Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What I learned from a cold rooftop

Yesterday, for work, I was called over to a local restaurant that said one of their heaters wasn't working. The heaters, of course, are never inside the restaurants but instead are on the roof. So I made my way up the ice covered ladder and then crawled over the ladder when it turned 90 degrees to pass over the tin covered roof of the establishment. Finally I got on the roof and started checking heaters. I found very quickly that the heater in question didn't even have the gas turned on (I don't know how they didn't notice this through the first three days of sub-freezing temperatures).

While I restarted the heater and waited to make sure it would work I began to think about hell, because surely the cold and wind and sleet I was in was my hell. Heaven you see is probably the hottest place imaginable. Heck take the names of the angels. A seraphim for instance is described by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa like this:

"The name "Seraphim" does not come from charity only, but from the excess of charity, expressed by the word ardor or fire. Hence Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii) expounds the name "Seraphim" according to the properties of fire, containing an excess of heat. Now in fire we may consider three things.
"First, the movement which is upwards and continuous. This signifies that they are borne inflexibly towards God.
"Secondly, the active force which is "heat," which is not found in fire simply, but exists with a certain sharpness, as being of most penetrating action, and reaching even to the smallest things, and as it were, with superabundant fervor; whereby is signified the action of these angels, exercised powerfully upon those who are subject to them, rousing them to a like fervor, and cleansing them wholly by their heat.
"Thirdly we consider in fire the quality of clarity, or brightness; which signifies that these angels have in themselves an inextinguishable light, and that they also perfectly enlighten others." "

Also consider that St. Paul discussing a soul in Purgatory says in 1st Corinthians "He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." So the cleansing in Purgatory will be like fire.

Why all this fire? God's love is an unquenchable flame and the holier we are the closer we are able to stand near to Him. That's why the angels are described with names that depict burning and fiery things. In hell, however, a holy saint would freeze to death away from God's loving fire and conversely a damned soul even in hell will feel too close to God and feel this fire as a burning "hellfire."

Now I'm not saying that the cold rooftop was my hell because I'm saintly (my wife assures me daily I have lots of work to go) but because I want to be as holy as the saints and I want to see God's face and stand in his loving, unquenchable, fiery warmth. The rooftop was my idea of hell because (1 I hate being cold and wet and (2 most importantly it reminded me that God requires us to be holy as He is holy and that sometimes requires some extra hotness in Purgatory and I don't want that either. This was my reminder that I want to ask Jesus for the graces to overcome my sinfulness and one day live with my Savior eternally.

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