Chapter 14: - Page 6 of 8

Tasio: Lunatic or Sage

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

But let us now see where Catholicism got this idea, which does not exist in the Old Testament nor in the Gospels.  Neither Moses nor Christ made the slightest mention of it, and the single passage which is cited from Maccabees is insufficient.  Besides, this book was declared apocryphal by the Council of Laodicea and the holy Catholic Church accepted it only later.  Neither have the pagan religions anything like it. The oft-quoted passage in Virgil, Aliae panduntur inanes,[3] which probably gave occasion for St. Gregory the Great to speak of drowned souls, and to Dante for another narrative in his Divine Comedy, cannot have been the origin of this belief.  Neither the Brahmins, the Buddhists, nor the Egyptians, who may have given Rome her Charon and her Avernus, had anything like this idea.  I won’t speak now of the religions of northern Europe, for they were religions of warriors, bards, and hunters, and not of philosophers.  While they yet preserve their beliefs and even their rites under Christian forms, they were unable to accompany the hordes in the spoliation of Rome or to seat themselves on the Capitoline; the religions of the mists were dissipated by the southern sun.  Now then, the early Christians did not believe in a purgatory but died in the blissful confidence of shortly seeing God face to face.  Apparently the first fathers of the Church who mentioned it were St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and St. Irenaeus, who were all perhaps influenced by Zarathustra’s religion, which still flourished and was widely spread throughout the East, since at every step we read reproaches against Origen’s Orientalism.  St. Irenaeus proved its existence by the fact that Christ remained ‘three days in the depths of the earth,’ three days of purgatory, and deduced from this that every soul must remain there until the resurrection of the body, although the ‘Hodie mecum eris in Paradiso[4] seems to contradict it.  St. Augustine also speaks of purgatory and, if not affirming its existence, yet he did not believe it impossible, conjecturing that in another existence there might continue the punishments that we receive in this life for our sins.

The devil with St. Augustine! ejaculated Don Filipo.  He wasn’t satisfied with what we suffer here but wished a continuance.

[3]For this are various penances enjoined;
And some are hung to bleach upon the wind;
Some plunged in waters, others purged in fires,
Till all the dregs are drained, and all the rust expires.

Dryden, Virgil’s Aeneid, VI.

[4]Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.—Luke xxiii, 43.

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