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.

Benedict XVI’s miracle

Peter Srsich e Benedetto XVI

1.

 

The members of the Wish Foundation opened their eyes wide.

– Really?! – one of them said, a young man who didn’t look all that comfortable with silence.

Peter lowered his eyes. So many thoughts were flooding his mind… concerning time, mostly: a rare and valuable commodity, if it’s about to expire…

But he was sure of that, more than he had been of anything in his seventeen years.

– Yes – he confirmed. – I’m convinced… that I’d be perfectly fine… if I could get… a tour of the Vatican… –

The volunteers exchanged looks with each other. Some expressed astonishment, some pure bewilderment. But it was Peter’s Wish.

The boy turned towards the window of his bedroom. Although he seemed indifferent, his spirit was actually bubbling up.

Was it so weird?

The volunteers nodded. They couldn’t promise Peter they’d be able to grant such a wish. But they ensured him they’d do everything in their power.

Peter nodded in his turn. He was happy, though he couldn’t show his feelings. A chance, although remote, was more than he had had over the last few months, more than he had even dared to hope. And a fragile hope is better than no hope.

 

2.

 

Peter’s life had changed when he was sixteen, during the summer: a nagging cough, followed by an unusual, overwhelming fatigue led his parents to consult a specialist.

Pneumonia was suspected. But far worse was true. Stage-four non-Hodgkin lymphoma. A ten centimeter mass, settled in the boy’s left lung, which was pressing on his heart.

For Peter, this was the beginning of an ordeal made of exhausting rounds of chemotherapy, depression, excruciating questions about what God had planned for him. His father, Tom, and his younger brother, Johnny, decided to shave their heads to show Peter they were fighting the same battle as him. But the boy found more comfort in his Faith.

For this reason, one of his friends had created 1.200 green wristbands with the simple words “Praying for Peter” on them, along with the boy’s favourite Biblical passage.

 

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

(Romans 8, 28).

 

Then, one day, the volunteers of the Wish Foundation had arrived.

“Great…” Peter had thought.

He knew it was a charity which every year grants a wish to a few hundred children and young people suffering from extremely serious diseases.

Peter knew what it meant: he was terminally ill. And it was hard to focus on a wish, being aware it was the last…

At that point, however, what did he have to lose? Actually, there was something he had always dreamed of…

– I’d like to meet the Pope – he had said.

And, unknowingly, he had just changed his destiny’s route.

 

3.

 

Then said Martha unto Jesus: – Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died!

But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee -.

Jesus saith unto her: – Thy brother shall rise again -.

Martha saith unto him: – I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day -.

Jesus said unto her: – I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;

And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? –

She saith unto him: – Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world -.

(John 11, 21-27).

 

Peter sighed. Lazarus had been brought back to life. But how many are given a second chance…?

 

4.

 

– 14.000 dollars. It’s not a lot -.

Unseen, Peter raised an eyebrow. Clearly, he and that woman had two different concepts of wealth. The boy sighed. In the end, he told himself, it’s all a matter of perspective.

Because it was true. His Wish was among the cheapest ones the Foundation had ever granted. Surely, though, it was the most special one.

And May came. It was a fine spring morning in Rome, and the sun enjoyed kissing the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City.

It was an end-month Wednesday – the day of Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly audience: the humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord who had gathered the important legacy of a Giant of Faith – Saint John Paul II.

Peter was watching the Vicar of Christ from afar, beside his parents and his brother, and his heart was bursting with pride. His dream had come true. His smile was shining in the shade of Michelangelo’s dome, next to Bernini’s colonnade.

Peter savoured every minute of the audience – and yet, too soon, it came to an end. With a sigh, the boy focused in order to memorize as many details of that day and that place as possible: he wanted to keep that memory as one of the most precious in his short life.

And then, out of the blue, a priest approached. He told Tom a few words. The man’s eyes began to sparkle.

Peter turned to his father. And Tom told him, in a trembling voice, that they had to line up. They had been invited to talk to His Holiness himself.

 

5.

 

A million different feelings were glowing in Peter’s soul while he was approaching the Pontiff. At the beginning, it had been total euphoria. Now, though, embarrassment was taking over.

Because all the faithful, who had been given the same, great honour, were offering the successor to Saint Peter some invaluable presents: golden crowns, a wonderful painting of the Virgin Mary…

And Peter was the only one without anything of value to give the Vicar of Christ, but his heart… His father handed him his own wristband, one of those asking a prayer for the boy. Just to avoid showing up empty-handed.

And the time came. And, for a moment, Peter almost felt faint. He was in front of Pope Ratzinger, towering – being nearly six and a half feet tall – over the diminutive Holy Father, yet he couldn’t help but feel in awe. He was overcome with emotion.

