are who find it!

    Our Savior in another place says, "My yoke is sweet, and My burden light." How comes it then that so few bear it, or how can we reconcile these texts together? The answer is at hand; for if soldiers and mariners esteem wounds, storms, and shipwreck, easy to be borne with, in hopes of temporal rewards, surely no one can complain that the duties of a Christian are difficult, when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (St. John Chrysostom) --- It may also be added that God, by his heavenly consolations, makes them not only supportable, but even easy and pleasant. Thus the martyrs occasionally did not feel their torments through the sweet unction of divine love, and the excessive joy which God poured into their souls. (Haydock)

    St. Augustine: The Lord had warned us above to have a heart single and pure with which to seek God; but as this belongs to but few, He begins to speak of finding out wisdom. For the searching out and contemplation whereof there has been formed through all the foregoing such an eye as may discern the narrow way and strait gate; whence He adds, "Enter ye in at the strait gate."

    Gloss: Though it be hard to do to another what you would have done to yourself; yet so must we do, that we may enter the strait gate.

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: Otherwise; This third precept again is connected with the right method of fasting, and the order of discourse will be this; "But thou when thou fastest anoint thy head;" and after comes, "Enter ye in at the strait gate."

        For there are three chief passions in our nature, that are most adhering to the flesh; the desire of food and drink; the love of the man towards the woman; and thirdly, sleep. These it is harder to cut off from the fleshly nature than the other passions. And therefore abstinence from no other passion so sanctifies the body as that a man should be chaste, abstinent, and continuing in watchings.

        On account, therefore, of all these righteousnesses, but above all on account of the most toilsome fasting, it is that He says, "Enter ye in at the strait gate." The gate of perdition is the Devil, through whom we enter into hell; the gate of life is Christ, through Whom we enter into the kingdom of Heaven. The Devil is said to be a wide gate, not extended by the mightiness of his power, but made broad by the license of his unbridled pride. Christ is said to be a strait gate not with respect to smallness of power, but to His humility; for He Whom the whole world contains not, shut Himself within the limits of the Virgin's womb.

        The way of perdition is sin of any kind. It is said to be broad, because it is not contained within the rule of any discipline, but they that walk therein follow whatever pleases them. The way of life is all righteousness, and is called narrow for the contrary reasons. It must be considered that unless one walk in the way, he cannot arrive at the gate; so they that walk not in the way of righteousness, it is impossible that they should truly know Christ. Likewise neither does he run into the hands of the Devil, unless he walks in the way of sinners.

    Gloss: Though love be wide, yet it leads men from the earth through difficult and steep ways. It is sufficiently difficult to cast aside all other things, and to love One only, not to aim at prosperity, not to fear adversity.

    St. John Chrysostom: But seeing He declares below, "My yoke is pleasant, and my burden light," how is it that He says here that the way is strait and narrow? Even here He teaches that it is light and pleasant; for here is a way and a gate as that other, which is called the wide and broad, has also a way and a gate.

        Of these nothing is to remain; but all pass away. But to pass through toil and sweat, and to arrive at a good end, namely life, is sufficient solace to those who undergo these struggles. For if sailors can make light of storms and soldiers of wounds in hope of perishable rewards, much more when Heaven lies before, and rewards immortal, will none look to the impending dangers. Moreover the very circumstance that He calls it strait contributes to make it easy; by this He warned them to be always watching; this the Lord speaks to rouse our desires. He who strives in a combat, if he sees the prince admiring the efforts of the combatants, gets greater heart.

        Let us not therefore be sad when many sorrows befall us here, for the way is strait, but not the city; therefore neither need we look for rest here, nor expect any thing of sorrow there. When He says, "Few there be that find it," He points to the sluggishness of the many, and instructs His hearers not to look to the prosperity of the many, but to the toils of the few.

    St. Jerome: Attend to the words, for they have an especial force, "many walk" in the broad way - "few find" the narrow way. For the broad way needs no search, and is not found, but presents itself readily; it is the way of all who go astray. Whereas the narrow way neither do all find, nor when they have found, do they straightway walk therein. Many, after they have found the way of truth, caught by the pleasures of the world, desert midway.


