Saturday, November 22, 2008

This post is purgatorial; the desserts were not.

Healthy. That's what Christie said on Thursday when we were planning dinner and she announced she'd bring dessert over. "Healthy": the fruit redeems the chocolate, apparently.

(I'm aware the correct word is "healthful", and "healthy" would mean the dessert was in good health. But "healthful" sounds so pretentious or health-class-y or something...)

Christie also claimed it's a Catholic dessert for the following reason: Luther explained his concept of "imputed righteousness" by saying that in God's sight we are covered by the righteousness of Christ as a dunghill is covered by snow. The dunghill isn't actually pure and white, but it looks that way-- and so we appear righteous to God even though we're sinful, because He only sees Christ's righteousness. But Catholics would say sanctification means we actually become righteous, intrinsically righteous. Of course it's only because Christ by His grace makes us so, not all at once but over time. Ideally we cooperate fully with His grace so that He can make us holy before we die. If we don't, thank God, He can perfect us after death, if only we die in His grace. "Infused righteousness", that's the Catholic view. And these strawberries, once dipped in any of these three chocolately dipping sauces (Christie continued) are covered by something good and sweet but are also inherently good and sweet themselves, which surely accords with the Catholic view.

It was something like that, anyway-- my brain's processing power had been partially diverted to my stomach so I can't be certain that's exactly what she said. But I do remember wondering if that would make the remaining Oreo truffles, which we also consumed that night, a Lutheran dessert. Snow-covered dunghills... no, let's just leave that thought alone. There's got to be a good excuse to declare the truffles a Catholic dessert as well; can anyone think of one? I'm longing to add my tag to another post!

Actually I just recently read in some blog (can't remember where; sorry!) that although Catholics and Protestants both frequently cite Luther's analogy of imputed righteousness, no one seems to be able to find the original reference. It's possible Luther never did compare redeemed souls in Heaven to snow-covered dunghills. At any rate I think it was a PR mistake if he did. It gets the concept of imputed righteousness across very well, but rather too well. The image of dunghills into Heaven, snow-covered or not, doesn't really work in Luther's favor, at least not in my opinion. And it seems that C.S. Lewis agreed:

Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first.' 'It may hurt, you know' - 'Even so, sir.'

I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. But I don't think the suffering is the purpose of the purgation. I can well believe that people neither much worse nor much better than I will suffer less than I or more. . . . The treatment given will be the one required, whether it hurts little or much.

Dessert, anyone? :)


R.A. said...


R.A. said...

PS Did Lewis believe in purgatory? Or was he saying the process of purgation is played out here in this world?

Rachel said...

He believed in Purgatory after death and in praying for the dead; if you click the link in the post you'll see a longer excerpt. I couldn't find his full letter online, but when he complains about the "Romish doctrine" in the time of the Reformation he's talking about some Catholic theologians who envisioned Purgatory as essentially Hell with a time limit, a place of suffering and degradation rather than love of God. Lewis preferred Cardinal Newman's idea of Purgatory in the Dream of Gerontius at . I started that poem once and really liked it; I need to finish it. :)