And yet, Benedict XVI’s smile was so sweet, so full of feeling… And Peter was stretching out his hand to the Pope, offering him that wristband which had seemed such a poor gift…

But the Pontiff held it in his hands and his smile grew even brighter, and with all his deep humility, with all his fatherly care, the Vicar of Christ silently asked that boy what was troubling him.

– Yo…Your Holiness… – Peter stammered, – I… I have cancer… –

And he couldn’t say anything else, but a feeble prayer. A blessing.

The boy bowed his head. But, in a wholly unexpected way, Benedict XVI took Peter’s hand in his own left and, at the same time, put his right hand on the boy’s chest – in the exact spot where the tumour had put down its gloomy roots.

Peter opened his eyes wide. Usually, the Pope gives the blessing by laying his hands on the faithful’s head, and the boy had never mentioned the anatomical location of the alien mass which was eating him alive from the inside out!

However, his confusion lasted only a moment, then it made way for a pure, innocent happiness, for a sense of well-being which wouldn’t have disappeared: indeed, it would have increased day by day, even after returning to Colorado, like an avalanche which grows stronger at every moment.

Until Peter saw the amazement again on the faces around him – but they were different faces, wearing white coats, and the amazement went together with an endless joy.

Because the fight was over, and Peter had won. The doctors were trembling with emotion. That boy, whom they had quite written off, was fully healed.

 

6.

 

[He] was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

(Luke 15, 32).

 

Obviously, his situation was quite different from the prodigal son’s case. Yet, leaving aside some inappropriate parallelism between spiritual desert and physical suffering, Peter felt that the two stories had some affinity. Sometimes, there can really be a second chance.

The bells were ringing. Sound of joy. Yet, lately, Peter felt much closer to the sound of silence: like Elijah the prophet who, ignoring the force of the wind, the violence of the earthquake, the fury of the fire, went out of the cave, where he had taken refuge, only at the whisper of a still small voice.

The boy raised his eyes to the sky. His questions hadn’t changed… he was still wondering about the mission entrusted to him by God.

His mood, though, had changed. No more distressing doubts. Just a deep peace, and a sense of gratitude which went together with the irresistible urge to offer the less fortunate even a single drop of the light he had been given.

He was looking at a photograph on his nightstand. It had been taken that morning in late May, in Saint Peter’s Square. With a smile, Peter thought about a motto he had happened to hear at that time.

“There are four kinds of theologians in the world: bad theologians, good theologians, excellent theologians, and Joseph Ratzinger”.

 

The Omega herald (VII)

 

Suddenly, Teiresìas fell to the ground.

– Master! – Àgogos shouted in terror. – Master! –

But the old blind man didn’t answer. His mouth, open in a silent scream, seemed to yearn for some air which was stubbornly eluding him.

Then, as suddenly as it had occurred, the fit passed off. Teiresìas started breathing again while, next to him, Àgogos’ body was still shaken by sobs. The old blind man turned to the boy, smiled to him and stretched out a hand to wipe his crying.

– Why, master…? – the boy asked softly, still in tears. – Why did you want to undergo such an effort…? –

Teiresìas smiled even more sweetly.

– Because the Lord has chosen me… the Omega herald… He’ll never stop loving His sons… nor warning them, in order that they may be converted… and He doesn’t disdain to use this decrepit body… so that nobody gets lost… and everyone may be blessed in Him… –

In that instant, a more intense ray seemed to blaze from the sky and wrap Teiresìas’ body in a golden embrace. Without knowing why, Àgogos knelt down and covered his face with his hands. And it seemed to him to be struck by a sudden rush of wind, a storm upsetting nature – and yet, to them, it wasn’t but a sweet caress.

When the hurricane was over, the boy dared to unveil his face. And he saw Teiresìas on his knees, as in worship. A tear was dropping from his glassy eyes. Àgogos went beside him, laid a hand on his master’s shoulder and stared at the sunset. And, at that very moment, he was hit by Teiresìas’ voice.

– Thank you, Father… for the honour You wanted to do Your servant… Now I’ve seen Your glory… I’ve beheld Your power… I’ve admired Your light… Oh, let this light glow in men’s hearts! Because You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life! You are the Door of eternity…

And we too… once come out of great tribulation… when we wash our robes in the blood of the Lamb… when our stony hearts are turned into hearts of flesh… we all will be one in You… and we’ll enjoy a timeless joy… in Your infinite peace… for ever and ever… Amen -.

 

The Omega herald (VI)

 

In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.