    It is written (Psalm 10:7): "Fire and brimstone and storms of winds shall be the portion of their cup."

    Further, it is written (Job 24:19): "Let him pass from the snow waters to excessive heat."

    According to St. Basil, at the final cleansing of the world, there will be a separation of the elements, whatever is pure and noble remaining above for the glory of the blessed, and whatever is ignoble and sordid being cast down for the punishment of the damned: so that just as every creature will be to the blessed a matter of joy, so will all the elements conduce to the torture of the damned, according to Wisdom 5:21, "the whole world will fight with Him against the unwise." This is also becoming to Divine justice, that whereas they departed from one by sin, and placed their end in material things which are many and various, so should they be tormented in many ways and from many sources.

    It is because fire is most painful, through its abundance of active force, that the name of fire is given to any torment if it be intense.

    The punishment of Purgatory is not intended chiefly to torment but to cleanse: wherefore it should be inflicted by fire alone which is above all possessed of cleansing power. But the punishment of the damned is not directed to their cleansing. Consequently the comparison fails.

    The damned will pass from the most intense heat to the most intense cold without this giving them any respite: because they will suffer from external agencies, not by the transmutation of their body from its original natural disposition, and the contrary passion affording a respite by restoring an equable or moderate temperature, as happens now, but by a spiritual action, in the same way as sensible objects act on the senses being perceived by impressing the organ with their forms according to their spiritual and not their material being.


    St. Augustine says: "The unquenchable fire and the restless worm in the punishment of the damned are explained in various ways by different persons. Some refer both to the body, some, both to the soul: others refer the fire, in the literal sense, to the body, the worm to the soul metaphorically: and this seems the more probable."

    After the day of judgment, no animal or mixed body will remain in the renewed world except only the body of man, because the former are not directed to incorruption [Cf. 91, 5], nor after that time will there be generation or corruption. Consequently the worm ascribed to the damned must be understood to be not of a corporeal but of a spiritual nature: and this is the remorse of conscience, which is called a worm because it originates from the corruption of sin, and torments the soul, as a corporeal worm born of corruption torments by gnawing.

    The very souls of the damned are called their flesh for as much as they were subject to the flesh. Or we may reply that the flesh will be tormented by the spiritual worm, according as the afflictions of the soul overflow into the body, both here and hereafter.


    Corporeal weeping results from dissolving into tears. Now there cannot be a continual dissolution from the bodies of the damned, since nothing is restored to them by food; for everything finite is consumed if something be continually taken from it. Therefore the weeping of the damned will not be corporeal.

    Two things are to be observed in corporeal weeping. One is the resolution of tears: and as to this corporeal weeping cannot be in the damned, since after the day of judgment, the movement of the first movable being at an end, there will be neither generation, nor corruption, nor bodily alteration: and in the resolution of tears that humor needs to be generated which is shed forth in the shape of tears. Wherefore in this respect it will be impossible for corporeal weeping to be in the damned.

    The other thing to be observed in corporeal weeping is a certain commotion and disturbance of the head and eyes, and in this respect weeping will be possible in the damned after the resurrection: for the bodies of the damned will be tormented not only from without, but also from within, according as the body is affected at the instance of the soul's passion towards good or evil. In this sense weeping is a proof of the body's resurrection, and corresponds to the pleasure of sin, experienced by both soul and body.


    It is written (Matthew 22:13): "Bind his hands and his feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness." Commenting on these words Gregory says: If this fire gave any light, "he would by no means be described as cast into exterior darkness."

    Further, Basil says, "The voice of the Lord divideth the flame of fire" that "by God's might the brightness of the fire will be separated from its power of burning, so that its brightness will conduce to the joy of the blessed, and the heat of the flame to the torment of the damned." Therefore the damned will be in material darkness. Other points relating to the punishment of the damned have been decided above (Article 86).

