On the Nature of Hell

Inferno di Dante.png

«Sorrow engenders hatred, and resentment, which separate us from the Way drawn for us by the Heaven. We feel confused, lost, betrayed, and thus we shout out our despair to the Lord: why have you forsaken us?

And we don’t realize that we are drifting away from Him, that Christ always walks beside us, and we don’t want to listen to His voice, to the words He cried out from the Cross, and now are addressed to our soul: lama sabachthani?»

(M. Ciminiello, Astragon – L’Era del Drago).


Although a self-citation may be inelegant, a few days ago I was reminded of this passage: and it occurred to me that it may contain a clue on the nature of Hell.

Anything and everything has been said about this place/no place: some, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, don’t think it exists; others, like most Christian theologians, believe it’s a physical location – a place of eternal damnation; Orthodox theologians claim it’s a real condition – but limited in time; finally, some argue that it’s an effective reality – but it’s empty.

20th century Italian mystic Maria Valtorta, author of The Gospel As Revealed to Me, reports that Jesus told her that, had Hell not existed, a bigger Hell would have been created for Judas. These words may confirm the existence of Hell – but they don’t specify what’s its nature.

Personally, I am persuaded that Hell is something more than the Kingdom of darkness and everlasting fire: I believe it’s a sign of us moving away from God. Every time we turn our back on Him, on His word, on His salvation, we dig a little bit of our personal Hell: and if soul longs, by nature, for the Highest Good, and the Supreme Happiness, then it’s consumed – like the most horrific fire – by the self-inflicted grief caused by the distance from the Infinite Love it aims at. In fact, as stated by the great G. K. Chesterton, «man cannot love mortal things. He can only love immortal things for an instant» (Heretics).

Then, our discomfort, our earthly suffering are reflected in the wound which only the Doctor of the soul can heal: a Doctor tormented by the same torments as ours because, being at once «He who loves, He who is loved and Love itself» (M. Ciminiello, Astragon – L’Ombra dell’Aurora), He cannot but mourn our misery. That could be the thrust of Nietzsche’s insight, that «even God has his hell: it is his love for mankind» (Thus spoke Zarathustra).

That’s why God will never give up on anyone of us: because it’s not His will «that one of these little ones should perish» (Matthew 18, 14). If we abandon His path, bending our very nature, we ourselves will build our Hell. And this will be our punishment: we’ll be well aware of what we lost, but there won’t be anything we can do about it.


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