 

– The Holy Virgin made this promise on July 13th, 1917, at Fatima. Perhaps it’s another sign… corroborated – I strongly believe – by the insight of one of the greatest Popes in the Church’s history…

It was May 13th, 2010… and, standing on the Esplanade of the Portuguese Sanctuary… during his homily… His Holiness Benedict XVI suddenly said these words: “May the seven years which separate us from the centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfilment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity”.

But he wasn’t of the world… otherwise the world would have loved him, because he would have been its own… but the Lord had chosen him out of the world… therefore he was hated… –

Teiresìas stopped, and for a moment stood still, as in contemplation. Then he deeply sighed.

– Then… – Àgogos asked, – will the Prince of the World be driven back to the darkness he comes from… in 2017? –

Teiresìas didn’t answer immediately. A tear peeped out of his half-closed eyes. Then he nodded slowly.

– Servant of God Therese Neumann… in one of her last prophecies… said the Evil One would use all his power… to launch a deadly attack on the Church, and particularly on the Papacy… and Satan’s greatest dominion over the world… would last about 18 years… from 1999… to 2017…

Therefore let’s watch and pray… because we don’t know when the time will be… Saint Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh, wrote that… in the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful Judge will judge His people…

Let’s watch and pray, boy… so that day won’t come upon us unawares… because it will be as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants. But we don’t know when the master of the house will come… and in such an hour as we don’t think… the Son of Man will come… –

 

The Omega herald (V)

 

I saw how baleful would be the consequences of this false church. I saw it increase in size; heretics of every kind came into the city. The local clergy grew lukewarm, and I saw a great darkness.

 

– What signs are we waiting for? – Àgogos asked.

Teiresìas slightly bowed his head.

– Many talked about it… Our Lord first… many shall come in My name, He said, and shall deceive many. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

And that’s just the beginning of the end…

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken -.

– When, master? –

Àgogos’ voice was steeped in distress.

– When we see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy place… and, maybe, the times Blessed Emmerick had described are not that far… many pastors allowed themselves to be taken up with ideas that were dangerous to the Church. They were building a great, strange, and extravagant Church. Everyone was to be admitted in it in order to be united and have equal rights: Evangelicals, Catholics, sects of every description

The German mystic could see the progress of the false church of darkness, she could see the dreadful influence it was going to have on people… Most priests were lured by the glittering but false knowledge of young school-teachers, and they all contributed to the work of destruction

And the Holy Father was in great anguish… He lives in a palace other than before and he admits only a limited number of friends near him

Corruption of hearts even reached the Apostolic Palace… evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, pride, foolishness… all the things which defile a man…

And the false church foretold by Blessed Emmerick rises, a church of heretics and whited sepulchres, a church of man which tries to shape the Gospel depending on the world to please the world, betraying the unchanging Word in order to follow false idols, puppets and weathercocks – slaves for the breaths of wind -, looking for the praise of the flock rather than the comfort of the Truth… –

– Who will save us…? – Àgogos asked shaking vigorously his head.

– The promise… faith… and prayers… Since Blessed Emmerick saw the Blessed Virgin again, ascending on the Church and spreading Her mantle over it. And – She warned – we must pray above all for the church of darkness to leave Rome… –

 

The Omega herald (IV)

 

Upon the earth distress of nations [will be], with perplexity.

 

– Why should God allow this? This question often recurs… mostly asked by those who don’t see… and, proudly and stubbornly… demand they can judge the Father depending on their categories… –

Teiresìas shook his head.

– How often we see it these days… men make themselves gods… raise their fancies to the measure of all things… try to bend the unchanging Laws of Heaven to their lust… try to corrupt the Doctrine… and they don’t know that one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled

They pretend to erase the Name of the Lord… claim they have killed God… and they don’t know they could have no power at all, except it were given them from above… how could they come to the offence, to the denial of the Heavenly Father, if God Himself hadn’t allowed it…? –

The old blind man smiled kindly to himself.

– Love… too much love for men… such a boundless love as to allow freedom to degenerate into license… It was said that God’s Hell is His love for us… and maybe… taking these words with a grain of salt… we may find some truth in them… considering all the suffering which every day… every moment… we all inflict on Him… –

– Maybe… – Àgogos ventured, – love’s always a crossroads between two closed doors… –

– Very wise – Teiresìas smiled slapping the boy on the shoulder. – And it’s not easy to open the right one… to pursue the path leading to Heaven… there are too many false lights… which obscure the only star which really indicates the route to follow…

And we are back to the opening question… why does God allow these fallacious stars to shine? Why did He accepted Satan’s challenge…? Maybe to punish mankind for its sins? No, boy… but to prove the truth of His promise… because the Evil One’s arrogance will be crushed once again, at last… and the gates of hell shall not prevail… Never… –