    The disposition of hell will be such as to be adapted to the utmost unhappiness of the damned. Wherefore accordingly both light and darkness are there, in so far as they are most conducive to the unhappiness of the damned. Now seeing is in itself pleasant for, as stated in Metaph. i, "the sense of sight is most esteemed, because thereby many things are known."

    Yet it happens accidentally that seeing is painful, when we see things that are hurtful to us, or displeasing to our will. Consequently in hell the place must be so disposed for seeing as regards light and darkness, that nothing be seen clearly, and that only such things be dimly seen as are able to bring anguish to the heart. Wherefore, simply speaking, the place is dark. Yet by Divine disposition, there is a certain amount of light, as much as suffices for seeing those things which are capable of tormenting the soul. The natural situation of the place is enough for this, since in the centre of the earth, where hell is said to be, fire cannot be otherwise than thick and cloudy, and reeky as it were.

    Some hold that this darkness is caused by the massing together of the bodies of the damned, which will so fill the place of hell with their numbers, that no air will remain, so that there will be no translucid body that can be the subject of light and darkness, except the eyes of the damned, which will be darkened utterly.


    He [Gregory] says: "I doubt not that the fire of hell is corporeal, since it is certain that bodies are tortured there." Further, it is written (Wisdom 5:21): "The . . . world shall fight . . . against the unwise." But the whole world would not fight against the unwise if they were punished with a spiritual and not a corporeal punishment. Therefore they will be punished with a corporeal fire.

    There have been many opinions about the fire of hell. For some philosophers, as Avicenna, disbelieving in the resurrection, thought that the soul alone would be punished after death. And as they considered it impossible for the soul, being incorporeal, to be punished with a corporeal fire, they denied that the fire whereby the wicked are punished is corporeal, and pretended that all statements as to souls being punished in future after death by any corporeal means are to be taken metaphorically. For just as the joy and happiness of good souls will not be about any corporeal object, but about something spiritual, namely the attainment of their end, so will the torment of the wicked be merely spiritual, in that they will be grieved at being separated from their end, the desire whereof is in them by nature.

    Wherefore, just as all descriptions of the soul's delight after death that seem to denote bodily pleasure--for instance, that they are refreshed, that they smile, and so forth--must be taken metaphorically, so also are all such descriptions of the soul's suffering as seem to imply bodily punishment--for instance, that they burn in fire, or suffer from the stench, and so forth. For as spiritual pleasure and pain are unknown to the majority, these things need to be declared under the figure of corporeal pleasures and pains, in order that men may be moved the more to the desire or fear thereof.

    Since, however, in the punishment of the damned there will be not only pain of loss corresponding to the aversion that was in their sin, but also pain of sense corresponding to the conversion, it follows that it is not enough to hold the above manner of punishment. For this reason Avicenna himself added another explanation, by saying that the souls of the wicked are punished after death, not by bodies but by images of bodies; just as in a dream it seems to a man that he is suffering various pains on account of such like images being in his imagination. Even Augustine seems to hold this kind of punishment, as is clear from the text.

    But this would seem an unreasonable statement. For the imagination is a power that makes use of a bodily organ: so that it is impossible for such visions of the imagination to occur in the soul separated from the body, as in the soul of the dreamer. Wherefore Avicenna also that he might avoid this difficulty, said that the soul separated from the body uses as an organ some part of the heavenly body, to which the human body needs to be conformed, in order to be perfected by the rational soul, which is like the movers of the heavenly body--thus following somewhat the opinion of certain philosophers of old, who maintained that souls return to the stars that are their compeers. But this is absolutely absurd according to the Philosopher's teaching, since the soul uses a definite bodily organ, even as art uses definite instruments, so that it cannot pass from one body to another, as Pythagoras is stated to have maintained.

    As to the statement of Augustine we shall say below how it is to be answered. However, whatever we may say of the fire that torments the separated souls, we must admit that the fire which will torment the bodies of the damned after the resurrection is corporeal, since one cannot fittingly apply a punishment to a body unless that punishment itself be bodily.

    Wherefore Gregory proves the fire of hell to be corporeal from the very fact that the wicked will be cast thither after the resurrection. Again Augustine clearly admits that the fire by which the bodies are tormented is corporeal. And this is the point at issue for the present. We have said elsewhere how the souls of the damned are punished by this corporeal fire.

    Damascene does not absolutely deny that this fire is material, but that it is material as our fire, since it differs from ours in some of its properties. We may also reply that since that fire does not alter bodies as to their matter, but acts on them for their punishment by a kind of spiritual action, it is for this reason that it is stated not to be material, not as regards its substance, but as to its punitive effect on bodies and, still more, on souls.

    The assertion of Augustine ["In my opinion the place to which the soul is committed after death is spiritual and not corporeal."] may be taken in this way, that the place whither souls are conveyed after death be described as incorporeal, in so far as the soul is there, not corporeally, i.e. as bodies are in a place, but in some other spiritual way, as angels are in a place. Or we may reply that Augustine is expressing an opinion without deciding the point, as he often does in those books.

    That fire will be the instrument of Divine justice inflicting punishment. Now an instrument acts not only by its own power and in its own way, but also by the power of the principal agent, and as directed thereby. Wherefore although fire is not able, of its own power, to torture certain persons more or less, according to the measure of sin, it is able to do so nevertheless in so far as its action is regulated by the ordering of Divine justice: even so the fire of the furnace is regulated by the forethought of the smith, according as the effect of his art requires.


    According to the Philosopher, "every water is of the same species as every other water." Therefore in like manner every fire is of the same species as every other fire.

    Further, it is written (Wisdom 11:17): "By what things a man sinneth by the same also he is tormented." Now men sin by the sensible things of this world. Therefore it is just that they should be punished by those same things.

    As stated in Meteor. iv, 1 fire has other bodies for its matter, for the reason that of all the elements it has the greatest power of action. Hence fire is found under two conditions: in its own matter, as existing in its own sphere, and in a strange matter, whether of earth, as in burning coal, or of air as in the flame. Under whatever conditions however fire be found, it is always of the same species, so far as the nature of fire is concerned, but there may be a difference of species as to the bodies which are the matter of fire. Wherefore flame and burning coal differ specifically, and likewise burning wood and red-hot iron; nor does it signify, as to this particular point, whether they be kindled by force, as in the case of iron, or by a natural intrinsic principle, as happens with sulphur.

    Accordingly it is clear that the fire of hell is of the same species as the fire we have, so far as the nature of fire is concerned. But whether that fire subsists in its proper matter, or if it subsists in a strange matter, what that matter may be, we know not. And in this way it may differ specifically from the fire we have, considered materially. It has, however, certain properties differing from our fire, for instance that it needs no kindling, nor is kept alive by fuel. But the differences do not argue a difference of species as regards the nature of the fire.

    This fire of ours is kept alive with fuel, and is kindled by man, because it is introduced into a foreign matter by art and force. But that other fire [Hell-fire] needs no fuel to keep it alive, because either it subsists in its own matter, or is in a foreign matter, not by force but by nature from an intrinsic principle. Wherefore it is kindled not by man but by God, Who fashioned its nature. This is the meaning of the words of Isaias (30:33): "The breath of the Lord is as a torrent of brimstone kindling it."

    Even as the bodies of the damned will be of the same species as now, although now they are corruptible, whereas then they will be incorruptible, both by the ordering of Divine justice, and on account of the cessation of the heavenly movement, so is it with the fire of hell whereby those bodies will be punished.


    It is written (Isaiah 14:9): "Hell below was in an uproar to meet Thee at Thy coming." Therefore the fire of hell is beneath us.

    Further, Gregory says: "I see not what hinders us from believing that hell is beneath the earth."

    Further, a gloss on Jonah 2:4, "Thou hast cast me forth . . . into the heart of the sea," says, "i.e. into hell," and in the Gospel (Matthew 12:40) the words "in the heart of the earth" have the same sense, for as the heart is in the middle of an animal, so is hell supposed to be in the middle of the earth.

    Augustine says, "I am of opinion that no one knows in what part of the world hell is situated, unless the Spirit of God has revealed this to some one." Wherefore Gregory having been questioned on this point answers: "About this matter I dare not give a rash decision. For some have deemed hell to be in some part of the earth's surface; others think it to be beneath the earth." He shows the latter opinion to be the more probable for two reasons. First from the very meaning of the word. These are his words: "If we call it the nether regions (infernus [The Latin for 'hell']), for the reason that it is beneath us [inferius], what earth is in relation to heaven, such should be hell in relation to earth."

    Secondly, from the words of the Apocalypse 5:3: "No man was able, neither in Heaven, nor on earth, nor under the earth, to open the book": where the words "in Heaven" refer to the angels, "on earth" to men living in the body, and "under the earth" to souls in hell.

    Augustine too seems to indicate two reasons for the congruity of hell being under the earth. One is that "whereas the souls of the departed sinned through love of the flesh, they should be treated as the dead flesh is wont to be treated, by being buried beneath the earth." The other is that heaviness is to the body what sorrow is to the spirit, and joy (of spirit) is as lightness (of body). Wherefore "just as in reference to the body, all the heavier things are beneath the others, if they be placed in order of gravity, so in reference to the spirit, the lower place is occupied by whatever is more sorrowful"; and thus even as the empyrean (the abode of God; Heaven - JG) is a fitting place for the joy of the elect, so the lowest part of the earth is a fitting place for the sorrow of the damned.

    Nor does it signify that Augustine says that "hell is stated or believed to be under the earth," because he withdraws this (Retract. ii, 29) where he says: "Methinks I should have said that hell is beneath the earth, rather than have given the reason why it is stated or believed to be under the earth." However, some philosophers have maintained that hell is situated beneath the terrestrial orb, but above the surface of the earth, on that part which is opposite to us. This seems to have been the meaning of St. Isidore when he asserted that "the sun and the moon will stop in the place wherein they were created, lest the wicked should enjoy this light in the midst of their torments." But this is no argument, if we assert that hell is under the earth. We have already stated how these words may be explained (91, 2).

    Pythagoras held the place of punishment to be in a fiery sphere situated, according to him, in the middle of the whole world: and he called it the prison-house of Jupiter as Aristotle relates. It is, however, more in keeping with Scripture to say that it is beneath the earth.

    The words of Job, "God shall remove him out of the globe," refer to the surface of the earth ["De orbe terrarum," which might be rendered "from the land of the living."], i.e. from this world. This is how Gregory expounds it where he says: "He is removed from the globe when, at the coming of the heavenly judge, he is taken away from this world wherein he now prides himself in his wickedness." Nor does globe here signify the universe, as though the place of punishment were outside the whole universe.

    Fire continues in that place for all eternity by the ordering of Divine justice although according to its nature an element cannot last for ever outside its own place, especially if things were to remain in this state of generation and corruption. The fire there will be of the very greatest heat, because its heat will be all gathered together from all parts, through being surrounded on all sides by the cold of the earth.

    Hell will never lack sufficient room to admit the bodies of the damned: since hell is accounted one of the three things that "never are satisfied" (Proverbs 30:15-16). Nor is it unreasonable that God's power should maintain within the bowels of the earth a hollow great enough to contain all the bodies of the damned.

    It does not follow of necessity that "by what things a man sinneth, by the same also he is tormented," except as regards the principal instruments of sin: for as much as man having sinned in soul and body will be punished in both. But it does not follow that a man will be punished in the very place where he sinned, because the place due to the damned is other from that due to wayfarers. We may also reply that these words refer to the punishments inflicted on man on the way: according as each sin has its corresponding punishment, since "inordinate love is its own punishment," as Augustine states.

John Gregory

        "Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH"
        Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373

John Gregory's FAITHFUL TO TRADITION Lenten Edition 2012